FaithWorld

Huge Manila human cross for Lent, against abortion

manila cross

(People form a black and white Dominican cross in Manila March 9, 2011/Cheryl Ravelo)

Thousands of Filipinos lined up across a football field in Manila to mark the start of Lent by forming a human cross they hoped would go down as the world’s biggest. Officials at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic university that at 400 years old is the nation’s oldest, said the Ash Wednesday event was also a proclamation of the school’s stand against abortion and a controversial bill on reproductive health currently being debated.

More than 20,000 people, including students, faculty members and university personnel, the students wearing black t-shirts or white school uniforms, stood side by side to form a two-colored Dominican cross while prayers were recited and songs sung.

“Forming this biggest cross will make people remember that the Lenten season is all about Christ,” said speech pathology student Erika Claire Gomez. Information about the cross will be sent to Guinness for verification.

In Catholic churches around the country, Filipinos — around 80 percent of whom are Catholic — observed Ash Wednesday by attending Mass and having a cross drawn on their foreheads with ashes. Many will fast or make other sacrifices for the 40-day Lenten period. On Tuesday, lawmakers opened debate on a reproductive health bill that seeks to improve access to information on contraception but faces strong opposition from the country’s influential Roman Catholic bishops.

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.

Poland’s cross wars revive debate on role of Catholic Church

cross 2 (Photo: Protesters urging removal of the cross at the presidential palace. The road sign reads “Attention! Cross defenders.” August 9, 2010/Kacper Pempel)

A simple wooden cross honouring victims of a plane crash that killed Poland’s president in April has spurred demands that the influence of the powerful Roman Catholic Church be pared back to forge a more secular Poland.

A scout group set a crucifix outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, which turned into a shrine for the victims. Four months later, the three-meter-high cross is still there, festooned with candles and flowers despite attempts by the state and some clergy to move it to a nearby church. The “cross defenders” stood their ground, squabbling with police.

The cross debate reflects political divisions. It has become a rallying point for radical rightists backed by the main opposition, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party led by Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw.

German soccer team shies away from cross on jersey

German soccer blogs are not a place I usually go to for a story about religion, but an interesting one has popped up on the forum of the Eintracht Frankfurt team. The team let its fans vote over the Internet late last year to pick a 2008/2009 season jersey among 16 proposed models. Despite the fans’ enthusiasm for this innovation, Eintracht has ignored the result and chosen to use the runner-up design. As the team explained on its website:

The Eintracht “cross” jerseyAfter a close examination, we have decided that the winning jersey with the cross unfortunately cannot be used because the symbol on the front has a religious background. Inter Milan, an Italian club with a long tradition, has appeared in the current Champions League competition in a similar jersey and been strongly criticised for it. So after careful consideration, Eintracht Frankfurt has gone back and chosen the second jersey, which came in a close second in the vote.

The Eintracht “eagle” jerseyThe runner-up that came out on top has what Eintracht calls “hints of eagle claws on the front and a stylised eagle on the shoulder”. The city’s coat-of-arms has a red eagle that also figures on the Eintracht team logo.