Prayer zone for a better, empowering, inspiring, promoting, prospering, progressing and more successful life through Christ Jesus

Posts tagged ‘Pope John Paul II’

Defiant Chinese Bishop Dies at 97 While under House Arrest.

A Shanghai bishop who was imprisoned for decades by Chinese authorities died Sunday evening at his home, a Catholic group said in a statement.

Bishop Fan Zhongliang, 97, was ordained by Pope John Paul II but not recognised by Chinese authorities.

China is home to between 8 and 12 million Catholics, divided between the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which appoints its own bishops, and an “underground” church that is loyal to the Vatican.

Fan spent more than 30 years in prisons and labor camps over the course of his life, starting in 1955, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which reports on the treatment of Catholics in China. He was under house arrest when he died.

Supporters held a mass at Fan’s apartment immediately after his death, the foundation said, but Shanghai government officials ordered the body to be transfered to a funeral home after the service.

The government denied Fan’s supporters’ request to hold his funeral at a large cathedral, instead designating a smaller courtyard at the funeral home, the statement said.

China and the Vatican broke off formal diplomatic relations shortly after the ruling Communist Party took power in 1949.

Both the Vatican and China agreed to ordain a bishop in Shanghai, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, in 2012, but government authorities arrested him after he stepped down from the Catholic Patriotic Association around the same time.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Pope’s Simple Style Influencing Cardinal Fashion.

Image: Pope's Simple Style Influencing Cardinal Fashion

No glitzy gold, no rich velvet, no regal fur. Pope Francis’ pared down papal wardrobe of sensible black shoes and a white cassock so thin you can see his black trousers through it is a perfect fit for his call for simplicity and humility among his clergy.

The pope’s personal style — which earned him Esquire magazine’s “Best Dressed Man of 2013” award — and his broader message of sobriety will be put to the test Saturday when he inducts 19 prelates into the College of Cardinals, placing the three-cornered red silk biretta on the heads of the new “princes of the church.”

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man
For the festive occasion, cardinals are traditionally outfitted in scarlet from head to toe, from the silk skull cap to bright red socks, with a white lace embroidered surplice known as a rochet worn over the red cassock and underneath the mozzetta, or shoulder cape.

But with the “slum pope” now calling the sartorial shots, fashionistas and Vaticanistas are wondering how his new cardinals — who hail from some of the poorest places on Earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast — will dress themselves for their new role.

“What will make the difference at the consistory is how the cardinals interpret this traditional outfit,” said Raniero Mancinelli who has dressed cardinals and even popes since the early 1960’s from his tiny shop right outside the Vatican walls.

Will they splurge for the fancy, optional red silk cape favored by some first-world cardinals? Or will they go the route of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who according to clerical legend wore an altered hand-me-down cassock inherited from his predecessor for his 2001 consistory?

“The cardinals and priests are much more careful of shining and spend less on their clothes,” Mancinelli told The Associated Press. “The gilded miters are only in shop windows. This is a consequence of Francis. They want to show they are on the same pastoral page.”

Mancinelli, who is getting little sleep these days putting the finishing touches on outfits commissioned by several of the new cardinals, has some tips of what to watch out for on Saturday, when Francis will preside over the consistory formally welcoming the new cardinals.

Immediately noticeable will be how much lace is on the rochet, once sewn by hand — with a price-tag to match — but now often machine made. “This is the Francis effect,” he said of the cheaper version as he ran his fingers over a prototype.

Back in 2001 when the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, he wore a simple rochet with only two thin bands of embroidered lace.

Another saving can come in the material used for the cassock itself. Once made out of precious silk and cashmere, the cassocks are now often synthetic: polyester for the red lining and territal, a synthetic wool blend.

“It costs less and also lasts longer, that’s for sure,” Macinelli said.

Once handmade, the 33 red buttons (representing the years of Christ’s life) are now more often than not machine made.

The cardinals’ red, it should be noted, isn’t just a fabulous fashion statement: As Francis will recite when he places the biretta on each prelate’s head, red symbolizes a cardinal’s readiness to sacrifice his life for the church and “to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood.”

Altogether, a cardinal’s outfit runs in the “few hundreds of euros, not few thousands,” Mancinelli said. One relatively reasonable add-on: a pair of red socks at 12 euros a pop.

Cardinal watchers might also want to keep their eyes on the pectoral crosses worn by the churchmen: When the Jesuit Bergoglio became a bishop in 1992, a friend bought him the simple metal pectoral cross he continues to wear as pope (having eschewed the gold-plated one offered to him the night of his election). Bergoglio’s metal cross was purchased in Mancinelli’s shop and identical versions are on sale for about 330 euros today.

And of course, there are the parties that follow the consistory. In the past, new cardinals have been known to have sumptuous receptions thrown on their behalf by donors, friendly religious orders or church institutions. They are meant to entertain the parishioners, friends and family who may have travelled long distances for the occasion. It should be recalled that when Francis was installed as pope, he asked his sister to stay home in Argentina and for his other countrymen to donate to charity the money they would have spent to travel to Rome.

In a personal letter sent to his new cardinals in early January, Francis asked them to accept his nomination with joy, but to “do so in a way that this avoids any expression of worldliness, or any celebration alien to the evangelical spirit of austerity, simplicity and poverty.”

Mancinelli said that ever since Francis became pope a year ago, there has been a bit of “belt-tightening” all around in clerical garb, due also to the global economic crisis.

