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Ghost of Maputo Protocol hangs over African Synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tOne thread running through the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Africa has been alarm about a perceived assault on the family, and upon traditional African morality, stemming from Western non-governmental organizations and international bodies.

Archbishop Joseph Tlhagale of Johannesburg, for example, president of the Southern Africa bishops’ conference, told the synod on Oct. 8 that Africa is “under heavy strain from liberalism, secularism, and from lobbyists who squat at the United Nations.” Archbishop Robert Sarah of Guinea, currently the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, condemned a Western “theory of gender” which he said is trying to push Africa “to write laws favorable to … contraceptive and abortion services (the concept of ‘reproductive health’) as well as homosexuality.”

For anyone curious as to what the bishops have in mind, just three words will do the trick: The Maputo Protocol.

In search of one good idea at the Synod of Bishops

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tAnyone who has ever endured the first week of a Vatican-sponsored Synod of Bishops, reading mountains of paperwork and listening to a seemingly endless cycle of speeches, will appreciate this metaphor: Whatever else it may be, a Synod of Bishops is like a particle accelerator for words.

A synod concentrates tremendous energy in a confined space, producing a collision that releases a vast amount of verbiage. Consider that the average speech given in the synod hall is perhaps 1,000 words long; with roughly 200 speeches during the first week and a half, that’s 200,000 words in speech-making alone, to say nothing of the two lengthy preparatory documents, the two weighty speeches given by the relator, and so on. Conservatively, one could estimate that each synod generates at least a million words.

Truth to be told, at least some of that language – though typically full of passion and good will – is forgotten as soon as it’s pronounced.

Religious orders still giving a thousand lives for Africa

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tAs it happens, Oct. 10 is the anniversary of the death of St. Daniel Comboni, a 19th century Italian missionary who spent much of his life in Sudan. Among other claims to fame, Comboni was probably the source of more epigrammatic one-liners about the church’s mission in Africa than any other single Catholic figure, living or dead.

Memorable Comboni-isms include, “Either Africa or death,” a classic expression of his missionary drive; “Save Africa through Africa,” an early formula for the transition to self-reliance; and his famous sentiment upon approaching his death in 1881, “I wish I had a thousand lives to give for Africa.”

Newt Gingrich's Catholicism

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Amidst all the coverage of President Obama's Nobel win today, The Boston Globe posted online an interview with a completely different type of politician: Newt Gingrich.

In the interview Gingrich speaks with Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe's religion correspondent, on his recent conversion to Catholicism. Among the revelations found in the interview is the fact that Gingrich was personally shepherded in his faith journey by Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

If only all people interested in the Catholic faith could find such personalized attention.

You can find the interview here.

Evangelicals laud Obama's Nobel

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WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama was declared this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Oct. 9 for his work to create a world free of nuclear weapons, U.S. Evangelical leaders gathered in the Washington suburb of Landover, Md., congratulated him, calling the abolition of nuclear weapons a moral issue of highest importance.

Here is the news release from the Evangelical Leaders Forum of the National Association of Evangelicals:

Christian leaders gathered at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Evangelical Leaders Forum at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden congratulated President Barack Obama for the announcement that he will receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. In their cons ideration of the award, the Nobel Committee cited “special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Leith Anderson, President of the NAE, said: “I first heard the call for a world free of nuclear weapons from President Ronald Reagan when he addressed the National Association of Evangelicals over twenty-five years ago. The Nobel prize for President Obama acknowledges and perpetuates the Reagan vision.”

Oslo's Big Expectations

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The Nobel Peace Prize is not good news for Barack Obama. Sure, he is having a great news day. In December, when everyone, or nearly everyone, is in the holiday spirit, he will have the chance to give an inspiring speech in Oslo. And, maybe some of those who have wondered why they voted for him will be confirmed in their judgment last November, not by their subsequent doubts, to look again at the man who has more promise in his pinky than the GOP has in its caucus.

But, politics is always about the management of expectations. Already, Americans expect President Obama to fix the economy. He has taken on health care reform and Americans expect him to get a bill through a troublesome Congress and actually improve the health care system. Now, on top of all that, the Nobel Committee announces that they expect him to bring peace to the world. God bless any man who has such expectations thrust upon him.

Meeting Obama's man in the Vatican on a big day for the boss

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Interview with U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz

Though neither of us realized it at the time, new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz and I met on a propitious day for Diaz’s boss, President Barack Obama. A little over two hours after our interview ended, news broke that Obama had been awarded the Noble Peace Prize. One of the first global institutions to issue its congratulations was the Vatican, which expressed “appreciation” for the choice and encouraged what it described as Obama’s commitment to “peace in the international arena,” especially nuclear disarmament.

Read the full interview here: 'We've been uprooted into a life of service'

Wuerl's tone not so pastoral for some

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As the same sex marriage debate heats up in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl has consistently voiced his opposition to any legislation that would grant same-sex couples full and equal protection under the law. At the same time, however, the archbishop has sought to reach out to gay and lesbian Catholics via a letter explaining that while he may reject their rights, he doesn’t reject gay and lesbian people upfront.

As the comments on my fellow blogger’s posting about this letter show, Archbishop Wuerl’s letter has been rejected by many and reluctantly accepted by others.

Paxsjc writes, “As a lesbian Catholic who attends Mass 3-4 times a week now, I certainly don't feel alienated from the Church. I do believe, though, that the Church hierarchy is becoming further and further alienated from the people - the people in the pews as well as the people who've long left them … I appreciate Bishop Wuerl's pastoral tone, which is a welcome change from the hostile screeds of many of his brethren. But is he truly off in search of the lost sheep…”

Dayton Catholic Workers model creative innovation

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Besides the traditional missions of food and shelter, the Catholic Worker Movement in Dayton, Ohio, is doing some extraordinarily creative things:

Putting a spin on Friday night "Clarification of Thought" meetings, the Dayton Workers are debuting Bucholtz Tavern tonight. The tavern is a restaurant open on Friday and Saturday nights for the next 90 days. Patrons will pay $25 a piece for a candlelight dinner with jazz music and speakers. Proceeds will go to create a local food kitchen to help feed the needy.

The Dayton workers also have a web-based conferencing tool and a web TV platform. Check it out at catholic-itv.ning.com.

You have to hand it to the Dayton Workers. They are thinking outside the box, and I'm sure I join many in cheering for their collective success.

Obama's Nobel Challenge

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It seems that the committee that oversees the Nobel Prize hasn't given President Obama an award as much as a challenge.

In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made clear the award carried big expectations, saying: "This is a surprising, an exciting prize. It remains to be seen if he will succeed with reconciliation, peace and nuclear disarmament."

As John Allen reported here earlier, the Vatican's congratulations to Obama carried much the same message: "It's hoped that this very important recognition will further encourage [Obama's] commitment [to international harmony and a nuclear free world], which is difficult but fundamental for the future of humanity, so that the desired results will be obtained."

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