- Created on 02 May 2013
Gospel songwriter and recording artist Desmond Pringle will present in Chicago Thursday the first of a three-city tour that celebrates his new CD and honors cancer patients.
Pringle has teamed up with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America to put on concerts in Chicago, Los Angeles and Charleston, S.C. and Los Angeles. Thursday’s Chicago concert, "An Evening of Inspiration,” will be held at Grace Apostolic Faith Church.
The two-fold purpose of what is billed as a gospel extravaganza includes inspirational music presented by a lineup of special guest artists and choirs, and Pringle performing songs from his new “Fidelity” CD. Also, Pringle is expected to join CTCA’s pastoral care director, Rev. Percy McCray, and help spiritual and faith-based training for people who care for cancer patients and others with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
McCray heads the Our Journey of Hope program for the CTCA in Illinois, a community outreach initiative that helps faith-based organizations start ministry programs to support congregants facing mortality and their family members.
“We are so grateful to the Lord for providing us with this opportunity to serve our congregations’ most challenged members,” said Pringle, senior pastor of The Watered Garden Fellowship in Los Angeles.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
“We are going to have a beautiful and inspired time,” said McCray, emcee for Thursday’s concert. “We are extending an invitation to all of the people living with cancer and their supporters to come and bask in the glory.”
- Created on 05 April 2013
Advocates of same-sex marriage in Illinois turned up the pressure on state lawmakers Thursday as a group of black Chicago-area clergy members cast their support, calling it a bold step forward for equality — even in the face of potential backlash from colleagues and congregants.
Their message was geared toward those who've been reluctant to endorse legislation legalizing gay marriage, including black lawmakers, and came as another group of prominent black pastors from Chicago mega-churches launched an aggressive opposition campaign.
Pastors from suburban and urban churches, some small and already liberal in their views, backed the measure Thursday; one is openly lesbian. Several of them acknowledged the difficulty in supporting gay marriage professionally, and one said his church still wouldn't allow him to perform same-sex marriages even if the law allowed it. They said they endorsed it as a matter of equal legal rights and the next step in the struggle for civil rights.
"We're all taking a risk by openly endorsing this bill, but I happened to know there are hundreds of pastors who cannot put themselves in this vulnerable position," said the Rev. Carlton Pearson, who was once one of the leading Pentecostal ministers nationwide until he began teaching that everyone goes to heaven, including gay people. The move angered many and he now runs his own church, New Dimensions Chicago.
Legislation granting same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones has passed the Illinois Senate, but faces a tough vote in the House, where it needs 60 votes. House Speaker Michael Madigan has estimated the measure is a dozen votes shy. A key sponsor and advocates say the number is less.
Lawmakers and advocates have been vague on exactly whose support they're targeting, but both sides have become more vocal recent weeks in anticipation of a vote sometime this month. Most recently, the focus has zeroed in on groups whose votes are likely difficult to get, suburban Republicans and the 20 black House members. All are Democrats and mostly from the Chicago area, but several are still undecided.
Messages left for a half-dozen legislators Thursday were not immediately returned.
Last month, prominent pastors of several black Chicago churches launched their opposition with 60-second commercials on black radio stations. The group, called the African American Clergy Coalition, includes former state senator the Rev. James Meeks.
The group was scheduled to meet Friday with Cardinal Francis George who also opposes same-sex marriage on moral grounds. George is the head of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which serves more than 2 million Roman Catholics.
In one ad, Bishop Larry Trotter of the Chicago's Sweet Holy Spirit — which boasts up to 9,000 members —tells listeners to urge lawmakers to vote no.
"I, too, am opposed to same sex marriage as you and every Christian should be," he says. "Marriage was the first institution created by our God. He tells us in the word that marriage should be between a man and a woman and not those of the same sex."
Pastors at Thursday's event countered religious arguments by playing up legal and civil rights.
"This is about equality and justice. This is a matter of equal protection under the law for all citizens. This is not a religious issue." said the Rev. Richard Tolliver of St. Edmund's Episcopal Church in Chicago. "Nothing in your church will change."
The legislation says that religious institutions can't be forced into performing ceremonies.