But there will always be exceptions. Across the Tiber river from the Vatican and Mancinelli’s small shop is Gammarelli, tailors by papal appointment and founded in 1798. Gammarelli famously prepares the three white outfits — small, medium and large — that a newly elected pope picks according to his size to wear out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s after his election.

Sixth generation Lorenzo Gammarelli said Francis’ call for sobriety — which Esquire credited with subtly signaling “a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church” — hadn’t really affected business at all.

“Those who were simple before remain simple today,” he said. And vice versa. Speaking in front of the old world shop window decorated with the finest of scarlet cardinal garb, including that fancy red cape, he acknowledged: “Simplicity is not here.”

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


In Private Diaries, Pope John Paul Asked: Am I Serving God?.

Image: In Private Diaries, Pope John Paul Asked: Am I Serving God?

Pope John Paul II spent decades constantly questioning whether he was worthy of the role he was called to carry out, according to private diaries published on Wednesday in defiance of his request that they be destroyed.John Paul, who led the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005, will be made a saint in April and remains for many Catholics a towering model of faith and commitment.

The diaries give a glimpse into his interior spiritual life, showing a man who never became complacent despite the grandeur of the papacy and his star status among many Catholics. Instead he agonized about whether he was doing enough to serve God.

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man
His handwritten notes, published as “John Paul II: I am very much in God’s hands. Personal notes 1962-2003,” are a series of his reflections rather than a daily diary.

Although he played a very active public role in communist-era Poland and as pope, the man born Karol Wojtyla in southern Poland in 1920 rarely referred to public events in these pages.

In one note in 1981, the then Cardinal Wojtyla reflected on a theological discussion with other clerics and asked:

“The word of the Lord. Do I love the word of God? Do I live by it? Do I serve it willingly. Help me, Lord, to live by your word,” he asked. “Do I serve the Holy Spirit that lives in the Church?”

In the same passage, he wrote, alternating between Latin and his native Polish: “A pure, holy and immaculate sacrifice. This is why He demands from his priests that they should be of undivided heart (celibate) and demands priestly purity. Jesus, help me!”



Before his death, John Paul entrusted his diaries to Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary and now a cardinal in the southern city of Krakow, with instructions that they be burned.

In the foreword to the book, Dziwisz said he did not burn them because they hold the key to understanding the pope’s private spiritual life.

“They reveal the other side of the person whom we knew as .. the pastor of the universal Church,” wrote the cardinal, who was both praised and criticised in Polish Catholic circles after announcing the publication of the book last month.

Now available only in Polish, the 638-page book is dominated by deep theological reflections that reveal little of what the pope was otherwise thinking or doing when he wrote them.

The picture that emerges deepens but does not jar with his public image, in contrast to the posthumous diaries of Mother Teresa – who died in 1997 and was beatified by John Paul in 2003 – that revealed her long periods of doubt about God’s existence.

Despite the questioning of his own role, there is no sign in the diaries from 1962 to 2003 that the pope’s belief in God wavered.

The first signs of his questioning appear in comments from 1970 where he wrote: “Can the misfortunes of people close to me, which have happened recently, be seen as a punishment? As a sign? What can it mean?”

He paid close attention to the skills required of a priest. “What language do I use when I speak to people?” he asked in 1974. “Do I proclaim the Gospel with complete conviction?”

In his final years, debilitated by illness, the pope’s entries become sparser and the handwriting less assured.

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man
The last entry in 2003 referred to the Biblical story of Jonah, who was ordered by God to preach his word but instead runs away.

The pope, who before his final illness travelled tirelessly around the globe preaching the Gospel, wrote in a sloping script in Italian across the bottom of the page: “Jonah, this is the fear of proclaiming the love of God.”

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


American Catholics Give Pope Francis Sky-High Approval Rating.

Image: American Catholics Give Pope Francis Sky-High Approval Rating

By Drew MacKenzie

Roman Catholics in America love Pope Francis and believe that the people’s pontiff is doing a wonderful job in the Vatican, according to a new survey.

The CNN/ORC International poll found that 88 percent of Catholics in the U.S. approve of how the 77-year-old Francis is leading the church while in charge of 1.2 billion followers worldwide, according to CNN’s Belief Blog.

Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Francis has been also given the thumbs up by three out of every four Americans when non-Catholics are included in the study.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland argues that the Pope is probably the “most well-regarded religious figure” among the American public today.

After taking the reins at St. Peter’s Basilica nine months ago, the Argentine-born Francis has already proved that the life under his papacy will be vastly different from his predecessors.

First and foremost,Time Magazine’s Person of the Year  is seen as the everyman pope who has shunned the traditional luxuries afforded to the highest Catholic by living in a Vatican guesthouse instead of the papal palace as well as wearing more simple vestments to official functions. He even rides around in a 1984 Renault.

Francis was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, ahead of fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Prince William’s wife and new mom Kate Middleton, and even twerking singer Miley Cyrus.

As an example to others, he’s gone out of his way to show compassion to the less fortunate, such as embracing a man with heart-breaking facial tumors — moves that have drawn praise the world over.

To mark his 77th birthday, instead of thinking about himself, Pope Francis welcomed three homeless men to a Mass and a special meal at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse. The men, one of whom brought his dog, then sang “Happy Birthday” to the pontiff.

When Francis was named Time’s Person of the Year, the magazine’s managing editor Nancy Gibbs declared, “Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly — young and old, faithful and cynical — as has Pope Francis.”

Even the gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate named him its person of the year. “While 2013 will be remembered for the work of hundreds in advancing marriage equality, it will also be remembered for the example of one man,” said the magazine.

