Blessings this CHRISTmas from Team CSF

December 24, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

We said a prayer for you & your loved ones.
May the Blessings of the
New-born Babe of Bethlehem be with You.
Team CSF & bro. Joe Dias

World’s first Christian airline to cater to missionaries, charge no luggage fee

December 18, 2018 by  
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U.S., December 18, 2018: Christians traveling around the world and locally for mission trips and religious tours may soon be able to kiss lost luggage and baggage fees goodbye as Judah 1, an aviation ministry out of Texas is set to become the world’s first Christian airline.

The ministry announced on Wednesday that the FAA had accepted their application to switch from a private operator to “becoming the first and only Christian Airline!” last month.

“This means Judah 1 (upon receiving its DOT and 121 Certification) will have the freedom to transport as many different churches and mission organizations as we can. This is a huge honor and privilege and we give God all the glory! We will be posting more information as we are able. Thank you so much Judah 1 partners and friends for making this possible!”

The ministry’s website explains that it serves missions-minded Christian people of all denominations traveling to the mission fields of the world. Their planes have also delivered hundreds of missionaries and transported thousands of pounds of cargo.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Monday, Everett Aaron, founder and CEO of Judah 1, explained that he hopes that the ministry’s airline status will be approved by next summer and noted that the FAA has been very supportive of their efforts.

“If everything goes as planned we are looking at some time in the summer of 2019,” he said.

While Christian customers can expect to pay competitive ticket prices with Judah 1, Aaron is assuring his potential customer base that they will no longer have to worry about baggage fees and travel hazards like lost luggage.

“We will have to charge regular ticket prices just like you do for the [other] airlines. This is not available for just the general public, you have to be part of a mission team. It will be very competitive with the airlines. The advantage is there’s no luggage fees. Absolutely none. All your cargo travels with you as well. So that’s the biggest thing,” Aaron said.

He pointed to research that shows how frequently Christians traveling on mission trips tend to lose their cargo and said it’s one of the burdens of missionaries traveling with secular airlines that Judah 1 hopes to eliminate.

“About 50 percent of missionaries lose their cargo when it travels via container and that’s one of the problems we have. I know some of the trips we have been on ourselves with other missionary groups traveling, they ship their stuff via container and medical supplies and stuff either get tied up in customs, food spoils, some things it just gets lost,” he said.

Sometimes, according to Aaron, missionary cargo like Bibles have been known to get stolen as well.

“Even the Bibles. I found out Bibles are one of the largest black market items in the world. People steal Bibles and sell them,” he said.

He explained that the ministry’s MD 80 aircraft carries about 2,000 pounds of cargo and several Boeing 767s they plan to introduce once they are approved will carry 30,000 tons of cargo.

The plan for Judah1 is to have a fleet of 20 aircraft over the next five years.

“Once we get our certification (in 2019), we have four more MD 80s that are on standby for us as well as two 767s that are on standby,” he said. This will bring Judah 1’s short-term operational fleet of aircraft to seven.

The ministry plans to work with ministries such as Kingdom Living Ministries to plan mission trips to such areas as the unreached mountain villages of Kisumu.

When asked if he has reached out to large ministries like Kenneth Copeland Ministries or Creflo Dollar who have used private jets for their ministries to see if his business would be a competitive option, Aaron said he had not done so but he hopes to cater to similar ministries.

“It’s hopeful that we can help with that because that’s one of the sore spots for a lot of people — the fact that ministers do use corporate aircraft for travel, ” he said.

He did note, however, that he understands that it may sometimes be cheaper for pastors to use private jets and it also saves a lot of time when traveling with teams of more than four or five people.

In a video about his ministry posted on YouTube, Aaron explained how God gave him a vision for the aviation ministry in 1994.

“Judah 1 came about in 1994 when the Lord gave me a vision. In the vision, He showed me airline, aircraft lined up as far as you can see. They were full of food, medical supplies, Bibles, the engines were fired up and they were ready to go. There were people lined up in front of these planes ready to get on them but they wouldn’t get on the planes,” Aaron said.

“And so I asked God why won’t the people get on the planes … and God said ‘they can’t go into the mission field until you get the airplanes. This is what I’m calling you to do. So Judah 1 really came about from the Lord showing me the need for mission aviation. And as we researched and did our due diligence we found out that there was a great need for large commercial aircraft to transport missionary teams into the mission field,” he continued.

