Vol. 17 No. 24
November 25 - December 8, 2013
Vatican, Google team up to bring ancient Christian catacombs to light
VATICAN City, Nov. 20, 2013—Early Christian burial sites are now easier to
see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the
“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and
modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco
Ravasi Nov. 19, at a news conference at
the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast
Rome.The cardinal, president of both the
Pontical Council for Culture and the Pontical Commission for Sacred Archae
-ology, lauded recent restoration work by the archaeological commission inside the
complex of early Christian tombs.
Using advanced laser techniques, restorers have uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Sts. Peter and Paul accompanying
Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face
resembles portraits of the Emperor
Constantine, who legalized Christian
worship in 313.
Cardinal Ravasi also heralded the
Nov. 19 debut of the catacombs on
Google’s Street View feature, a project
he said had grown out of a conversation he had with the Internet giant’s execu-tive chairman, Eric Schmidt.Users of Google Maps can now click the “see-inside” option for the catacombs, which allows them to move
Pope’s document hailed as reshaping modern evangelization
In his rst apostolic exhortation, the uncommonly simple terminology of
Pope Francis brings a fresh approach to the new evangelization, also giving
a decisive direction to the Church’s mission, say Vatican ofcials. “Pope
Francis speaks in a direct way, easy, communicative, in a way that quickly reaches the hearts and the minds of people,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella
in a Nov. 26 interview with CNA. Archbishop Fisichella is the president of the Pontical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and
was present at the Nov. 26 press conference detailing the new document. The apostolic exhortation, known as “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) follows the 2012 bishops’ synod on the new evangelization, held as part of the Year of Faith. Released Nov. 26, the papal document stressed
in particular the need for Christian joy in the Church’s work of sharing the
Gospel with all people.
Pope backs male priesthood, urges ‘feminine genius’ in Church
Pope Francis reafrmed Catholic teaching on male priesthood in his rst
apostolic exhortation, while calling for a broader application of the “feminine
genius” in Church life. “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to
discussion,” he said, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power
is too closely identied with power in general.” The Pope’s words came in
his new document, “The Joy of the Gospel,” released Nov. 26. Also known as “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation follows the 2012 bishops’ synod on the new evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith.
“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the rm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with
profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.”
Pope: Church’s teaching on abortion is unchangeable
In his rst apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis ex
plained that the Church can never change its teaching on abortion, which is
part of a broader understanding of human dignity. At the same time, he said
in the document released Nov. 26, the Church must increase efforts to “ac
company” women in difcult pregnancies. “Precisely because this involves
the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person,
the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question,” the
Pope said of abortion. “I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
Pope Francis calls a traditionalist writer who criticized him
Mario Palmaro, a traditionalist writer who co-authored an article critical of Pope Francis, received a phone call Nov.1 from the Pope himself, who knew
that the writer is suffering from a grave illness. Palmaro shared with CNA
Nov. 22 that “Pope Francis wanted to act as a priest; yet he is a very special priest and bishop, by calling me and paying attention to my health condi-
tion.” According to Palmaro, one of the features of the new ponticate is
“the Pope’s phone calls to people, who luckily represent many other people who do not receive a papal phone call.” “It is the kind of attention Pope Francis wants to show for sick people.” “He just wanted to tell me that he is praying for me,” Palmaro explained of the Pope.
Pope Francis blesses man with severely disgured face
Continuing his efforts to promote a “culture of encounter” with the disabled, Pope Francis again embraced a severely disgured man after his Nov. 20
weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope spoke with a man who lacks facial features, embraced him and gave him a blessing. Pope Francis then smiled at the man, kissed him and gestured toward the sky in the midst of a
crowded square. The cause of the man’s disgurement was not known. His
identity is also not known, the British newspaper The Daily Mail reports. It is the second time this month that the Pope’s hospitality towards the
disgured has drawn public attention.
In document, pope lays out his vision for an evangelical church
In his rst extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a
focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and the unborn. “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), released by the
Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document. (Pope Francis’ rst encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,”
published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict
XVI.) The pope wrote the new document in response to the October 2012
Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, but declined to work from
a draft provided by synod ofcials. Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50,000-word document’s relatively relaxed style—he writes that an
“evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from
a funeral!”—and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including
the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”
Pope, at audience, says he goes to confession every two weeks
Pope Francis said he goes to confession every two weeks, knowing that God never tires of forgiving those who repent, but also knowing that hav-ing a priest say “I absolve you” reinforces belief in God’s mercy. Using the literal Italian translation of a Spanish saying, “It’s better to turn red once than yellow a thousand times,” Pope Francis said he knows some people are embarrassed to confess their sins to a priest, but it is the best path to spiritual healing and health. At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s
Square Nov. 20, Pope Francis reected on the forgiveness of sins as one
of the missions Jesus entrusted to his apostles and their successors.