The surprise award was given for the Pope’s potential policy-shifting position on homosexuality, made five months ago when he declared, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Instead of concentrating on such cultural issues as abortion and gay rights, the pontiff is urging his flock to care more about moral issues such as the poor and the underprivileged.

But it has not been all plain sailing for Pope Francis in his first year. In a 50,000 word statement, called “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), the pope attacked the “idolatry of money” and said that trickle-down economics was “crude and naive.”

But conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called him a closet Marxist and declared that the pontiff’s economic opinions were “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.”

The CNN poll found that American Catholics agreed with the pope’s new direction for the church, with nearly two thirds of recipients saying more attention should be paid to moral issues. The survey showed that 86 percent of U.S. Catholics said the pope understands the problems of the modern world while 85 percent believed that Francis was neither too liberal nor too conservative.

These statistics lie in stark comparison to a poll in 2003 finding that more than half American Catholics thought that Pope John Paul II was out of touch with the times as he neared the end of his 23-year tenure in the Vatican, CNN pointed out.

The poll revealed that two out of every three Catholics in America support the pontiff’s economic position that capitalism is hurting the poor.

More than six out of 10 U.S. Catholics also agree with the pope’s stated position that women must play a larger role in the future of church leadership, although he still supports the longtime doctrine that women cannot be ordained as priests.

The poll recorded that 60 percent of American Catholics believe Francis has also performed admirably in dealing with the ongoing sexual abuse scandal inside the church, although 64 percent claim that the church overall could do a better job on the problem.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Francis was creating a special commission to prevent the sexual abuse of minors and to help victims of abuse. The commission will be working with authorities to report such cases, according to CNN.

CNN polling chief Holland said that there have not been many approval surveys conducted on the pontiffs, and thus it was difficult to compare Pope Francis with his predecessors. “It’s a tough question since polling on Popes is pretty sparse,” he said.

The phone poll of 1,035 adults was conducted from December 16-19, and it has a margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 

Related Stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Ode to the Late Freedom Fighter — Madiba -I Want To Go To Prison By Oyebanjo Abiola.

As I write, 99 Presidents are on their way to Cape Town for the memorial service of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. This could be the greatest gathering of international head-of-states outside the UN and could be more than gatherings at the burial of Pope John Paul II. The illustrious President Obama and his wife just arrived at South Africa from a 16-hour flight alongside the Clintons and the Bushes. This journey has been described by the US Press as the “Airforce One Awkward”.

Many have presumed this will give them the opportunity to discuss  the impact of this man together, which might probably lead to new discourse in political and racial parlance. Remember, George is white, Obama is Black, George is Republican, and Clinton is Democrat. The principles of Madiba have influenced this possibility of confluence of the colour-mix in both political and economic fronts around the world. He gave the world a bright direction of a greater dimension of understanding justice and love. His new definition of Justice was not to give people what they deserve, but what they really want. It is a harder definition, but it worked.

I must confess that it was really hard to amass the extent of reference that the Old Man received after his death. I couldn’t imagine if there would ever be another man in history who will be so much honoured like Mandela until after a very very long time. He filled up the spaces in major newspapers all over the world. Webcast and air programs on Television keeps bootstrapping every memorable moments of the prodigious man. Like the biblical prophet, he had more honor abroad than in the African continent. I am sure Africans alone wouldn’t have celebrated Mandela nobly enough. His tributes flood all major broadcast around the world. No man has had much positive influence in the world especially in Africa in recent times than Mandela. I grew to learn about him, and the touching stories of his 27-year prison stay as the most deadly story of heroism ever feasible to me. Notably, his influence on me and many others who never knew him personally was simple – being a Prisoner doesn’t make you a slave forever. You can always rise above your limitations and come out victorious no matter how lengthy. One inordinate reason many hasn’t given up yet.

Madiba didn’t travel to Europe and America looking for money and fame like many would do these days. He didn’t see comfort where most of us think we can find them. He received military training in Algeria and Morocco and with the political platform of ANC, he fought. His mission was not to become President of his country; he was only driven by his quest for freedom. The few whites who were angered by the way they had hitherto been treated transferred the aggression on the blacks. The whites controlled everything, from money to women. Madiba and his co-freedom fighters couldn’t afford to be mere groaners and writers of the despair, took to the street to defend the first basic right of everyman, which is freedom.

I am seriously pained these days as I surround my thoughts with nitpicks when the solutions is staring at me at the face. I moan at my comfort not willing to stand out for my rights in discomfort. I am tamed so also are many. We are repressed by the inability not to think or to only think with a ceiling. This is not even about acting out for our rights; it is that many people’s thoughts and beliefs have been arrested.

What is freedom? Freedom is not in sitting in your room watching African Magic and whacking a lump of heated Turkey, saying life is good. If you have to dredge up what you went through to get that done and what you will do to continue to enjoy this and more, then you wouldn’t finish that meal with the requisite comfort. Your mind encapsulates like a controlled moron but outward, you look free and happy. You drive a car, and you smile as you outrun your friend on the express lane and you humbly bounce out as you park at the middle of an event. Good things at the cost of a bad weave. You live in a house you just completed after making so much procurement injustices and so many people spend the rest of their life sadly in the house of their own.

