Tej Francis



(CNA/EWTN News) In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option. Responding to a question about women’s ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to ‘functionalize’ the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”

“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn’t work. John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”

However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance. “I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican’s deputy spokesperson.

“I don’t have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn’t have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop. Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don’t want to fall into this.



(Crux) For centuries the Nineveh Plains were considered a Christian stronghold in the Middle East, anchored by a series of traditionally Christian villages. When ISIS arrived in 2014, things changed overnight, as more than 100,000 Christians were forced to flee and their villages were gutted, with churches, monasteries, businesses and private homes torched, torn down, or badly defaced.

Today, however, those towns are rising from the ruins, and many Christians, though not all, are coming back. All this is thanks to the Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Project, organized and led by the local churches, and backed by donors such as the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need and the Knights of Columbus.

The determination, courage and vision of these Christians is awesome to witness, and it provides one with fresh hope that perhaps Christianity isn’t destined for extinction in the land of its birth after all.

A return of ISIS isn’t the only thing Christians here fear, but rather the weight of more than a century of repeated bouts of regional conflict and sectarian violence, all of which came to a head post-2003, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq made life for Christians infinitely worse.

Beyond security, employment is critical. Christians are suffering in a special way from the general Iraqi economic stall, and the best and brightest in the young generation are looking down the road with anxiety. If there’s no realistic prospect of opportunity here, a growing share of these young Iraqi Christians, who have both the education and the drive to succeed anywhere, are going to seek those opportunities elsewhere.

The fact of the matter is that neither security nor jobs are going to be supplied to these Christian areas by the Iraqi government if left to its own devices. There’s a long history of neglect, coupled with short-term political calculations, to suggest that only sustained international pressure and investment will do the trick.


Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016

(Pew Forum) Nationalist parties and organizations played an increasing role in harassment of religious minorities, especially in Europe

Restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion. This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study.

The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – rose from 25% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012.

Meanwhile, the share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities involving religion – that is, acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society – remained stable in 2016 at 27%.

In total in 2016, 83 countries (42%) had high or very high levels of overall restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government actions or from hostile acts by private individuals, organizations and social groups – up from 80 (40%) in 2015 and 58 (29%) in 2007.1

In many countries, restrictions on religion resulted from actions taken by government officials, social groups or individuals espousing nationalist positions. Typically, these nationalist groups or individuals were seeking to curtail immigration of religious and ethnic minorities, or were calling for efforts to suppress or even eliminate a particular religious group, in the name of defending a dominant ethnic or religious group they described as threatened or under attack.

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