After getting his vision in 1994, it was several years later in 2011 that Aaron incorporated Judah 1 and made their first mission trip with a chartered commercial plane in 2013.

Aaron noted that there were about only two or three other mission aviation organizations he was aware of but said they use small aircraft.

“Judah 1 as far as we know is the only mission aviation organization that uses large commercial aircraft to transport complete teams. So that’s how we differ from other aviation organizations,” he said.

“It’s not just about the preaching of the Gospel. We want to see the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit in action.”

– christian post

First livebirth after womb transplant from deceased donor

December 6, 2018 by  
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Brazil, December 5, 2018: Researchers from Brazil announced Tuesday that a baby had been born to a mother who had received a transplanted uterus from a deceased woman.

While uterine transplant is ethical, the use of in-vitro fertilization to produce a child, as was done in this case, is morally illicit.

Though 11 babies have been born worldwide to mothers who received a transplanted uterus from a living donor, this is thought to be the first baby born alive from a uterus taken from a deceased woman.

This follows at least 10 other attempted uterus transplants from deceased donors in the United States, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

The 32-year-old mother, who has a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, was born without a uterus. In September 2016, she underwent uterine transplantation at the Hospital das Clínicas at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

The deceased donor of the uterus, a 45-year-old mother of three, had died of bleeding in her brain.

The mother’s doctors gave her drugs to suppress her immune system so her body would not reject the new uterus. She began to menstruate 37 days after the operation, and after seven months her doctors implanted a single embryo. The doctors had previously removed the mother’s eggs and fertilized them artificially.

The healthy baby girl was born by cesarean section Dec. 15, 2017, near gestational week 36. In the same procedure, the doctors removed the woman’s uterus.

“The results establish proof-of-concept for treating uterine infertility by transplantation from a deceased donor, opening a path to healthy pregnancy for all women with uterine factor infertility, without need of living donors or live donor surgery,” the researchers wrote.

The first successful womb transplant from a living donor raised questions among Catholic bioethicists when it took place in 2014.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA in 2014 that the transplantation of a healthy womb to a woman who lacks a womb because of birth defects or disease can be licit, and “would be analogous to a situation where a kidney fails to function” and a donor provides a healthy organ to someone in need.

Transplanting the uterus alone could be morally acceptable, he said, as long as the transplant of ovaries and sex cells were not also done, respecting the uniqueness of each person’s genetic information.

For such a womb transplant to be completely licit, Pacholczyk said, in-vitro fertilization could not be used, and children would need to be conceived naturally, “through the marital act.”

The use of IVF, as was done in the case of the mother who received the deceased donor’s uterus, violates Catholic teaching because it separates the creation of life from the marital act, Pacholczyk explained.

Despite this, he said the transplant itself opens the possibility for a new morally acceptable therapy, especially since the use of uteri from deceased women does not prevent the donor from being able to bear life while she is still biologically capable of doing so.

– cna

Ohio city removes Nativity, Ten Commandments display from public property after atheist complaint

December 4, 2018 by  
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U.S., December 04, 2018: A nativity scene and a Ten Commandments display were removed from public property in Dover, Ohio, after an atheist group complained and forced the mayor into action.

Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen told Fox 8 that the atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, threatened a lawsuit if city officials did not comply and move the Christian displays onto private, instead of public, property.

“We have freedom of religion and they’re saying that we’re endorsing one religion,” Homrighausen said.

FFRF had warned in its letter earlier this year that at least one resident complained against Christian displays that stood in public space in the city.

“Twenty-seven years been mayor, nothing like this has ever happened,” said the mayor. “Never imagined it would happen.”

FFRF constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel insisted that the group is not unfairly targeting the city, noting that it has recorded as many as 750 complaints in the state since 2015.

“It’s important to uphold the First Amendment and that’s an effort every American, regardless of religion or party affiliation, should join,” Seidel argued.

“We are defending the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Grand Haven Tribune reported that both the Nativity scene and the Ten Commandments monuments have been moved not far from where they originally stood, to property owned by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Law Director Douglas O’Meara has pushed back against FFRF’s assertions that the displays were improperly placed on public property, but noted that a court case would be costly for the city.

