"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aleteia: Despite threat from ISIS, 100 children receive First Communion in Iraq


The first communion Mass in Alqosh was an historic moment for a “frontier town” that has been under threat from the militants of the Islamic State (IS) for a long time. Now it can “hope for peace and normalcy” around these hundred children, said Mgr Basil Yaldo, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and close associate of the Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.

The Chaldean primate presided over the ceremony that was attended by “all the priests of the city, the nuns and more than 700 people. The faithful were excited because for the first time, the patriarch celebrated communions in the community.”

Like many other towns in Iraqi Kurdistan, Alqosh too welcomed scores of refugees.

“Life in the area is almost back to normal,” said the vicar of Baghdad. “We hope that soon the whole plain [of Nineveh] can be liberated from the jihadists, and that refugees can return to their villages.”

The work to secure the area, he added, has “already started and for the past two days Iraqi troops have launched the battle to liberate the villages surrounding Mosul.”

…Addressing the boys and girls who received the first communion, Patriarch Sako urged them not to abandon their land, the city of Alqosh, but to stay and help in the reconstruction “because there is a (Christian) heritage to be preserved. ”

The Chaldean primate, Mgr Yaldo noted, also called on young people to “be stronger, come to church and participate in the life of the Christian community as one participates in the life of a family.”

After the service, the children asked Patriarch Sako some questions. One of them, Mgr Yaldo noted, said that when he “grows up he wants to become a priest to serve the poor and the needy.”

The patriarch could not hold back his emotion after listening to such words, adding that “it is important to support and share the suffering.”

Read it all. God bless every one of them and keep them safe.

Friday, August 12, 2016

“Apocrypha”: Why It’s Part of the Bible

August 11, 2016 by Dave Armstrong
Source: Patheos

Codex Sinaiticus (4th century): text of Matthew 6:4-32. This manuscript included all seven deuterocanonical books [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
[Written in 1994; from A Biblical Defense of Catholicism: pp. 259-264]


(Bible verses: RSV)


The Old Testament in Catholic Bibles contains seven more books than are found in Protestant Bibles (46 and 39, respectively). Protestants call these seven books the Apocrypha and Catholics know them as the deuterocanonical books. These seven books are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch. Also, Catholic Bibles contain an additional six chapters (107 verses) in the book of Esther and another three in the book of Daniel (174 verses). These books and chapters were found in Bible manuscripts in Greek only, and were not part of the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament, as determined by the Jews.

All of these were dogmatically acknowledged as Scripture at the Council of Trent in 1548 (which means that Catholics were henceforth not allowed to question their canonicity), although the tradition of their inclusion was ancient. At the same time, the Council rejected 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses as part of Sacred Scripture (these are often included in collections of the “Apocrypha” as a separate unit).

The Catholic perspective on this issue is widely misunderstood. Protestants accuse Catholics of “adding” books to the Bible, while Catholics retort that Protestants have “booted out” part of Scripture. Catholics are able to offer very solid and reasonable arguments in defense of the scriptural status of the deuterocanonical books. These can be summarized as follows:

1) They were included in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament from the third century B. C.), which was the “Bible” of the apostles. They usually quoted the Old Testament scriptures (in the text of the New Testament) from the Septuagint.

2) Almost all of the Church fathers regarded the Septuagint as the standard form of the Old Testament. The deuterocanonical books were in no way differentiated from the other books in the Septuagint, and were generally regarded as canonical. St. Augustine thought the Septuagint was apostolically sanctioned and inspired, and this was the consensus in the early Church.

3) Many Church fathers (such as St. Irenaeus, St. Cyprian, Tertullian) cite these books as Scripture without distinction. Others, mostly from the east (for example, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Nazianzus) recognized some distinction but nevertheless still customarily cited the deuterocanonical books as Scripture. St. Jerome, who translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin (the Vulgate, early fifth century), was an exception to the rule (the Church has never held that individual Fathers are infallible).

4) The Church councils at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419), influenced heavily by St. Augustine, listed the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, which was simply an endorsement of what had become the general consensus of the Church in the west and most of the east. Thus, the Council of Trent merely reiterated in stronger terms what had already been decided eleven and a half centuries earlier, and which had never been seriously challenged until the onset of Protestantism.

5) Since these councils also finalized the 66 canonical books which all Christians accept, it is quite arbitrary for Protestants to selectively delete seven books from this authoritative canon. This is all the more curious when the complicated, controversial history of the New Testament canon is understood.

