Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Faith is stronger than currents that come and go. We must therefore be courageous as the church represents never ending hope."
Benedict XVI

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For years, I've been comfortable with my beliefs regarding evolution. Rather than sit on the fence or take sides, I took both sides. It made no sense to me that God would not have a true hand in creation. It made less than no sense to deny the science of how our world came to be and developed (or evolved if you will). I raised my children with the notion that God's hand was at work and he was very busy playing a very complex game of creation. If one is going to deny tht God had a hand in the creation of our world, than one might as well deny God existance.

Now, this week, it seems that there will be a meeting or meetings to solidify the Church's position on evolution and the merits of Intelligent Design. I hope the outcome does not put me at odds with greater minds than I because I really want my science and my religious beliefs. I won't let go of the harmonious blending of faith and science easily because we really should not be underrating God. After all, he is capable of anything.




and Here

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Merkel has 'intense' talks with Pope Benedict XVI
28 August 2006
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY - German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended Monday a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the pontiff's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome. It was Merkel's first meeting with the German-born pope since she became chancellor. "I had very intense talks with the Holy Father," Merkel said after the 45 minute private audience. The two discussed the Middle East, Iran and Europe, the chancellor said.

Merkel expressed support for the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the planned EU constitution (see below for expanded information) and said she is looking forward to the pope's September visit to his homeland. The chancellor said her party would always maintain good relations with the pontiff and she gave Benedict, a music fan, an old Mozart score.

Merkel grew up as a Protestant pastor's daughter in the former East Germany. Benedict, the former Joseph Ratzinger, was born in Bavaria and will be visiting there September 9-14.


EU needs constitution with Christian reference, Merkel says
29.08.2006 - 09:46
CET By Lucia Kubosova

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested Europe needs a constitution that makes reference to Christianity and God following her audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday (29 August).The German leader, the daughter of a protestant pastor, visited the Pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to discuss several issues in European and international politics, ahead of the Pope's September visit to Germany, his homeland.

"We spoke about freedom of religion," Ms Merkel told journalists following the 45-minute meeting.She added "I underlined my opinion that we need a European identity in the form of a constitutional treaty and I think it should be connected to Christianity and God, as Christianity has forged Europe in a decisive way," according to press reports.

The Christian Democrat leader has previously spoken out in favour of reopening the debate on religion in the constitution as the EU considers how to tackle the deadlock after the treaty's rejection by French and Dutch voters last year.

Germany has been assigned by EU member states to come up with some kind of solution to the constitutional crisis during its presidency of the union in the first six months of 2007. Like Mrs Merkel, some leading figures of the European People's Party - the federalist centre-right pan-European group - have pointed out that a possible re-drafted treaty should include clear links to Europe's Christian heritage.

During earlier negotiations on the content of the new EU charter, Spain, Italy and Poland were among the strongest supporters of a reference to God in the treaty.But its opponents argued it could prove controversial in view of Turkey's potential membership of the EU as well as due to the strict separation of state and church in some countries, such as France.

Currently, the preamble refers to Europe's religious heritage only in general terms."Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, the values of which, still present in its heritage, have embedded within the life of society the central role of the human person and his or her inviolable and inalienable rights, and respect for law," it states.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pope prepares to embrace theory of intelligent design
John Hooper in Rome
Monday August 28, 2006
The Guardian

Philosophers, scientists and other intellectuals close to Pope Benedict will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican's view of evolution.

There have been growing signs the Pope is considering aligning his church more closely with the theory of "intelligent design" taught in some US states. Advocates of the theory argue that some features of the universe and nature are so complex that they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. Critics say it is a disguise for creationism.

A prominent anti-evolutionist and Roman Catholic scientist, Dominique Tassot, told the US National Catholic Reporter that this week's meeting was "to give a broader extension to the debate. Even if [the Pope] knows where he wants to go, and I believe he does, it will take time. Most Catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so." In 1996, in what was seen as a capitulation to scientific orthodoxy, John Paul II said Darwin's theories were "more than a hypothesis".

Last week, at a conference in Rimini, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria revealed that evolution and creation had been chosen as the subjects for this year's meeting of the Pope's Schülerkreis - a group consisting mainly of his former doctoral students that has been gathering annually since the late 1970s. Apart from Cardinal Schönborn, participants at the closed-door meeting will include the president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Peter Schuster; the conservative ethical philosopher Robert Spaemann; and Paul Elbrich, professor of philosophy at Munich University.

