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December 12, 2017
Archive of December 7, 2017

Narni: Italy's inspiration for the magical realm of C. S. Lewis

Narni, Italy, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The magical realm of Narnia is the setting of C. S. Lewis’ beloved children’s book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There, four children discover a land of talking animals, mythological creatures, the White Witch, and “the Great Lion:” Aslan.

This Narnia is fictional, but more than 2,000 years ago, when Romans ruled the civilized world, Narnia was a real-life city on the Italian peninsula – and it still exists today.

The ancient hill-town of Narnia, now called Narni, lies in the central Italian region of Umbria, about 50 miles north of Rome. In the city, you can see remnants of the town’s extensive history, from its pre-Roman identity as Nequinum, to antique and medieval Narnia, to the present Narni.

Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, never visited Narni, but he likely knew about the ancient Narnia from reading Roman history, where it is named by such famous writers as Tacitus, Livy, and Pliny the Elder.

In 2009, the town received confirmation of Lewis’ knowledge of the place when the Christian author’s biographer and former personal secretary, Walter Hooper, gifted Narni’s local historian, Giuseppe Fortunati, a copy of a Latin atlas owned by Lewis, on which the Belfast-born author had underlined the town named “Narnia.”

Hooper also relayed that Lewis had told him the name on the atlas had inspired him in the writing of his Chronicles. And while the two places aren’t the same – it very rarely snows in Narni, for example – there are connections between the imaginary realm and the real-life city that can still be seen today.

One of these connections is the presence of a large stone table, which recalls the stone table in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, upon which the lion Aslan, a representation of Christ in the book, sacrifices himself to save Edmund, one of the four children in the story.

Found near the Via Flaminia, an ancient road which leads from Rome to the Adriatic Sea, and which also passes by Narni, stands an ancient stone table believed to date from pre-Roman times, and to have been a place of animal, and possibly even human, sacrifice.

The town was founded around 1,000 years before Christ by the Osco-Umbrian people as Nequinum. It was conquered by the Roman Republic in the 4th century BC, and its name was changed to Narnia, after the nearby Nar River.

“Nar,” Fortunati told EWTN, “means ‘water that flows,’” noting that this may also be a reason why Lewis chose the name for his imaginary land, since “water is the source of life.”

The Diocese of Narni was established in the 4th century; in the 20th, it was united with a nearby diocese, and is now part of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia.

Around 1930, during repair work on a road, workers discovered a statue of a lion dating from the Roman era, when it was common for the emperor always to have a statue of a lion “guarding” his tent at camp, Fortunati said.

The figure of a lion had also been adopted by the Jewish religion. The Lion of Judah became a symbol of the Hebrew tribe of Judah, the first association found in the Book of Genesis, chapter 49, where Jacob blesses his son Judah, calling him “a lion’s cub.”

In Christianity, the Lion of Judah represents Christ, as in the Book of Revelation it says, “Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…”

Fortunati pointed out how it is difficult not to make the connection between the lion statue and other lion symbols found in Narni, and Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis himself confirmed the connection in a letter he wrote to a child reader in 1961. He said he was inspired to make the figure of Christ a lion in the stories for two reasons: because the lion is supposed to be the king of the beasts, and because Christ is called “the Lion of Judah” in the Bible.

Another link between the real and fictional towns can be found in the real-life Lucia of Narnia. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy Pevensie is the youngest child of four siblings, and she is the one who first sees the fantastical land and believes.

Bl. Lucy Brocadelli of Narni was a mystic who lived from the end of the 15th to the mid-16th century and who was born in the city. She was known as a very pious child, and from a young age is said to have seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Child Jesus, and other saints, particularly St. Dominic.

Her first vision was at the age of 5, and at 12 years old she made a private vow of virginity, deciding to join the Dominicans. As a young teen she was married off by her uncle to a family friend, Pietro, the count of Milan, though they lived as brother and sister at her request.

She continued to experience visions throughout her life, and was particularly dedicated to the poor, including making them bread with the help of saints who visited her. By the age of 18 she had separated from her husband, then becoming a Dominican tertiary. Her husband eventually joined the Franciscans.

