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    • An exorcist talks about 'Annabelle' and the power of evil (2017/08/20 17:48)

      Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 20, 2017 / 03:48 pm (National Catholic Register).- What children read, what they see on the screen, can inspire them toward greater faithfulness. Conversely, Father Robert warns, it can lead them into the sordid world of the occult, even opening them to demonic possession.

      Father Robert is not exaggerating. A priest for more than 10 years and an experienced exorcist, he knows firsthand the unintended consequences when children or adults open the door to demonic activity. “Oftentimes,” he says, “[demon possession] begins because kids get curious after reading Harry Potter.” He explains that kids want the unusual powers that they see depicted on the screen.

      One former Satanist whom Father Robert knew personally, a man who has turned away from his past life and embraced the Catholic faith, had begun his descent into Satanism at the age of nine or 10, when he began playing a game called “Bloody Mary.” From that simple beginning, he gradually became involved with others who were Satanists.

      Respecting Confidentiality

      An important part of Father Robert's ministry is training other priests at the Vatican's official Exorcism Institute in America. From across the country and around the world, Catholic priests come to the Institute to learn the secrets of this ancient rite, so that they too can exorcize demons and evil spirits. The nature of the work that Father Robert and the Institute are involved in is so hazardous that he has requested that the National Catholic Register not publish his full name or reveal his location.

      A Decidedly “Catholic” Horror Film

      I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Father Robert at a recent media preview of New Line Cinema's latest horror production, “Annabelle: Creation,” which opens nationwide on August 11. Directed by David F. Sandberg (director of the short film “Lights Out”), “Annabelle: Creation” is actually a prequel to the highly successful 2014 release of “Annabelle” – which is itself a prequel to the 2013 cult favorite “The Conjuring” and the more recent “Conjuring 2” (2016). Father Robert had seen them all, and he agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was largely faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings with regard to possession and exorcism.

      By Invitation Only: Satan Only Goes Where He Is Invited

      Father Robert explained that the devil will only go where he is invited. He talked of two cases he knew of personally in which two young women, not realizing the gravity of their request, had invited “any spiritual being” to help them. The consequence was that they exhibited symptoms of demon possession and required an exorcism.

      The writers of the film, Father Robert noted, had done their homework – they understood that the demon could only enter the home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther if it was invited. In “Annabelle: Creation,” Esther and Samuel Mullins are mourning the loss of their beloved daughter Bee. Miranda Otto, who portrays the mother Esther in the film, explained,

      Like most parents, they are devastated. But unlike most, they decided that they would do anything to have her back...absolutely anything at all. Basically, they prayed, calling out to any kind of power that would allow them to see her or feel her presence in any way. But by doing so, they evoked certain spirits that are not the kind you would welcome into your home.

      Twelve years after the tragic accident, the grieving parents seek comfort by opening their home to Sister Charlotte and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. When one of the girls peers into the closet and sees the possessed doll, Annabelle, the doll sets her sights on the girls and unleashes a storm of terror.

      A Few Inaccuracies

      Father Robert and I agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was, for the most part, faithful to the Catholic understanding of exorcism. There were, however, a few scenes which caused us both to raise an eyebrow:

      A Sister heard confession? – Most particularly, there was a scene in which Sister Charlotte, played by the talented Stephanie Sigman, listens to the confession of one of her young charges. Granted, there were differences from a regular confession: The Sister and the young girl sat back-to-back, not in a confessional. But the concept of confession was renewed when Sister Charlotte said, “Well, for your penance....” Particularly during the time period of the film, Father Robert considered it highly unlikely that a Sister would ever put herself in the position of appearing to perform a sacramental function that requires a priest.

      Sister Charlotte wore a contemporary religious habit. – Based upon the clothing styles, classic automobiles, and the Victorian farmhouse, it would seem that “Annabelle: Creation” is set in the early 20th century. However, Sister Charlotte wears what appears a contemporary religious habit – with a knee-length skirt and a simple headpiece which exposed her hair. When I asked director David Sandberg and actress Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte) about that during our interview, both seemed surprised, explaining that they had looked at photos of nuns in different habits and had chosen a simple costume which would make it easier to act the role.