Last December, a US court sparked controversy when it ruled that intelligent design should not be taught alongside evolution theory. Cardinal Schönborn said: "The debate of recent months has undoubtedly motivated the Holy Father's choice." But he added that in the 1960s the then Joseph Ratzinger had "underlined emphatically the need to return to the topic of creation".
The Pope also raised the issue in the inaugural sermon of his pontificate, saying: "We are not the accidental product, without meaning, of evolution."

A few months later, Cardinal Schönborn, who is regarded as being close to Benedict, wrote an article for the New York Times backing moves to teach ID. He was attacked by Father George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory. On August 19, Fr Coyne was replaced without explanation. Vatican sources said the Pope's former astronomer, who has cancer, had asked to be replaced.
ROME (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI warned that damage to the environment had dire consequences for the poor and called for all Christians to work to save the earth.

The world "is exposed to a series of risks created by choices and lifestyles that can degrade it," the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said in his Sunday sermon given at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

"Damage to the environment makes the life of the poor on Earth particularly unbearable," the pope said, calling on all Christians to take care of the earth and not deplete its resources, sharing them in solidarity.

The pontiff's call came a few days before Christian associations celebrate in Italy on September 1 a "day for the safeguarding of Creation".

Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the Greens, seized on Benedict's remarks. "It would be very useful if all the parishes in Italy equipped themselves with solar energy," he said.

He said it was very important that the Roman Catholic church did not confine itself to "the traditional message of respect for the human being" but also sent out "a message of love of nature and respect for the environment."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

From National Catholic Reporter
Issue Date: August 25, 2006

The difficult case of the common good

Do a Google search for “common good” and it returns millions of entries. Perhaps that’s as good a sign as any of why we might, as a society, have trouble ever again talking about the concept.

For years we have lamented on this page that the notion of common good seems to have been scrubbed from our national vocabulary. We have been given over, intellectually, emotionally, financially and certainly politically to the individual good. We have taken individualism to the extremes of greed and self-aggrandizement, often with the tacit permission and even encouragement of our leaders.

From education to the workplace, from environmental policy to foreign policy, the emphasis is on the individual’s interest or, in the case of the state, U.S. interests, often to the exclusion of all else. This is not to denigrate individual initiative or success. But the individual, in the end, can’t exist without the community at large; and no matter how anti-government the rhetoric becomes, sometimes the only entity with the resources and power to bring needed change or to extend benefits throughout the entire community, is the government.

So, can the common good be revived? Do issues or causes exist, besides war, that can inspire a concern for and even a consensus about the common good?

Some, like American Prospect magazine, suggest the time is right. The neoconservative experiment seems to be unraveling in every direction, particularly in the projection of U.S. power abroad; the gap between rich and poor is expanding; the wide sense of confidence in the Bush administration is eroding. So what’s the big idea that will newly capture the imagination and swing our politics in a new direction?

“Liberal governance,” wrote Michael Tomasky in American Prospect in May, “is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.”

That idea of service -- other than military -- had a brief time in the sun in our modern politics with President John Kennedy’s line, “Ask not what your country can do for you.” But does a party or an individual dare introduce the politics of discomfort in an era when the best instruction our president can muster at a time of unprecedented national tragedy is that we should all keep shopping?
Can a call to common concerns be heard in a country where more than 40 million people lack even the most basic health care coverage? If something like that won’t interest us in the common good, what will?

A recent Economist piece on inequality in America details the growing gap between rich and poor, a gap greater “than in any other advanced country,” but one that has elicited little outcry. “Americans do not go in for envy,” the Economist said. “Whereas Europeans fret about the way the economic pie is divided, Americans want to join the rich, not soak them.” And yet, some wonder, is the middle class disappearing, is the gap widening to a point where some may begin to see inequity, not opportunity?

The Democrats today, as Joe Feuerherd explains in his analysis (see story), are taking up the cause of the common good in their search for a theme in the upcoming congressional races and perhaps even for the 2008 presidential campaign.

It is, in many ways, their response to the religious right and all the God talk and alleged “values” voting of the 2004 presidential election.