She became the prioress of a convent and is one of only a few female saints to have ever received the stigmata. Shunned and mistreated by other sisters for her strange experiences, she spent the last forty years of her life locked up in isolation by a successor prioress.

She died in 1544, and her body was discovered to be incorrupt a few years after that. She was beatified in 1710 by Clement XI. In 1935 her remains were returned to her home town of Narni and interred in the cathedral.

Today around 20,000 people live in Narni; if you visit you will find the town’s Romanesque cathedral, a late-medieval fortress called the Rocca, the old town square, and a plaque marking the “Center of Italy,” among other sites.

Also scattered around the city you’ll find images of lions and of Bl. Lucia of Narnia, reminders of its connection to the mythical land of C.S. Lewis’ imagination and his beloved stories.

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Pope Francis prays for Honduras as election crisis turns deadly

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - A contested national election in Honduras has enflamed a civil crisis, leading Pope Francis to pray on Sunday for Hondurans to “peacefully overcome the current difficult moment.”

Juan Orlando Hernández, the incumbent president, faced opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla in the Nov. 26 presidential election.

Early returns from the election, with nearly 58 percent of votes counted, showed a five-point lead for Nasralla, a popular television star. The count slowed and his lead disappeared, amid claims from Nasralla supporters that the election was being stolen by Hernandez, the British newspaper The Guardian reports.

Nasralla has claimed victory, saying, “I am the president-elect of Honduras, the president chosen by the people.”

Early Dec. 4, the Supreme Electoral Commission said Hernandez led Nasralla by 42.98 percent to 41.39 percent, based on a recount of suspicious votes from over 1,000 polling stations. However, the commission refrained from declaring a winner and a wider recount may still be possible.

The Organization of American States’ mission in Honduras was among the international observers calling for the recount. The mission cited irregularities, errors and systematic problems.

Allegations of voter fraud have triggered major protests and violence that has killed at least 11 people. There have been confrontations between protesters and security forces in riot gear using water cannons and tear gas. A curfew has lessened some of the protests, but not put an end to the violence.

The conflict may be the country’s greatest political crisis since a 2009 coup.

The Society of Jesus’ Central American province was outspoken, backing the protesters and criticizing the electoral commission for “lack of professionalism and ethics” due to its alleged systematic failure to track and report election results, the Jesuit-run America Magazine reports. They charged that its actions “hide an unexpected victory by the opposition over the current president who did everything that he could, legal and illegal, to be re-elected.”

Released Dec. 3, the statement was signed by Central American provincial Alvarado Lopez, S.J. and the province’s social apostolate coordinator Francisco Iznardo Almiñana, S.J.

The Jesuits denounced “the crude manipulation of this situation by the magistrates, influenced by the real and shadowy power from the state and other places in an attempt to disregard the popular will expressed in the polls.”

They charged that agents of the state are engaged in “the repression of the Honduran people.” The Honduran people are teaching “a lesson about civic duty, dignity and the peaceful defense of the rights of citizens,” they said.

Honduran national police have said they will not obey orders from the current president until the crisis is resolved. National police in the capital have said they will refuse to enforce a curfew.

Hernández is a close U.S. ally, The Guardian reports. He has worked closely with the U.S. on border security, anti-drug operations and migration.

The U.S. State Department has certified Honduras as a supporter of human rights and opponent of corruption. The certification allows the U.S. to provide Hernandez’s government millions of dollars in security assistance. In 2017 such aid totaled about $17.3 million dollars.

 

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Pope names new archbishops for Paris, Mexico City dioceses

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis on Thursday named the next archbishops of two major metropolitan sees – Archbishop Michel Aupetit to Paris and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes to Mexico City, the world’s largest diocese.

The appointments were announced in a press release from the Vatican Dec. 7. Both prelates are replacing bishops who have retired upon reaching the age of 75, the normal retirement age for clergy.

Cardinal Aguiar, 67, has held top roles in both the Mexican bishops’ conference and the Latin American bishops’ conference and is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Cardinal Aguiar has been archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico since 2009. He replaces Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.

Aguiar was born on Jan. 9, 1950 in Tepic, Mexico. He studied at the Seminary of Tepic, followed by the seminaries of Montezuma in the United States and of Tula. On April 22, 1973 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tepic.

