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Obama nominates rabbi as religious freedom ambassador

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WASHINGTON — Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The State Department post has been vacant since the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook resigned in October 2013. She had held the position from since May 2011.

“I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead,” Obama said July 28 in announcing his nomination, which will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The ambassador-at-large serves as principle adviser on religious freedom to Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration.

The position was created as a part of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The law was aimed at increasing attention to the role of religion in diplomacy, especially addressing deficiencies in religious freedom worldwide.

The law also created a separate entity, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, to monitor and advise the administration and Congress on the issue.

Rabbi Saperstein, who has been at the Religious Action Center in Washington since 1974, is also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment church-state law and Jewish law. He serves on a number of boards, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

He was a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011. He was a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001, serving as its first chair from 1999 to 2000.

Over the years, Rabbi Saperstein has joined with Catholic bishops and other religious leaders in speaking out and issuing joint statements on a variety of issues, including immigration and health care reform.

He has bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s degree in rabbinical studies from Hebrew Union College, and a law degree from American University.

Rabbi Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, an award-winning broadcast journalist. They have two sons, Daniel and Ari.

 

Pope will visit Philippines, Sri Lanka in January

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle confirmed July 29 that Pope Francis will visit Jan. 15-19, after spending several days in Sri Lanka.

Church and government officials did not give details of the visit, saying instead that specifics would be released before the end of the year. The pope is expected to visit Manila and the Visayas, in the central Philippines.

Late last year, major disasters struck numerous island provinces in the Visayas.

On Oct. 15, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Bohol province, killing more than 200 people and causing major destruction in surrounding islands. Less than a month later, Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central part of the country, killing 6,300 people.

The typhoon’s 215 mile-per-hour winds kicked up a 15-foot storm surge in the coastal city of Tacloban in Leyte province. The tsunami-like wave also swept people away in nearby Palo and Tanauan, where local churches lost hundreds of parishioners.

In early July, Vatican officials visited Tacloban and surrounding areas in preparation for the pope’s visit, the cardinal said.

Cardinal Tagle, who heads the committee planning the papal visit, announced the theme of the visit would be “Mercy and Compassion.”

The dates of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines coincide with the dates that the country hosted World Youth Day and St. John Paul II in 1995.

Church officials have said this is only the second time a pope will visit locations outside Manila.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and Paquito Ochoa Jr., the Philippine president’s executive secretary, are also on the central committee for the visit.

The Vatican press office also announced the dates for the Philippines and said Pope Francis would visit Sri Lanka Jan. 12-15. It released no details of the visits.

 

Agency seeks donations to aid Iraqi Christian refugees

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NEW YORK — A U.S.-based international Catholic agency July 28 issued a plea for emergency funds to help tens of thousands of Christians forced to flee their homes in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

“These Christian families have arrived with only their clothes, having been forced to leave everything behind in Mosul,” said Ra’ed Bahou, who is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq. As families were “fleeing the city on foot,” he said, “ISIS militants then stole whatever dollars they had in their pockets, even their passports and identification papers.”

Bahou made the comments in a news release from CNEWA announcing the agency has launched a campaign to rush funds to the families.

Islamic militants known as ISIS, or the Islamic State fighters, have solidified their control over Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul by imposing Shariah, Islamic law, and are ordering Christians to convert or pay a special tax or they will die.

Mosul’s Christians have instead fled to the Christian villages of Ninevah province, some just a few miles from Mosul, or to the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Jordan, Beirut and Jerusalem. It has been active in Iraq for more than 50 years, but redoubled its efforts among the vulnerable Christian population in 1991.

Donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org, by phone at (800) 442-6392, or by mail to CNEWA, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY 10022-4195. The agency is a religious charity registered in the state of New York, so all contributions are tax deductible.

According to Bahou, Christian families have found refuge in churches, convents and monasteries, he added.

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, themselves homeless, the clergy, religious and villagers are trying to provide the basics, said the CNEWA release. It said refuge, especially in the villages of Alqosh, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Bartella and Tel Kaif, is “tenuous at best,” because the Islamic State has cut the electricity and water supply, and has announced its intentions to overrun the region.

