A First in 600 years: Two Living Popes Meet for Lunch at Castel Gandolfo

Popes

Well the time has come for the two to meet which marks a historic milestone that has not happened in 600 years and could be seen by some to be a problematic melding of two papacies. The historic meeting took place at Castel Gandolfo Saturday when Pope Francis traveled from the Vatican to south Rome to have lunch with Benedict XVI, his predecessor. The two men in white embraced with the pope telling a retiring one “We are brothers” and insist they pray side by side for the future of the Catholic Church reports the Associated Press. The year for the Catholic Church has stated with a bang with Benedict’s resignation and the election of the first Latin American pope leading to the meeting on Saturday with the image of the papal past embracing the papal future, praying and breaking bread together. Benedict, 85, has been living in the papal retreat since Feb. 28 when he became the first to resign in 600 years, while Francis, 76, made it clear he would not let Benedict hide from the world as he wanted and made it clear he would visit him. Benedict greeted Francis, wearing a white quilted jacket over his white cassock, on the helipad of the Castel Gandolfo gardens where they embraced and clasped hands making it clear that Francis is the new pope and Francis made it clear Benedict is a brother and equal. After leaving the helipad, Benedict gave Francis the right side of the car symbolizing the traditional place of the pope and Benedict sat on the left on their way to the palazzo to pray where Benedict insisted that Francis use the papal kneeler, but Francis refused saying “We are brothers” then they kneeled side by side. Francis also brought an icon of the Madonna for Benedict saying, “They told me it’s the Madonna of Humility. Let me say one thing: When they told me that, I immediately thought of you, at the many marvelous examples of humility and gentleness that you gave us during your pontificate.” With a simple reply from Benedict of  “Grazie, grazie.” Well wishers outside the main piazza chanted “Francesco! Francesco!” outside the villa but the crowd left after Francis’ helicopter left 2.5 hours later, according to the Associated Press, without either pope appearing at the balcony.

The Vatican respected the wished of Benedict to stay out of the spotlight so no to interfere with his successor’s papacy with no live Vatican television coverage and only a short video and still photo released after the meeting, while no details were given about what the two discussed many are speculating. Some speculations about what the men discussed include the rise of secularism in the world, the decrease in priesthood in Europe and the competition the Catholic Church faces in Latin America and Africa from evangelical Pentecostal movements. Benedict may have discussed pressing issues the new pope will have to deal with including unfinished business from the Benedict’s papacy such as the Vatileak documents last year that exposed corruption and mismanagement in Vatican administration and ideas on how to make management changes in the Holy See administration. Further questions have to be asked about the future of the Catholic Church and how they will deal with two living popes as one has resigned and the other reigning side by side. As the Vatican’s leading canon lawyer, Jesuit Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, explained in an article it would be inappropriate to call Benedict “emeritus pope” as he lost all of his power of primacy when he renounced the papacy, therefore the Vatican has originally said he would be known as “emeritus bishop of Rome” but Benedict chose to keep wearing the white cassock of the papacy and being called “emeritus pope.” The main question now for the Vatican is will Benedict influence the future pontiff and whether Catholics will favor the traditional style undermining his successor’s authority and agenda through allegiance to the old pope. This should not be a concern since in his last meeting with cardinals on Feb.28, Benedict pledge his obedience to the then unknown future pope. In their meeting on Saturday, neither address each other in formal titles but as friends.

The two are men are very different in their approach and style to the papacy. The Argentine born Francis has already made waves with his no papal regalia, simple black shoes, and paying his own hotel bill sending a message to the people that the pope’s job is to protect the poor. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the man now known as pope would celebrate Mass with prostitutes and drug addicts as his plan for Holy Thursday Mass this week will be to celebrate at a juvenile detention center washing the feet of 12 inmates echoing the humility of Jesus. The German born Benedict comes from the academic world as one of the leading theologian who spent more than 30 years in the Vatican where he was first the chief doctrinal watchdog and then pope. His main concern during his papacy was to remind people of their faith and bring back the traditions of the Catholic Church as well as the brocaded style of the papacy. his Holy Thursday included the foot washing of clerics at the St. John Lateran Basilica. It was best said by Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine, whose article are Vatican approved said that, “They are two figures of the highest spirituality, whose relationship with life is completely anchored in God. This radicalness is shown in Pope Benedict’s shy and kind bearing, and in Pope Francis it is revealed by his immediate sweetness and spontaneity.”

Westboro Baptist and Equality House: The Lion and the Lamb

Equality House: Find out more about Planting Peace’s Mission and Westboro Baptist.