He received a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1977.

As a priest he served as a parochial vicar, as well as rector of the Seminary of Tepic. At the same time, he was President of the Organization of Mexican Seminaries (OSMEX) and a member of the board of directors of Latin American Seminaries.

He was later rector of the John XXIII Residence for priests of the Pontifical University of Mexico in Mexico City, where he was also a professor of Sacred Scripture. In 1997 he received a doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In June 1997 he was consecrated bishop for the Diocese of Texcoco and in February 2009 he was made Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Tlalnepantla.

From 2004-2006 he was secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, and then from 2006-2012, president of the conference. He also held various positions in the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) from 2000-2015, including secretary general, vice-president and president.

He participated in both assemblies of the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015 and was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in the November 2016 consistory. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City covers 551 square miles and, as of 2013, contained more than 7 million Catholics. There are nearly 600 diocesan priests and over 1,000 religious priests. There are also more than 7,000 consecrated men and women.

Archbishop Aupetit, 66, a former doctor, is an expert in bioethics. He has been archbishop of Nanterre, France since May 2014.

He replaces Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.

Archbishop Aupetit was born in Versailles on March 23, 1951. He graduated with a medical degree in 1978, and worked as a medical professional in the northern suburbs of Paris for 12 years.

His specialty was in medical bioethics, which he taught at the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil. In 1990 he entered the seminary and in June 1995 he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Paris.

He served as a parish priest and a high school chaplain for a number of years, as well as vicar general of the archdiocese and a member of the presbyteral council from 2006-2013.

On February 2, 2013 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Paris. He was consecrated on April 19, 2013. Aupetit was appointed bishop of Nanterre on April 4, 2014.

He is president of the “Family and Society” council of the French bishops’ conference and is also a member of the conference’s bioethics working group.

The Archdiocese of Paris is 40 square miles and has approximately 1.3 million Catholics, as of 2013. There are over 800 diocesan priests and over 500 religious priests and approximately 2,700 consecrated men and women.

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Commentary: Tolerance, wedding cakes, and a free society

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2017 (CNA) - This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The result of the case, which is expected to be delivered this summer, is likely to have considerable impact on the future of free speech, religious liberty, and free enterprise in the United States.

The case concerns a Christian baker, living and working in Colorado, who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple who planned to marry in Massachusetts. He offered them any other service his bakery provided, but would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. He says that to custom create and bake their cake, a kind of creative expression, would be participation in something he finds morally objectionable.

The state of Colorado prohibits discrimination or denial of service based on sexual orientation, even though, at the time, gay marriage was not legal there.

The legal arguments of the case seem to hinge on whether cake-baking is a sufficiently artistic activity to qualify as protected speech. Nevertheless, the basic point which the Supreme Court will settle, one way or another, is whether “I can” also means “you must”  

If, as we so often tell ourselves, we live in a tolerant and pluralistic society, it goes without saying that there will always be people whose ideas or actions we are obliged to tolerate, even as we are unwilling to celebrate them. Justice Kennedy acknowledged this in the decision of Obergefell vs. Hodges.

In this case, the bakery was not refusing to tolerate the couple’s wedding, it simply did not wish to participate. The baker did not try to stop the wedding from happening, or condemn it, he just declined to lend his talents to the celebration.

During Tuesday’s arguments, Justice Sotomayor raised a line of thought that would be disastrous to the idea of a mutually tolerant society, if it were to become the basis for the Court’s decision.

She observed that many US military bases are in relatively isolated parts of the country, many of which are predominantly Christian. This, she said, could mean that homosexual servicemen and women might be subjected to real hardship if they wish to get married and no local bakeries are willing serve their needs. Such an argument reveals the potential implications of a verdict against Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Suppose that rather, than a gay wedding, a servicewoman wants an abortion and there are only Christian doctors in the area. Could a doctor be coerced into aborting the child? Could a doctor be compelled to end a patient’s life if voluntary euthanasia becomes a legal right?  Could Christian doctors be compelled to act against their conscience, and barred from practice if they refuse?

Chief Justice Roberts asked if, should the court find against Masterpiece Cakeshop, Catholic adoption agencies could be compelled to place children with same-sex couples. That question was answered in the affirmative ten years ago in the UK;  every Catholic adoption agency in the country closed as a result.