There is no freedom for an average Nigerian yet. You will need another job soon. You will need more money. You will have to attend these moribund hospitals when you are older and sick; you would need to steal plentiful money so you wouldn’t jeopardize your health in Nigeria-made health centers. Silent Generator costs about a million naira or more except you will keep settling for the pollution at the back of your room which will ruin your life stealthily. These generators run on expensive diesel, and there have to be stock of this to finish up your favourite program or feel the good fauna of the conditioned air. Your mind as a Nigerian keeps wondering like an oscillating windmill having no bearing for freedom.

It is good for you; at least you are still living and surviving even though I can bet this will only be short-lived unless your slave up to the ugly dictates of greed and immorality. This poor story gets me wounded for the many unemployed graduates in the country. I have been trying to chat with one of the most brilliant Sociologist Nigeria’ brightest school has produced recently. She has complained that she has been shying away from public discussion after many years of no work; a typical tier of slavery. I thought a friend was doing well in the capital city, but lately, he was honest enough to confess to me he doesn’t know what tomorrow will look like and he had always assumed hope for survival. He is very near to where the monies his fathers’ fought for are siphoned, yet, he lacks the courage to claim it. He doesn’t want to die, yet he is dead.

So many and so many youth are half dead covering up with glorious clothes lifted around from friends and folks. Those ahead are not ready to mentor or listen. It takes extra-ordinary people or perhaps lucky people to get their way around this bound. I know too many graduates who run from pillar to pole aiming to survive under terrible trends called entrepreneurship. It is not as easy as I write it. Too many people hide in shame and slavery waiting for a tomorrow that doesn’t seem to come. Some take up jobs that change the direction of their life forever. These they do to survive in a land where the wealth required is as clear as the light, but fear has led many away from true freedom.

For me, I want to be like Madiba. I want to walk the long road to freedom.  What Mandela is honoured for today was not only what he did before he went to prison but what he did while he was there and after he left. In prison, he learned true freedom. I want to be approximated to the height of many African writers Like theWoleSoyinka andDennis Brutus, who incubated great ideas while in Prison. I am weary of this world that seems free, but we are bounded by the juggernaut of poverty and hopelessness. I want to be free of the lies of promises in a better life of modern assets and goods when people whom we are supposed to live together die to shameful pleas for aggrandizement, penurious super structures and monumental shame.  Like Mandela said, the worst way to deprive people of freedom is through poverty. I am not scared of poverty, I am scared I live with it and they call it wealth. I want to go to prison and learn the true meaning of Justice which Mandela did while at Robben Island.

Madiba and his co-fighters have found it hard to describe their prison experience in a bad light. As Mac Maharaj (his co-prisoner)narrated, in Prison, they enjoyed the free food, the free light, how they played together and sport together. They considered the Prison as a free university. In Prison, I will be alone to the reality of true freedom and wouldn’t be scared of death. I would value what real freedom means and mark the difference between the freedom of space and the freedom of the mind.

I wouldn’t be cocooned by the media and lies of friends and family. I would be closer to life and death; power and powerlessness; love and bitterness. I would understand the inert nature of man and live a life of my own volition. I would be beaten and stabbed, fucked and disgraced, yet Like Mandela said, I was scared but the will of freedom can’t be compromised. He was once given amnesty and freed but with a condition not to fight. He refuted the so called “freedom” that the outside world gives with conditions; conditions not to fight; conditions of poverty, silent pains, destitution and fear. If prison will free me from the fear that I need to suppress, I will like to go prison.

Mandela describes to us that courage is not the absence of fear but the conquering of it. I am afraid of these woven lives where many move around as slaves thinking they are free. I am courageous enough to find the path of freedom, and I wouldn’t settle for less.  I hope you join me in this soon. We pay too much money watching foreigners and diffusing others people’s culture. From media, city people, razzle-dazzle, schools to magazines. I want to go to prison. RIP NELSON MANDELA


South Carolina Sheriff Won’t Lower Flag for Mandela.

President Barack Obama ordered flags in the United States lowered to half-staff  in memory of Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95,  but one South Carolina sheriff says he won’t comply.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark says that although Mandela “did great things for his country,” the honor should be reserved for American citizens, Fox News reports.

“It’s just my simple opinion that the flag should only be lowered to half-staff for Americans who sacrificed for their country,” Clark told CNN affiliate WHNS.

Story continues below video.

“I have no problem lowering it in South Africa in their country but not for our country,” he told Fox Carolina.  “It should be the people who have sacrificed for our country.”

Mandela, who fought racial segregation laws in South Africa, was imprisoned for 27 years. He later became the country’s first democratically elected black president and declined to take revenge on those who had imprisoned him.

The Flag Code gives presidents the power to order flags nationwide flown at half-staff, but there is no penalty for noncompliance.

Clark said in a Facebook post he would fly the flag at his office at half-staff on Friday for a South Carolina law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty and on Saturday for Pearl Harbor Day, but that the flag would be raised to full-staff Sunday morning.

Despite the sheriff’s protestation, U.S. flags have been lowered for non-Americans since 1961, when they were lowered at the death of U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. They also have been lowered for former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein of Jordan, and Pope John Paul II.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

Rev. Gahl: Pope Francis Not Leftist or Conservative.

The Rev. Robert A. Gahl Jr.’s perspective: Pope Francis has ascended and rapidly bypassed his German predecessor, now ranking the fourth most powerful person in the world, according to one recent study.

Crowds continue to grow at his audiences in Rome. In the first eight months of his Pontificate alone, he has already drawn more people to his audiences and feast day Angelus addresses than Benedict did in eight years.

The political left cheers Francis, while claiming that he is a progressive man of the people ready to break with years of Vatican traditions, including such touchy subjects as sexual morality.

