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Pope Benedict announces Middle East synod

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Pope Benedict XVI said on Saturday he planned to summon a special synod of bishops to discuss the Middle East in October next year, the Vatican said in a statement.

He was speaking to Roman Catholic Church leaders from the region at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence outside Rome, the Vatican said.

"I will not forget the call for peace you have put in my hands ... and my thoughts go firstly to the regions of the Middle East," the statement quoted the pope as saying.

"I am using this occasion therefore to announce the summoning of a synod of bishops for the Middle East which will take place from October 10 to 24."

Catholics Can Learn a Lot from the Dalai Lama

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I was mesmerized by our lead interview on Interfaith Voices this week. My guest was Pico Iyer, a friend of the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years, and the author of a new biography of him called The Open Road: The Global Journal of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

He provides an intimate portrait of this highly learned man, who calls himself a “simple Buddhist monk.” But the Dalai Lama is a philosopher, a lover of science, a leader of the Tibetan community in exile, and a globe-trotting political leader. Yet he finds time to spend at least eight (count ‘em – eight!) hours a day in meditation. And he’d like more.

The American UnPrincipled Project

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We are disposed, in this culture, to defer to expertise, to respect the seriousness of academic credentials, and to accord academics a place of honor and prominence in our political and social discourse. But, it is difficult to do so when academics engage in silliness.

Professor Robert George of Princeton University has begun something he calls the American Principles Project. The website announces its commitment in patriotic platitudes: “The United States of America does not need new principles. It needs renewed fidelity to the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution….If these timeless principles are to be restored and our national commitment to them renewed, then a new voice is needed in American politics, a voice that is unafraid to stand up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong.” Lucky for the future of freedom and democracy that Professor George’s voice is so handy, so we can restore America’s principles, although I confess I was unaware they had been stolen.

Horrors! Catholic children exposed to gender equality!

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Not long ago, the Cincinnati archdiocese banned Sr. Louise Akers from teaching because she supports the ordination of women.

That was bad enough. Then, Dr. Carol Egner, a laywoman and a gynecologist who was incensed by this injustice, wrote a letter supporting Akers to the Cincinnati Inquirer. Her pastor read the letter, and had the gall to demand that she write another letter retracting her position. When she rightly refused, he banished her from her volunteer teaching position with a 6th grade religion class at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

What is it that these men fear? Exposing children to the gospel ideal of gender equality? Open discussion of an issue of great importance in our church? The thought of actually sharing ministry equally with women?

Did you know Sept. 21 is International Day of Peace?

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"Peace is every step," writes Thich Nhat Hanh. So the question: What step to take?

The United Nations' International Day of Peace is supposed to be a global holiday, a chance to highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace. Established by a U.N. resolution in 1982, "Peace Day" has grown to include millions of people around the world who participate in all kinds of events, large and small.

On Sept. 21, people all over the world will stop what they are doing at high noon and pray for peace for one minute in acknowledgement of the United Nations International Day of Peace. The UN's goal is get 1 million people to sign the pledge to pray for peace.

Support our sisters

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NCR online Young Voices columnist Kate Childs Graham has launched a new Web site, www.ThankYouSister.com, where she is collecting letters in support of women religious.

Visit the Web site for complete details, but basically Kate is looking for letters that "share personal stories about how women religious have impacted your 'quality of life,' express messages of gratitude and/or convey general messages of support."

Bishops oppose 'hard-hearted' line on immigrants in health care debate

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tSix Hispanic bishops visited Congress today to press an agenda featuring health care, immigration reform, education, housing, and anti-poverty efforts. Most immediately, the bishops argued that any health care reform package should offer coverage for immigrants, including the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

t“Any reasonable reform has to include the immigrant community, including some kind of safety net for undocumented immigrants,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif.

“If we leave out that segment of society, it will not only affect them but it will prejudice the health of American society in general,” Soto said, insisting that it would be “foolish and hard-hearted” to exclude immigrants from the health care system.

Soto said the bishops have recently picked up “conversations” about moves in Congress to deny undocumented immigrants the ability to pay out-of-pocket for their own health care, a possibility Soto described as “more a matter of a runaway anti-immigrant rhetoric rather than common sense approach to health care.”

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