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Spirituality

Vatican official urges Hindus, Christians to promote religious freedom

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VATICAN CITY -- In a message to the world's Hindus, a top Vatican official called on Christians and Hindus to work together in promoting religious freedom.

The lack of religious freedom is "taking center stage in many places, calling our attention to those members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation," wrote Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The freedom to "profess, practice and propagate" one's religious belief "is the answer to religiously motivated conflicts in many parts of the world," especially as so many people desperately seek full human development and peaceful coexistence with others, he wrote.

His comments came in an annual message to mark the Hindu celebration of Diwali, a three-day religious festival that was to begin Oct. 26 in most parts of the world.

The cardinal's letter, released by the Vatican Oct. 20, said when religious freedom is hampered or denied "all other human rights are endangered."

On 'The Way' with Martin Sheen

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By the time director/writer Emilio Estevez’s new film “The Way” opens nationwide Oct. 21, he and his lead star, dad Martin Sheen, will have crisscrossed the United States and part of Canada on a bus tour with exclusive screenings in about 30 cities.

“The Way” is the story of Tom (Sheen), a widower, sometime Catholic and a Malibu dentist, whose son, Daniel (Estevez), decides to leave his doctorate behind and see the world.

From neoexclusivism to humility

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DAYTON, Ohio -- Gerard Mannion's recent book featured prominently in Day 2 of the Ecclesiology Investigations Research Network's conference on ecclesiology and exclusion at the University of Dayton.

Ecclesiology and postmodernity posits the theory that the Catholic church has responded to the relativism and cultural pluralism that Mannion says figure prominently in the world today with what he calls neoexclusivism, characterized by an us-vs.-them approach and exemplified by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's dogmatism.

Mannion constructs an ecclesiology based on a virtue ethic as a way to obviate the church's response, said Dennis Doyle, Ph.D. and professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton. But where Mannion falls short, Doyle said, is in labeling a person's attempt to place him or herself resolutely into a faith tradition as neoexclusivist.

Speakers discuss images of God

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NEW YORK -- Speaking the evening of May 2 at Fordham University, where she is a professor of theology, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson described a well-known portion of Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which depicts God as an old, muscular, bearded white man who creates a younger man in his own image.

She said the example illustrates how a society's art, as well as the imagery in its language, reflects people who are at the pinnacle of that society. Just as artists imagine God as an older, white, powerful male, language describes God with the words king, father and lord.

"Why is this the case? Because historically, the public culture of the church was shaped by rulers who were men with power, and the power of naming," Johnson continued. "Why could God not be spoken about with the qualities of someone who is young or black or female, or all three in combination?"

U.S. bishops blast book by feminist theologian

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A widely popular 2007 book by Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, one of America’s most prominent feminist Catholic theologians, is marred by a series of “misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors” and thus “does not accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points,” according to a statement released today by the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In particular, Johnson’s treatment of the Trinity in Quest for the Living God, according to the bishops, “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel.”

Despite that conclusion, the bishops did not call for any disciplinary measures against Johnson, such as a ban on teaching or publishing. Johnson, 69, is a distinguished professor of systematic theology at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York.

Watch in wonder, gather the courage to act, and pray

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Earth & Spirit

I used a prayer bench for the first time recently, one of those comfortably padded contraptions that enable kneeling in an upright posture, attentive yet relaxed. On a chilly day, the opportunity came to spend an hour quietly meditating in an atrium room with a skylight and plants. My wife and I were housesitting for a weekend at the home of friends.

Bishop first in US to approve Marian apparitions

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CHAMPION, Wis. --Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Ricken made the announcement in Champion during Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. More than 250 invited guests filled the shrine chapel to hear Ricken read the official decree on the authenticity of the apparitions. He also issued a second decree, formally approving the shrine as a diocesan shrine.

As he declared, "I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief," the congregation burst into applause, with many in attendance moved to tears.

Joining Jesus' story with the new science story

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Michael Morwood is an Australian author, speaker and teacher. His first book, Tomorrow’s Catholic, was declared to be “in error” by Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne, but sold well. A former priest with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Morwood works in adult faith formation in Australia and in the United States. His retreats and workshops focus on helping Christians articulate faith in Jesus in ways that resonate with a contemporary understanding of our place in the universe.

He has a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Boston College. Following his silencing by Pell, Morwood resigned from religious life and priestly ministry. He and his wife, Maria, live in Perth, Western Australia. He is also author of From Sand to Solid Ground: Questions of Faith for Modern Catholics and Is Jesus God? Finding Our Faith (Crossroad).

NCR: Your books respond to the need of contemporary Christians to understand their faith in ways that respect their secular worldview and enable them to believe in Christ and believe in themselves and our place in the universe.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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