But translating the common good into a political platform could be not only difficult but also dangerous. (And one might add a plea here that Democrats spare us any more incidents of Rep. Nancy Pelosi quoting Pope Benedict XVI on the floor of the House, as she did when invoking the pontiff’s blessing on her opposition to cutting the estate tax. Even from our far perch in the middle of the country it was transparently disingenuous.)

Talk of the common good by necessity becomes a broad and diffuse conversation. Whose good? How common?

It is a conversation that necessarily engages themes that are familiar to religious people: concern for the poor, for the least among us; the intrinsic value of every human being; the welfare of all, not only those who have the means to provide for themselves. Religion informs the debate and no one, particularly candidates, should run from the religion question. In fact, all ought to speak out of their own experience of the influence of religion and whatever else helped shape their ethics and thinking on public policy questions.

At the same time, no one should attach his or her religion to a political program; no one belief -- or lack of it -- should be made to feel more at home or influential. God doesn’t register to vote, nor does he carry the card of any political party.

It is good to see common good back in our public discussions. We can only hope that by the end of this political season it is not rendered as meaningless as was “values” in the last election or as splintered as a Google search.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pope can only take so many long trips. Benedict finds travels can be tiring, but he still would like to visit the Holy Land 'in a time of peace'

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI says he does not feel strong enough to take many long trips, but that he would like to travel to a peaceful Holy Land.

In a wide-ranging interview aired Aug. 13 on German television, the pontiff spoke of Europe's role in Christianity and secularization in the Western world.

The pontiff also offered some insight into his own personality and ministry, saying being pope is "really tiring" and that it is important to "see the funny side of life."

"I have to say that I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips," the pontiff said in the 35-minute interview. "But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it's in response to a sincere request, I'd like to go."

The 79-year-old pope has made three foreign trips since assuming the papacy in April 2005. So far, all have been within Europe, with a pilgrimage to his native Bavaria, Germany, scheduled in September.

But the pope said he is planning to travel to Brazil to take part in the closing sessions of the Fifth Latin American Bishops' Conference, which takes place May 13-31, 2007.

"Then I'd like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace," said the pontiff, who had repeatedly appealed for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah militias during fighting in southern Lebanon over the past several weeks.

The pope said he has also promised to travel to Austria, and he has scheduled a trip in November to Turkey.

"In the Western world today we are experiencing a wave of new and drastic enlightenment or secularization," Benedict said. "Humanity has rebuilt the world by itself, and finding God inside this world has become more difficult."

However, the pope said the West is also influenced by other cultures in which the religious element is very strong.

"We see how in young people there's the search for something 'more,'" Benedict said. "We see how the religious phenomenon is returning, as they say."
Aug. 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pope Says It's Important to "See the Funny Side" of Things
Posted on August 17, 2006

By Gerry O'Connell in Rome: "I'm not a man who constantly thinks up jokes, but I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically." - Those were the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his third major interview since becoming Pope.

Speaking to Vatican Radio and German TV, Benedict disclosed that he did not “feel that lonely” in the Vatican, and drew strength from the crowds. And the 79-year-old pontiff revealed that although he did find the job physically tiring, it gave him joy as well.

Benedict said that he did not intend travelling much during his papacy as he did not feel strong enough to plan many long trips. He will, however, go to Brazil in May next year and will also visit Austria.In addition, he will return to his native Bavaria this September "to see again the places where I grew up, the people who touched and shaped my life. I want to thank these people."

Well aware that Germany, like other Western countries, is experiencing "drastic secularisation," he has chosen as his central theme of his visit the fact that "we have to re-discover God, not just any God, but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ, we see God."

While in Germany, Benedict said he wanted to present a "positive and joyful" vision of Christianity and Catholicism, as he did in Valencia last month. Responding to comments that "Pope Benedict was different from Cardinal Ratzinger," the pontiff said that like everyone else he was influenced by "circumstances and situations and even people" as new responsibilities were taken on.

"Let's say that my basic personality and even my basic vision have grown, but in everything that is essential I have remained identical," he added.

“I’m happy that certain aspects that weren’t noticed at first are now coming into the open.”


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Vatican Sends Special Envoy 'to Bring Hope' to the People of Lebannon
Posted on August 16, 2006

By Gerry O'Connell in Rome:

In an extraordinary expression of concern, Pope Benedict XVI has sent Cardinal Roger Etchegeray as his special envoy to the Lebanon to convey his "concrete solidarity" and "spiritual closeness" to 'the martyred population" of that war-destroyed land, and to "all those who are suffering" in the Middle East.

