Pope Francis on a Mission


Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus


Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Hymn to God for the Missionary We Know!

A friend in Montreal sent us a message that Henri Boulad, S.J. has just celebrated his birthday...We looked up references and found that Fr. Boulad, a professor of theology and a scholar who continues to lecture and write, was born in August 1931. But late is better than never to congratulate our dear friend of his 83rd birthday anniversary...

Here is a little hymn of thanksgiving to God for the missionary we know,

How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...For among us in Egypt, you raised a man that challenged the dark powers with his voice and pen...
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...For over 50 years, we have been blessed by your servant's missionary work in Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, France, Hungary, Belgium, Germany, and many other countries including Canada my own, and the U.S.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is made of steel (as in his last name: Boulad=Foulaz), yet very understanding to the needs of humanity in his projects and the humanization of a savage world.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...It did not bother him that his family was forced out of Syria in 1860 because of persecution...He loves his persecutors. He critiques the injustice of men, yet, celebrates their being Your children - children of God.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He earned advanced degrees in multiple disciplines, yet he speaks with the tender voice of a child, and gives retreats to ordinary people.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is the student of mystics and saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Jean Vianney of Ars.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is the open mind that learned from Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and Karl Rahner - Teaches as they taught and follows Vatican II.
You know his name: Henri Boulad.
Keep him O Lord of all and send him to us in Canada. May Your Name be glorified in the rest of his life, and beyond this life, when I hope he joins the Virgin Mary, angels and saints in your everlasting heaven.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hymn to a mother

Today an old mother is having a surgery because she fell and broke her leg.Tomorrow another old mother who I know and love is having a knee replacement surgery. These ladies suffered to raise their children and have been blessed to see them grow, prosper and, in many cases, see grandchildren.

As it happened with another old lady I loved, many of those beautiful ladies do not wish to live longer. They think they are a burden to their kids or they may think that they have no more role in society especially in the West where Euthanasia is being contemplated by doctors and politicians. My beloved mother, who had a stroke some 15 years ago, was hospitalized for 4 years in a semi-comatose condition. Against doctors advice to end her life quickly, my brothers and I kept her until her life ended naturally and God called her.

Life is more important than death. Those mothers, says St. Basil the Great, delivered children that are dear to, and are images of, Christ as the Virgin Mother delivered Jesus Christ our Lord and God. How can we thank God for them? Today I had confession and received holy communion for this beautiful soul, the old mother I know, who will have surgery tomorrow. So too, all of us may wish to think of those mothers dear to everyone of us and remember them in our prayers. Without them we would not be here...Let us recall them to life; for God is the joy of eternal life!
Let us sing to our mothers, whether they are still with us in this material world or have gone in the presence of God, this hymn: For the beauty of the earth (which, metaphorically speaking, is our mother)...A hymn to Mary Mother of God:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When Will the West Wake Up?

It is vengeance in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. Turkey is waiting to reclaim its power as the Empire and Qatar continues to fund extremist Islamists.The Islamic "Caliphate" claims it will advance all the way to the West, occupy Rome, and will surpass Al-Qadea in its hatred for the Western Christian values.

But the shock came today when the Pentagon admitted that the U.S. has attempted to rescue an American journalist caught by ISIS since early Summer but who was killed by ISIS in revenge for the recent air strikes the Americans launched in Iraq to help free lands and people of several religions from ISIS attacks.  The American President Barack Obama spoke too. CNN reported the news:
See also the challenge of ISIS to President Obama here:

But there is more - much more...It appears also some European nations have paid many millions of dollars as ransom for their citizens caught in Syria and other places by Islamists. A real story is reported in the New York Times:
And here:

Most were reportedly liberated and sent safely to their European countries. But all those thousands of innocent citizens of the Middle East countries and Africa that lost their lives in massacres in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Libya, Sahara and the rest in Africa did not matter! The millions there that lost their homes and belongings did not matter! Human rights seem to be enforced only when it suits the political leaders to take action.

For over three years, Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. has been warning the West that it lost its soul, but did anyone listen? Read here his address to the Americans in the Capitol in Washington this past June.

And the American well-known Fr. Robert Barron spoke here on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

And since the formation of the Constitution of the European Union in the 1990s, the Church tirelessly sought its leaders to recognize the Christian contribution to the roots of Western civilization, but her claims fell on deaf ears.

In my opinion, no one of moderate people in any religion is inherently against the West, but it looks that there are political goals that sometimes blind its leaders. Atheism is pervasive. Materialism is undermining the Gospel message to care for the needy and to give priority to the poor. The Western leaders seem to be looking for selfish gains at the expense of poor countries.Many so-called Christians in the political leadership of the Western nations do not mind to sell out their Christian brothers in the Middle East to terrorists. Leaders of the West, whether Church leaders or political leaders may have to look again at the thrust of civilization, adapt and collaborate with people of good will, and save those who are in need in the Middle East, Africa, and Ukraine.

And now we ask what is democracy? Is it democratic to support the so-called Arab Spring that got the Muslim Brotherhood to govern or at least contest government in countries of the Arab world? Many Christians and moderate Muslims paid their lives when they opposed this organization of Islamic terror. When will the West ban the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist network?

But the greatest fear remains in the possibility of hell for every individual who did not repent before death. Although God in his ultimate generosity and mercy may forgive all sinners at the end, the possibility of hell is real because if I continue to reject another person and hate him, I simply reject God's offer of love. It is not only Obama nor the European political leaders that need to be fair, but we all need to love each other or at least stop preaching hatred of others.

When will the West wake up? When will Christians in the West wake up? And when will all Christians and non-Christian humans wake up?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Brief History of the Reality of the Church and Its Impact on the Humanization of Man

To write a history of Christianity is probably one of the hardest tasks. However, given the daily attacks on the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies in the media of the West as well as the systematic elimination of Christian presence in Africa and the Middle East, a bit of historical overview may be a starting point for further inquiry. There is a large number of books and articles, whether in print or online, written by historians and scholars on the history of the Church. Here I add more information from other reputed sources too.

