France to Cancel Pentecost Holiday
TOTALCATHOLIC.COM, Nov. 20—The government of France plans to scrap the legal holiday that currently marks the Church holiday of Pentecost, long celebrated on the Monday after that feast, according to the news site TotalCatholic.com.
While the Church still marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles with a major feast, secular celebrations of it have dwindled almost to nothing in France—only being celebrated by some 4% of Frenchmen, the Web site reported. It quotes Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry, who said Pentecost Monday is “no longer a Christian festival” and suggested it be eliminated along with the May 8 “Victory Day” marking France's liberation from German occupation in 1944.
The French calendar is cluttered with some 11 national holidays—each of which “costs” the government approximately $2.5 billion per year in tax and other revenues. However, larger and more popular holidays such as Easter Monday and Bastille Day will survive any revisions in the calendar. The subtraction of Pentecost from the calendar is mainly opposed by French labor unions.
Pentecost or “Whitsunday” is still the occasion for popular celebrations in England, where customs such as cheese-rolling and bread-tossing mark the holiday in certain regions.
Bishops Fear for the Embryos of Europe
EUROPEAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE, Nov. 19—Responding to a Nov. 19 decision by the European Parliament to back research that destroys human embryos and uses them for parts in stem cell research, the European Bishops' Conferences Commission expressed its dismay.
The bishops stated, “[S]uch research raises fundamental moral problems. … In our view, every human life begins at conception and must not be violated, whatever the hoped-for benefits. We therefore remain opposed in principle to the destruction of any human embryo in order to obtain embryonic stem cells. … We also restate our support for scientific research in general and for research using adult stem cells in particular.”
The bishops supported a position similar to that laid down by the Bush administration in the United States, employing existing stem cells from embryos that had already been destroyed but not funding the destruction of any more embryos for the sake of research.
The European Union Council of Ministers is expected to decide on the issue before the end of the year.
Muslim Rioters Burn 13 Nigerian Churches
REUTERS, Nov. 20—When a Christian student in mostly Islamic northern Nigeria made critical comments about the prophet Mohammed, local Islamist militants attacked the school. Repelled by police, they began a rampage against local Christians, Reuters reported.
Reuters quoted local police commissioner Abubakar Sale, who said: “The hoodlums then mobilized and went into town where they started looting and burning people's property.” Keirian Dudari, another police official, said “13 churches were burnt, several houses and shops were torched, but there were no deaths.”
Reuters noted that “more than 5,000 people have been killed in religious violence in northern Nigeria in the past four years since the introduction of Islamic Shariah law in 12 states.”
- December 7-13, 2003