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Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 9, 2016 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Even though the Satanists lost, they won.

That's the opinion of Phoenix city councilman Sal Diciccio, a practicing Catholic who was embroiled in a heated debate over whether or not a Satanic group would be allowed to give the opening prayer at an upcoming council meeting.

Last week, the sharply divided city council voted 5-4 to adopt a moment of silence instead of prayer at the opening of council meetings, effectively blocking an upcoming invocation by a Satanic temple member from Tucson, but also banning all prayer in the future.

Diciccio, who voted against the moment of silence, said that banning all prayer was the real end game for the Satanists.

“It wasn't about one prayer, they wanted to ban all prayer,” Diciccio said. “That’s their win...they accomplished their goal.”

There could have been other ways to effectively block the Satanist group without banning prayer, a tradition of the city council for 65 years, Diciccio said. First and foremost, the city council could have banned the group on the basis that they were not from the community and that they don’t consider themselves a religion, he said.

“The fact is that they’re from Tuscon and we’re from Phoenix, we had every right to say look, you’re not a part of our community,” he said. “That was paramount to block them from being there.”

The four councilmen who ended up voting against the moment of silence also had presented alternative prayer practices that the council could have adopted, such as appointing  a council chaplain.

Diccicio said he approached City Attorney Brad Holm with the proposal that the city council could ask the chaplains of the Phoenix police and fire departments to come in and offer prayers on a rotating basis, since their chaplains are already in place and would not cost the city council any extra money. The proposal was denied.  

“Do you know what he said? He said they're Christian, and you can't do that,” Diciccio said.

The dissenting members of the council also proposed a model like that of the Arizona state legislature, which allows each member to personally invite someone to offer a prayer on a rotating basis.

Josh Kredit is the General Counsel and Vice President of Policy for Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), a nonprofit research and education organization that promotes and defends traditional values of life, marriage and family, and religious freedom. He said the state's practice holds members accountable for the prayers offered.

“If a council member wanted to sponsor a Satanist prayer, they could do that, but they would also live with any kind of backlash like what we saw the other night, versus this system where everyone just kind of throws up their hands and says well it’s a process, there’s nothing we can do,” Kredit said.

In their May 2014 decision Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court upheld the right of public bodies to allow prayer under certain parameters, Kredit said. The city council could have had a constitutionally sound argument for changing their prayer practices without directly discriminating against Satanic groups, he added.

On Wednesday of last week, before the vote of the city council on the issue, more than a hundred people attended a the city council meeting, giving emotional testimonies that lasted more than two hours - many in opposition to the Satanic prayer. No Satanists addressed the council at the meeting.

"I am not for the silent prayer," Pastor Darlene Vasquez said at the meeting, according to “I want those who believe in the one true God to pray. It breaks my heart to hear what is going on."

Diciccio, who said he is known for being outspoken on social issues, told a local T.V. news channel that allowing the Satanic group to proceed with the prayer would have been like inviting ISIS to offer an invocation. The newscaster argued that the comparison was unfair.

“But I said well, Satanism is the epitome of evil, if you think (ISIS) is evil, where do you think this all comes from?” Diciccio said.

The city council has heard many different types of prayer in its 65 years of the tradition, Diciccio said, not all of them necessarily from the Christian tradition, but all of them positive in some way. He said he believes a Satanic prayer would be fundamentally unhealthy for the city.

“I don’t think people really understand the depth of (the consequences) of allowing a satanic prayer,” Diciccio said. “I believe that is an unhealthy thing for a community. There’s this blase attitude that what’s going on is ok - I don’t think it’s ok, I don’t think it’s right.”

The Satanic temple had threatened to sue the city council if they were banned from prayer, but have dropped the idea since the passing of the moment of silence. According to, some city council members believed that the city could not have afforded the lawsuit.

Still, Diciccio said he is worried that the decision to get rid of prayer in the city council could have a domino effect on the rest of the state, and even other states around the country.
“I think Phoenix is kind of at the forefront, but I think this is going to be a debate nationwide,” he said.

“We have (public prayer) all over the country,” he added. “If it’s done somewhere else, why can’t it be done here? It’s not logical. And the Supreme Court said if you do it right, you can constitutionally protect it.”  

Fr. Vince Lampert, a nationally known exorcist who travels the country speaking out spiritual realities, agreed that the move was a win for the Satanic group.

“The decision by the Phoenix City Council is a victory for the Satanists who wish to remove God from the public forum,” Father Lampert told CNA. “By opting for a moment of silence the only One who is silenced is God.”

“Humans have the innate desire and need for God,” he added.  “St. Augustine put it best: ‘Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you.’  When God is silenced from such settings as this City Council, it only further distances humanity from God and increases the emptiness of society as a whole. It is within this emptiness that Satan dwells.”