“These villages are in the hands of God,” Bahou said, “as ISIS says their next ‘gift’ will be the villages of the Ninevah Plain.”

Msgr. John E. Kozar, who is president of CNEWA, said the agency will get the emergency funds to the bishops, clergy and religious, “who in the frenzy are courageously providing water, food, mattresses and medicines” to fleeing Christians.

The world is “witnessing, at the hands of extremist thugs, the eradication of a cradle of Christianity in the cradle of civilization,” the priest said in a statement.

He added that the agency will help the “shepherds of this flock to tend their sheep, with the basics they need for survival now … even if their flock is dispersed.”

The BBC reported July 28 that in a joint message, France’s foreign minister and interior minister have offered Iraqi Christians asylum. “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory,” their statement said.

 

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Working to end the madness, restore dignity in the Middle East

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Catholic Near East Welfare Association

 

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works with churches to aid the poor, create dialogue, inspire peace

 

“The situation on the ground [in Gaza] is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday [July 20] was very ugly and left 50 dead (including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens) as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. … “Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets. …

“The Latin and Greek Orthodox parishes have opened facilities to receive those displaced mostly from Shajaia. There has not been any human loss affecting Christians, and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.

“We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness.” Read more »

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‘The Fluffy Movie’ — Iglesias’ comedy similar to Cosby’s

July 29th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Like Bill Cosby, Gabriel Iglesias tells stories, not jokes. In “The Fluffy Movie,” the rotund Mexican-American comic, whose tales are as soft around the edges as the man himself, shares engaging accounts of weight loss and the difficulties of being the stepfather of a teenage boy.

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias stars in a scene from the movie "The Fluffy Movie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Anthony Nunez, Open Road Films)

Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias stars in a scene from the movie “The Fluffy Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Anthony Nunez, Open Road Films)

Not a lot happens in Iglesias’ anecdotes, filmed during a concert appearance in San Jose, California, by director Manny Rodriguez. He aims to get appreciative nods with his laughs, whether discussing his shedding of a hundred pounds after he became diabetic, the vagaries of driving during his recent tour in India, or the effort to explain to his privileged stepson, Frankie, how 1980s video games sometimes required mechanical skill.

Just 16, Frankie also has no idea how collect calls from pay phones used to work. The trick, his stepdad explains, lay in talking fast enough to insert a message when identifying yourself; in this case so Iglesias’ mother, on the other end, could duck having to pay the toll. “That was ghetto texting!” Iglesias cracks.

A visit to the “Center for the Morbidly Obese” ends in failure when Iglesias learns that gastric-band surgery won’t work for him. So he switches to a low-carb diet.

All this leads up to his most gripping routine, actually, a pair of interlocking routines, in which he talks about seeing his father, a singer in a mariachi band, for the first time in 30 years, along with the sudden reappearance of Frankie’s biological dad.

Iglesias doesn’t trade in mordant jabs or lachrymose bitterness. He quietly tells the truth, and trusts that his audience, which is shown as encompassing all generations and ethnicities, will accept it.

The film contains a few references to sexuality and fleeting crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13, parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

 

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German bishops acknowledge shared guilt of churches on WWI anniversary

July 28th, 2014 Posted in International News

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BERLIN — As the world marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, Germany’s Catholic bishops urged efforts to overcome “destructive self-interest” and acknowledged the shared guilt of churches for the conflict, which left 16 million dead.

Bavarian bishops walk in procession to the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers near Bad Staffelstein, Germany, in this 2012 photo. Germany's Catholic bishops have urged efforts to overcome "destructive self-interest" on the 100th anniversary of World War I, while recognizing the shared guilt of churches for the conflict, which left 16 million dead. (CNS photo/Daniel Karmann, EPA)

Bavarian bishops walk in procession to the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers near Bad Staffelstein, Germany, in this 2012 photo. Germany’s Catholic bishops have urged efforts to overcome “destructive self-interest” on the 100th anniversary of World War I, while recognizing the shared guilt of churches for the conflict, which left 16 million dead. (CNS photo/Daniel Karmann, EPA)

“This war began in Europe 100 years ago during these summer months, and its dimensions are still shocking,” the Berlin-based bishops’ conference said.

