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God speaks loudest when we’re quiet

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You’ve heard it said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Logically, it should be easier for us to speak half as much and listen two times more, right?

It is an unfortunate tendency of our human nature to use prayer time as an opportunity to purge all our transgressions, frustrations, and desires. While this is certainly the time to vent, plead, and praise, remember to let God get a word in edgewise. “Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

God is not Santa. Yes, your Heavenly Father wants to know the desires of your heart. He wants you to talk to him, and there’s no matter or need too trivial for Him. But if we think of God only as the postal delivery man bringing us our order, we miss out on the spiritual closeness that comes from listening to God, rather than simply hoping He’ll fulfill our shopping list of wants.

Picture an adolescent girl on a cell phone. She rattles off rumors at the speed of several sentences per breath, completely unaware that her conversation is entirely one-sided. Similarly, God doesn’t always want to be on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation with us.

As much as we want to be heard, our Divine Teacher wants us to hear Him even more. It’s a well-known fact in academia that the more senses a student uses to learn new ideas, a higher percentage of those concepts will be absorbed. During prayer, we have the opportunity to use hearing as well as speaking. If we choose only to use one of those senses, we short-change ourselves. When we’re quiet, we can pay closer attention to God’s instruction and internalize the directions He’s giving us.

Contemplative prayer is the buzz-word given to a habit of praying in silence. You may be thinking: I’m usually silent when I pray. Are you really? Are you maintaining an inward silence long enough to hear God speaking to you?

At first, this is easier said than done. Utter silence is often a difficult notion to embrace. But, with practice, it becomes easier to close your eyes and meditate upon the will of the Lord. This is not the time to tell Him your will. This is the time to be still and listen for Him to direct your path. “…when you are in your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Here’s a little challenge: For one week, when you pray, make an honest effort to speak less and hear God more. Begin each of the next seven days by entering into God’s presence and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your path. “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

By: G. I. A. Devotions

Israeli PM backs holy site dig

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Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has rejected calls by his defence minister to halt excavations at a contentious Jerusalem holy site, Israeli media has reported.
Amir Peretz urged Mr Olmert to stop the digging near the al-Aqsa mosque for fear it will antagonise the Arab world.

Mr Olmert declined, saying the works were causing no harm, the prime minister’s office told the BBC.

The excavation has provoked outrage among Muslims, who say it could damage the foundations of the mosque.

There have been widespread protests among Palestinians and the wider Muslim world since the excavations began on Tuesday.

The work is a prelude to the construction of a new walkway leading to the compound containing the mosque – Islam’s third holiest site.
The compound is also revered by Jews as the site of their biblical temples.

Mr Olmert rejected Mr Peretz’s appeal to stop the excavations, about 60m (200ft) from the mosque.

“A thorough examination of the matter would reveal that nothing about the work under way will harm anyone, and there is no truth in the contentions against the work,” Mr Olmert’s office said.

The Israeli Antiquity Authority, which is conducting the excavations, says it is considering installing a 24-hour live video feed from the site to allay Muslim fears.

The Islamic authorities in charge of the compound say two underground rooms lie under the mound which is being levelled.

The work is intended to secure the area and protect archaeological artefacts that have not yet been uncovered, Israeli officials say.

The compound area has been a flashpoint for violence since Israel captured it during the 1967 Middle East war.

In 1996, Israel’s opening of an exit to a tunnel near the site triggered riots in which 80 people died in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

And in 2000, the Palestinian uprising began at the mosque following a controversial tour of the site by Israel’s then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon.

Since 1967, the compound has remained under Muslim jurisdiction in conjunction with neighbouring Jordan.

in: BBC News

Kaliningrad Wants Its Castle Back

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For years Kaliningrad has been allowed to decay as a forgotten Russian enclave surrounded by Europe. But now a movement is afoot to rebuild the city center. The castle too may soon dominate the skyline once again.

When 39-year-old architect Alexander Bazhin looks out the window of his fourth-floor office, it’s a bleak sight he sees: Shoddy concrete housing blocks constructed by the late communist regime stand next to rusted water fountains and apartment blocks from the Third Reich. A 20-story Communist Party fortress — the “House of the Soviets” — rises up in the center. The building is a ruin.

The city center of Kaliningrad is not a pretty site.

It’s not uncommon for elderly East Prussians — having arrived in a tour boat in the nearby port of Pillau — to break into tears when they see to what architectural depths their city of birth has sunk to. The destruction visited on the former pearl on the Pregel River by the bombs of World War II was immense — matched by hardly any other European city. Indeed, Kaliningrad, once known by its German name Königsberg, became a symbol not just of loss, but also of the destruction, of homeland.