Before leaving Rome on Sunday morning, the 83-year-old French cardinal was tightlipped and would only say that his mission was "to bring hope" to the Lebanese people. The Vatican emphasised that the cardinal's visit was "strictly religious" but sources suggested that he hopes to meet with the country’s political leaders. He will convey to them Pope Benedict's concern, solidarity and closeness to all the people of the Lebanon – Christian and Muslim alike.

Shortly after his departure for Lebanon, the Israeli Cabinet voted to accept the UN resolution envisaging an end to hostilities on Monday morning.The Lebanese Cabinet had reached a similar agreement the day before the cardinal departed. From Beirut, the cardinal drove to Harissa, to the mountain top shrine of Our Lady of the Lebanon overlooking the Bay of Jounieh. He celebrated Mass on August 15 – the feast of the Assumption - at the Pope's request. The country’s Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nashrallah Sfeir, concelebrated with him.

The French cardinal, a former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also acted as Pope John Paul II’s special envoy to many of the world’s trouble spots, and the Lebanese were delighted that the Pope sent his envoy to their country. Cardinal Sfeir told Vatican radio: "The Pope's envoy will be able to see with his own eyes what is happening in the Lebanon. "We will join him in pray to ask God to inspire and enlighten our (political) leaders, so that they can put an end to this war. We thank the Holy Father for this paternal gesture towards our people."

The Vatican did not ignore the fact that more than 100 Israeli citizens in Lebanon and Israel died as a result of Hezbollah rockets and fire and that many thousands were displaced from their homes.To recognise this, the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, and the Palestinian-born Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, concelebrated a Mass for Peace at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pope says Church not a string of "nos"
By Philip Pullella, Sun Aug 13, 2:25 PM ET

Pope Benedict said in an interview aired on Sunday that Catholicism should not be seen as a "collection of prohibitions" because of bans on gay marriage, abortion and contraception but as a Church with positive values.

In the long and rare interview with German television and Vatican Radio, he also offered some personal insights, saying he was not lonely in his job but did not feel strong enough to plan many long overseas trips like his predecessor John Paul.

He also said he was happy that the world was now noticing other aspects of his personality to correct the stern image many people had of him while, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was the Church's chief doctrinal enforcer before his 2005 election.

The interview, which will be posted on the Vatican Web site, was recorded last week at his summer retreat south of Rome and broadcast ahead of a trip to his native Germany next month. Benedict said while he would not be traveling as much as John Paul, he yearned to visit the Holy Land, but only "in a time of peace."

"Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions," the 79-year-old Pope said. "It's a positive option ... We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer ..."

Benedict, responding to a question about the Church's positions against abortion, contraception and homosexual marriage, said: "So, firstly it's important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don't want something. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it's not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this," he said.

Asked if the Church should not come out of some of its defensive positions, the Pope acknowledged it had to learn better how to stress the positive. "We need to do this, above all, in dialogue with cultures and religions," he said, adding that some Africans and Asians were "horrified by the coldness of our (Western) rationality."

Benedict also said the Church was reflecting much about the role of women but repeated that they could not become priests because Christ chose only men as his apostles. He suggested, however, that canon (Church) law, which currently restricts high-level decision-making roles to ordained males, might someday be changed to give women more power in the Church short of the priesthood.

"We will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their (women's) way," he said.
He said he would call more meetings of cardinals from around the world to consult and hear their opinion on Church issues. Asked about AIDS, the Pope said he believed public opinion had treated the Church unfairly because of its position against condoms to stop the spread of the disease, mainly in Africa.

"In many areas (in Africa), following the destruction of war, the Church is the only structure that remains intact. This is a fact. We offer treatment, treatment to AIDS victims too, and we offer education, helping to establish good relationships with others," he said. "So I think we should correct that image that sees the Church as spreading severe 'nos'."

The Pope freely discussed personal aspects of his job. "To tell the truth, I'm not that lonely," he said when asked if he sometimes felt separated from the world because of the rigors of his job, which he said "really is tiring."

