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New Mexico’s Holy Week

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New Mexico

By Brian Snyder

The high desert of northern New Mexico, with Taos as its unofficial capital, is a confluence of cultures and eras.  Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American cultures co-exist and show themselves in both modern and old ways. Holy Week in this area is celebrated in a very public manner within the safety of the region, beyond the notice of much of the rest of the United States. The rites and customs are very much of the place and cultures found there.

On Holy Thursday a youth group re-enacted the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuario de Chimayo. The Sanctuary is a church built over a source of sacred dirt that is believed to have healing powers. It is also the destination for thousands of pilgrims from all over during Holy Week. The youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in nearby Bernalillo has been doing the performance for years, with new teenagers replacing the previous year’s every year or two. The whips hitting the man playing the role of Jesus are real (though the blood is make-up) and the teens are convincing in their roles as Mary, the women of Jerusalem, Veronica and Roman soldiers.

If the pilgrimage at Chimayo is well-known and better publicized, the pilgrimage in Ranchos de Taos and Talpa on Good Friday is a very local, traditional and communal activity. The several mile walk begins at the famous San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos and from there the Stations of the Cross are marked in various fields, front yards, moradas, and capillas along the route. Four men carry a large cross and lead the procession, with several hundred believers following behind. In many ways Good Friday is the apex of Holy Week. Worshipers, including many young people, pray out loud, sing, and even chat and laugh with one another as they make their way through the countryside.

The moradas, which are unsanctified chapels, are the spiritual home of the Hermanos, a private, secretive, lay group of Catholic men with a history dating back hundreds of years. During Holy Week the Hermanos worship at the moradas and welcome the pilgrims as they pass by on their walk. With the Hermanos are a group of girls dressed all in black, including black veils, representing Veronica (who in the Bible wipes Jesus’s face).

from FaithWorld:

U.K. academic says Easter date can now be fixed

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(The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1498)

The Last Supper took place on a Wednesday -- a day earlier than thought -- and a date for Easter can now be fixed, according to a Cambridge University scientist aiming to solve one of the Bible's most enduring contradictions.

Christians have marked Jesus' final meal on Maundy Thursday for centuries but thanks to the rediscovery of an ancient Jewish calendar, Professor Colin Humphreys suggests another interpretation.

from FaithWorld:

New Israeli film claims discovery of nails from Jesus’s cross

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(Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici at a news conference in New York, February 26, 2007/Mike Segar)

Could two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem? And could they have mysteriously disappeared for 20 years, only to turn up by chance in a Tel Aviv laboratory?

from FaithWorld:

Pope’s Jesus book raps religious violence, explains exoneration of Jews

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(A priest reads Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth" in a book shop in Rome March 10, 2011/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has condemned violence committed in God's name and personally exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus' death in his latest book, released on Thursday. The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic recounting of the last week in Jesus' life.

from FaithWorld:

New pope book says Jews not guilty of Jesus Christ’s death

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(Pope Benedict XVI waves during his Wednesday general audience at the Vatican March 2, 2011/Tony Gentile )

Pope Benedict, in a new book, has personally exonerated Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ's death, repudiating the concept of collective guilt that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries. Jewish groups applauded the move. The Anti-Defamation League called it "an important and historic moment" and hoped that it would help complicated theology "translate down to the pews" to improve grass roots inter-religious dialogue.

from FaithWorld:

A non-prophet organization? A reader objects to “Prophet Mohammad”

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gbu page 1A reader recently objected to our use of the phrase "the Prophet Mohammad" in news stories, saying that he as a Christian did not consider Mohammad a prophet and many other non-Muslims presumably didn't either, therefore we should not write about him as if everyone agreed he was one. The reader wrote:

I’ve just noticed recently that Reuters is following in the footsteps of AP and AFP in designating the Islamic prophet Mohammad as “The Prophet Mohammad”. I as a Christian don’t consider him my prophet, and neither do, I’m sure, Jews, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Why then have all the mainstream news outlets decided to treat us all as if we are Muslims? Rightly, he should be described as “the Islamic prophet Muhammad” rather than “The Prophet Muhammad”.

from FaithWorld:

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Christmas season Bethlehem

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bethlehem 1 (Photo: A decorated Christmas tree next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, December 15, 2010/Ammar Awad)

The birthplace of Jesus is hardly an easy "weekend getaway" spot, but for a taste of how today's Holy Land feels, this hospitable Palestinian town draped over the steep hilltops outside Jerusalem is an essential place to visit.

Most foreigners fly into Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, an hour away from Jerusalem, and enter via Israeli checkpoints into the occupied West Bank. Security remains tight but there is currently no tension to deter the hardy traveler.

from FaithWorld:

Wikileaks founder Assange “man of the year” in Naples nativity creches

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assange 1 (Photo: Figurine of Jullian Assange by Naples nativity creche creator Gennaro Di Virgilio, in Naples December 6, 2010/Ciro De Luca)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may be alone in jail in London, but in the traditional Neapolitan Christmas creches he is in good company -- with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Assange, who is depicted holding his trusty lap top, was created by Gennaro Di Virgilio, who each year chooses at least one contemporary character to sculpt and place near the scenes of the traditional story of Jesus' birth in a manger.

"I included him to poke a little fun at the world and have a good time," said Di Virgilio, 29, whose family has been making nativity statuettes and ornate creches since 1830. "In a sense, Assange is the man of the year," said Di Virgilio, whose tiny shop is one of many on a narrow Naples street named Via San Gregorio Armeno that specialized in Christmas statues, creches and trinkets all year.

from FaithWorld:

World’s tallest Jesus statue unveiled in Poland

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poland statue (Photo: Unveiling of the statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, western Poland November 21, 2010/Sebastian Rzepiel)

About 15,000 Christian pilgrims and tourists streamed into the western Polish town of Swiebodzin Sunday for the unveiling of what has been billed as the world's tallest statue of Jesus.

Polish television stations showed throngs of worshippers marching in procession with religious banners and placards proclaiming "Christ the King of the Universe."

from FaithWorld:

Giant Jesus statue rises above Polish countryside

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A statue of Jesus Christ that its builders say will be the largest in the world is fast rising from a Polish cabbage field and local officials hope it will become a beacon for tourists. The builders expect to attach the arms, head and crown to the robed torso in coming days, weather and cranes permitting, completing a project conceived by local Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki and paid for by private donations.

Standing on an artificial mound, the plaster and fiber glass statue will stand some 52 meters (57 yards) when completed, taller than the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms that gazes over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Polish officials say.

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