Saturday, November 25, 2006

Caption Competition

"Once again, it was the written part of the "Is yours the true religion?" exam where Pope Benedict would really shine. And as always, he was a good sport about it. "
photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
h/t: American Papist

Pope Benedict visits Turkey amid unrest

On Tuesday the Holy Father will go to Turkey for his first official visit to an Islamic country. The prospect of a Papal visit has not been received well in Turkey which is ruled by an Islamist party. Posters condemning the visit, such as the ones in this picture, have appeared everywhere. They advertise an anti-Pope rally and read "No to the Crusaders alliance! The ignorant and sneaky Pope should not come to Turkey" (AP Photo/Osman Orsal).

There have also been heated demonstr-ations. Recently the 'Hagia Sophia' was invaded by demonstr-ators protesting against the Pope. The Hagia Sophia was, of course, a Christian Church which was converted into a Mosque when the Islamic invaders captured Istanbul. Since the last century it has been a museum.
After 700 years of occupation and discrimination the remaining Christian community has dwindled to a small proprtion of the Turkish population. In recent years, with the rise of militant Islam it has suffered greatly once again. The Pope is going to Turkey primarily to meet Patriarch Bartolomeos, the 270th successor of St Andrew, first amongst equals of the Orthodox patriarchs, and leader of the worlds 300 million orthodox Christians.
The Turkish authorities make life difficult for Patriarch Bartolomeos. They refuse to recognise the Patriarchate's international role. The law states that no one but a Turkish citizen can become Patriarch yet in 1971 they closed the only high-level theological school in the country, on the island of Halki, which means that the Patriarchate cannot train Turkish-born Greeks for ministry within the country. Despite talk of tolerance, Turkey pursues a policy of slow strangulation of non-Islamic religious minorities. The Patriarchate's small cathedral, the Phanar or Fener, is squeezed into the back streets near the polluted inlet of the Golden Horn. It has frequently been a target of bomb attacks, in 1993, '94, '96, '97, '98, 2004.
Pope Benedict's visit comes at a difficult time. That it is not welcome is shown by the fact that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Religious Affairs will all be absent during the visit. It important therefore that we pray for the Pope, especially for his safety at this time.

Go Karting

Last Friday our new 'Keep the Faith' group (Year 7) made a visit to Mitcham race track for an evening of Go Karting. It seems that the rain and wind added to the fun! This group meets twice a month and provides a way for our young people to keep in touch, to pray together and learn more about their faith. It has so far been very popular with an average of 20 at each meeting since September.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reclaiming Christmas

After the success of our 'Catholicism for the Curious' posters last Lent, we decided to try something similar for Advent and Christmas this year. In many places the stranglehold of secularism is such that the word 'Christmas' itself is studiously avoided. Some people send cards with the words "Season's Greetings", a strange sentiment given that the season in question is 'the bleak midwinter'! In other places we can hear the greeting "Happy Holidays" - which I always think is best uttered by one of those grinning, battery-operated flowers that wiggle about in reaction to noise. And of course we also hear of those dour, humourless local authorities that celebrate 'Winterval' - wasn't it Oliver Cromwell who abolished Christmas and forbade mince-pies?
Where was I? Oh yes, Advent and Christmas! Wouldn't it be great, we thought, if all our parishioners were to display the same poster from the beginning of Advent until the Feast of the Epiphany? If we all had the same poster - a simple Nativity image - in our windows, it would say to the people of Balham that Christmas means more to us than office parties and tinsel. And then we thought, why stop there? It's not just Catholics who rejoice at Christmas time. All Christians are united in celebrating our Saviour's birth. Why not invite other Christian communities to join us in giving witness? So we did. I'm very pleased to say that they were just as enthusiastic about the project as we are. It will be wonderful to get all the Christians of our parish to give this united witness.
So the posters are at the printers and we hope they will be delivered this week. We can then begin distributing them on Sunday. Experience shows that it is good to generate some prior interest, so why not talk to your Christian friends about what we are doing. If they don't attend a local Christian church you could pick up a poster for them from the Holy Ghost. The idea is to give a powerful, joint testimony to Christ in the two important liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Simple. Easy. Effective.
Just what you would expect from the Holy Ghost!

Monday, November 20, 2006


November is the month when we pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died. In Catholic families it is customary to pray for deceased relatives, and in the parish it is no different. On Sunday we celebrated the 11.30am Mass for all our parishioners who died during the course of the last twelve months.
We don't get many sick calls in the parish but in the last few days we've been called out four times. On three occasions we were able to arrive in time to give the Last Rites to prepare the person for their transition from this 'vale of tears' to the life to come. On the fourth occasion the person had died peacefully in her sleep and we were able to say the prayers for the dead asking God to have mercy on her and receive her into his heavenly home.
It can sometimes be difficult to catch a priest at home in the presbytery, and sometimes we get the dreaded answerphone. At the Holy Ghost we try not to leave the answerphone on at night - although inevitably sometimes we forget. It is always worth leaving a message during the day and calling again at night. The priest will happily drop everything he can to attend a soul in its last agony.