In his seminal book "The Historic Reality of Christian Culture" the historian Christopher Dawson, who was Chauncey Stillman Chair of Roman Catholic Studies at Harvard University (1958-1962) and Fellow of the British Academy until his death in 1970, divides Christian history into "Six Ages" each lasting for 3 or 4 centuries and each starts and ends with a crisis. He explains that the first phase of each age is a period of intense activity when faced with a new historical situation, followed by a second phase of achievement when the Church seems to have conquered the world and is able to found new forms of thought and art, followed by a third phase of retreat when attacked by enemies from within or without. Although Dawson ignores some of the theological developments as he focuses on strictly cultural development, I will follow his lead in charting out the Ages of the Church. However, the scope may be larger than attempted in his book. We will attempt to dig in the sands of earlier historic events that shaped, in one way or another, the development of Christianity. In doing that, we recognize that any development in history reflects the drama lived by humanity and is accompanied by new insights in almost every aspect of life, spiritual or material.

The First Age started with the event of Pentecost (c. 30 ~ 33 AD) as the Church, Jewish followers of  Jesus Christ, was immediately beginning a revolution by extending its preaching beyond Judea to the pagan world in the metropolitan centers of the Roman civilization from Antioch to Alexandria and to Rome itself. This was based on the words of the risen Christ to the Apostles to "make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28: 19).

The fact that early Christians referred to Jesus Christ as Lord is found in extra-Biblical sources both Roman and Jewish sources of the first and second centuries. The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD) verified the Biblical account of the execution of Jesus Christ at the hands of Pontius Pilate (Annals XV, 44). Pliny the Younger (61-115 AD), a Pagan Roman Senator and writer observes in his letter to the Emperor Trajan that Christians in their assemblies chanted a hymn to Christ as God. (Ep., X, 97, 98).  The Roman historian and Annalist Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69-130 AD) recorded the expulsion of Jewish Christians from Rome (Life of Claudius 25. 4). The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus refers to Christ in his Antiquitates iudaicae (XVIII, 63-64) towards the end of the first century.

But what made the very early Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ?

Christians believed Jesus was truly the Son of God since the beginning, long before the Emperor Constantine ruled the Roman Empire in the 4th century. Here is some evidence: 

- Since the Jewish authorities condemned any Jew who followed Jesus in his trial, it is hard to believe that the Apostles and other disciples in the Christian movement would suddenly be transformed from fearful men after the death of Jesus Christ on the cross outside  Jerusalem into courageous men who preached the gospel in the Temple. Yet, they did (without recourse to any swords). Stephen was stoned to death for his witness but this did not stop the early Christians from spreading what they thought were good news of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. The explanation given in the New Testament is the witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after suffering his death. According to Biblical scholar Raymond Brown, tradition contains the Biblical witness - the Gospels were written only after a period of oral transmission of  teachings by Jesus Christ to his disciples which they only understood after his Resurrection, followed by the preaching of the Apostles and other disciples in Judea and the rest of nations, which was followed by committing it to writing when the Christian community realized that most of the Apostles had already died around the year 70. In an interview by U.S. News and World Report in 2006, Jaroslav Pelikan, the renowned scholar of Christian history, said "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living". He had written his five-volume "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine" (1971-1989).
- The 4 Gospels present and reflect the belief of the very early Christian communities that Jesus was divine. By the 2nd century, the 4 canonical Gospels were already in place. According to Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D., Biblical scholarship has established that 4 criteria were required for any book to be part of the Biblical Canon:

  1. Apostolic Origin - attributed to and/or based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their closest companions).
  2. Universal Acceptance - acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the Mediterranean world (from the second century to the fourth century).
  3. Liturgical Use - read publicly along with the OT when early Christians gathered for the Lord's Supper (their weekly worship services).
  4. Consistent Message - containing theological ideas compatible with other accepted Christian writings (incl. the divinity and humanity of Jesus).
- The Gospels point to Jesus’ power over evil forces (miracles are called ‘Dynamis’ or power in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and called ‘Signs‘ in John). 
- Through his power, Jesus ushered the kingdom of God and expelled the Devil in a way that suggests his divine authority. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he does not speak on the authority of earlier Rabbis but on his own authority “But I say to you..” (Cf. Matt 5).
- He “clearly presents himself as changing the governance of the world and of human lives” (Cf. Raymond Brown; “An introduction to New Testament Christology”)
- Jesus forgives sins – reserved to God alone. He changes the names of his disciples - reserved to God alone in Jewish tradition (Cf. Cepha to Peter). And he alone is the judge at the end of times of all people.
- At his baptism and transfiguration, the Father testifies to his divinity (Matt 3:17, 17:5).
- In the oldest accounts, Jesus takes upon himself the divine name “I AM” (Mark 6:50; compare with John 8:58) which is the way God revealed himself to Moses, the name reserved to God alone. He also refers to himself as “the Son of Man” which does not refer to his humanity but, according to Biblical scholar Craig Blomberg, refers to his divinity as revealed in Daniel in the Old Testament: “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
- Peter confesses the divine sonship of Jesus (Matt 17:17), and Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)
- The Jews understood Jesus’ claim that he considered himself divine and wanted to stone him since he made himself “equal to God” (John 10: 33)
- Modern historical scholarship shows that by the year 35 AD there were already hymns and confessions of faith in the Church praising Christ as God and quoted in Paul’s letters which talk about Jesus being “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1, 15-20) and in the very nature of God “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (Ph 2:6-7)
- Current exegesis has established that Jesus called God his Father “Abba” in a unique way unknown in Jewish tradition. While Jewish tradition avoided calling God by his personal name, Jesus refers to God by that intimate relationship thus changing the terms of relating to God in a significant way (Cf. J. Jeremias, “Abba”, 1966; J. Meier, “Jesus”, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990).
- As Christians started to form their distinctive communities and proclaimed Jesus was God, the Jewish Rabbis in their Council of Jamnia (90 AD) condemned Christians decisively accusing them of causing the curse of the destruction of the Temple (70 AD). However, in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary(1990). Raymond Brown critiqued the Council of Jamnia theory while limiting the discussion to a debate between Hillel and Shammai; two major Jewish schools of Biblical interpretation. This, nevertheless, did not end scholarly research on the Council .
- The early Church Fathers, well before the time of Constantine, are quoted decisively in support of the divinity of Christ: Ignatius of Antioch (1st century-107), Clement of Alexandria (105-211), Irenaeus of Lyons (c.140- 200), Justin Martyr (c.100-165), Origen (185-252). 
In his "Introduction to Christianity" Joseph Ratzinger bases the evidence of the Resurrection of Christ on the power of love with which Jesus of Nazareth defeats death and mortality in his selfless love of the Father while dying on the cross (humanly speaking: Being in the Other who still stands when I have fallen apart). In the New Testament, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central theme that God leads the inspired writer to write and so bring the readers attention to. The story of Jesus walking on the waters of the sea is more than an event to show his power; for it reminds the listeners of Jesus' victory over the waters of the sea considered the abode of death. He is the One who takes Peter by the hand to deliver him from death. He is the One who leads the Church, new Israel, out of the bondage of death and "slavery in the land of Egypt." Every event recounted in the Gospel has multiple meanings; all meant to encourage the young church to persevere in the times of darkness; but more significant they proclaim the body of Christ in the Eucharist as the eternal manna that feeds the new Israel in their journey to New Jerusalem as the manna fed the hungry Israelites in their journey out of slavery - the difference being that while the Israelites who ate the manna died the new "People of God", who eat the body of Christ, will live with him for ever. While the pagan religions were declining, and the Jews were scattered after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Christian movement gave a new hope to the crowds who listened to the "good news" or Gospel.