On planning future trips, he said: "I have to say, I never felt strong enough to plan many long trips." Apart from Germany in September, he is scheduled to visit Turkey in November and Brazil next year.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Indonesia: Stay of execution after papal plea
Aug. 11 (

The Indonesian government has announced a stay of execution for 3 Christians who were scheduled to face a firing squad on August 12, the AsiaNews service has reported. The reprieve for the condemned men is said to be for at least one week.

Pope Benedict XVI had sent a last-minute appeal to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, asking for a "an act of clemency" to stop the scheduled execution of three Christian men sentenced in connection with the religious violence that swept the eastern Sulawesi region in 1999-2001.

The Pope's appeal-- contained in a telegram from Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news), the Vatican Secretary of State-- cited both "humanitarian grounds" and "the particularity of the case." The message also reminds the Indonesian leader of the Vatican's consistent opposition to the use of capital punishment.

Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva, and Marinus Riwu were due to face a firing squad on Saturday, August 12, after being convicted of plotting massacres during the religious warfare in Indonesia's eastern islands. Their appeals and the pleas of international leaders-- including previous pleas from the Vatican-- have been fruitless.

Human-rights groups have protested that the three men were convicted after a trial in which heavy pressure from Islamic militants influenced the court. Indonesia's minority Christian population has also pointed out that their conviction was the result of selective prosecution, since no Muslim has yet faced trial in connection with the violence that cost more than 2,000 lives.

The bloody conflicts in the Sulawesi region-- where Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers-- were marked by militia activity on both sides. However, Christians frequently complained that the Indonesian military provided aid for the Muslim militia groups.
Despite the Pope's appeal, and the popular demonstrations calling for a reprieve, Christians in Indonesia had little hope that the executions will be called off. Plans were already in place for funeral services for the three condemned men, to be held in the cathedral of the Manadau diocese.

The government of Indonesia-- the world's most populous Muslim nation, with 85% of the people embracing Islam-- had been under pressure from militant Islamic groups to proceed with the execution, especially in light of the pending execution of terrorists convicted of the Bali bombing. A week-long reprieve for the Christian men would still leave open the possibility that they could be put to death before the scheduled execution of the Bali bombers on August 22.
Christians in Indonesia have welcomed the government's decision to postpone the executions, but continue to organize prayer vigils and public demonstrations asking for a new, fair trial for the 3 men.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Vatican Recruits African, Asian Priests as Fewer Italians Serve

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Jess Marquina Marano is a godsend for Pope Benedict XVI.

The 41-year-old Filipino head of the parish of Nosta Signora di Fatima, in a working-class area of Rome, does a job the pope can't find an Italian to do. With a dearth of local priests, the Vatican is turning to Asian, African and Latin American clergy for churches in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica.

The shortage reflects the faith's decline in Europe and the U.S. amid unpopular stances on issues such as contraception, abortion and women in the Church. The demographic shift among the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics raises the possibility that the next pope will be the first non-European pontiff and may threaten the Holy See's $271 million annual budget, most of which comes from Catholics in the U.S. and Europe.

``The future of the Church is clearly in the developing world,'' said Kevin F. Pecklers, theology professor at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. ``The Vatican very much looks to the U.S.Vatican.'' for financial help. If Americans stopped giving, it would be very deeply felt by the

Apathy toward the Vatican, the independent papal state on the Tiber River within Rome, became a subject of debate in Italy after the release last year of the ``The Parable of the Cleric,'' a study of the country's priesthood. It showed that one of every five churches in the Rome area is led by a non-Italian.

Some bishops say easing the ban on celibacy or allowing women into the priesthood might help the vocation appeal to more Catholics in the U.S. and Europe.

Pope Benedict XVI has made it clear that those changes aren't in the cards. Just days before being named pope, he said in a Rome sermon that the Catholic Church mustn't surrender to a ``dictatorship of relativism,'' adding that a smaller, more orthodox church is favorable to compromising on Catholic rules.

Demographic Shifts

In the five years through 2002, the Catholic population increased 22 percent in Africa and 5 percent in Asia, according to Fides, a Vatican news agency. In Europe, the number of Catholics declined 1 percent during the same period.

The number of priests in Europe and North America dropped 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, from 1999 to 2004, the Statistical Yearbook of the Church shows. Asia's priesthood grew 13 percent and Africa's 18 percent.