“In these days of extremely tight budgets and close watching of civic purse strings, council and the mayor elected the route that extinguished that exposure,” O’Meara said back in April in a response to the atheist group.

O’Meara had further argued that the Nativity scene could have been allowed to legally stay as part of a diverse seasonal display. He also likened the Ten Commandments monument to a similar display in Texas that the U.S. Supreme Court found represents historical value.

Besides the two displays, the city will also have to paint over a Latin cross that is part of a choir display next to City Hall, the Tribune noted.

Ten Commandments displays across America have found themselves in the center of various lawsuits related to the First Amendment. In May, the FFRF filed one against the state of Arkansas for displaying the monument on capitol grounds.

State Senator Jason Rapert, who sponsored the legislation allowing for the monument, called FFRF and the American Humanist Association “anti-American organizations” for their lawsuit.

“If the Ten Commandments are good enough to be displayed in the United States Supreme Court Chamber and other state capitol grounds in Texas and around our nation, then they are good enough to be displayed in Arkansas,” Rapert declared at the time.

– christian post

Expert sees cyberspace full of risk, from addictions to child abuse

December 2, 2018 by  
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Vatican, December 1, 2018: A leading expert in cyberpsychology describes a digital culture today in which children and pre-teens have virtually unfiltered access to online pornography, and she predicts that one day parents who fail to monitor their children’s online activity may be found guilty of criminal child abuse.

“I can see later down the line that parents or caregivers who allow their very young children to be exposed to hardcore pornography on their phone and on their devices …that may be considered, in terms of social welfare and social services, as the active abuse of a child,” said Mary Aiken, Adjunct Associate Professor at University College in Dublin and an Academic Advisor to the European Cyber Crime Centre at Europol for Ireland.

Aiken told Crux the widespread diffusion of sexual content online has been described in some circles as “the ‘pornification’ of society.”

This is a problem for youngsters, because “children are vulnerable to being damaged by what we call legal but age-inappropriate content,” she said, explaining that in the UK, there is currently talk of developing an “A” and “B” internet, where households who actually want porn will have to put their name on a list and sign up for it.

Currently, the exposure of children to pornography is only considered a crime when predators intentionally expose children to hardcore porn as part of the grooming process.

Part of the problem, she said, is an increase in sexual assaults on children by other children, and while there isn’t yet hard evidence to support it, her belief is that it’s related to “the availability of hardcore pornography online.”

Aiken was a keynote speaker at a Nov. 29-Dec. 1 conference on “Drugs and Addictions, an Obstacle to Integral Human Development,” organized by the healthcare section of the Vatican department for Integral Human Development.

In addition to substance addiction, the conference touched on what experts are referring to as “new dependencies,” which include addictions to gambling, sex and the internet.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s development office, opened by saying addictions to drugs, the internet, gambling and sex, including pornography, “strongly undermine the freedom of the person, which is the fundamental expression of the dignity of every human being.”

Drugs and other dependencies “are a wound inflicted on our society, which traps many people in a spiral of suffering and alienation,” Turkson said, emphasizing the need to reach out to those weak and suffering, helping them to regain hope and take charge of their lives.

Professor Umberto Nizzoli, a member of the National Commission of Experts on Addiction and a professor at the University Institute (IPU), in Italy, said that when people become dependent on something, without it they feel a “continuous hunger” whether it’s an object, a person or a behavior.

The correct term for those who become dependent, he said, is not “addict,” but “slave,” because they lose control on both a biological and psychological level.

Noriko Tanaka, president of the Japanese “Society Concerned About Gambling Addiction,” is a recovering gambling addict whose father and grandfather both suffered from the same condition. After rebuilding her life, she converted to Catholicism and wants to raise awareness of the dangers of gambling.

Speaking at the conference, Tanaka cited a 2016 study finding that 58 percent of the world’s slot machines are in Japan, leading to an “abnormally high rate” of gamblers and addicts. She urged greater education and government support for recovery, especially in Japan, where there is still a stigma surrounding gambling.

“No matter what country you’re in, no one should suffer alone,” she said, adding that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”

Doctor Peter C. Kleponis, a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, spoke about increases in sex and pornography addiction.