The political right has also applauded the Pope, but has begun to complain, usually in hushed tones, which are constantly growing more public.

Pope Francis is revolutionary.

No one can sit easy while listening to such shepherds of the spirit who prophetically challenge the self-righteous pharisee in us all. Like Jesus, the Pope speaks of a Kingdom that is much bigger than impending inflation rates, growing national debt, and strife between political parties.

Loved for his short, pithy statements that show sensitive compassion and deep understanding of timeless truths, Francis is followed by more than 10 million Twitter and holds records for the most re-tweets.

But his longer statements, two extensive interviews with journalists and his exhortation on the new evangelization, have provoked contrasting interpretations and confusion, stoked of course by talk radio, like Rush Limbaugh‘s initial discussion of “The Joy of the Gospel.”

In fact, it should be no surprise that the Pope debate has intensified in reaction to the publication of “The Joy of the Gospel,” Francis’ first programmatic personal statement on the Church and evangelization of the world. From the left, Hans Küng, the dissident Catholic theologian and priest, celebrates what he calls Francis’ intensifying “critique of capitalism”.

From the right, Kishore Jayabalan and Sam Gregg, Catholic proponents of free market economics at the ecumenical Acton Institute, complain about Francis’ “tirades against the market economy” and “facile and plainly false accusations” against global capitalism.

Should proponents of a free market fear Francis, the first Pope to have worked under a Marxist woman, when, prior to entering priestly formation, Jorge Mario Bergoglio worked in a chemical lab in Buenos Aires?

Francis has expressed his deep respect and fondness for his former boss — even how much he learned from her.

But the key to understanding Francis is now in black and white. The apparent ambiguities should be easily resolved, unless the reader is so rushed that he takes a few lines out of context. Francis is well aware of the temptation to read Church teaching in the facile framework of economics and politics, the dominant themes of the twenty-four hour news cycle.

In “The Joy of the Gospel,” while introducing the section that deals most extensively with the poor and economic structures, Francis clarifies that his task is one of evangelical discernment for the missionary disciple not one of “detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality.”

So, look to “The Joy of the Gospel” to learn how to evangelize, not for economic theory.

Moreover, Pope Francis wants to reassure his reader that he writes in continuity with the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II, with his Centesimus Annus and its defense of the human freedom expressed in a regulated market economy, and Benedict XVI, with his Charity in Truth, the most recent full account of the Church’s social doctrine.

Francis builds upon John Paul II’s defense of economic liberty and Benedict XVI’s development of the doctrine that the freedom to seek profit within a market economy must be embedded within the context of love and truth: love for one’s neighbor and the truth regarding development in accord with authentic human dignity.

Francis succinctly recapitulates his papal predecessors: “I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magisterium have offered.” Regarding his own political theory and its application to papal governance of the universal Church, he states “I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization'”.

Francis then proceeds to focus on the core of the new evangelization: conversion of the human heart and the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, especially in the poor. Francis’s compassion for the poor is revolutionary, not utilitarian.

His compassion is radical but not infected by communism. Francis defends private property while clarifying that the rich have a responsibility to care for the poor. Francis follows Jesus’s proclamation of salvation in heaven, not in an earthly utopia achieved through the destruction of capitalism and forced redistribution.

In fact, despite the leftist applause lines and the conservative critics’ claims that the Pope needs to learn more about economics before he criticizes capitalism, those who actually read “The Joy of the Gospel” will discover that Francis nowhere uses the word “capital” or “capitalism”.

Like all of his predecessors, he criticizes consumerism and idolatry, especially the idolatry of money, finance, and the market for its own sake. “In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.”

Indeed, when man serves money he succumbs to the slavery of idolatry. Money must serve man, because the children of God, all men and all women, are to be loved for their own sake.

To address the scandalous inequalities like those he saw up close in the slums of Buenos Aires, Francis challenges the wealthy to compassion. As an Argentine archbishop, Bergoglio once railed against corruption, especially the rackets of drug and human trafficking and abusive government power.

Now as Pope he prays for politicians capable of promoting the common good, rather than usurping it. To address inequality and marginalization, Francis doesn’t propose socialist redistribution, but mercy, compassion, and individual responsibility.

To define himself, Francis simply said: “I’m a sinner.” He publicly states that the papacy itself is in need of conversion.

The first Pope from the Americas is not from the left or from the right. He is a revolutionary, and his aim is reform of the most radical kind.

The Rev. Robert A. Gahl, Jr. is Associate Professor of Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By The Rev. Robert A. Gahl Jr.

Sailing to the Saro-Wiwa’s Side (1) By Patrick Naagbanton.

By Patrick Naagbanton

I woke up early Saturday morning, nine November, two thousand and thirteen with severe pains around my neck. The night before, I had laid in an improper posture on my bed which affected my neck.

In spite of the pains, I had planned to hit the road earlier, to undertake a trip to the tomb of the late Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa(1941-1995). Saro-Wiwa was Nigeria’s celebrated satirist, pamphleteer, novelist, short story writer, poet, newspaper columnist, playwright, environmental activist, essayist and thinker. Saro-Wiwa’s grave is located in Bane, his ancestral home in the Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State of the eastern Niger Delta. Bane is on the eastern edges of the state about fifty-two kilometres away from the Port Harcourt city. Getting there in a public vehicle, would require one to join a vehicle to Bori, and later take another one to the Bane town, about twelve kilometres from Bori.

