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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."

Women make star turns this morning at African Synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThe Synod for Africa is primarily a gathering of bishops, so it’s only natural that in its early days, male voices have dominated the discussion. Friday morning, however, a handful of women finally had their turn at the microphone – and by all accounts, they certainly made the most of it.

tAlthough at the time of this posting, the Vatican had not yet released summaries of the morning’s speeches, synod participants told NCR that the women made star turns, earning strong rounds of applause from the roughly 300 bishops, members of religious congregations, lay experts and other listeners inside the synod hall.

Read the full story here: Women religious take the podium at Africa synod

Vatican congratulates Obama on Nobel

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In response to this morning's announcement that U.S. President Barack Obama would be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vatican Press Office released a statement of congratulations.

An NCR translation from the Italian follows:

"The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace to President Obama is greeted with appreciation in the Vatican, in light of the commitment demonstrated by the President for the promotion of peace in the international arena, and in particular also recently in favor of nuclear disarmament. It's hoped that this very important recognition will further encourage that commitment, which is difficult but fundamental for the future of humanity, so that the desired results will be obtained."

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

The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Jezreel: Make parish social ministries bigger

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The first presenter at "A Summons to Build," the NCR conference on parish social ministry, in Kansas City, Mo., was Jack Jezreel, the executive director of JustFaith Ministries. Speaking in an off-the-cuff style without hindrance of notes or a podium, Jezreel enthusiastically invited our participants to think of ways to make parish social ministries bigger.

The best way to make this happen, Jezreel said, is to remember that everyone is called to participate. He emphasized that the church is not a place where things happen to us, but a place where all should be involved in some way.

The conference's subtitle is " Meeting the challenge of providing social service ministries in today’s parish." The conference runs through Oct. 9.

The command given at the end of the Mass to "go," Jezreel said, is meant to encourage us to get to work for social justice -- in our families, in politics, in economics. The question is how to encourage people to answer this Gospel call and devote themselves to the nitty-gritty of social ministry.

Plaintiff in Mojave cross case is Catholic

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As the case of the so-called “Mojave Cross” reached the Supreme Court, I was struck that the plaintiff in the case, Frank Buono, is not the usual atheist-agnostic-humanist who challenges religious symbols on public property. He is a Roman Catholic with crosses in his own home, and -- from my point of view -- the principles of the U.S. Constitution in his mind and heart.

He discovered that a Buddhist group wanted to erect a shrine near the place of the cross, and was refused a number of years ago. He was deeply offended that government would favor one religion over another. And thus the lawsuit.

But you know… that’s the finest of our heritage as Americans, and American Catholics. We were among the first immigrant groups to run up against religious discrimination… this is fitting…

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July 18-31, 2014

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