FaithWorld

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia finally becomes a church

sagrada (Photo: The Sagrada Familia church, with chairs outside for the consecration Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, 5 Nov 2010/Albert Gea)

For decades tourists have visited the twisting spires of Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia church, but 128 years after construction began Catholic faithful will worship there for the first time on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass to give his official blessing to the church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, whose sculptural masterpieces dot the city in the region of Catalonia.

The pope consecrates Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) during a visit to northern Spain where on Saturday he joins pilgrims at the shrine to St. James, Spain’s patron saint, in Santiago de Compostela.

sagrada 2 (Photo: The Sagrada Familia church, 4 Nov 2010/Albert Gea)

While work is not scheduled to finish for many more years on the intricate and colorful Sagrada Familia, enough has been done to welcome the pontiff, including installing last minute stained-glass windows.

Jordi Bonet Armengol, chief architect of the cathedral and seventh successor to Gaudi, hopes the pope’s visit will provide the boost needed to finish the work.

Guestview: “Almost Christian” teens challenge U.S. parents and churches

youth 2 (Photo: Shavon Gardner, 17, sings with the Redeemed Christian Church of God youth choir at Redemption Camp in Floyd, Texas June 17, 2009/Jessica Rinaldi)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and priest-in-charge at St. Marks Episcopal Church, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

A large-scale study charting the religious habits of American teenagers has quietly been underway for almost a decade but has received relatively little media attention until now.  As the data from the longitudinal analysis performed by the National Study of Youth & Religion is released, (NSYR) it could and should stimulate unsettling questions for Christian parents and churches alike.

Featuring phone interviews with 3,300 teens and their parents and three-hour interviews with close to 300 of them, the NSYR research random sampled feedback by kids from any tradition – or none.

Cuba’s Catholic Church to open first new seminary in decades

havana cathedral (Photo: Havana’s Catholic cathedral, June 14, 2010/Desmond Boylan)

The Roman Catholic Church will open on Wednesday its first new seminary in Cuba in more than half a century in a further sign of its improving relations with the island’s communist-led government.

The seminary replaces a similar school for future priests that was  expropriated by Cuba’s communist authorities in 1966 and transformed first into a military barracks, then a police academy.

Catholic officials said Cuban President Raul Castro was expected to attend the inauguration — reflecting the more cordial relations between the Church and the government. Castro turned to the Church this year to serve as an internal interlocutor as he faced growing international pressure over political prisoners and human rights.

Fifty-two killed in raid on Iraqi Catholic church

baghdad church 1 (Photo: Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, November 1, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)

Fifty-two hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics held by al Qaeda-linked gunmen, a deputy interior minister said on Monday.

Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal said 67 people were also wounded in the raid on the Syrian Catholic church, which was seized by guerrillas during Sunday mass in the bloodiest attack in Iraq since August. The death toll was many times higher than that given overnight in the hours after the raid.

baghdad church 2 (Photo: Bomb damage outside Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad November 1, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)

The gunmen took hostages at the Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Najat) Church, one of Baghdad’s largest, and demanded the release of al Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt.  “This death toll is for civilians and security force members. We don’t differentiate between police and civilians. They are all Iraqis,” Kamal said, adding the number did not include dead attackers.

Vatican synod to mull Middle East Christian exodus

baghdad churchWith Christianity dwindling in its Middle Eastern birthplace, Pope Benedict has convened Catholic bishops from the region to debate how to save its minority communities and promote harmony with their Muslim neighbours.

For two weeks starting on Sunday, the bishops will discuss problems for the faithful ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strife in Iraq to radical Islamism, economic crisis and the divisions among the region’s many Christian churches. (Photo: Worshippers light candles after Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad October 3, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)

They come from local churches affiliated with the Vatican, but the relentless exodus of all Christians — Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants — has prompted them to take a broad look at the challenges facing all followers of Jesus there.