Kleponis said it can take many forms, from strip clubs to porn and fetishes, but it usually begins with pornography. The porn industry rakes in about $100 billion annually, he said, with $13 billion from the U.S. alone, putting its total profits higher than Apple or Amazon.

Kleponis said there are currently some 4.2 million porn sites in the world, 60 million daily requests, 4.5 million daily emails, and around 100,000 child porn websites. Yet these are likely “gross underestimates,” since it’s nearly impossible to monitor the deep and dark webs.

Though porn addiction is primarily a man’s problem, with some 20 percent of men accessing porn sites at work, around one third of visitors to porn sites are now women, meaning “it’s not just a men’s issue anymore.”

Entry points are television, cable, movies, social media and, most commonly, the internet, meaning children as young as nine or ten with smartphones have almost immediate access to explicit content, and predators have instantaneous access to children.

Kleponis said porn addiction is just as addictive as other drugs due to the chemical impact it has on the brain. After a while, the body gets used to the pleasure signals and begins to crave them, and eventually it “hijacks the brain,” he said, adding that porn addiction is often a coping mechanism to hide emotional pain.

Kleponis said the industry has a devastating impact on marriage and the family, with some 56 percent of all divorces being related to pornography. When women discover that their husbands have an addiction, some experience symptoms similar to PTSD, feeling ashamed and unworthy.

When it comes to children, the average age at which they’re exposed to hardcore porn is eight, with most porn being viewed during school hours. France recently banned smartphones in schools and Kleponis gave it kudos, saying “they’re really protecting their children.”

Aiken also spoke about internet addiction, saying that while there are many benefits to technology, there’s not much research on risks. After getting a degree in psychology, Aiken decided to study cyberpsychology in the 1990s. She also studied cybercrime, and, she said, “believe me, I’m kept very busy.”

With just 1 percent of the internet used for basic search engine requests, the other 99 percent happens in the “deep web” and the “dark web,” Aiken said, noting that it’s easy for children to access both.

Although people are spending longer periods of time connected to devices, there’s still no clinical definition of “internet addiction” which presents “a major psychological challenge,” especially in terms of treatment, she said.

In her comments to Crux, Aiken said the internet “is like a giant slot machine, and every now and then you get a great text, a great comment, a great post, and that’s far more addictive than if every comment were good or bad.”

“It’s this sort of slot machine effect that hooks us,” she said. The problem, she added, is that phones and other devices are “designed to be addictive, and social media platforms, social tech platforms, are designed to be addictive.”

She warned that as a society, “we’re adopting each new emerging technology with the collective wisdom of lemmings,” cautioning that “technology will only mean progress when we can mitigate its most harmful effects.”

Aiken said there are guidelines for parents on other stages of development, marking approximately what age a child should sit up, crawl, or say their first words, yet there’s no equivalent for when they should access technology.

“Many famous Silicon Valley developers don’t allow their children to engage technology at a young age. What do they know the rest of the world doesn’t?” she asked.

In her speech, Aiken also warned about the impact of technology on bonding, saying that on average, an adult picks up their phone 200 times a day and touches it 2,500 times a day.

“That’s 200 times you’re not looking at your child, and 2,500 times you don’t touch your child,” she said, recalling how on a train she once saw a mother breast-feeding her infant, and for the entire 30 minutes she was looking at her phone while the baby looked at the mother.

“That’s catastrophic for us as a species,” she said. “There are no studies that do not support eye contact with infants…this is catastrophic from a developmental perspective.”

Too much screen-time can also damage a child’s development, Aiken said, noting how brain patterns change when a person is online.

Citing a study monitoring the effects of internet activity on behavior, she said there’s been a 70 percent increase in anxiety and depression among children and teens. Poor concentration, depression and sleeping disorders are common, along with a rapid increase in cyberbullying, sextortion and graphic content online, as well as websites promoting suicide, eating disorders and hard-core pornography, all of which are easily accessible to young people.

Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch and the Division for Operations of the U.N. Office against Drugs and Crime, said religious convictions can help.

Faith and spiritual attitudes, he said, “can improve the response to treatment.”

