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Don’t underestimate the importance of last week’s news from Rome …

By Phil Lawler ( bio – articles – email ) | Apr 30, 2021 Don’t underestimate the importance of this week’s news from Rome. The reforms that Pope Francis announced this week may be among the most significant—and best—moves of his pontificate. Early this week, in a a pair of essays, I argued that during his eight years in office, Pope Francis had made little if any headway in eliminating the financial corruption that plagues the Holy See. As if in response (although I’m quite sure he did not read those columns), the Pope unleashed two significant reforms, announced yesterday and today. Today’s announcement—that cardinals and bishops may be required to face charges before the Vatican’s criminal tribunals—was certainly significant. But the previous day’s news was a veritable blockb...

“I’d never been involved in anything as secret as this”: A riveting oral history of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden [language warning]…

Mike Leiter: The three analysts were spread about the likelihood that it was bin Laden: The highest was 70, 75, 80 percent, then there was one who said 60 percent, and then the lowest was 40 percent. Ben Rhodes: That led to this brief debate about who is right, and Obama cut that off with some irritation and just said, “Look, this is inevitably a 50/50 call. We’re just going to have to accept that.” Leon Panetta: McRaven basically presented that summary of what would happen: Helicopters would go in and [SEALs would] rappel down, go into the compound. It would be a nighttime operation. After that’s when the president basically looked at everybody around that table and said, “What do you think?” Tom Donilon: He had seated in the Situation Room at the table some of the most prominent American...

In Burkina Faso trial, Oxford vaccine proves highly effective at preventing malaria — a disease that kills 400,000 children every year …

A vaccine against malaria has been shown to be highly effective in trials in Africa, holding out the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children every year. The vaccine, developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over 12 months. The hunt for a malaria vaccine has been going on the best part of a century. One, the Mosquirix vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has been through lengthy clinical trials but is only partially effective, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years. It is being piloted by the World Health Organization in parts of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. The Oxford ...

What’s the difference between a cardinal priest and a cardinal deacon?

In a consistory of the College of Cardinals yesterday, Pope Francis approved seven new men and women who will be declared saints in the coming weeks.  At the same meeting, eight cardinals formally received a change in rank within the college’s three tiers of seniority.  As of Monday, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, and Cardinal Robert Sarah moved from the rank of cardinal deacons to become cardinal priests. —Wait. There are ranks of cardinals? What does that even mean? The Pillar explains: Credit: Ross Dunn (CC BY-SA 2.0) The College of Cardinals’ best known and most important function is to elect the next Bishop of Rome after the deat...

Things to know: Cardinals have ranks, abortion debate continues, and the new St. Lazarus…

Hey everybody, Lazarus Devasahayam Pillai was born in 1712, the son of an influential Hindu priest from an influential family, close to the king of the southern Indian kingdom of Travancore. Before he was 30, Devasahayam was an important minister of state in the king’s palace. He was expected to rise even higher, until he met the Dutchman who commanded Travancore’s military. Through him Devasahayam heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and found the meaning and purpose of his life. When Devasahayam was 34, he was baptized a Catholic. He took the name Lazarus. His faith put a stop to his political career. Though Christianity is thought to have come to India less than 100 years after Christ was born, Devasahayam’s faith offended some of his highest-ranking countrymen. They were suspicious of it,...

“No one can fight nature”: A strange undersea phenomenon called an “internal wave” might explain the April 21 sinking of the Indonesian submarine…

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Vatican approves new invocations for Litany of St. Joseph…

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Updating the Litany of St. Joseph, approved in 1909, the Vatican has added seven invocations, including two that address the guardian of Jesus and husband of Mary as “support in difficulty” and “patron of refugees.” The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the additions May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The additions were approved by Pope Francis, the congregation said, and drew the new invocations mainly from modern papal texts about St. Joseph, including Pope Francis’ December apostolic letter proclaiming a Year of St. Joseph and St. John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation, “Redemptoris Custos” (“Protector of the Redeemer”). Since Pope Francis wanted, as he wrote in his letter, “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourag...

Fundamentals for fruitful discipleship — A homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter…

In this Easter Season, we continue to reflect on how the Risen Lord Jesus minsters to us and supplies our needs. Last week we considered Him as our shepherd. This week we learn how He is the vine and we the branches, wholly dependent on Him for everything. As we consider how He cares for us as His disciples, we need to rescue the word “care” from its rather sentimental modern sense. True care does not merely include pleasant things such as providing food and shelter. Sometimes care involves difficult things, but ones that are necessary to discipline and purify us so that we grow and bear more fruit. Thus, the Lord speaks of “pruning” in this passage. While caring, pruning is not often pleasant, but it is proper care. Let’s look at how the Lord cares for us so that we can be true disci...

“Seal up what the seven thunders have said” — A meditation on sinful curiosity…

In the Office of Readings during these Easter weeks, we are reading from the Book of Revelation. In it is this passage reminding us that there are some things that are not for us to know: Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Rev 10:1-4). A similar passage occu...

The Vatican’s new judicial activism has a downside — the “Vaticanization of the Holy See, done in an Italian way”…

Then there was the search of the house of Fabrizio Tirabassi, one of the suspended Vatican officials. A Rome court later declared that the search warrant was “void” because it was an “informal” warrant, with “evident and substantial illegitimacy profiles, starting with the fact that the search order was ordered directly by the public prosecutor without going through the scrutiny of a judge.” These words call into question the Vatican juridical system itself. The pope is a supreme judge who can instruct, make, and undo the processes. An English judge has thought of this. Revoking the provision that had frozen the funds of Gianluigi Torzi, one of the intermediaries in the London property deal, the English judge Tony Baumgartner questioned the work of Vatican prosecutors, arguing that their r...

Without tourists, the formerly bustling town of Medjugorje has turned into a ghost town…

With the onset of Covid-19, Bosnia closed its borders to foreign visitors well into the summer months. “It was a strange situation around the country: even when lockdown restrictions had eased, without tourists there was no business,” says St. Oegger. His most recent images show the devastating effects of the pandemic on the town’s tourism. “When I trekked up to the Apparition and Cross Hills, I only saw a handful of people compared to the hundreds or thousands I saw the previous year,” he recalls. The hotel where he stayed in 2019 was also closed. “I tried to get in touch with the owners but they might have been out of the country themselves. The previous summer they were completely booked up, as were most of the hotels in town — and there really are a lot of them.” But beyond the obvious...

The tide of secularism is powerful. So like a swimmer in a riptide, let’s not swim against the current — let’s swim across it…

Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option advocates a simple response to modernity: retreat, re-arm, and renew. Basing his battle plan on that of the sixth century founder of Western monasticism, Dreher argued that, just as St. Benedict abandoned the decadence of a declining Roman Empire, so Christians today should respond to a society crumbling into decadence by pulling back, circling the wagons, and looking to preserve Christian culture in enclaves of community, commitment, and a common life in Christ. Dreher was criticized for being defeatist, idealistic, and overly negative. However, many of his critics clearly had not read his book. He was never calling for all of us to head for the hills, grow beards, raise chickens, and build little chapels where we gather to recite the rosary and wait ...