God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

No nation is criminal, and no religion is terrorist

In a message to an assembly of nearly 700 community organizers and social justice advocates in California, Pope Francis called on all people to become Samaritans and resist the “grave danger” in this moment to disown our neighbors amid a culture of indifference. “Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart,” the pope said. “You must become a Samaritan,” he said. His letter was delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson and a World Meeting of Popular Movements organizer, who read it together, alternating paragraph by paragraph from English to Spanish, to those gathered in Central Catholic High School gymnasium to participate in the U.S. regional meeting. (“Used with permission from NCRonline.org, a service of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.”)

To read more about this important issue, which surely resounds also on the background of South Africa’s society and challenges please check the following links:

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/unbreakable-world-meeting-justice-opens-california

http://www.lastampa.it/2017/02/17/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/no-people-is-criminal-and-no-religion-is-terrorist-BBpd3RREVg0dyWuggiUNXP/pagina.html

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”

Long awaited and finally out – and already there is a flood of comments from all sides of the church spectrum and beyond. So I want to  add my two cents to the growing number of comments and I will do it brief and up the point.
Firstly I am not disappointed and I am not surprised neither, as the exhortation is the continuation of a sincere approach of Pope Francis to move the church in the right direction, but also bearing in mind that he is coming from South America with its specifics.
Style, tone and content is indeed refreshing and I never thought that in parts – when it comes to discernment and the conclusion that nothing in this world is either black or white – a pope confirms what my pastoral approach is since I was ordained a priest. It is indeed with great joy that I read those parts and I feel strengthened. It almost feels like common sense has prevailed and for me personal, I feel much more home again in this church. Even if nobody dares to spell it out: we have had other times in our church where all was only seemingly black and white and whoever was stepping aside was already seen as an outsider in the church or even worse, outside the church. This church is changing under his leadership and guidance.
“Wonderful complicated”, is the description of Pope Francis for this world, for all the different family situations and we as clergy are encouraged to embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. Accepting conscience instead of replacing conscience – it really warms my heart to hear such words from the top of our hierarchy.

And yes, there are parts I still think are missing, for example the word “intrinsic evil” in connection with my brothers and sisters belonging to the LGBTI community should have been officially withdrawn and banned, but I guess, being asked to not discriminate means that the use of those words are not allowed anymore. Another contentious issue is the question of artificial contraception where I hoped for some development.

“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism,” so the pope, and with his writings he certainly opens the church up for such reflection. And not only for such reflections but also for a new chapter of being a church not only for the people but walking with the people and seeing and pointing out all the grace being present in the chaos of our lives, our families, our situations.
I think there is so much food for thoughts in this exhortation, starting by seeing grace in imperfection and following through with discovering the lively spirit of God in all human situations. This will keep us busy and if done sincere as a church getting “soiled by the mud of the street” in the process  will look good in the eyes of God.
Let’s hope that the humble and honest reflection of Pope Francis really filters through all the church officials and that we all, being either labelled “progressive” or “conservative” just hold in and reflect ourselves on the rich input the pope is giving with “Amore Laetitia”.

And here the full text in the official translation:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Filed under: Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Church battle intensifies

Well, I have to admit: Whoever got Kim Davis, the bigot Kentucky county clerk who went to prison for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple to meet Pope Francis scored a point and steered the pot. Everybody is screaming and shouting – one side because of the joy to exploit such a meeting and to abuse the figure of the pope; the other side because they feel this is a sign of rejection towards their cause. Let’s keep the world grey and not black and white: As said, those wanting to turn the clock back in church scored a little victory but looking at it without falling into emotions it is quite simple: The pope met hundreds of people, he met gay people at the White House – and also there we saw the same scenario, one-quarter jubilant while the other fighting the presence of a gay bishop and friends. I believe he is a pope with a message for all and if I only take serious that the first and foremost duty is to welcome everybody – so also the lady Kim Davis.
Asked about the Davis case during his flight back, he said and I have no reason to doubt this, that he does not know the particulars of this case. Davis and her husband were in Washington for a different reason: they were to receive the “Cost of Discipleship” award on Friday 25 September from The Family Research Council at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  And I am sure in that context you find those who have been pulling the strings to make this meeting go ahead. And the words of encouragement – have you ever listened to the Queen of England: Every small talk conversation has the same theme – and so it is with all people having to meet different people all day long. Words of encouragement are standard with this pope and his message.
Generally I believe that we all should relax a little bit more and see and appreciate that the church indeed is moving under the leadership of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church is an old lady and we are starting to see the revitalization of the II Vatican Council after going backwards before his election. This revitalization and acknowledgement of the church in today’s society and a message relevant for today’s people, the working of the spirit is what scares those who have fallen in the trap of ideology within our church. Church teaching always developed and the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit always got a deeper understanding of God’s good message. Blocking this development like some high-ranking church officials try to do in the moment via statements or writing books or even accusing directly or indirectly those of acknowledging the signs of the time brings the danger of gliding from faith into ideology. On a positive note it shows how human the church is when cardinals try in vain to push their point of view as the only correct one forward.
And another positive note: Who would have thought that the Catholic Church is able on this level to have a debate? Who would have thought that a Synod is more than giving the nod whatever the Vatican and the Curia has already decided beforehand? Remember the days of John-Paul II or Benedict XVI – would such a debate be possible?