The fact that the baker’s case is being heard at all, and that the bakery was sanctioned in the first place, demonstrates the extent to which some civil authorities are prepared employ the coercive power of the state to force a social consensus where none exists, or even needs to exist.

On Tuesday, Justice Sotomayor observed that while “we can’t legislate civility and rudeness,” we can legislate behavior. This seems to bespeak a view of the law in which ordinary social interaction is fair game for policing.

The argument that the state can, or even should, force individuals to act against conscience so as not to offend the “dignity” of others reflects a sad social outlook. It presupposes that two people with conflicting views cannot possibly coexist, that one must be subjugated to the other, and that it is the state’s function to pick the winner.

The state compelling an unwilling baker to make a wedding cake is akin to an adult forcing two children to play together. It is the very essence of overreaching state paternalism.

A free society presumes that people will disagree. But a community thrives when its members learn to freely accommodate each other, and to progress towards true consensus, ideally reflecting truth. Forcing a consensus where none exists only entrenches divisions, and it makes all of us answerable to the state, not each other, for the simple human task of getting along.

Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and legal commentator working in the UK and the United States. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

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Christians in Holy Land voice fear over Trump's Jerusalem move

Jerusalem, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christians leaders in Jerusalem have voiced fear over the repercussions of America's recognition of the city as Israel's capital, asking that international law be respected in the interest of maintaining peace.  

According to Fr. David Neuhaus, a priest in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and former Parochial Vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in the city, the first reaction to the decision was fear.

“You touch Jerusalem, things explode,” he said, explaining that for people on the ground, there are three primary concerns over the move, the first of which is “how many people are going to die? … To what extent is there going to be violence and loss of life?”

Speaking to CNA over the phone from Jerusalem, he said on a second level, there is also concern over the fact that the U.S. has strayed from a position that has been a widely accepted in international law, and to which the Holy See has also “very, very strenuously and strictly” stuck.

“The Holy See has remained very strictly within that discourse, and the kind of upset that it causes now to think that one of the strongest countries in the world doesn't seem willing to stay within a discourse that we have been using and that has been very useful in trying to find a solution to the problem of Jerusalem,” is concerning, Neuhaus said.

A third immediate concern, which the Church itself has taken a particular interest in, is over the character of Jerusalem itself, he said, explaining that to drag the city into a contentions political debate “is endangering the character of the city as a holy city.”

There is real concern not just for the preservation of the holy sites in Jerusalem – which holds special religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims – but also for the people who visit them, the priest said.

The people, he said, “always kind of vanish from this kind of politicized discourse, because we talk about protecting stones, and our fear is yes, you can wonderfully keep a museum, but there aren't people there anymore.”

“If violence breaks out, pilgrimages will stop and pilgrims will be in danger because when countries take positions like this, which seem to be positions that exclude someone else, yes the people are in danger,” he said, adding that this concern is also just as valid for the people who live in the city.

Jerusalem is a place where certain groups of people “feel more and more alienated” and excluded, and who feel “that one narrative is being preferred over other narratives, one religious tradition is triumphing over others,” he said, so in this sense, the Trump decision could alter the character of the city itself.

While right-wing Israelis have been celebrating the decision, likening it to the 1917 Balfour declaration announcing British support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people,” for Palistinians, both Christian and Muslim, “there is despair.”

In general, Neuhaus said the feeling is that the move betrays what had previously been decided by the international community, who recognized the “special status” of Jerusalem and tried to protect it from becoming the center of conflict.

However, rather than doing this, the Trump administration's announcement “is very clearly putting Jerusalem right in the middle,” the priest said, adding that there is also confusion over what this will mean in the long run.

Trump never said what Jerusalem is, so in terms of a two-state solution, which has been supported by the U.N. and the wider international community, “what are these two states?”

Neuhaus said the “bravado” with which Trump made the announcement was “kind of spitting in the face of the rest of the world, which is saying this might not be the most prudent thing to do.”

“This kind of discourse does not prevent division it provokes division,” he said, and while they are hoping for the best, the future is unclear.

