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December 12, 2017
Archive of December 6, 2017

Scientists reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas – here’s what they found

Liverpool, England, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA) - Scientists at a university in Liverpool have unveiled what they say is the most realistic portrait ever created of St. Nicholas of Myra, the popular 4th century bishop best known as the inspiration for the modern-day figure of Santa Claus.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University's Face Lab used a facial reconstruction system and 3D interactive technology to create the portrait, which was unveiled on Dec. 6, 2014 - the feast day of St. Nicholas.

It's #StNicholas day. Check out the facial depiction of St Nicholas we produced @LJMU @LSAD_2016 https://t.co/EQfjjHmRis #stnicholasday pic.twitter.com/MW1GpWhBWW

— Face Lab Liverpool (@FaceLabLJMU) December 6, 2016

University Professor Caroline Wilkinson said the reconstruction relied on “all the skeletal and historical material” available, the BBC reports. A university spokeswoman said the new image uses “the most up-to-date anatomical standards, Turkish tissue depth data and CGI techniques.”

Among the features depicted in the saint’s image is a broken nose, which Wilkinson said had “healed asymmetrically, giving him a characteristic nose and rugged facial appearance.”

St. Nicholas lived 270-343 A.D. He was the bishop of Myra, in southern Turkey.

During his years as bishop, he was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution, then later released when Constantine came to power.

He was known for his staunch defense of the faith, as well as his often anonymous generosity toward those in need.

Stories surrounding the saint abound. He is believed to have once rescued three sisters from being sold into slavery by throwing bags of gold through an open window into their house to pay their family’s debts.

Another popular story holds that he became so enraged by the heretic Arius – who claimed that Christ was not truly God – that he punched him during a heated debate at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Based on the broken nose in the saint's facial reconstruction, maybe Arius punched him back.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 11, 2016.

Correction: This article initially said the facial reconstruction was unveiled in 2016. It was unveiled in 2014.

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http://t.co/VK50acdOtj Is this what Saint Rose of Lima looked like?  #History #Catholic

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) August 28, 2015


 

 

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Devastating cyclone kills 32 Catholic fishermen off India's coast

Thiruvananthapuram, India, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - At least 32 Catholic fishermen were killed when a tropical cyclone hit the southern coast of India over the weekend.

In addition, some 200 people are missing, and thousands of individuals have been displaced, after their homes were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise.

The fishermen – who were all Catholic, according to local parish priest Fr. V. Wilfred of Vizhinjam – were not expecting stormy seas when they set out, according to UCA News. The fishermen were all from the Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.

Tropical Cyclone Ockhi began to develop near Sri Lanka last Thursday with heavy winds and rains. The hardest-hit region was the southwestern tip of India’s coast near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram. The last major cyclone to hit that region was in 1941, making it a rare occurrence for the area.

The storm also affected thousands of locals who have relocated to relief camps that have been set up by the Kerala state government. Currently, there are 29 relief camps, which are sheltering around 3,000 people.

Local priests and Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum were said to have been visiting the affected area to help coordinate relief for the victims of the storm.

Additionally, Fr. Justin Jude of Poonthura noted that many of the locals have not only lost their homes and family members due to the cyclone, but also valuable equipment such as boats and nets. Fr. Jude also said that government aid should be provided to help the victims in their time of need, according to UCA News.

Tropical Cyclone Ockhi is still active and is threatening heavy downpours with potential flooding in northwestern India, including Mumbai. However, the storm is expected to weaken significantly by Wednesday.

 

 

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Pope Francis urges world leaders to respect UN position on Jerusalem

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - With debate on the status of Jerusalem heating up in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis has urged international leaders to proceed with prudence and respect for current U.N. resolutions.

“My thought now goes to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot ignore my deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days,” the Pope said Dec. 6.

He issued a “heartfelt appeal” to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during his weekly general audience, during which he recounted the phases of his recent Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip to Burma, also called Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

His appeal for Jerusalem comes shortly after news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.

As part of the plan, the Trump administration is expected to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and while Israel welcomes the changes, both Palestinians and Arab leaders have voiced concern that the move could jeopardize the peace process in the Middle East, according to BBC.

Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.

Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem will be discussed in the late stages of the talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries have embassies in Tel Aviv.

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, then, is likely to increase tension on the issue, particularly in regards to the 200,000-some settlements Israel has built in East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this stance.

On Wednesday, a group of more than a dozen Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement cautioning that the U.S. policy change “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.”

“Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm,” they warned.

“We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny.”

In his general audience, Pope Francis noted how Jerusalem is a “unique city” that is considered holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Because of this, he said the city has “a special vocation for peace.”

“I ask the Lord that this identity be preserved and reinforced for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a global panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts,” he said.

Prior to his general audience, the Pope met with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders for a scheduled audience, urging dialogue that is respectful of everyone's rights in the Holy Land. He also voiced his hope that “peace and prosperity” would prevail for the Palestinian people.

On his trip to Burma and Bangladesh, Francis said it was “a great gift from God,” and thanked the civil authorities and bishops of each country for their welcome and for everything they did to prepare for the trip.

He noted how his Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a Pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.  

“I wanted, also in this case, to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflict and repression, and which now is slowly walking toward a new condition of freedom and peace,” he said.

Burma, a majority Buddhist country where minorities, including Christians, often face stigma and discrimination, is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule, while also facing harsh criticism from the international community over what the United Nations has called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims from the country's Rakhine State.

In this context, Christians there are the “leaven of God,” he said, and called the Church in Burma a “living and fervent” community that he had the joy of meeting and affirming in faith and communion.   

Similarly, he said his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh was equally important, and focused largely on the need for “respect and dialogue” between Christianity and Islam, as the country is a majority Muslim nation with a small Catholic community.

Religious freedom was a major theme, and was reflected in each of his meetings, he said, and underlined the importance of “openness of the heart as the basis for the culture of encounter, harmony and peace.”

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Kidnapped twice, missionary priest returns to Nigeria

Rome, Italy, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - After he was kidnapped in Nigeria in October, Italian missionary priest Fr. Maurizio Pallù has returned to the country, attributing his kidnapping to the work of the devil and crediting the Virgin Mary with his protection and release.

“I saw a special maternal intervention of the Virgin Mary, especially Our Lady of Fatima,” he told EWTN, “because the way that she undid the plans of the devil is very evident.”

Pallù, 63, is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has served as a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He and two companions were kidnapped in southern Nigeria Oct. 12.

According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of armed criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car. The three were released Oct. 17.

He was also kidnapped on Oct. 13, 2016 and released after just an hour and a half.

At the time of his kidnapping, Pallù said he thought about his life and he felt he was not ready to die. “I said to the Lord: I see that I don’t have enough repentance for my sins.”

“If you want me to die, give me the grace and the Holy Spirit to die as a real Christian and offer my life for these people who killed me,” he recounted, though he asked God to “save my life and I promise that I will continue to announce the Gospel with redoubled zeal.”

Pallù, a priest of the Diocese of Rome, has been in Italy since Oct. 18. During this time, he also had an audience with Pope Francis, who asked him, “when are you going back?”

Asked about returning to the country, and whether it was foolish idea, Pallù said he is not afraid of the devil, who has already been defeated “by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“In Nigeria, now is the favorable moment,” the priest said, commenting on how the devil must be very afraid of losing souls to God if he has attacked them twice now through kidnappings. “I want to quote the words of the prophet and of the saint, John Paul II, who said Africa is the future of the Church,” he said.

In the whole situation he was able to witness the power of prayer, he said, explaining that the only instrument he had with him during his five of days in captivity was a rosary he had bought in Fatima, since his kidnappers had taken his golden cross, and he didn’t have a Bible or breviary with him.

“I had this rosary, and they saw me constantly praying the rosary because I kept it out. I told them, ‘I pray for you as well,’ so I saw the power, not only of my prayer – because I am a man with a little faith, I did what I could – but especially of the prayer of the universal Church.”

He said he was also able to start a relationship with the leader of the group that had kidnapped them. Of the eight men, he was the only one who spoke English.