Saro-Wiwa and eight of his fellow activists were hanged on tenth November, nineteen ninety-five at the Port Harcourt prisons. Their corpses were deposited in separate graves at the Port Harcourt cemetery, located on the southern part of the Port Harcourt city. Ibiwari Ikiriko (1954-2002), the prominent Okrika, Ijaw poet and literary scholar in his collection of poems, Oily Tears of the Delta (1999) poeticized about Saro-Wiwa’s hanging, “Let’s not forget/that the cause/of his hanging/is still clinging/to the bottom of oil wells. …/To the remains of our conscience/like sludges on mud-flat”. General Sani Abacha (1943-1998) head of the Nigerian State ordered the state violence that swept through Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoni land and their eventual hanging. Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas mogul under Brian Anderson was implicated in collusion with the government to enact the sad drama.

In Port Harcourt city, there are many points one can get a vehicle to Bori. Bori is the Ogoni Township and headquarters of the Khana Local Government Area. The Port Harcourt – Bori axis is always a busy transit route, I am familiar with. I have travelled through it even as a child.  I have retraced my steps to write this travel feature article. The route is always flooded with students of the Rivers State Polytechnic (RIVPOLY) or those travelling through to Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area. Also travellers, to the Western Obolo homeland (the Andoni Local Government Area) use same Bori road. Bori is also home of many Ogoni and non Ogoni alike.

There were not many student travellers during my trip. On Friday, fourth October, this year, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), the umbrella union of polytechnic teachers in Nigeria commenced an “indefinite strike”. ASUP members were striking to press for removal of the dichotomy that exists between degrees awarded by the polytechnics and universities amongst other demands. At the RIVPOLY, sometimes called “Bori Polytechnics,” there was a peaceful negotiation between the school authorities and local ASUP branch. From Monday, seventh October to Friday, eight November, two thousand and thirteen, Rivpoly students were in session. They were writing their final examinations. Although there were few students there working on their project work, – leading to either awards of the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) or Higher National Diploma (HND).

I got to a small corner on the eastern tip of Port Harcourt called “Eleme junction” around twelve p.m. This was because I was waiting for copies of another Ken Saro-Wiwa’s prison memoir, Silence Would Be Treason – last writings of Ken Saro –Wiwa (2013). The book was edited by three famous international scholars- Ide Corley, Helen Fallon and Laurence Cox with a detailed  forward by Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria’s famous poet, writer, environmentalist and architect. Owens Monday Wiwa, a medical doctor and younger brother of the late Saro-Wiwa had sent somebody from Abuja, to deliver copies to me; but the flight of the book emissary was delayed. I left for my Bane voyage without the book but got them on return. Two days before, Owens was at the Pope John Paul II library, the National University of Ireland Maynooth, Republic of Ireland, to participate in the launching of the great book.

Though called Eleme junction; the small motor park is administratively located in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The council area belongs to the Ikwerre group in the state. The small corner stretch had been converted into a motor park where buses and cars convey passengers to various parts of Ogoniland and beyond. The weather over the Eleme junction, was overcast -no rain, no sun. My mind sped back to the weather over Port Harcourt when Saro-Wiwa and his comrades were hanged. I walked slowly to a stationed white Serena car where a slim, average height and light-skinned man in his early thirties was barking like a mad dog. He wore a black cap with the labels “Northern Power System”. On the front of his white t-shirt was ‘CWS Amala NCCA 2001,’ while at his back was “College world Series”. On his feet was a pair of worn-out leather slippers.

The young man looked restless, and his eyes rotated like a bulb light on an ambulance on emergency duty.

“Bori, Ogoni, your flight is ready to go ooo! If you are a pregnant man or woman you go pay double money because you are two” he shouted.

A 14-seater bus there just got filled and was leaving the motor park. As I stretched my right hands to open the car front door, many thoughts ran through my mind. “Could this be the driver or someone loading for the fear to earn a commission?” I was a bit worried, but was determined to travel.

In less than ten minutes,  the car was filled up with passengers. As usual, I paid eight hundred naira (less than six dollars) for two front seats near the driver. At the back were two rows of four passengers on each row. Two women, the rest were men. The fearful-looking man, who was shouting Bori- Ogoni, was the driver. “Na waooo!” I exclaimed in Pidgin English

“Wetin be wa? Any problem?” he asked in his all-pervading voice

“No problem, my brother, I for like make you allow others to load for you and pay them commission so that you create employment”

“Haaaaaa!” he laughed briefly, “Na so you mean? I am unemployed too. I am looking for a job. You can employ for your place of work” He replied as little smile flashed like lightning through a corner of his mouth again.

“Don’t worry hopefully thing go better”  I said to him again.

He turned and looked at me and laughed briefly again. I interpreted the driver’s laughter to mean a lot.

The body of the car was dirty. It looked like a car submerged in a river of mud. Inside were dirty too – dusts and sands everywhere. The dirty seatbelt drew a long dirty line on my milk-coloured shirt. There was no car radio or side mirror, though the speedometer was functioning. On the dirty dashboard was a small sticker, on it written, “I love you”. That small sticker was placed on a bigger sticker, written on it, “This is a new dawn and together let’s keep the peace. Courtesy, Ateke Tom” a huge picture of  Ateke, with a huge hat on his head was placed by the side of the writings on the bigger sticker.” Could this be one of Ateke Tom’s boys?” The thoughts hovered through my mind. I know a lot of his boys, but couldn’t recognize the driver. As a journalist and researcher some years back, was embedded with them. Ateke Tom is one of five founders of the Icelander (also known as German), a cult group established as a street wing of the University based Supreme Vikings Confraternity (SVC) around mid- two thousand.

