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TOPIC: church


The Protestant Twist To Pope Benedict's Theological Legacy

In his Spiritual Testament, Pope Benedict XVI only cited Protestant theologians – not a single Catholic thinker. Were the Catholics not interesting enough for him? And what do Joseph Ratzinger’s pre-modern understanding of the concept of reason and inaccurate Kant quotes have to do with it?


MUNICH — Joseph Ratzinger first became known to an educated readership in 1968 when he published Introduction to Christianity. The book was widely read, selling 45,000 copies in its first year of publication.

However, in the small, elite world of German-speaking theology professors, the book came in for heavy criticism. In 1969 Walter Kasper, who was then Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Tübingen, wrote a scathing review in which he accused his colleague of having a false, overly subjective understanding of Christian theology.

Kasper claimed Ratzinger had relied too heavily on the existentialist thought of Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard and interpretations of Kierkegaard’s work by Rudolf Bultmann, a Lutheran theologian and Professor of the New Testament at the University of Marburg. This meant that, according to Kasper, Ratzinger’s work played fast and loose with “the objective ecclesiastical form of the Church within the Christian faith.” In other words, Ratzinger’s “existentialist interpretation” risked “tipping over into a purely spiritualistic understanding of the Church.”

That was serious criticism. Kasper, who decades later moved to Rome when he was made a Cardinal of the Roman Curia and President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was accusing Ratzinger of being too heavily influenced by Protestant thought.

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Poland’s Ruling Party Seeks Tough New Blasphemy Law, Jail For Mocking Church

Poland’s legislature is in the process of passing new “blasphemy” restrictions that would impose jail sentences for denigrating the Catholic Church, Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported Monday.

Parliament’s lower house has approved an amendment that—if passed into law—would impose “a fine, a penalty of restriction of liberty, or imprisonment up to two years,” on anyone who “publicly lies or makes fun of the Church or other religious association with official legal standing, or dogmas or rites.”

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Egypt's Overcrowded Christian Churches Are A Fire Risk — Building New Ones Is Risky Too

After a fire at a church in August killed 42 people, Egypt's Christians are worried about the fate of their places of worship, which lack proper infrastructure and financial support to meet safety standards. But, as Egypt's Mada Masr reports, this is not a new problem, and it is one that has been ongoing for years, during which Christians were not given permission to set up churches.

GIZA — The St. Demiana Church is only distinguishable from surrounding buildings in the neighborhood of Imbaba, in northern Giza, by the crosses on its windows and the security kiosk and metal gate encircling its perimeter. Before prayers commence, the church is already packed to the brim, as hundreds of families fill the premises leaving almost no standing room.

As people pack in, the parish priest, Father Ghaios Bekhit, conducts a safety check around the premises. He checks on the state of the electric cables attached to the air conditioning units and ensures the functionality of the fire extinguishers.

His vigilance has been triggered by fear of a fire scenario repeating itself in his own parish, in the aftermath of the tragic fire that broke out just 4 kilometers away in the Martyr Philopateer St. Mercurius [Abu Sefein in Arabic] Church in Imbaba, during a morning mass, said to have been caused by an electric short-circuit in an air conditioning unit in the building. According to the Public Prosecution., 42 people were killed in the August 14 blaze, including 15 children.

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In Africa, Witchcraft Delusions Spark Deadly Mob Violence

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where many people believe in witchcraft, allegations occasionally flare into violence and death.

OYAM, UGANDA — On the morning of March 4, at the invitation of her grandchildren, Albina Okoi attended services at a makeshift church different from the one she usually attends. When the prayers continued for longer than she expected, Okoi, 71, excused herself and went home to have tea.

By the time it was ready, there was a mob at her doorstep, led by the pastor and two of her own grandchildren.

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Franz Alt

What Jesus Really Said: Fixing The Mistranslations That Have Shaped Christianity

Jesus spoke Aramaic, but the Bible has been translated from Greek. Many mistaken translations of the Gospels have skewed the development of Christianity — and the course of history. It's time to let the Bible be retranslated to let its true message be known.

BERLIN — Jesus spoke Aramaic. It was his mother tongue and 2,000 years ago it was the main language throughout the Middle East. The New Testament, however, is translated from Greek into all the languages of the world. Aramaic expert and theologian Günther Schwarz (who died in 2009) was dissatisfied with the classical translation and studied Aramaic every day for 50 years in order to better understand Jesus in his native language. In doing so, he came to the realization that about half of all Jesus' words in the gospels were mistranslated or even deliberately falsified.

