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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Movie review: 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

Its rather ill-chosen title notwithstanding, "The Man Who Invented Christmas" (Bleecker Street) involves no denial of the Nativity.
 
Instead, this charming fact-based historical drama tells the origin story of Victorian author Charles Dickens' beloved 1843 novella, "A Christmas Carol."
 
Dan Stevens brings brio to his portrayal of the complex writer, whose humanitarian instincts seem, initially, to benefit all but those closest to him. And the film as a whole shares much of the warmth of the slender volume whose creation it chronicles.
 
With his last three titles having failed to sell, Dickens fears falling into debt if his next production is equally unpopular. But, having struck on the idea of a holiday-themed narrative, he struggles with writer's block and with the endless distractions of his burgeoning family's domestic life.
 
A visit from his feckless father, John (Jonathan Pryce), whom Dickens blames for the sufferings of his childhood -- flashbacks show us his grim life as an apprentice in a shoe polish factory -- is a particular source of worry and conflict. Dickens, who fancifully summons up, and interacts with, his own characters, also spars with dour miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) who here serves as a naysaying critic of Dickens' work.
 
When his publishers, Chapman (Ian McNeice) and Hall (David McSavage), turn the prospective volume down, Dickens resolves to publish it himself, thus raising the financial stakes still further. He does at least enjoy the steady encouragement of his patient wife, Kate (Morfydd Clark), and of his friend and unpaid literary agent, John Forster (Justin Edwards).
 
The conversion story Dickens' eventually pens finds a real-life counterpart in the amendment of his own behavior. So director Bharat Nalluri's adaptation of Les Standiford's 2008 book has some positive moral lessons to convey about consideration and forgiveness.
 
Since it's also family-friendly in most respects -- a solitary instance of mild bedroom humor is based entirely on inference -- "The Man Who Invented Christmas" will likely prove a winner with a broad range of age groups.
 
The film contains a very vague sexual joke and a single mild oath. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
 
 
  • Published in Reviews

USCCB president condemns 'monstrous' attack on worshippers at mosque

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the Nov. 24 bombing of a mosque in Egypt's North Sinai region, calling it a "monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at prayer."
 
"Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
 
Reports indicate that militants killed more than 300 people at a mosque by detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers. At least 128 others were injured in what is being described as the deadliest modern-day attack in Egypt's history.
 
"The Catholic Church in the United States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures them of our prayerful solidarity," Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement.
 
"We join with all those of goodwill in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings -- these acts of grave evil -- will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person," he said.
 
The attack took place at the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.
 
Reuters reported that witnesses said that "worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded. … Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape."
 
In a televised address, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the attack was "an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region."
 
 
  • Published in World

Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

The U.S. Catholic Church will focus attention on the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria with a day of prayer Nov. 26 and a weeklong observance to raise awareness and educate people about their situation.
 
The effort is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need.
 
A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians Nov. 26 initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs through Dec. 3.
 
The prayer day falls on the feast of Christ the King, which "is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers," said a USCCB announcement.
 
"To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president. "Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."
 
He made the comments in his presidential address Nov. 13 during the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore. He asked the U.S. church to "come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering."
 
The special awareness week "is an opportunity to inform people about the dire situation facing Christians in places like Iraq and Syria where our faith has been present since the time of the Apostles, but could soon disappear," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "It is a time to pray, and to offer help and crucial hope to those who have lost everything but their faith for their faith."
 
To help educate Catholics and others about the persecution of Christians, the Knights have organized several events during the week, including a roundtable discussion and talks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
 
The Knights also are sponsoring an evening memorial Mass for victims of Islamic State genocide to be celebrated Nov. 28 by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington. The archbishop, who will be in the United States for the week, also will hold a morning news conference Nov. 28.
 
On Nov. 30 Archbishop Warda will speak at a conference at the United Nations on "Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region," sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Vatican's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.
 
Since IS invaded Northern Iraq in 2014, the vast majority of Christians in that country have resided within the Archdiocese of Erbil, where Archbishop Warda has overseen a massive humanitarian operation to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and care for this displaced community and those of other faiths also in the church's care.
Since the defeat of IS in the Nineveh region of Iraq earlier this year, Archbishop Warda has helped oversee the return of displaced people back to their recently liberated homes.
 
During the awareness week, Knights of Columbus councils throughout the country will work with their parishes to share information about persecuted Christians and the Knights' efforts on their behalf, including a $2 million initiative to rebuild Karamles, a predominately Christian town in Nineveh that was previously under the control of IS.
 
A section of the USCCB's website -- www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians -- has a wide array of resources available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries related to the Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians and Week of Awareness and Education.
 
Resources include homily notes, intercessions, education materials; background on Catholic Churches in the Middle East and on Christians of the Middle East; a video titled "Religious Freedom and Christians in the Middle East": and logos for the observance in English and Spanish.
 
For social media, the hashtag is #SolidarityInSuffering.
 
  • Published in World

Thanksgiving: A unique holiday for a uniquely diverse nation

What does Thanksgiving really mean to you? Is it just a really big dinner, or is there something more about it that maybe you've forgotten?
 
