Will Catholics Have An American Pope Next?

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Sqaure

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Sqaure

Written by- Sarah Peel

With Pope Benedict XVI leaving less than a month from now, can the world expect their first U.S. native pope?

On February 11, Catholics and non-Catholics alike awoke to some shocking new-Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down. The elderly pope has been reigning over the trouble religious institute since 2005, when Pope John Paul II passed away. Benedict XVI has had his fair share of scandals, as well as trying times for the Christian faith in his seven years reign. However, he has decided to step down at the end of February during the Lent season, due to age and health. This has caused much of the world speculate on the possibility of U.S. born pope is in our near future?

During the seven year reign of Pope Benedict, he has given many US priest high offices within the Church for the first time ever. Despite of the very bad reputation that has plagued the US Church since the 70s, many believe that we might see a turned tide during the conclave. Many have pointed out that both Benedict XVI and John Paul II were highly unlikely popes. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. is in out of the clear, especially with rumors of the sexual abuse being partly the reason for Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Currently we only have two popular U.S. Cardinals that might have the chance, both placed by Benedict and are conservatives. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Raymond Burke. Both have quickly hushed the question, but with the U.S. being such a heavy world influence, some hint that the Church could actually benefit from a U.S. based pope.

Questions of course remain, on how this would look for the Church since many have disdain for the Church. But with the last two recent popes, we have seen an usual shift that many hold out hope for. In fact, you can visit the Facebook pages for Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Burke to see just how many wish for a U.S. bred pope. In fact, here is what Cardinal Dolan even had to say for himself on the rumors of a U.S. bred pope to “The Catholic Channel” on SiriusXM. “With the election of John Paul, with the election of Benedict, one wonders if the former boundaries seem not to have any more credibility.”

So what does that mean for the Church? That remains uncertain, but with the weeks leading up to the conclave you can prepare yourself for much hype in the U.S. for certain beloved Cardinals.

Head of Oregon Catholics Retires; New Archbishop is Country’s Youngest

Written by: Ken Fallon

The Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, who served as archbishop of the Portland, Ore. Catholic diocese for 15 turbulent years, finally got the answer he’s been waiting to hear on Wednesday.

Photo of Alexander K. Sample

Alexander K. Sample was named the new Archbishop of the Portland, Ore. archdiocese on Wednesday

A year after Vlazny submitted his retirement letter, Pope Benedict XVI approved the retirement request and installed the Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample as his replacement.

The 52-year-old Sample, a bishop from Michigan’s upper peninsula, became the youngest archbishop in the United States. He tweeted Tuesday morning that “As of 6:00 a.m. EST I have gone from being the Bishop of Marquette to the Archbishop-Designate of Portland in OR. Please pray for me!”

Vlazny became archbishop in October 1997, jumping from Minnesota into the heart of a priest sex-abuse scandal only beginning to gain exposure. By 2007, the Portland archdiocese had completed a bankruptcy reorganization plan, agreeing to pay almost 180 abuse victims some $70 million and to release thousands of documents that spelled out the extent of the abuse.

“It is my sincere prayer that our ability to compensate the many victims will assist them in their efforts to achieve personal healing and peace of heart,” Vlazny said at a press conference when the bankruptcy was approved. “I pray for them daily and I know that the Catholic people of Oregon join me in asking God to bless them.” 

Vlazny, now 75, was never implicated in the scandal, but the subsequent release of internal documents made it clear that the archdiocese covered up the scandal in the years since the abuses happened in the mid-20th century.

Sample comes to Oregon with a reputation for social media savvy – in addition to Twitter, he has a Facebook page, and uses podcasts and YouTube – and high expectations from church leadership. Noted Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo observed the impressive turnout for his Michigan ordination in 2006 and called him someone who is “going places” within the church.

He’ll need every bit of that savvy as he leads western Oregon’s 415,000 Catholics. The Northwest is considered one of the nation’s most “unchurched” regions, with one in four residents claiming no religious identification; about half that percentage claim membership in Oregon Catholic churches.

But at a press conference Wednesday in Portland, Sample was undeterred. 

“To me, some might look at the small percentage and say, ‘Boy, that’s a tough area to go into to be the Catholic archbishop.’ I kind of see it as the opposite. I see this as rich, fertile ground for the planting of the seeds of the New Evangelization,” he said, referring to a Catholic initiative to reach out to those who have experienced a “crisis of faith” and to non-believers. “What I would hope to do is help people who are of a very spiritual nature but maybe who don’t profess any particular religious belief, connect that longing in their heart…with who I believe is the answer to that longing, and that is the Lord Jesus.” 

