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Vatican to ponder legacy of John Paul II in twilight

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Though the Vatican has had a Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers for twenty-five years now, and while Christian literature is rich with meditations on the spirituality of suffering, one could nevertheless make the argument that the most powerful recent statement Catholicism has made about the dignity of the ill person was the way John Paul II allowed his own twilight to play out in full public view.

Throughout the latter years of his papacy, John Paul was aware of the voices making the rounds that it was undignified for the pope to continue to travel and appear in public in such a weakened state, badly hobbled by age and by Parkinson's disease. To be fair, that reaction was partly rooted in natural pity for an elderly man struggling just to stay on his feet, or to utter a few slurred words. But John Paul took the opposite view, seeing his determination to keep going as an important counter-witness in a society that often worships youth and physical beauty.

Feb. 5, St. Agatha of Sicily

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Today is the feast of St. Agatha, of Sicily, Virgin, Martyr.

"Every year on February 4 and 5, the men of Catania pull her relics, housed in a bejeweled life-sized effigy through the streets of Catania for two days and two nights, the duration of her martyrdom. It is said to be the second largest religious procession in the world, after the Corpus Domini procession in Cuzco, Peru, and rivals Holy Week in Seville, Spain. Catanians love Agatha like a sister, like a mother, like a girlfriend. Half the women here are named after her, but it is really a feast for the men, who have claimed the girl saint for their own. The citywide rite unfolds like a collective dream."


--Search for "Agatha" in Theresa Maggio's thrilling book, The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily.


Moral bankruptcy is the road to economic bankruptcy

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The other day I wrote a piece for the web site highlighting a book, "Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility," by David M. Walker, former comptroller general of the United States and former head of the Government Accountability Office.

The book argues that current U.S. spending habits are out of line with revenues necessary to pay for them. In that piece I also referred to the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan budget watchdog group also calling for greater fiscal responsibility.

So much for an 'objective' investigation by Cardinal RodÈ

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If anyone actually entertained the thought that Cardinal Rodé was “objective” in launching an investigation of women religious in the United States, she or he need only read what he said in a talk on Feb. 3 in Naples, Italy to be disabused of that idea.

He said, for example, that "the secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world."

Why Italians don't think 'conservative' when the new movements come up

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tWhen Catholics in the States talk about “new movements” in the church, there’s a tendency to think “conservative,” because the few such groups most people have actually heard of – such as Opus Dei (technically a prelature, not a movement), or the Legionaries of Christ (a religious order, with an affiliated lay movement in Regnum Christi) – do tend to lean to the right.

tIn Europe, however, where the new movements have had their greatest success, their ideological profile is far less uniform. That’s certainly the case in Italy, where perhaps the best-known lay movement is the Community of Sant’Egidio. Known for its efforts in conflict resolution, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and service to the poor, Sant’Egidio is generally seen as standing on the ecclesiastical “center-left.”

tToday Sant’Egidio counts affiliates in 70 countries, including a small presence in the United States, with a grand total of some 50,000 members.

Thanks to Sen. Kirk's staff

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Today is the last day for many of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s staff who stayed on to help Senator Paul G. Kirk before the special election. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., now assumes the role of the junior Senator from Massachusetts.

There have been thousands of post-mortems since the special election Jan. 20, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect upon the hard work of the staffers leaving today. There are literally thousands of people who worked for Sen. Kennedy over the past five decades, and the Kennedy family was extremely gracious in acknowledging their importance to his legacy all throughout the celebration of his life this past August.

Baltimore archbishop takes 'no nukes' message to Paris

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Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien was in Paris yesterday (Feb. 3) to address world leaders working for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Speaking to the Global Zero summit, O'Brien said, "The path to zero [nuclear weapons] will be long and treacherous. But humanity must walk this path with both care and courage in order to build a future free of the nuclear threat.”

O’Brien cited the Second Vatican Council’s condemnation of “total war” and the council’s skepticism of “deterrence” as a way to lasting peace. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 World Day of Peace message, in which the pope said, “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”

Here's the full text of O'Brien's speech. It is essentially a condensed version of a speech I heard the archbishop deliver in Omaha, Nebr., six months ago. Then O'Brien was addressing a symposium sponsored and organized by the United States Strategic Command, the people in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

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