“And so we could speak together, and what I could tell him is that I consider them my brothers, (that) I was praying for them… What I noticed is that he changed (his) tone and approach. He said, as I told him ‘I’m praying for you,’ he said, ‘Yes Father, pray for me,’” in an authentic voice.

Fr. Pallù is a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to the Netherlands, where he was a pastor in the Diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.

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Pope Francis: It's good for young people to study Latin

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message to the Pontifical Academies on Tuesday, Pope Francis praised the study of Latin, especially for young people, and encouraged scholars and teachers to promote its study as a positive guide for students as they navigate life.

Addressing academics and Latin teachers, the Pope said Dec. 5 that they should “know how to speak to the hearts of the young, know how to treasure the very rich heritage of the Latin tradition to educate them in the path of life, and accompany them along paths rich in hope and confidence…”

Pope Francis’ message was read at the 22nd Solemn Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, which had as its theme, “In interiore homine: Research paths in the Latin tradition.”

The Pope praised “the theme of interiority, of the heart, of consciousness and self-awareness” which he said is found “in every culture as well as in the different religious traditions.”

“Significantly,” he continued, this theme is “presented with great urgency and strength even in our time, often characterized by concern with appearance, superficiality, the division between heart and mind, interiority and exteriority, consciousness and behavior.”

Moments of change, crisis, or transformation, whether in relationships or in a person’s identity, require reflection “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.”

Francis also noted the many important figures, both in the classical and the Christian traditions, who have reflected on the dynamism of man, pointing especially to the Fathers of the Church and the Latin writers of the first millennium.

Highlighting St. Augustine in particular, the Pope quoted from his Tractates on the Gospel of St. John, which say, “Return to your heart; see there what, it may be, you can perceive of God, for in it is the image of God. In the inner man dwells Christ, in the inner man are you renewed after the image of God, in His own image recognize its Author.”

This is relevant also for our time, he stressed, and worthy of our reflection and of sharing with others, especially young people, who are just starting on the journey of life.

A journey where they may be caught up, he explained, in the “labyrinths of superficiality and banality, of the external success that conceals an inner emptiness, of the hypocrisy that masks the split between appearances and the heart, between the beautiful and cared-for body and the soul, empty and arid.”

At the meeting, the winners of the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies were also awarded. This year's prize winners are Dr. Pierre Chambert-Protat for his doctoral thesis on Florus of Lyon, and Dr. Francesco Lubian for her critical publication of the Disticha attributed to St. Ambrose.

The winners of the Medal of the Pontificate were Dr. Shari Broodts for a critical edition of the Sermones of St. Augustine and the Latin Teaching Group of the University of Toulouse, for the publication of a Latin manual for university students.

The 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy for Latin, or Pontificia Acadamia Latinitatis, which was founded by Benedict XVI in 2012 through the motu proprio Latina Lingua.

Organized every year by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was on two themes: methodological proposals for teaching Latin today, and the reception of ancient Christian Latin between the medieval and modern eras.

The first topic was “reserved to institutions (academies, schools, associations, foundations, research groups etc.) that are engaged in formative activity among the youth,” the Prize’s press release stated.

The second was for scholars between the ages of 25 and 40 who have produced doctoral theses or publications on the theme in the last five years.

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Truth will lead to African peace, Nigerian bishops say

Abuja, Nigeria, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church’s intellectual and moral truth is the key to a peaceful, free, and developing nation, Nigerian bishops have said at a conference attended by the country's political and spiritual leaders.

Their remarks came a conference on “Peace and National Development,” hosted Nov. 19-22 by Veritas University, the Catholic university of Nigeria.

“The leaders of our future must be formed with a mentality that only the truth sets a people free,”  said Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, during remarks at the conference.

“Corruption will be eradicated if the students begin to learn that only money that accrues to a person as a result of hard work can be enjoyed.”

“The dream of the CBCN [Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria]… must always be the search for truth,” Akubeze, Vice President of CBCN, said, according to the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

Marking the university’s 10th anniversary, the event was held at the Chelsea Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, and included addresses from Archbishop Akubeze, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, and the school’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mike Kwanashie.

The conference was also attended by Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; and John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and the university’s chancellor.

