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An unusual Vatican event marks Kasper's (not-quite) swan song

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tBoth in style and in substance, a highly unusual Vatican meeting is taking place this week in the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In terms of content, the Feb. 8-10 event brings together leading Catholic minds with their counterparts in the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed traditions, for a sort of “state of the union” consideration of the entire ecumenical project, meaning the effort to put the divided Christian family back together again.

That’s a departure from normal practice in two senses. First, the Vatican normally conducts ecumenical conversation in bilateral fashion, one church at a time. Second, those dialogues are usually focused on some specific topic – Mary, for example, or the Bible, or authority in the church. This time, the field is wide open.

Talk in Rome turns to new cardinals in 2010

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[updated]

tDespite a recent boomlet of conjecture about a consistory in late February or early March, the consensus in Rome these days seems to be that Pope Benedict XVI isn’t likely to create new cardinals until sometime later in 2010, perhaps as late as November. Between now and then, several other major events loom on the pope’s calendar: Trips to Malta in April, Portugal (Fatima) in May, Cyprus in June and the United Kingdom in September, as well as a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October.

tAs of today, there are a total of 182 cardinals, of whom 111 are under the age of 80 and hence eligible to vote for the next pope. In March, three more cardinals will turn 80, followed by one each in July and August, three more in September, and one each in October and November. Hence if Benedict XVI waits until November, there would be at least 19 slots for new voting cardinals – presuming, as most do, that Benedict intends to honor the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI.

tTwo of the ten cardinals who will “age out” in coming months, by the way, are Americans: Theodore McCarrick of Washington and Adam Maida of Detroit, both now retired.

Salvadorans paid 10 cents to sew $80 NFL jerseys

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I don't want to throw beer on your popcorn and potato chips today. But I want to share with you some information that seems timely and troubling.

According to a recent study, women trapped in Salvadoran sweatshops are paid 10 Cents to Sew $80 NFL football jerseys.

The jerseys have been sewn under illegal sweatshop conditions at the Chi Fung factory in El Salvador for at least the last four years, according to a new report by the National Labor Committee.

Often forced to work 12-hour shifts, workers were at the factory 61 to 65 hours a week, including 12 to 15 hours of obligatory overtime, which was unpaid. The workers were paid a below-subsistence wage of just 72 cents an hour, which meets less than a quarter of a family's basic subsistence needs for food, housing, healthcare and clothing.

Australia's Pell tops the chart as a rumor magnet

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tRome, like other company towns, is an incubator for gossip. In Los Angeles, the talk is usually about who’s taking over what studio; in Washington, it’s who’s in line for what cabinet job; and in the Eternal City, it’s who’s up and down for senior positions in the Roman Curia.

tThis is an especially fertile period for such rumors, because sometime in 2010 several important nominations in the Vatican will likely come down the pike. At the moment, the list of heads of offices past 75 and awaiting successors includes: Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, Congregation for Bishops; Franc Rodé, Congregation for Religious; Claudio Hummes, Congregation for Clergy; Walter Kasper, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Paul Cordes, Cor Unum. The pope’s right-hand man, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is also past 75, though many insiders expect Bertone to stick around.

Cardinal Rode and His American Surrogates

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Nearly 20 years ago, the Vatican put its official stamp of approval on the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

It thus became the visible and formal proxy in Rome's offensive against the "modernism" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As such, it is the favored wedge group in Rome's campaign to replace renewal with reaction.

Accordingly, the head of the investigation of American sisters is allied with CMSWR.

Circumstantial evidence suggests much more coordination between the Vatican and CMSWR to undermine the general direction of renewal among LCWR communities. For one thing, a publicity campaign has gained momentum on the premise that CMSWR communities are flourishing becasue they are doing it "right" while those related to LCWR are failing because they have disobeyed church authority and succumbed to worldly ways.

By coincident or not, Ave Maria Press has issued a book that promotes "orthodox" practices among sisters and repudiates the basic direction of renewal.

Two heartfelt support letters regarding U.S. women religious

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In a Nov. 16, 2009 letter to Cardinal Franc Rode, who is leading a three-year investigation of U.S. women religious congregations, Xaverian Brother Peter Fitzpatrick describes himself as "an elderly retired religious teaching brother, quite elderly in fact (82 in a month’s time), and not so sharp or quick as I used to be."

He is so much more.

Newman & Anglican Orders

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Blogger extraordinaire Rocco Palmo has a link up to some photos taken of the bishops of England and Wales during their ad limina visit this past week. In addition to their meetings with the Holy Father and other Vatican officials, they celebrated Mass together in the Chapel of the Three Kings, which is located in the building that houses the offices of the Propaganda Fide. It was there that John Henry Newman was ordained a Catholic priest and the Mass served as one of the many ways the Church will in Britain will be focusing on Newman’s life in anticipation of his beatification this autumn.

What of the Earth economy?

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Vic Hummert is a long time friend and thoughtful supporter of our life-giving planet Earth. He sent me this reflection and I thought some of you would enjoy reading it:

Teilhard de Chardin (1888-1950) and Thomas Berry (1914-2009) have turned on many intellectual lights for millions in recent years.

Thomas Berry has been a personal friend since I asked to meet him in 1989. On numerous occasions I have heard him state, “We cannot have a healthy economy in a sick world.”

2008 was an economic roller coaster ride for the global economy. If Thomas Berry were present at Federal Reserve meetings or international symposia to figure out how we could get out of the quagmire without doubt he would remind the PhD’s in economics that the “Earth debt” exceeds the trillions of US dollars or Euros that are mere pieces of paper.

If we are running out of everything essential for survival –pure air, potable water, decent, nourishing food, sources of energy – then we as “Earthlings” are in tight straits.

Faith and Football

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Amid the hype and hard-sell of Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, there's another bit of TV sports viewing that stands out as an island of serious reflection: it called "Faith Bowl III."

The half-hour program is produced for the third year in a row by the Hollywood-based Catholic production company Family Theater -- it's a thought-provoking roundtable discussion by three prominent Catholic athletes, discussing the challenges of living as a Catholic and raising a family in the high pressure world of professional sports.

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