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As priests rally to defend pope, pope defends celibacy

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tThough it wasn’t exactly drawn up this way, the closing ceremonies in Rome this week for the Vatican’s “Year of Priests” has the feel of a massive rally in support of Pope Benedict XVI, who has faced significant criticism in recent months for his handling of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis.

tA vigil service this evening in St. Peter’s Square drew an estimated 15,000 priests from 91 countries – which, assuming the count is accurate, would represent just under four percent of the total number of Catholic priests in the world. According to Vatican Radio, this was the first time a pope has invited priests from around the world to come to Rome for a celebration of the priesthood.

tWhen Benedict XVI entered the square at roughly 9:30 pm Rome time, the crowd erupted into loud and sustained applause. Earlier, applause also greeted Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, when he said that the priests wanted to express their “support and sincere affection” for the pope.

tThe pope returned the favor, telling the crowd that he wanted to offer “a great thank you” to the priests of the world.

Fast from oil June 20

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A group at the 2010 Duke Divinity Center for Reconciliation Summer Institute are calling for a fast from oil June 20, the two-month anniversary of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. See the Facebook page The BP Oil Spill: A Christian Call for Lament and Reconciliation for details.

They also have an online pledge to sign that asks people to commit to transforming "our lives as individuals and churches toward freedom from fossil fuels and reconciliation with all God’s creation."

'My home is being destroyed, and I don't mean my house'

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While here in Louisiana reporting on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, my wife and I made a side trip to Vermilion Bay near Franklin, La. The state highway wound its way through the marshes bordered by beautiful moss-draped live oak trees. With the car windows down, we heard red-winged blackbirds and many other bird sounds we couldn’t identify. At the water’s edge we walked along the narrow beach picking up shells and examining beautifully water carved pieces of driftwood.

The day before we interviewed Providence Sr. Helen Vinton, co-director of the Southern Mutual Help Association in New Iberia. Sr. Helen had just returned from a visit to the Venice area near the Gulf where the oil now directly threatens the fragile marshes.

Green burials

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In the news this morning from our Australian brothers and sisters, Six Feet Down Under: Natural Burials Boom.

The Archdiocese of Sydney Natural is opening a cemetery to promote environmentally friendly burials, seeing loved ones buried without grave stones in bio-degradable clothing and untreated coffins.

About two years ago, we did a story, Lay your loved ones to rest the natural way, about Mt. Carmel Cemetery, in Wyandotte, Mich., near Detroit, becoming the first U.S. Catholic cemetery to offer a green burial option.

Pope should read SNAP letter

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The wrap-up of the Year of the Priest celebration is colliding with the ongoing fallout from the spreading priest sex-abuse scandal, setting up an unlikely gathering of forces in Rome.

One of the groups on hand is the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, better known as SNAP, the group formed by survivors and that has been advocating for survivors and for church transparency since very early in the scandal. As might be expected, the group has been vilified by some in the U.S. hierarchy. Its members have been prohibited from conducting programs on church property and it has been generally marginalized in official church circles.

That's unfortunate. Because no matter how deeply one might disagree with a tactic employed here or there, the fact remains that no group has been more conversant with the scandal, its effects and its causes than those actually abused by priests.

Who Wants California?

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Harold Meyerson is spot-on in his analysis of the difficulties facing newly nominated GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. Both women spent gobs of money to win their primary elections in California, and they have gobs to spend. But, money is not enough to win a GOP primary in the Golden State. You also have to move so far to the right, it is nearly impossible to get back to the center by November.

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