Welcome to Wisdom Wednesday in the middle of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Francis this week has also inaugurated A “Year of Prayer” and plans to establish a “School of Prayer.”
There is new violence in the world, including the destruction of an ancient mosque in Gaza, the kidnapping of six nuns in Haiti, and the ecumenical tension in Ukraine.
Support for the death penalty in the United States continues to dwindle even as one man has now eaten three “last meals” and escaped three execution dates. The Supreme Court will hear his case.
From the Pope
On Sunday, Pope Francis inaugurated a Year of Prayer ahead of the 2025 Jubilee, calling on the faithful “to pray more fervently to prepare ourselves to live properly this grace-filled event and to experience the power of hope in God.” Officials at the Dicastery for Evangelisation say its purpose is helping Catholics prepare for the 2025 Jubilee, announcing that
Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury jointly commissioned bishops from the Anglican and Catholic traditions for a shared mission and witness during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This event is part of the Growing Together summit, taking place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 22 to 29, in Rome and Canterbury.
We are also in another year of preparation leading to the October 2024 Synod session. Vatican News provides us with a report on Cardinal Mario Grech highlighting key outcomes of the October 2023 Synod. Addressing participants at the Philippine Conference for the New Evangelization, Cardinal Grech shared his hopes for the next session.
Haiti, Gaza, Ukraine
The capital of Haiti is struggling to quell an outbreak of violence that has led to some neighborhoods being totally sealed off from access. In the midst of this chaos, local sources have reported that six religious of the Sisters of Sainte-Anne congregation were among passengers kidnapped by armed gunmen January 19, in broad daylight in the center of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Gaza’s oldest mosque has been destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. It was once a temple to Philistine and Roman gods, a Byzantine and Catholic church, and had engravings of Jewish ritual objects. A scholar of Islamic architecture and archeology says the Omari Mosque embodies the history of Gaza – as a site of frequent destruction, but also of renewal.
How has the war in Ukraine has affected ecumenical relations with the Orthodox? As Christians observe the Week of Prayer for Unity, ecumenical relations with the Orthodox appear strained at the institutional level, while personal initiatives are increasing.
In the United States debates about the death penalty, one figure looms large on the national stage: Richard Glossip. Since being placed on Oklahoma’s death row in 1998, Mr. Glossip has been tried twice. He has had nine execution dates. The prisoner has eaten three last meals. He’s been reprieved from execution three times. The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear his case.
Glossip’s is not the only capital case the justices are being asked to consider. Tomorrow (Thursday, January 25), Alabama is scheduled to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith with nitrous gas, a novel form of execution that has only been used on animals before now. In 2022, the state botched an attempt to execute Mr. Smith via lethal injection. His lawyers have petitioned the court, arguing Alabama’s attempt to execute him twice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Religion and Politics
What will US Catholics do if Donald Trump is again the Republican candidate for president? It takes a courageous thinker to tackle that question! Massimo Faggioli is up for it, in his essay on Catholicism and threats to American democracy in the 2024 elections.
Hoping no one is in Hell, why the uproar?
Robert Carl “Bob” Mickens is also an AUSCP favored reporter and analyst. His latest piece is about “A pope (and a God) too merciful.” What’s up with the Catholics who are furious with Pope Francis for saying he hopes there’s no one in Hell?
Climate Action, not Despair
The scientific community reports that 2023 was the hottest year on record. Carmelite climate scientist Fr. Eduardo Agosta Scarel says this evidence should empower Catholics to do something about climate change.
The Guardian is a frequent source of news for Wisdom Wednesday. A recent example tackles “Why 2024 will be a crucial year for climate litigation.” The Guardian reports a prediction that activists and local governments will look to the courts to bring about accountability for climate damage.
World Religion News
Israel’s Supreme Court cracks open the door to female participation in the state rabbinate. While women rabbis are common in the United States, they have for decades struggled for recognition from the state of Israel.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, is the subject of an internal clergy misconduct complaint for his response to abuse allegations against Bishop Prince Singh, the former bishop of the Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan.
With its recognition of more than 700 registered faith communities, Norway is often admired as a bastion of religious freedom. But after Norway deregistered the Jehovah’s Witnesses last year, some human rights experts say that reputation could be in question. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say they are the first religious group to lose their national registration in Norway.
Dexter Scott King, who dedicated much of his life to shepherding the civil rights legacy of his parents, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died Monday after battling prostate cancer. He was 62.
Mass strike planned for 2028
“We want everybody walking out” says Shawn Fain, the United Auto Workers president. He reaffirms his call for a general strike on May 1, 2028.
‘God help the poor women who marry one of them!’
Michael Sean Winters writes, “That was the initial reaction many of us entertained to the news that Archbishop Charles Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, had called for celibacy to become optional for Latin-rite priests. It speaks to the experience many laypeople have of clergy who lack the je ne sais quoi needed to make a marriage work.”
Seeking wisdom from Yahweh-Jesus-Allah
Magda Bennasar examines the question, What does God say about conflicts among God’s people? She concludes, “Behind the wall of indifference are our brothers and sisters.” A Global Sisters Report.
Not an easy read: the ‘final compromise’
Cal Thomas was a leading figure in the Moral Majority’s rise, yet as Tim Alberta writes in an excerpt from his new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, the conservative Christian columnist has now broken with the religious right. Published in Vanity Fair, Alberta digs into the character and compromises of the Moral Majority.