The decline in priests began in the 1960s, when young people began questioning institutions such as churches and pursuing social change through protest rather than prayer, said Mary Gultier, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, at Georgetown University in Washington.

A Low-Paying Job

``The status of clergy has declined in the U.S. and around the world,'' Gultier said. ``People used to hold up the clergy as a pillar. Now it's seen as just another low-paying, white-collar job.''

The college of cardinals, once dominated by Italians, now gets more than a third of its 120 voting members from developing countries. Italian cardinals account for just 17 percent of the voters, down from 23 percent in the 1978 conclave that elected Pope John Paul II, a Pole. In the two previous elections, Italians had more than 30 percent of the vote.

The number of foreign clergy in Rome is five times the national average, in part because the region's 1,440 parishes are best positioned to tap the pool of foreign priests attending the city's 17 seminaries and Catholic educational institutes.

The higher number is also a result of the historical animosity between Romans and the Vatican. Centuries of Vatican authority created tensions, said Luca Diotallevi, a sociologist in Rome who edited the Parable study.

Tensions in Rome

Before Rome's territories were united with the rest of Italy, the Vatican was the region's biggest property holder, rulemaker, tax collector, and at times torturer and executioner. When the papal states were wrested from Pope Pius IX in 1870, many Italians turned their backs on the Church.

``Having a person so important living in your neighborhood can create a certain sufferance,'' said Marco Fibbi, spokesman for Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who fills in for the pope in administering many of his duties as the Bishop of Rome.

With Rome hostile, the Vatican finds itself turning more and more to the likes of Marano of the Philippines.

``The Church isn't getting basket loads of new priests, but on the other hand it's getting a steadily growing trickle of extremely loyal and motivated'' priests, said John Allen, author of ``The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church'' (Doubleday, 256 pages, $19.95).

Marano, who graduated from the Lateran University in Rome in 1996, prays in Italian and speaks the language with a slight accent. Since taking over the parish in September, Marano said he's been making home visits with the parishioners and developing community contacts.

The cleric attributes his decision to remain in Rome to a vision by his mother, who dreamed she saw him wearing black robes, surrounded by children. His mother's last words before dying were, ``I thank the Lord you came to Rome,'' he said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Adam L. Freeman in Rome at

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I've been watching Madonna's career since the beginning and the one thing that never changes about her is her anger toward the Church. She 's 40 something, has two kids, and still is raging over - well - whatever it was that ticked her off to begin with. It's nice to read that the clamor of the fans DID fall off when she did her crucifixion thing. Too bad they didn't boycott the concert but I suppose that was too much to hope for.

Madonna invited the Pope to her crucifixion. He didn’t come, but 70,000 of her devotees filled the Olympic Stadium just a mile or so from Vatican City in Rome on Sunday night for another performance in her worldwide Confessions Tour, Reuters reported. Wearing a fake crown of thorns, she was raised on a glittery cross during her two-and-a-half hour show, which included a display of photographs of Pope Benedict as well as of Mussolini. Before she invited the pope, the
Vatican had accused Madonna of blasphemy and provocation for even considering the sham crucifixion. For the most part fans shrugged off the conflict by dancing, singing and jumping as she performed songs from her latest album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” and old hits including “Like a Virgin.” But the cheering diminished when she was raised on the cross. “The crucifixion was unnecessary and provocative,” said Tonia Valerio, a 39-year-old Roman. “Because this is Rome, I wish she’d cut it out. But it’s Madonna, she’s an icon, and that balances out her need to provoke.” More controversy is expected next month when the tour reaches Moscow, where the Russian Orthodox Church has advised followers to boycott the show because of the crucifixion scene, the Interfax news agency reported.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI

"There are moral forces which are ready to make it understood that the only solution is that we must live together," Benedict said in an interview with several German radio and television stations ahead of his visit to his native country in September.

"These are the forces we want to mobilize. Politicians must find the way in order that this can happen as rapidly as possible and especially in a sustainable way," said Benedict in the interview at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, excerpts of which were released by the

"Naturally the Holy See seeks no political power. But we want to address ourselves to Christians and everyone who feels in some way called on by words of the Holy See, in order that all the forces which recognize that the war is the worst solution for all are mobilized."

"It brings nothing good to anyone, not even for the apparent victors. We know that very well in Europe, following the two World Wars.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I was writing to Tara this morning in response to her comment at my other blog. Writing to her started to help me more fully formulate why I started this blog.