Many Israelis, he said, are asking themselves the question: “is Israel going to have to pay a price for this American gift? … Is this part of something bigger that we can't see right now?”

“These things will become clear in the months to come,” he said, but noted that “something has changed, and that change is not going to be for the good.”

Neuhaus' concerns echoed those of the patriarchs and heads of Churches and ecclesial communities in Jerusalem.

On Dec. 6, 13 of these leaders signed an open letter to Trump saying they have followed the news of his decision “with concern.”

“Jerusalem, the city of God, is a city of peace for us and for the world,” however, unfortunately, “our holy land with Jerusalem the Holy city, is today a land of conflict.”

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, they said, will only lead to “increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us father from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.”

Peace in the area “cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all,” the signatories said, and urged the United States “to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem.”

“Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm,” they said, and voiced their confidence that with adequate support, both Israelis and Palestinians “can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace” that is beneficial for all sides.

“The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people that live within it from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing,” they said, and asked that as Christmas approaches, Trump would join them in their quest to build “a just, inclusive peace for all the peoples of this unique and Holy City.”

The 13 signatories of the letter included six Catholic officials, as well as representatives of Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism.

Israel has traditionally recognized Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of the 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. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after is victory in the Six Day War of 1967.

Debate on this particular issue has in many ways been the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders and the wider Islamic world.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is to be discussed in the late stages of peace talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries with diplomatic relations have their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, under Trump's new plan, the U.S. embassy is to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, then, is likely to increase tension, 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.

After news of the decision broke, Pope Francis during his general audience also voiced “deep concern” over the move, and 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.”

More than 30 Palestinians have been injured in clashes across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip amid protests against Trump's decision.

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.

The Vatican has long supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and on a diplomatic level recognizes and refers to both “the State of Israel” and “the State of Palestine.”

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This priest is going to be on The Great American Baking Show

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA) - Many Catholics can name a priest who is renowned for his academic abilities, mission work, or inspiring homilies. But what about a priest who has received national attention for his baking skills?

Meet Father Kyle Schnippel, a pastor at two Cincinnati parishes who hopes his upcoming presence on The Great American Baking Show will offer non-Catholics insight into the human side of a priest’s life.

“My world is as much a foreign language to them as their world is to me. So what I wanted to do was just [be] a priest and [show] the joy,” Schnippel told CNA.

The third season of ABC’s American baking series will premiere on Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. EST. Throughout six episodes, the bakers will travel around the U.S. competing in holiday-themed challenges.

Schnippel is the pastor at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann parishes in Cincinnati. Although baking had a large presence in his childhood home, his doughy adventures seriously took off about three years ago, when he decided to prepare the baked goods for his first parish festival.

As time went on, he began to bake more often, and found that he enjoyed sharing his gifts with others.

“It’s so much different than what we normally get to do as priests. We don’t normally get to see the results of what we do. With baking we get to see those results, smell those results,” and see the joy it can bring to people, he said.

Father Schnippel received a link to the show’s online application from a friend on Facebook. After providing detailed information on his baking experience and knowledge, the priest received a call a few months later, followed by a Skype interview.

He was then flown out to New Jersey, where he participated in a mock trail of the series’ competitions and presented his baked goods for the judges. Shortly after that, he received a call that he had been selected for the show.

At one point on the show, Father Schnippel said he was asked to prepare a recipe in advance that had a strong personal connection and coincided with the holiday season. Looking back on past Christmases, he decided to use his mother’s cinnamon roll recipe.  

“Instead of cutting into individual cinnamon rolls, I rolled up the dough and cut it lengthwise to have all these pleats and braided that…It’s the same flavor, but I decorated it up, putting it together in a new way.”

Father Schnippel was not permitted to talk about the competition, but he had to explain his several-weeks absence to parishioners.  

According to the Catholic Digest, he told them that he was going to be gone for an evangelization project – which wasn’t a lie.

“I made it a requirement that I be allowed to wear clerics on the show because it’s a reflection of who I am,” he told the Catholic Digest.

“After filming, one of the other contestants said something along the lines of, ‘Thank you so much for being such a joyful witness of your faith and the priesthood. Even though I am not Catholic, I got a sense of the joy that you have in who you are and what you do. Thank you for sharing that with us.’”