In the first, second and third centuries AD Christians became involved in a life-and-death struggle with the Roman empire's pagan culture. They were required to sacrifice to the pagan idols and if they refused they often had to be thrown to hungry lions for the crowds to enjoy them being eaten alive in the Colosseum theaters. Ignatius, martyr and the third Bishop of Antioch, experienced this end around 107 AD under order by Trajan, the Roman emperor (98-117 AD), because he was Christian ...Nero had crucified Christians accusing them of burning Rome in 64 AD. He is remembered in Apocalypse (attributed to John the Apostle) as the "Beast" who will come back and his mark is 666, a transliteration of Nero's name in Greek (Revelation 13:18). According to Dawson, the main achievement of this first age of the Church was "the successful domination of the urban Roman-Hellenistic culture." In spite of intermittent persecutions, the Church, nevertheless, became the greatest creative force in the second and third centuries culture. This is the 2nd phase, the age of Clement and Origen in the East and Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian in the West. In the 20th century, the Biblical work of Origen would be retrieved, among others, in the movement called "ressourcement" and initiated by Henri de Lubac and his disciples. By the 2nd century, the theological schools of Alexandria and Antioch had been established in their Christian form. On theologians of the 2nd and third centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan wrote that they could take the Apocalypse of John as their model and repudiate pagan thought just as they repudiated the imperial cult; or they could seek out, within classicism, analogies to the continuity-discontinuity which all of them found in Judaism. According to him, the most comprehensive of apologetic treatises was "Against Celsus" by Origen (Cf.  Pelikan: "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1 - The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" P. 27). From a sociological perspective Christianity proved to be not a mere sectarian cult but a real society with a high sense of citizenship. The third phase, that of retreat, took place in the reign of Diocletian (emperor from 284 to 305 AD). Of all the ten persecutions of the early Church, the most terrible was to occur under him,  He had celebrated his triumph over the Persians and was good to Christians. But his subordinate Galerius instigated him to wipe out Christianity.  With 3 edicts Diocletian sought to first destroy churches and burn scriptures, then imprisoned bishops, priests and deacons, and, in the third, he tortured all who still confessed to be Christians (Eusebius, loc. cit., xi, xii; Lactant., "Div.Instit.", V, xi). Refer to the Catholic Encyclopedia - Martyr. However, the Church survived.

The Second Age, known as the Age of the Fathers, is marked by Constantine's conversion to Christianity, the first phase with an event of immeasurable consequences for Christianity, followed by his founding of Constantinople "The New Rome" which inaugurated a political alliance between the Byzantine Church and the Byzantine emperor that lasted for nearly 1000 years, although it occasionally subjugated the interests of the Church to the will of the emperor. From a cultural perspective, the Hellenistic culture appeared in the poetry and hymns of the liturgy represented by St. Ephraim the Syriac and St. Romanos the Melodist, the splendid architectural building of the cathedral Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and many others including the Church of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem that St. Helen, Constantine's mother, built and Justinian completed upon the Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus Christ. The Church incorporated the good in pagan culture into a Christian civilization. According to Dawson, the period of creative achievement of this age, covers the works of the Fathers from St. Athanasius who, against Arius and his Arians followers, courageously defended the teaching of the Church in the divinity of Jesus Christ as eternally begotten of the Father and equal to the Father at the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD to St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome and St. John Chrysostom and especially the rise of Christian monasticism which represents the most distinctive contribution of the Oriental in tension with the Hellenic element in Christianity. "As rapidly as the monastic movement spread from Persia and Mesopotamia to Rome, Gaul and the British Isles, it retained its Egyptian imprint from the solitary ascetic St. Anthony to the cenobitical community of St. Pachomius."