Like his predecessor, Sample adheres to Catholic doctrine on controversial social issues. His Facebook page shows many photos from the March for Life, a pro-life gathering that was held Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C. to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion. 

In Wednesday’s press conference, he said he stands by the church’s position regarding same-sex marriage, “but that should never take away from the dignity of the human person.” 

That same day, he was quoted on LifeSiteNews.com as saying he would do whatever he could to oppose the Obama administration’s health-care mandates regarding birth control. “I would be willing to go to jail in defense of religious liberty,” he said. 

In 2009, he spoke out against a decision by the University of Notre Dame to invite President Obama to give the commencement speech, citing the president’s support for embryonic stem-cell research and abortion.

Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Times Square Features Largest Collection of Biblical Artifacts

Discovery Time Square's Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times

Written By: Catherine Wolinski

Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times, an archaeological exhibit that opened in New York last October, continues to impress and educate those curious about the physical beginnings of Judaism and Christianity.  Located in Discovery Times Square at 226 W. 44th St., the collection boasts the largest collection of ancient artifacts from Israel ever collected.

“The exhibition brings to life a fascinating period in history and vividly highlights how archaeologists and researchers piece together the past by examining and interpreting objects from daily life and ancient written documents,” says the exhibitions curator, Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn.

A piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls

A piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The main feature of the exhibition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, is an assembly of ancient religious texts found in the Holy Land, extracted from collections of the Israel National Treasures.  Penned 2,000 years ago and hidden when Roman forces advanced upon Jerusalem in 70 CE, the scrolls were first found in the caves of Qumran in Israel in 1947. Now on display in New York City, the 20 scrolls (displayed 10 at a time) include four making their first public appearance.

Among the newly discovered pieces of the past are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, including pieces from the books of Psalms, Isaiah, and Deuteronomy.  Additionally, they are accompanied by an authentic three-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, believed to have fallen from the Southwest corner of the Second Temple’s outer wall during the Roman invasion. Also on display are Biblical artifacts, including remains of religious items, war weapons, stone carvings, mosaics, and everyday household accessories.

“The pots, coins, weapons, jewelry, and of course, the scrolls on display in this exhibition constitute a momentous contribution to our cultural legacy,” Dr. Kohn continued.  “They teach us about the past and also about ourselves.”

a collection of pottery

An example of the pottery displayed among 500 Biblical artifacts

The first in New York City of its size, Discovery Times Square is an exhibition center that presents educational and immersive explorations of culture and history.  Previously renowned for exhibits such as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Workshop, King Tut, Pompeii The Exhibit, and Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the center’s current exhibit lives up to expectations in its size and scope with over 500 artifacts from the Holy Land. Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times chronicles the Biblical to the Byzantine periods, offering a physical timeline of the formation of Judaism and Christianity.

The exhibition, created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), will run at Discovery Times Square until April 15, 2012.

The Pope Prays over Shroud of Turin to Cleanse Himself – and his People

The Shroud of Turin is shrouded in mystery

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI prayed before the Shroud of Turin, the piece of fabric – discovered in the French city of Troyes, southeast of Paris, in mid 14th century – that many believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The 83-year-old pope described it as an “icon written with blood,” that “speaks with blood” in a meditation he held while the rag was still on display in Turin‘s St. John the Baptist Cathedral for the first time in the passed ten years.

The most powerful man in Christendom, Pope Benedict XVI

The creepy shroud bears a faint (ambiguous) image that some claim to reflect the face of Jesus himself. The pope spent about 240 seconds on bended knee, praying to the fabric, before stated that it “is an icon written with blood, the blood of a man who was whipped, crucified and wounded in the right rib.” After the services, the pontiff added that “Every trace of blood speaks of love and life.” The pontiff delivered a meditation to the clergy involved with displaying the cloth, all the while making sure not to call it a relic, since the Roman Catholic Church has never authenticated the shroud – despite it’s prominent place as a revered object in Christendom.

President Obama is Grilled by US Commission on International Religious Freedom

The President realizes that religion isn't black and white.

In the 2010 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asserted that President Obama failed to do all that he could to lobby for the protection of global religious freedom.