“As a church, present throughout the world with a redemptive message for all humanity, we must be determined in opposing all inflated nationalism and every attempt to devalue peoples and cultures. Our times demand an effective response in asserting the common interests of the human family against destructive self-interest,” said the bishops’ statement, published July 25.

The bishops said that, before the war began in 1914, national rivalries trumped the close economic ties between countries, unleashing a conflict of “previously unimaginable proportions,” in which poison gas and other weapons of mass destruction were used.

However, it added that Europe’s Christian churches had also played their part in “war-mongering” at the outbreak of fighting.

“Although the Catholic church had distanced itself from 19th-century nationalism by virtue of its universal character, many bishops, priests and faithful took the side of those welcoming the war as a chance for spiritual and moral renewal,” the German bishops said.

“We know today that many people, including those high up in the church, brought guilt upon themselves, failing in the national blindness to perceive the suffering of the war’s victims, and realizing too late the consequences of absolute loyalty to their respective nations.”

The bishops’ conference also published a set of prayers for use at remembrance Masses for World War I, which they described as “a memorial to overpowering guilt and failure, blindness and idolatry.”

World War I lasted from July 28, 1914, when the first shots were fired during an Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, to the signing of an armistice by the defeated Germany Nov. 11, 1918.

Centenary commemorations for the war, in which 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died and 21 million people were wounded or maimed, are being staged in many European countries. They will include acts of remembrance, exhibitions, educational programs and the refurbishing of war cemeteries and museums.

In their declaration, the German bishops paid tribute to Catholic priests and military chaplains who worked for peace and reconciliation, as well as to Pope Benedict XV, who repeatedly urged the warring parties to negotiate.

They added that the wartime pontiff had been proved right in realizing only “true reconciliation and forgiveness” would secure “a real and lasting peace,” but said it had taken World War II to overcome finally the “system of confrontation.”

“Only with the process of European integration, shaped today by the European Union, which began in a small part of the continent and then grew ever larger, has peace created by law taken precedence over the power of the strong,” the bishops’ conference said.

“Not only can capital and goods now move freely across frontiers, but so also can citizens. Negotiations and the search for compromises have replaced violent confrontation, and a look back at the horrors of this war should be an incentive for us all to continue these efforts.”

The start of centenary commemorations, which will include a meeting of European heads of state at the battlefield of Ypres, Belgium, follows a wave of anti-Semitic riots in Germany, France and other European countries by groups protesting Israeli military operations in Gaza.

In a July 23 interview with Germany’s Catholic news agency, KNA, Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen, who chairs the German church’s Subcommission for Relations with Judaism, urged police and justice officials to “act with determination against hate crimes,” and said Christians should “always take the side” of Jews against insults and attacks.

“It’s part of the basic consensus of our country and Europe that anti-Semitism must be outlawed forever,” the bishop told KNA. “Everyone has a right to express political opinions publicly and criticize the policies of Israel. But no one has a right to mobilize against Jews or any other group of people and act out their inhumane resentments.”

 

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A visit with friends: Pope meets with Protestant Pentecostals

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — His voice breaking with emotion, Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal pastor in southern Italy and longtime friend of Pope Francis, welcomed the pope, “my beloved brother,” to his partially built church in Caserta.

Pope Francis said he knows some people were shocked that he would make a special trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.”

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, "but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Traettino told the pope his visit was “unthinkable until recently,” even though, he said, “even among evangelicals there is great affection for you. Many of us pray for you, every day. Many of us, in fact, believe your election as bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis told the Pentecostals that “the Holy Spirit is the source of diversity in the church. This diversity is very rich and beautiful. But then the same Holy Spirit creates unity. And in this way the church is one in diversity. To use a beautiful Gospel phrase that I love very much, reconciled diversity” is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the visit, the pope fulfilled one specific request of the Italian evangelical community by recognizing the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals.

“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” Italian news agencies quoted the pope as saying.

