Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Shrine to the Holy Face of Christ tucked into Italy's Appennine mountains is starting to catch the attention of the world, particularly that of American Catholics.
“We have a lot of Italians, of course, and many Germans but now we're seeing more and more pilgrims from the U.S.,” said Sister Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a Trappist nun and daily pilgrim that lives within eye-shot of the shrine.
The modest basilica there houses a curious image of the face of Jesus Christ. Depending on the light, it is at times visible and at others transparent.
Sr. Paschalis Schloemer herself proved that the face is exactly proportionate to that on the Shroud of Turin, but whereas in the Shroud Christ’s eyes are closed here they are open.
Some believe it is the storied “veil of Veronica,” the cloth Veronica used to dry Christ's face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the “resurrection cloth,” a “sudarium” that covered Christ’s face in the tomb. Still others take it as a centuries-old hoax.
What is certain is that none of them can prove how the image – which is present on a fine mussel-silk cloth without the use of any pigments – was created.
Paul Badde, the German author of “The Face of God,” is convinced that it is the one and only “Holy Sudarium,” the “napkin” from Christ's sepulchre that Saint John refers to in his gospel. In revealing Christ’s face at the moment of the Resurrection, he calls it “the first and authentic page of all the gospels.”
Badde’s book is the story of how he reached that conclusion. When it was published, he sent the first copy to then-Pope Benedict XVI in the autumn of 2005. The German Pope subsequently dedicated his first trip to the shrine.
Badde said that interest in the “Santo Volto” has been gradually increasing ever since.
“Benedict XVI's visit there set a point of no return,” he told CNA. “In 10 years time we may hardly recognize the place.”
He said that Americans are playing a “key role” among the pilgrims in a place that “had never been heard of” until the 2006 visit. The Chinese are also discovering the Holy Face, and buses filled with pilgrims from Brazil and Argentina are pulling through.
Just last weekend, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston offered an introduction to an exhibit on the “holy face” unveiled in New York City. While the Capuchin cardinal avoided taking sides on the debate of the image’s provenance, he did allude to the strength of such depictions.
“Images of Christ have the power to move our hearts, they can catechize without words and allow us to contemplate the beautiful face of God revealed in His own Son,” Cardinal O'Malley says in his introduction.
In Manoppello, the shrine is run by Cardinal O'Malley's own Capuchin brothers. And, the increasing international popularity isn't lost on them. The latest edition of the Manoppellan friars' 50-page color magazine dedicates the leading article to an Italian-language re-print of Cardinal O'Malley’s presentation at the New York “Encounter” event.
Later in the publication, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the Vatican's top court, is photographed as he celebrates Mass before the veil.
Pilgrims in recent months include another Vatican cardinal, world bishops, ambassadors from Germany and Costa Rica to the Holy See and even the American Catholic broadcaster EWTN's European regional director.
For Sr. Paschalis Schloemer, it’s no surprise that interest is increasing. She says it’s the real deal.
“Here, he says, 'For you I am here.' He is always here and he is waiting for us and for every human being.
“When we open our hearts, he can manifest himself,” she said. “He can show himself and speak to us.”
Boulder, Colo., Jan 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought will host a debate at the University of Colorado next week on the use of the death penalty in the U.S., demonstrating the Church's desire for dialogue.
“We're showing that the Church has something to say about the common good in society as a whole, and we really want to be a voice in that public debate,” Scott Powell, director of scriptural theology at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Boulder and one of the event's organizers, told CNA Jan. 23.
“We do 'The Great Debate' every year around the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, who had a long tradition of engaging in public debate at universities on important issues of the time,” he explained.
This year's debate, being held Jan. 31, is the seventh annual Great Debate; it will be between Dr. E Christian Kopff, founder of the University of Colorado Honors Program, arguing in favor of the death penalty in the U.S., and Msgr. Stuart Swetland, professor of ethics at Mount St. Mary's University, arguing against.
The debate is “in the spirit of hospitality and fairness,” Powell said, and is meant “to include the Catholic voice in a secular university; we're really trying to represent the Church well.”
Past debate topics have included abortion, the nature of marriage, and government intervention in the economy. Capital punishment was chosen as this year's theme because “many people are asking the question,” Powell explained.
The issue is expected to play a role in Colorado's next gubernatorial race, and the issue has been raised in the upcoming trial of an inmate who killed a correctional officer and in the trial of James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater shooter; national attention focused on capital punishment with the Jan. 22 execution of Edgar Tamayo by the state of Texas.