It mentioned that the president did not appoint an Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom, until now – a month after a request was made in a petition signed by lawmakers, scholars and human rights groups. The commission warned that an empty seat would send a message to the international community that rendered religious freedom a less-than priority for the president. The USCIRF

Religious Freedom: wouldn't it be nice?

also brought to attention the fact that Obama had not rated any countries as ‘CPC,’ or “countries of particular concern,” meaning that they have broken severe religious violations. Furthermore, it spoke on Obama rarely mentioning religious freedom while in Ankara and Cairo last year, and the fact that the president and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, replaced religious freedom with “freedom to worship.” On the latter subject, the commission called out the government by stating that they could muffle the issue by emphasizing how O.K. faiths are free to worship, while reserving mere token houses to the minor faiths.

This is the land of the free; so long as god remains on our currency, religion will not be judged currently.

Though The National Day of Prayer is Ruled Unconstitutional, Some Don’t Accept It As Fact

They want freedom from God and his cronies

After a federal judge ruled the National Day of Prayer (May 6) as unconstitutional, atheists and prayer advocates alike are boiling with political energy as they produce letters, emails, and even billboard advertisements all aimed at convincing state and local authorities to see it their way.

Mayor Bill Bunten from Topeka Kansas claims that the judge needs to brush up on his history lessons, since every day is a prayer day for somebody, and that declaring a single day of prayer illegal is preposterous and ridiculous. His stance reflects the furious nature of the religious advocates, who declare the day of prayer to be an American tradition. And, in conjunction with Obama now appealing the excited atheists as they try to persuade officials not to attend local events, the whole situation simply renders yet another fine example of the divergent tension over any relationship between religion and government.

When God gets involved, perspective is skewed

The day of prayer was first established in 1952, and in 1988 it was determined to fall on the first thursday in May, where presidents would ask that all of America’s citizens prayed; however, after Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the federal government over a violation of church and state, the U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb had to step in and declare the day an unconstitutional call to religious action.

Whatever happens, hopefully people soon realize that days of religious prayer are dictated by their respective belief systems, and any governmental involvement is by definition, unconstitutional. Nobody in this country has the right to tell anyone to pray. Period.

Anti-Sectarian Rally in Beirut Expresses Hope For Non-Sectarian Lebanon

All they are saying is give peace a non-sectarian chance

Several thousand people gathered in the streets of Beirut on Sunday to protest; however, in a country where religion and politics are closely related, it was rather odd to discover a lack of religious symbols, or sectarian political banners, on display at the political event. Nevertheless, The Secular Pride March presented no crosses, crescents or portraits of martyrs or saints. Instead they carried roses, and the red and white cedar flag of the republic in protest against a religious domination over Lebanese civil and political life. And as some weren’t sure they could support what the participants wanted, it wasn’t difficult for spectators to comprehend their message: “What’s your sect? None of your business!”

The cedar flag of the republic in protest

Currently, Lebanon is more religiously diverse than any other middle eastern country, however, nearly all civil aspects of life are controlled by religious authorities, instead of the state. This manifests as the prohibition of Mixed-sect marriage, a domination of private religious schools over the education system, jobs rationing in accordance with sectarian quotas, and a requirement that all political candidates be categorized by a list that is enforced by sectarian political parties.

Confessionalism has fostered an environment of religious conflict – rather than preventing it; therefore, as Lebanon attempts to progress as a non-sectarian society, rallies like these are a desperate attempt by the minuscule minority, to usher in a revolution.

The Infidel, Starring Omid Djalili, Still Lacks Israeli Distribution

Omid Djalili is The Infidel, just not in Israel.

The Infidel, a new film starring Iranian comedian Omid Djalili as a Muslim who discovers that he was born a Jew, is expected to play at the UAE, but will not hit theaters anywhere in Israel, since it has been refused distribution.  Even though the screenplay was penned by David Baddiel, a jewish-born comedian, it goes without distribution; whereas Four Lions, a comedic look at a dim-witted group of jihadists’ trying to plan London bombings, got distributed quicker than matzoh on passover.

Jewish screenwriter, David Baddiel

Uzma Hasan, one of the film’s producers seemes surpised by the Israeli lack of interest, after experiencing great anticipation after pitching it to distributors at Cannes Film Festival (2009), which was before shooting even started up. Omid Djalili also finds it difficult to pinpoint the issue, citing it as possibly anti-semetic, asserting that it’s somewhat difficult to accurately gauge controversy after his 13 years performing stand-up routines that revolved around race, religion and suicide bombing. In the end, he hopes that the audience will get a few good laughs, which help them understand the people of another faith.

So far as people getting angry about the film, the writer, David Baddiel,  cites the market-research groups of devoted Muslims who were all very accepting of the movie as reason not to worry about a backlash. As it turns out, people would like it if they were just given the chance.