Some 30 divisions and two air fleets of the Red Army attacked the surrounded city during the final battle in April 1945, remembers Otto Lasch, the German Wehrmacht’s commander in Königsberg at the time. They fired at the city “from thousands of barrels including Stalin organs for days, without interruption,” he says.

What remained was Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy — and meatballs.

Bazhin, who wears a pinstripe suit and light blue tie, thinks it’s time to turn the tide. For one year now, he’s been the chief city planner in Kaliningrad, now an oblast, or region, of Russia separated from the motherland by Lithuania and surrounded by European Union countries. A friendly man, he receives visitors in his granite-decorated studio in the heart of the old city. Thirty employees also grace the office, all of them young.

No one here wants to run from the city’s Prussian German legacy. On the contrary. To restore a sense of urbanity to the ravaged city center — further wrecked by the Soviets — Bazhin is going retro.

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Israel allows minaret over Temple Mount

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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given permission for Jordan to build a large minaret adjacent to a mosque on the Temple Mount to call Muslims to prayer at the holy site.

The minaret will stand at a site on the Mount where Jewish groups here had petitioned to build a synagogue.

A minaret is a tower usually attached to a mosque from which Muslims are called to the five Islamic daily prayers.

There are four minarets on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The new minaret will be the largest one yet. It will be the first built on the Temple Mount in over 600 years and is slated to tower over the walls of Jerusalem’s old city. It will reside next to the Al-Marwani Mosque, located at the site of Solomon’s Stables.

Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member from Israel’s National Union party, last year drew up plans with Jewish groups to build a synagogue near the Marwani Mosque. The synagogue was to be built in accordance with rulings from several prominent rabbis, who said Jews can ascend the Mount at certain areas.

A top leader of the Waqf – the Islamic custodians of the Mount – told reporters Olmert’s granting of permission to build the minaret in the synagogue’s place “confirms 100-percent the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) belongs to Muslims.”

“This proves Jewish conspiracies for a synagogue will never succeed and solidifies our presence here. It will make Muslims worldwide more secure that the Jews will never take over the Haram al-Sharif,” the Waqf official said.

Sources in the Jordanian monarchy and the Waqf told the press Olmert earlier this month gave Jordan’s King Abdullah official permission to build the minaret. The sources said the minaret will rise 130 feet above the ancient walls of Jerusalem.

A senior Olmert adviser today confirmed that the Israeli prime minister told Abdullah he will allow the minaret’s construction.

The adviser said he could not speak on the record because Israel has been waiting for an “opportune time” to officially announce permission for the new minaret.

In October, King Abdullah announced plans to build the fifth minaret, although at the time the Jordanians reportedly did not have Israel’s permission to commence construction. Abdullah said the minaret would bear the symbol of the Jordanian monarchy.

The Temple Mount’s first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner in 1278; the second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluke king; the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329; and the last in 1367.

Prominent Israeli archeologist Gabi Barkai of Tel Aviv University blasted the new minaret plans.

“I am against any change in the status quo on the Temple Mount. If the status quo is being changed, then it should not just be the addition of Muslim structures at the site,” Barkai said.

Rabbi Chaim Rechman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute , said Olmert’s decision to allow the minaret “is repugnant to anyone who knows what it is to be a Jew.”

“The decision and Israel’s general attitude toward the Temple Mount is the manifestation of spiritual bankruptcy in the country’s leadership. Olmert is turning his back on our Jewish heritage while the rest of the world looks at us with amazement at how we can be so insensitive to our own spiritual legacy.

Al Aqsa Mosque built by angels?

 The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. For Muslims, it is Islam’s third holiest site.

The First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Al Aqsa Mosque now sits on the site.

The temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark the place where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

Most Waqf officials deny the Jewish temples ever existed in spite of what many call overwhelming archaeological evidence, including the discovery of Temple-era artifacts linked to worship, tunnels that snake under the Temple Mount and over 100 ritual immersion pools believed to have been used by Jewish priests to cleanse themselves before services. The cleansing process is detailed in the Torah.

According to the website of the Palestinian Authority’s Office for Religious Affairs, the Temple Mount is Muslim property. The site claims the Western Wall, which it refers to as the Al-Boraq Wall, previously was a docking station for horses. It states Muhammed tied his horse, named Boraq, to the wall before ascending to heaven.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, which will take part in the podium installation ceremonies, claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels and that a Jewish Temple may have existed, but not in Jerusalem. The Movement, which works closely with the Waqf, is the Muslim group in Israel most identified with the Temple Mount.

“When the First Temple was built by Solomon – God bless him – Al Aqsa was already built. We don’t believe that a prophet like Solomon would have built the Temple at a place where a mosque existed,” said Hatib.

