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Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, has become a symbol of Latin American Church leaders' efforts to protect their flocks from the abuses of military dictatorships. However, his life and the 35 years it took the Vatican to recognize him as a martyr also reflect decades of theological and pastoral discussion over the line dividing pastoral action from political activism under repressive regimes.
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The Western Catholic Reporter has again been named the top regional Church newspaper in Canada, one of nine awards it received from the Canadian Church Press (CCP) May 1. The CCP has acknowledged the WCR as the country's first or second best regional Church newspaper seven times in the last nine years.
Coptic Christians calling out to Jesus during their execution on a Libyan beach. Gunmen storming Garissa University College in Kenya, targeting and shooting dead scores of Christian students. Iraqi Christians trapped in the mountains fleeing Islamic State persecution.
One wonders how a young woman raised on a beautiful coffee plantation in Guatemala would end up a religious sister in Canada. Indeed, that was not Sister Gabriela Villela's plan. "I wanted to marry and have many children," she said in a recent interview. The fourth of six children, Villela said all were baptized, "but we never went to church." Life in the country on the inherited coffee plantation was good.
When students walk into Lorne Zelyck's Introduction to the Bible class at the University of Alberta's St. Joseph's College, he can quickly tell the difference between a young person who has had Bible reading fostered in their life and one who has not. "Sometimes it's tragic how little they know," said Zelyck, whose students tend to be about 20 or 21 years of age.
How marvellous it would be if we all could have a vision of Jesus with the same power as that experienced by St. Paul on the road to Damascus. A light from heaven flashed around him and Jesus spoke: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9.5). After that, how could there be any doubt? There would no longer be any need to question whether there is a God, whether Jesus is God become human. It would all have been revealed with greater power than any Hollywood special effects team could muster.
From a Christian perspective, the most striking development of the last 50 years in the Western world is the declining practice of faith. Where, not that long ago, Christian belief was part of the DNA of most Europeans and North Americans, it is now the preserve of a minority. The vast majority of Canadians say they believe in God, but it is hard to discern what that actually means. Is that belief the last tidbit of something inherited from their grandparents, or is it a seed that will grow into something glorious with proper watering? What is faith anyway? Is it a firm adherence to the Church's dogmatic and moral tenets? Is it a general adherence of the heart and mind to a mysterious Supreme Being who transcends the physical?