Advocates — including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal — have pushed a diverse and intense campaign for months, calling on Hollywood celebrities, businesses, congressional leaders and lawmakers. They say opinions on the matter are rapidly shifting and point to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, the second sitting Republican senator to recently step forward in support of gay marriage.
"We're really close, certainly within striking distance," said Bernard Cherkasov the head of Equality Illinois, who noted the group was focusing efforts on black and Latino caucuses. "This is going to be a strong bipartisan vote. "
He said Kirk's support would resonate with moderate Republicans.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said that he would sign the legislation if it comes to his desk. It would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage. The state approved civil unions in 2011.
- Created on 14 March 2013
VATICAN CITY — On the streets in Buenos Aires, the stories about the cardinal who has become the first pope from the Americas often include a very ordinary backdrop: The city bus during rush hour.
Tales are traded about chatting with Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio as he squeezed in with others for the commute to work. They sometimes talked about church affairs. Other times it could be about what he planned to cook for dinner in the simple downtown apartment he chose over an opulent church estate.
Or perhaps it was a mention of his affection for the tango, which he said he loved as a youth despite having one lung removed following an infection.
On the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica just after a rain shower Wednesday, wearing unadorned white robes, the new Pope Francis appeared to strike the same tone of simplicity and pastoral humility for a church desperate to move past the tarnished era of abuse scandals and internal Vatican upheavals.
While the new pontiff is not without some political baggage, including questions over his role during a military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, the selection of the 76-year-old Bergoglio reflected a series of history-making decisions by fellow cardinals who seemed determined to offer a suggestion of renewal to a church under pressures on many fronts.
"He is a real voice for the voiceless and vulnerable," said Kim Daniels, director of Catholic Voices USA, a pro-church group. "That is the message."
A cousin back in Argentina said the new pope "has a good spirit" that will benefit Roman Catholicism.
"He is naturally humble and a pastor," said cardiologist Hugo Bergoglio, adding: "Jorge never thought he would be pope, or even a cardinal. That's why he ended up becoming pope."
Francis, the first pope from Latin America and the first from the Jesuit order, bowed to the crowds in St. Peter's Square and asked for their blessing in a hint of the humble style he cultivated while trying to modernize Argentina's conservative church and move past a messy legacy of alleged complicity during the rule of the military junta of 1976-83.
"Brothers and sisters, good evening," he said before making a reference to his roots in Latin America, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world's Roman Catholics.
Groups of supporters waved white-and-blue Argentine flags in St. Peter's Square as Francis made his first public appearance as pope. Bergoglio, who flew to Rome in tourist class, reportedly had envoys urge Argentines not to come to Rome to celebrate his papacy, but instead donate money to the poor.
In taking the name Francis, he drew connections to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi, who saw his calling as trying to rebuild the simple spirit of the church and devote his life to missionary journeys. It also evokes references to Francis Xavier, one of the 16th century founders of the Jesuit order that is known for its scholarship and outreach.
Francis, the son of middle-class Italian immigrants, came close to becoming pope during the last conclave in 2005. He reportedly gained the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he bowed out of the running before selection of Vatican insider Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
By returning to Bergoglio, the conclave confounded speculation that it would turn to a younger candidate more attuned to younger elements in the church and with possibly more stamina for the rigors of the modern papacy with nearly nonstop obligations and frequent global travel. Francis appears in good health, but his age and possible limitations from his single lung raise questions about whether he can face the demands of the position. He doesn't much like to travel, say priests in Buenos Aires.
Unlike many of the other papal contenders, Bergoglio never held a top post inside the Vatican administration, or curia. This outsider status could pose obstacles in attempts to reform the Vatican, which has been hit with embarrassing disclosures from leaked documents alleging financial cover-ups and internal feuds.
But the conclave appeared more swayed by Bergoglio's reputation for compassion on issues such as poverty and the effects of globalization, and his fealty to traditional church teachings such as opposition to birth control.
His overriding image, though, is built around his leaning toward austerity. The motto chosen for his archdiocese is "Miserando Atque Eligendo," or "Lowly but Chosen."
