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Interview with Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tCardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is one of two representatives of the American bishops in the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, along with Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. Mahony sits on the Congregation for Eastern Churches, and presides over what is arguably the most multi-cultural diocese in America, which includes outposts of all six of the Eastern Catholic churches of the Middle East: Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, and Syrian Catholics.

Mahony is already anticipating his retirement in February 2011, with the transfer of power in Los Angeles to Archbishop Jose Gomez. Nonetheless, he remains vitally engaged in issues facing Catholicism in America, especially the case for immigration reform.

tHe sat down on Oct. 18 for an interview with NCR about the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.

Meeting at Mass

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As my community celebrated Mass Oct. 16 in our chapel here in Culver City, Calif., a young man was marrying the love of his life during a wedding Mass at a parish in Staten Island, N.Y. The groom's parents have been friends of our community in New York for 35 years, and I have known them since Josh was a little tyke. We asked our chaplain here to celebrate the Mass for the intentions of the happy couple.

The high and the mighty

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There’s a 1950s John Wayne movie in which the actor wore not a cowboy hat but a commercial airline pilot's cap. It's called The High and the Mighty. It featured a melodic whistling theme song written by the great film composer Dimitri Tiomkin.

On a walk in the country last week, I found myself humming it after I’d seen nature’s “the high and the mighty” – a flock of wild geese that winged overhead as I walked.

They come from over the horizon. If it’s a clear day they fly high in the sky. If grey clouds cover the earth they fly lower, and you can hear their garrulous conversations as they leisurely chatter, gossip and confer with one another while flapping their big wings to keep aloft.

Of all the migrating birds in this season, the wild geese seem the most emblematic of autumn.

Where I live, the flyway is probably from northern Minnesota or possibly even from the permafrost bogs of nothern Manitoba. In other locales of the country, they might be coming from Alaska or from Hudson Bay. Their journey to the south is an epic one, fraught with difficulties and perils, and repeated twice a year.

Ecumenism a survival strategy in Middle East

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Romet

In most parts of the world, ecumenism is seen by Christians either as a Gospel imperative or simply as a good cause, a way of healing historical wounds and reaching out to fellow believers.

In the Middle East, however, it’s a survival strategy –- a way for the region’s tiny Christianity minority to hang together, so they don’t end up hanging separately.

tCalls for concrete steps towards unity have been heard repeatedly throughout the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which is now at the midway point. On Saturday, participants discussed a first draft of their final message, which will be amended and then presented for a final vote next week.

tA harrowing reminder of what the Christians are up against in some parts of the Middle East came from Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, the Syrian Catholic leader in Baghdad, Iraq. It was testimony that carries special resonance for Americans.

t“Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked great emigration from Iraq,” Matoka said. “Half the Christians have abandoned Iraq, and without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there.”

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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