Pope prescribes daily rosary for what ails you
Pope Francis admitted he wasn’t a pharmacist, but he didn’t hesitate being
the spokesman for the heart-healthy benets of 59 little pills strung together:
the rosary. “I want to recommend some medicine for all of you,” the pope said Nov. 17 at the end of his Sunday Angelus address. “It’s a spiritual medi-cine.” Holding up a white medicine box with an anatomical drawing of the human heart on it, Pope Francis told some 80,000 people gathered for the midday prayer that the boxes contained a rosary. “Don’t forget to take it,” he said. “It’s good for your heart, for your soul, for your whole life.”
A fragment from an ancient marble sarcophagus is pictured in a new museum in the reconstructed 4th-century Basilica of St. Sylvester above the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome.
virtually through the narrow corridors tunneled out of soft tufa stone, and to see high-resolution im-ages of the interiors from practically ev-ery angle. The bril-liantly lit views are in startling contrast to the shadowy real-ity of an in-person visit. Google’s Giorgia Abeltino told re-porters that almost the entire eight-mile complex of catacombs is now accessible online. However, there is no underground map to let users know exactly what they are seeing.Also Nov. 19, Google launched a
Street View of the catacombs of the Ipogeo di via Dino Compagni, located
in southeast Rome. The catacombs are privately owned and not open to the public, so the virtual mode is the only way to visit them.
The news conference at the Cata
-combs of Priscilla was held above ground in the reconstructed fourth-century Basilica of St. Sylvester, where a new museum displays hundred of fragments of ancient marble sarcophagi, also recently restored. A glass floor offers illuminated views of the sites of ancient tombs below.
Msgr. Giovanni Carru, secretary of the Vatican’s archaeological commis
-sion, said the restorations had made
the Catacombs of Priscilla a “privileged
course” for pilgrims to Rome, helping them to appreciate these “dark places that were lit up by the emblematic and paradigmatic stories of salvation” painted on their walls.
In Central African Republic, thousands turn to bishop for protection
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21,
2013—More than 35,000
people are living on the 40-acre diocesan compound in
Bossangoa, Central African
Republic, seeking protection from rebels who are target-
ing Christians, said the local
bishop.“The priests have been sharing their rooms in their private apartments,” said Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa, who visited Washington in mid-November. “The only place that has not been used is my private apartment.”
Bishop Nongo told Catho
-lic News Service he closed the minor seminary, which is now used as a shelter, and the pastoral center has been
destroyed. He said the Cath
olic aid agency Caritas has an ofce in the compound, but people also live in the ofce.
The people began com-ing Sept. 8 to escape attacks by rebels of the Seleka al-liance, most of whom are foreign mercenaries and do not speak the local language. The rebels are predominantly
Muslim; Central African
Republic is about 85 percent
Christian and 12 percent
Muslim. Bishop Nongo said the
U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief
Services sent emergency help in mid-September, and the World Food Program sent help in late September, “but it is not really enough.”Most of the people in the diocesan compound are women and children, the bishop said. To protect their families, the men do not stay, fearing they will attract rebel soldiers, who will accuse them of being members of civilian defense forces and kill them.The bishop said the wom-en have been risking rape and attacks to go out to their farms to harvest food, but soon all the crops will be gone, and the next planting season is May and June.
The bishop spoke to Cath
-olic News Service Nov. 19, after testifying about his situation before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Hu-man Rights and International Organizations.
He told CNS when he
called his vicar general early that morning, he learned that, the previous night, rebels had surrounded the diocesan compound and threatened those inside with a rocket attack.“So, last night, nobody could sleep,” he said.Bishop Nongo said that, every day, he receives mes-sages from villages about violence and abuse. The people are “turning to me” to solve their problems, but “I’m not the government,” he said. He added that he passes along the information, but nothing happens.“I’m helpless,” he told
He said that before he left Nov. 13, he did not men-tion his trip to the displaced residents, because he did not want to frighten them.“As they saw me (leaving) in the car ... some started weeping,” he said.In his testimony submitted to the House subcommittee, Bishop Nongo said Seleka was pitting the country’s
Christian and Muslim citi
-zens against each other.“Seleka’s violent attacks
have targeted Christian
homes, schools and places of worship while sparing lo-cal Muslim communities and mosques, often only a short distance away,” he said.