      Disposal of the possessed object – In “Annabelle: Creation,” two priests come to the home to bless the doll Annabelle and to sprinkle it with holy water before it is sealed away in a Scripture-lined closet. Good as far as it goes, Father Robert thought, but he was adamant that an exorcist would never leave the possessed object there intact, to be found by someone in the future. “You would take the curse off the object,” he explained. “You could burn it or take it apart; but it would be decommissioned somehow.”

      As an example of a possessed object, Father Robert described a crucifix that hangs in his office which was burned from the bottom during an exorcism, the fire consuming the corpus and leaving only the arms of the crucified Christ. “It had a plastic corpus on it,” he explained. “The cross itself was blessed. It was put in the room with a woman who practiced Brujería witchcraft in Mexico. In the middle of the night, the cross caught fire. I decommissioned it. I would never permit anyone else to get near it, because it could be used in the future for something wrong.”

      The scarecrow scene, and the Tasmanian devil – A scene in which a scarecrow was possessed by the evil spirit and moved from its original position seemed unlikely, according to Father Robert. Similarly, he was unconvinced when the demon began to grow and assumed a physical likeness of what he called a “Tasmanian devil.”

      Only by invitation! – In one scene, a child becomes possessed when she finds herself in the presence of a demon that manifests itself as a little girl. Father Robert rejected the idea that an evil spirit could inhabit the body of a child who happened to be in its presence – since, as he explained earlier, an evil spirit will only enter a person if he is invited.

      Five Signs of Possession

      Father Robert listed five signs which may indicate that a person is suffering spiritual attack:

      1.Hidden knowledge. If a person has knowledge which he or she should not have, such as private information which is known by only a few people, that may signal demonic possession.

      2.Languages. A possessed person may be able to speak in an unfamiliar language which he or she would not normally know.

      3.Superhuman strength. Father Robert reported one case in which a young girl who was 5'4” tall and weighed perhaps 110 pounds was able to throw a number of big guys off of her, preventing them from holding her down during the exorcism ritual.

      4.Extreme aversion to the sacred. A person who is possessed may be unable to look at a crucifix, or to touch a rosary which has been blessed. Father Robert knew of one woman who couldn't be in the presence of a cross of St. Benedict, or to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

      5.Levitation. Father Robert had personal knowledge of a case in Louisiana, in which a person was seated in a chair and, powered by the evil spirit, was able to levitate with the chair and proceed down the hall.

      “Annabelle: Creation” opened in theaters across America on August 11. Despite the small inconsistencies which Father Robert noticed, the film is respectful of faith. The film does an effective job of building tension, and there are repeated “frights”; but it is not really gory and depends on spiritual and psychological effects rather than blood. It's likely to enjoy wide distribution among fans of the horror genre. Rated “R”, it seems unsuitable for small children; but others can attend, confident that their faith will not be challenged.

       

      This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.

    • Pope Francis prays for end to ‘inhuman violence’ after recent terrorist attacks (2017/08/20 10:22)

      Vatican City, Aug 20, 2017 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis prayed for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Spain, Burkina Faso and Finland, asking the Lord to bring peace and to end the violence of terrorism around the world.

      After praying the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis led the 10,000 people present in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silence and in a 'Hail Mary' for those killed or wounded in the most recent terrorist attacks.

      “In our hearts we bear the pain of the terrorist acts that in recent days have caused many victims in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland,” he said Aug. 20.

      “Let us pray for all the dead, for the wounded and for their relatives; and we plead for the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence. Let us pray together in silence and, afterwards, to Our Lady.”

      The night of Aug. 13 gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff early Monday morning.

      On Thursday of that week, at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Barcelona Aug. 17 after a van sped into a crowd of people in the Las Ramblas tourist area.

      Then, on Aug. 18, a stabbing in Turku in Finland left two people dead and injured eight others. Originally considered to be a murder, it is now being treated as an act of terror, according to police.

      Before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her demon-tormented daughter.