Ateke, commonly called the godfather by his followers, is the only survivor of the five founding fathers (popularly called “five wise men”) of the Icelander confraternity. Others were swept away in various inter or intra cult rivalries. Some five years ago, Ateke and his Icelander fighters, sometimes called Niger Delta Vigilante Services (NDVS) accepted the government presidential amnesty and disarmed. But some of the Icelander’s cells across the region are still armed or re-arming and engaging in bloody contentions on a daily basis.

I looked at the Ateke’s sticker carefully again. I didn’t know that the driver was watching me. When I noticed it, I turned to him and said, “Do you know the godfather (Tom Ateke)”.

He smiled, but refused to utter a word to my question. We took off, travelling on the Port Harcourt – Eleme Expressway, heading eastwards. Along the road were several billboards with several inscriptions. There, was a huge board of Francis Nwogo and his wife, by their side was, “Encountering Fire Revival – Christian Pentecostal Mission.” I saw another religious board with, “The Anointing Deliverance and Break Through,” with a picture of Bishop Apostle Chinasa Nwosu by the side too. “Hollandia Yoghurt – hurry, grasp one.” Around the area was a fenced massive compound on the right hand side, “Amber Resources.”

Ahead of us was the Elelenwo Bridge and on the same right is the sprawling estate of Bristow Helicopters Nigeria, the Texas, USA firm which provides air transport services. Fugro Nigeria Limited (FNL) also owns some substantial assortment of flats there too. The driver was driving gently, before the bridge. A taxi cab turned speedily through an opening in between a central barrier from the left, in the   opposite direction into our lane. If our driver was on high speed he would have crashed into his car. At the back of the taxi-cab which was painted in blue-white blue colours (colours of Rivers State commercial cars) was the gallant letters, “Competition in destiny – Warri Boy”. I was watching the driver as  he never uttered a word. But a well-rounded, pretty and fair-complexioned lady, dressed in super-short dark dress shouted, “Warri nor dey carry last.” Everybody in the car burst into laughter, because that was a familiar phrase in Pidgin English. “All these Warri people always behave like crazy people”. “How do you know that the man is a Warri person? I said.  Another male passenger, whose forehead shone like sunlight and wore a brown new t-shirt on a jean trousers remarked.

“Oga don’t tell me that as gentle as you are you are a Warri man. Are you from there? The male passenger asked.

“ Is there anything wrong coming from Warri? I asked him.

“It’s about the way you are defending them” he said further.

“I know a lot of good and well-behaved Warri people” I said.

“Warri no dey carry last” the lady said again and passengers burst again into scornful laughter.

“The luck of the Warri driver is that the death of the first lady’s mother has done us good. Because of her mother’s burial, government has tarred the road. I pray that one of them should die again so that they will complete the remaining parts of the road. Is only God that can save this country” the male passenger said. “Warri nor dey carry last” is a derogatory phrase in pidgin English. It denotes that dwellers of Warri, the slummy metropolis of the western Niger Delta are unnecessarily smart. In Nigeria, several ethnic groups, communities and persons use such perceptive and derogatory words and phrases against one another. It spreads ill feelings; deepen disunity that can lead to conflict.

We had just passed by a huge building of the Winner’s Chapel also called Living Faith Church with a picture of its founder, David Oyedepo, shortly after that we entered the Ogoni territory. In the book, the Next Gulf – London, Washington and Oil conflict in Nigeria (2005) Andy Rowell, James Marriot and Lorne Stockman wrote, “Ogoni land is an area of some 400 square miles in the eastern part of the Niger Delta. It is small relative to the Delta as a whole, but densely populated. Shell-BP found oil there in the late 1950s and while the oil company has extracted vast profits from Nigerian crude oil, the Ogoni live in abject poverty, with many villages lacking clean water, electricity or primary health care,” Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoni exclusively occupies four local Government Areas in Rivers State, though some Ogoni natives are in the Oyigbo Local Government Area and two Ogoni communities are found in the Oruk Anam Local Government Area, southwest of Akwa Ibom State. The areas are Eleme (Mboli), Tai, Gokana, and Khana. Sometimes some Eleme elites say they are not part of the Ogoni group, while others say they are. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) which he founded, under his leadership had enormous followership in the Eleme area. Historians and writers claim that the Ogoni people are one of the earliest inhabitants of the eastern Niger Delta region. They are said to have arrived their first settlement called Nama about fifth century BC. Nama is not up to ten kilometres to Bori, near the Sii community.

Writing about the origin of his Eleme people, the methodical researcher and historian, Gomba Obarijima, in his BA thesis submitted to the University of Port Harcourt, entitled, History of Eleme People to 1960(1981) argued, “It would appear that the Elemes have been very reluctant to trace their origin to Gokana, probably as a result of the circumstances under which their ancestor left his original home”. Gomba said that they have migrated from Gokana, home of Gberesaakoo, the founder of the Gokana kingdom. In nineteen thirty-two, the Eleme people accepted to join their kinsfolk under the Ogoni Native Authority government.

Some calm had returned to the car after the noisy remarks generated by the Warri Boy taxi-cab mistake. I was a bit happy. “Must we have University in every village in Nigeria”? The fair lady who stirred the Warri nor dey carry last controversy, was at it again. She saw a billboard along the road which had, “Proposed site of the University of Akpajo” and made the comment. There was another round of acrimonious argument; I didn’t say anything or did the driver. The driver was busy speaking the Khana dialect of Ogoni, Igbo and Yoruba languages to different persons on the phone while driving. I can’t really detect from his intonation the part of Nigeria he hailed from.