The Vatican had described the visit as “strictly private” and, except for Vatican media, reporters were kept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. In the new worship space of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation, still under construction, Pope Francis met with about 200 people, including members of Traettino’s congregation, other Italian evangelicals and representatives of Pentecostal ministries in Argentina and the United States, the Vatican said.

The pope and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s when Traettino was establishing ties between charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Traettino also appeared together at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006. Traettino was present June 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium when Pope Francis spoke to an international gathering of Catholic charismatics.

Meeting with Caserta’s Catholic priests and bishops from the Campania region July 26, the date originally scheduled for his visit with the Pentecostals, Pope Francis said he had not known that date was the city’s big celebration for the feast of St. Anne.

If he had gone to the Pentecostals that day, without celebrating the feast with Catholics, “the newspaper headlines would have been ‘On the patron feast of Caserta, the pope visits Protestants,’” he said. So, he asked an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to help organize the Mass “to remove this noose from around my neck.”

Pope Francis also gave the priests a glimpse into his thoughts about Catholic relations with the Pentecostals, which some people have found surprising, especially given how many Catholics in the pope’s Latin America have joined evangelical communities.

He told the story of a priest who went on mission in a remote area of Argentina and met a woman who told him the Catholic Church had abandoned her and her fellow Catholics.

“I need the word of God, so I had to go to the Protestant service,” the woman said.

The pope said the priest apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church, but recognized and respected the depth and sincerity of her faith.

“Every man, every woman has something to give us,” the pope said. “Every man, every woman has his or her own story and situation, and we must listen. Then, the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say.”

“Never be afraid to dialogue with anyone,” Pope Francis told the Caserta priests. Dialogue is not being defensive about one’s faith, although it can mean explaining what one believes. And it is not pressuring another to join one’s faith.

Pope Benedict XVI was right when he said, “The church grows not through proselytism, but through attraction,” Pope Francis said. And attraction is “human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, who handles the Catholic Church’s official relations with evangelicals and Pentecostals, told Vatican Radio July 22 that Pope Francis teaches that “to work for Christian unity you need brotherhood,” which is why he continues to nurture the friendships he established in Argentina. The iPhone video message the pope made in January with another Pentecostal friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, who died in a motorcycle accident July 20, “opened a door because it reached a really significant number of people,” Msgr. Usma said. “It’s an adventure that Pope Francis is asking us to establish. … He’s way ahead of us and we’re trying to follow this pattern.”

 

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Resist the mafia, protect environment, pope tells southern Italians

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Resist mafia’s evil, protect environment, pope says

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Being Christian is putting God first in one’s life, which means having “the courage to say no to evil, violence and exploitation,” Pope Francis said, visiting another southern Italian town scarred by mafia crime.

In Caserta, about 130 miles south of Rome, Pope Francis did not denounce the Camorra, as the local mafia is known, but he told an estimated 200,000 people gathered for Mass July 26, “we all know the name of these forms of corruption and illegality.”

The area around Caserta is known in Italy as the “terra dei fuochi” (land of fires) because of the fires illegally set to burn garbage, including toxic waste. Acres of once fertile farmland in the area are now too polluted to use and residents report higher than normal cancer rates.

Pope Francis told the residents that if they are going to call themselves Christian, then they should demonstrate that by loving one another and “making a commitment to safeguard their life and their health, including by respecting the environment and nature.”

Before arriving in Caserta by helicopter, the pope was flown over the area. He told the crowd at Mass, “your beautiful land deserves to be cared for and preserved, which requires the courage of saying no to every form of corruption and illegality.”

Pope Francis originally had planned to make a private visit to Caserta July 26 to visit a Pentecostal pastor friend of his. But when the local bishop and residents heard, they informed the pope and Vatican officials that the date chosen was the feast day of the town’s patroness, St. Anne. The pope asked his aides to quickly organize the Mass and he postponed the visit to his friend until July 28.

The Mass was celebrated outside the Reggia di Caserta, an 18th-century royal palace. A locally loved statue of St. Anne holding the hand of her little girl, Mary, was placed to the side of the altar and blessed with incense by the pope at the beginning of the liturgy.