Father Schnippel told CNA that being on a baking show could also help break down stereotypes that some people have of Catholic priests, seeing them only as an austere religious figure.

“There is this impression in our world that priests are always serious, they only do religion. I wanted to break down that [perception], and say ‘hey, we are still real men. We still have interests and excitement in a lot of other ways’,” he said.

“You can take the priesthood very seriously, but also still have a lot of fun.”

When asked about his favorite moments from the show, he said that he enjoyed the positive feedback offered by the judges and the baking comradery that developed between the contestants.

Even during the competition, there were acts of encouragement and support, he said, pointing to moments when he was able to help other contestants remove food from the oven or stack items when they needed an extra hand.

“That came back to me later, just those memories of encouraging each other and supporting each other makes this particular show very positive for Christmas.”

And while he was not allowed to talk about the outcome of the competition, Fr. Schnippel expressed hope that his participation in the show would inspire people to face daunting challenges in their own lives.

“I hope that what people will take from the show is accepting a challenge where they may not think that they can do it. I never thought I would be able to get on this show. So taking the risk and doing something extraordinary, you never know what’s going to happen.”

 

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Hormonal birth control still increases breast cancer risk, study finds

Boston, Mass., Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent Danish study shows that women on any kind of hormonal birth control are susceptible to an increased risk of breast cancer, upending the common belief that modern methods of hormonal birth control are safer than those of decades past.

The research published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine included a group of 1.8 million women between the ages of 15-49 over the course of more than ten years. Of the 1.8 million, there were 11,517 cases of breast cancer.

According to NPR, the leader of the study, Lina Morch, said it found “a roughly 20 percent increased risk [of breast cancer] among women who currently use some type of hormonal contraception” compared to those who used non-hormal contraceptives.

Additionally, the research found that for every 100,000 women on hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer every year, compared to 55 among those not using hormonal birth control.

The study highlights modern methods of birth control, including pills, intrauterine devices which release hormones, and other implants.

While the link to breast cancer from older methods of birth control was widely known, this study was able to provide evidence that even modern methods of hormonal birth control, such as hormone releasing IUDs, are still causing breast cancer in women.

“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist, according to the New York Times.

“…if you add up all the millions of women taking the pill, it is a significant public health concern,” Weiss continued.

The study’s authors did note that factors such as physical activity, breast feeding, and alcohol consumption were not taken into account during the study, which could also be linked to the increase of breast cancer cases.

An epidemiologist also noted that the contraceptive pill is also linked to a reduced risk of ovarian, endometrial, and perhaps colorectal cancers.

The study, while providing crucial information on the increased risks of breast cancer with hormonal birth control usage, adds to the growing list of side effects common with even modern methods contraception.

A Swedish study released last spring found that birth control pills are linked with a decrease in women’s overall health and well-being. Last fall, another Danish study showed a strong connection between hormonal contraception and depression, particularly among teens.

Some women have opted for another form of birth control, without the hormonal side effects: metal coils. However, this form of contraception is not without its own set of risks, including chronic pain, nickel poisoning, exhaustion, and the risk of perforated organs.

While the Catholic Church upholds its long-taught beliefs that contraception is immoral because it divorces procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of Natural Family Planning, which allows couples to remain open to life.

More women are opting for NFP methods, or fertility awareness tracking, because of its hormone-free, health-conscious promise. Fertility awareness methods, such as the Creighton Model or Billings Method, are natural ways to achieve or delay pregnancy with an effectiveness rating competitive with the pill.

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NM bishop prays for student victims of school shooting

Gallup, N.M., Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two students at Aztec High School in Aztec, N.M., were killed in a shooting Thursday morning, and the local bishop has prayed for the victims and the community.

“St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:21 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' In the coming days, many survivors and families will also be facing the fear and psychological effects that inevitably follow any tragedy. Please join me in offering prayers for the students and families,” Bishop James Wall of Gallup said Dec. 7.

“Please also join me in offering our support to the community of Aztec. We mourn the loss of life with you.”

The diocese is holding a prayer vigil at 4:30 this afternoon at St. Joseph parish in Aztec, about 120 miles northeast of Gallup.

