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Faith Under Attack

7/3/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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Assaults Multiply in Post-Christian Society


By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 3, 2007 (Zenit) - Hostility toward Christianity is increasingly becoming a fact of life in many countries. Even in the most Catholic countries, religion has always encountered opposition, but as recent events demonstrate, believers are facing frequent episodes of animosity, both by individuals and institutions.

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of the central Italian city of Bologna, strongly protested a blasphemous depiction of the Virgin Mary, part of a local art exhibition. On June 19 the cardinal presided over a Mass of reparation for the offense, celebrated in the Marian shrine of San Luca, reported the Catholic daily newspaper Avvenire the following day.

Although city authorities distanced themselves from the exhibition following the Church's protests, the artworks had been patronized by Bologna's local government.

Just a few days later came news from Spain, where the daily newspaper La Razn reported June 23 that legal investigations were under way concerning pornographic images of saints. Francisco Muoz, a Socialist Party official in charge of cultural affairs in the western Spanish region of Extremadura, was denounced for his role in giving official patronage to books by photographer Jos Antonio M. Montoya.

The books contained blasphemous photos of a pornographic nature not only of a number of saints, but also of Jesus and Mary. The books were published by the local government authorities and one of them even contained a preface written by Montoya.

When the books were published earlier this year, Church authorities had made strong protests. A note issued March 15 by a committee of the Spanish episcopal conference demanded greater respect for the Catholic faith. The images contained in the books are not only an offense against believers, but disturb the conscience of every upright person, the statement argued.

Neo-pagans

Meanwhile, in France authorities have arrested three young men accused of being responsible for a series of profanations of churches in May, including one 16th-century chapel that was burned to the ground. According to a June 26 report published by the daily newspaper Le Monde, the men were arrested June 21 by police from the town of Quimper, in the Brittany region located in the northwest of the country.

The men inscribed the initials TABM in the places where they carried out their attacks, and at first it was thought to be a Satanic group. It later turned out the men belonged to the neo-pagan group of Celtic nature called "True Armorik Black Metal."

An offense of a different nature confronted the Church of England recently. Media company Sony included images of a violent gunfight in Manchester Cathedral as part of one its new games for PlayStation 3, reported the Times newspaper June 13. The dean of the cathedral, Rogers Govender, described the game as a "virtual desecration."

Following protests from the Anglican Church, supported in Parliament by then prime minister, Tony Blair, Sony apologized, reported the Times two days later. The company said they had not intended to cause offense, but at the same time gave no indication that they would either withdraw the game or accede to the request that they make a donation to the cathedral's work on educating young people against gun crime.

Paganism is also making a comeback in Greece, reported the British newspaper the Guardian on Feb. 1. The article recounted a recent pagan ceremony carried out by a self-styled priestess, Doreta Peppa, in the ruins of the Athenian temple dedicated to the ancient Greek god Zeus. According to the Guardian it was the first such ceremony since the Roman Empire outlawed pagan worship in the late fourth century.

According to the article last year the group Ellinais, of which Peppa is a member, obtained legal recognition as a cultural association. This was a notable achievement as in Greece all non-Christian religions, excepting Islam and Judaism, are prohibited. Members of the group hope to obtain official approval to carry out pagan ceremonies for baptism, marriage and funerals.

Pagans are also making progress in the United States, where Wiccans recently won a battle with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, reported the Associated Press on April 23. The Wiccan pentacle will now form part of the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers. The government agreed to add the symbol to its list to settle a lawsuit initiated by a group of families.

Christian discrimination

A further victory for pagans came in Scotland, where the University of Edinburgh gave permission to the Pagan Society to hold its annual conference on campus, reported the newspaper Scotland on Sunday on May ...

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