Even after he became Argentina's top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, warmed by a small stove on frigid weekends when the building turned off the heat. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals. He likes to drink mate, a traditional South American tea. He rises at 5:30 a.m. and starts work at 7.
A man doesn't like the limelight, Bergoglio almost never granted media interviews, limiting himself to speeches from the pulpit. He was reluctant to contradict his critics, even when he knew their allegations against him were false, said Bergoglio's authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin.
Bergoglio's legacy as cardinal includes his efforts to repair the reputation of a church that lost many followers by failing to openly challenge Argentina's dictatorship.
He also worked to recover the church's traditional political influence in society, but his outspoken criticism of President Cristina Fernandez couldn't stop her from imposing socially liberal measures that are anathema to the church, from gay marriage and adoption to free contraceptives for all. Fernandez compared his tone to "medieval times and the Inquisition."
Yet Bergoglio has been tough on hard-line conservative views among his own clerics, including those who refused to baptize the children of unmarried women.
"These are today's hypocrites; those who clericalize the church, those who separate the people of God from salvation," he told Argentina's priests last year.
Bergoglio feels most comfortable keeping a very low profile, a personal style that is the antithesis of Vatican splendor.
Many Argentines remain angry over the church's acknowledged failure to openly confront a regime that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements" in society. It's one reason why more than two-thirds of Argentines describe themselves as Catholic, but less than 10 percent regularly attend Mass.
Under Bergoglio's leadership, Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church's failures to protect its flock. But the statement blamed the era's violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies.
"Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas. He doesn't forget that side," Rubin said.
The statements came far too late for some activists, who accused Bergoglio of being more concerned about the church's image than about aiding the many human rights investigations into the junta era.
Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman said.
At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio, who ran Argentina's Jesuit order during the dictatorship.
Bergoglio told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border. But all this was done in secret, at a time when church leaders publicly endorsed the junta and called on Catholics to restore their "love for country" despite the terror in the streets.
Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998. He speaks Spanish, Italian and German, and reads English. He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.
Later, there was little love lost between Bergoglio and Argentina's government. Relations became so frigid that the president stopped attending his annual "Te Deum" address, when church leaders traditionally tell political leaders what's wrong with society.
"Is Bergoglio a progressive, a liberation theologist even? No. He's no Third World priest," said Rubin. "Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes."
- Created on 29 March 2013
ROME — In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.
No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.
Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.
"This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service," Francis told the group, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome.
"Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us," the pope said. "This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service."
In a video released by the Vatican, the 76-year-old Francis was shown kneeling on the stone floor as he poured water from a silver chalice over the feet of a dozen youths: black, white, male, female, even feet with tattoos. Then, after drying each one with a cotton towel, he bent over and kissed it.
Previous popes carried out the Holy Thursday rite in Rome's grand St. John Lateran basilica, choosing 12 priests to represent the 12 apostles whose feet Christ washed during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.
Before he became pope, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices — part of his ministry to the poorest and most marginalized of society. He often involved women. Photographs show him washing the feet of a woman holding her newborn child in her arms.
That Francis would include women in his inaugural Holy Thursday Mass as pope was remarkable, however, given that current liturgical rules exclude women.
Canon lawyer Edward Peters, who is an adviser to the Holy See's top court, noted in a blog that the Congregation for Divine Worship sent a letter to bishops in 1988 making clear that "the washing of the feet of chosen men ... represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve.'"
While bishops have successfully petitioned Rome over the years for an exemption to allow women to participate, the rules on the issue are clear, Peters said.
"By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive," Peters wrote. "What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example."
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he didn't want to wade into a canonical dispute over the matter. However, he noted that in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male.
"Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women," Lombardi wrote in an email. "Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn't include experts on liturgical rules."
Others on the more liberal side of the debate welcomed the example Francis set.
"The pope's washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on — and even banned — in some dioceses," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of "The Jesuit Guide."
"It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile."
For some, restricting the rite to men is in line with the church's restriction on ordaining women priests. Church teaching holds that only men should be ordained because Christ's apostles were male.
"This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet," wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger. Liberals "only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing."
