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Frans Timmermans via Twitter

Frans Timmermans via Twitter

He made the ultimate sacrifice.

French police officer Arnaud Beltrame died after voluntarily taking the place of a female hostage during a recent terrorist attack on a Super U supermarket in Trèbes, southern France. An ISIS-inspired gunman killed Beltrame and three others. He was a devout Christian.

Beltrame, who once served in Iraq, was part of a team of gendarmes who were among the first to arrive at the supermarket scene; most of the people in the supermarket escaped after hiding in a cold storage room and then fleeing through an emergency exit.

The Lieutenant-Colonel offered to trade places with a hostage the attacker was still holding, by strategically leaving his phone on as he entered the supermarket so that his colleagues could hear any conversation between him and the terrorist.

Beltrame was shot in the neck by jihadist Radouane Lakdim prior to police storming the supermarket. When shots rang out, elite police were alerted and went in to kill the assailant. Beltrame was shot three times according to police sources. The heroic move that saved another person’s life cost him his own life.

In an interview with the BBC, Beltrame’s brother Cedric explained how Beltrame knew he “didn’t have a chance,” adding that his heroic actions went “beyong the call of duty.”

“He gave his life for strangers,” Cedric said. “He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would.”

“Arnaud Beltrame died in service of the nation to which he had already given so much,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement. “He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist.”

When Beltrame served in Iraq in 2005, he was the recipient of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest military award. He was a devout Catholic, having experienced a genuine conversion in 2008, according to the Catholic Herald.

Beltrame didn’t hide his faith. In fact, he radiated and bore witness to it, Fr. Dominque Arz, national chaplain of the gendarmerie told French Catholic magazine, Famille Chrétienne.

“We can say that his act of self-offering is consistent with what he believed,” Arz said. “He served his country to the very end, and bore witness to his faith to the very end.”

pexels-photo-257037 (1)Thousands of students walked out of school this week for 17 minutes. Each minute was meant to represent one of the students killed in the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The protest was meant to demand stricter gun laws, but one Virginia school did not want to bring politics into a time meant to recognize the 17 lives that were ended too soon. So, they organized a small memorial and dedicated those 17 minutes to prayer instead of protest.

Greenbrier Christian Academy is located in Chesapeake, Virginia. The students at Greenbrier wanted to recognize the 17 people who were killed in Florida, but they did not want a time of reflection and grief to be tangled up with politics. “We just wanted to give our students a way to honor the victims and be a part of the national discussion,” said Danielle Gullickson, the school’s community director.  “They don’t want to be used for a political agenda but to do something to honor the people who were involved and suffered from this tragedy.”

The school built a small memorial using 17 chairs. Each chair had a photograph, a name, a white carnation and a white ribbon. When students left class during the time of reflection, they gathered together at different parts of the campus to pray.

“I think that prayer is an amazing tool; I think that prayer is part of the heart, and I think that there’s a time to mourn and to take time out of your day to respect the families,” said Greenbrier senior Jessica Ferebee. “But I also believe that faith without works is dead… there also needs to be something done to put the prayers into action.”

For Ferebee, the simple memorial the school constructed was very powerful. “Seeing those students was devastating; I saw their personalities, their smiles in the pictures, and it made it so much more real than 17 names on a piece of paper.”

Greenbrier was not the only school to alter the “Walk Out” campaign. A number of schools encouraged students to “Walk Up Not Out.” Rather than leaving school for 17 minutes, students at Arbor Preparatory High School in Michigan were told to tape positive or encouraging notes on each other’s lockers. Similarly, a teacher at Arcadia Middle School in Virginia suggested that students “walk up to the kid who sits alone and ask him to join your group” or “walk up to the kid who never has a voluntary partner and offer to be hers.” Students in Jacksonville, Florida, meanwhile, wrote cards to 17 people they felt were not “usually noticed or appreciated.”

These smaller, internal movements are not as noticeable as thousands of students leaving school buildings, but they have the potential to prevent tragedy before it ever begins. As Ryan Petty, who lost his son in the Parkland shooting said, “If you really want to stop the next school shooter walk up not out.”

Wedding_ringsPope Francis is at it again. The head of the Roman Catholic Church has suggested overturning centuries of tradition and allowing married men to become priests. This unexpected reform comes in response to a shortage of Catholic priests. Since 1965, there has been almost a 30 percent decrease in the number of priest in the United States. These numbers have led to what Pope Francis called an “enormous problem” that needed to be tackled “fearlessly.”