It is unique among American holidays in that it is both civic and religious in its origins. It is unlike Christmas and Easter which are, strictly speaking, religious holy days that were adopted by the general culture as holidays, or Independence Day which is completely civic.
 
There is a bit of controversy as to where the holiday began. New Englanders say it was started as a harvest feast attended by both settlers and Native Americans in thanksgiving for the Plymouth colony's first harvest. Virginians point to celebrations a bit earlier in Berkley Hundred and Jamestown.
 
In both cases there was reason to be thankful and not just for food but for being alive. Within a year of their arrival half of the New England colonists were dead as were three quarters of the original Virginia colonists, either from starvation or disease.
 
Of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is a celebration of immigrants because it traces back to our immigrant forefathers and foremothers who at great sacrifice laid the foundation of a new nation.
 
The tradition continues as recent immigrants also pause to thank God for his blessings and enjoy a feast usually including that peculiar American fowl, a turkey.
 
Lan-Huong Lam, a member of the Vietnamese community at South Philadelphia's St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, has been in America for 10 years. Although her family still celebrates traditional Vietnamese holidays, especially for the New Year, they also have embraced Thanksgiving in a way that is strikingly American.
 
"My family will come to my father's house this year, (and) next year we will all go to my uncle's house," she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
 
And yes, they will have dishes such as turkey and mashed potatoes, but along with that they will have traditional Vietnamese foods for those members who prefer them.
 
Reyna Mota, who is a member of the Dominican Republic community that worships at St. Leo Church in Philadelphia, really buys into the true meaning of Thanksgiving as a way to give thanks to God and celebrate our blessings.
 
While she and her husband are immigrants, "our kids were born here," she said. Like many other Americans new or old, she and her husband and children were hitting the road to travel to Salisbury, Maryland, for an extended family get-together.
 
The traditional turkey, cranberry sauce and all the fixings will be on the table as well as chicken because turkey is not something their family is used to. Of course, one of the desserts will be flan, a staple in Central America.
 
If a number of the relatives prefer chicken it had better be more than one bird because "we will have about 30 people there," Mota said.
Samuel Abu, a Liberian native who works for Philadelphia's archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in West Philadelphia and he has 12 years in the U.S.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in Liberia also, probably because the country was founded by former American slaves who returned to Africa after the Civil War. But it is just a day off there, with no special traditions. He was surprised when he came to the U.S. and found what a big deal it is here.
 
"When we came here we didn't like turkey," he confessed, and his family would go out to eat. Now he and his wife have four kids and they all love turkey.
 
Abu's wife loves to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner, and in that tradition the whole family gathers around the table for the feast. But in his household they don't do stuffing and they eat the turkey in gravy as in a stew.
 
Another dish they favor which most Americans would not connect with Thanksgiving is the root vegetable that is much more familiar in the tropics than the potato: cassava.
 
But whatever they eat or don't eat, "We are thankful to God that we are able to live this life and pray for the families who are not able to do this, especially my father and my mother," Abu said. "We thank God for our jobs and our children and the opportunity to own our home."
Hari Chan, who has been in America for 15 years, is a member of the Indonesian community that worships at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. On Thanksgiving his family will probably gather for Mass in the chapel at their parish.
 
Then the Indonesian community members will all get together at the adjacent Aquinas Center for a potluck meal. It will include turkey of course, but also Indonesian favorites.
 
While they don't have Thanksgiving in Indonesia there are other holidays, mostly Muslim, because most Indonesians are Muslim. But just as in America where non-Christians celebrate Christmas, "there we celebrate the Muslim holidays too," Chan said.
 
Maguy Jean Baptiste is part of the Haitian community at St. Cyril Parish in East Lansdowne and she has made America her home for 10 years. People do eat turkey in Haiti Jan. 1, which is both New Year's Day and Independence Day, she said.
 
As in so many American households on Thanksgiving Day, her sons will watch football, something that is not played in Haiti.
 
It will be a big meal because not just her husband and their five kids but also her sister's family with four kids will gather around the table. As an extra she always invites someone from the neighborhood who is alone for the holiday.
 
As part of the festivities the family members will draw names for gifts for the Pollyanna at Christmas. Also the family will take up a collection to send back to Haiti to help their struggling families there.
 
Maria Alvin, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Southampton, was born in Portugal but her family came to America when she was 7, and now she is married with a family of her own.
 
"My parents are still alive and we will all get together at my house," she said. "There will be about 12 people." It will be a traditional turkey dinner, but since her dad still doesn't like turkey, she will probably prepare a chicken and maybe some pork.
"Thanksgiving means freedom, the family all getting together, being thankful for what you have," she said.
 
A member of the French-speaking community at St. Cyprian Parish in Philadelphia named Dosse came to America 13 years ago from Togo. He and his wife have three kids, all born in the USA
 
In Togo the main holidays are Christmas and New Year's Day, but other than that there are no holidays with a long weekend. Dosse and his family will celebrate the same way many other people here do.
 
Most important, he told CatholicPhilly.com, "Thanksgiving is the time to thank God for everything, for his support in our lives."
 
  • Published in Nation
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