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Married people have no priesthood : Pope Francis

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Vatican City — Pope Francis has for now rejected a landmark proposal by bishops to allow the ordination of married men in remote areas underserved by priests, a potentially momentous change that conservatives had warned could set the Roman Catholic Church on a path toward lifting priestly celibacy and weakening church traditions.

The decision, in a papal letter made public on Wednesday, was welcomed by conservatives, but it was a major setback for many of the Catholics who see Francis as their best hope for bringing fundamental change to the church.

With the church facing a shortage of priests and increasing competition from evangelicals in many countries, the idea of opening up the priesthood to married men had held broad appeal for liberals worried about the church’s future.

Coming seven years into Francis’ papacy, his decision also raised the question of whether his promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk.

“It’s difficult to reform a longstanding global institution,” said Marco Marzano, the author of “The Immobile Church: Francis and the Missed Revolution,” who called it “improbable” that Francis could deliver on all the changes his supporters hoped for. For liberals, he said, “There has been an exaggerated optimism.”

His closest advisers have acknowledged that the pope’s impact has waned on the global stage, especially on core issues like immigration and the environment. His legacy, they have said, will be inside the church, where his authority is absolute.

But the pope’s refusal to allow married priests came as a relief to conservatives, many of whom have come to see Francis and his emphasis on a more pastoral and inclusive church as a grave threat to the rules, orthodoxy and traditions of the faith. Some interpreted the pope’s decision as an olive branch to conservatives.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who was fired as the church’s top doctrinal watchdog by Francis in 2017 and has emerged as one of his most prominent conservative critics, welcomed the letter as a “document of reconciliation.”

“This text could also have the reconciling effect of reducing internal church factions, ideological fixations and the danger of inner emigration or open resistance,” Cardinal Müller, of Germany, wrote on Wednesday.

The recommendation to allow married priests in remote areas was approved by more than two-thirds of the voting members who attended a church leaders’ summit on the Amazon region in October.

Francis had in the past expressed openness on the subject, and had often emphasized his desire to empower bishops around the world, to listen to their needs and create a less top-down church.

But the proposal to ordain married men in the Amazon region, where the shortage of priests is dire, set off a polarizing debate.

Progressives said it was high time the church recognized reality and the demands of the faithful; conservatives called the idea a threat to the priesthood, and warned that married priests would follow everywhere, including Europe.

Even the pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, put a finger on the scale, arguing for priestly celibacy in a rare intercession that highlighted the hardening of liberal and conservative camps that has come to define Francis’ papacy.

Despite expectations, Francis backed off.

In his letter, which took the form of a 94-page booklet and has the power of church teaching, Francis notably made no mention of ordaining married men in good standing or elevating to the priesthood married deacons, a lower clerical rank that does not require celibacy.

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Chinese lawyer who defended persecuted Christians released from prison

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Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been released from prison and placed into 14 days of quarantine. According to Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, Wang was released on Sunday morning and transported to Shandong province, some 400km from his family in Beijing.

Quanzhang was initially arrested in 2015 as part of a government crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders – some 300 individuals were detained at the time. In 2019, the attorney was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on charges of “subversion of state power.” There were reports that Wang was mistreated while detained, with several others who were arrested at the same time recounting incidences of physical and psychological torture. Wang himself suffered the onset of serious health issues while imprisoned, including hearing loss.

Upon the lawyer’s release, a European Union Spokesperson said that it “considers that his rights under China’s legislation and international commitments were not respected during trial and detention” and urged the authorities to investigate claims that he was mistreated while in custody.

The release of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, however we reiterate that he should never have been detained in the first place, and are deeply concerned that he is still being denied his freedom. Wang has devoted years of his life to defending the rights of the most vulnerable, and the Chinese government must now ensure that he is truly free and allowed to reunite with his family, and not subject to house arrest or any restrictions on his rights and freedoms.

“CSW calls on the international community to carefully monitor Wang Quanzhang’s case, and to make use of bilateral and multilateral engagements to press China to allow him and his family full freedom. We also continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained in connection with the defence of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, in China.”

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Bible publishers reporting jump in sales amid coronavirus fears

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Publishing companies that sell Bibles have reported an increase in purchases in recent weeks, likely connected to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Tyndale House Publishers, a Christian publisher based in Carol Stream, Illinois, saw a considerable increase in their Bible sales last month compared to March 2019.

This includes their Life Application Study Bible sales going up 44% and sales of the Immerse Bible going up 60%, according to Jim Jewell, an executive at Tyndale.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, Jewell said he believes concerns over the pandemic “has upended almost everyone’s lives in some way.”

“It’s not surprising that people turn to the comfort and clarity of the Bible in times of trouble and uncertainty,” he said, adding that social media engagement for Tyndale was also growing.

“On New Living Translation, where we post Bible verse memes, engagement was triple what it was last March and up 72% from just last month.”

Jewell told CP that this was not the first time a national crisis has led to higher Bible sales. He said in the month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “Tyndale Bible sales were 57% higher than October of 2000.”

Alabaster Co. of California, which was founded in 2017 and sells books of the Bible individually that have visually artistic features, reported a 143% boost in sales compared to last year.

Brian Chung, co-founder of Alabaster, told Fox News that he believed the sales jump occurred because “people are looking for hope and restoration.”

“Even amidst suffering and financial hardship we’ve continued to see people engage with Alabaster by utilizing our free resources and purchasing Bibles as encouraging gifts for loved ones,” Chung said.

“We believe people are buying Bibles because there’s a longing to connect with God, find meaning, and experience peace.”

The increases in Bible sales reported by multiple publishing companies is not the only evidence indicating growing efforts among the population to find spiritual answers amid the pandemic.

According to Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, internet searches for the word “prayer” have dramatically increased since last month.

In a preliminary draft of a paper titled “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,”

“In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” wrote Bentzen.

“I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global.”

Bentzen added that the searches “surged to the highest level during the past five years for which comparative Google search data is available, surpassing all other major events that otherwise instigate intensified demand for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter, and Ramadan.”

“Even Denmark, one of the least religious countries in the world, sees systematic increases in internet searches on prayer,” she noted.

Sources: Christian Post

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