The priest shortage is most noticeable and problematic in South and Latin America. A bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest had only 27 priests for a group of Catholics 700,000 strong. Meanwhile, Brazil as a whole has nearly 10,000 Catholics per priest, and the United States has one priest for roughly every 1,800 Catholics.

In response to the massive shortage of priests, Pope Francis has asked the church to reflect on the possibility of ordaining viri probati, married men of extraordinary priests.  “We must consider if viri probati is a possibility,” Pope Francis said. “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote countries.” The doctrine of celibacy, however, does not look like it would be relaxed. “Optional celibacy is often discussed in this context, especially in places where there are shortages of clerics. But optional celibacy is not a solution,” Pope Francis said. “For now, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all the pros and cons that come with it.”

Catholics are divided on the issue with some feeling that breaking from centuries of tradition is a mistake and others feeling that such reforms are long overdue. What many Catholics do not realize, however, is that there are already a number of married Catholic priests. In 1980, Pope John Paul II allowed married Episcopal priests to continue their ministry after they converted to Catholicism. Under this rule, each diocese is allowed to have two active married priests. This means that there are estimated to be roughly 120 married Catholic priests in the United States.

Would-be priests themselves see that there are both pros and cons to joining the priesthood as married men. On one hand, married priests have a sounding board and moral encouragement at home in the form of their wives. Father Paul Sullins, a married Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism, has said that his wife has helped him when he had difficulties with his priesthood. “If I have some difficulties or struggles in my vocation, I can come home and have a sounding board that’s going to give me honest advice,” Sullins said. He claims that having a wife gives him extra guidance and encouragement to be the best priest he can be. “A married man gets an elbow in the side,” he said. “[Your wife says] ‘Hey, hon, you’re a priest. Get up and do your duty.’ Our wives actually encourage us to be better priests that we would be otherwise.”

The flip side, however, is that married priests are far less mobile. Most priests are reassigned to a new parish every five to seven years. With a married priest, these constant moves are far more difficult. “Reassigning a married priest is harder,” Sullins noted. Many married priests would own their own houses or have children in school. Unlike unmarried priests, changing parishes would require an entire family to uproot and start over. “[Married priests] are more deeply embedded in our community,” Sullins said. “It would be harder for us to get up and move.”

Pope Francis does not intend to make a unilateral decision on this matter, but even beginning the debate is a huge change for the Catholic Church. It will be interesting to see if this reform minded Pope really does end up overturning a tradition that has lasted since 1100 A.D.

YouTube Screenshot

YouTube Screenshot

Christians in the Singotam village in the southern region of India were corned and harassed by Hindu extremists who stole a box of Bibles and then set them on fire.

The extremist group issued harsh threats to Christians who were distributing the Bibles before snatching their car keys and taking Bibles out of their vehicles. They also threatened them with physical harm if they returned.

“From now on, if any of your distribute Bibles, we will attack you brutally,” one yelled. “How dare you promote Christianity?”

“You will give a Bible to whoever you want? How dare you…You shameless idiots. Get the hell out of here,” another shouts.

A video of the incident begins after one of the extremists snuck into the group’s van, stealing the keys and throwing a box of Bibles out. The group began kicking the box.

Moments later, one of the assailants poured fuel as his colleagues instructed him to pour it on the copies; he then lit a matchstick and set the Bibles on fire.

The hostilities come after “one of the most traumatic” years of persecution of Christians, according to a report released last week by the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

While the source of persecution for Christians in India depends on their location within the country, most of it comes from Hindu radical groups. Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they experience increased persecution. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity, employing violence to this end.

The Christians were given permission to pass out the Bibles by local government officials. They had set out from Nagarkurnool at 11 a.m. and reached Singotam 90 minutes later, waiting another half four for four other Christian associates.

“Eight of us were traveling in two different cars,” a source identified as Richard Nixon told Morning Star News. “Before distributing the Bibles, we prayed together, and we had first asked the school administration that we will place the Bibles there, that the students may take them, but were told to distribute them by ourselves. It was such a joy! The children came to us few at a time with their friends and received the Bibles happily.”

They distributed nearly 170 Bibles, Nixon said. Five cartons remained with 80 copies of the New Testament in each, and they proceeded towards the town distributing the Bibles to shops and passers-by.”

He said that ten Hindu extremists then came from a local temple and began to threaten them.

“They started badgering us with questions: ‘Who sent you here? Why are you distributing Bibles?’ They soon slipped into filthy language. We told them that we will move on from here, and requested let there be no fight,” Nixon said.

Despite the harassment, the group of Christians passed out more than 170 Bibles.