We got to the Akpajo junction. Akpajo is the border town between the Elelenwo of Ikwerre and Eleme (Mboli) of Ogoni. Few metres from the junction, is the staff quarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Along the road is a dark metal board. On it written in white paint, “RC; 7729 NBM supports state government in the fight against Kidnapping, Militancy, Criminality, Cultism and all forms of Violence – you are welcome, courtesy, south eastern zone”. On the same signboard, a diagram of a black axe breaking chains which tied two black hands. N.B.M stands for Neo- Black Movement of Africa. Some accounts have it that N.B.M whose members are also called “Aye axe men” was founded around mid-eighties, and that it broke away from the Supreme Eiye Confraternity aka air lords, which was founded earlier at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State in nineteen sixty-three. One of NBM’s top intelligent officers (they call them, “Chief Butcher” in the Black Axe world) had told this writer that the Black Axe (N.BM) was founded in nineteen seventy-six at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State. UNIBEN, the place of their formation is called “Fatajalon” also called “Mother Temple”.

Naagbanton lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

To be continued.


Nelson Mandela – The Moses Of Black Africans By Chris Aniedobe.

When a rejected stone becomes the corner stone, it is invariably the doings of God. From improbable to possible, so does God make things and leaves signs for the wise to see his mighty works.

Before Obama became President, I called it. I did not need any Oracle to tell me that when a guy rises from obscurity to prominence like that, that it is the doings of a higher power. To leave no doubt about it, even the elements campaigned for Obama who traveled the most improbable roads: black, African, single parent, community organizer, one term Senator, and then President.

When the Oracles of Egypt foretold Moses and Pharaoh decided to slaughter new born Jewish males, hoping to eliminate Moses, little did he know that he would be raising the same Moses in his household. And through Moses, God humiliated all the gods of Egypt and laid the foundation for the coming of the kingdom of God. These are the workings of God.

When I think of Nelson Mandela, I think “O what a wonderful God we serve. How from age to age he works wonders through the hands of men although many wise men see it not.” From obscurity to prisoner to President to World Leader, only God does things like that.

At 95, Nelson Mandela deserves to sleep. Ages henceforth shall remember him as the black Moses.  Out of the dense fog of racism, he led all blacks across the Red Sea. He was built like a staff, the same staff that Moses carried, the staff of God. Straight and unbendable was his determination to not bow to any indignities and until his death, he bore the highest and the noblest testimony to the human spirit as one created by God to be free from oppression and charged by the same God to live in harmony with all creation.

But there is more. Nelson Mandela wrote the last Chapter in a book in which many Igbo slaves co-wrote. All across the new world, Igbo slaves chose death rather than bow to oppression. They chained their hands, neck and feet, but their spirits were never bound. All that was found in those slaves that chose death over oppression was encapsulated in Mandela as light for a world darkened by hatred and brightened by love.

The last hundred years have seen such great men as Mikhail Gorbachev, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, Chinua Achebe, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Mohammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Mother Theresa, Barrack Obama. They all however lived in the age of Nelson Mandela.

Somewhere in another obscure place, God I am sure is weaving another tapestry of improbables, around another improbable human being, to meet the challenges that lay ahead for a world that has turned against itself.  Our legs are no longer tied. Our necks are no longer yoked. Our hands are free but our spirits have become bound by concupiscence and materialism and we have no more need for God. Nelson Mandela smothered the last stronghold of racism, but something greater than racism, more pernicious than hate, more malignant than rabid cells, is permissive liberalism that has shackled the human spirit.


I pray that God who has made human beings the living stones with which he builds his houses and has deigned to make Nelson Mandela a corner stone, will raise from among his living stones, one who will liberate the human spirit from the shackles of permissive liberalism so that as his chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his possession, … and from East to West and North to South, the whole earth might declare the praises of him who calls all people from darkness to light. “No longer slaves,” he said, “I call you friends.” Then Lord, let our spirits be as unbound as you made it even as you welcome Nelson Mandela into your Kingdom of light so that he may join the eternal Chief Priest as priest for all ages of humanity henceforth.





Pope Meets Putin, No Discussion of Church Tensions.

Image: Pope Meets Putin, No Discussion of Church Tensions

Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Monday and discussed the Middle East and problems faced by Christians across the world, but did not touch on the strained relationship between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church.

The 35-minute meeting at the Vatican was the first between Pope Francis and Putin, who met the pontiff’s two immediate predecessors, Benedict and John Paul II.

“It was quite a cordial and constructive meeting,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters after the encounter. Putin had arrived around 45 minutes late because of transport problems.

Relations between the Catholic Church and Russia have long been uneasy because of accusations that the Vatican has tried to poach believers from the Orthodox Church, a charge it denies.

Putin brought a greeting to the pope from Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, but did not talk about inter-church matters, Lombardi said. There was also no discussion of a possible visit to Russia by Francis.

Putin has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority, harnessed its influence as a source of political support and championed socially conservative values since starting a new, six-year term in May 2012.

The two leaders discussed the civil war in Syria and the pope stressed the need to end violence and bring assistance to the civilian population.

The Russian President, accompanied by ministers and business leaders, is due to meet Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and members of the government in the north-eastern port city of Trieste on Tuesday.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Tag Cloud