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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…

Learning from the Lutherans

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I posted this Religion News Service story over on the news side of our web site earlier today: Lutheran leaders declare worship wars 'sinful'. It seemed to me to be a rather bold statement from the leadership council of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has warned congregations that disagreements over worship styles that developed into full-fledged worship wars are "sinful."

"The polarization that is affecting the church concerning the issue of forms, rites and ceremonies is sinful and hinders the proclamation of the gospel," it says.

Certainly something for Catholics to think about.

30 year mortgage rates drop below 5%

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Since last year as the economic crisis spread many working poor and middle class families have lost their homes due to forclosure and bankruptcy. Many parishes and dioceses have responded with job search efforts and counseling activities.

Finding ways for families to avoid foreclosure and to remain in their homes is largely dependent on low mortgage rates, and importantly, a bank's willingness to lend. So when I read today's story on low mortgage rates, I think of all the folks whose lives have been upended due to job loss, higher mortgage costs and bankruptcy.

"Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed U.S. home loans fell for the second consecutive week, pushing borrowing costs to near record lows.

The average U.S. 30-year rate dropped to 4.87 percent from 4.94 percent last week. The 15-year rate was 4.33 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia, said today in a statement.

NCR blogger bound of desert journey

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Tom Gallagher began writing regularly for NCR this past spring as his Mission Management column (See for example, Making the Grade) was introduced. He is our lead writer for the column and identifies examples of best practices found in Catholic organizations. He also is one of the "NCR Today" bloggers.

Like other NCR writers, Gallagher actually has a life outside of the paper.

He has spent most of his professional energies in the practice of law on Wall Street, before moving to an investment banking and securities firm. In 2004, he spent the next three years helping the Missionaries of Charity create and administer the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Center, a New York state not-for-profit organization. He did this on a pro bono basis and traveled to Calcutta, India, and Tijuana, Mexico, on several occasions as part of the effort.

The conservative half of the African soul finds its voice

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThough this is perhaps a terrible over-generalization, Catholics in the United States and Europe sometimes fall into the trap of listening to only half of what the African church has to say. When African Catholic leaders condemn poverty, war, and racial injustice, Western liberals cheer; when those same Africans decry abortion and homosexuality, conservatives feel validated.

tThe hard truth for both left and right, however, is that African Catholics often don’t fit into Western ideological categories. They can be ferociously traditional on matters such as sexual ethics, and yet remarkably progressive in areas such as economic policy and ecology.

tIf a label is needed for all that, one might it call “a consistent ethic of life, Africa-style.”

tSo far during the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Bishops, much of the talk has been congenial to the Western left – protesting the injustice of trading relationships and exploitation of natural resources by multi-national corporations, lamenting the continent’s wars, praising ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and calling for various sorts of internal church reforms.

2009 State of the Birds report

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Birds are a priceless part of America’s heritage. They are beautiful, they are economically important — and they reflect the health of our environment. The 2009 State of the Birds report reveals troubling declines of bird populations during the past 40 years — a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. At the same time, we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds. This report calls attention to the collective efforts needed to protect nature’s resources for the benefit of people and wildlife.

It's available at www.stateofthebirds.org

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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