6) Pope Innocent I concurred with and sanctioned the canonical ruling of the above councils (Letter to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse) in 405.

7) The earliest Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament, such as Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century), and Codex Alexandrinus (c. 450) include all of the deuterocanonical books mixed in with the others and not separated.

8) The practice of collecting these books into a separate unit dates back no further than 1520 (in other words, it was a novel innovation of Protestantism). This is admitted by, for example, the Protestant New English Bible (Oxford University Press, 1976), in its “Introduction to the Apocrypha,” (p.iii).

9) Protestantism, following Martin Luther, removed the deuterocanonical books from their Bibles due to their clear teaching of doctrines which had been recently repudiated by Protestants, such as prayers for the dead (Tobit 12:12, 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 ff.; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:29), intercession of dead saints (2 Maccabees 15:14; cf. Revelation 6:9-10), and intermediary intercession of angels (Tobit 12:12,15; cf. Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4). We know this from plain statements of Luther and other Reformers.

10) Luther was not content even to let the matter rest there, and proceeded to cast doubt on many other books of the Bible which are accepted as canonical by all Protestants. He considered Job and Jonah mere fables, and Ecclesiastes incoherent and incomplete. He wished that Esther (along with 2 Maccabees) “did not exist,” and wanted to “toss it into the Elbe” river.

[Later clarifying note, added on 9-13-07: the red words I no longer agree with, as stated, based on subsequent in-depth research that I have undertaken since 1994, when this was written (perhaps it was written as early as 1991). Like any careful, conscientious researcher, I sometimes (gladly) modify — even sometimes reverse — earlier understandings with further study. For my current opinions on Luther and the canon, see:

11) The New Testament fared scarcely better under Luther’s gaze. He rejected from the New Testament canon (“chief books”) Hebrews, James (“epistle of straw”), Jude and Revelation, and placed them at the end of his translation, as a New Testament “Apocrypha.” He regarded them as non-apostolic. Of the book of Revelation he said, “Christ is not taught or known in it.” These opinions are found in Luther’s prefaces to biblical books, in his German translation of 1522.

[Later clarifying note, added on 9-13-07: Luther softened or rejected these more radical opinions in later, revised prefaces, some 20 years later, so that I would write this portion of my first book differently today, in light of my research done since 1994]

12) Although the New Testament does not quote any of these books directly, it does closely reflect the thought of the deuterocanonical books in many passages. For example, Revelation 1:4 and 8:3-4 appear to make reference to Tobit 12:15:

Revelation 1:4 Grace to you . . . from the seven spirits who are before his throne. (cf. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)

Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. (cf. 5:8)

Tobit 12:15 I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:29, seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind. This saying of Paul is one of the most difficult in the New Testament for Protestants to interpret, given their theology:
1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

2 Maccabees 12:44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
This passage of St. Paul shows that it was the custom of the early Church to watch, pray and fast for the souls of the deceased. In Scripture, to be baptized is often a metaphor for affliction or (in the Catholic understanding) penance (for example, Matthew 3:11, Mark 10:38-39, Luke 3:16, 12:50). Since those in heaven have no need of prayer, and those in hell can’t benefit from it, these practices, sanctioned by St. Paul, must be directed towards those in purgatory. Otherwise, prayers and penances for the dead make no sense, and this seems to be largely what Paul is trying to bring out. The “penance interpretation” is contextually supported by the next three verses, where St. Paul speaks of “Why am I in peril every hour? . . . I die every day,” and so forth.

As a third example, Hebrews 11:35 mirrors the thought of 2 Maccabees 7:29:

Hebrews 11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.

2 Maccabees 7:29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. [a mother speaking to her son: see 7:25-26]

13) Ironically, in some of the same verses where the New Testament is virtually quoting the “Apocrypha,” doctrines are taught which are rejected by Protestantism, and which were a major reason why the deuterocanonical books were “demoted” by them. Therefore, it was not as easy to eliminate these disputed doctrines from the Bible as it was (and is) supposed, and Protestants still must grapple with much New Testament data which does not comport with their beliefs.