Appropriately titled considering the Westboro Baptist church strong stance on almost anything really but especially their holy war so to speak on the LGBT community with their anti-gay sentiments. If you are not familiar with the group let me help you out. The church has a sign hanging outside their church (the building above on the left) that reads, “GodHatesAmerica.com” and a fun fact for all of the newbies out there is the Westboro Baptist church is famous or I should say infamous for their protests of military funerals where they will shout slogan and carry signs within hearing or seeing distance while the funeral is underway making an already very unfortunate situation worse. Their slogans range from stick figures having sex to “God hates fags” or “Thank God for dead soldiers.” The church as well as its founder have become infamous for their protests and media attention drowning out their opposition however they can. Many groups have tried to drown out the noise with singing or their own peace loving slogans, but my favorite would be the group of bikers who showed up to a funeral of a soldiers whose young bride was scared of the group and already distraught over the death of her husband. In order to shield her from the verbal onslaught, the bikers drowned out the noise by revving the engine of their motorcycle cleverly protecting the young woman from the abuse. Apparently, several groups of bikers have made it their mission to show up to these funerals and the latest promise was for the Sandy Hook victims funerals in order to protect the innocent from the Westboro Baptist members.

The newest group who have decided to take on the church just happened to buy a house across the street…their name, Equality House, and Planting Peace’s mission is to directly challenge teachings of the church. How can he do this? Simple he has turned the house into a giant gay flag painted in bright colors with prime viewing directly across the street from the church. Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a charity that wears many hats in the past focused on rainforest conservation, opening orphanages and deworming programs, bought the house six months ago in Topeka, Kansas, and on March 19 the team of volunteers painted the house to match the gay pride flag. Jackson told the Huff Post about why he purchased the house:

“I read a story about Josef Miles, a 10-year-old kid who counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church by holding the sign that says ‘God Hates No One.’ I didn’t know anything about the church or where they were located, but that story kept popping up. And one night I wondered, Where is this church? I got on Google Earth, and I was ‘walking down the road,’ and I did a 360 view. And I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign sitting in the front yard of a house. Right away it hit me, Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the WBC! And immediately I thought: And I’m going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag. The reason I haven’t gotten into the gay rights activism is because, in a sense, it’s almost silly — it’s 2013, are we really still in this position? It just seems ludicrous,” he said. “But it is a real issue and kids are killing themselves. I’ve wanted to do something, and I knew when I saw that house for sale that it all came together. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a little crazy and there’s no red tape in my charity. When I want to do something, I do it.”

Jackson, according to Huff Post, believes the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps family is well aware of his presence in the town and expecting some sort of action as he has already encounter members of the group and the Phelps family who has run the church since 1956. Surprisingly enough, he told the Huff Post that the family member have been quite pleasant toward him especially Shirley Phelps, the daughter of the church leader Fred Phelps, but Jackson has already seen several church member taking photos of the house especially the industrial flagpole he installed  that is in direct line of site of the Westboro Baptist Church’s pole that flies the pride flag and American flag upside down. The mission according to Jackson will be for Equality house not just to be symbol but take the negative attention of the Westboro Baptist Church and make it a positive by teaching people where there is hate, there is love. One last thought on the subject from Jackson himself reported by the Huff Post: “I love seeing all of these Republicans and all these people who have been anti-gay all this time jumping ship because they know they’re on the wrong side of history. It’s an amazing thing to see. I know we have a long way to go in fighting bigotry, but we all know the gays are going to win. It’s going to happen.”

Where has all the hope gone?

History seems doomed to repeat itself as is evident in the news everyday with stories of suicide bombers, protests, and government failing to do right by its people. Reading these stories everyday makes a person wonder if hope has ever existed due to history’s lack of viable reasons to say otherwise. Every war and protest seems to follow the same patterns of behaviors and missteps taken by those in authority who believe they are doing right by their people without consulting their people. Even as a kid we are all told when we get older we will understand but as an adult I understand less now than I did as a child. What purpose does war serve and violence for that matter? Reading through the new and deciding what to write today was a challenge as I grow tired of the hopeless and sad stories I read about North Korea, South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and so many more. Today, I look to history to guide me and the music to inspire me.

One of my favorite songs, “Where have all the flowers gone?” by Pete Seeger came to mind while reading the news today. One particular line struck me over and over…when will they ever learn? That is a question I am afraid will never be answered as humanity is already on the path to calamity as tensions rise around the world and through violence more has been accomplished than through peace or so it seems. Even looking at everyday occurrences, it doesn’t take much to see that the world has headed down a dark path not just with war and protests on a large scale, but look at everyday life with children killing children, the increase in suicides, violence against women, and the threat to a happy life for all. How as humans do we process and accept such a bleak reality?…by looking at the past of course.