– crux now

Holy See renews appeal to ban killer robots

November 29, 2018 by  
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Vatican, November 28, 2018: A Vatican representative to the United Nations called on the international community to ban killer robots – known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) – in a speech in Geneva last week.

“In order to prevent an arms race and the increase of inequalities and instability, it is an imperative duty to act promptly: now is the time to prevent LAWS from becoming the reality of tomorrow’s warfare,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

The archbishop spoke Nov. 22 at the 2018 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW).

He said the parties to the convention should “make a courageous and enlightened decision of prohibiting LAWS like it did in the past concerning other types of weapons.”

“The increasingly active participation and interaction among States, civil society and the scientific community clearly indicates the urgency and far-reaching implications of LAWS,” he said, stressing the need for precaution and “a responsible attitude of prevention” as “the only options that will ensure a sound and lasting outcome.”

This is not the first time that a Holy See representative has raised concerns about killer robots at the United Nations. The question of autonomous lethal weapons has been on the CCW agenda for five years, with the Holy See questioning whether such weapons systems could irreversibly alter the nature of warfare, create detachment from human agency and put in question the humanity of societies.

In his Nov. 22 statement, Archbishop Jurkovic also warned against incendiary weapons, saying that their use “causes excruciatingly painful burns leading to long-term physical and psychological injuries or death,” as well as explosive weapons.

“The tragic experience of conflicts all over the world shows that the use of explosive weapons with devastating effects in populated areas has a dramatic long-term humanitarian impact,” he said. “It creates deadly injuries and permanent impairments, often leaving behind deadly explosive remnants of war which can kill or maim civilians long after the end of hostilities.”

The archbishop also noted that “millions of refugees and displaced persons are often fleeing violence and desolation caused by the use of ever more powerful conventional weapons in urban settings.”

What are regarded as “conventional weapons” are becoming “weapons of mass displacement,” able to destroy cities, schools, hospitals and other crucial infrastructure, he said.

In addressing excessively damaging weapons, Archbishop Jurkovic said, the Holy See encourages the international community “to continue on the path it has taken for the reduction of human suffering and to mitigate the negative consequences of hostilities.”

“Every step in this direction contributes to increasing awareness that the cruelty of conflicts must be done away with in order to resolve tensions by dialogue and negotiation, and also by ensuring that international law is respected.”

– cna

Claim of creating genetically-edited babies prompts ethics dispute

November 27, 2018 by  
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Washington D.C., November 27, 2018: A Chinese scientist says he has created the first genetically edited babies, a claim that has led members of the scientific community to raise serious ethical concerns.

Chinese researcher He Jiankui claims that he altered embryos for seven couples, resulting in one twin pregnancy so far. There is no independent confirmation of this claim, the Associated Press noted.

He says his goal was to edit embryos to give them the ability to resist HIV infection, by disabling the CCR5 gene, which allows HIV to enter a cell.

The researcher says he used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals.

Scientists have been divided in their response to the claims, with some praising the goal of eliminating HIV and others warning that such human experimentation is risky and unethical.

Dr. Kiran Musunuru, an expert on gene editing at the University of Pennsylvania, called the reported procedure “an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” according to the Associated Press.

Musunuru noted that if the procedure successfully disabled the CCR5 gene, it would leave the individual at increased risk of other medical complications, including contracting West Nile virus and dying from the flu.

Critics have also questioned whether participants fully understood what they were agreeing to, and have noted that He did not give official notice of his work until long after he had begun.

He, however, said he told participants that the procedure was experimental and carried risks. He said he would provide insurance for the children created through the project. The researcher said he believes the technology can help families, and that it is his duty to develop the technology and then let society decide what to do with it.

Early last year, CNA spoke to John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, about the ethics surrounding CRISPR technology in general. He stressed that Catholics do not need to automatically consider all gene editing to be problematic, but “need to be attentive to where the dangers are.”

Gene editing may be morally legitimate, DiCamillo said, when used for “a directly therapeutic purpose for a particular patient in question, and if we’re sure we’re going to limit whatever changes to this person.” He pointed to gene therapy trials for disorders such as sickle cell disease and cancer that show promise for treating difficult disorders.

