#ShortNews: Pope apologizes for slapping woman’s hand

The pontiff was outside St. Peter’s Basilica on New Year’s Eve, walking down the rope line, stopping to shake hands with the cheering crowd, and there was a woman crosses herself and folds her hands, as if in prayer, as the pope draws closer. She stares intently, but he has begun to turn away. She reaches out and grabs him, with one hand, then another. She yanks him backward and will not let go.

The Pope reacted sharply, exclaimed something and then slapped her hand so she would let him go. In his impromptu remarks on Wednesday, Francis said people often lose patience, including him.

“Love makes us patient,” he said, adding, after briefly choking up, “We often lose our patience; me, too, and I apologize for my bad example last night.”

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/most-of-us-are-bad-at-apologizing-the-pope-just-showed-us-how-its-done/2020/01/02/711aea90-2d99-11ea-bcb3-ac6482c4a92f_story.html

#ShortNews: Christian faith stronger than ever in Iraq

According to Archbishop Moussa, after the so-called Islamic State devastated 95% of the Right Bank (west side) portion of the city, fourteen churches were completely destroyed, along with 4 monasteries. Life there is far from normal. The terror spread by ISIS also left a scar on inter-religious relations, and now many Christians are hesitant to return home.

The Archbishop said the Church cannot be silent, and works to protect those Christians who remain in Iraq. Archbishop Moussa concedes that reconstruction in Mosul, and throughout Iraq, will be a long and difficult process.

“But today,” he said, “the faith of Christians in Iraq is much stronger than yesterday.”

Source: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-01/iraq-archbishop-moussa-mosul-christian-faith-stronger.html

#ShortNews: Hundreds of religious leaders gather to set global peace priorities

Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious peace-building coalition, is convening hundreds of religious leaders, practitioners, scholars, government agencies and foundations in New York City on 11 December to co-develop global peace-building priorities for the next five years.

“When religious communities work together for the common good, they are a powerful force for peace and development,” said Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Secretary General, a.i. of Religions for Peace. “Today there is greater need than ever before for communities of faith to act on our spiritual authority and deep community connections to advance peace and development. This is why we are convening religious leaders from all over the world to co-develop priorities in multi-religious peace-building for the coming years.”

The event will be open to the press on 11 December and religious leaders from more than 50 countries in every region of the world will strategically determine priorities for the future of the renowned organization. Themes discussed will include climate solutions through the protection of indigenous peoples, overcoming gender-based violence, procuring the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and philanthropy’s role in boosting interfaith peace-building efforts.

Source: https://rfp.org/hundreds-of-religious-leaders-gather-to-set-global-peace-priorities/

#ShortNews: Foreigners vacate Brunei, where Christmas is banned

Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years.

In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities.

“The people in Muslim-dominated Brunei are quite tolerant and very easy to get along with, but the government is fearful of outside religions,” said one Western expatriate who fears Brunei’s harsh defamation laws and declined to give his name. Increasingly, foreign Christians working in Brunei spend Christmas time outside the Islamic country and return only in the new year.”

Source: https://www.ucanews.org/news/foreigners-vacate-brunei-where-christmas-is-banned/86872

#ShortNews: Pope Francis: Christmas Message Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World)

From the womb of Mother Church, the incarnate Son of God is born anew this night. His name is Jesus, which means: “God saves”. The Father, eternal and infinite Love, has sent him into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (cf. Jn 3:17). The Father has given him to us with great mercy. He has given him to everyone. He has given him forever. The Son is born, like a small light flickering in the cold and darkness of the night… Jesus the light of the world.

This is why the prophet cries out: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.

May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centred hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.

Read the full version of His Holiness Pope’s message; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20191225_urbi-et-orbi-natale.html

#ShortNews: A 7-year-old boy writes letter to Santa asking for ‘very good dad’

A domestic violence shelter has shared a heartfelt letter written by a seven-year-old boy to Santa asking for gifts and a “very very very good dad”. The handwritten letter was first found in the child’s backpack by his mother – who shared it with the SafeHaven of Tarrant County staff, in Fort Worth, Texas.