The second phase is characterized by the flourishing of Christian art, architecture and philosophical reflections as well as pastoral care expounded by such leaders as the Cappadocians St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Basil, for example, more than a teacher, was a manager who built the first hospital for the sick within a whole town in Cappadocia where the needy were fed and the outcast protected. Nessibine was also a cultural center in Asia Minor. In the West, St. Pope Leo the Great, a diplomat, was able to convince Attila the Hun not to sack Italy, and, on the doctrinal side, developed the ancient doctrine of the primacy of the Successor of St. Peter over all Christendom. While St. Chrysostom, a popular preacher and Archbishop, was exiled from his See of Constantinople by Empress Eudoxia in 404 AD because he dared to denounce her extravagant rule, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was able nevertheless to get Theodosius the Emperor to repent publicly for his crime of slaughtering the Thessalonians on account of their earlier revolt. Ambrose, like Athanasius, Basil, and Augustine continued to defend the Nicene Creed against the Arians. Yet, Christian leaders failed to maintain unity. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, understood (or rather misunderstood) the true nature of the incarnation of the Word. He preached that in Christ there were not only two natures but also two persons: one from God (the Word) and one created like men who was born of the Virgin Mary. If this is followed, then the Virgin Mary could not be called Theotokos (Mother/bearer of God). For this understanding, Nestorius was excommunicated at the Council of Ephesus under the leadership of St. Cyril in 431 AD, after securing the support of Rome. Nestorius was exiled and his followers escaped to Persia, the enemy of the Byzantine Christians. It was an opportunity to preach Christ to pagans. They went as far as India. But their numbers dwindled over time. Meanwhile, Cyril's successor, Dioscorus, proud of the faith of his predecessor, supported Eutyches who, following Cyril, taught that in Christ there is one nature but in this nature the Godhead swallowed the humanity of Christ. Dioscorus presided over a council in Ephesus (449 AD, called "Robber Council" and not recognized by neither the Catholic Church nor the Byzantine Orthodox) in which Eutyches was honoured,and Flavianus, Patriarch of Constantinople, was humiliated and so violently attacked that he died. When in 451 AD, the Council of Chalcedon was summoned, the Letter of Pope Leo I was read declaring that in Christ there are two natures - a human nature and a divine nature -  fully united in the person of Christ, and was approved by the fathers of the Council exclaimig that "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo". Dioscorus was at once excommunicated, not because of his faith but because he dared to excommunicate Pope Leo earlier. Patriarch Dioscorus was exiled on orders of the emperor Justinian. In his exile he maintained that he excommunicated the teachings of Eutyches, but no one listened. Almost the entire population of Egypt supported Dioscorus and stayed loyal to him and his successors. Some bishops in Antioch sided with the Non-Chalcedonians and in 518 AD their Patriarch Severus was exiled from Antioch. They became known as the Syriac Orthodox. The Armenians also joined the dissidents and naturally the Ethiopian Church, a daughter of the Church of Alexandria, followed suit. The Syriacs traveled to India and founded the Malankara Church. Embattled by the continuous wars between Byzantium and Persia, Christians were further divided in the East.

But that was only the beginning of the retreat or the third phase. The conquest of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula around 630 AD carried out a most lasting danger to the survival of Christians. Having attacked the other tribes in Arabia, Mohammed forced them to change their religions into a monotheist religion: This is Islam which assembled a heretic mix of Arianism and Nestorianism with a view of Abraham's progeny in order to point to Mohammed's ancestors; a distorted view on the execution of Christ on the cross; and a literalist interpretation and execution of most of the Old Testament Law that became Islam's core Sharia. Islam removed reference to priesthood, and made of Jesus only a prophet but venerated Mary as the most pure of God's creation. Scholars familiar with the rise of Islam maintain that a bishop of a heretic Christian sect by the name of Waraqa bin Nofel was the uncle of Khadija, Mohammed's first wife who herself managed a caravan of trades in Northern Arabia. His influence on Mohammed, together with another heretic, an Ethiopian monk by the name of Boheira, may have contributed to Mohammed's claims of inspiration and prophecy. To Muslims, Mohammed is the seal of the prophets. In Islamic countries that follow pure Islam, Islam and state are not separate. Ideally a caliph (or a successor to Mohammed) governs the Islamic state. When Mohammed united Arab tribes under his leadership, he set his ambition on the Byzantine and Persian empires. Taking advantage of their weary armies after centuries of fighting, he sent to each of their leaders a message: "Aslem Taslam" (Arabic) which meant: If you convert to Islam you will live in peace (or be protected). Muslim armies separated Syria, the Holy Land in Palestine, Egypt, and the rest of North Africa from the rest of the Christian community. Most Syrian and Egyptian Christians welcomed the invaders as they wished to get rid of the Byzantines' mistreatment and persecution. In less than 100 years, Islam had spread and controlled the lands from Arabia to Syria and Persia Northbound; to North Africa Westbound; and crossed to Spain in Europe while Eastbound it moved with vigor to Western India - if not wholly through military conquest then through trade.

The Third Age presented a new challenge to Christianity. In the first phase in the seventh century, Dawson wrote "the Church found herself beset by enemies on all sides; by the Muslim aggression in the South, and by the pagan barbarism in the North". Challenged by both, a long missionary effort laid the foundation of a new Christian culture in Europe termed "medieval." In this age, the Church "possessed a monopoly of all forms of literary education, so that the relationship between religion and culture was closer than in any other period." Catholicism was transplanted from the civilized Mediterranean area to the North Sea and influenced the social organization of cultures in the lands of Europe. As Byzantium and Rome remained in full communion, Christians under the Ummayad Islamic caliphate in Damascus translated works of the Greek philosophers to Arabic. One such Doctor of the Church who wrote in Arabic is John of Damascus, whose father Sarjoun was a financial administrator to the Caliph. John read the Islamic Qura'n and Christian Biblical books. He was allowed to become a monk at St. Saba Monastery where he wrote his theological works defending the Christian Trinity against Islam. His writings were influential to the Medievals in both West and East. His most enduring contribution was his defense of venerating the icons in Churches when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered their destruction in his furious Iconoclasm, possibly under influence by Judaism and Islam's ban on images and statues. In 787, the Council of Nicaea II, with Papal legates present, excommunicated the Iconoclasts and restored the veneration of icons in the presence of Empress Irene.This confirmed the Church's open adoption of the good in Greek culture.

In the second phase of the Third Age, Christians of Europe were able to stop the advancing Islamic armies. and resurrect the Roman Empire with a cultural renewal not seen since the 5th century. But it took a lot of courage. In 714 the Islamic armies entered Languedoc. In less than 10 years they had destroyed Nimes, ravaged the right bank of the Rhone to Sens, and marched to Toulouse. In October 732 Charles Martel and his Frankish army defeated the Islamic army of the Ummayad Caliphate led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi Governor of Andalus (Spain) near Tours.   The Battle of Tours was the turning point for establishing the Carolingian Empire - effectively the Holy Roman Empire. In 800, Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was crowned by the pope. He established a Christian educational program in the empire, supported the Holy See of Rome and financed the expansion of the Church in Europe, The Benedictine order carried out much of the translation of scholarly Biblical interpretation based on work by Jerome (d. 420 AD) known for his achievement on translating the Greek Septuagint to the Latin Vulgate Bible.