Editing sperm, eggs, or early embryos, however, presents serious concerns, he said. Manipulating sperm and ova requires removing them from a person’s body; if conception is achieved with these cells, it is nearly always through in vitro methods. This practice of in vitro fertilization is held by the Church to be ethically unacceptable because it dissociates procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.

In addition, for research on embryos to be ethical, therapies should be ordered to treating and benefitting “that particular embryo, not just for garnering scientific knowledge or seeing what’s going to happen,” DiCamillo said. He condemned policies that see destruction of embryonic persons as a back-up if research does not go as planned, as well as current U.S. policies that require destruction of human embryos as standard procedure.

Another potential problem is editing genes for non-medical reasons, for example to enhance vision or intelligence.

“There’s any number of things that we could do to change the qualities of human beings themselves and make them, in a sense, super-humans … this is something that would also be an ethical problem on the horizon,” he warned.

Since the technology is so new, patients or their descendants could experience a range of “unintended, perhaps harmful, side effects that can now be transmitted, inherited by other individuals down the line,” DiCamillo said. An embryo who experiences gene modification – such as those the Chinese researcher He claims to have altered – could also carry and pass on edited genes.

Last summer, researchers in Oregon announced that they had successfully altered genes in a human embryo for the first time in the United States.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, warned at the time that the experiment was contrary to the dignity of the human person.

“Very young humans have been created in vitro and treated not as ends, but as mere means or research fodder to achieve particular investigative goals,” he said.

– cna

Venice illuminated in red for Asia Bibi, persecuted Christians

November 22, 2018 by  
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Italy, November 21, 2018: To express solidarity with persecuted Christians, including Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman recently acquitted of blasphemy, the city of Venice was illuminated in red light Tuesday night.

In a message of support for the initiative, Pope Francis said the event “will draw the due attention of all to the serious problem of discrimination that Christians suffer in many parts of the world.”

“There are countries where a religion is imposed, others where there is violent persecution or systematic cultural mockery towards the disciples of Jesus!” he said.

Starting after dark Nov. 20, eight historic Venetian buildings, as well as the Rialto Bridge and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, were lit up in the color red to bring awareness to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

The same evening, young people from the Archdiocese of Venice made a walking pilgrimage through the city to pray for persecuted Christians.

The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), follows a similar initiative in February, when the Colosseum was illuminated.

In 2017, ACN also illuminated in red London’s Parliament building, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. The year before, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.

From Nov. 21-Nov. 28, other major landmarks in the cities of Montreal, Toronto, Paris, Barcelona, London, Sydney, and Washington, DC will also be illuminated in red for an evening.

This year’s initiative, organized in conjunction with the city of Venice and the Patriarch of Venice Francesco Moraglia, is being put on in a particular way for Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.

The mother-of-five was acquitted of blasphemy charges by Pakistan’s Supreme Court Oct. 31. However, her life is still in danger, as the ruling is under government review as part of a deal to appease groups that were leading riots in the streets.

Bibi had spent eight years on death row in Pakistan after she was accused of blasphemy for making disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Bibi’s family has asked that she be granted asylum in the United States, the United Kingdom, or in other countries around Europe. Italy has offered to help Bibi obtain asylum.

– cna

1,500-year-old painting of young ‘Jesus Face’ discovered at ancient church in Israeli desert

November 20, 2018 by  
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Israel, November 14, 2018: A previously unknown painting depicting what archaeologists and researchers believe is the face of a young Jesus has been exposed at the site of an ancient Byzantine church in Israel’s Negev desert.

The find was made in the Byzantine-era village of Shivta, which also included three churches. The discovery of the painting has excited archaeologists working on the site.

Although the painting is very weathered, experts from Israel’s University of Haifa were able to reconstruct a partial facial outline, which dates to the Sixth Century A.D. The painting portrays Jesus as a short-haired youth, but it’s hard to know what the original painting looked like since only an outline has been depicted.

The research on the site was recently published in the Cambridge journal Antiquity.

The archaeologists explained in their paper that Christ’s face in the painting is an important discovery due to the fact that the icon of the short-haired Christ was widespread in Egypt and Syro Palestine, but was gone from later Byzantine art.

The painting was noted in the early 1920s but now has undergone further examination.

“The figure has short curly hair, a prolonged face, large eyes, and an elongated nose,” the study’s authors explained in their paper. “The neck and upper portion are also observable.”