14) Despite this lowering of the status of the deuterocanonical books by Protestantism, they were still widely retained separately in Protestant Bibles for a long period of time (unlike the prevailing practice today). John Wycliffe, considered a forerunner of Protestantism, included them in his English translation. Luther himself kept them separately in his Bible, describing them generally as (although sub-scriptural) “useful and good to read.” Zwingli and the Swiss Protestants, and the Anglicans maintained them in this secondary sense also. The English Geneva Bible (1560) and Bishop’s Bible (1568) both included them as a unit. Even the Authorized, or King James Version of 1611 contained the “Apocrypha” as a matter of course. And up to the present time many Protestant Bibles continue this practice. The revision of the King James Bible (completed in 1895) included these books, as did the Revised Standard Version (1957), the New English Bible (1970), and the Goodspeed Bible (1939), among others.

15) The deuterocanonical books are read regularly in public worship in Anglicanism, and also among the Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants and Jews fully accept their value as historical and religious documents, useful for teaching, even though they deny them full canonical status.
It is apparent, then, that the Catholic “case” for these scriptural books carries a great deal of weight, certainly at the very least equal to the Protestant view.

Meta Description: Catholic explanation of why the deuterocanon, or so-called “Apocrypha” (seven books) belongs in the Bible.

Meta Keywords: 46 books, 73 books, Apocrypha, apocryphal books, biblical canon, Book of Esther, canon of Scripture, canonicity, deuterocanon, deuterocanonical books, Latin Vulgate, Old Testament, rest of Esther, septuagint, St. Jerome, The Bible

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Historic Christian Teaching Against Contraception: A Defense by Sherif Girgis

Photosource: Carribean360
By Sherif Girgis
The Public Discourse
August 10th, 2016

The Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception, common to all Christian denominations for 1900 years, is not arbitrary. It reflects a moral truth. And the Catholic Church can never revise it. Part one of two.
Forty-eight years ago last month, our story reached a dramatic climax. But it began in the dawn of Christianity, with a document called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (or Didache). Written thirty to fifty years after Christ’s death, it gives the earliest evidence of a Christian condemnation of contraception. For the next 1900 years, it was the view of every Christian body—East and West, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—that contraception by spouses was immoral. (Its use outside of marriage wasn’t much discussed since non-marital sex was deemed sinful anyway.) It was even denounced, vociferously, by Reformers such as Luther and Calvin. In 1930, but only then, a single Protestant denomination cracked open the door to spousal contraception—but only for serious reasons. Soon, however, that and almost every other denomination had flung it wide open.

And the Catholic Church held firm. As the sexual revolution spread and “population bomb” panic swept the West, there were rumors and fervent hopes that the Church would change. The birth control pill had just been invented, and some thought it different in kind from condoms and other barriers. Perhaps (they reasoned) it wasn’t really contraceptive. A commission established by Pope Paul VI to study the question tried to split the difference. Its 1966 report concluded that any effort to sterilize spouses’ sex acts would fall within the ancient teaching against contraception; but it urged abandoning that teaching.

Two years later, in 1968, Pope Paul VI stunned the world. His encyclical letter Humanae Vitae affirmed the historic Christian teaching against “any action which is done—either in anticipation of marital intercourse, or during it, or while its natural effects are unfolding—so as to impede procreation, whether that is intended as an end … or as a means.”

What he taught, in other words, is that it’s always immoral to act with the intent to sterilize spouses’ sexual acts, by any means and for any reason. And for good measure, he warned that a wide embrace of contraception would spell disaster for marital fidelity and public decency, for men’s respect for women and governments’ respect for the family. These words earned him the derision of Western cultural leaders in thrall to the ideology of sexual liberation, but they proved prophetic.

Paul VI also wrote—as John Paul II would reaffirm—that this principle was no mere regulation for the day-to-day life of the Catholic community, subject to change. It wasn’t like the requirement to give up meat on Fridays in Lent. It was required, they taught, by the “natural moral law.”

Why? Because a married couple’s choice to contracept goes against the human good. But there isn’t just one right account of why and how. The Church is in the business of preaching the Gospel, not running philosophy seminars. It doesn’t usually endorse particular philosophical arguments.

Nevertheless, drawing on thinkers such as Elizabeth Anscombe, Alex Pruss, and Germain Grisez, I’ll venture a few moral reasons for its teaching on contraception. I’ll show how rejecting it undermines other Christian teachings on sex ethics. And I’ll end on a more concrete note, suggesting that the use of contraception isn’t just wrong in principle; it can harm real-life marriages in tragically tangible ways.