Cross controversy mars historic Armenian Orthodox service in Turkey

armenian 1 (Photo: The Church of the Holy Cross, an Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, September 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)

The first Armenian Orthodox ceremony in nearly a century at a church in eastern Turkey was overshadowed on Sunday by a partial Armenian boycott because of the Turkish authorities’ refusal to place a cross on the roof of the building.

Nearly a thousand Armenian Orthodox worshippers out of the expected 5,000 people attended the service at the Church of the Holy Cross, which the government has hailed as a sign of growing religious tolerance — see here and here — in the predominantly Muslim country, which is a European Union candidate.

The church, which has been closed for services since the 1915 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops, has become a symbol of Turkey’s troubled past with its Armenian minority and a painful process of reconciliation.

Analysis: Catholic Church raises hopes of role in Cuban change

cuba 1The Roman Catholic Church has won praise for securing the release of political prisoners in Cuba, raising hopes it can do more to broker reforms on the communist-ruled island and perhaps even help improve U.S.-Cuba ties.

Sidelined for decades by the communist authorities until Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998, the Church has now carved out a visible role as an interlocutor with the government, and as a possible catalyst of change. (Photo: Released prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya in a wheelchair at Santa Rita Church as he joins the weekly protest of the Ladies in White, a group made up of imprisoned family members, in Havana June 20, 2010./Desmond Boylan)

Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega raised his voice earlier this year, asking President Raul Castro to accelerate economic reforms and end government harassment of the dissident group Ladies in White during their peaceful street protests.

GUESTVIEW: U.S. synagogues, churches collect similar donation amounts differently

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This article first appeared in the New York Jewish weekly Forward.
dollarsSynagogue Dues Don’t Raise More Money Than Church Gifts By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Which costs more: belonging to a synagogue, or belonging to a church?

A survey conducted by the Forward has found that Jewish and Christian religious institutions appear to raise about the same amount per member, despite the fact that church giving is voluntary and synagogues charge membership dues.

The more than 20 churches and synagogues surveyed by the Forward represent a sampling from a variety of denominations in six cities across America. While there are significant regional and denominational differences, an examination of the aggregate data indicates that the amount raised per individual member is very similar between synagogues and churches. But the level of participation is quite different: While synagogues require roughly the same amount of dues from each of their members, church giving does not appear to be so evenly distributed.

from Global News Journal:

Religious leaders and the EU take tentative first steps

religion

Top European Union officials held talks this week with religious leaders, part of a policy of holding consultations with religious groups that was enshrined in the EU's Lisbon reform treaty, which came into force last December. But not everyone supports the move.
 
More than two dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders -- joined by a representative each from the Hindu and Sikh communities -- met  the presidents of the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council on Monday to discuss how to fight poverty and social exclusion.

It was the the sixth such consultation since 2005, but the first to take place in the context of the Lisbon treaty, the EU’s latest collective agreement.  Article 17 of the treaty commits the EU to maintaining "an open, transparent and regular dialogue with ... churches and (non-confessional and philosophical) organisations".

But opponents of the guidance say that because many Europeans are secular and an increasing number practise non-Christian religions, churches should not have special rights.

Turkey reopening ancient Armenian church to heal wounds

akdamar 1 (Photos: The Church of the Holy Cross, Akdamar Island, 27 June 2010/Umit Bektas)

Swallows dart around the dome of the 10th century Armenian church rising from Akdamar Island set amid the turquoise waters of Lake Van.  Tombstones with ancient Christian inscriptions and crosses lie scattered among the weeds in the garden, where day-trippers picnic in the shade of almond trees and sunbathe after a swim.

The serenity of the scene belies a traumatic past that haunts Turkey and Armenia to this day.  The Church of the Holy Cross, which is now a state museum, has become a symbol of a tortuous reconciliation process as Turkey prepares to open the site on Sept. 19 for a one-day religious service that could become an annual event.

“This church is very important for Armenians, not only in Turkey, but across the world,” said Archbishop Aram Ateshian, a spiritual leader from Turkey’s surviving Armenian community.  “For decades, we could not say mass or have a religious service because it was forbidden by the government.”