With the development and adoption of Latin in the West, lack of communication with Greek Byzantium led to estrangement between the See of Rome and the See of Constantinople. The addition of the "filioque" clause (that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son) in the Nicene Creed angered Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 810-893 AD). The Eastern Church had inherited from the Greeks the idea of debating any changes to the rules and creed before adopting them. The Western Church under the See of Rome had inherited from the Romans the primacy of law and the discipline of central organization structure that since St. Pope Leo the Great emphasized more clearly the primacy of the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, over all other bishops. Patriarch Photius, a highly-learned person, claimed that the ancient faith expressed in the creed could be reformulated if the Pentarchy (five ancient Sees) agreed in an ecumenical council, but Rome - already reinvigorated under St. Pope Gregory the Great (c. 540 -604 AD) and his missionary outreach to England in the North - felt it needed no other voice in proclaiming the truth of faith if the Pope had already agreed to a new formula. The historian Jaroslav Pelikan wrote "The unity of the Church as defended by the fathers of the ancient church had become identified with the Petrine ministry in Rome." Pelikan quotes Pope Gregory's words "To all who know the Gospel, it is obvious that by the voice of the Lord of the entire church was committed to the holy apostle and prince the apostles Peter...Behold he received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power to bind and loose was given to him, and the care and principality of the entire church was committed to him.(Matt 16:18), (John 21:17), Luke (22:31)" In addition to quoting the Council of Chalcedon in support for the Petrine Primacy, Gregory wrote referring to Nestorius "And we certainly know that many priests of the church of Constantinople have fallen into the whirlpool of heresy..." (Cf. Pelikan;"The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine"; Pp. 352-353).  While the Christian East and the Christian West were gradually becoming estranged from each other, both excelled in their own spheres to expand the Christian presence. Thus by the tenth century, the highly-educated Saints Cyril and Methodius had established Christianity in the Slavic-speaking North, the Poles and Magyars, together with the Bulgarians and Russians in the East who adopted the Byzantine liturgy. St. Vladimir, ruler of Russia and Kiev (c. 958 - 1015 AD), had sent delegates to the capitals of Christianity who were impressed by the grandeur of Byzantine chants and the imposing Hagia Sophia. When they returned to Russia, the "Third Rome" began its ascendance in history. In 1053, theological disputes between the See of Rome and that of Constantinople had reached a boiling point when Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople. Influenced by past mutual accusations and disagreement over the "filioque" and Papal primacy between Photius and Nicholas Pope of Rome, Nicholas' successor Pope Leo IX responded in 1054 with a delegation headed by Cardinal Humbert of Moyenmoutier that arrived in Constantinople, welcomed by Emperor Constantine IX as the latter needed the Pope's assistance, but spurned by Patriarch Michael Cerularius. Humbert reacted by excommunicating Cerularius and his followers and Cerularius responded by excommunicating Humbert and the Roman Church. This was the third phase - the beginning of the "Great Schism" that would last for a thousand years.

Threatened for its independence by the increasing power of feudal landlords, the Fourth Age of the Church began with a spiritual renewal in monastic orders. The reform started in Lorraine and Burgundy and gradually extended its movement to the rest of Western Christendom. The papacy pressed for an alliance with the monastic reformers such that, according to Dawson, "for nearly two and a half centuries, the Church exercised a dynamic influence on almost every aspect of Western culture; and the spiritual reformers like St. Hugh of Cluny, St. Gregory VII, St. Anselm, and above all, St. Bernard of Clairvaux were also the central figures in the public life of Western Christendom."

The Oxford Dictionary of Saints edited by David Farmer summarizes credible lives of many holy persons in the history of the Church as researched by scholars and historians over the past 4 decades. Among them are Doctors of the Church including John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory Naziansus, Gregory of Nissa, Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome, John of Damascus, Anslem, Bernard of Clairvaux, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Bellarmine, Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of the Infant Jesus.

Recent Contributions:

Henri de Lubac, S.J.

I have been reading "Catholicism" a volume written by the great Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac in 1937 well before the reforms of Vatican II to which Henri de Lubac contributed substantially. In his "Catholicism", de Lubac retrieves the meaning of the Body of Christ as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church and the great medieval scholars including St. Thomas Aquinas. While Pope Pius XII interpreted the mystical body of Christ to be the institution of the Catholic Church, the Fathers believed it referred to the Eucharist, the most important sacrament of communion for the life of Christians. This is only the beginning on which de Lubac builds his "New Theology" where the "Supernatural" is not separate from "Nature." In Henri de Lubac, "Human nature [the Church] tells us at the outset, is certainly sick, infirm, but it is not totally depraved...The divine likeness in it may be dimmed, veiled, disfigured, but it is always there." (Henri de Lubac, Catholicism, Chapter IX, Page 145).  On the non-Christian religions including the Gentiles de Lubac expounds the universality of the Catholic Church not only geographically but also theologically:  "Ever since the day when, full of the strength and the promises of the Holy Spirit, the Church issued from the Cenacle to overrun the earth, she has encountered everywhere in her progress countries that are already, in the religious sense, occupied... Must everything be jettisoned to give place to the Gospel?...False religions, therefore, are religions that stray from the truth to become engulfed in error, rather than religions whose whole direction is misleading and whose principles are wholly false. They are based on childish ideas more often than evil ones." 

Let's look anew at the New Theology ushered by Henri de Lubac. His efforts at retrieving the early Biblical scholarship of Origen, the Fathers and the Scholastics have three important dimensions in the continuing development of understanding in the Catholic Church:

First: God works in every created human person. The Holy Spirit is not bound by any particular theology for "the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles" (Acts 10: 45). If the Spirit leads persons and communities such as Cornelius to Peter before their baptism, then the Church proposes to all non-Christians that salvation is always possible to those who, following the dictates of their conscience, search for God. It is with this in mind that, from the beginning, the Church married the good elements she found in the Greek philosophies with what she believes is revealed Hebrew tradition.While she started with Peter, Paul and the other disciples as a little Jewish group of followers of Christ, she continued to preach the good news to non Jews too, always in the hope that they will find salvation through Jesus Christ the only way to heaven. On this basis too, the grace that the Holy Spirit bestows on persons and communities includes many Pagans that the Spirit prepared for Christ's coming. The Magi may saw his light in their own cultures and therefore came to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Saviour of all. The preparation for Christ's coming could also be understood as the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ in which the New Jerusalem or the Kingdom of God reaches out to the world at the end of time.