Some dimensions of our lives are sacred, good for us in themselves. Morality requires treating these basic human goods—these core aspects of our well-being—as more than mere tools for other ends. It tells us to pursue them as we can, to honor them, and never to choose directly against them—which is simply to serve and honor human beings in these different dimensions of their lives. Thus, murder and mutilation are wrong because they involve choosing directly against the basic human goods of life and health. The inherent value of personal integrity and community makes lies and hypocrisy wrong. And so on.

In other words, the natural moral law—which Christian teaching reflects and extends—is about living well, which means loving well. It’s about serving the true good of everyone touched by our actions. It is a law of love. To act immorally, to sin, is always a failure of love, of full devotion to the human good.

Contraception Violates Marriage

The conjugal union of husband and wife—marriage—is one bedrock human good, one basic form of love. By its nature, it is deepened by the bearing and rearing of new people. But to thwart what so crowns a marriage is to choose against this good itself, against marital love. And choosing against a basic good or form of love is a sin.

Thriving Catholic Churches in the Arabian Peninsula!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Christian Post: Atheist Journalist Sohrab Ahmari Announces Conversion to Catholicism After Jihadis Kill French Priest

August 1, 2016|4:38 pm

Sohrab Ahmari.
Last week's killing of a French priest by radicals associated with the Islamic State has inspired atheist Wall Street Journal writer Sohrab Ahmari to come out publicly about his plans to convert to Catholicism.

After the news broke that Father Jacques Hamel had been killed by radicals who raided the Church of the Gambetta in the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray district of Normandy last Tuesday, the Iranian-born Ahmari announced in a tweet:

"#IAmJacquesHamel: In fact, this is the right moment to announce that I'm converting to Roman Catholicism."

Ahmari later deleted the tweet and pinned another tweet the following day.

"To new followers: I deleted my tweet professing my conversion, to avoid drawing internet-crazies' attention to my church," the tweet explained.

In response to published reports and tweets that incorrectly claimed he was converting to Christianity from Islam, Ahmari clarified in another tweet that he is actually converting from Atheism.

Although Ahmari publicly announced his conversion only after Hamel was killed, his decision to convert was not inspired by Hamel's martyrdom.

A source close to Ahmari told The Christian Post that Ahmari has been under instruction with a Roman Catholic priest for some time now but Hamel's death was what prompted him to announce his conversion plans.

Ahmari was born in Tehran and moved to the United States when he was 13 years old. He earned a law degree from Northeastern University and was inspired to become a journalist because of the disputed 2009 Iranian elections.

Ahmari has been published in The Boston Globe, The New Republic, The Chronicle of Higher Education and works as an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal's European edition.

In response to the attack in Normandy last Tuesday, Ahmari praised French President François Hollande for declaring that France is "at war" with the Islamic State.

"I support that sentiment because it's still ahead of where many other European governments are in terms of recognizing that what's happening is a low-grade jihadist insurgency targeting all of Europe, and many governments are in denial," Ahmari said in a video interview on WSJ.com. "As far as the Hollande government goes, at least it's a first step to recognizing the adversary and to say there is a war. That is more than can be honestly said of President Obama."

Ahmari added that he thinks European governments are being too reactionary and are not mobilizing to defeat the extremist threats.

"What you see is governments lurching from attack to attack and being very reactive," he said. "If something like [the Normandy church attack] happens, France ramps up sales of artillery to the Iraqi government. ... But you don't see that full-scale mobilization that really needs to happen."

Another area of concern that Ahmari warned about is the Islamic State's growth in Libya.

"No one is paying attention to this vast stretch of territory becoming an 'ISISistan,' if you will," Ahmari stressed.

CNA: New Iraqi priests bring joy amid years of sadness, displacement

By Elise Harris

Roni Salim Momika is ordained a priest in Erbil's Aishty camp for the displaced Aug. 5, 2016. Courtesy of Fr. Roni Momika.
Erbil, Iraq, Aug 8, 2016 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Roni Salim Momika, one of three priests ordained in an Erbil refugee camp Friday, said the event has turned the dreary mood of displaced Christians into one of joy, which he hopes will give them the strength to stay in their homeland.

“My feeling is happy, happy!” Fr. Momika told CNA after his Aug. 5 ordination, adding that he feels “something inside” that makes him deeply joyful.

