International Religious News Updates (3rd Week of April, 2018)

 In Buddhism, Christianity

International Religious News Updates (3rd Week of April, 2018)

Vatican : Exorcism course begins with 250 priests

Around 250 priests from 50 countries will attend a week long course on Exorcism. The course will have lectures and talks on a range of topics including witchcraft in Africa, how to tell the difference between demonic possession and mental illness, and a step-by-step guide to casting out demons.

The week-long Vatican course is described as the only international series of lectures of its kind. Entitled Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation, it first opened its doors in 2005 and the number of priests attending has more than doubled since then. The event costs €300 (£260, $370) and covers the theological, psychological and anthropological background to exorcisms.

As well as licensed exorcists, theologians, psychologists, medical doctors, criminologists, and Church historians will also address the course participants. With a nod to US thriller writer Dan Brown, whose novels such as “Angels and Demons” often concern the Catholic Church, one lecture is entitled “Angels and Demons in Sacred Scripture and the Teachings of the Church”.

Cardinal Ernest Simoni of Albania drew strong interest in the first session by citing the use of mobile phones in exorcisms. “They call me and we speak and that’s how I do it,” the 89-year-old told Reuters after his address, explaining how he would read the prayers of exorcism in Latin over the phone just as he would if performing the lengthy rite in person.

Although no official figures are available, Catholic Church officials say the number of demonic possessions is on the rise. Last year, Pope Francis told priests that they “must not hesitate” to refer parishioners to exorcists if they suffer from “genuine spiritual disturbances”.

Half a million people reportedly seek exorcisms every year in Italy, while a report by Christian think-tank Theos in 2017 said that the practice was also on the rise in the UK, in part due to the spread of Pentecostal churches.Some dioceses have developed their own courses to meet the growing demand, including in Sicily and the US city of Chicago.

Father Benigno Palilla, an exorcist for the diocese of Palermo, told Vatican Radio in February that he had performed about 50 exorcisms in the past two and a half years, reported the Vatican News.

Acer launches new ‘Prayer Beads’ for Buddhists

Recently Taiwanese hardware company Acer has launched a new product aimed at helping devout Buddhists say their prayers.

Acer’s Leap Beads, effectively smart prayer beads, help practising Buddhists count the number of times they have chanted their mantra with a chip tracking how often the mala has been rotated through their hands.

One complete turn marks one mantra, with the results displayed on the user’s smartphone once the chip has been synched to their device. “The intent is to help people concentrate on the mantra versus being distracted by counting the times the mantra is recited,” the company press release.

The beads will initially only be made available for sale in Taiwan – priced at 3,888 Taiwanese dollars (£95.80) – but could be rolled out to other countries if they prove popular. With an estimated 500m Buddhists in the world, there could certainly be a market for them.

They also have the potential to be upgraded to offer other services, according to Acer, such as electronic payments. While technology might at first seem anathema to the anti-materialist world of Zen, this is not the case. The Dalai Lama has his own app and 18m Twitter followers. Outsiders are often shocked by the use of tech as a tool of enlightenment.

Irish Buddhist Union ensures that Buddhist principles are represeted

Seven sanghas have come together to establish the Irish Buddhist Union (IBU), a new organization that will represent Buddhist ideals and principles in Irish society.

“The IBU intends to lobby government to ensure that the Buddhist point of view is included in areas such as religious education and health,” said Rev. Myozan Kodo Kilroy, president of the IBU and guiding teacher at Zen Buddhism Ireland speaking to the Press.

During its biannual meetings, the next of which is scheduled for November, the IBU hopes to address topics related to religious diversity in Ireland. For example, the curriculum for religious education includes Abrahamic faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but Myozan hopes the curriculum will one day include Buddhism as well.

Myozan says he would also like to see more Buddhist chaplains in Irish universities and hospitals. To become a chaplain in Ireland one must have a recognized degree in theology or an equivalent qualification, which are predominantly offered at Christian institutions. As the first organized body to speak on behalf of Irish Buddhists, Myozan hopes the IBU will be able to address these issues.

“There has never been an institutional voice of Buddhism in Ireland,” Myozan said. “All the different schools were operating in isolation. I thought it was important to bring people together and to find some kind of way to speak with a common purpose as Irish Buddhists.”

The IBU plans to slowly increase its membership and eventually join the European Buddhist Union, an international umbrella association of Buddhist organizations and unions in Europe.

Current members of the IBU include Zen Buddhism Ireland, Sunyata Buddhist Centre, Soka Gakkai International Ireland, Kagyu Samye Dzong Dublin, Dublin Buddhist Centre, and Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Any interested sanghas are invited to submit an application to the board of directors.

Buddhism is among the fastest growing faiths in Ireland with a 12.1 percent increase in five years, between 2011 and 2016.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrates his 91st birthday

Retired Pope Benedict XVI had a “peaceful and familial” 91st birthday April 16, celebrating with his 94-year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was visiting from Germany, the Vatican said. He spent his day quietly in the ‘Mater Ecclesia’ Monastery in the Vatican, where he lives.Evening, members of the Swiss Guard band are scheduled to perform in the Mater Eccelsiae monastery in honor of the pope emeritus. Pope Francis offered Mass in the morning for Benedict XVI, and sent him a greeting afterward, the Vatican said.

Benedict XVI was pope from 2005 to 2013. He shocked the world when he announced his resignation Feb. 11, 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength. On Feb. 28, he stepped down from the papacy. A conclave was called to name his successor, and on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis was elected.

Rumors regarding the retired pontiff’s health have arisen numerous times since he stepped down from the papacy, with reports that his death is imminent repeatedly denied by those close to him over the past five years.

Last year, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said in an interview with EWTN that despite some physical ailments, the former pope was “in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor.” In a letter published Feb. 7 this year in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

The day of Joseph Ratzinger’s birth has been seen by some as a sign of Divine Providence. It was certainly a sign of things to come. The future Pope Benedict XVI was born on Holy Saturday, April 16th 1927. His birthplace is Marktl-an-Inn, a tiny village less than an hour’s walk away from Altoetting, the most important Marian Shrine in Bavaria.

1927 was the year Charles Lindbergh completed the first ever solo flight across the Atlantic. The Pope in Rome was Pius XI – the successor to Pope Benedict XV.

As Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger celebrated his 85th birthday, his last as Pope, with a Mass in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican. It was April 16th 2012. Reflecting on his long and eventful life, he claimed he was “facing the final stretch” of his life’s journey. “I do not know what awaits me”, he said. “But I do know that the light of God is there, that He is risen, that His light is stronger than all darkness; that the goodness of God is stronger than every evil in this world. And this helps me to proceed with confidence. This helps us to move forward”.

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