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Interview with Archbishop Thomas Wenski

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tIf a Hollywood studio were casting a remake of “On the Waterfront,” it could do a lot worse than feeling out Archbishop Thomas Wenski about playing the Karl Malden role. He’s got both the look and the soul of a classic “labor priest” – tough but affable, plain-spoken and a man of the people (tooling around south Florida on his Harley motorcycle), and intensely concerned with the fate of the poor and downtrodden.

tOf course, the fact that Benedict XVI named Wenski the new Archbishop of Miami on April 20 probably means that the ship has already sailed on his acting career.

tWenski is in Rome this week to receive the pallium, the narrow band of woolen cloth that symbolizes the archbishop’s office, from Pope Benedict XVI. It’s one measure of his popularity that although Wenski was the last of the three new American archbishops to be named during the past year, his delegation in Rome is the largest. Some 250 people, evenly divided between his old diocese of Orlando and his new gig in Miami, made the trip.

Vatican Culture & The Spirit Blowing

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John Allen is to Vatican reporting what the Supreme Court is to the Constitution: The final arbiter. His reporting on the flood on new appointments at the Vatican hits the nail(s) on the head. Benedict is choosing theologians over diplomats, and the theologians he is turning to are those associated with the Communio school.

I will only add one comment. The Communio school is not simply an Ivory tower phenomenon. Its insights are at the heart of at least one of the new ecclesial movements, Communion & Liberation, in which Pope Benedict XVI has placed great hope for the future of the Church. These new ecclesial movements – Focolare, Sant’ Egidio and the Neo-Catechumenal Way are three of the other most prominent groups – are new wine in the life of the Church. Pope Benedict, who must confront daily the fallout from leaving the control of the Church to its diplomatic corps, is more aware than most for the need of new wine and new wineskins.

Triumph of theologians over diplomats in Vatican

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Rome

In what’s already a turbulent time, Pope Benedict XVI has triggered another Vatican earthquake, changing the guard in three senior leadership positions. Among those exiting the scene is the Catholic church’s most prominent ecumenical leader over the past decade, while the new arrivals complete the ascent of personal friends and theological protégés of the pontiff to the Vatican’s top positions.

The Vatican announced today two key personnel moves:


  • Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec replaces Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, responsible for recommending new bishops to the pope all over the world;

  • Archbishop Rino Fisichella becomes the first President of the new Pontifical Commission for Promotion of the New Evangelization, a new Vatican department devoted to reawakening the faith in the West, especially Europe.

World leadership summit ..... lacking leadership

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A $7.3 billion pledge, including $5 billion from the Group of Eight countries, is not enough to stop millions of needless deaths among pregnant women and young children and is not enough for the G-8 leaders to say they've lived up to their responsibilities, representatives of Catholic aid groups said.

"We're disappointed with the G-8 leaders," said Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, after the June 26-27 G-8 meeting in Huntsville, Ontario.

"It's kind of a failure," said Alexis Anagnan of the French Catholic aid agency World Solidarity.

As partners with Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's umbrella humanitarian and development agency, both organizations pushed the G-8 leaders to boost their commitment to women's and children's health concerns under the Muskoka Initiative.

The development groups also urged the related Group of 20 economic summit in Toronto June 27-28 to ramp up efforts to reduce extreme poverty worldwide by 2015 as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations.

Interview with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tLike members of any profession, bishops come with different skill sets: Some may be bricks-and-mortar men, some have a flair for public relations, some are formidable behind-the-scenes powerbrokers, and some are just simple pastoral figures.

tThen there’s Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, who for most of his ecclesiastical career has been the guy who makes the church's trains run on time.

tSchnurr says his favorite subjects in school were math and physics (in addition, of course, to religion), and it shows. His reputation for no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts mamagerial skill have landed him at one point or another in almost every administrative position of consequence in the American Catholic church: After various gigs in his home diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, Schnurr was called to work at the nunciature, or papal embassy, in Washington, D.C., in 1985. Four years later he joined the staff of the bishops’ conference, eventually serving as general secretary from 1995 to 2001.

tIn the midst of all that, the U.S. bishops tapped Schnurr to organize the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado.

Prayers and thoughts for Bill Callahan

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Most of you know Bill Callahan through the spirit-filled work he has done for decades on behalf of the people of Nicaragua and Central America, the poor of Haiti, the rights of women and the reform of the Roman Catholic church.

Many of you know that he has been living with Parkinson's disease for many years. Now, his condition is progressively worsening. Bill is in failing health and he entered Community Hospice in Washington, D.C., yesterday, June 28. He can have visitors, but he cannot talk on the telephone.

Is church's future tied to bishops?

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I understand the headline: Three archbishops and the American Catholic future. I probably would have written the same. But one has to wonder, especially given the constant erosion of authority and the erosion of protections that once shielded the hierarchical layer of the church, whether the future of the church is so tightly wrapped up with bishops as it might once have been.

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