“And all the historical and archaeological facts deny any relation between the temples and the location of Al Aqsa,” he continued. “We must know that Jerusalem was occupied and that people left many things, coins and other things everywhere. This does not mean in any way that there is a link between the people who left these things and the place where these things were left.”

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Charola de Tomar vai ser recuperada

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É um apoio único para uma obra única. A Cimpor investe 750 mil euros na recuperação da charola do convento de Cristo, em Tomar, o maior montante até hoje disponibilizado por uma empresa ao abrigo da lei do mecenato. O Ministério da Cultura agradece e lança o recado a outras empresas para que façam o mesmo.
O acordo foi firmado, no dia 19, junto ao espaço a ser intervencionado pelo IPPAR. O trabalho de conservação e restauro da charola, a “jóia da coroa do Convento”, deverá estar concluído em 2011 e está orçado em 1,5 milhão de euros, cabendo à cimenteira Cimpor 50%, sendo a restante parte proveniente de verbas do PIDDAC e do Feder.

A ministra da cultura classificou o protocolo entre o Estado e a Cimpor “um compromisso histó-rico” devido ao montante do “apoio mecenático inédito”. “É 1 gesto de grande generosidade, que reflecte o posicionamento cívico e social exemplar das empresas portuguesas. A defesa e conservação de um imóvel é uma tarefa morosa e muito exigente do ponto vista dos recursos e por isso o Estado não deve assumir a exclusividade. O património é de todos nós, uma das nossas maiores riquezas e cabenos zelar pela sua dinamização numa saudável conjugação de esforços. É o caminho que temos que percorrer no futuro”, referiu Isabel Pires de Lima, na ocasião.

Isabel Pires de Lima afirmou que o convento é um dos nossos projectos com “prioridade no âmbito do próximo Quadro Comunitário”, que disponibiliza, segundo a governante, verbas para animação de espaços culturais.

Ainda sobre o Convento, a ministra sublinhou ainda a negociação “exemplar” entre o IPPAR e a Cimpor que decidiu investir a maior verba de sempre na conservação e restauro do património português. Recorde-se que a multinacional cimenteira, que emprega seis mil pessoas em todo o mundo, já se tinha lançado no apoio mecenático há algum tempo. Deve-se à Cimpor o financiamento privado das obras de conservação do Mosteiro de Mafra, da Torre de Belém, do claustro do Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, das Igrejas de Madredeus e da Encarnação, do jardim do Palácio de Queluz, este último conta com uma comparticipação de 250 mil euros em 5 anos. A Cimpor conta já 2, 3 milhões de euros investidos na cultura portuguesa. Incluindo os 750 mil euros para o Convento de Cristo, que serão pagos em cinco tranches, e foram conside-rados “um apoio único para um projecto único”.

“O valor deste património justi-fica o nosso envolvimento. Contamos com a dedicação e rigor dos que venham a participar, para potenciar este monumento como uma referência perante portugueses e estrangeiros”, disse Ricardo Bayão Horta.

A jóia da coroa do convento

O Convento de Cristo é um conjunto monástico e monumental de referência obrigatória no panorama do património arquitectónico português, desde a fundação de Portugal (1160), recebendo o patrocínio do rei D. Afonso Henriques. Assumiu desde sempre um papel de relevo na história do país, nas descobertas marítimas, na arte, na arquitectura e na cultura portuguesa, tendo sido classificado como Monumento Nacional, em 1907, e como Património Mundial, pela UNESCO, em 1983;

A charola, primitiva igreja templária do castelo, data da fundação do Convento, construída no século XII, por iniciativa de D. Gualdim Pais, e teve como modelo a mesquita de Omar em Jerusalém, constituindo um exemplo da atitude dos templários, perante outras culturas e crenças, caracterizada pela busca do saber e assimilação dos conhecimentos de outras religiões, culturas e civilizações.

Considerado um “monumento ímpar na nossa herança patrimonial”, não apenas pela sua planta octogonal, mas também pelas campanhas artísticas que enriqueceram, ao longo dos séculos, o seu interior. Recorde-se que no século XVI, a charola transformou-se em capela-mor da igreja manuelina, simbolicamente limitada a poente pela janela do coro, invocada como símbolo dos Descobrimentos.

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Para Jorge Custódio, director do Convento de Cristo, a assinatura do protocolo com a Cimpor “protagonizou o encerramento de uma fase imprescindível de conservação e restauro, sem a qual o património reintegrado não receberia a valorização e o significado que lhe fora transmitido na Idade de Ouro quinhentista. Ao encerrar, em 2011, o ciclo, iniciado em 1985, de descoberta e tratamento das superfícies murais desta Nova Jerusalém e, cumulativamente, com o restauro dos bens em contexto, que compõem o programa manuelino, o ministério da cultura, a Cimpor, o Ippar e o Convento de Cristo devolverão à herança cultural do país um tesouro artístico de transcendência universal”.
O responsável do Convento agradeceu especialmente à Cimpor “pelo alcance da decisão tomada e pela consciência exemplar de investimento”.