His shocking conclusion: “What Christians believe, Jesus did not teach! And what Jesus taught — the Christians do not know.” The theologian has written 20 books and around 100 scientific articles about Jesus and Aramaic. He sent his findings to all German-speaking bishops. Response: zero.

So, as a journalist, I want to use my Jesus books to educate people about Günther Schwarz's findings.

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Mariateresa Fichele

No Healing Here, But Maybe A Miracle

In Naples you will often hear people exclaim: “Maronna ro Carmine!"

To understand the meaning of that expression, here's a true story from my childhood.

Although everyone called her Maria, my grandmother's real name was Maria Carmela, taken from the Madonna to whom she was devoted. And if you’re not from Naples, you wouldn’t know that Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Maronna ro Carmine in Neopolitan) has been distributing bonafide miracles since the 1400s.

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Sergio Rubin

Argentina Plays Politics With Pope's Words On Property Rights

Some would like to paint the Argentine-born Pope Francis as a sympathizer of his native country's leftist government. But his 'socialist' declarations are in line with more than a century of Church doctrine.


BUENOS AIRES — Ever since Pope Leo XIII issued the Rerum novarum encyclical (1891), which christened the Roman Church's Social Doctrine, any time a pontiff attributes a social purpose to private property, the Catholic defenders of capitalism make their voices heard.

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Carl-Johan Karlsson

Jesus to Yoga, Sweden Finds Other Uses For Empty Churches

But in the end... is it enough?

So my fellow Swedes are turning churches into yoga studios. Live from the world's most atheist nation, the report from Swedish public broadcaster SVT adds to an ever-expanding list of houses of worship being turned into something else: sport centers, conference halls, art galleries, even camping sites.

Each time, critics lament the temporary or permanent, er, conversion as a troubling sign of the times, of the "undermining of the Christian faith." Some conservative lawmakers are now saying that repurposing churches might in fact violate laws on cultural heritage.

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Hicham Benaissa

Islam Became A 'Problem' In France When Muslims Became French

For decades, France did well in accommodating the religious needs of Muslims — on the condition they went back to their country of origin. Now, demands to express one's faith are often labeled: separatism.


PARIS — There is a new bill before the French National Assembly that calls for "reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic," and fight against Islamist "separatism." We already know that among the key aims of current amendments would be to restrict — in the name of secularism — the expression of religious affiliation within different sectors of social life. It may apply to those who work in public services, hospitals and universities, and could impose the principle of religious neutrality on all public sector employees.

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Sergio Rubin

Pope's Support For LGBT Partnerships Has Roots In Argentina

Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has had a longstanding tolerance of and friendship for homosexuals, and yet rejection of marriage as anything other than a heterosexual institution.


BUENOS AIRES — The Pope's recent declarations favoring gay partnership may have astounded the world outside the Church, but not inside. The surprise may instead come from Pope Francis" decision to adopt a public stance that directly opposes the ideals of most conservative Catholics. Seven years after his accession to the papal throne, the man we Argentines know as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has indeed taken yet another step on his long-standing journey to open the Church to the secular world.

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Giacomo Galeazzi

Between Two Popes: Father Georg Gänswein Redefines Vatican Diplomacy

It is the most delicate of roles right now, as Father Georg continues to serve his original boss, retired Pope Benedict XVI, while also heading the Papal household of Pope Francis.

VATICAN CITY — During the morning audience, Father Georg sits smilingly beside Pope Francis. In the afternoon, he returns to play guardian angel to — and be the eyes and ears for — Benedict XVI.

Jockeying between two worlds has never scared Georg Gänswein.

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Flavia Amabile

Undercover Hunt In Italy's Black Market For Sperm Donors

Medically assisted procreation is restricted by law in Italy to heterosexual couples. A La Stampa reporter posed as a woman seeking to get pregnant and found dozens of willing men online.

In Italy, medically assisted procreation is restricted to heterosexual couples, but websites for would-be mothers have proliferated. Our journalist posed as a woman seeking to get pregnant and found dozens of willing men online.

ROME — Elisa is three years old. In a few months her little brother will be born, and her mother is preparing the girl for the change. She tells her daughter how wonderful it will be to play together, and to do all the things families do when a little boy finally arrives.

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