The Pope in Germany. In the Desert of Faith

In Berlin and Erfurt, Benedict XVI enters into the area of Europe farthest from God. He wants to make it a new mission territory. A report from Chemnitz, where atheists are in the majority and almost no one is baptized anymore.


“Where God is, there is the future”: this is the title that Benedict XVI wanted to give to his third visit to Germany, which begins tomorrow.

Pope Benedict has stated repeatedly that the “priority” of this pontificate is to bring men closer to God. But the case of Germany makes this urgency of his all the more compelling.

The former East Germany, together with Estonia and the Czech Republic, is the area of Europe where atheists are most numerous, and the non-baptized are in the majority.

In Berlin and in Erfurt, the city of Luther, pope Joseph Ratzinger will enter into precisely this perimeter of maximum estrangement from the faith, in Europe.

But also in Freiburg im Breisgau, the third stage of his voyage, the weakening of the Christian faith is a widespread phenomenon.

A book was recently released in Germany, published by GerthMedien, that analyzes the decline of Christianity in this country in very straightforward terms.

The title itself is eloquent: “Gesellschaft ohne Gott. Risiken und Nebenwirkungen der Entchristlichung Deutschlands [Society without God. Risks and side effects of the dechristianization of Germany].”…

Rest here.

Our prayers go with the Holy Father on his visit to Germany. May the light of the Gospel shine in the darkness.


John Piper: I Was Racist

… I was, in those years, manifestly racist. As a child and a teenager my attitudes and actions assumed the superiority of my race in almost every way without knowing or wanting to know anybody who was black…

Christianity Today has the rest. It’s an excerpt from his new book.


Archbishop John Hepworth: The Heated Sexual Abuse Dispute Continues

Catholic Culture has news on the indefatigable ignominy:

A heated dispute continues in Australia about the sexual-abuse charges lodged by Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth.

  • Msgr. Ian Dempsey, who was named by Senator Nick Xenophon as one of Hepworth’s molesters, has written to parishioners insisting that he is innocent and reporting that his health has suffered because of the public charges. Those who know him, he wrote, “know I am incapable of perpetrating the false accusations made against me.” Msgr. Dempsey has written to Xenophon as well, complaining that the lawmaker abused his senatorial privilege to make the accusation.
  • The Adelaide archdiocese says that Archbishop Hepworth declined to authorize an investigation when he first reported the sexual abuse in 2007. The archbishop’s approval only came—and thus the archdiocesan investigation began—early this year, officials claim. Representatives of the Adelaide archdiocese say that they repeatedly asked Hepworth to approve an inquiry. The Melbourne archdiocese had already begun an investigation, found merit in Hepworth’s charges, and offered a formal apology and financial settlement—leaving questions as to why one archdiocese pursued the matter, while the other claimed to lack the necessary authorization to do so.
  • Archbishop Hepworth has announced that if the Adelaide archdiocese does not take action on his charges this week, he will take his complaint to police.
  • The Anglican archbishop has made the stunning revelation that since his charges were made public last week, “Nobody from the Church has been in touch with me…not even through a third party.” The failure of Catholic Church officials to speak directly with Archbishop Hepworth is remarkable, particularly in light of the fact that he has been a prominent leader among the Anglicans seeking to enter the Catholic Church.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.


Theologian Hans Küng Is At It Again

Via Ad Orientem:

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Germany for a long-awaited visit. Prominent Swiss theologian Hans Küng explains to SPIEGEL why the papal visit will do little to help the crisis in the Church and compares Benedict to Vladimir Putin in the way he has centralized power.

Read the rest here.

Küng is of course a self excommunicated overt heretic. No doubt that explains the persistent attraction towards him felt by the press and media.

Bible Archaeology

Earliest Known Images of Christ on Display

This Friday at the N.Y.U. Institute for the Study of the Ancient World:

This Friday, the earliest known images of Christ, from the year 240, go on view in New York for the first time, and they aren’t where you might expect them to be. They are part of a remarkable exhibition at the relatively obscure N.Y.U. Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, a jewel-box of a museum on East 84th Street whose mission, according to exhibitions director Dr. Jennifer Chi, is “to break down preconceived notions of antiquity.”

“Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos” does so with a vengeance, in presenting 77 objects from an excavation in Syria that fundamentally altered the understanding of art, culture and religion in the ancient world…

The paintings of Christ are part of a series of New Testament scenes that exhibition co-curator Dr. Peter De Staebler said are “the earliest dated Christian art in existence.” Narratives painted on the walls of Dura’s large synagogue, considered the best-preserved in the world, revealed a Jewish figural tradition that had been totally unknown—that had, in fact, been thought to be nonexistent. The rediscovery of these painted Bible stories—among them, Moses and the Burning Bush, the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Exodus from Egypt with the astounding representation of the hands of God (on display by photo and slideshow; the originals are in Damascus)—sparked a revolution in thinking about art and Jewish religious practice.

The finds at Dura also unexpectedly demonstrated that, far from being modern developments, religious coexistence and multiculturalism were thriving a couple of millennia ago on the outskirts of the Roman Empire.

