1. Francis poses both/and approach to fighting anti-Christian persecution.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 21, 2017

The question isn’t whether anti-Christian persecution is real, but what to do about it, and on that score well-intentioned people can and do disagree.

One instinct, widely shared among the activist community, is to go on the offensive – to insist on sanctions for offender countries, to denounce the architects of persecution, to support robust military and security crackdowns on terrorist groups and militants that target Christians, and to demand that when the source of the persecution is religious, leaders of that faith step up.

Others, however, are equally concerned about religious freedom and the welfare of Christians, but prefer the carrot over the stick.

The right answer to confrontation, as they see it, isn’t more confrontation but rather dialogue. The trick is to reach out to responsible parties, building relationships and working to remove the misconceptions and biases that often drive persecution.

All of which brings us to Pope Francis, who’s very much in the carrot camp when it comes to fighting anti-Christian persecution.

However, Catholicism is not an either/or tradition, but both/and. In that light, it’s possible to see the contrast between hawks and doves on anti-Christian persecution not as contradictory, but rather complementary.

In a sense, one could argue that Pope Francis is providing “cover” for activists and other Christian leaders to push back as loudly and aggressively as they want, because no one could style it as some sort of militant Christian crusade as long as he’s in charge. Francis makes clear that the desire of the Church isn’t conquest but relationship – in his now-familiar terms, building bridges rather than walls.


2. The Crisis of Western Civ.

By David Brooks, The New York Times, April 21, 2017, Pg. A27

Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.

It’s amazing what far-reaching effects this has had. It is as if a prevailing wind, which powered all the ships at sea, had suddenly ceased to blow. Now various scattered enemies of those Western values have emerged, and there is apparently nobody to defend them.

The first consequence has been the rise of the illiberals, authoritarians who not only don’t believe in the democratic values of the Western civilization narrative, but don’t even pretend to believe in them, as former dictators did.

Then there has been the collapse of the center. For decades, center-left and center-right parties clustered around similar versions of democratic capitalism that Western civilization seemed to point to. But many of those centrist parties, like the British and Dutch Labour Parties, are in near collapse. Fringe parties rise.

Finally, there has been the collapse of liberal values at home. On American campuses, fragile thugs who call themselves students shout down and abuse speakers on a weekly basis. To read Heather MacDonald’s account of being pilloried at Claremont McKenna College is to enter a world of chilling intolerance.

These days, the whole idea of Western civ is assumed to be reactionary and oppressive. All I can say is, if you think that was reactionary and oppressive, wait until you get a load of the world that comes after it.


3. ‘In God We Trust,’ Even at Our Most Divided: The story behind the Civil War-era motto that still appears on America’s coins.

By Jonathan Den Hartog, The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2017, Pg. A13

On April 22, 1864, Congress approved a significant revision to the nation’s coinage: the addition of “In God We Trust” on several U.S. coins. This was more than a small change for small change: Governmental officials believed it would help America through a time of crisis. As the country continues to slog through an era of deep division, it’s worth studying the ideals that informed this refinement of American currency.

Does using the language of faith on currency constitute another example of “civil religion” perverting traditional religion for secular ends? As historian John D. Wilsey argued in “American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion,” such public religious appeals aren’t necessarily destined to become unhealthy derivatives of serious religious ideals. They can create an open ideal that broadens the circle of citizenship and invites participation—which the “In God We Trust” stamp did.

President Lincoln channeled these religious concerns during his Second Inaugural Address in 1865.

Rather than assume a morally superior position, Lincoln used the moment to call for self-reflection. The North had also been entangled in slavery and the violence of the Civil War, and it was in no position to claim perfect conduct. “The Almighty has His own purposes,” Lincoln said. And, no matter what, “so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,’ ” evoking Psalm 19:9.

If both North and South stood under divine judgment, then a new attitude was demanded, one of humbly working for the common good. In his peroration, Lincoln called his hearers to steady service: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The 16th president thus demonstrated that the best religious reflection in public life could lead to humility, self-criticism, care for fellow citizens, and renewal of civic ties. And that seems like a beneficial reminder from the random coins jangling in our pockets.


4. Pope Francis among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

By Catholic News Agency, April 20, 2017, 10:33 AM

Time Magazine has released its 2017 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Pope Francis is among the leaders highlighted by the publication.

The nomination included a brief reflection on Pope Francis, written by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, who reflected on the Pope’s humility, saying that his powerful witness is what attracts so many people to his message.


5. ‘A Man of Peace Brings a Message of Peace’ to Egypt: Pope Francis to visit Cairo in the wake of recent anti-Christian terror.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, April 20, 2017

Pope Francis’ visit to Cairo later this month should serve to promote solidarity with Egypt’s Christians, further peace among its people, and help foster better Catholic relations with the Coptic Orthodox Church and Islam, the chief spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic bishops has said.

“Our expectation is that Pope Francis is a man of peace and brings a message of peace,” Father Rafic Greiche told the Register April 19.

He noted that the Holy Father’s April 28-29 visit takes place just weeks after two suicide bombs killed more than 40 people on Palm Sunday at two Coptic Orthodox Churches, one just north of Cairo, the other in Alexandria.

“He didn’t cancel his visit despite the bombs last week, and this means he’s courageous,” said the Greek Melkite Catholic priest. “He’s carrying out his mission as pope to show solidarity with his Christian brothers in Egypt, and also all Egyptians at a time when these blasts really wounded us and many families. So it’s also a message of comfort.”

The Pope’s brief visit, which for security reasons the Vatican only announced in mid-March, will comprise four key events: Mass with Egyptian Catholics; a meeting with the grand imam of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib; a visit to Patriarch Tawadros; and a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and civic authorities.