He was ordained a priest of the Syriac-Catholic Church alongside his friends and fellow deacons Emad and Petros in the large, prefabricated church inside Erbil’s Aishty 2 camp for the displaced, which is home to some 5,500 people forced to flee their homes due to ISIS.

The ordination, he said, “will give hope to (the people)” in the camp, mostly Syriac Catholics from Qaraqosh, who for two years have been forced to live as refugees.

Fr. Momika, who is from Qaraqosh, noted how Aug. 6 marks the exact two-year anniversary since ISIS attacked his hometown, driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.

“We left Qaraqosh during this time two years ago,” he said, explaining that it’s been “a time of challenge” and “a time of sadness” for the Christians.

However, while the anniversary could serve as a reminder of the bleak and uncertain reality for Christians in Iraq, the sight of three young men being ordained to the priesthood has instead made it “a happy time, a hopeful time, and a good time,” Fr. Momika said.

“Before it was a bad day because we became refuges and ISIS entered to Qaraqosh, but now this day became a good day because it’s our ordination and we give hope to our people,” including the hope “to stay here,” he said.

Fr. Momika, Emad, Petros and another seminarian named Paul were all forced to flee Qaraqosh when ISIS attacked in 2014.

Before being forced to leave, Momika and his sister were among the victims wounded in a 2010 bombing of buses transporting mainly Christian college students from the Plains of Nineveh to the University of Mosul, where they were enrolled in classes.

Since the Qaraqosh seminary was closed following the 2014 attack, the then-seminarians were sent to finish their studies at the Al-Sharfa Seminary in Harissa, Lebanon. After completing their studies in Lebanon, they returned to Iraq for their deaconate ordination, which took place March 19.

Since then, Paul decided to serve in Baghdad, and was ordained there roughly 20 days ago, while Fr. Momika and the others were ordained in Erbil.

Archbishop Yohanno Petros Moshe, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan, the priests’ bishop, was the one who celebrated their ordination Mass in the Aishty camp.

Fr. Momika, whose family fled to Erbil after leaving Qaraqosh, said that while the church only has a capacity of about 800 people, about 1,500 showed up for the ordination.

Several of his family members were able to come for the ordination, including his father, sister and many others who traveled from Baghdad, Aqrah and other cities to be there.

Until now Fr. Momika has worked with the youth and led the women’s groups inside Erbil’s refugee camps. The priest said that for now he will remain in Erbil and continue to serve in that capacity, but it’s up to Archbishop Moshe to decide “if I will stay here or not” in the long run.

As a newly ordained priest surrounded by violent persecution, Fr. Momika said that he wants “to stand with the refugees” despite the “the danger (in their) lives.”

He said he wants to give the Christians “power, hope, and courage to continue their lives and stay with the poor people” and those who are suffering, adding that for him, the essence of his role and vocation is “to give Christ to the people.”

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Q&A: Priestly Vestments, Is it Biblical?

Question: My Friend Born Again ask me. Why it is Important to Wear your Priests a Vestment?? And Where are the Biblical Verse???

There's nothing unscriptural about vestments. God commanded that they be used in the Old Testament. Look at Exodus 28:2:

For your brother Aaron you will make sacred vestments to give dignity and magnificence. You will instruct all the skilled men, whom I have endowed with skill, to make Aaron's vestments for his consecration to my priesthood. These are the vestments which they must make: a pectoral, an ephod, a robe, an embroidered tunic, a turban, and a belt. They must make sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons, for them to be priests in my service. They will use gold and violet material, red-purple and crimson, and finely woven linen.

The rest of the chapter gives details on each garment.

Nothing in the New Testament requires abolition of priestly vestments. Our Lord attacked the Jewish leaders for a number of sins, but he never condemned their priestly garb. It's true the early Church didn't use the Old Testament vestments, but this is because Christians didn't want to identify their leaders with the Jewish priesthood.

Part of the problem for Fundamentalists is that vestments set priests apart from the laity. Fundamentalists object to a ministerial priesthood in the Church. They see vestments as a way of expressing a distinction between clergy and laity.

On this they're right, but there's nothing wrong with such hierarchical distinctions. The New Testament is full of them (Acts 20:28; Eph 2:20, 4:11; Phil 1:1; 1 Tm 3:1-13; Ti 1:5).

Within Fundamentalism there's also an unhealthy opposition set up between the spiritual and the material realms. There is an anti-incarnational attitude which views the use of anything material as superstitious. The distaste for vestments is but one example of this.

