FaithWorld

Egyptian army must stop shrine vandals-religious affairs ministry

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(A resident looks at damage to the Sidi Abdel Rahman shrine at a mosque in Qalyoub, north of Cairo April 3, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egypt’s religious affairs ministry has called on security forces to strike with “a hand of steel” to stop the vandalism of Sufi shrines targeted in attacks blamed on ultra-orthodox Muslims. An increase in attacks on shrines in Egypt is fuelling concern about the role that Islamists will play after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, who suppressed Islamist groups that he saw as a threat to his rule.

Scores of shrines have disappeared or were burnt down on the outskirts of Cairo weeks after Mubarak was toppled from power. The attacks have awoken old tensions between Sufis, followers of a mystical Islamic tradition to whom shrines are an important part of religious practice, and ultra-conservative Salafists, who see them as idolatrous.

“It (the vandalism) violates the spirit of the Islamic sharia and whoever does this is corrupting the land and seeking to incite chaos and strife in the nation and to shake national security and its stability,” reported official state news agency MENA, citing a ministry statement on Wednesday. According to Egypt’s penal code, people who violate the sanctity of graves or destroy property considered holy could be jailed for up to five years and fined.

Established Salafist groups in Egypt have denied any link to the attacks. Witnesses have attributed them to Salafist youths apparently acting independently. Some accuse the media of exploiting a handful of cases to scare-monger — playing on fears of Islamists suppressed by Mubarak to strengthen the case of conservatives seeking a return to the authoritarian ways of his regime.

Taliban suicide blasts at Sufi shrine in Pakistan kill 41

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(Bodies of victims lie at the site of a Sufi shrine hit by Taliban suicide bomb attacks in Dera Ghazi Khan April 3, 2011/Sheikh Asif Raza)

Two Taliban suicide bombers caused carnage on Sunday at a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan in eastern Pakistan, killing at least 41 people and wounding scores in the latest bloody attack on minority religious groups. Police said some 65 people were wounded. They said the attackers struck during an annual ceremony for the Sufi saint to whom the shrine is dedicated.

“I was just a few yards away from the place where the blast happened,” said witness Faisal Iqbal. “People started running outside the shrine. Women and children were crying and screaming. It was like hell.”

Visitors banned from Kashmir shrine some claim is tomb of Jesus

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A Kashmiri Muslim woman prays at the Rozabal Shrine in Srinagar on April 22, 2010/Danish Ismail

Who is buried at a small shrine in Kashmir? Jesus or two medieval Muslim scholars?

Renewed debate over whose remains are actually in the Rozabal shrine, which attracts hundreds of tourists to the capital of lndia’s only Muslim-dominated region, has led caretakers to close it to visitors after allowing access for several years.

Vatican to probe claims of Virgin Mary apparitions at Medjugorje

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Catholic pilgrims in Medjugorje, 25 June 2009/Damir Sagolj

The Vatican has opened an investigation into reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the small town of Medjugorje in southern Bosnia which have drawn more than 30 million pilgrims and divided the Catholic Church.

Since six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary on a hillside near Medjugorje in 1981 — reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal — Catholics have debated whether the visions were a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or an elaborate fraud.

“This commission, composed of cardinals, bishops, theologians and experts, will work in a confidential manner and submit the result of its investigation to the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith),” the Vatican said in a statement.

Vienna cardinal’s Medjugorje visit stirs emotions, speculation about Mary visions

Medjugorje, 25 June 2006/Danilo Krstanovic

Medjugorje, 25 June 2006/Danilo Krstanovic

A highly-publicised visit by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn to the disputed Roman Catholic shrine of Medjugorje seems to have deepened the divide between Catholics who fervently believe the Virgin Mary appears to visionaries there and those who suspect the Bosnian pilgrimage site may be a hoax.

The visit over the New Year’s holiday provoked a surprisingly undiplomatic public complaint from the bishop of Mostar, the Bosnian region that includes Medjugorje, and that has set the Catholic blogosphere buzzing (for example herehereherehereherehereherehere…). It also prompted a little-noticed theological comment from Schönborn that might point to where the debate over Medjugorje may be going. More on that later…

We reported here in October that Bosnian Church officials expected the Vatican to rule soon on the apparitions at the village supporters see as a “new Lourdes.” There has still not been any such ruling, so the issue has remained unresolved. This also heightened the interest in a visit by a leading “prince of the Church,” a cardinal who is also a close adviser of Pope Benedict and editor of the official Catechism catechism.

