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Vatican Insiders have leaked to Per Christum and a handful of other blogs information about special ecumenical efforts designed to improve relations with an unlikely group: the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, otherwise known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Vatican plans radical initiatives to better understand and relate to the group, which is labeled as a “cult that really really bothers people on Saturday mornings” on its Wikipedia entry.
“We have been losing Catholics to the Watchtower for some time,” remarked a senior Vatican official. “In fact, ex-Catholics make up a huge number of current Witnesses; it is time that we focused on a better relationship with these delusional, but well-meaning, people.”
Reportedly, high level talks began around Christmas time, when top-level Jehovah’s Witnesses flew to the Vatican on a Saturday morning to hand out copies of “Awake” Magazine and open a discussion. As an immediate goodwill gesture to make concessions to the Watchtower, the pope removed 2 shepherds from the Vatican nativity.
“It was a gesture of charity, seeing as how the whole concept of Christmas disgusts them,” remarked an Italian priest. Some Italian Cardinals suggested reducing the twelve days of Christmas by 16%, to 10 days , but the Vatican was not prepared to make such a major gesture.” However, a major gesture just may be on the way.
We have learned that the Vatican has plans to excommunicate the Watchtower, and then lift the excommunication a day later. “Lifting an excommunication sends a powerful message of love and reconciliation, and when the pope lifted the excommunication against the Orthodox Churches, well, we have all seen the positive results from that. I suspect when the pope lifts this excommunication, positive things will happen,” said American Jesuit theologian Charles Curtain.
Insiders have told us that the excommunication will be sent to Witness Headquarters in an envelope marked “Do not open until June 10th.” Why June 10th? The Vatican chose a day when not much was being celebrated in the Catholic world, since Jehovah’s Witnesses have a general problem with the celebration of holidays. “We would have chosen a date closer to the end of Easter, but we also wanted to avoid a date too close to Trinity Sunday, since they basically hate the Trinity” an anonymous Vatican official explained.
Then, on June 11th, the Vatican has plans to start a Facebook group entitled “I will lift the excommunication on the Watchtower if this page gets 500,000 fans” and the rest, officials believe, will be sweet ecumenical history. There is even speculation of some type of program for former Jehovah’s Witnesses that would welcome them into the Church, while allowing them to retain their dry, lecture-based worship and unique style of door-to-door evangelism using magazines with 1950s style photos.
The preliminary number of Witnesses interested is reported to be 144,000. Of note, the Vatican, no stranger to social networking, already sponsors two Facebook fan pages: “I bet this baby possum can get more fans than the dark Lord Satan,” and “I flip my kneeler cushion over to get to the cold side.”
The response of the Watchtower to Vatican overtures has been rather cool, but we did manage to catch up with their president as he was going door-to-door one morning in Brooklyn, to solicit his opinion. He said he appreciates the Vatican efforts, and, in a goodwill gesture of his own, has been working with other Witnesses to consider officially downgrading the Catholic Church from the “whore of Babylon” to “call-girl of Babylon,” which one Witness we interviewed described as “still way too classy for the Church of Rome.” “What’s next,” he asked, “fourth degree Knights of Columbus escorting us as we go door-to-door? Witnesses eating fish and drinking Killians with Catholics while watching Notre Dame football?” “Not likely!” he opined.
Nonetheless, the Vatican is hopeful that its efforts, including the lifting of a day old excommunication, will improve relations with America’s most faithful evangelists. A spokesman for the pope said “we are committed to ecumenism. If we have to rename Trinity Sunday ‘Subordinated Triad Sunday’ to make ecumenical inroads, then we will place that on the table. There is nothing we will spare to work more closely with our separated sisters and brothers based in Brooklyn.”
Jesus, who, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, returned to earth invisibly in 1914, must be smiling (invisibly, of course).
Per Christum reporters April F. Oul and Page N. Newyear contributed to this post.
I hope everyone has a blessed Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast! Admittedly, this is not a feast I get into very much, at least compared to other Catholics, and as most of you know apparitions are not a huge part of my faith. Nonetheless, I find this apparition fascinating, and its fruits throughout the Americas have been, and currently are, noticeably positive.
God of power and mercy,
you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe.
May her prayers help all men and women
to accept each other as brothers and sisters.
Through your justice present in our hearts
may your peace reign in the world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Image taken by me at the Our Lady of Consolation Shrine
I interrupt this Per Christum hiatus to mention the election of a new pope – with the name Francis. He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the bishop of Argentina.
This is a “first” for a variety of reasons. He is the first Jesuit pope (it only took 500 years right?), as well as the first pope from the Americas, and of course the first pope in a long time to be around while a former pope was alive. He was also a bishop over both Latin and Eastern Catholics!
So far, I am really excited about what Pope Francis is doing. He seems to care deeply about the poor, and so far his papacy has been an exercise in humility over ostentation.
I think the world needs a pope like this. Unfortunately, the Church’s reputation has been damaged worldwide for a variety of reasons. A pope that reaches out to people in quiet humility is just what we need.
As many of you know, we operate a sister site, ChurchYear.Net.
We have been adding prayers and other resources since we began in 2004 to that site. Now we get over a million visitors a year that are looking for resources related to prayer, worship, and – most of all – Christian holidays. Our collection of resources has grown significantly and we are happy so many people enjoy the resources provided.
We recently added two new pages, chock full of prayers. They are prayers for healing and prayers for strength. These prayers are based on Scripture, and some come from The Book of Common Prayer (re-appropriated for Catholics as The Book of Divine Worship). We hope you enjoy these pages.
Also, have a great last day of Christmas, and a blessed New Year from ChurchYear.Net and us.
We are almost finished with Advent and the Christmas season is upon us soon. I am not sure how many days left until Christmas, but just pull aside the nearest child, and they can tell you!
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, which is also called Gaudete Sunday. The liturgical color is rose (pink), and many Catholics wonder what has changed during this third week of Lent.
Be sure to check out the article What is Gaudete Sunday for more information.
I don’t post much these days, because as a husband, father, teacher, and now moving into other ventures, I am pretty busy. However, I am always grateful for the Season of Lent (info here), which always reminds me of the importance of slowing down, and taking inventory of ways I fall short of what God desires.
Lately, I have focused on gratitude and simplicity. As one of my Lenten disciplines, every day I am faithfully listing five things (including people, events, etc) I am grateful for. I have noticed that it is hard to be angry at what you are grateful for. It also makes me appreciate what I have as opposed to desiring more and more stuff that won’t make me happy.
Since 2009, in my classroom, I have had students list things they are thankful for, in addition to prayer requests. I am amazed as I see their minds working to come up with the things in their life that are good. At first it is kind of difficult for them, but once they get started, they are reminded of the hundreds of people, places, events, and things that are blessings in their lives. All of these blessings are all around us, yet we ignore them mindlessly. If you are looking for something helpful this Lent, try listing things you are grateful for each day.
The ChurchYear.Net Online Prayer Book is shaping up, with many new original and classic prayers being added regularly. Our attempt is to provide a large collection of online prayers for a variety of uses. A few prayers already up include Prayer for Graduation, Ave Maria, and a Christmas Dinner Prayer.