In a gesture of humility, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of twelve young inmates at the Casal Del Marmo Youth Detention Centre on Holy Thursday. Breaking with tradition, he washed the feet of women as well as men, Muslims as well as Christians. Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has signaled his commitment to a life of simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized through numerous gestures. Instead of the custom-cobbled red loafers of previous pontiffs, he opts for simple black lace-ups. He forgoes elaborate vestments, lives in a modest apartment, and prefers public transportation to being chauffeured. Telling atheists to follow their consciences and gays and lesbians that he is not their judge, the pope has set a new tone for Catholicism, even though the Church’s teachings on social matters have not changed.
Since being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for standing up for her right to attend school, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager, has become an internationally recognized education activist. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Yousafzai has petitioned the United Nations for all children’s educational rights to be recognized and protected. Her book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a New York Times bestseller.
Watch her speech to the United Nations here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23291897.
The weekend following Nelson Mandela’s death, members of the Soweto Gospel Choir surprised onlookers with their stirring rendition of “Asimbonanga” at a grocery store in Pretoria. Many of them posing as workers, choir members emerged from the aisles to form a flash mob as a tribute to Mandela. “Asminbononga” was composed by Johny Clegg during Mandela’s prison sentence and quickly become a famous freedom song.
Watch the full video here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/nelson-mandela-honoured-by-soweto-gospel-choir-flash-mob-1.2462592
Nadia Bolz-Weber—a hipster Lutheran pastor, former stand-up comic, and recovering alcoholic—has made waves this year with her speaking tour and new book, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. What we find hopeful about all the buzz is not that celebrity pastors still make the front page of prominent national newspapers, or even that mainline Christianity is getting an image makeover, but that an inclusive Christianity that embraces the sacraments, bridges divides among people, and encourages creative engagement with culture is finding such contemporary resonance.
Accounts of devastating natural disasters and horrific human tragedies, unfortunately, are not unique to 2013. But every year, after every tragedy, people rise to the occasion, offering compassionate and humane responses to those who are suffering. This year, as we remember the hostage crisis in Algeria, the meteor strike in Russia, the building collapse in Bangladesh, flash floods in India, the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya, and Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction in the Philippines and Vietnam, we also remember those who have responded to tragedy with grace, selflessness, courage, and what the Hebrew Scriptures call chesed, or, kindness.