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May, Mary, and the Church Today

2020 marks the centenary of the birth of Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II.
 
A standard media commentary on John Paul II’s Marian theology is to state that, as he lost his mother at a young age, his pious father encouraged him in devotion to the Virgin Mary, and thus began a lifelong attachment which revealed itself throughout his pontificate.
 
This approach, even when adopted with a sense of respect for John Paul’s knowledge and wisdom, manages to convey a slightly patronising note.
 
The reality is that, although John Paul’s devotion to Mary certainly owes much to the Marian piety in which he was reared – and the strength it brought to Poles during the terrible years of WWII and the Cold War – there is, much more importantly, a theological insight connecting Mary to the very nature of the Church. This is needed for our times. It was discussed at the Second Vatican Council, owes much to the work of theologians Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac – both influential at the Council – and is perhaps only now becoming better known and understood.
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Christian courage in the face of persecution

“During my detention, I held the hand of Christ. It is thanks to him that I have stayed standing. Do not be afraid.”(1)
 
The words of Asia Bibi – spoken in an interview she gave this February to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need – provide a glimpse into the trauma one woman suffered. Hers was a story of terrible injustice which gripped the world’s media.
 
Her 10 years behind bars made Asia’s struggle to regain her freedom a cause celebre. And her case is all the more notable for the fact that Asia was the first woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemy. Central to her conviction, as became apparent in the protracted court proceedings she endured, was the fact that Asia is a Christian. She suffered because of her faith.
 
For this reason, her story and the worldwide attention it garnered is unique in the sphere of news reporting on human rights abuses. Rarely if ever has the media rallied to the cause of a persecuted Christian.
 
In highlighting the significance of the Asia Bibi story, this article sets out to demonstrate that, while it was remarkable that she should finally win back her freedom, there is as yet no breakthrough in the wider struggle for the defence of Christians and other oppressed religious minorities in Pakistan. They routinely experience egregious persecution and yet it is largely ignored by the West.
 
As a Catholic charity committed to the cause of supporting persecuted Christians, Aid to the Church in Need is working to enable justice for people who, like Asia Bibi, have been accused of blasphemy, not least the 30 or more Christians currently behind bars.
 
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The Synodal Way?

The Catholic Church in Germany has begun its Synod, or rather “Synodal Way”. A new term and concept of “Synod” was chosen as traditional synods were thought to be not inclusive and not innovative enough, insufficient for the present crisis. The “Synod” will focus on four topics: power and separation of power in the Church; sexuality and partnership; priestly existence/celibacy; women in church ministry and offices: so it's all seen as being about sex and power.
 
These topics have been selected on the basis of a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference on the causes of sexual abuse of minors in the Church. According to that study, minor abuse is related to celibacy, Church teaching on (homo-) sexuality, and abuse of power in male-only, clerical environments. As the study itself admits, however, comparative analyses of other environments and institutions, somehow similar to the church, are not available. This fact undermines radically what we can learn from the study, as a bishop pointed at the Synod. Is the whole enterprise built on sand?
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A Newman meditation for our country

A Newman meditation for our country

Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land which knows thee not. Arise, Mother of God, and with thy thrilling voice, speak to those who labour with child, and are in pain, till the babe of grace leaps within them! Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

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Carmelite Novices Formation Meeting: ‘Who do you say I am?’

Carmelite Novices Formation Meeting: ‘Who do you say I am?’

Carmelite Novices Formation Meeting: ‘Who do you say I am?’

The Novices and Novice Mistresses from Dolgellau Carmel in Wales, from Quidenham, Notting Hill, Lithuania and Iceland met for our annual Initial Formation Meeting. It is a good opportunity to connect with one another, build friendships and receive quality input. Here are some highlights from each of the main talks.
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