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Retiring Pope Benedict XVI in uncharted territory

In Catholic News, Religious News, World News on February 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm
English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By NICOLE WINFIELD, AP

 
For months, construction crews have been renovating a four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where nuns would live for a few years at a time in cloister.

 

Only a handful of Vatican officials knew it would one day be Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement home.

 

On Tuesday, construction materials littered the front lawn of the house and plastic tubing snaked down from the top floor to a cargo container. The restoration has become even more critical following Benedict’s announcement that he will resign Feb. 28 and live his remaining days here in prayer.

 

From a new name to this new home to the awkward reality of having a reigning pope and a retired one, Benedict is facing uncharted territory as he becomes the first pontiff in six centuries to retire.

 

The Vatican on Tuesday tried to quash any notion that Benedict aimed to pull strings behind the scenes. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a top spokesman, said Benedict will have no influence on the election of his successor.

 

“The pope will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of election,” he told reporters.

 

The 85-year-old Benedict said Monday he was stepping down simply because he simply no longer had the strength in mind or body to carry on. Lombardi on Tuesday also revealed for the first time that Benedict has had a pacemaker for years and had its battery replaced just a few months ago.

 

Although no date for a conclave to choose the next pope has been announced, it must begin within 20 days of his Feb. 28 retirement. That means a new pope will likely be elected by the College of Cardinals by Easter — March 31 this year.

 

The decision immediately raised questions about what Benedict would be called, where he would live — and how that might affect his successor.

 

The Vatican’s senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, said Tuesday the fact that Benedict had chosen to live in a monastery is significant.

 

“It is something that he has wanted to do for a while,” Burke said. “But I think it also suggests that his role is going to be a very quiet one, and that is important so you don’t have a situation of … two different popes at the same time, and one influencing the other.

 

“I think the obvious thing is when he says retirement, it really means retiring,” he said.

 

As for his name, Burke said Benedict would most likely be referred to “Bishop of Rome, emeritus” as opposed to “Pope Emeritus.” Lombardi also said Benedict would take some kind of “emeritus” title.

 

Other Vatican officials said it would probably be up to the next pope to decide Benedict’s new title, and wouldn’t exclude that he might still be called “Your Holiness” as a courtesy, much as retired presidents are often referred to as “President.” It was not clear whether the retired pope will retain the name Benedict – or revert to being called Joseph Ratzinger again.

 

Benedict had important unfinished business before his retirement: He has been widely expected to issue his fourth encyclical, concerning faith, before Easter. But Lombardi ruled out that the encyclical would be ready before his retirement.

 

Already, Benedict was changing his schedule to take into account his new circumstances. He had been scheduled to go to a church on Rome’s Aventine hill for the annual Ash Wednesday service this week starting the church’s Lenten season; the service will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome instead. Lombardi said a larger space was needed to accommodate the throngs expected to greet the outgoing pope – but observers suspect the Vatican may have also wanted to spare Benedict from the crowds along the hill.

 

Immediately after his resignation, Benedict will spend some time at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lake Albano in the hills south of Rome where he has spent his summer vacations reading and writing. By March, the weather may start to warm up and he should be able to enjoy the gardens and feed the goldfish in a pond near a statue of the Madonna where he often liked to visit.

 

If he’s interested, he can do some star gazing; The Vatican Observatory is located inside the palazzo, complete with a telescope and a world-class collection of meteorites.

 

Lombardi said Benedict would eventually return to the Vatican and live at a monastery inside the Vatican gardens. Asked if he might like to go somewhere else, Lombardi said the pope would feel “much safer” inside the Vatican walls.

 

The Mater Ecclesiae monastery was built in 1992, on the site of a former residence for the Vatican’s gardeners. Pope John Paul II had wanted a residence inside the Vatican walls to host contemplative religious orders, and over the years several different orders would come for spells of a few years, said Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

 

The last such order of nuns left the residence in October, and renovation work began immediately afterward, Vian told AP. He said Benedict had decided to retire last April after his taxing but exhilarating trip to Mexico and Cuba in March.

