Scotland was not alone in falling victim to witchcraft panics in the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century. Witch-hunting plagued Europe, beginning in the 15th century when the idea that witches worshipped the devil began to take hold. Burgundy, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Scandinavia all endured outbreaks of witch panics during this time. After the Reformation divided Europe into Protestant and Catholic in the early 16th century, both sides hunted witches.
During this period of religious reform, rulers wanted to prove their godliness. They perceived the unholy and evil as the source of unrest and disorder. See how Satan and his punishments were depicted in the Middle Ages.
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Between and , five intense panics erupted across Scotland: , , , , and Watch an animated history of Martin Luther's starting the Reformation. The act made being a witch a capital offence. Nearly three decades passed before the first major witchcraft panic arose in , when King James came to believe that he and his Danish bride, Anne, had been personally targeted by witches who conjured dangerous storms to try to kill the royals during their voyages across the North Sea. One of the first accused in this panic was a woman named Geillis Duncan, from Tranent in East Lothian.
In late her employer, David Seton, accused her and tortured her into a confession in which she named several accomplices. Duncan later retracted her confession, but by then the panic was well under way. King James sanctioned witch trials after an alarming confession in from an accused witch, Agnes Sampson. It was revealed that witches—even some from Denmark—had sailed in sieves to the church of the coastal town of North Berwick on Halloween night in After hearing these confessions, even though they had been extorted by torture, King James and his advisers came to believe a witchcraft conspiracy threatened his reign.
It must have been alarming, but also gratifying, to have the devil allegedly say that the king was his greatest enemy on earth. Geillis Duncan and Agnes Sampson were two of many put to death during the first great panic.
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Although it cannot be said with certainty how many suspected witches were executed during the North Berwick trials, more than a hundred people were implicated. Six years later another panic broke out. Once again, witches were reported to be conspiring against King James personally.
A woman named Margaret Aitken, the so-called great witch of Balwearie, claimed a special power to detect other witches, many of whom were put to death on her word alone. This panic halted abruptly when Aitken was exposed as a fraud. This incident embarrassed witch-hunters greatly, and that same year, partly to justify the recent trials, King James published his treatise, Daemonologie. Daemonologie explains the way the devil operated in the world. He was the leader of fallen angels, who had become demons. These demons made pacts with people and granted them powers to work harmful magic.
After James succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as sovereign of England in , he faced a new religious opponent: militant Catholics. Catholic conspiracies threatened his claim on the English throne, in much the same way the North Berwick witches threatened him in Scotland. Learn how Guy Fawkes became a symbol of protest. The notion of witches as a demonic conspiracy descended through the lower levels of local government, making the witch hunts of the 17th century local as well as national affairs. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection.
But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.
The configuration of the priest to Christ the head — namely, as the principal source of grace — does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. Youth ministry, as traditionally organized, has also suffered the impact of social changes. Young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures. As adults, we find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands, and to speak to them in a language they can understand.
For the same reason, our efforts in the field of education do not produce the results expected. The rise and growth of associations and movements mostly made up of young people can be seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, who blazes new trails to meet their expectations and their search for a deep spirituality and a more real sense of belonging. Even if it is not always easy to approach young people, progress has been made in two areas: the awareness that the entire community is called to evangelize and educate the young, and the urgent need for the young to exercise greater leadership. We should recognize that despite the present crisis of commitment and communal relationships, many young people are making common cause before the problems of our world and are taking up various forms of activism and volunteer work.
Some take part in the life of the Church as members of service groups and various missionary initiatives in their own dioceses and in other places. Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness.
- The Red Shoes.
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- Perry Rhodan 1484: Der Tod eines Nakken (Heftroman): Perry Rhodan-Zyklus Die Cantaro (Perry Rhodan-Erstauflage) (German Edition).
- Look Read and Think.
- Duel ardent: Les Séducteurs, T1 (French Edition).
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Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervour of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration. On the other hand, despite the scarcity of vocations, today we are increasingly aware of the need for a better process of selecting candidates to the priesthood.
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Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being. As I mentioned above, I have not sought to offer a complete diagnosis, but I invite communities to complete and enrich these perspectives on the basis of their awareness of the challenges facing them and their neighbours.
It is my hope that, in doing so, they will realize that whenever we attempt to read the signs of the times it is helpful to listen to young people and the elderly. Both represent a source of hope for every people. The elderly bring with them memory and the wisdom of experience, which warns us not to foolishly repeat our past mistakes.
Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour! The entire people of God proclaims the Gospel.
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Evangelization is the task of the Church. The Church, as the agent of evangelization, is more than an organic and hierarchical institution; she is first and foremost a people advancing on its pilgrim way towards God. She is certainly a mystery rooted in the Trinity, yet she exists concretely in history as a people of pilgrims and evangelizers, transcending any institutional expression, however necessary.
I would like to dwell briefly on this way of understanding the Church, whose ultimate foundation is in the free and gracious initiative of God. The salvation which God offers us is the work of his mercy. No human efforts, however good they may be, can enable us to merit so great a gift. God, by his sheer grace, draws us to himself and makes us one with him. The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of the salvation offered by God. The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals.
God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community. This people which God has chosen and called is the Church. Jesus did not tell the apostles to form an exclusive and elite group. To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people!
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The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. The People of God is incarnate in the peoples of the earth, each of which has its own culture. It has to do with the lifestyle of a given society, the specific way in which its members relate to one another, to other creatures and to God. In these first two Christian millennia, countless peoples have received the grace of faith, brought it to flower in their daily lives and handed it on in the language of their own culture.
Whenever a community receives the message of salvation, the Holy Spirit enriches its culture with the transforming power of the Gospel.