Still, Francis has made clear he doesn't favor ordaining women. In his 2011 book, "On Heaven and Earth," then-Cardinal Bergoglio said there were solid theological reasons why the priesthood was reserved to men: "Because Jesus was a man."
On this Holy Thursday, however, Francis had a simple message for the young inmates, whom he greeted one-by-one after the Mass, giving each an Easter egg.
"Don't lose hope," Francis said. "Understand? With hope you can always go on."
One young man then asked why he had come to visit them.
Francis responded that it was to "help me to be humble, as a bishop should be."
The gesture, he said, came "from my heart. Things from the heart don't have an explanation."
- Created on 12 March 2013
VATICAN CITY — The election of a pope follows a series of choreographed rules and rituals that have been tweaked over the centuries ever since the term "conclave" or "with a key" was used in the 13th century to describe the process of locking up the cardinals until they have chosen a new pope.
Here are the rules in use to elect the 266th pope:
Only cardinals under age 80 are eligible; in this case 115 men fit the bill and will vote. Two cardinals who were eligible stayed home: The emeritus archbishop of Jakarta, Cardinal Julius Darmaatjadja, who is ill, and Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who recused himself after admitting to inappropriate sexual behavior.
WHAT IS THE RITUAL?
The conclave's first day begins with the "Pro eligendo Romano Pontificie" Mass for the election of a pope. In the afternoon, cardinals gather in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace and file into the Sistine Chapel chanting the Litany of Saints and the Latin hymn "Veni Creator," imploring saints and the Holy Spirit to help them pick a pope.
Standing under Michelangelo's "Creation" and before his "Last Judgment," each cardinal places his hand on a book of the Gospels and pledges "with the greatest fidelity" never to reveal the details of the conclave. A meditation on the qualities needed for the next pope and the challenges ahead for the church is delivered by Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech.
The master of liturgical celebrations then cries "Extra omnes," Latin for "all out." Everyone except the cardinals leaves and the voting can begin.
HOW DO THEY VOTE?
Each cardinal writes his choice on a paper inscribed with the words "Eligo in summen pontificem," or "I elect as Supreme Pontiff." They approach the altar one by one and say: "I call as my witness, Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who, before God, I think should be elected."
The folded ballot is placed on a round plate and slid into an oval silver and gold urn. In the past, a single chalice was used to hold the ballots. But conclave changes made by Pope John Paul II in 1996 required three vessels: one for chapel ballots, another for ailing cardinals at the Vatican who can vote from their beds and the third to hold the ballots after counting. No cardinals are expected to require the bedside voting, but all three flying saucer-shaped urns were in the Sistine Chapel regardless.
The ballots are then bound together with a needle and thread — each pierced through the word "Eligo" — and burned in the chapel stove along with a chemical to produce either black or white smoke.
Up to four rounds of voting are allowed each day after the first day, and a two-thirds majority — 77 votes — is needed.
If no one is elected after three days — by Friday afternoon — voting pauses for up to one day. Voting resumes and if no pope is elected after another seven ballots, there is another pause, and so on until about 12 days of balloting have passed.
Under norms introduced by Benedict XVI just before he resigned, the cardinals then go to a runoff of the top two vote-getters. A two-thirds majority is required; neither of the two top candidates casts a ballot in the runoff.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE POPE IS ELECTED?
Once a cardinal has been elected pope, the master of liturgical ceremonies enters the Sistine Chapel and the senior cardinal asks "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" Assuming the cardinal says "I accept," the senior cardinal then asks: "By what name do you wish to be called?" The master of liturgical ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, then enters the information on a formal document.
At this point, white smoke pours out of the Sistine Chapel chimney and bells of St. Peters toll.
The new pope then changes into his papal white cassock, and one-by-one the cardinals approach him to swear their obedience.
In a change for this conclave, the new pope will stop and pray in the Pauline Chapel for a few minutes before emerging on the loggia of the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. Preceding him to the balcony is French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the protodeacon, who announces "Habemus Papam!" Latin for "We have a pope" and then introduces him to the world in Latin.
The new pope then emerges and delivers his first public words as pope.