A statue of Jesus the Homeless was installed recently at Saint Albion’s Episcopal Church in North Carolina, depicting Jesus as a homeless vagrant sleeping on a park bench. One of the first people to see it as she drove past called the police, thinking it was a real person. The features of the statue are shrouded, expect for the feet which show the marks made by the crucifixion. The creator of the piece, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, offered first casts to cathedrals in Toronto (St. Michael’s) and New York (St. Patrick’s), but both declined. The University of Toronto has one installed outside the Jesuit School of Theology. Last November Schmalz presented a miniature version to Pope Francis in Rome, who touched the knee of the sculpture, closed his eyes and prayed. If the City of Rome approve the installation, one will be placed on the Via della Conziliazione, leading to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you suddenly find someone sleeping on a bench outside your church, for the love of Jesus, don’t go calling the cops.
Finally the so called Bishop of Bling, Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been removed from his post by Pope Francis. The German bishop received wide criticism after the renovation of his residential complex costing €31 million. In Germany a church tax costs the country billions of euro, so the lack of transparency rubbed people up the wrong way. Monsignor Manfred Grothe, an auxiliary bishop will take over the post and Tebartz-van Elst will receive a new post at an opportune time.
Yes, those satanic seagulls are at it again. Exactly one year ago seagulls attacked two doves released by Pope Benedict as a sign of peace, but the doves escaped. Yesterday, the gulls decided to bring some reinforcements for their mission in the shape of a crow. You have to admire their choice. A crow is a more classical bird of evil, perhaps we may get a raven or two for next year’s rematch. Shortly after Pope Francis and two children released the doves, they were attacked by a seagull and a crow. Despite their being a crowd of tens of thousands of people in Saint Peter’s square, nobody knows if the doves survived. Well I guess that’s a miracle of sorts.
At the end of the World Youth Day week of celebration, the Pope’s Mass had to be moved to the beach of Copacabana due to weather changing the original location into a mud field. The shoreline most famous for night clubs and partying was swamped by over 3 million people enthusiastically greeting the pope and offering up babies to be kissed.
In his sermon Pope Francis encouraged young people who have protested against corruption to continue their efforts, fight apathy and offer a christian response. Many young people in Brazil have taken this as support for peaceful change, not a crusade. I agree that there cannot be apathy to corruption, but as for religion, that is a different matter.
Meanwhile, back in Rome, the media are being anything but apathetic towards Pope Francis and have been busy digging up dirt. The Italian clergyman hand-picked by Pope Francis to be papal delegate for the Vatican Bank, Battista Ricca, had a damning story published in the Italian press just days before the pope left for Brazil. The article charged that while Battista served in Uruguay from 1999 to 2001, he had a live-in male lover, cruised gay bars and brought a young man back to the Vatican embassy and ended up trapped in an elevator with him overnight. So far, Battista has retained his position. Additionally journalists have discovered that a woman Pope Francis appointed to a commission to study reform in the Vatican, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, while having excellent credentials, has issued some Tweets critical of the church. And just to round it off, the media published a letter allegedly written by Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican accountant, arrested for his part in a plot to smuggle $26 million in cash, to Pope Francis protesting his innocence. He claims to have documents to show Pope Francis secretly, which will prove that he only acted under the direction of his superiors.
So I guess Pope Francis will not be going home for a rest. There’s a lot going on.
Yesterday the pope released a dove as a sign of peace following the angelus on holocaust day. A watching seagull, perhaps a nazi sympathiser intending to protest, attacked the dove and tried to kill it. Thousands of onlookers in St. Peter’s square looked on, as the dove flew for its life, trying to escape the gull. After a short while their prayers were answered as the dove flew free. Last year when the pope released two doves from the same window, they flew back in through the open window. Perhaps they had been given a tip off about another planned gull attack.
People just love predicting the fall of Rome. Remember an earthquake was predicted to hit back in May, but it turned out to be just another warm sunny day? Now a group called the Fatima movement are predicting that God will destroy Rome in just under a fortnight, on August 17th. They know this because the have the Authentic text of the third secret of Fatima, not the version published by the Vatican. They seem to be looking forward to the non-event, or the imminent punishment from heaven, as they call it. They even have a Destruction of Rome countdown clock on their website accurate to the millisecond. They also note that Anti-Pope Benedict will not be in Rome on August 17th. The website reminds me of the line from the movie, As Good As It Gets, when a religious caller knocks on Melvin’s door – “Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.”
Thousands of people are staying out of Rome for fear of an earthquake rumoured to hit around May 11th. Raffaele Bendandi, a seismologist who died in 1979, is said to have predicted a previous earthquake in 1923, which killed 1,000 people. He used his theories involving movements of the planets to predict earthquakes and was knighted by Mussolini. There is an urban myth saying that, on the day before he died, he predicted Rome would be destroyed on May 11th, 2011. Despite scientists and government officials denying that there is any truth that this prediction was ever made, rumours are spreading and many people are planning on leaving the city for a few days, just to be on the safe side. Perhaps Harold Camping of Family Radio is right and the end of days will begin on May 21st, around teatime, when God wipes out the Vatican as a symbolic gesture. Alternatively, you may manage to get some cheap flights to see Rome, while the weather is nice and things are quite. Rome is a great city, so go check it out.
Well only days after the iPhone confession app got the approval of a bishop in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the form of an imprimatur, Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, has criticized the app. The Catholic Church says that the sacrament requires a personal dialogue in order for absolution to be given. I guess the Catholic God doesn’t know what you are thinking unless a priest can interpret.
As Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, they find themselves under attack. Besides the over-hyped threat by a small congregation to burn copies of the Qur’an and the growing opposition to a mosque near ground zero, a Vatican official warns of a Muslim majority in Europe. Father Piero Gheddo in Italy, warns that the declining birth-rate in Europe, combined with mass immigration of Muslims could lead to a Muslim majority in a few generations. He has stated that Islam will “sooner rather than later conquer the majority in Europe.”
“If we consider ourselves a Christian country, we should return to the practice of Christian life, which would also solve the problem of empty cradles”, he added, which presumably refers to the catholic ban on contraception.
This follows a number of warnings from senior church figures on the spread of Islam. Earlier this year, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, of Prague, warned us that Islam was filling a void as Europeans empty the Christian content of their lives. Cardinal Jose Policarpo of Lisbon, last year warned Catholic women against marrying Muslim men.
The thought of living in a country dominated by a single religion is scary. Ireland, for example, is still recovering from the domination of the Catholic Church. It therefore falls on all Apathists to do their duty and procreate with a view to raising some future freethinking Apathists. If you are not ready to start a family just yet, you can have a lot of fun practicing.