Pope Francis Makes the College of Cardinals More Universal

Unless his reign is short, a Roman Catholic pontiff will appoint most of the men who vote for his successor. But Pope Francis’ additions to the College of Cardinals since his election in 2013 also have served another purpose – tilting the leadership structure of the Roman Catholic Church away from its historic European base and toward developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The pope recently announced that he will appoint nine new voting cardinals (in addition to four other cardinals who are over 80 and therefore ineligible to vote). After this latest group is elevated at a Nov. 28 ceremony in Vatican City, the College of Cardinals will have 128 voting members, 42% of whom are European, down from 52% in 2013.

Francis’ appointments have increased the overall representation of the Asia-Pacific region within the body of voting cardinals from 9% in 2013 to 15% in 2020, while increasing the representation of sub-Saharan Africa from 9% to 13%. These figures include cardinals who were named by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

Francis, an Argentinian who is the first pope from outside Europe since the eighth century, still has picked more cardinals from Europe than from any other region. Of the 73 newly appointed or currently eligible voting cardinals Francis has named so far during his papacy, 38% are from Europe, 21% from Latin America and the Caribbean, 18% from the Asia-Pacific region, 14% from sub-Saharan Africa, 7% from North America and 3% from the Middle East-North Africa region.

Among the nine cardinals Francis has chosen this year, four are from Europe, with three from Italy and one from Malta. Two were born in the Asia-Pacific region (Brunei and the Philippines), one is from Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile), one is from sub-Saharan Africa (Rwanda), and one is from North America (the United States). The American is Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, who will become the first African American cardinal.

Given that, as of 2010, only about a quarter (24%) of the global Catholic population is from Europe, the continent remains heavily overrepresented among voting cardinals. By this measure, the most underrepresented continent within the church’s leadership – even with Francis’ new picks – is Latin America and the Caribbean, which is home to 39% of the worldwide Catholic population (again, as of 2010) and has 19% of the cardinals.

First Ever ‘Decolonized’ English Translation Of Famous Ancient Indian Scripture

Ten years in the making, a new English version of the world’s most translated – and mistranslated – ancient Indian scripture could be the purest because it does not include colonial, western or Christian distortions.

Written more than 5,000 years ago – some calculate 7,500 years ago – the Bhagavad Gita is considered the ultimate guide on how to navigate life’s struggles and dilemmas and find meaning within existence. It is the central and enduring sacred text of Hindu and other eastern cultures that can be found in households worldwide.

The book also has prevailing global influence as a “leading book of yoga,” and a following that includes Arianna Huffington who recently wrote: “The Bhagavad Gita is a source of wisdom in this crucible time.”

Translated hundreds of times

Considered a literary masterpiece with universal appeal, the Gita has been translated hundreds of times in 75 languages since 1785. It even provided the premise of the multi-star Hollywood movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

When local Vedic (Hindu) scholar and linguist Jeffrey Armstrong embarked on being the first Canadian to translate the Gita into English, he thought he was doing a straight Sanskrit-to-English translation. Through his research, he discovered that previous western versions had distorted the Gita with concepts, words and theories that do not exist in Sanskrit or Indian cultures.

Armstrong spent 10 years “decolonizing” the text to capture it accurately. The Bhagavad Gita Comes Alive: A Radical Translation released this week on Amazon, timed with Diwali celebrations. Armstrong says the book’s teachings are more relevant than ever.

“As we navigate a changing world amidst a global pandemic, climate change, and universal calls for social justice, the Gita offers guidance and lessons that are timely, including about ethical and moral dilemmas, politics, and cooperating with nature,” said Armstrong, vice-chair of the Vedic Friends Association and scholar with the British Board of Dharmic Scholars.

A few of the Christian words and concepts that Armstrong avoids in his translation include: God, heaven, hell, soul, and sin. “These words and concepts cannot be used as synonyms for Vedic and yogic words and philosophies. I offer the Gita in its true essence where I keep key Sanskrit words and use English to support their true meaning and intent.”

For example, the word “soul” originated with the Greeks and is defined as the essence of a human being who has one lifetime followed by consequences. The Bhagavad Gita Comes Alive replaces “soul” with the correct and intended Sanskrit word, “atma,” which means “the invisible, immortal being with no beginning or end.”

Testimonials

Dr. David Frawley – American Hindu scholar who was awarded India’s third highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan, by the Indian government:

“There has long been demand for a version of the Gita that corrects distortions. With this translation by Jeffrey Armstrong, who deeply understands the connotations and subtle connections of the Sanskrit terms around which the Gita revolves, we finally have an extensive and profound English version of the Bhagavad Gita.”

Professor Ved P. Nanda: Head of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), a North American non-profit organization that aims to preserve and promote Hindu ideals and values. The University of Denver’s international law department is named after Nanda, who is an awarded adjunct professor at the university. The Indian government awarded Nanda its third highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan:

“Jeffrey Armstrong has produced a master translation, carefully preserving its intended meaning. The Bhagavad Gita Comes Alive: A Radical Translation enables the reader to unlock the profound messages which are obscured by other versions.”

\Jeffrey Armstrong is an award-winning author, linguist, and poet. He has been teaching the Vedas for more than 40 years. He also had a successful 15-year career as an executive in Silicon Valley and public speaker addressing Fortune 500 companies. His other books include Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar, and Karma: The Ancient Secret of Cause & Effect.

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