Fundamentalists who say Catholic priests adopted distinctive dress in the fifth century to put themselves above the laity have got it backwards. Actually, it was the laity who changed their attire, not to distinguish themselves from priests, but to keep up with fashions.

Catholic priests simply retained their manner of liturgical dress. Priestly vestments are no more than stylized secular Roman garments which have accrued symbolic, liturgical significance over the centuries.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Q&A: Did the Church add the Deuterocanonical books to the Bible at the Council of Trent?

Source: Catholic Answers

Full Question

Is it true that at Trent the Church added the seven Deuterocanonical books (Judith, Tobit, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Baruch, and Ecclesiasticus) to the Bible ?

No. The Council of Trent (1545-1564) infallibly reiterated what the Church had long taught regarding the canons of the Old and New Testaments. Pope Damasus promulgated the Catholic canons at the Synod of Rome in A.D. 382, and later, at the regional councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419), the Church again defined the same list of books as inspired.

The canons of the Old and New Testaments, as defined by Pope Damasus and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, were later ratified (though the books were not enumerated individually) by the later Ecumenical councils of II Nicaea (787) and Florence (1438-1445). Although the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant violation of the Bible by deleting the seven Deuterocanonical books plus portions of Daniel and Esther, was the first infallible conciliar listing of each individual book, it certainly did not add those books to the canon.

If that were the case, how could Martin Luther and the other Reformers have objected to the presence of those books decades before the Council of Trent if they weren't in the canon to begin with and were added by the Council of Trent?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

World Youth Day Fever is On in Krakow Poland!

Over P1B bank loans for the Iglesia ni Cristo’s Philippine Arena? -Rappler

MILLIONS IN LOANS? Documents show that key INC officials were signatories in loan agreements to fund the Ciudad de Victoria project, which includes the Philippine arena.
The late INC executive minister Eraño Manalo once said, 'Ang Iglesia ni Cristo ay walang utang kahit na saang bangko. Ang Iglesia ni Cristo ay hindi nagsasanla ng mga titulo ng lupa para lamang makakuha ng pondo.'

By Katerina Francisco for RAPPLER
Published 12:59 PM, July 27, 2016 
(INC 102 Founding Anniversary)

MANILA, Philippines – It was touted as a world-class structure fit to showcase the growing clout of homegrown Philippine church Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). On Wednesday, July 27, the influential church celebrates its 102nd year.

Two years ago in 2014, the Iglesia opened the Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor theater, to widespread attention: an P8.7-billion ($200 million) megastructure that served as the centerpiece of the sprawling 75-hectare Ciudad de Victoria complex in Bulacan.

Conceived, designed, and envisioned as a world-class stage for local and international events, the arena has played host to several events: from the INC’s centennial celebrations, to a concert by local celebrity tandem AlDub, and a performance by American pop superstar Katy Perry.

An expert on sociology of religion, Jayeel Cornelio said of the Iglesia ni Cristo in a previous interview that the Philippine Arena "is an establishment, is a marker, of what they (INC) are right now in the 21st century. They're not a religion in the Philippines. They're a religion in the world.”

Funds for the arena, the INC said, came from the donations of its members, a practice that aligns with the teachings of the church’s second executive minister, the late Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo.

In some of his messages to INC members, Ka Erdy had emphasized that the INC should spend within its means, and denounced the idea of the church incurring debts to fund its projects.

Documents obtained by Rappler, however, showed that INC officials had engaged in agreements with two banks, to obtain a P1.137 billion loan to partially fund the construction of Phase 1 of the Ciudad de Victoria project.

According to recitals in the loan documents, Phase 1 of the project includes the construction of a “multi-purpose indoor arena, and certain commercial and retail buildings and structures.”

But several amendments to the agreements showed that INC leaders had asked for additional amounts of up to P3 billion to repay the existing loan.

To secure these loan agreements, at least 61 INC-owned properties – ranging from church sites to residential and agricultural areas in Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Cavite, and Baguio – were put up as mortgaged collateral.

In addition to this, 317 condominium units in Quezon City, with a total market value of more than P1 billion, were also included as collateral.

Up to P3 billion requested

Based on the documents, the INC was one of the parties in loan agreements entered into by the Maligaya Development Corporation (MDC) with two banks: the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (MBTC) and the Asia United Bank Corporation (AUB).