Second: The Church, according to Vatican II, is not only the Mystical Body of Christ, but also the People of God from the earliest monotheist faith of Abraham to the end of the ages and in the cultures which receive Christ. Let me add that according to the CDF declarationDominus Iesus or "The Lord Jesus" approved for publication by Blessed John Paul II in 2000, the following is stated: 
"Above all else, it must be firmly believed that 'the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16;Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door'.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”. The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”, since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being. For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, 'salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit'; it has a relationship with the Church, which 'according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit'.
21.  With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it 'in ways known to himself'.  Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully.  Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the 'unique and special relationship84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God." The Declaration continues:"Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God, and which are part of what “the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions”. Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God. One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments.88 Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1 Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.
22.  With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31). This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”. 

Third: Henri de Lubac's work is at the same time a reminder to all of Christian Humanism which developed in Western Christian culture starting in the 12th century with the retrieval of the Roman and Greek Classics. It is an expression of the beauty of creation as we find in the paintings of Michael Angelo and Rafael, the polyphonic music and chants of Palestrina and Bach, and the architecture of St. Peter's in Rome as well as Notre Dame in Paris.  We may recall here the enormous work of Blessed John Henry Newman on the development of doctrine, and before him the humanist work of St. Thomas More in his "Utopia" of the 16th century. In fact we could go back to St. Francis of Assisi  in the 12th century, probably the first Christian Humanist in the West. While we are at it, let's recall to memory the work of St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century who built a city with hospitals to serve the poor.

The great Jesuit theologian is immensely knowledgeable of the Patristic Fathers and Medieval Scholastic theologians. He writes with an open mind well before St. Pope John XXIII asked him to participate in the works of the Second Vatican Council. He was made a cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II on account for his immeasurable contribution to the reforms of Vatican II while being always cognizant of the great tradition of the Church since early times.
In the book, Henri de Lubac, S.J. provides extracts from the Fathers,  Doctors and other scholars of the Church such as Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, Origen, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Leo the Great, St. Hilary, and astonishingly, Severus of Antioch of the Jacobites. Some of these writers were excommunicated by Ecumenical Councils, yet Henri de Lubac finds it necessary to retrieve their wisdom which remains part of the Church's tradition. Henri de Lubac continues with other more recent writers and mystics not the least St. Bernard, Nicholas of Cusa, Julian of Norwich, Paul Claudel, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and John Henry Newman (declared Blessed in 2010).
Henri de Lubac's point is that the Catholic Church is indeed larger than the official Catholic Church, because to her are linked all the people of good will who died in the grace of God. Many of them were not baptized and did not even hear about Christ, yet by searching to live the truth following their conscience and according to the means they had available in their time and culture, they cooperated with the saving gift of God. They lived the love of God and knew Christ by their implicit desire for the truth.

For many reasons, historical and theological, I remain convinced that every human person who seriously searches for the truth is, according to Dominus Iesus, in a mysterious way, linked to the Mystery of the Church i.e. The Catholic Church. That is how open and far-reaching is Catholicism. Henri de Lubac certainly contributed to such openness.

Yves Congar, O.P.

The exceptionally well-researched writings of the Dominican Yves Congar are modeled in his book: "A History of Theology" which he substantially contributed to the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique as early as 1939 and expanded it in 1968 after Vatican II to which his enormous contribution was described by Avery Dulles, S.J. in an obituary of Congar in the phrase "Vatican II could almost be called Congar's Council." In appreciation of their insights to the development of Catholic thought, both received the "Red Hat" by Saint Pope John Paul II.

With a scientist precision in his "History", Congar covers Catholic Tradition and theologies of the Patristic Age, St. Augustine, the Renaissance, Humanism, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Nominalism, the Reformation & the Counter-Reformation including the contribution of St. Ignatius of Loyola & St. Francis de Sales, Rationalism and Modernism with the renewal of the 20th century movements from Neoscholastic Thomism led by M.J. Garrigou-Lagrange and Jacques Maritain to the Liturgical Movement and the "New Theology" led by Henri de Lubac, S.J. and others including Hans Urs von Balthasar and Jean Dani
élou, S.J. and up to the early post-Vatican II. He makes abundant references to the theology of the "Angelic Doctor" in view of the official support that recent Popes from Leo XIII to Pius XII accorded the teaching of Thomism in Catholic seminaries and universities. In his overview, Congar shows the growth of successive specializations in Sacred Science: division of teaching in lectio and quaestio, in commentary on Sacred Scripture and dialectical disputes, growth of a positive theology and a biblical theology, specialization of a moral theology, of an ascetic or mystic theology separated from the dogmatic, creation of an apologetic, separated development of a polemic theology, as well as a pastoral theology.

Of relevance to today's conditions, Congar proposes for the theologian to live in the Church in collaboration with other believers and to refer to the teaching Church for his development of orthodox knowledge in accord with the mystical body of Christ. "Theology without doubt is a science but it is a fact that the Fathers and the greatest theologians orientated their work toward the satisfaction of the needs of the Church at a given moment. These could be the defense of the faith, spiritual needs of souls, requirements or bettering of the formation of the clergy, replies to new forms of thought or to new acquisitions of knowledge." (P. 271). On the other hand "the Church must permit or procure for the theologian the conditions of liberty which are necessary for his work." For this he quotes the axiom "In necessity, unity; otherwise liberty" (Cf. Epist. CXVIII, 32, P.L., t. XXXIII, col. 418.) 

The Church draws great profit from the work of its theologians, writes Congar. He supports his view by reference to St. Augustine's statement that theology is the science by which the faith is nourished, comforted, and defended, and also has its truth in the plan of the historic life of the Church as such. "A developed state of the intelligibility of faith is practically necessary in order that the message can be communicated to minds which pose various questions in keeping with the current state of ideas and culture." Another quite significant contribution of Congar is his view on the progress of theology. "That theology progresses is quite evident since dogmatic knowledge itself progresses and, for the most part, as a result of theological work." The conditions of theology's progress can be analyzed under three aspects:

First, theology involves progress in that it is a science. It is developed in a regime of collaboration and by the dialogue of specialists in research, collections, reviews with their sections on bibliographical critique. At least in part, progress of theology is allied with progress in other sciences: historical, philological, liturgical, sociological...etc.

