- Feb 21, 2020
With a total population of just about 445,000 people, Malta is one of the world’s smallest sovereign nations, but both historically and today it’s punched well above its weight in Church affairs. In the wake of Monday’s shocking murder of an anti-corruption journalist, the Church there under Archbishop Charles Scicluna may be ideally positioned to inspire and sustain a serious push for reform.
Pope Francis is visiting a cemetery for American war dead this year on All Souls’ Day, and Americans are naturally inclined to wonder if he’s trying to make some sort of statement about the U.S. or its role in the world by doing so. As it turns out, however, the stop at Nettuno won’t even be the most important thing he does that day, and this may not be all about us.
Two stories about Pope Francis in the last few days have confirmed impressions of him as a maverick, break-the-mold kind of pope, one on the death penalty and the other on the Amazon. In both cases, however, there’s a good argument to be made that what the pope is up to represents not a revolution, but a natural evolution of where the Church was already moving.
It’s a well-kept secret of societies where Christians and Muslims rub shoulders that conversions from one faith to the other happen with sometimes surprising frequency. Muslims who embrace Christianity face special challenges, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, as a story from Lebanon about the time Jihad met the Virgin illustrates.
Moving around the Catholic world, it’s often striking how the culture wars in the Church over matters such as liturgy and “Amoris Laetitia” are products of affluent and basically stable societies, while places with real wars to worry about have more existential concerns. A visit to a Catholic hospital in Lebanon confirmed the point, where the CEO found questions about its Catholic identity almost impossible to fathom.
Many Westerners express sympathy for Christian victims of the genocide conducted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but might find actually listening to them a surprise. They’ll challenge Western stereotypes on at least three fronts: Syria’s Assad is a bad actor and must go; Hezbollah is part of Jihadism Inc. and a threat to Christians; and today’s most profound refugee crisis is in Europe.