      At first, the Lord does not seem to hear her cry of pain, the Pope pointed out. But she does not let this discourage her.

      "The inner strength of this woman, which allows her to overcome every obstacle, is found in her maternal love and in the confidence that Jesus can fulfill her request. And this makes me think of the strength of women,” he said.

      We have all known many strong women, he continued, who with their fortitude have achieved great things. “We can say that it is love that moves faith and faith, on its part, becomes the reward of love.”

      Francis explained how it is the woman's great love for her suffering daughter that leads her to persevere in her request for the Lord's healing, shouting: "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!"

      "This evangelical episode helps us understand that we all need to grow in faith and strengthen our trust in Jesus,” Francis said. “He can help us find the way when we have lost the compass of our journey; when the road does not look flat, but hard and difficult; when it is difficult to be faithful to our commitments.”

      “It is important to daily feed our faith, listening attentively to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a 'crying' towards Him – 'Lord, help me!' – and with concrete attitudes of charity towards our neighbor,” he said.

      In the Gospel, the woman’s perseverance and act of faith lead Jesus to heal her daughter. “This humble woman,” the Pope said, “is pointed at by Jesus as an example of unshakeable faith.”

      "Her insistence on invoking the intervention of Christ is for us a stimulus to not discourage us, not to despair when we are oppressed by the hard tests of life.” The Lord does not turn away from us when we present our needs. If sometimes he seems insensitive to our demands for help, it is only to test and strengthen our faith.

      And when this happens “we must continue to shout like this woman: 'Lord, help me! Lord, help me!' Thus, with perseverance and courage,” he said. “And this is the courage needed in prayer.”

      "Let us trust in the Holy Spirit," Pope Francis concluded, "so that He will help us to persevere in the faith.”

      “The Spirit infuses courage into the hearts of believers; he gives our life and our Christian witness the power of conviction and persuasion; he encourages us to overcome disbelief towards God and indifference to our brothers."

    Catholic News Agency - USA

    • An exorcist talks about 'Annabelle' and the power of evil (2017/08/20 17:48)

      Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 20, 2017 / 03:48 pm (National Catholic Register).- What children read, what they see on the screen, can inspire them toward greater faithfulness. Conversely, Father Robert warns, it can lead them into the sordid world of the occult, even opening them to demonic possession.

      Father Robert is not exaggerating. A priest for more than 10 years and an experienced exorcist, he knows firsthand the unintended consequences when children or adults open the door to demonic activity. “Oftentimes,” he says, “[demon possession] begins because kids get curious after reading Harry Potter.” He explains that kids want the unusual powers that they see depicted on the screen.

      One former Satanist whom Father Robert knew personally, a man who has turned away from his past life and embraced the Catholic faith, had begun his descent into Satanism at the age of nine or 10, when he began playing a game called “Bloody Mary.” From that simple beginning, he gradually became involved with others who were Satanists.

      Respecting Confidentiality

      An important part of Father Robert's ministry is training other priests at the Vatican's official Exorcism Institute in America. From across the country and around the world, Catholic priests come to the Institute to learn the secrets of this ancient rite, so that they too can exorcize demons and evil spirits. The nature of the work that Father Robert and the Institute are involved in is so hazardous that he has requested that the National Catholic Register not publish his full name or reveal his location.

      A Decidedly “Catholic” Horror Film

      I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Father Robert at a recent media preview of New Line Cinema's latest horror production, “Annabelle: Creation,” which opens nationwide on August 11. Directed by David F. Sandberg (director of the short film “Lights Out”), “Annabelle: Creation” is actually a prequel to the highly successful 2014 release of “Annabelle” – which is itself a prequel to the 2013 cult favorite “The Conjuring” and the more recent “Conjuring 2” (2016). Father Robert had seen them all, and he agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was largely faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings with regard to possession and exorcism.

      By Invitation Only: Satan Only Goes Where He Is Invited

      Father Robert explained that the devil will only go where he is invited. He talked of two cases he knew of personally in which two young women, not realizing the gravity of their request, had invited “any spiritual being” to help them. The consequence was that they exhibited symptoms of demon possession and required an exorcism.