MDC, the borrower, was represented by Glicerio Santos IV, while the INC was represented by the church’s auditor, Glicerio Santos Jr. (READ: Part 1: Who is Glicerio Santos Jr in the Iglesia ni Cristo?)

Santos Jr was also the signatory for the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation (FMF) and the New Era University (NEU).

According to the memorandum of agreement among MDC, NEU, and INC, the church agreed to turnover the completion of Phase 1 of the Ciudad de Victoria project to NEU, with the participation of MDC.

NEU and MDC were to take part in the “financing, construction and development” of the project.

To finance this, MDC acted as borrower in a March 2014 omnibus loan and security agreement with lender MBTC. The latter agreed to provide P1,137,500,000 to partially fund the construction and development of Phase 1 of the project.

But in July 2014, MDC requested for P750 million from MBTC to repay its existing loan.

A month after that, MDC and MBTC entered into a second amendment to the omnibus agreement. MDC sought up to P3 billion to repay its existing loan, putting the total principal amount to up to P4,887,500,000.

Mortgaged collateral

To secure the loan, MDC and the third party mortgagors (those who mortgage their property) – INC and FMF – provided additional mortgaged collateral, covering 61 INC-owned properties. These properties ranged from church sites to agricultural properties to residential ones, located in various areas in Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, and Baguio.

In addition to this, 317 units owned by the INC in LIG Condominium in Quezon City were included as additional mortgaged collateral. According to the appraisal report, the units have a total market value of P1,000,317,000.

The condominium certificates of title for several units in LIG stated that the units were mortgaged to guarantee the P3-billion loan from MBTC.

These were also the same set of properties mortgaged for a P2 billion loan – this time from AUB.

In March 2014, MDC also entered into an agreement with AUB for a similar purpose: to request P1.137 billion to partially fund the construction of the Ciudad de Victoria phase 1 project.

A subsequent amendment to the agreement had MDC requesting for an additional P750 million to repay its existing loan with AUB. A second amendment asked for an additional amount of up to P2 billion, putting the total principal amount to up to P3,887,500,000.

In its agreements with AUB, the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company-Trust Banking Group acted as collateral agent, with the INC, FMF, and other registered owners of the mortgaged collateral as third party mortgagors.

Separate mortgage supplements with AUB and with MBTC also identified two agricultural properties in Barangay Maligaya, San Miguel, Bulacan as part of mortgaged collateral.

Both properties listed several INC ministers as owners. In one of them, the names of Benefrido C. Santiago, Bienvenido C. Santiago, Glicerio B. Santos Jr, Arnel A. Tumanan, and Lowell C. Menorca were mentioned.

Lowell C. Menorca is the father of former INC evangelical worker Lowell Menorca II, who fled the Philippines with his family citing alleged harassment from the church leadership.

In an email to Rappler, the younger Menorca said that he only learned about the Bulacan property fairly recently. He also said that his father had acted as a “custodian” of the property.

“As far as I know, it was under internal arrangement within the Church Administration and the INC Legal Department because he never claimed it to be his nor profited from it, he was probably just a custodian of the property as a trustee of the Executive Minister,” he said.

Menorca added that it was “common practice” for Sanggunian ministers to be named as owners of church properties, because they were among those trusted by the executive minister.

Letter from EVM

While the loan agreements made it clear that it was the two Santoses who were signatories, the loans were made with the knowledge of the current executive minister, Eduardo Manalo.

In a notarized resolution dated February 10, 2014, Manalo acknowledged that the INC had entered into a memorandum of agreement with NEU and MDC for the Ciudad de Victoria project, and that the INC and NEU have agreed to “give the required collateral securities to secure such financing from the Project lenders.”

Corporate Resolution No. 02-2014 further stated that MDC has proposed to secure “one or more loan and credit facilities” from banks to obtain the aggregate principal amount of up to P3.5 billion to partially finance the project.

It added that the INC has agreed to provide the required collateral securities and letters of support for MDC after having “independently satisfied itself that it will derive direct and indirect economic benefit from the arrangements contemplated in the agreements for the Loan Facilities and that the execution by it of said agreements will result in corporate benefits to it.”

This resolution from Manalo showed that he was aware of, and approved entering into the loan agreements, even as his late father had denounced the idea of the church incurring any debts.

In one of his speeches, Ka Erdy declared that the church has never started on a project without first ensuring that it had enough funds.

