SOME NEWS OF INTEREST,
AND SOME NEWS FOR CONCERN
GLOBALIZING SPIRITUAL RITUALS
An itneresting news item in A leading Indian newspaper, known for its judicious presentation and upholding freedom of all religions in India, THE HINDU, on MArch 27, 2004 reported the following news item. This may be amusing to many, and may be of some concern to others. You need to interpret it yourself, and kneel before the Lord Jesus Christ as to where all this would lead us.
The news emanates from the state of Kerala in India, where, according to the Indian Christian belief and tradition, the apostle Thomas labored and established the earliest Christian church. Read the news!
"The business process outsourcing (BPO) wave is not quite sweeping through Kerala as yet, but a different kind of outsourcing, from the U.S. and Europe is. Enter spiritual outsourcing.
"Faced with a shortage of clergymen in their countries, Christians in the West are sending their prayer requests to Kerala's priests who are rated high for their faith and religious intensity. Requests for ``Mass Intentions'', which involve a fixed sum of money as fees, come by e-mail, telephone or regular post.
"Mass Intentions relate to the living and the dead, for thanksgiving, forgiveness or requiem - which is a mass for the repose of the souls of the dead. The Mass is offered by a priest in a church.
"The names and details of the intended beneficiary are sometimes announced in the congregation.
"Since a priest can only offer one such mass a day, there is invariably a backlog of requests in Western churches, where a single priest sometimes has to take care of two or more parishes. The `outsourcing' exercise is meant to tackle the backlog.
"Father Paul Thelakkat, a spokesman for the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, told The Hindu that sending Mass Intentions to other countries has been in vogue for a long time as it is an accepted practice.
"A young priest said that the e-mail facility had caused a tremendous increase in the number of such requests in the last few years.
"A senior clergyman said that church bodies had formulated a code governing foreign Mass Intentions and the payment to be made.
"In the past, Mass Intentions were sent in by an individual priest to one known to him. But now most such requests are routed through church bodies or bishops.
"In some countries, church bodies or bishops collect requests from individuals and send them to one of the church bodies or a bishop in Kerala, who distribute them to priests on the basis of certain norms.
"A Latin Catholic clergyman in the Varappuzha Archdiocese here said that the system was strictly regulated and monitored by the church.
"Priests have to record the details of the Mass offered, to be submitted to his bishop.
"Fr. Thelakkat said that in each country, the Bishops' Council determines the fee for a Mass Intention.
"In Kerala, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council has fixed it at Rs. 40. In Canada it is (Canadian) $ 5. When a Canadian sends a prayer request to a Kerala priest, he or she pays a minimum of $ 5.
"Sometimes it is a source of additional income for the church, and also individual priests here."
GLAD TIDINGS FOR THE DEAF
Yet another milestone is created through the translation of the New Testament in the American Sign Language. We do pray that this will further encourage the workers among the deaf around the world to adapt the sign language suitably to meet the local needs of their deaf populations. Most Third World nations are yet to standardize their sign language systems. We do pray that the ministries in these nations will seek the help of the speech and hearing specialists among the national Christians to develop sign language systems and prepare tracts and even translate some books of the New Testament in sign language. Christian missionaries have done pioneering work among the nations in developing training programs for the deaf. We also need to focus on the development of sign languages and suitable materials in these newly developed systems.
"New Testament translated into American sign language
Council Bluffs (US), March. 21 (AP): After 23 years of work by some 60 people, a ministry group for the deaf has finished translating the entire New Testament into American Sign Language.
Translators appear on camera, signing the New Testament's 7,959 verses. After editing is completed, the translation should be available on DVD and videotape this summer.
Organizers said the project was needed because ASL is the native language for many deaf people.
"For most deaf people, English is their second language. How would you like to have to read a message that is critical to your life in some language other than English? Probably you wouldn't read the Bible at all," said Duane King, Deaf Missions' executive director.
Council Bluffs-based Deaf Missions plans to continue working on its Old Testament translation. So far, it has translated 13 of its 39 books."
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