Jorge Custódio deixou ainda um recado à ministra da cultura: “O monumento precisa de modernizar-se para responder aos desafios que se avizinham, em termos de recursos humanos, científicos e tecnológicos.”, referiu, deixando em seguida outro recado, desta vez para o director do IPPAR. “O Convento de Cristo necessita em permanência de uma equipa técnica que estude, programe e projecte as respostas quanto à sua valorização, conservação preventiva e manutenção dos espaços interiores e exteriores, tudo de acordo com os desígnios da Carta de Cracóvia e do seu estatuto de Património Mundial”, concluiu.
De acordo com o protocolo, os trabalhos irão desenrolar-se entre 2007 e 2011, passando por estudos e investigações iniciais, seguindo-se a conservação e restauro de pinturas murais e estuques do deambulatório exterior (até 1009) e a conservação e restauro das pinturas murais e estuques do tambor central (2009-2010). A partir de 2010, terão início os trabalhos de conservação e restauro no arco triunfal e intra-dorso, bem como de outras pinturas, esculturas e talhas. Serão pos-teriormente executados o projecto de iluminação do interior da charola e os planos de protecção e manutenção da charola.

Paiva quer Mata dos Sete Montes

A Mata dos Sete Montes apresenta sinais acentuados de degradação. De acordo com o presente da Câmara de Tomar o Instituto de Conservação da Natureza (ICN) não possui dinheiro para cuidar do espaço, permitindo o crescimento de vegetação rasteira e a morte de algumas espécies seculares. António Paiva mostrou-se preocupado, alertou a ministra para a situação e reafirmou a abertura da autarquia em assumir a gestão da mata, que fazia parte do conjunto monumental do convento.

“Trata-se da mata do Convento e sentimos que deve constituir a principal ligação do Convento à cidade de Tomar”, disse Paiva.

Em 1837, a mata foi vendida a um nobre e os seus bens foram depois adquiridos no século XX pelo Estado, através de uma venda em hasta pública. Mas em vez de a colocar à guarda da tutela da Cultura, o Estado integrou-a no Serviço Nacional de Parques, Reservas e Conservação da Natureza, constituindo-se como património natural classificado.
A ministra da cultura revelou que existem conversações “em ritmo acelerado” com o Ministério do Ambiente para ceder a tutela daquele espaço à Câmara local.

Com a entrega do espaço à autarquia, a ministra espera dar um exemplo da abertura da administração central à cooperação com os agentes locais, até porque sem eles “não é possível garantir a vida dos monumentos”.

in: Regiões

Ancient Papyrus Donated to the Vatican

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Pope Benedict XVI received as a gift to the Holy See one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels, an artifact that demonstrates Scripture’s historical actuality.

The Pope was given the 14-15 Bodmer Papyrus (P75), dated between A.D. 175 and 225, on Monday by Frank Hanna and his family, of the United States.

“The papyrus contains about half of each of the Gospels of Luke and John. It was written in Egypt and perhaps used as a liturgical book,” explained Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, during the audience.

The manuscript previously belonged to the library of the Bodmer Foundation in Cologny, Switzerland, and is now in the Vatican Apostolic Library.

“The Pope’s library possesses the most ancient testimony of the Gospel of Luke and among the most ancient of the Gospel of John,” added the cardinal.

The Bodmer Papyrus contains 144 pages and is the oldest manuscript that contains the text of the two Gospels in one papyrus.

L’Osservatore Romano commented that “almost certainly it was destined for a small community, a Greek-speaking Egyptian ‘parish’ that, as is habitual in all Christian liturgies, read the Gospel during the Eucharistic celebration.”

The oldest transcription of the Our Father, as recounted by Luke, is found in this papyrus.

Participants in the meeting explained that experts see the joining of Luke and John in one papyrus as a demonstration that for the first Christians communities, the Gospels formed a unity.

The document agrees with the Codex Vaticanus, a fourth-century edition of the Bible. The Bodmer Papyrus demonstrates, therefore, that the oldest versions of the New Testament that are preserved in their totality correspond with the Gospels that already circulated among the Christian communities centuries earlier.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, Bishop Raffaele Farina, prefect of the Vatican Library, and Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, which worked to bring about this gift, were present when the papyrus was donated to the Vatican.

By Zenit.org