Then, theology involves progress in its role as the science of a specific datum. If all progress is holding to a principle, the progress of theology will consist in an understanding of its datum as found in Apostolic preaching rather than in the refinement of systematization. The Encyclical Humani Generis recognized that "The sacred disciplines always grow younger from the study of their sacred fonts, while, on the contrary, speculation which neglects further inquiry into the datum, as we know from experience, turns out sterile." (Cf. AAS, t. XLII, 1950, pp. 568-69; Denz. 3886.). Hence the law, which is that of all progress, is valid for theology in a more rigorous fashion since there is veritable progress and productive renewal only in tradition. Progress and newness in theology do not consist in change affecting the principles or datum but primarily in a richer or more precise awareness of this datum itself.

Third, theology is a reflection on the datum. Hence it profits greatly from everything that stimulates reflection, namely philosophy that encourages inquiry. The dogma can be seen in a new light, their content can be viewed more profoundly either by a new elaboration of the concepts which they involve or by starting from a new viewpoint set up by philosophy. So today even the dogma of the Trinity, Christology, the Sacraments, the Eucharistic Presence, and the act of Faith, profit from contemporary philosophical reflection on man and the existential experience of man.(See pages 271-272).
Indeed a great overview of the development of theology by a great Catholic and ecumenical scholar.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
“Lord Christ, you who are divine energy and living irresistible might: since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely the stronger, it is you who must set me ablaze and transmute me into fire that we may be welded together and made one. Grant me, then, something even more precious than that grace for which all your faithful followers pray: to receive communion as I die is not sufficient: teach me to make a communion of death itself.” (Hymn of the Universe by Teilhard de Chardin, NY: Harper and Row 1965.)

I first learned about Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.  and his work in a retreat given by Henri Boulad, S.J. in 1972 in Cairo, Egypt.

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) holds a special legacy in the Catholic Church. With his research as a paleontologist in China and his theological insight he sought to unify the scientific Theory of Evolution with the spiritual development of humans that in his view will culminate and be held together in the eschatological Cosmic Christ, The "Omega Point" of history (Cf. Revelation 22, 13). The Cosmic Christ is Jesus now in glory after his resurrection in which he brings humanity to the Father by the power of His Spirit. Teilhard's thought with regard to creation and the cosmos can be summarized in his two popular books "The Phenomenon of Man" and "Le Milieu Divin" in which he attempts to recapture and develop the interpretation of Genesis in allegorical and theological methods in the footsteps of St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo. But his mystical approach to creation can be summarized in his "Cosmic Liturgy of Creation." Because of suspicions by his superiors about a certain pantheistic tendency in his ideas, Teilhard was forbidden to publish books until his death in 1955. In the Second Vatican Council, however, Michel Hakim observed that the spirit  of Teilhard seemed to "hover" over the optimistic deliberations and declarations that made an impact in the reform ushered by the Council.  The most distinct point of his thought is the complexification of matter into the biosphere which would be encompassed in the leap from the animal realm to the noosphere or human mind which, while still biologically animal, can ask himself about himself and raise questions about his origin and future. This is the step where Man starts to worship a divinity that, in his research, Mircea Eliade categorizes as the "Sky God." Revelation in the Judaic-Christian Tradition is a response by God to man's fearful questions that progressively reveal the merciful and faithful God. In Jesus Christ, God is fully revealed as eternal Love.

In his book "Introduction to Christianity" the young Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1968 about Teilhard de Chardin's mystical theology as part of his exposition on the Resurrection of Christ. Referring to the complexification of the evolution of life on earth:
"We can start again from the dictum about love and death and say: Only where someone values love more highly than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death. If it is to be more than death, it must first be more than mere life. ..... To use Teilhard de Chardin's terminology; where that took place, the decisive complexity or 'complexification' would have occurred; bios, too, would be encompassed by and incorporated in the power of love. It would cross the boundary--death--and create unity where death divides. If the power of love for another were so strong somewhere that it could keep alive not just his memory, the shadow of his "I", but that person himself, then a new stage in life would have been reached. This would mean that the realm of biological evolutions and mutations had been left behind and the leap made to a quite different plane, on which love was no longer subject to bios but made use of it. Such a final stage of "mutation" and "evolution" would itself no longer be a biological stage; it would signify the end of the sovereignty of bios, which is at the same time the sovereignty of death; it would open up the realm that the Greek Bible calls zoe, that is, definitive life, which has left behind the rule of death."

In  "La Priere du Père Teilhard de Chardin" published in 1964, and translated to English under the title "The Faith of Teilhard de Chardin" in 1965,  Henri de Lubac, S.J. made the case for the authentic Christian thought of his friend Teilhard. "Omnia in ipso constant - 'in him all subsists' - This sentence from the Epistle to the Colossians had long fired Teilhard's enthusiasm...he said that ' Christ is the term supernaturally, but also physically, assigned to the consummation of humanity', nor again in saying that for St. Paul, 'all energies hold together, are welded deep down into a single whole, and what the humanity of our Lord does is to take them up again and re-weld them in a transcendent and personal unity.'"

Joseph Ratzinger
In February 2014, an article by Tom Wilson titled "Jews and the Persecution of Christians" was published in the First Things (See here) where the author recounts a recent interview by The Times of Israel with Malcolm Hoenlein, Chairman of American Jewish Organizations. In the interview, Chairman Hoenlein demanded American and European governments to reverse their current stand and instead take actions and impose sanctions on Islamists that are killing Christians in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Egypt. For him, given the Jewish experience of persecution, it is important that Jews should lend their support to protect Christian minorities. "A century ago Christians constituted 20 percent of the population of the Middle East; Today that number stands at just 4 percent." In the same article Wilson made reference to The 2013 Erasmus Lecture by Jonathan Sacks published inFirst Things in January 2014. In it, the former chief rabbi forcefully declared "This is the crime against humanity of our time...And I, as a Jew, want to say that I stand solidly with Christians throughout the world to protest against this crime. And I am appalled that the world is silent." Bernard Lewis, the American scholar of Oriental Studies and a specialist in history of the Middle East at Princeton,  has since 1976 predicted "The Return of Islam" (See Commentary here). The moderate Muslim and author, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, read history of Islam in the Middle East and showed his admiration of the studies made by Bernard Lewis. Heikal was read by President El-Sisi of Egypt so we can finally put our fingers on the moderate views of Egypt's new President and his latest proposal for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. Why is the Arab world in turmoil? In a New York Times, David Brook expressed his opinion "No War is an Island" (here). Does he make sense?

