Last week, I looked ahead to a Sept. 1-3 meeting of the pope's Schülerkreis, his circle of former doctoral students. This year the Schülerkreis ponders the explosive theme of "Creation and Evolution," in the wake of a New York Times op/ed piece from Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna last year arguing that the theory of evolution is incompatible with Catholicism.
All Things Catholic
John L. Allen Jr., NCR senior correspondent, writes weekly on the goings-on in Vatican and in the church around the world.
Bishop Andreas Abouna was consecrated an auxiliary of Baghdad in Rome on January 6, 2003, and shortly afterwards we sat down for an interview in which he voiced concern about the possibility of a Christian exodus from Iraq in the wake of a then-hypothetical U.S.-led invasion.
Giovanni Cardinale of the Italian journal 30 Giorni is the reigning master of the Q&A format with senior church leaders. The latest case in point comes in his interview with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, the incoming Secretary of State, in the July/August issue of 30 Giorni.
Progress in the church generally rests upon the intersection of two distinct but equally important charisms. There's the prophetic impulse, standing outside official structures and pushing the church to realize the best version of itself. Then there's the institutional function, working inside official structures to make change happen.
As a slogan for the future of world Christianity, a paraphrase of that old tune "Age of Aquarius" by the Fifth Dimension might do the trick: "This is the dawning of the Age of Africa."
As a small, but telling, sign of the times, consider that the new mayor of Kiev in the Ukraine, Leonid Chernovetskyi, belongs to a Pentecostalist church called the "Embassy of God," founded by a charismatic Nigerian immigrant named Sunday Adelaja. The last place one might expect an eruption of exuberant African-style Christianity is a strict Orthodox stronghold, yet the "Embassy of God" now claims more than 25,000 members across Ukraine and is growing rapidly.
Speaking of Africa, Fr. J. M. Pérez Charlin of the Missionary Society of Africa, the erstwhile "White Fathers," has recently penned an essay examining the messages of Benedict XVI to bishops from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, Cameroon and Ghana making ad limina visits during the last year. Collectively, Pérez suggests, they amount to a papal "State of the Union" assessment of Africa.
Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon last Sunday following his Angelus address, the last in Valle d'Aosta prior to his arrival at Castel Gandolfo, where he will spend most of August and September. The full text:
"In this moment, I cannot help but think of the ever more grave and tragic situation the Middle East is living though: hundreds of dead, and so many wounded; a growing mass of homeless persons and refugees; homes, cities and infrastructure destroyed; and in the hearts of many, hate and the desire for revenge seems to grow. These facts clearly demonstrate that justice cannot be reestablished, a new order cannot be created, and an authentic peace cannot be achieved when one takes recourse to the instrument of violence. More than ever, we see how prophetic, and yet at the same time realistic, is the voice of the church when, facing war and conflicts of every sort, she indicates the path of truth, justice, love and liberty, as the Blessed Pope John XXIII said in his immortal encyclical Pacem in terries. Again today, humanity must walk this path in order to reach the desired good and the true peace."
On May 5, I wrote about differing attitudes in the Catholic Church towards Islam, pointing to remarks by Italian Senator Marcello Pera as illustrative of a "hawkish" approach, and testimony before the House International Relations Committee from Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, who heads the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy, as more "dovish."