They continued, “To the left of the figure, another, much larger face surrounded by a halo is visible. Paint traces throughout the apse suggest that these faces were part of a wider scene, which could contain additional figures. The location of the scene—above the crucifix-shaped Baptist font—suggests its identification as the baptism of Christ. Thus, this face portrays the youthful Christ, while the face on the left is most probably of John the Baptist.”

“The baptism-of-Christ scene is found frequently in Early Christian and Byzantine art, providing multiple iconographic and artistic comparisons for the Shivta scene,” the paper notes.

The authors explain “Christ’s face in this painting is an important discovery in itself. Early sixth-century texts include polemics concerning the authenticity of Christ’s visual appearance, including his hairstyle.”

“It is the only in situ baptism-of-Christ scene to date confidently to the pre-iconoclastic Holy Land. Therefore, it can illuminate Byzantine Shivta’s Christian community and Early Christian art across the region,” the study continued.

The authors also note that there may be more to come from this 1,500-year-old painting.

“Additional details of the painting at the scene’s centre, surrounding Christ’s face, are hidden beneath an accumulation of dust and mud, which protects the underlying paint layers from further deterioration. We aim to continue studying the painting to ensure its future preservation,” they wrote.

– cbn news

Vatican astronomer says space the new terrestrial frontier

November 15, 2018 by  
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Vatican, November 15, 2018: According to Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Jesuit research astronomer who runs the Vatican’s observatory, global interest in outer space is increasing at astronomical proportions, from mineral harvesting off asteroids, to militarizing the zone and developing artificial intelligence for research.

With the space race taking off internationally, there is a need for clearer parameters to be set for conduct, making space “the next frontier of law,” Consolmagno said.

Noting how 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the United Nations 1967 “Outer Space Treaty” on governing the activities of states in outer space, including the moon and other “celestial bodies,” Consolmagno said the treaty was followed by a major discussion on the “peaceful uses of space.”

While the United States and the Soviet Union were the only nations in space at the time, there are now some 20 nations that either have launched or could launch into space, and there are 90 nations that currently have some sort of space program.

One area that has seen an “explosion” of growth is the production of micro-satellites, which are cheaper and faster to build than before, meaning many more nations have satellites now.

“Suddenly the exploitation of space is a big deal. And this includes commercial entities,” Consolmagno said, and referring to the treaty, he said part of having a law on the peaceful uses of space is to ensure that as nations explore, no one gets in each other’s way.

“If you have satellites that are crossing each other’s orbits or leaving debris that will damage each other, then nobody wins,” he said, adding that another reason for a space law is to protect data and resources, meaning that when someone invests, they get to use their investment.

Yet part of the challenge of developing a law is to ensure that all the players in the field are convinced, including private enterprises, that it’s to everyone’s benefit to have rules and to follow them, “otherwise there’s no way of enforcing them.”

Consolmagno traveled to Vienna in June to represent the Vatican at a meeting on the space issue, reaffirming the peaceful uses of space and the right each nation has regarding the space frontier, because “any war that is going to occur in space is going to touch all of us.”

While the statement seemed like a no-brainer for most, U.S. President Donald Trump a week before the Vienna meeting took place in June, announced plans to establish the “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the American military, saying at the time that the decision was not only about the American presence in space, but it was also a bid to boost “jobs and the economy.”

“This time we will do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints. We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy, and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars, which is actually going to happen very quickly,” Trump said, charging the U.S. Department of Defense and the Pentagon with forming the new military branch.

In his comments to Crux, Consolmagno said the announcement showcased the need for the Vatican to make statements about peace, even in space. The best thing the Holy See can do in this case, he said, is be an “outside, uncommitted” party reminding everyone of the universal benefits of following a set expectation for conduct.

On the mission to Mars, Consolmagno said that contrary to the aspirations of some, “it will not happen soon.”

“People do not appreciate the enormous difficulties of going to Mars compared to the moon. You get to the moon in a couple of days, it takes six months to get to Mars. That’s the first problem,” he said.

On another level, the moon is also encased in the protection of earth’s magnetic field, shielding it from radiation from the sun’s cosmic rays, he said, noting that this is not the case with Mars, meaning that with the technology that’s currently available, “you’re going to die in a month on your way there. You’re probably going to die within a couple of days because of the radiation.”

