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Pope lauds 'maternity of God' as counter-sign to egoism

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Fatima, Portugal

tIn the teeth of a world inclined to sacrifice unity “on the altar of base egoisms of nation, race, ideology, the group and the individual,” Pope Benedict XVI today proposed Fatima as a counter-sign of the “wondrous maternity of God.”

tThe comments came in the pontiff’s homily this morning for an open-air Mass in the world’s premier Marian shrine, before a vast and tightly-packed crowd estimated at half a million. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, recalling the reported apparitions of Mary to three shepherd children in this spot between May and October 1917.

tBenedict’s use of feminine imagery was striking, though in context the phrase “maternity of God” appeared to refer to Mary’s role as the Mother of God. Benedict said that Mary testifies to the “sweet joys” of God’s love for humanity.

tThe pope lauded the three young visionaries of Fatima, saying they had “an experience of grace.” At the same time, the pontiff insisted that Christian faith does not depend upon such dramatic confirmation.

Fear of 'illegal aliens' nothing knew

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The recent tension in Arizona over State Law 1070 that would allow local police to ask for proof of citizenship or legal residency as part of a crime investigation can and should be seen in a broader historical context. That is, the concern and even hysteria over “illegal aliens” is nothing knew.

Nativism, or anti-foreign sentiment, has a long history and perhaps is as American as apple pie.

Benedict Should Be Called Leo

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I love Pope Benedict, but I am beginning to think he chose the wrong papal name. He should have picked Leo. When the Council of Chalcedon met in 451, it was said “Peter has spoken through Leo.” In 1049, Pope Leo IX assumed the papal throne and began a reform of the Church, starting with the curia, in to which he recruited the best and brightest of his day. And, of course, Leo XIII, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, laid the groundwork for the development of the Church’s social justice tradition in the modern world.

The parable of the wastebasket

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A television comedienne I saw once talked of visiting the mall to buy a wastebasket for her new apartment. The clerk put her basket in a sack. She carried the sack home and then wadded it up and threw it in the new basket she had just bought. She threw up her hands, saying “What am I doing?!!!”

Hers is an apt parable for what we are up against. One really can’t blame the clerk, the store … or anyone, in particular. Such wasteful policies and practices are the result of countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtlessly by all of us over a long period, the end results of which are fast destroying our planet’s life support systems. The reversal of such destructive ways will no doubt result from countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtfully over time. Individual efforts to live with less waste do finally add up.

Part of our job description as simple living people is to keep at this task. It’s an important one. We must describe with our lives the future we want to see for our children. It may or may not be enough. The jury is out, and no one really knows what the verdict will be.

Pope consecrates world's priests to Mary

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Fatima, Portugal

tAs part of a Vatican-decreed “Year for Priests,” Pope Benedict XVI formally consecrated the roughly 400,000 Catholic priests of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, during a ceremony in the famous Marian shrine of Fatima, Portugal.

tBenedict XVI arrived in Fatima late this afternoon, making his first stop at an outdoor shrine where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is kept under glass. Benedict recited a prayer, among other things thanking Mary for interceding on May 13, 1981 – the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – to save Pope John Paul II’s life after the assassination attempt that day in St. Peter’s Square. Benedict recalled that one year later, John Paul traveled to Fatima to place the bullet doctors removed from his body in the crown on the statue.

“It is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the ‘bullet’ of our anxieties and sufferings,” the pope said.

tLater, Benedict presided over a vespers service in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima, formally consecrating the world’s priests to Mary’s care.

Sacred music

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If the definition of sacred music is a series of chords that helps you reach the transcendent, than please place James Taylor and Carole King in my personal choir loft.

I've resisted musical nostalgia for years -- unlike most friends, I've avoided bulking up on digital remasters of tunes from my teen years out of sheer dread over the awkward memories they were likely to conjure up in my brain. But recently I have begun to relent: I got the new Beatles box collection, and a concert set by Simon and Garfunkel, which includes a DVD of their performance that unavoidably drove home the fact that time marches on relentlessly.

Benedict brings 'Marian Cool' to fevered Fatima devotion

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Fatima, Portugal

tTry as he might to insist that a tight focus on the details of the Fatima revelations is a prescription for mischief, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the world’s most celebrated Marian shrine inevitably evokes the undercurrent of secrets and cosmic mysteries long associated with the reported appearances of Mary to three shepherd children between May and October 1917.

tThat body of lore includes, most famously, the “three secrets” of Fatima:

•tA vision of Hell and world wars;
•tA request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary;
•tA vision of a bishop in white slain by bullets and arrows, often taken to be a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.

Debate continues to swirl in Fatima circles as to whether the Vatican ever complied with the request to consecrate Russia, even though two popes – Pius XII and John Paul II – claimed to have done so. Some Fatima devotees, however, argued that the consecrations were inadequate, either because they lumped Russia in with the rest of the world or because they weren’t carried out in concert with all the bishops of the church.

An ëAffirmative Orthodoxy' tour de force in Portugal

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Lisbon, Portugal

t If anyone other than Pope Benedict XVI had delivered the speech he gave this morning in the Cultural Center of Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, it might well have been taken as a throwback to the great liberal Catholic lions of yesteryear.

Among the highlights of Benedict’s address to the “world of culture” were: The urgency of constructive dialogue with secularism; moving beyond mere tolerance of other worldviews and value systems to being “enriched” by them; and praise of the Second Vatican Council for taking the Enlightenment and the Reformation seriously, and for laying the basis for a “civilization of love.”

Someone conversant with recent Catholic history might have wondered if Benedict was somehow channeling Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan.

In reality, this morning’s address was not a matter of Benedict stepping out of his own ideological skin, but rather a classic example of what is arguably the most under-acknowledged feature of his pontificate: Its spirit of “Affirmative Orthodoxy,” meaning an unyielding commitment to classic Catholic identity, but expressed in the most relentlessly positive fashion possible.

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