Very recently we received a request from Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. urging us to seek assistance for the defenseless Christians in Iraq through contacts with good-hearts in America and Europe. Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. spoke in the Capitol, Washington on June 26, 2014. His speech emphasized the humanistic and spiritual roots of the West that the Western governments seem to be shedding today for petro-dollars. His full speech can be found here.

Lastly, as I have been reading Joseph Ratzinger, I remembered his lecture at the University of Regensburg in September 2006. There, Professor Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) exposed militant Islam. Speaking about reason, he gives the historical debate between the Christian Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Muslim Persian around 1393 on the subject of Christianity and Islam. Edited by Professor Adel Theodore Khoury, a Melkite Catholic priest and professor at Munster University, the seventh conversation cites the emperor's point: "Show me just what Mohammed brought, and there you will find only things evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."  Professor Ratzinger continues quoting the emperor "God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (according to reason) is contrary to God's nature."

Any reasonable person can follow what Joseph Ratzinger said and read the rest of his lecture (See the full lecture here).

Eight years later, while we recognize the peaceful attitude of the vast majority of Muslims and with the fathers of Vatican II praise with them the one God (see Nostra Aetate), we recognize the truth in Joseph Ratzinger's (or Pope Benedict XVI) address for we need his courage.

How are the reforms of the Second Vatican Council remembered and being implemented?

One of these reforms is the recognition of the Catholic Church of "Collegiality" which although not literally in the documents, constitutes a  deepening of understanding and a recovery of tradition forgotten by Popes since the major schisms in the first 1000 years of Christianity. Collegiality means that governance of the Catholic Church is not as superficially understood the prerogative of the Bishop of Rome alone, but is shared by all bishops of the Catholic Church who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. This development is enshrined in Vatican II and, properly understood, cannot be over-ridden by a statement of any of the Congregations of the Roman Curia who wish to restore the supremacy to the Holy See of Rome in every matter. I recall Gerald Cardinal Carter, the late Archbishop of Toronto, who said once that the bishop does not derive his authority from the Bishop of Rome, but from Christ in view of the Apostolic tradition. Yves Congar commented on this same doctrine of collegiality as Vatican II rebalanced the imbalance created by the unfortunate events that hastened the end of Vatican I in 1870.

More significant is the contribution of the Melkite Catholic bishops who participated in Vatican II with vigour. We recall the interventions of Maximus IV Patriarch of Antioch for the Melkite Catholics. He said that the liturgical reform of the Latin Churches spoken about in the Council has already been for centuries in the Eastern Churches. The liturgy in the Eastern Church has always been celebrated in the local language. The celebration of the Eucharist in the Eastern Churches has always been in the offering of  both the body and blood of Christ together and never separated. With the reforms of Vatican II, the Western Roman Church started the movement of celebrating the Eucharist, at least on Holy Thursday, to offer both the body and blood of Christ. 

In the past few years, due to sexual scandals of a few bishops and priests, some voices raised the concern that Rome should authorize the elevation of some married men to the sacramental order of priesthood if found worthy. In spite of continuing opposition from Rome to these voices, the time has come to look again at this old tradition supported by the Apostle Paul and maintained to-date in all the Eastern Churches Catholic or Orthodox. For the sake of reunion of Christians, it is about time that Rome recognizes that the 11th century Gregorian Reform which ordered a disciplinary change to create celibate priests can always be reversed if needed. The Roman Catholic Church needs many more priests than the current celibate and aging priests.  In Canada, for example, Roman Catholic parishes are increasingly being served by priests from India and Africa. Moreover, the materialist way of life has been contagious to generations of Catholics who are trying to stay faithful to the Catholic tradition, yet see up to 40% of their families disintegrating due to unfaithfulness of spouses. Priests have not been immune to this phenomenon. A few of them have been unfaithful to their vows of chastity especially with children entrusted to their care. The media take every opportunity to exaggerate the percentage of unfaithful priests but Rome has instructed all the dioceses to report any child sexual abuse by priests to the civil authorities. The media, however, has already tarnished the face of Catholicism in the Western hemisphere. Although there is always a risk of the married priest giving priority to his family over his parish, this is by far less risky than finding a celibate priest engaged in inappropriate sexual relationship. Pastoral requirements demand going back to the ancient tradition. Look to the East! 


Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that Jesus must be Catholic.

We cannot underestimate the Church's power to survive guided by the Spirit of God. However, we see radical Islam and materialism as two challenging forces: Radical Islam invades non-Muslims by force of arms and forces Christians to run for their lives or convert under duress (mostly in the Middle East and Africa); Atheism intertwined with liberal materialism pushes Christians away from their traditional moral values (mostly in the West but increasingly too in the East).

The question asked of today's historians and tomorrow's generation is this: In which phase is the Church today? The first, second, or third? 

Dawson, Christopher; "The Historic Reality of Christian Culture"; published by Harper; 1960; Pp. 47- 67.
MacCulloch, Diarmaid; "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years"; published by Penguin; 2011.
Eliad, Mircea; "A History of Religious Ideas" (3 Volumes); University of Chicago Press; 1984.
Tarnas, Richard; "The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that have Shaped our World View"; Ballantine Books - Reprint Edition; 1993.
Watson, Peter; "Ideas: A History - From Fire to Freud"; Phoenix; 2006.
Lewis, Bernard; "The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years"; Scribner - Reprint Edition; 1997.
Pinker, Steven; "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined"; Viking Adult; 2010.
Fukuyama, Francis: "The End of History and The Last Man"; Free Press - Reissue Edition; 2006.
de Lubac, Henri; "History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen"; published by Ignatius Press -Third edition; 2007.
Ratzinger, Joseph; "Truth and Tolerance; Christian Belief and World Religions"; Ignatius Press; 2005.
Ratzinger, Joseph; "Introduction to Christianity"; Communio; 1963.
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Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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