“We’ve never sent a rat to Mars and have it come back safely. A human being, given the technology we have today, we cannot do it safely,” he said, adding that neither does he want to attempt it, because it could contaminate the planet, making it difficult to tell what is native and what was launched when humans finally do land on the planet.

Mars, he said, “is a really likely place where life might exist now, or may have existed in the past, and if we spend billions of dollars in a thousand human equivalent lives in science and engineering to look for life on Mars and all we find is stuff that could have come from that rat we sent, we’ll never know!”

“One of the tremendous reasons for exploring another planet is to see how it is the same and how it is different from earth, and you always want to be careful that you do not contaminate it with what you’ve already got.”

Consolmagno also touched on the increasing investment in artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Just recently NASA asked Canada to join them in a new project to build an international space station 1,000 miles from its current location, partly to position it as a pivot point to Mars, and partly to explore lunar minerals.

As part of the deal, NASA is asking that Canada provide AI robotics for the project, a choice Canada seems open to, but has yet to confirm.

In terms of what impact AI technology could have in the space arena, Consolmagno said the only serious current option is sending a robot, and even then, the technology must be developed, since communication with earth could take from eight to 20 minutes, depending on where the shuttle is at, meaning the robot would essentially have to make decisions on its own.

Mars rovers currently used in space already have enough autonomy not to allow themselves to drive off a cliff, however, every day the scientists managing the rover hold a meeting where they tell it what to do, and then they have to wait a full day to see the results.

“With more autonomy, the rovers can go farther and do their job more efficiently, and allow us to explore more and faster,” Consolmagno said, adding that developments will happen “piece by piece.”

Both AI and virtual reality (VR) have made the space experience accessible to everyone without ever having to leave the stratosphere, and soon, they won’t even have to leave their house, he said.

These technologies, he said, are “really opening up the exploration of the universe, the actual exploration of the universe to more than just reading about it in the National Geographic.”

Yet in terms of what rules ought to be governing the conduct of nations invested in space projects, Consolmagno said “the laws are a little fuzzy,” and are really “only as good as what people will agree to obey.”

For people in the space business, the rule of thumb is that “if you can move it you own it, if you can’t move it, it belongs to all humankind.” However, “all that does is encourage people to come up with better ways of moving bigger and larger lumps. It’s a rule of thumb that’s going to break down eventually.”

Consolmagno said there are many companies which intend to exploit space for resources, including some that already have plans in place to harvest off asteroids within the next decade.

“What they’re going to find, how they’re going to exploit it, we don’t know yet, but it’s already happening,” he said, explaining that the companies are incorporated, and many are incorporated in Luxembourg.

There is currently a push to make Luxembourg the center for space resources, since it is both well-positioned in the European Union, yet small enough to avoid the major political issues a larger country would have to face.

Current space laws, which Consolmagno said are more like “mutually agreed agreements that everybody realizes that there has to be a way of regulating what happens,” are mostly designed to ensure that no one steps on each other’s toes, and that people who have made investments get to see a fair return.

Another crucial element of the agreements, he said, must be a universal recognition that space resources “don’t belong to anybody, but the effort to get at the resources do belong to the people who have put in the effort.”

“How you balance that is to be determined, but it’s something people are going to want to determine just to be sure that everybody has a way of protecting their own investment in what’s going on.”

Consolmagno said many experts currently exploring what rules ought to govern outer space also have expertise in the law of the sea, “because it’s really very much the same question.”

“The deep oceans belong to everyone, but who’s actually out there and extracting resources in deep oceans. They want to be sure that they can get their resources and that they are protected from piracy.”

In terms of the Vatican’s own input, Consolmagno said their role will not only be to ensure that any resources harvested are put to the service of humanity, but they will also likely serve as a broker between parties.

Recalling a joint meeting between the Vatican and the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs in March, which was held in Vatican City, he said the Holy See was able to host the gathering, which brought together scientists and diplomats alike, because “we’re neutral.”

“We’re not going to be exploiting space, we’re not big enough to have a space program, so when we speak, we can provide a space where all of these actors can come together on neutral ground.”

– crux now

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