      The writers of the film, Father Robert noted, had done their homework – they understood that the demon could only enter the home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther if it was invited. In “Annabelle: Creation,” Esther and Samuel Mullins are mourning the loss of their beloved daughter Bee. Miranda Otto, who portrays the mother Esther in the film, explained,

      Like most parents, they are devastated. But unlike most, they decided that they would do anything to have her back...absolutely anything at all. Basically, they prayed, calling out to any kind of power that would allow them to see her or feel her presence in any way. But by doing so, they evoked certain spirits that are not the kind you would welcome into your home.

      Twelve years after the tragic accident, the grieving parents seek comfort by opening their home to Sister Charlotte and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. When one of the girls peers into the closet and sees the possessed doll, Annabelle, the doll sets her sights on the girls and unleashes a storm of terror.

      A Few Inaccuracies

      Father Robert and I agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was, for the most part, faithful to the Catholic understanding of exorcism. There were, however, a few scenes which caused us both to raise an eyebrow:

      A Sister heard confession? – Most particularly, there was a scene in which Sister Charlotte, played by the talented Stephanie Sigman, listens to the confession of one of her young charges. Granted, there were differences from a regular confession: The Sister and the young girl sat back-to-back, not in a confessional. But the concept of confession was renewed when Sister Charlotte said, “Well, for your penance....” Particularly during the time period of the film, Father Robert considered it highly unlikely that a Sister would ever put herself in the position of appearing to perform a sacramental function that requires a priest.

      Sister Charlotte wore a contemporary religious habit. – Based upon the clothing styles, classic automobiles, and the Victorian farmhouse, it would seem that “Annabelle: Creation” is set in the early 20th century. However, Sister Charlotte wears what appears a contemporary religious habit – with a knee-length skirt and a simple headpiece which exposed her hair. When I asked director David Sandberg and actress Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte) about that during our interview, both seemed surprised, explaining that they had looked at photos of nuns in different habits and had chosen a simple costume which would make it easier to act the role.

      Disposal of the possessed object – In “Annabelle: Creation,” two priests come to the home to bless the doll Annabelle and to sprinkle it with holy water before it is sealed away in a Scripture-lined closet. Good as far as it goes, Father Robert thought, but he was adamant that an exorcist would never leave the possessed object there intact, to be found by someone in the future. “You would take the curse off the object,” he explained. “You could burn it or take it apart; but it would be decommissioned somehow.”

      As an example of a possessed object, Father Robert described a crucifix that hangs in his office which was burned from the bottom during an exorcism, the fire consuming the corpus and leaving only the arms of the crucified Christ. “It had a plastic corpus on it,” he explained. “The cross itself was blessed. It was put in the room with a woman who practiced Brujería witchcraft in Mexico. In the middle of the night, the cross caught fire. I decommissioned it. I would never permit anyone else to get near it, because it could be used in the future for something wrong.”

      The scarecrow scene, and the Tasmanian devil – A scene in which a scarecrow was possessed by the evil spirit and moved from its original position seemed unlikely, according to Father Robert. Similarly, he was unconvinced when the demon began to grow and assumed a physical likeness of what he called a “Tasmanian devil.”

      Only by invitation! – In one scene, a child becomes possessed when she finds herself in the presence of a demon that manifests itself as a little girl. Father Robert rejected the idea that an evil spirit could inhabit the body of a child who happened to be in its presence – since, as he explained earlier, an evil spirit will only enter a person if he is invited.

      Five Signs of Possession

      Father Robert listed five signs which may indicate that a person is suffering spiritual attack:

      1.Hidden knowledge. If a person has knowledge which he or she should not have, such as private information which is known by only a few people, that may signal demonic possession.

      2.Languages. A possessed person may be able to speak in an unfamiliar language which he or she would not normally know.

      3.Superhuman strength. Father Robert reported one case in which a young girl who was 5'4” tall and weighed perhaps 110 pounds was able to throw a number of big guys off of her, preventing them from holding her down during the exorcism ritual.