The New Testament scenes were found in what is believed to be the oldest-known baptistery, which was part of a Christian “house-church” (a house that was used as a church). Dura’s house-church is considered the oldest such structure ever revealed. The Institute is showing three of the baptistery’s original wall paintings. From the city’s synagogue come 10 ceiling tiles, each elaborately painted with astrological signs, pine cones, fruit and faces; they’re being shown together for the first time. Then there are the various beliefs lumped together under the rubric “pagan,” and numerous structures were found in Dura dedicated to Greek, Roman and local gods. Some of the pagan imagery seen at the Institute is itself a blend of different pagan strains.

Not only did Christians, Jews and pagans worship side by side—the Temple of Aphrodite was located across the street from the synagogue—but the city was also inhabited by distinct populations of Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Persians. And they all apparently coexisted in harmony.

“That’s what’s so extraordinary,” said Dr. Chi. The discoveries to be made at this show are legion, but perhaps the most compelling is the fact that it presents objects of major religions and diverse populations that date from the same century and were excavated from the same site, indicating that all those groups apparently lived together peacefully.

Excavators even found a ring in the ruins, also now on display, engraved with the Greek word “omonoia,” meaning “harmony” or “concord.” The concept referred to agreements between individuals or political entities, and, according to Dr. Chi, it also referred to a melding of cultures. (Some scholars think it’s an engagement ring.) The art, artifacts and writings found at Dura spat in the eye of those establishment scholars who over the centuries assumed inherent hostility among religions and cultures.

And there was plenty else that caused people to sit up. The Christian narratives were created before the religion was state-authorized by the Roman Emperor Constantine—i.e., before the persecution of Christians was lifted—and before any institutional Church had even decided what the narrative components of the religion were. The Jewish narratives were created before rabbis reinterpreted, about a thousand years later, what “graven images” meant.

Founded by the Greeks, Dura prospered under the Romans until 256, when it was sacked by what more recently might be called Persian armies. Everything in the exhibit is from the Roman period…

The Christian wall paintings may seem crude, for example, especially when compared with some of the pagan imagery whose forms had been developed by artists over centuries. But consider the mere fact that miracles are being represented—one shows Jesus and Peter walking on water, another the Healing of the Paralytic—at a time when Christian iconography was scarcely in existence and gospel had not yet been separated from apocrypha. These paintings, part of a programmatic series of scenes about salvation, may be the earliest manifestation of the visual church…

Totally awesome! The exhibit should well be worth visiting.


The Archaeological Institute of American has a really good piece on Dura-Europos if you would like to know more on the place here.

Oh and by the way, the image above is not the earliest (so far) known image of Christ. That is a ceiling tile with a female face from the Synagogue in Dura-Europos. Rather, this is the oldest known image of Christ (healing the paralytic):


Bring Back John Vianney!

Now there’s an idea!

Saint John Vianney (1786-1859) was the curé of the parish of Ars in France and, because of his simple but great gifts as a pastor, was made the Patron of Priests and Parish Priests. I try to read his biography each year and am regularly struck by some of the features of his daily life.

The reason for my fascination is that he was a pastor before the wholesale professionalization of the clergy. So he spent more time in his parish church than anywhere else. But he was not a desk jockey, although there were certainly some among the pastors of his circle.

The church building back then had not yet become a place of limited use. Rather it was like the courtyard of God, much after the fashion of the vision in Isaiah: “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1) There were people crowding in to pray at all hours of the day or night. They were coming for grace and truth. The good pastor was right there in the middle of that crowd.

Here is the eyewitness account of Monsieur La Croix in the church: “What mighty influence did he exercise over his hearers! . . . The multitude was crowded around him; at his feet, on the steps of the altar, on the pavement of the choir, were pressed together persons of every age, sex, and condition . . . all absorbed in breathless attention.” And all to hear a priest giving instruction in catechetics – and doing it daily.

He was in the church from midnight on to deal with the crowds. The remarkable thing is that the whole day passed in the church, and divided among prayer, instruction, and the sacraments. Of course, the sacrament that occupied the most time was Confession. Observers noted that he spent about sixteen hours a day in confession. This was of course before confession was obliterated by psychologizing and theories about the impossibilities of really sinning.

When did you last hear a homily on sin? It was the reason for Christ’s death and yet it is an almost unknown category in people’s thought, even Christians. Yet people become less human because of sin. We are watching the whole possibility of humanity trickle away into the sand.

Le Curé d’Ars

You simply must read on here.



Berlin Papal Embassy Hit with Paint Bombs

The Eponymous Flower has the news:

The Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin-Neukölln has been hit with a paint bomb just as the Papal visit is about to begin.

Berlin: The Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin has been hit with a paint bomb just as the Papal visit is about to begin.  The act is said to have taken place on Tuesday night, said the police spokesman in Berlin.  The pain has covered the embassy building as well as the neighboring St. Johannes Basilica.  The damage to the Nunciature has not been reported yet.  The police are ascertaining the perpetrators and the background of the crime.