“Christian communities have
now begun to set up self-
defense militia to ght back.
Sadly, there are reports that they are attacking Muslim communities in retribution.”He testified that when Seleka militia raid villages and steal livestock, they pass it on to Muslim herders, since herding is part of their shared culture.
see local Muslims herding the cattle that Seleka stole from them,” he said in his testimony. “This has left
some Christians to believe the Central African Muslim
community is in league with
the Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries and is benet
ting from Christian losses.”
He added that had possible
internal ramications even
if the mercenaries left the country.Since the March coup in which Seleka rebels over-threw the government, about 440,000 citizens have been displaced, the bishop said, “and no one knows how many people have died.”“The road south to the capital, Bangui, over 200 miles away, is deserted,” he
said in his testimony. “Vil
lagers have ed to escape the
attacks, mass killings, rape and plundering perpetrated by the roaming groups of Seleka militia,” who have divided up the country and established regional control.He said interim president Michel Djotodia, who led the March coup, formally dissolved the Seleka alliance in an effort to end the vio-lence, but “he has no formal army to enforce peace and security.”The bishop urged congres-sional leaders to work with France, the African Union and the U.N. to provide im-mediate assistance to help secure the country and “com-pel Seleka forces to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into society or return to their home countries.”He also asked them to fund humanitarian assistance and a “transition process to a legitimate, democratically elected government.” He noted the country would need continued assistance for years and asked them to rally the international community.After his testimony, Bishop Nongo was headed home to continue to provide his people with support and to work with local Muslim leaders.
He told CNS that when Christians see atrocities, the
temptation for retaliation was great.But he said both Muslims
and Christians are victims
of Seleka, and he tells his people, “Never give in to such temptation.”
A woman washes clothes near makeshift tents Nov. 9 on the 40-acre diocesan compound in Bossangoa, Central African Republic. Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa says more than 35,000 people are living on the compound, seeking protection from rebels targeting Christians.
Year of Faith: thousands of Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists join Christ the King procession
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Nov. 25, 2013—Thousands of Nepali Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists on Saturday took part in Christ the King procession organized by the Catholic Church in Kath
-mandu to mark the closing of the Year of Faith, which ended with a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Square.Participants, who took time off work, showed “great devotion”, local sources said, at a time of great tension due to the recent
elections to the Constituent As
-sembly.Priests, religious, lay peo-
ple and non-Christians walked
from St Mary of the Assumption School to the church, reciting the Rosary and hymns, carrying candles, images of Jesus with passages from the Bible.For the occasion, the local church used an open car that carried the diocesan vicar, Fr. Pius Perumana, dressed in sol-emn garments, at the helm of procession.
Catholics from Kathmandu but
also Godavari and Lubhu Bani-yatar attended the celebration, walking in the procession with
ags and banners.
“It was such a thrill to be in the
Christ the King procession. For
me, it was a time to glorify Jesus and strengthen my faith in God,” Soni Rana, a young 18-year-old
Catholic woman from Baniyatar (a northern suburb of Kathman
-du), told AsiaNews.A year ago, she attended a service for the start of the Year of Faith. For her, this was a crucial
time of prayer and reection, as
well as for her family and her friends.After the fall of the monarchy in 2006, Nepal saw a gradual opening to religions other than Hinduism, which had once been persecuted.After Maoists came to power (2008), several Hindu extremist groups attacked religious mi-norities. The most serious was
carried out against Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral on 23 May
2009, which left two people dead.Although proselytizing is banned, the government made
Christmas a national holiday in 2012 to boost tourism. Chris
-tians were allowed to show their sacred images and ornaments in stores and outside of churches and homes and to organize pro-cessions.This visibility has prompted
many non-Christians to seek baptism. Currently, there are 10,000 Catholics in Nepal,
4,000 more than in 2006, the year the state became secular.
P a u l H a r i n g / C N S C o u r t e s y B i s h o p N o n g o / C N S
w w w . a s i a n e w s . i t