The touching letter has since prompted hundreds of donations, including all of the presents on Blake’s list, according to the shelter, who wrote: “Blake is getting exactly what he asked for from Santa.”

And while the organisation received “more than 10,000 donated gifts” this year, the shelter’s staff hopes that the letter will shine light on the bigger issue – the prevalence of domestic violence.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/santa-letter-domestic-violence-shelter-dad-books-fort-worth-texas-a9254046.html

#ShortNews: Inside Wakefield Cathedral at Christmas

Inside the Grade I-listed building, which is open 365 days a year, Christmas trees are twinkling and rehearsals are under way for a lunchtime concert and a later carol service. It is a hive of activity with school children coming and going.

The cathedral has about 100,000 visitors annually and has a target that everyone who lives in the Wakefield district will come in at least once a year. Visitors wander around the cathedral, many craning their necks to take in the details of the roof or the dominating rood screen. But others come in to find peace and reflection.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leeds-50717046?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c630drz91jyt/christmas&link_location=live-reporting-story

#ShortNews: Holiday Stress Can Be Unbearable. But You Will Miss It When It’s Gone.

Anyone desperate enough to Google the term “holiday stress” will be rewarded (or become more overwhelmed) with about 395,000,000 results. Limit the search to “holiday stress statistics 2019” and the results come down to a measly 28,100,000 or so. There are even specific memes and GIFs on how to handle the financial, social and emotional stresses of the season, including my current favorite, the article that ran in this newspaper by a Buddhist teacher who advises practicing “acceptance,” an activity that even on nonholidays can often seem as challenging as climbing Mount Everest in an ice storm.

As the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute’s newsletter put it, “Because the holiday season often requires us to keep track of and pay attention to a greater number of responsibilities than usual, the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive. Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells and cause existing brain cells to die.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/opinion/holiday-stress.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

#ShortNews: “Did you know Christians were the first Iraqis?”

Leaders of Iraq’s Christians unanimously cancelled Christmas-related celebrations in solidarity with the protest movement — but the aims of their stance go deeper than tinsel and fairy lights. Slogans of a united Iraq free of sectarianism resonate deeply within the community, which since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein has fearfully observed its diminishing influence amid growing Shiite-dominated politics shaping state affairs. The Christians have also left Iraq in huge numbers over the years, after being targeted by militant Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Falling demographics capture their existential anxieties, explained Sako. Christians numbered around 1.5 million before the U.S. invasion 16 years ago, roughly 6% of the population. Today the Christian population is believed to be less than a third of that figure, though accurate estimates are hard to come by given the lack of census data in Iraq.

Christmas decorations were forbidden within the fine interiors of Baghdad’s Chaldean Patriarchate.

Source: https://apnews.com/07cfd7a97feb61b371708fcc6db0ab8e

#ShortNews: God’s works are unpredictable, Pope tells musicians

The time before Christmas calls us to ask ourselves: what is it that I am waiting for in my life?  What is the great desire of my heart? You too, with your songs, help awaken or reawaken this healthy human “yearning” in the hearts of many people. Deep down, it is God Himself who puts this desire, this “thirst” in our hearts. And He comes to meet us by this route. Certainly not in the vain compulsion to acquire possessions or to keep up appearances. It is not there that God comes; no one will meet on that route. But surely He comes wherever there is hunger and thirst for peace, hunger and thirst for justice, freedom and love.

In this act of humility, we find ourselves before a disconcerting mystery. God is unpredictable and constantly acts in unforeseeable ways. By taking us aback in this way, He constantly invites us not to grow proud but to grasp His disarming power in every little gesture of goodwill. This is all the more true for those who – like you – work closely with young people, and have a certain influence on their ways of thinking and acting. Speaking about your role, Saint Paul VI observed that the world “needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the heart of man; it is that precious fruit that resists the wear and tear of time, unites generations and makes them share in wonderment” (Address of Pope Paul VI to Artists, 8 December 1965).

Read more Holy Father Frances’s greeting the audience, in the Vatical Apostolic Palace last Saturday; http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/12/13/191213c.html