 

“Many people thought they were doing the renovations for new sisters, but it was for the pope,” Vian said. He said only a few people knew of the pope’s plans, yet the secret didn’t get out.

 

“That shows the seriousness and loyalty of the few senior Holy See officials who were aware,” he said — a reference to the 2012 scandal over leaked papal documents by the pope’s own butler.

 

Benedict has visited the monastery, with its own chapel on the grounds, a handful of times over the years.

 

There’s a garden right outside the front door, where the nuns living there would tend to the lemon and orange trees as well as the roses, which are used in liturgical ceremonies or sent as gifts to the pope. No chemical fertilizers are used, just organic fertilizer sent straight from the gardens at Castel Gandolfo.

 

Source: Associated Press.

 

 

 

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Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam

In Islam, Religious News, World News on January 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By 

 

The 15-year prison sentence given to a woman and her seven children by an Egyptian court for converting to Christianity is a sign of things to come, according to alarmed human rights advocates who say the nation’s Islamist government is bad news for Christians in the North African country.

 

A criminal court  in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef  meted out the shocking sentence last week, according to the Arabic-language Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

 

Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa, a Muslim, 23 years ago. He later died, and his widow planned to convert her family back to Christianity in order to obtain an inheritance from her family. She sought the help of others in the registration office to process new identity cards between 2004 and 2006. When the conversion came to light under the new regime, Nadia, her children and even the clerks who processed the identity cards were all sentenced to prison.

 

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said conversions like Nadia’s have been common in the past, but said Egypt’s new Sharia-based constitution “is a real disaster in terms of religion freedom.”

 

“The cases will increase in the future,” Tadros said. “It will be much harder for people to return to Christianity.”

 

President Mohamed Morsi, who was elected last June and succeeded the secular reign of Hosni Mubarak, who is now in prison, pushed the new constitution through last year.

 

Tadros said the constitution limits the practice of Christianity because “religious freedom has to be understood within the boundaries of Sharia.” He added that the constitution prescribes that the highest Sunni authority should be referred to as an interpreter of the religion clause contained in the constitution.

 

Flag of Beni Suef Governorate

Flag of Beni Suef Governorate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Opponents of the constitution, including Coptic Christians and secular and liberal groups, protested at the time against passage of the document because of the mix of Islamic-based Sharia law and politics. Roughly 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians.

 

A government spokeswoman told FoxNews.com she would determine “who is responsible for this and covers this issue in Beni Suef,“ a city of 200,000 located about 75 miles south of Cairo. She did not offer further comment.

 

The case is the latest example of the increasingly dire plight of the nation’s roughly 7 million Christians, say human rights advocates.

 

“Now that Sharia law has become an integral part of Egypt’s new constitution, Christians in that country are at greater risk than ever,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. “This is another tragic case that underscores the growing problem of religious intolerance in the Muslim world. To impose a prison sentence for a family because of their Christian faith sadly reveals the true agenda of this new government: Egypt has no respect for international law or religious liberty.”

 

Morsi has been under fire for failing to take action against rising violence inflicted on Egypt’s Christians. In August, the roughly 100-family Christian community in Dahshour was forced to flee after Muslim neighbors launched attacks against the Christians’ homes and property.

 

Morsi said the expulsion and violence was “ blown out of proportion.” Radical Salafi preachers — who have formed alliances with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood — called  for Muslims to shun Christians during Christmas.

 

Sekulow urged U.S. diplomatic intervention in Egypt to promote religious freedom. Morsi is scheduled to meet with President Obama, possibly in March.

 

”The U.S. State Department must play more of a role in discouraging this kind of persecution,” Sekulow said. “The U.S. should not be an idle bystander. The U.S. provides more than $1 billion to Egypt each year. The State Department should speak out forcefully against this kind of religious persecution in Egypt.”

 

Benjamin Weinthal  is a  journalist who reports on Christians in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Source:  FoxNews.com

 

 

 

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