So let the church battle intensify without losing our heads and minds in the “Kim Davis story” or extreme statements like voiced by Cardinal Sarah or Cardinal Burke. Let us acknowledge the humanity of the debate and hope and pray for the divine mercy filtering through during the days of the Synod and at the end it will be Pope Francis who will make sense of it all – that is indeed his role as the Peter of today.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, Politics and Society, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nepal and the gender debate

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Messe-83.JPG

Photo via WikiCommons/Sigismund von Dobschütz

While we in Europe and Africa the discussion on gender issues are heating up and churches and some other quarters of society clearly deny any suggestions that gender might be more diverse or partly also a product of society, some countries take realities and sciences into account. I was always thrilled to see that in my beloved Thailand the “katoi” was known as the third gender. And now the Himalayan country Nepal joins such support for transgender citizens.

Currently, Nepal is one of only eight countries that officially recognize third gender citizens, next to Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Thailand. However, despite first including third gender people on a census as far back as 2011, the Himalayan nation of 26.5 million recently marked an important milestone, issuing its first third gender passport.

According to “Human Rights Watch”, Monica Shahi made history when she received her passport with the designation O for “other,” rather than M (Male) or F (Female). Despite recognition of third gender persons, only a handful of the above listed countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have issued corresponding passports.

It is indeed a step in the right direction – God’s creation is much more diverse as visible on first sight and I really believe that God has great humor and he enjoys to spice up creation and evolution with lots of colors, shapes and diverse beings. And whatever it is, sex, looks, handicaps – it all carries a divine message we are asked to receive, read and cherish one or the other way. God does not make mistakes – but humans are very much tempted to do so in prescribing God how to run his ongoing creation. Ecology and environment, nature and creation are top on the list since Pope Francis was elected to be the “St. Peter of our times”. In his encyclical “Laudato Si”  he combined bible and theology with scientific knowledge in a way no other writing of a pope has done before and it is only consequent to develop this combination of two ways of discovering God in all those other fields where we need answers to questions of today’s world and society. This also might mean and will mean robust debate, careful listening to each others positions, and surely being open to be surprised again and again how God works in mysterious ways. And one is for sure: faith and sciences as two ways of getting to know God and they can never really contradict each other – they always will support each other even if it takes time for us humans to understand and acknowledge it.

 

Filed under: General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No crime ever deserves the death penalty

It is amazing for me that I had to wait that long in my life to hear the clear words of a Pope condemning without reservation not only the death penalty but also “life without parole”. Even the Catholic Catechism was still a bit ambivalent about those matters. The Pope wrote that capital punishment is “inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed by the convict”. For him it represents a “failure” in nations governed by “rule of law” “because it forces you to kill in the name of justice”. Human justice is “imperfect” and “fallible”. Quoting Dostoyevsky the Pope said: “To kill for murder is a punishment incomparably worse than the crime itself. Murder by legal sentence is immeasurably more terrible than murder by brigands…. …No matter how serious the crime committed by the convict,” Francis stated, the death penalty “is an affront to the sanctity of life and human dignity. It goes against God’s plan for man, society and his merciful justice and prevents any just end to the punishment from being reached.” According to the Pope, the death penalty “does not bring justice to victims but encourages revenge.” Francis emphasized that “there is no human way to kill”, even there are debates around the world about “the way to kill, as if it were about trying to ‘do it well’. Throughout history people have defended mechanisms to kill by reducing the agony and suffering of the convict” but “there is no human way to kill another person”. Similar the Pope rejected also the punishment of life without the possibility of parole: “As with all sentences that make it impossible for an individual to plan their future because of the length of the sentence, life imprisonment can be considered a hidden form of capital punishment” because it does not deprive the person only from their freedom but also of “hope”. The criminal system can take some of the transgressors’ time away but “it must never deprive them of hope”
The State kills when it applies the death penalty but also “when it leads its population to war, when it performs extrajudicial or summary executions” and can also kill by ‘neglect’, when it does not guarantee its population access to the essential things they need to live.”

The sanctity of life is always the underlining reason for all, Christians are called to do when dealing with fellow human beings or even creation as such. All existing is graced with the spirit of God and we believe that all human being are brothers and sisters or sons and daughters of God. This protection of life from birth till death is also the baseline for all done in the world of medicine. It also applies when HOPE Cape Town focuses on children and their families infected or affected by HIV, AIDS and related illnesses. It is the sanctity of life which gives them the right to live their lives also to the fullest. It applies to all working in the field of poverty relief as a decent life with all the essentials they need to live in dignity is essential if we don’t want to fall into the neglect the Pope is pointing out. Seeing the state of affair in South Africa and the obvious neglect in various fields of government and society attributed to corruption and absolute ignorance for the plight of the people the words from the Vatican are a reminder of the long way we still have to go in our rainbow nation. And it is a reminder that we have to work tireless to get the message to those in power and assisting them to get it right in time for this generation now striving to build an equal society around the Cape of Good Hope.

Filed under: Catholic Church, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
6 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
21 days to go.

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