Thursday 24 March 2022~
1 – Damage in the Basilica of Bari: simple theft or protest against the war in Ukraine?
2 – Post-pandemic: the thorny issue of returning to church in the United States
3 – Why is Russia’s Church backing Putin’s war?
4 – Benedict XVI’s legacy to the Church
5 – Crucifix leads an Indonesian Muslim to Catholic faith
Damage in the Basilica of Bari: simple theft or protest against the war in Ukraine?
A theft was committed in the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari. The thief tore a golden ring from the hands of the statue of the saint, the Gospel with the three silver spheres and a medallion containing a vial of the holy manna. Outside, on one of the walls of the building, a plaque commemorating the pilgrimage that Vladimir Putin had made some 20 years earlier was damaged. More than material, these damages have a strong symbolic value, in the context of war between Russia and Ukraine, especially since the Basilica of Saint Nicholas was chosen by Pope Francis because of its geographical position to represent a link between East and West. It was also here that the Argentine pontiff was originally scheduled to meet with the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, last year in July. The last meeting between the two men was in 2016, and the current situation suggests that a new meeting would be useful. But where? In St. Nicholas’ church? In any case, the people of Bari took the theft as an affront, and the pride in their local saint has only been strengthened.
Il Mattino, Italian
The Pew Research Center has released a very thorough statistical study of church attendance in the United States. The evolution of the pandemic has been allowing more and more churches to open their doors, at a rate corresponding to that observed in 2019. While 43% are already back to normal, 47% still have adjusted hours for health security and 5% are still closed entirely. When surveyed in March 2022, 69% of Catholics who went to Mass at least once a month have returned to their normal routine. However, 40% of them also watch Mass on television at the same time – a practice that is not normally common among Catholics. While Pew analysts acknowledge that the impact of the pandemic is still “difficult” to assess, they point out that Catholics – like Protestant churches – are having a harder time reviving church attendance than evangelicals.
Pew Research Center, English
Why is Russia’s Church backing Putin’s war?
Patriarch Kirill’s support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led critics to conclude that the Moscow Patriarchate is now “just an arm of the state.” However, for American religion professor Scott Kenworthy, “the reality is much more complicated.” The Eastern Orthodox scholar explains that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in a society gone astray, Kirill promoted an influential critique of Western liberalism, consumerism and individualism. He helped develop the idea of the “Russian world,” promoting Russian civilization, links with Russian speakers around the world, and greater Russian influence over Ukraine and Belarus. Kirill has sought to “re-church” society by asserting that Russian Orthodoxy is central to Russian identity, patriotism and cohesion – and to a strong Russian state. In mirror image, Orthodoxy has become one of the central pillars of Putin’s national identity image. However with the current war, the patriarch has alienated the Ukrainian flock that has remained loyal to the Moscow patriarchate, and a wider split is clearly brewing, the expert concludes.
The Conversation, English
Benedict XVI’s legacy to the Church
In an interview, the Bishop of Passau, Stefan Oster, underlines the importance of the theological work of Benedict XVI. He focuses especially on the way the Pope emeritus interprets the Bible “with a deep theological and philosophical vision – one that is always able to understand the concrete and existential relevance of the questions of people today, and to interpret in particular the questions of the meaning” of life. According to the German prelate, the Church “will be able to draw on the spiritual and intellectual heritage of Benedict XVI for a long time.” Bishop Oster also sees the climate and environmental crisis, global migration, and the loss of religious meaning as a call for the Church to take a new direction.