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Dec. 16, St. Adelaide, Empress

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"As the thousandth year of our Lord's becoming flesh approaches, I yearn to behold this day, which knows no evening, in the forecourt of our Lord. I want to be dissolved in Christ."

--the Empress Adelaide to Odilo, Abbot of Cluny

She missed seeing the year 1000 by fifteen days. St. Adelaide died on Dec. 16, 999.

For details about the religious and political context in which the most powerful woman in Europe flourished, search for "Adelaide" in A.D. 1000: A World on the Brink of Apocalypse, by Richard Erdoes. (Introduction by Karen Armstrong.)

Why Catholics aren't speaking up in Uganda about anti-gay bill

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about a draft bill in Uganda’s parliament which would decree the death penalty for homosexuality under some circumstances, and would also establish prison terms for anyone who fails to report homosexuals to the authorities. Those provisions have drawn wide international criticism, even from fairly conservative Christian leaders who clearly sympathize with the aim of promoting faithful heterosexual marriage, such as Rick Warren and several signers of the recent "Manhattan Declaration."

The latest development is that in mid-December, the Interreligious Council of Uganda, the country’s major inter-faith body – one which includes the Catholic Church – came out in support of the bill.

Political leaders from 100 countries arrive in Copenhagen

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Irish Columban missionary Fr. Sean McDonagh sends this report:

"It was snowing heavily this morning when I left the Franciscan house in Roskilde, a town about 45 minutes by train from Copenhagen. I was hoping and praying that we would not have to queue for two hours today before getting into the Bella Center, where the climate change conference is being held. My daily routine begins with a train journey into the centre of Copenhagen, where I then catch the metro to the Bella Center. As I boarded the Metro, an announcement over the public address system told us that the Metro at the Bella Center had been closed because of crowd density. They advised those heading for the Bella Center to get off the Metro at the station before the Bella Center and walk the rest of the way. On hearing that my heart sunk to my boots, and I seriously considered going back to the center of Copenhagen where the non-governmental organization (NGO) events were being held.

Nukewatch faithful in its vigil

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I received my Winter 2009-10 issue of Nukewatch in the mail this week. Thank goodness -- and the spirit of Nukewatch guardian angel, the late Sam Day -- this feisty publication keeps going.

I got to know Sam Day during his Missouri visits in the 1980s when Nukewatch was mapping the 1,000 land-based missiles that then dotted seven Midwestern and Great Plains states, some of the sites just southeast of Kansas City. The effort ended in publication of the 1988 Nukewatch classic, "Nuclear Heartland."

Health Care: Make the Deal!

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President Obama has signaled to the leaders of Congress that they should do what it takes to close the deal with moderate Senators on health care reform. Already this has meant throwing the public option overboard. A group of ten senators – five liberals and five moderates – crafted a compromise last week that ditched the public option but gave liberals some satisfaction by permitting a buy-in to Medicare for those over 55 who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The buy-in, too, appears to be on the chopping block now.

The President is right to push for a deal. The public option always has enjoyed more comment and concern than it deserved, a useful tool to drive down costs but not really a meaningful step towards a single-payer plan. The Medicare buy-in, on the other hand, is really a good idea. Democrats should let is go to pass the current bill, and then immediately begin campaigning on “Medicare for All.” Call it a reform of the reform. Make it a central part of their campaign for next year’s midterms. But, don’t let it get in the way of a deal now.

It's A Wonderful (Catholic Social Justice) Life

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I watched Frank Capra’s classic "It’s A Wonderful Life" on Saturday and it is no surprise that the film has even more resonance this year, as the country still struggles with recession and war.

The film famously flopped when it was first released in 1946. Usually, the reason given for its initial lack of success is a belief that the material was too dark for the American public. After a decade of Depression and half a decade of war, audiences weren’t eager to embrace a story about a guy contemplating killing himself on Christmas Eve.

Delays at the Bella Center in Copenhagen and other matters

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Irish Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh sent this report from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Tuesday, Dec. 15:

"During the first week of the U. N. climate change conference here in Copenhagen, it took about 10 to 15 minutes to clear security and enter the Bella Center where the conference is being held. The only exception was the first day, on Dec. 7, when chaos reigned.

Things deteriorated on Monday, Dec. 14. It was obvious during the final days of week one, that many more people had turned up for the conference than the authorities had planned for. During the weekend, the conference president, Connie Hedegaard, let it be known that there would be serious reductions on members from civil society entering the building during the second week. The way they decided to cut numbers was to demand a second card as a condition of entering the Bella Center. The chairs of the various sponsoring bodies spent the weekend trying to secure these new cards. As I am registered under Franciscans International, our chair, Sr. Odile Coirer, arranged to meet with us at the documentation desk at 11 o’clock on Monday morning.

European women religious send warm support to U.S. sisters

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A number of U.S. women religious in leadership positions have received the following letter, which originated at the Continental Assembly of European women religious earlier this month. U.S. women religious have already received words of support, during this trying time of an Apostolic Visitation, from women religious leaders in Rome and in Asia.

This new letter to the U.S. women reads as follows:

Dear Sisters,

These days of December 2009 the Continental Assembly of Europe has gathered for its annual meeting in Spain. Among us were the team from Rome, the European Continental team and the provincial teams of Europe, as well as the European representatives of the intercontinental Commissions Economy and of Justice and Peace.

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