Pope Francis on July 28, 2014, asked forgiveness for Catholics who had persecuted and denounced pentecostalists and other evangelicals.

Pope Francis on July 28, 2014, asked forgiveness for Catholics who had persecuted and denounced pentecostalists and other evangelicals.Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

In religious traditions, the summit of a mountain is often a place of enlightenment, or a meeting point between heaven and earth, a signpost on the pathway to the divine. In a sense, for Christians, that’s evoked by today’s Feast of the Transfiguration (Raphael canvas here).

Then there is this counterexample, today in Iraq …

Iraqi Yazidis on isolated mountaintop begin to die of thirst

BAGHDAD — Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst.

Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.

As the WaPo explains, the minority Yazidi sect melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. The al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State considers them to be devil worshippers and apostates.

Also read George Packer in the New Yorker on a Yazidi friend’s flight for his life.

Today in history:

The United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, killing up to 140,000 people. That would be followed three days later by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, killing another 70,000.

Also, in 1978, Pope Paul VI died. The “pilgrim pope” is probably remembered most for his encyclical on artificial birth control, but perhaps his words to the United Nations in 1965 are worth recalling today:

“Jamais plus la guerre, jamais plus la guerre!”

Plus ca change, eh…?

Missouri nears executions record

Time magazine reports: “An execution Wednesday in Missouri brought the state’s pace near record levels, at a time when problems have led to growing scrutiny…”

But nothing went wrong this time, except for the convicted killer.

Target comes out for gay marriage

On the gay rights front, the retail giant that had been criticized for its neutrality on the issue for years is joining the trend.

“Immature, juvenile and downright distasteful”

That’s how the American Family Association, a stalwart of the religious right, describes new Radio Shack ads that try to sell protection for your electronic devices with some sly byplay about protection for those other activities that used to occupy us before iPads and such. Radio Shack is struggling financially and the AFA wants to apply more economic pressure to make them yank the spots.

Here’s one of the commercials — funny, offensive, or really not worth hyperventilating about?

On the other hand, Westboro Baptist LOVES Google!

I didn’t think that crowd liked anything, but apparently Google is going to be exempt when the notorious Kansas congregation conducts its “God Hates The Media Tour” of Silicon Valley to picket tech companies. Charlie Warzel rounds up the WBC’s indictments of all the big tech outfits, then highlights this:

WBC thanks God for GooglePlex where creative minds are developed to further WBC’s preachments! A search for Westboro Baptist Church on Google reveals nearly 1.2 million results at any moment. They have awesome colorful images of WBCers faithfully picketing. Although the picture of the church building definitely needs to be updated! Can you get someone on that?

Pope Francis had a more general digital lament, as he addressed some 50,000 German altar servers:

“Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things, chatting on the internet or with smart phones, watching TV soap operas, and [using] the products of technological progress, which should simplify and improve the quality of life, but which distract one’s attention away from what is really important,” he said.

Here’s how the German kids responded …

Predictable. But still, ouch. Moral: Don’t mess with my social media

“Did I feed the hungry? Clothe the naked?”

And today in papal news, Francis resumed his Wednesday general audiences in St. Peter’s Square today, and had the crowd recite the Beatitudes with him, reminding them of those other issues that Jesus said were, ya know, important:

The relevant Gospel text is here.

The Latin Mass “appears to be alive and well…”

… in St. Louis, our story here — and that rise comes despite concerns that the election of Pope Francis meant that Rome would not encourage the high-stylin’ liturgy the way Benedict XVI did:

“At this Mass I really understood the priesthood for the first time,” said Francis Altiere, one of four men ordained by Cardinal Raymond Burke, who came in from the Vatican for the liturgy. “The primary reason for the beauty of our churches and liturgical ceremonies is to give glory to God, but it is also such a powerful means of evangelization.”

 Pope and Paraguay bishop go mano a mano over abuse case

Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este now says that Benedict XVI, just before his election in 2005, was one of several Vatican cardinals who gave the okay for him to take on a priest who had abused children in the Diocese of Scranton. So he wants the Vatican to back off with the investigation and sanctions against him, as my story tells it. This is shaping up as a big test for Francis.

A woman priest walked into a Catholic-run shelter …

… And the Archdiocese of Cincinnati yanked its $1,000 donation to buy a washer and dryer for the place, because, you know, what if the lady cleric wanted to do her laundry there or something. Debra Meyers, a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, was actually going to host a July 20 prayer service at the shelter, which prompted the archdiocese’s action. But the Catholic Worker house has since received $9,500 in donations, as NCR reports. Clever move by the archdiocese, no? Or no…

More in female clergy issues

Let’s conclude on a more irenic gardening note …

… And highlight Chris Herlinger’s fine story on an exhibit about the Garden of Eden at the Museum of Biblical Art.

“The story of Eden is a framework that gives contemporary artists access to universal themes, speaking to age-old human desires and potential.”

Indeed. Stay tuned to this space for developments and updates throughout the day.

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


  1. Jesus acted a person, not as a male, in accomplishing our salvation. God condescends to human culture when it is for our good. So God became human as a male because males were almost entirely dominant at that time, when a woman teacher might have been ignored and mistreated.
    Women are needed as priests, to demonstrate that Christian priestly ministry totally transcends gender, and for many other good reasons.
    That priests be male is a human rule, not a divine injunction.

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