      4.Extreme aversion to the sacred. A person who is possessed may be unable to look at a crucifix, or to touch a rosary which has been blessed. Father Robert knew of one woman who couldn't be in the presence of a cross of St. Benedict, or to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

      5.Levitation. Father Robert had personal knowledge of a case in Louisiana, in which a person was seated in a chair and, powered by the evil spirit, was able to levitate with the chair and proceed down the hall.

      “Annabelle: Creation” opened in theaters across America on August 11. Despite the small inconsistencies which Father Robert noticed, the film is respectful of faith. The film does an effective job of building tension, and there are repeated “frights”; but it is not really gory and depends on spiritual and psychological effects rather than blood. It's likely to enjoy wide distribution among fans of the horror genre. Rated “R”, it seems unsuitable for small children; but others can attend, confident that their faith will not be challenged.

       

      This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.

    • Court okays Ark. ban on Planned Parenthood's Medicaid money (2017/08/19 05:02)

      Little Rock, Ark., Aug 19, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Arkansas may block tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said.

      “All patients should have access to ethical, quality and responsible health care, and should never be beholden to a company that is only seeking to protect its profits,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in response to the decision, the Associated Press reports.

      According to Rutledge, the Aug. 16 ruling found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients could not contest the state's determination “that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program.”

      The 2-1 panel ruling comes two years after the state ended its contract with the organization over videos filmed by undercover investigators that appeared to show involvement in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit.

      While federal law bars federal funding for most abortions, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the organization receives federal money for other services.

      In Arkansas, in the fiscal year before the contract was terminated, Planned Parenthood had received $51,000 in Medicaid funds. The organization runs health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

      The ruling said that the unnamed patients who filed the legal challenge to the defunding decision did not have the right to file a challenge. It did not directly address the state’s reasoning for terminating the contract. The ruling vacated a U.S. district judge’s order that continued payments to Planned Parenthood patients.

      Judge Michael Melloy authored a dissenting opinion in the ruling, noting that several federal courts have blocked other states’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He said the patients have a right to challenge the contract termination.

      The case could go to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood said it is evaluating its options to challenge the ruling, which will take effect in one to two weeks.

      Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ended the contract on the grounds he believed there was evidence of wrongful conduct.

      He called Wednesday’s decision “a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices.” The ruling also affirmed the state’s prerogative to make judgments on the Medicaid program, he added.

      Videos from the Center for Medical Progress appeared to show Planned Parenthood and other leaders in the abortion industry involved in the procurement of fetal tissue and unborn babies’ bodies for sale, which is illegal under federal law.

      The videos energized abortion foes' push to defund Planned Parenthood. For its part, the abortion provider and its allies dedicated millions of dollars in a campaign to counter the videos' impact and charged that the videos had been heavily edited.

    Catholic News Agency - Vatican

    • Pope Francis prays for end to ‘inhuman violence’ after recent terrorist attacks (2017/08/20 10:22)

      Vatican City, Aug 20, 2017 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis prayed for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Spain, Burkina Faso and Finland, asking the Lord to bring peace and to end the violence of terrorism around the world.

      After praying the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis led the 10,000 people present in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silence and in a 'Hail Mary' for those killed or wounded in the most recent terrorist attacks.

      “In our hearts we bear the pain of the terrorist acts that in recent days have caused many victims in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland,” he said Aug. 20.

      “Let us pray for all the dead, for the wounded and for their relatives; and we plead for the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence. Let us pray together in silence and, afterwards, to Our Lady.”

      The night of Aug. 13 gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff early Monday morning.

      On Thursday of that week, at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Barcelona Aug. 17 after a van sped into a crowd of people in the Las Ramblas tourist area.

      Then, on Aug. 18, a stabbing in Turku in Finland left two people dead and injured eight others. Originally considered to be a murder, it is now being treated as an act of terror, according to police.

      Before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her demon-tormented daughter.

      At first, the Lord does not seem to hear her cry of pain, the Pope pointed out. But she does not let this discourage her.

