1. New Church
A new church is built in Baghdad refugee camp. It has encouraged the camp’s inhabitants, as they now have a place for worship and for activities during the week. According to Amigos de Irak (Friends of Iraq), a project of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the church, named after the Virgin Mary, was dedicated by Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad, during a 13 Nov. Mass. They said, “It’s like every work of God, poor but abundant in fruits! And everyone worked on it! Archbishop’s homily reflected on “the suffering of refugees which will certainly not go unrewarded.” The engineer in charge of the project, Abu Rami, did not charge for his work and reused materials from the temporary refugee camps were put to use.
2. Death Unites
Sri Lankan church officials paid a rare tribute to the influential Buddhist monk, Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, 73, who played a key role in changing Sri Lanka’s political landscape. He had inspired religious harmony in an often divided country. Sobitha died on 8 Nov. in Singapore, where he was on treatment after heart surgery. On 23 Nov. the Catholics paid tribute to him with a Mass at St. Thomas’ Church in Kotte, Colombo. ‘The Daily Mirror’ spotlighted the service, attended by both communities, as “a major step toward interreligious dialogue and unity.” It was a rare tribute in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, which has lived through a 26-year civil war and seen attacks on churches and mosques. Sobitha worked closely with the local church and priests in his neighbourhood. He was also known for speaking out against the corrupt leaders.
3. Euch. Congress
The International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Cebu, Philippines, in the Year of Mercy, reminding Catholics that reaching out to all with the joy of the Gospel is the key act of mercy. The theme of the 24-31 Jan. congress is, “Christ in you, our hope of glory.” It will not only have reflections on hope and mercy, but also the inclusion of the poor and marginalized. Missionary thrust in Asia takes the form of dialogue with other cultures and religions. Archbishop Piero Marini said that the Philippines is 80% Catholic and is a powerhouse of faith and missionary outreach. The venue being in the Philippines, more people from throughout Asia and the South Pacific can attend easily. Pilgrims from 57 nations have already registered for the congress.
4. Better Dialogue
Leaders from six recognized religions here, hope to improve interfaith dialogue in order to help the country achieve the UN’s new development goals. In September, the U.N.’s 193 member States agreed to adopt 17 new development goals to be achieved by 2030. “All the 17 goals are related to our duties and responsibilities as religions. All the goals are related to problems of humanity, problems of human beings,” said Din Syamsuddin, Chairman of the ‘Center for Dialogue and Cooperation Among Civilizations’, during an interfaith dialogue program held on14 Nov. in Jakarta. It was jointly organized by the centre and the Rome-based Community of Sant’ Egidio. “We must talk more about humanity and human beings than about conflicts. Interfaith dialogue is a weapon. It changes a war into peace,” said the Organisers.
Pope Francis has donated to the parish church of Lampedusa, the crucifix given to him by President Raul Castro of Cuba, during the recent papal visit there. Measuring almost 10 ft. high, the crucifix is crafted from wooden oars tied with ropes to symbolize the migrant reality. Lampedusa, the island off the coast of Sicily receives the majority of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean by boat from Libya to Italy. Pope’s first visit outside was to this place. Don Mimmo Zambito, the parish priest of Lampedusa, said the crucifix symbolizes the mercy and humanity of Jesus who triumphs over every conflict. The crucifix will be displayed in Holy Cross church, Agrigento for the inauguration of the Jubilee Year on 11 Dec, before being taken to Lampedusa.
6. Mobile SCU
The Lafayette Diocese has created a new and easier way for outreach to the people. They’ve converted an old ambulance into a mobile confessional, a spiritual care unit (SCU), with a picture of Jesus and Bible verses on the side. Remodelled for prayer and confessions, it is for spiritual emergencies. “It’s a way that we can give publicxpression of our faith on the streets. We need to go to where people are,” said Fr Michael Champagne, of the Diocese.” This SCU, functional from 8 Dec. is part of Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. “The Pope is asking us to go out to the peripheries. Now we have the means to do that,” said Bp Michael Jarrell. The SCU has in it, Bibles, rosaries and holy water. People can access the mobile unit as per their need and convenince.
7. Biblical Discovery
On Wednesday, archaeologists in Jerusalem unveiled a rare 2,800-year-old clay imprint from a royal figure in the Book of Kings. The mark on the seal belongs to King Hezekiah, who ruled in the Levant in the 8th B.C. The Book of Kings testifies: “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him…” The seal reads: “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.” It also bears a “two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols, of life. The seal is the first mark from an Israelite or Judean king ever found during a scientific excavation. The discovery was made at an ancient refuse dump in the shadow of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
8. Focus on Jesus
The plenary assembly of the Congregation for evangelization was held on 3 Dec. at the Vatican. Pope Francis spoke to the 160 participants saying: “It is not the Church who makes the mission, but the mission that makes the Church. Every initiative to spread the Gospel should begin with personal conversion, and a focus on Jesus Christ. The secularized world even when it is welcoming towards the Gospel values of love, justice, peace and sobriety, does not show similar openness to the figure of Jesus; it considers Him neither the Messiah nor the Son of God. It therefore separates the message from the Messenger, the gift from the Giver. The mission is a force capable of transforming the Church from within and its boundaries are those of the world.”
9. Climate Challenge
154 religious leaders of different faiths have handed over a signed statement to the UN, calling upon world politicians to come up with a strong agreement on climate change during the COP21 Meet in Paris. The Pope, the Dalai Lama and other leaders of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Shinto and Sikh faiths are among them. “Every year the problems are getting worse,” commented Pope Francis: “We are at the limits…of suicide” The UN and conservation groups both recognize the need to have backing from faith groups. “Faith communities are vital for global efforts to address the climate challenge. They remind us of our obligation to care for both the Earth’s fragile environment and our neighbours in need,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as the Meet is progressing amidst tight security.
10. Movie on Francis
The world premiere of “Call Me Francesco,” the first movie based on the life of Pope Francis, took place in the Vatican audience hall on 1Dec. “The Holy Father wished to invite the poor, the homeless, refugees and the people most in need, together with the volunteers, religious and lay people, who work daily in charity, for this event,” said the papal almoner. Parishes and charitable associations in Rome were given 7,000 tickets for the poor. The concert that followed was played by Swiss Guards, who used their free time as a gift to the poor. Dinner was also served by a group of benefactors.” Directed by Italian filmmaker Daniele Luchetti, the film details the life of Bergoglio. Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna, portrays youg Bergoglio.