When will the pattern of behavior change or when did it become okay to threaten violence in order to get the point across? It seems largely ignored when something good comes out of something so horrible because the story is not in the good but in a bad. Do we reinforce bad behavior as good? Maybe. How do we as a society end the cycle that history has found so hard to break? Do we unilaterally lay down arms or do we find peace through strength? I think I have more questions now than I did as a child.

Peace anthems seem to be a thing of the past but to me will ring true as long as people walk the earth and long after the song writers dies. It is there message to the world. I read something interesting on YouTube about Pete Seeger from a user called Thespadecaller:

On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Pete Seeger and seven others (including playwright Arthur Miller) for contempt, as they failed to cooperate with House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their attempts to investigate alleged subversives and communists. Pete Seeger testified before the HUAC in 1955.
In one of Pete’s darkest moments, when his personal freedom, his career, and his safety were in jeopardy, a flash of inspiration ignited this song. The song was stirred by a passage from Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel “And Quie Flows the Don”. Around the world the song traveled and in 1962 at a UNICEF concert in Germany, Marlene Dietrich, Academy Award-nominated German-born American actress, first performed the song in French, as “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” Shortly after she sang it in German. The song’s impact in Germany just after WWII was shattering. It’s universal message, “let there be peace in the world” did not get lost in its translation. To the contrary, the combination of the language, the setting, and the great lyrics has had a profound effect on people all around the world. May it have the same effect today and bring renewed awareness to all that hear it.

Headlines full of accusations, disapproval, propaganda, violence, fear seem to outweigh human rights, human survival, and hope. Why does it take human tragedy to inspire a small change and why can’t we look to the past to inspire us to be a better version of the past? Pete Seeger a single man sparked a change in his time and his government saw him as a threat…a single man not a million. The song with a melancholy melody and repetitious lyrics lends to the haunting reality of the words that history continues to repeat itself, but with everyday that passes I hope that people begin to understand how to change not only themselves but the world.

Iraq War Missing

 

 

Changing the World: Amazing Billboard Produces Water Out of Air (VIDEO)

Billboard In Lima, Peru Creates Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air (VIDEO).

Changing the world one billboard at a time or at least that is the hope for one group of imaginative engineers and I don’t mean Disney. It is no secret that water is in short supply especially in some areas around the world with only three percent of the water in the world potable. At a rapid rate, the world has used  much of the water leading us all eventually into a world water crisis if nothing is done to curb our appetite. What makes it worse is the fact that many of our fresh water canal and underground springs are polluted everyday by large corporations and carelessness killing species that thrive in these areas. The hope here is to take inspiration away from the video and find ways to lessen your footprint on the world by making positive choices and taking responsibility for what man has done. The engineers came up with the idea because of a necessity and scarcity of water available in some parts of the world.

 The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru partnered with the ad agency Mayo DraftFCBand to the first ever billboard to capture   humidity and turn it into potable drinking water in Lima in order to address the area’s water insecurity issues as well as bring a message of hope in the second largest desert capital in the world. The structure was created in order to address the issue of residents being forced to drink polluted water from wells. As one resident of the Bujama District explains, ” They could put this in different places if possible in each village, in each town…the water that gives us life.” Peru gets less than two inches of rain, but has an atmospheric humidity of 98 percent according to the video so the billboard uses reverse osmosis, a water purifying process, in order to produce the water and stores the water in tanks up to 20 liters each providing 9,450 liters in three months.

The implementation of the billboard coincides with a study, published in the Cryosphere journal, showing the Andean glaciers which provides fresh water for the residents of Peru and other countries has shrunk 30 to 50 percent since the 1970s. Antoine Rabatel, one author of the study, explains: “Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented.” With water supplies dwindling due to climate change and a growing population facing food insecurity issues, the billboard provides one innovative solution in a sea of many possibilities. NanoGanesh, for example, allows farmers to use mobile phones to turn off irrigation systems remotely decreasing the use of water and electricity. According to the Associated Press, the UN and other global agencies are calling for greater solutions to the water crisis as 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities in the next eight years putting more strain on resources and sanitation. UN Deputy Chief Jan Eliasson had this to say, “If we do water and sanitation right, we can have a great improvement on others goals.” The impact of such technology is vast and the potential to save lives is enormous as the access to potable clean water will reduce maternal health issues, child mortality and overall poverty.