Benedict fascinates me. Much as I liked JPII, I find that when I read Benedict I hear him echoing some of my private thoughts that I've never been able to easily articulate; for example - religion should not be political. Faith is inspirational; it should be a guidepost for living. With inspiration comes good politics. Just that simple but also just that complicated.

For now, I'm just posting things that strike a strong note of recognition within me. This is such a freshman effort that I find myself responding to his writings at a really gut level but I still need to grow in discussion.

I can thank my son,
Quanah, for this. His three years at Franciscan University have had a surprising effect on me and my own point of view. I suppose it has been a sort of vicarious education for me. He's done all the work but I've absorbed quite a lot of what he has been studying.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Jewish Shops in Rome Vandalized
Pope Repeats Call for Immediate Cease-Fire in Middle East
Associated PressThursday, August 3, 2006; Page A22

ROME, Aug. 2 -- Jewish shops across Rome were vandalized and defaced with swastikas in an apparent neofascist attack linked to fighting in the Middle East, officials said, while Pope Benedict XVI issued an impassioned call from Vatican City for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, saying that "nothing can justify the spilling of innocent blood."

Owners of about 20 shops in the center and outskirts of the Italian capital found door locks filled with glue, shutters nailed closed and swastikas on nearby walls Tuesday morning, said Riccardo Pacifici, a spokesman for Rome's Jewish community.

Although not all the shops targeted were owned by Jews, the vandalism was apparently a reaction to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Pacifici said. Fliers signed by a group calling itself Armed Revolutionary Fascists were left at the shops. They denounced "the Zionist economy" and included pro-Hezbollah slogans, Pacifici said. "There are still anti-Semites in Italy," Pacifici said. He said Italian Jewish organizations have been flooded with dozens of e-mails blaming Jews for violence in the Middle East. Mayor Walter Veltroni condemned the vandalism.

Police officials declined to comment on the investigation.

Last month, swastikas were spray-painted on walls in the Old Ghetto -- Rome's ancient Jewish neighborhood -- while hundreds of thousands gathered in the nearby Circus Maximus to celebrate Italy's victory in the World Cup.

The pope, speaking Wednesday to 50,000 pilgrims in sun-drenched St. Peter's Square, said, "Our eyes are filled with the chilling images of torn bodies of so many people, especially children -- I am thinking in particular of Qana." Benedict was referring to the Israeli attack Sunday in the southern Lebanese town of Qana that killed more than 50 civilians, mostly women and children.

It was the latest in a half-dozen peace appeals by the pontiff that have consistently included calls for an immediate cease-fire. He has spoken out on every public occasion since the fighting began three weeks ago, reminiscent of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who became a rallying point for critics of the Iraq war.

But Benedict has made clear that attempts to reach a settlement should be left to diplomats "because we don't enter politics. . . . Our goal is simply peace, and we will do everything to help attain peace." (my emphasis)

The German-born pope has repeatedly stressed his interest in good relations with Jews, and last year visited a German synagogue destroyed by the Nazis. The Vatican is also concerned about the large Maronite Catholic community in Lebanon.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This isn't terribly serious but it's a FUN story. I found it over at INSIDE LINE.

Ferrari Sells 400th Enzo and Gives Pope the Proceeds
Date posted: 12-06-2005

ROME — Italian supercar maker Ferrari raised $1.1 million from the sale of its 400th Enzo and donated the money to Pope Benedict XVI on Monday for humanitarian relief. The top-of-the-line Enzo, which was given to Pope John Paul II shortly before his death in April, was sold by Sotheby's for more than double the asking price to an unnamed American collector.

Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo presented Pope Benedict XVI with the check, while Formula One driver Michael Schumacher gave the pope a steering wheel to commemorate the donation which read: "The Formula 1 World Champion's steering wheel to His Holiness Benedict XVI, Christianity's driver. "Benedict XVI reportedly turned down the opportunity to use the Enzo as his personal vehicle, saying he had enough trouble trying to "drive the church.

"What this means to you: The Enzo would have made the ultimate pope-mobile, but Benedict apparently prefers to see the money go to a good cause.
The concept of discrimination is constantly enlarged, and this means that the prohibition of discrimination can be transformed more and more into a limitation on the freedom of opinion and religious liberty. Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures by Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) page 35