“People have very strong feelings” on the issue, Powell said, “and I don't think many people know exactly where the Church lands on it … it's not as black and white as some we've done in the past.”
Church teaching has traditionally permitted the use of capital punishment; in his own work defending the Church against non-Christians, St. Thomas Aquinas said “the evil … may be justly executed.”
Yet in his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” Bl. John Paul II said that today, cases in which the death penalty may be justly utilized “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
Msgr. Swetland, a priest of the Peoria diocese, holds a doctorate of theology from the Pontifical Lateran University, and will argue the position expressed by the late Roman Pontiff. Powell said the priest has published on the topic, and is “doing a lot of work at the moment on this topic, and working with the Vatican on whether or not (capital punishment) might be an issue of development of doctrine – whether this might be a place for that.”
Kopff, meanwhile, is an associate professor of classics, in which he earned his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The conservative thinker, a Lutheran, advocates for classical education and is “very versed in Aquinas, and Catholic teaching” on the issue, and is “well known” in Boulder for his defense of the death penalty.
With the debate, the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought is trying “to show the university, and Boulder at large, that the Catholic Church is serious about having intelligent and respectful debates about things that we know that we disagree about.”
Powell explained that it important to neither present the Catholic position by banging it over others heads, nor “circling the wagons” and refusing to dialogue with the society at large.
“We really want to engage the broader culture, and the university culture.”
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his Angelus message delivered in Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis exhorted the crowds to proclaim their faith throughout the world.
In today’s day and age, “we can be frightened and give into the temptation to build fences to be safer, more secure. But Jesus teaches us that the good news is not reserved for a part of humanity, and to communicate it to everyone,” said the Pope on Jan. 26.
The Gospel message “is a happy announcement destined for those who await it, but also for the many who perhaps do not await anything more and do not even have the strength to look and to ask.”
The Pontiff reflected on Sunday’s Gospel reading in which Jesus calls the disciples, beginning his work of ministry in the region of Galilee, which is “a border land, a region of transit where they encountered persons of different races, cultures and religions.”
Jesus’ mission “did not originate in Jerusalem, that is, from the religious, social, and political center, but from a peripheral area, disdained by the more observant Jews, because of the presence of diverse populations in that region,” noted the Pontiff.
“From this point of view, Galilee resembles the world of today: the simultaneous presence of diverse cultures, the need for comparison and for meeting. We too are immersed every day in a ‘Galilee of the people,’” he explained.
Jesus’ decision to begin from the “periphery” shows that “no one is excluded” from God’s desire to save.
Rather, we see that “God prefers to start from the periphery, from the outermost, to reach everyone.”
Moreover, noted Pope Francis, Jesus chooses apostles from men “who could be called ‘low-profile.’”
“He does not address the school of the scribes and of the doctors of the law, but humble and simple people, who are preparing diligently for the coming of God's Kingdom.”
The response of those simple people chosen by Christ acts as an example for all Christians today.
“Jesus goes to call them where they work, on the lakeshore: they are fishermen. He calls them, and they follow him immediately. They leave their nets and go with him. Their lives become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure,” emphasized the Pontiff.
“Dear friends, the Lord also calls us today!” he exclaimed. “Each one you must realize that the Lord is watching you: if you hear Him saying follow me, you must have courage and go with Him. The Lord will never disappoint you.”
After leading the crowds in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis went on to pray for many tragic situations in the modern day Galilee of the world.
Jan. 26 marks the world day for those sick with leprosy. The Pontiff prayed for those who suffer with this “disease, although in decline, (that) unfortunately still affects many people in conditions of severe poverty.”
He also prayed for those in the Ukraine who “have lost their lives in these days and for their families,” as the country experiences violence between police and protesters angry over legislation concerning admission to the European Union. The Pope expressed his hope for “constructive dialogue between the institutions and the civil society, avoiding any recourse to violent actions, the spirit of peace and the common good prevailing every heart.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the Pontiff asked for a moment of silence for a small child in southern Italy who was burnt to death by the mafia as revenge for his grandfather’s unpaid debt. “Let’ s pray for Cocò, who is surely in heaven with Jesus, and for those who have committed this crime: may they repent and convert to the Lord,” he said.
Finally, Pope Francis concluded his Angelus by having two children from the Diocese of Rome’s Catholic Action join him in the window of the apostolic palace.
The many youth gathered in the square cheered loudly and waved giant yellow foam hands as Pope Francis thanked them for their apostolic work. After reading a message to Pope Francis, the two children released doves as a symbol of peace.