While speaking about Nigeria’s future development, Bishop Kukah lamented that Nigeria has “remained permanently on top of the league of most vile and corruption in the international reports of the world institutions.”

The bishop asked on whether Nigeria could really be considered a “developing country,” because it lacks advancements in health, security, human rights, and the rule of law.
    
Archbishop Akubeze also mentioned that corruption exacerbated other severe challenges faced by Nigeria, pointing to events of terrorism, kidnappings, robberies, political violence, and tensions between religious and ethnic groups.

“These can result in disunity, instability, and if not curtailed, disintegration,” he said. “[Truth is] that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.”

The archbishop encouraged the university to form future leaders to search for truth and contribute to the common good, noting that some of the university’s students would likely become senators, governors, and maybe even Nigeria’s president.

He drew attention to the importance of the university’s name, “Veritas,” which is Latin for truth. He said the school, and every educational institution, should make the pursuit of truth their top priority.

He emphasized the need for human, spiritual, and moral formation at the university.
“As you know, education is not just about academic certificate. It also involves human formation. It involves character formation. In the process of your education in this institution, I want to encourage you, the staff, to help the students to have a wider horizon of life.”

Biahop Kukah stressed the importance of developing a strong moral compass among Africa’s political leaders, especially through the Catholic formation of university students.  

“I want to focus on the Catholic Church and argue that perhaps, with some level of robustness, it could provide this moral compass drawing extensively from its rich history and culture,” he said.

He pointed to the richness of Catholic social teaching, which, he said, is rooted in the mission of Christ, namely the proclamation of salvation.

The Church’s social encyclicals have identified concrete challenges and proffered solutions in the past, he said, noting that the documents would be a powerful resource developing political solutions to Nigerian and African issues.

Although the school welcomes students from all faiths, Veritas University has a strong ecclesiastical identity and has a particular focus Catholic social teaching.

Archbishop Akubeze applauded the success of Veritas University in forming its students, but challenged the school to strive further, until it becomes a reference point for other educational institutions.

The university was founded by the bishops of Nigeria in 2002. It was officially accredited by the Nigerian government in 2007, and began admitting students thereafter.  Its mission is to “provide its students with an integral and holistic formation that combines academic and professional training with physical, moral, spiritual, social and cultural formation together with formation of Christian religious principles and the social teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Nigeria, a country of 170 million people, has a Catholic population of nearly 23 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

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LA convent sale controversy ends in favor of archdiocese, Katy Perry

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - This week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and singer Katy Perry were awarded a joint $10 million sum for punitive damages over a church-owned hilltop property which was illegally sold to a developer in 2015 after the archdiocese had accepted an initial offer from Perry.

The property, a former convent belonging to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, is a church-owned estate under the care of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. The archdiocese also has a current lease on one of the buildings on the property, which is used as a priests’ house of prayer. This lease has an additional 77 years left.

“I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future,” said Archbishop Gomez when the controversy began in 2015.

Two of the nuns who previously lived on the property, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, made the invalid transaction with Dana Hollister, a restaurateur and developer who had plans to turn the property into a boutique hotel.

However, Hollister’s offer came after an initial $14.5 million offer from singer Katy Perry, which the archdiocese had accepted. Their deal additionally protected the house of prayer on the property, which was to be owned by the sisters.

After the sale to Hollister, of which the sisters received $44,000 and were promised an additional $9.9 million after three years, Hollister took possession of the property.

The archdiocese officially took action against the transaction June 19, 2015 with the claim that the sisters were not authorized to act as sellers of the property, since it is under the care of Archbishop Gomez. Additionally, any church sale of more than $7.5 million would require approval from the Vatican.

A jury found Hollister guilty last month of intentionally interfering with Perry’s first offer.

On Monday, the court sided with the local Church and with Perry, ordering Hollister to pay $3.47 million to the archdiocese and an additional $1.57 million to Perry for legal fees. Hollister was also charged with paying $10 million in punitive damages, which will be split between Archbishop Gomez and Perry.

Hollister has around $4 million in assets and will not be able to pay the fees in full, although her lawyer Michael Geibelson said Hollister could appeal the ruling.

Perry intends to move forward with the initial agreement of sale with the archdiocese.

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