Vatican City, Feb 9, 2016 / 03:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with 650 of the 1,000 priests who've been chosen as Missionaries of Mercy, telling them to show the tenderness of God’s love to those who confess to them during the Jubliee.

“Let us not forget: before us there is not sin, but the repentant sinner. A person who feels the desire of being welcomed and forgiven,” and who no longer desires to be far from God, the Pope said Feb. 9.

He called to mind the biblical passage in which Noah, after the flood, got drunk from the wine he made in his vineyard, and was found lying naked inside his tent. While his son Ham laughed at him, Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him with a blanket.

When speaking with those who come to the confessional, as priests and as missionaries “we are not called to judge with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune to sin,” Francis said, but are instead asked to take on the attitude of Shem and Japheth, protected their father from shame.

“To be a confessor according to the heart of Christ means to cover the sinner with the blanket of mercy, so that they are no longer ashamed and can recover the joy of their filial dignity.”

Pope Francis met with the Missionaries of Mercy in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to offer his reflections on their special role during the Jubilee. He will give them their official mandate during his Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s basilica Feb. 10.

Though more than 1,000 priests have been selected as Missionaries of Mercy, only 650 have made it to Rome for their official commission.

Selected from every continent, the missionaries, among other things, will be given the faculties to pardon sins in cases otherwise reserved to the Holy See.

Though there are several such sins, the Holy See has clarified that the faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy are “limited exclusively” to just four.

Namely, they are: Profaning the Eucharistic species by taking them away or keeping them for a sacrilegious purpose; the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shall not commit adultery”) and a direct violation against the sacramental seal by a confessor.

In his speech, the Pope said that to be a Missionary of Mercy is a responsibility that has been entrusted to them “because it asks you to be in first person witnesses of God's closeness and of his way of loving.”

He clarified that this does not mean our way of loving, “which is always limited and at times contradictory,” but consists of God’s own style of loving and forgiving, “which is precisely mercy.”

Francis then brought up several points which for him are key themes for the missionaries to keep in mind while carrying out their role throughout the Holy Year.

The first thing he asked them to remember is that “you are called to express the maternity of the Church.”

“The Church is Mother” not only because she continuously generates new children in the faith, but also because she nurtures that faith and offers the forgiveness of God and new life, “(which is) the fruit of conversion,” he said.

If this perception of the Church as Mother fails “due to our rigidity, it would be a serious damage first of all for faith itself, because it would prevent the penitent from being inserted into the Body of Christ,” the Pope said, adding that it would also limit the penitent’s ability to feel like a part of the community.

What the missionaries are called to express instead, is a Church who, as a mother, “welcomes anyone who approaches her, knowing that through her they are inserted into Christ.”

No matter what the sin is that's been confessed, “every missionary is called to remember their own sinful existence and humbly place themselves as a channel of God's mercy,” he said.

Pope Francis then underlined the importance of the desire of forgiveness in the heart of those who come to confession.

This desire is the fruit of both grace and its action in peoples' lives, he said, reminding the missionaries that “this desire is the beginning of conversion.” Conversion, he noted, begins when the heart recognizes the evil it has done, but turns to God with the hope of obtaining forgiveness.

A person’s desire for forgiveness is strengthened when they decide “in their own heart to change their life and they don't want to sin anymore,” Francis explained, and told the missionaries to “give a lot of space for this desire for God and for his forgiveness.”

In his final point, the Pope pointed to “a component which is not spoken of much, but which is rather crucial: shame.”

It’s not easy to come before another man, a representative of God, and confess one’s sins, he noted, explaining that shame “is an intimate feeling that affects one's personal life and requires an attitude of respect and encouragement on the part of the confessor.”

Pointing to the image of Noah naked in the tent, Pope Francis said the passage, to him, emphasizes the importance of the role of a confessor.

“Before us there is a nude person, with their weaknesses and their limits, with the shame of being a sinner,” he said, and urged the missionaries to always remember that it’s not sin that sits in front of them in the confessional, but a repentant sinner.

Francis then noted that it’s not “the club of judgment” that brings lost sheep back to the flock, but rather, personal holiness, which he said is the true the source of renewal and reform within the Church.

“Holiness is nurtured by love and knows how to bring upon itself the weight of those who are most weak,” he said, explaining that the role of a missionary of mercy is to carry the sinner “on their own back,” and console them with “the strength of compassion.”

The Pope told the missionaries, when burdened by the weight of the sins confessed to them as well as their own personal limitations and lack of words, to put their trust “in the strength of mercy, which goes out to everyone as a love which knows no bounds.”

He closed his address by assuring the missionaries of his prayers and asking that Mary would assist and intercede for them in their service during the Jubilee.


Copyright by St. Francis Borgia