      "The inner strength of this woman, which allows her to overcome every obstacle, is found in her maternal love and in the confidence that Jesus can fulfill her request. And this makes me think of the strength of women,” he said.

      We have all known many strong women, he continued, who with their fortitude have achieved great things. “We can say that it is love that moves faith and faith, on its part, becomes the reward of love.”

      Francis explained how it is the woman's great love for her suffering daughter that leads her to persevere in her request for the Lord's healing, shouting: "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!"

      "This evangelical episode helps us understand that we all need to grow in faith and strengthen our trust in Jesus,” Francis said. “He can help us find the way when we have lost the compass of our journey; when the road does not look flat, but hard and difficult; when it is difficult to be faithful to our commitments.”

      “It is important to daily feed our faith, listening attentively to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a 'crying' towards Him – 'Lord, help me!' – and with concrete attitudes of charity towards our neighbor,” he said.

      In the Gospel, the woman’s perseverance and act of faith lead Jesus to heal her daughter. “This humble woman,” the Pope said, “is pointed at by Jesus as an example of unshakeable faith.”

      "Her insistence on invoking the intervention of Christ is for us a stimulus to not discourage us, not to despair when we are oppressed by the hard tests of life.” The Lord does not turn away from us when we present our needs. If sometimes he seems insensitive to our demands for help, it is only to test and strengthen our faith.

      And when this happens “we must continue to shout like this woman: 'Lord, help me! Lord, help me!' Thus, with perseverance and courage,” he said. “And this is the courage needed in prayer.”

      "Let us trust in the Holy Spirit," Pope Francis concluded, "so that He will help us to persevere in the faith.”

      “The Spirit infuses courage into the hearts of believers; he gives our life and our Christian witness the power of conviction and persuasion; he encourages us to overcome disbelief towards God and indifference to our brothers."

    • Pope prays for victims, rescue workers of Sierra Leone mudslide (2017/08/16 09:54)

      Vatican City, Aug 16, 2017 / 07:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With hundreds dead and nearly 600 more still missing as a result of a giant mudslide that ravished Sierra Leone's capital, Pope Francis has prayed for the victims, their families and rescue workers providing relief to those affected.

      “Deeply saddened by the devastating consequences of the mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, His Holiness Pope Francis assures those who have lost loved ones of his closeness at this difficult time,” read an Aug. 16 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read.

      Addressed to Freetown's Archbishop Charles Edward Tamba, the telegram relayed the Pope's sympathies, and assured of his prayer for all who have died.

      The telegram comes two days after a flooding and a large mudslide killed some 400 people in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown Monday, and have left some 600 still missing.

      According to BBC, a mass burial of victims that had been scheduled for Wednesday in order to free up space in mortuaries has been delayed as the “chaotic” disaster continues to unfold.

      Flooding is not uncommon in the overcrowded town of one million, leaving those who live in unsafe, makeshift housing especially at risk during natural disasters. However, Monday's slide is thought to be the worst incident in the past two decades.

      At least 100 houses were wiped out when a hillside in Regent, a mountain town some 15 miles east of Freetown, collapsed, submerging entire buildings and taking people with them.

      Bodies have continued to be retrieved from the mud and rubble, but efforts to identify them are proving difficult in the chaos.

      In his telegram, the Pope not only offered his prayers for the victims, but he also extended “divine blessings of strength and consolation” upon their families.

      Francis also expressed his “prayerful solidarity with the rescue workers and all involved in providing the much needed relief and support to the victims of this disaster.”

    newAdvent.org:

    • Thousands of South Sudanese find refuge in cathedral...
      As the civil war in South Sudan heightens, millions are fleeing their homes for safer ground, which many have found at St. Mary Help of Christian's Cathedral in Wau, the country's second largest city. “Those who flee believe that even rebels still fear God and would not slaughter civilians in the backyard of a church...
    • Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville...
      Warning: This post is going to be rather depressing, especially for (a) old-school journalists, (b) religious believers seeking racial reconciliation and (c) consistent, even radical, defenders of the First Amendment. I really struggled as host Todd Wilken and I recorded this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in) and I think you'll be able to hear that in my voice...

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