Pope Francis Gives His First Sunday Blessing to a Crowd of 150,000

 

 

Pope Francis In St. Peter’s Square Offers Angelus Prayer To 150,000.

Pope Francis gave his first window appearance of his papacy with a spontaneous speech about the power of God’s forgiveness opting out of the traditional written speech on Sunday. As the Associated Press reports, he spoke in Italian beginning with “buon giorno” (Good day) and ending with “buon pranzo” (Have a good lunch) instead of greeting the crowd in several languages as his predecessors have done before. The crowd of more than a 150,000 cheered and laughed as the pope addressed St. Peter’s Square with humor and commentary. Francis did tweet the faithful in several languages saying: “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. ” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi added that Francis will more than likely stick with Italian a language he is comfortable with and possible stick to his off the cuff style for now leaving the possibility open for other languages to be used in future public appearances.

The pope’s spontaneous off the cuff style has become a hallmark of his papacy in just the five days since the election. Earlier on Sunday, he appeared before the public from the side gate of the Vatican before delivering a six minute homily at the Vatican’s tiny parish church. Before entering St. Anna’s church to celebrate Mass, he shook hands with parishioners and kissed babies. After Mass, Francis put his security to the test when he ventured out into the street just outside St. Anna’s Gate as the traffic light at the intersection turned greened grasping outstretched hands with the occasional person placing a hand on Pope Francis’ shoulder. A few minutes later when the light turned red, Francis dashed back upstairs for his window appearance from his papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace. The studio window was opened for the first time since Feb. 24 the day his predecessor gave his last window blessing. The crowd cheered as the window opened to reveal Pope Francis and quickly died down as he began to speak with many of the faithful tearing up and waving Argentine flags which is the homeland of the world’s first Latin American pope. Francis who was elected March 13 has been staying at the hotel on Vatican grounds until his papal apartment in the palace is ready. Giant screens were set up for the crowd so they could see Francis close up and dozens of medical teams were on stand by for any emergencies. After the Mass, the pope stepped out from St. Anna’s church and waved to the crowd kept behind barriers across the street and then greeted parishioners one by one even having one young man pat him on the back. In his homily, Francis explained the core message of God which is mercy as God has the capacity to pardon without question and noted that people are far harder on each other than God is on sinners.

 

 

Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires, Elected Leader Of Catholic Church

Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires, Elected Leader Of Catholic Church.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio a native of Buenos Aires, has taken the name of Pope Francis as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. On Wednesday, in his first public appearance after the papal election, on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica appeared the new pope Francisco in his white cassock to address the crowds more than an hour after the white smoke was released from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 2:05 EDT (7:05 p.m. CET). Speaking from the balcony, the pope gave his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the “City of the World”) to the crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square as the crowed cheered, cried, and waved for the new leader of 1.2 billion Catholics. He prayed for the church, the papacy, and for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Before he prayed for the crowd and church, he asked that the crowd bless him. Francis, a Jesuit priest was elected to the papacy after two days of conclave meetings and five ballots cast. Francis will be installed in the coming days, even though his papacy will be effectively immediately, but it’s not clear when the installation will happen as Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi announced on Wednesday that Tuesday March 19 the feast of St. Joseph would be a possible date. Lombardi said this before the white smoke later in the evening as he also said that the new pope will likely celebrate Mass with cardinals the morning after this election. The date of the installation will begin with a visit with cardinals to the grottos of St. Peter’s Basilica where the first pope St. Peter is said to be buried. There he will say,”I leave from where the apostle arrived” before proceeding to the square for the installation Mass where Francis will receive the Fisherman’s Ring made for his papacy as well as the pallium, a woolen stole to symbolize his authority. When Benedict was elected, 12 church representatives knelt in front of him at the installations including three cardinals, one bishop, a priest, deacon, married couple, a nun, and man from a religious order as well as two young people who had their conformation which will likely appear again at the papal installation of Francis as a symbolic pledge of obedience.  After the mass, the pope will be driven around St. Peter’s Square to greet the people from around the world and in the following days will visit the three main Roman basilicas aside from St. Peter’s: St Paul’s, St. John Lateran’s, St. Mary Major’s with the first visit St. Paul’s which is right outside the Vatican walls. The first few weeks, Francis will live in a temporary apartment away from the official papal residence while it is being renovated as the apartment was sealed after Benedict’s resignation and church rules say it cannot be reopens until a new pope is elected.

Statement by the President on His Holiness Pope Francis

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy. As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day. Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world.