In his homily, the pope said, ‘Today is the feast of St. Anne; I like calling her the grandma of Jesus and today is a good day to celebrate grandmothers.”

“When I was using the incense, I noticed something very beautiful: the statue of St. Anne does not have a crown, but her daughter Mary is crowned,” the pope said. “St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a great job.”

At a time when bishops in southern Italy have been struggling to ensure popular feasts retain their religious significance and are free of mafia manipulations, Pope Francis also encouraged Catholics in Caserta to ensure their celebrations of St. Anne are “free of any outside influence and are an expression of the pure faith of a people who see themselves as the family of God and strengthen their bonds of brotherhood and solidarity.”

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‘Hercules’ travels with a posse of super mercenaries

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

This much can be said for the passable 3-D adventure “Hercules”: By comparison with this year’s earlier cinematic addition to the store of lore about antiquity’s most acclaimed strongman, “The Legend of Hercules,” the new film is practically a masterpiece.

Dwayne Johnson stars in a scene from the movie "Hercules." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Kerry Brown, Paramount)

Dwayne Johnson stars in a scene from the movie “Hercules.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Kerry Brown, Paramount)

Considered on its own, though, director Brett Ratner’s mildly demythologizing take on the subject, which stars Dwayne Johnson in the title role, nets out as amiable and reasonably diverting, but unlikely to linger in moviegoers’ memories.

Based on Steve Moore’s graphic novel “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” this variation on a durable theme finds the hero, who may or may not be a demigod, following up on the completion of his 12 canonical labors by leading a band of super-skilled mercenaries around the political patchwork of ancient Greece.

His quintet of comrades is comprised of fighting prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), brainy strategist Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), mute, feral slaughter survivor Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amazon archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and callow warrior, but gifted storyteller, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). In addition to being Hercules’ cousin, young Iolaus is also the ancient equivalent of his PR man.

When fetching Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) turns up to offer this formidable ensemble a job, her proposal seems straightforward enough at first. She wants Hercules and his followers to help her father, King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt), rid his realm of a marauding rebel called Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Their reward? Hercules’ weight in gold.

Of course, anyone familiar with court intrigue, at least as it’s portrayed on screen, will realize that all is not what it seems and that Hercules and company will end up getting more than they bargained for when they struck their initial deal with Ergenia.

The odd witticism and some on-target messages about believing in oneself and putting strength at the service of goodness are scattered through Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos’ script. But the real agenda of Ratner’s sweeping movie is large-scale combat and plenty of it.

Still, for those grown-ups content to munch popcorn in an air-conditioned theater, this summer dole out of derring-do will no doubt do.

The film contains constant, mostly bloodless violence, some gory images, a glimpse of rear nudity, occasional sexual references, at least one use of the F-word and a handful of crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

 

 

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All is lost with war, especially children’s future, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It’s time to stop war, fighting and conflicts, which do nothing but kill and maim, leaving children unexploded ordnance for toys and lives without happiness, Pope Francis said.

“Never war! Never war! I think most of all about children, whose hopes for a dignified life, a future are dashed, dead children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who have the leftovers of war for toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Stop it, please! I beg you with all my heart! It’s time to stop!”

The Basha family -- Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The pope made his appeal after praying the noon Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square July 27.

The pope’s plea came as he recalled the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, which, with more than 37 million causalities, was one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Beginning July 28, 1914, the “Great War” left “millions of victims and immense destruction,” Pope Francis said.

The reigning pontiff at the time, Pope Benedict XV called it a “useless massacre,” which ended after four years in a fragile peace, Pope Francis said.

He said July 28 would be “a day of mourning” and a chance for people to remember the lessons of history.

“I hope people will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said, and will uphold “the rationale of peace through patient and courageous dialogue.”

Highlighting the crises in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine, the pope called for continued prayers so that the leaders and the people there would have the wisdom and will needed to choose peace with determination and face problems with “the tenacity of dialogue and negotiations.”

“Let’s remember that everything is lost with war and nothing is lost with peace,” he said.

He urged that all decisions be based on respect for others and the common good, not personal interests.

 

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