Irish Catholics damage eyes staring at sun for Virgin Mary

irish-crossIrish Catholic pilgrims have suffered eye damage after staring at the sun in the hope of witnessing an apparition of the Virgin Mary, a doctor said on Wednesday. On one occasion in October, some 10,000 people gathered at the Knock shrine in northwestern Ireland hoping to see Mary, despite pleas from an archbishop to ignore invitations to the event by a self-proclaimed spiritual healer.

Some of those present said they had seen Mary, venerated by Christians as the mother of Jesus, and attributed her presence to the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, changing color, appearing to come closer or spinning in the sky.

Eamonn O’Donoghue, an ophthalmologist at University College Hospital Galway in the west of Ireland, said he had several patients whose retina had been burned by the sun during a visit to Knock.

Vatican ruling on disputed Medjugorje shrine expected soon

medjugorje-statueHas the Virgin Mary been appearing daily for many years in the once obscure Bosnian village of Medjugorje to share religious messages with a few local believers? Is the site visited by over 30 million pilgrims a hoax? The question has long divided Catholics who have debated whether the visions are a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or the result of an elaborate fraud. (Photo: Virgin Mary statue at reported apparition site, 25 June 2009/Damir Sagolj)

After observing events sceptically for many years, the Vatican may soon issue firmer guidance for Catholics on the claim that the mother of Jesus has been visiting the Balkans, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, head of the bishops’ conference in Bosnia, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. That guidance, if it clearly expresses the scepticism the official Church has long shown towards the Medjugorje phenomenon, could deal a serious blow to a site some Catholics see as a “new Lourdes.”

“We are now awaiting a new directive on this issue,” said Puljic, the Sarajevo archbishop who survived the city’s long wartime siege in the 1990s. “I don’t think we must wait for a long time, I think it will be this year, but that is not clear… I am going to Rome in November and we must discuss this.”

from Raw Japan:

Matchmaking gets divine touch

I admit there was some personal interest when I volunteered to cover the praying/speed-dating event at a shrine in Tokyo recently. I wanted to see what a matchmaking event at a shrine involves and who would attend.

I did not expect, though, that I would actually get involved.

A group of 14 women and 14 men gathered at Imado shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japan's indigenous Shinto gods of marriage. The participants varied in age and occupation, but had one common goal -- finding a good marriage partner.

"We said it's up to the gods now. If we go on as we have, we probably won't ever meet anyone," Rie Suzuki, a 40-year-old attending with her friend told me.

Matchmaking gets divine touch at Japanese shrine

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Rie Suzuki has exhausted most earthly means to find Mr. Right, so now she, and dozens of singles in Japan where marriage has recently gone out of fashion, are turning to the gods for help.

Forty-year-old Suzuki was one of 14 women and 14 men gathered on a recent Saturday at Imado shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan’s indigenous Shinto gods of marriage. Participants had varied backgrounds, but one common goal — to find a partner.

“We said it’s up to the gods now. If we go on as we have, we probably won’t ever meet anyone,” said Suzuki, who was attending the event that combines prayer with speed-dating.

Japan’s rare Catholic PM Taro Aso meets Pope Benedict

aso-popeJapanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a member of Japan’s tiny Roman Catholic minority, had a chance toenjoy some time away from political trouble at home when he met with Pope Benedict on Tuesday.

As his first stop during a trip to attend July 8-10 summit of G8 leaders in Italy, Aso went to the Vatican, gave the pope a Sony digital video camera and discussed the global economic crisis with him. (Photo: Prime Minister Aso presents video camera to Pope Benedict, 7 July 2009/Danilo Schiavella)

His visit was timely in that respect — Benedict published an encyclical on economic and social issues today, calling for a bold reform of the world economic order to overcome the financial crisis and redirect the focus of business to the welfare of all people.