“Pagka mayroong ipagagawa ang Iglesia, tinitingnan muna namin ang kabang yaman, tinatanong ko muna ang may hawak ng pananalapi, kaya ba ng Iglesia? Nung ipagawa ang templo, wala kayong narinig, wala kaming isinerkular, ‘Mga kapatid, umabuloy kayo para doon sa ginagawang templo,’ hindi po,” he said.

(Whenever the Iglesia was planning to have something built, we first look at our treasury, we ask if the Iglesia can afford it. When we had the temple constructed, you did not hear anything from us, we did not issue circulars asking you to donate for the temple.)

“Hindi kami humingi ng karagdagan sapagka't hindi namin sinimulan ang bagay na ‘yun na hindi sapat ang pananalapi ng Iglesia…Hindi namin kayo ginambala, at lalo naming hindi isinanla ang mga propriedad, mga lupa ng Iglesia,” he added.

(We did not ask for additional contributions, because we do not start any project if the Iglesia does not have sufficient funds for it…We did not bother you, and we did not mortgage the properties and lands of the Iglesia.)

In another message, he said, "Ang Iglesia ni Cristo ay walang utang kahit na saang bangko. Ang Iglesia ni Cristo ay hindi nagsasanla ng mga titulo ng lupa para lamang makakuha ng pondo."

(The Iglesia ni Cristo has no debts to any bank. The Iglesia ni Cristo does not mortgage land titles just to obtain funds.)

Squandered church properties?

While it is normal for corporations to secure bank loans for various uses, the issue for several INC members lies in the fact that the church had once proudly declared that it owed no bank any debts.

No less than Ka Erdy, once the church's highest official, had warned against it, saying in one of his messages that the moment someone incurs debt, "buwisit na ang kanyang buhay."

One Iglesia member said that the INC's involvement in these loan agreements is a big deal for members because it runs counter to Ka Erdy's teachings for the church not to spend beyond its means.

"In the past administration, it was a rule that the church does not borrow money...For the members, they're not used to the fact that the Iglesia has debts. So when this came out, we were shocked," she said.

She added that whispers of the controversy had even started to affect members' donations, with ministers taking to the podium week after week to encourage members to give more offerings.

In the past, she said, one would not even hear the clink of coins in the collection basket, because members were putting in paper bills. But it's not the case these days.

"We're concerned about the church's funds. Utos sa amin ang pagbibigay, pag-aabuloy. Pero papaano kami tutupad sa utos kung nilulustay ang pera? (We are commanded to give offerings to the church. But how we can we follow this if the money is being wasted?)"

Although the INC is not the direct borrower in the loan agreements, she pointed out that some of the church's highest officials are still involved.

Another Iglesia member also said that there seems to be more pressure on members to help with the church's expenses.

"Now we're being asked to chip in, that's very unusual. And when you connect the dots, it seems that perhaps we do have debts. A church is supposed to be non-profit, but you see the Philippine Arena that's not raking in profits. How do you sustain it?"

While it is not clear if the MDC had received and made full use of the billions it requested from the banks, the documents showed that church leaders requested at least P1.137 billion to partially finance the construction of the Philippine Arena and other related development included in Phase 1 of the Ciudad de Victoria project.

The arena, constructed at a staggering cost of P8.7 billion, was envisioned to be a prime venue for concerts, sports events, and conferences. It even has 8 private rooms, offering VIP guests with special viewing decks and plush theater seats. (FAST FACTS: Iglesia ni Cristo's Philippine Arena)

So far, the arena – located north of the Philippines’ capital region – has hosted only a handful of big-ticket events. Based on its website, its latest event was the Maligaya Summer Blast, held last May.

The arena has also been used for some of the church’s evangelical missions and activities.

An INC insider also said that some of the mortgaged property were housing for church ministers, but added that these ministers have no choice but to stay silent about their concerns, for fear that they might be kicked out of their residential units.

Rappler has repeatedly sought comment from the INC, but has yet to receive a reply as of posting.

For his part, Menorca criticized how the church’s properties were “squandered” under the current leadership.

“It is so saddening that after all these years, all the properties and monumental successes of the Church under the previous Executive Minister, were shamefully squandered away after decades of careful and meticulous stewardship,” he said.

He added, “We continue to hope and pray that the whole truth will be revealed, not to further humiliate the church but to finally expose the wrongdoings inside the church administration in order to put a stop to it and hopefully restore the church to its pristine condition.” Rappler.com

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