Mile-long rainbow-flag themed Christmas lights that were planned as an anti-homophobic message following the suicide of a gay teen are causing a divide in Rome.
Anti-austerity rally in Rome turns violent as a small band of rioters clash with police
Christians take new look at ancient theory for coming kingdom
The Holy Bible is filled with prophecies about the “end of the world.”
There are famous apocalyptic sections such as the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, much of the Books of Isaiah and Daniel and virtually all of the Book of Revelation.
And for countless years, many people have been wrong in predicting when specifically the events will actually take place.
Now, some Christians are looking with renewed interest at a forecast from outside the Word of God that could reveal the imminent return of Jesus to Earth and His personal administration of the kingdom of God.
The prediction comes from Malachy, a 12th century Catholic saint from Ireland, who made a list of what are thought to be the names of popes from his time until Christ’s so-called “Second Coming.”
According to Malachy’s prophecy, the time of the final pope is right now, being fulfilled in the person of Pope Francis, who just ascended to the papacy this year.
Most of us reading about and watching all the “new developments” in our country are not surprised. Many of the “enlightened” have been expecting this for a while. But being ready or expecting it doesn’t take away the surreal feeling that it all brings, the calm before the storm.
I don’t know where I read or heard it, but I recently was reminded (cause I’ve heard it before) that the US is heading down the same path that the Roman Empire was on as it collapsed. Although I like history, I don’t consider myself a historian. But as I spent a little time contemplating the issue, I remembered about the life work of Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I haven’t read it, it’s a huge work. But you can find it free online and download it for $1.99 on Amazon.
Pope Francis lies down in prayer during the Passion of Christ Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday, March 29, 2013. Pope Francis began the Good Friday service at the Vatican with the Passion of Christ Mass and hours later will go to the ancient Colosseum in Rome for the traditional Way of the Cross procession. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
ROME (AP) — Pope Francis reached out in friendship to “so many Muslim brothers and sisters” during a Good Friday procession dedicated to the suffering of Christians from terrorism, war and religious fanaticism in the Middle East.
The new pontiff, who has rankled traditionalists by rejecting many trappings of his office, mostly stuck to the traditional script during the nighttime Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum, one of the most dramatic rituals of Holy Week.
With torches lighting the way, the faithful carried a cross to different stations, where meditations and prayers were read out recalling the final hours of Jesus’ life and his crucifixion.
This year, the prayers were composed by young Lebanese, and many recalled the plight of minority Christians in the region, where wars have forced thousands to flee their homelands. The meditations called for an end to “violent fundamentalism,” terrorism and the “wars and violence which in our days devastate various countries in the Middle East.”
Francis, who became pope just over two weeks ago, chose, however, to stress Christians’ positive relations with Muslims in the region in his brief comments at the end of the ceremony.
Standing on a platform overlooking the procession route, Francis recalled Benedict XVI’s 2012 visit to Lebanon when “we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others.”
“That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world, a sign of hope,” he said.
Friday’s outreach followed Francis’ eyebrow-raising gesture a day earlier, when he washed and kissed the feet of two women, one a Muslim, in the Holy Thursday ritual that commemorates Jesus’ washing of his apostles’ feet during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.
Breaking with tradition, Francis performed the ritual on 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center, rather than in Rome’s grand St. John Lateran basilica, where in the past, 12 priests have been chosen to represent Jesus’ disciples.
Before he became pope, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio long cultivated warm relations with Muslim leaders in his native Argentina. In one of his first speeches as pope, he called for the church and the West in general to “intensify” relations with the Muslim world.
The Vatican’s relations with Islam hit several bumps during Benedict XVI’s papacy, when he outraged Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings were “evil and inhuman.” And in 2011, the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar institute, froze dialogue with the Vatican to protest Benedict’s call for greater protection of Christians in Egypt.
However, Francis’ past outreach to the Muslim community in Argentina seems to have changed that. Al-Azhar’s chief imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, sent a message of congratulations to Francis on his election and said he hoped for cooperation.
The Vatican’s efforts to reconcile with the Islamic world have not been welcomed by all. Italy’s most famous Muslim convert to Catholicism, Magdi Allam, announced last week he was leaving the church because of its “soft” stance on Islam. Allam was baptized by Benedict XVI in 2008 during the high-profile Easter Vigil service when the pope traditionally baptizes a handful of adults. There has been no Vatican comment on his about-face.
Thousands of people packed the Colosseum and surrounding areas for the nighttime procession, holding candles wrapped in paper globes as Francis sat in silent prayer as a giant torch-lit crucifix twinkled nearby. Some in the crowd had Lebanese flags around their shoulders in an indication of the special role Lebanese faithful played in this year’s procession.
Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East — nearly 40 percent of the country’s 4 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect. As civil war has raged in neighboring Syria, Lebanon’s Christian community has been divided between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Overall, Christians in the Middle East have been uneasy as the Arab Spring has led to the strengthening of Islamist groups in most countries that have experienced uprisings. Thousands of Christians have fled the region — a phenomenon that the Vatican has lamented, given Christianity’s roots in the Holy Land.
“How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children, who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die!” said one of the Good Friday meditations. “It seems that nothing can overcome evil, terrorism, murder and hatred.”
Francis picked up on that message, saying Christ’s death on the cross is “the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us.”
“Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the cross upon themselves as Jesus did,” he said.
At the end of the ceremony, a male choir sang a haunting Arabic hymn, a reflection of the Eastern rite influence that infused the ceremony.
On Saturday, Francis presides over the solemn Easter Vigil ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica and on Sunday, he celebrates Easter Mass and delivers an important speech. Usually the pope also issues Easter greetings in dozens of languages.
In his two weeks as pope, Francis’ discomfort with speaking in any language other than Italian has become apparent. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Friday “we’ll have to see” what Francis does with the multilingual greetings.
The Good Friday procession was conducted entirely in Italian, whereas in years past the core elements recounting what happens at each station would be recited in a variety of languages.
With the Vatican’s announcement that the Roman Catholic Church will begin voting for the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics Tuesday, it is expected that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s successor will be elected by Friday.
There’s “no reason to believe it will take long” to elect the new pope, Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Fredrico Lombardi, told reporters Saturday, the day after the Vatican said in a release the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, March 12.
The last six popes were all elected within four days, and the election of Benedict in 2005 took less than 24 hours.
The Vatican said 153 cardinals are in Rome for the meetings, and 115 of them – all aged under 80 – are expected to vote for the next pope. Two have said they will not vote, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Indonesia‘s Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta.
O’Brien resigned last week after allegations of sexual advances toward young men studying to be priests, and Darmaatmadja has cited health reasons.
Tuesday morning, the cardinals will hold a formal Mass for the election of a new pope in St. Peter’s Basilica, before entering the Sistine Chapel in the afternoon for the first round of voting.
After the opening of the conclave Tuesday, the cardinals will be moved to a special Vatican hotel and will be kept to an even stricter code of secrecy, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Voting will take place in the Sistine Chapel, which has been specially retrofitted for the purpose with a more age-friendly elevated floor, electronic jamming technology, and two furnaces to burn the cardinals’ votes after each ballot.
In case no pope emerges on that ballot, the cardinals will continue voting on subsequent days, with two rounds of balloting each morning and evening. If by the third day they do not reach the two-thirds majority required for the election of a new pontiff, voting will be halted for a day of prayer.
Earlier, conclaves were not allowed until 15 days after a pope’s resignation or death, but Pope Benedict changed the church law on the matter in one of his last acts as pontiff.
An early conclave has led to speculations that Italian cardinals are seeking to have more influence over the votes, as those from outside Rome have not been given enough time to consider the candidates.
While there’s still a lack of clear consensus among the cardinals on who the leading candidates are, some frontrunners being talked about include Italy‘s Angelo Scola, Brazil‘s Odilo Pedro Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet.
The cardinals are looking to reach a quick decision given they will need to be in their dioceses for Easter celebrations. “It’s been 10 days since I left the archdiocese, and as the old song goes, ‘I wanna go home!'” U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote on a blog Friday.
Benedict announced last month he was resigning, saying, “Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
March 5, 2013: Cardinals arrive for a meeting, at the Vatican. Tuesday brought a second day of pre-conclave meetings with cardinals to organize the election process and get to know one another. (AP)
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican is now waiting for five more cardinals to reach Rome before setting the date for the conclave to elect a new pope.
The Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said another handful of cardinals had arrived Monday night, bringing the number of voting-age cardinals up to 110 of the 115 expected to take part.
During the second day of pre-conclave meetings, cardinals asked for information about the management of the Vatican bureaucracy — and managers responded — after cardinals said they wanted to get to the bottom of allegations of corruption and cronyism in the Holy See’s governance.
Also Tuesday, cardinals signed off on a telegram sent to Benedict XVI thanking him for his “brilliant” ministry and his “untiring work in the vineyard of the Lord.”
A strong earthquake has rocked a rural area about 50 miles southeast of Rome, but authorities say reports from residents indicate no damage or injuries.
Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the quake struck about 10:20 p.m., local time, Saturday and had a 4.8 magnitude.
Seismologists pinpointed the epicenter near the town of Sora, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Frosinone, the largely rural area’s biggest town.
Frosinone fireman Bruno Levanti told Sky TG24 TV that many residents called authorities seeking reassurances but that there were no reports of damage or injuries.
The area is earthquake-prone.
A somewhat stronger 5.0 magnitude quake can do considerable damage.