The shooter is also dead. According to local outlet KRQE News 13, no other injuries have been reported, and the school has been evacuated.

Nearby schools, including those in Bloomfield, were put on lockdown as a precaution.

Please pray for the students, families, and community of Aztec. https://t.co/U0vhWduhN4

— Diocese of Gallup (@DioceseofGallup) December 7, 2017

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Marriage redefined in Australia despite religious freedom fears

Sydney, Australia, Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - A bill passed Thursday in Australia changed the legal definition of marriage from being between “a man and a women” to “between two people.”

The parliamentary vote comes after a two-month postal survey which concluded on Nov. 7, with nearly 80 percent of Australia’s voting eligible population in participation. Of the 12.7 million people who voted, 61 percent voted in favor of same-sex marriage.

The poll was legally non-binding, but it did initiate the introduction of a bill in parliament. Last week the piece of legislation was passed through the upper house Senate, 43-12.

On Thursday, it passed the 150-seat lower House of Representatives, with only four members opposed.

Saturday will be the first day homosexual couples may lodge a notice of intended marriage, but they must wait until early January until they can make it official. The legislation will automatically recognize civil marriages of same-sex couples from other countries.

According to the New York Times, a handful of conservative lawmakers pushed to include amendments that would protect religious freedom, but their efforts failed during the final debate, which lasted four days.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, said the bill did not force marriage celebrants to perform homosexual weddings, nor did it threaten the legal status of religious groups who hold that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Opponents of the bill, however, have voiced concerns about religious freedom in recent months, pointing to examples in other countries of Christian vendors who have been heavily fined for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Following the conclusion of the mail-in poll on marriage, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, issued a statement urging that religious freedom be prioritized as the new legislation was drafted.

“Parliamentarians must recognize and respect the concerns of the more than 4.8 million Australians who opposed a change to the definition of marriage by putting in place strong conscience and religious freedom protections,” he said Nov. 15.

The bishops have also pushed for explicit protections covering the curricula of Catholic schools.

“These protections must ensure that Australians can continue to express their views on marriage, that faith-based schools can continue to teach the traditional understandings of marriage and that organizations can continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with those values,” said Archbishop Hart.

The archbishop affirmed that the Church respects the human dignity of the members of Australian LGBT community, but emphasized that the Catholic tradition is clear in its definition of marriage.

“The Catholic Church, and many others who sought to retain the definition of marriage as it has been understood for centuries, continues to view marriage as a special union between a woman and a man, which allows for the creation and nurture of children,” he said.

 

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Orange's Vietnam-born Auxiliary Bishop Luong dies at age 77

Orange, Calif., Dec 7, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Dominic Dinh Mai Luong, the first Vietnam-born bishop to serve in the U.S., died Thursday, Dec. 6, at the age of 77.

He had served as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, one of the largest dioceses in the country, until his 75th birthday in 2015.

The future bishop was born Dec. 20, 1940 in Minh Cuong, about 50 miles from Hanoi in what was then French Indochina. He was the second of 11 children. The family was forced to move many times due to political instability, the Orange County Catholic reports.

He attended a French-Vietnamese school and then a minor seminary. In 1956, at the age of 16, his bishop sent him to the U.S. to continue his priestly formation. He would not return home until 1979 because of the Vietnam War.

Luong was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Da Nang on May 21, 1966 by Bishop James A. McNulty at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y.

After ordination he received a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degrees in biology and psychology. He taught biology at a junior seminary in Buffalo, where he also served as associate pastor at Saint Louis Parish.

He served many refugees in New Orleans, where he would become director of the archdiocese’s Vietnamese apostolate and became founding pastor of Mary, Queen of Vietnam parish. He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1976.

He worked as director of the National Center for the Vietnamese Apostolate and directed the U.S. bishops’ pastoral care for migrants and refugees.

St. John Paul II named him a bishop in April 2003, as a response to the major growth of the Church in the Orange diocese and the growing numbers there of Catholics from Vietnam.

Bishop Luong had retired in 2015, but remained active at St. Bonaventure Church in Huntington Beach, Calif., which has a large Vietnamese community.

He had been writing a book on Marian apparitions in Vietnam and led the monthly Lectio Divina at St. Bonaventure.

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