Despite challenges, Catholics in India must evangelize

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Despite challenges, hardship and trials, Catholics in India must continue to evangelize, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"You must always be prepared to spread the Kingdom of God and to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who was himself misunderstood, despised, falsely accused and who suffered for the sake of truth," the pope told a group of bishops from India.

India has seen a steady rise in anti-Christian violence since the 1990s and the passage of anti-conversion laws in some states. Without specifying "the challenges that the missionary nature of the church entails," the pope told the bishops to "not be deterred when such trials arise."

    Seders give Christians the Passover experience

    A rabbi holds up matzos during a Passover Seder. More Christians are experiencing this at interfaith Seders. (CNS photo)Christians can’t think of the Easter Triduum, let alone live through it, without thinking of the Passover. Increasingly, Christians are letting that thought lead them to an authentic experience of the Jewish Passover in interfaith Seders.

    A Seder is a family meal that ritually re-enacts the Exodus story. It’s the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Passover. Foods served at the Seder are connected directly with the Exodus and the story of Israel’s escape from Egypt is retold, reading the Haggadah aloud through the course of the meal. The Haggadah is a sort of expansion of the Bible story with roots in the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish writings based on oral tradition.

    “It’s a story of liberation,” explains Beth Porter. “We’re really meant to appropriate that story for ourselves as we sit at the Seder table — to think about our own journey from bondage to freedom.”

      Pope earmarks Holy Thursday collection for disaster relief in Japan

      Men sit amid debris in an area that was destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture, in northern Japan, April 6. (CNS photo/Toru Hanai, Reuters) VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has decided the collection taken up at his Holy Thursday evening Mass will be used to help those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan.

      The March 11 disaster left more than 13,000 people dead and another 13,700 unaccounted for. More than 150,000 were made homeless and many lost their jobs, especially in the fishing industry.

      Each year, the Pope chooses where to send the collection taken up during the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the diocese of Rome.

        'Silent Night' gains World Heritage List recognition from UNESCO

        'SIlent Night' has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in recognition of its role in fostering cultural diversity. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemit z) WARSAW, Poland - The world's most popular Christmas carol, "Silent Night," has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in recognition of its role in fostering cultural diversity.

        "This is a song of freedom for the world, whose beautiful melody and text have inspired versions in more than 300 languages," Michael Neureiter, president of Austria's Silent Night Society, told Catholic News Service.

        "Although it comes from the Catholic tradition, its calm, harmonic sound has made it accessible internationally. As such, it's not just a Christian song, but also a human song."

        "Stille Nacht," or "Silent Night," was written as a poem in 1816 by Fr. Joseph Mohr in Mariapfarr, where he was assigned as an assistant parish priest. It premiered as a carol for two solo voices on Christmas Eve 1818 at the newly established St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, near Salzburg, with music composed by the church organist, Franz Gruber.

          Truth still matters

          Lack of honesty the root cause of most problemsWith campaign jets soaring over the land and campaign buses rolling down highways, it’s sometimes easy for Canadians to be cynical about the honesty of politicians. But truth in politics still matters to Canadians, and politicians recognize it, said Prof. Richard Feist, dean of the faculty of philosophy at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University.

          “The incumbent party certainly does not say something like, ‘Well, so what if we were defeated on non-confidence, or not providing (information).’ ” said Feist. “They want to talk as if ‘No, we were defeated on the budget.’ ”

          Feist runs the Masters in Public Ethics program at Saint Paul, training civil servants in the philosophy of honesty. Truth, who tells the truth and whether citizens can recognize it, is important in how we run our politics and how we run our country, he said.

            Exorcist boot camp: preparing for battle with the devil

            A priest performing the rite wears a purple stole. A crucifix and holy water are among the religious items used in the rite. (CNS Photo)VATICAN CITY - A call to arms — to take up the weapons of the rosary and prayer — rang out at a recent international conference on exorcism in Rome.

            The Church needs more training of both priests and laypeople in fighting the influence of the devil and bringing spiritual healing to those in need, attendees said.

            "This is warfare. We've gotten way behind. We've lost the concept of spiritual warfare," said Msgr. Marvin Mottet, the official exorcist of the diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

            The 80-year-old retired priest said that about once a month he sees a serious case of possession and "tons" of cases of demonic influence in which people are being "bothered or attacked by evil spirits." Those kinds of cases, he said, are "a daily thing."

              Nuncio says priests targeted in Cote d'Ivoire; Caritas priest missing

              A refugee from Ivory Coast carries her belongings as she walks through Grand Gedeh County in eastern Liberia. (CNS photo/Simon Akam, ReutersWARSAW, Poland - The Vatican's representative to the Cote d'Ivoire has said Catholic priests have been targeted by armed groups during the current conflict, but added that he still hopes "full-scale civil war" can be avoided in the West African country.

              In Rome, officials of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's charitable aid agency, said one of the priests kidnapped was Fr. Richard Kissi, diocesan director of Caritas in Abidjan, who was kidnapped March 29 by an armed group.

              In a March 30 telephone interview, the nuncio, Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, told Catholic News Service, "I wouldn't call it a civil war as yet — the rebel army has been trying to attack certain cities, and this is why the violence is continuing."

              He said students at the main Catholic seminary in Abidjan, the country's largest city, had been evacuated after its buildings were occupied by rebel soldiers. He added that a Catholic priest had been abducted while helping supervise the evacuation, while another had been attacked while returning from a late-night radio broadcast and had been hospitalized. He would not identify the priests by name.