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Lay-led funerals: the future for the Catholic church?

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The diocese of Liverpool, England, has introduced a formal commissioning of laypeople to conduct funeral services. Diana Klein, The Tablet's Parish Practice editor, has written a blog post in support of this initiative. While the current shortage of priests is cited as the main reason, she also believes lay-led funerals are a practical option when a funeral Mass might be inappropriate.

Morning Briefing

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Dolan and Colbert talk about faith, humor at Fordham -- A timeline of the coverage of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Jesuit Fr. James Martin, and comedian Stephen Colbert's talk at Fordham University

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Pope lifts up the other face of the Middle East in Lebanon

Election 2012 -- MotherJones magazine releases the second part of a secret video of Mitt Romney speaking at a fundraising dinner, in which the Republican presidential candidate expresses frank feelings about the Middle East peace process.

Election 2012 -- CNN gathers responses from Democrats on the Romney videos.

Denver Catholic Charities CEO to succeed Carr in USCCB department -- U.S. Bishops' conference announces new social justice adviser.

Chicago Catholics asked to speak up on next archbishop

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A group of Chicago-area members of Voice of the Faithful have designed and made public two websites to enable members of the Chicago archdiocese to make known their preferences for the successor to Cardinal Francis George as Chicago's archbishop.

As the Chicago Tribune story below explains, the group put forth great efforts to gain the approval of the process by George and the papal ambassador. The story also indicates that while these church leaders did not bar the project, they were less than wholehearted in giving a stamp of approval. For example, the archdiocese barred pastors from advertising the initiative in their parish bulletins.

Read the Tribune story here.

The two websites designed to give input:
www.votf.org/bishop/
www.surveymonkey.com/s/votf-bishop

A welcoming environment for Muslim students

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There is an interesting article in the New York Times education section about Muslim students gravitating toward Catholic colleges.

Reporter Richard Perez-Pena documents several factors that have added to the total of both male and female Muslim students attending Catholic colleges and universities. Muslim students have found that their peers in these schools are more religious and therefore, more accepting of the religious practices of others. They feel their beliefs are respected. One noted she would rather talk to a Christian than an atheist.

They also assume Catholic schools will be less permissive and thus more in line with their own ethical norms. Even though this assumption is not always borne out in practice, they do appreciate the single-sex floors and single-sex dorms. In general they see the schools as more traditional and conservative.

Linking liberal Catholicism and the Democratic Party

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The faces of American Catholicism have taken a rightward turn in the last few years, from Archbishop Timothy Dolan to Republican vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan.

But it doesn't have to be that way: Democrats are missing the chance to link themselves to a more liberal Catholicism that is in step with many of their values. Why the disconnect?

Molly Worthen, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, argues in the New York Times that Democrats are in danger of abdicating the Catholic vote -- often a swing vote -- to conservative Republicans.

She notes that, while Sr. Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice organization NETWORK, spoke at the Democratic convention, Vice President Joe Biden all but ignored his Catholic background and values when he spoke in Charlotte.

Morning Briefing

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Election 2012 -- Wonkbook: Romney campaign in disarray

Election 2012 -- Top Romney Staffer Denies Campaign Disarray

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Catholic group calls for KC Bishop Finn to resign

New Hampshire -- 50 years after Vatican II, Catholic church faces new issues

Sister Maureen Sullivan, a theologian and professor at Saint Anselm College believes it's time for another council to address contemporary issues facing the Roman Catholic Church.
Bishop Peter Libasci, head of the Diocese of Manchester, supports a discussion of issues, but says he isn’t convinced of the need for a new council.

Papal charge to Middle East Christians: 'Be peacemakers!'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Beirut

tWrapping up his three-day trip to Lebanon with a Mass staged on the Beirut waterfront, Benedict XVI urged Christians in the violence-torn region to be peacemakers.

t“In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship!” the pope said.

“I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the Middle East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can live in peace and with dignity,” he said. “This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will.”

As an application of that principle, Iraqi Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean church told reporters today that last night Benedict spoke to a group of Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, urging them to "love Muslims" and to "pray for them," because "we are all brothers."

On trip about unity, Catholic division a striking omission

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Beirut

tAlthough popes always say the primary purpose of their travel is to “confirm the brothers and sisters in the faith,” when a particular journey is fraught with social and political drama, sometimes the issues facing the local Catholic community end up yielding pride of place.

tIn Lebanon, both the pope and his hosts understandably wanted to broadcast images of harmony to the wider world, as a counter-narrative to the dominant Middle Eastern storyline of the day – a wave of anti-American and anti-American violence which, at last count, has engulfed at least 20 nations in the region and beyond.

tAs a result, the top note throughout the trip was Benedict as a “messenger of peace,” and Lebanon as “a “model to the inhabitants of the whole region and the entire world.” The ubiquitous presence of Muslim clerics and ordinary believers alike at virtually all the papal events was heralded as a remarkable “symbol of tolerance” (the front-page headline in Lebanon’s Daily Star.)

Strong words but no shift in substance on Syria

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Beirut

tOn the final leg of his three-day trip to Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI used some of his strongest language to date on the Syrian crisis, asking plaintively “Why so much horror? Why so many dead?” and demanding an immediate halt to “the din of weapons.”

Benedict directed his plea for "Syria and neighboring countries," but it seemed clear the civil war in Syria was foremost in his mind.

tThough they may represent a rhetorical escalation, Benedict’s words today do not appear to add any new substance to the Vatican’s diplomatic position on the Syrian conflict, which some critics on both sides have described as “elusive” and “overly prudent.”

t“Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard, along with the cry of the widow and the orphan,” the pope said. “Violence and hatred invade people’s lives, and the first victims are women and children.”

tIn addition to an appeal to the international community, Benedict also called on Arab nations “that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person!”

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