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Tough immigration law in Italy spawns Catholic backlash, insider drama



tA controversial new immigration law in Italy, which criminalizes living in a “clandestine” state and authorizes citizens to mount their own anti-immigrant patrols, has spawned both a major backlash from the Catholic church as well as a fascinating bit of insider Catholic drama.

The dymamics in Italy seem to have obvious implications for the United States, as the Catholic church gears up to make a major push in favor of immigration reform.

tAdopted last Thursday by the Italian senate, the law was put forward by the far-right Northern League, an important coalition partner in the center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Catholic leaders have been in the forefront of opposition to the measure, charging among other things that it could deter illegal immigrants from seeking hospital treatment or enrolling their children in school.

tProbably the most barbed critique has come from Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, a veteran Vatican diplomat who has served since 2001 as the secretary, or number two official, in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

Pope to G8: 'Hear the voice of Africa and the poor!'


It’s become customary for popes to write letters on the occasion of a G8 summit, which are formally addressed to the head of whichever government is hosting the event. This time around, Benedict XVI has all the more reason to write the G8 given that the upcoming July 8-10 G8 summit is taking place in the Abruzzo region of Italy, about 75 miles northeast of Rome, which was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in April.

In the letter released yesterday by the Vatican, Benedict XVI makes a strong appeal to G8 nations not to abandon, or scale back, their commitments to development assistance for poor nations because of the current economic crisis. In fact, the pope argues, that aid is the best remedy for the crisis. Benedict opposes any backtracking on the pledge established in the UN Millennium Goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2015. The pope also calls for stronger coordination of national economic policies at the global level, and supports greater multilateralism in foreign policy.

Obama charm offensive ahead of pope meeting seems to be working



tIf the White House strategy behind arranging a session for President Barack Obama with religious journalists on the eve of his visit to Pope Benedict XVI was to set a positive tone for that meeting, early returns in Rome suggest it’s working to perfection.

tThat session last Thursday, in which Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter took part, has received extensive and largely positive coverage in the Italian press, including the official outlets of both the Italian bishops and the Vatican – both of which generally reflect important currents in official Vatican thinking.

tObama is set to meet Pope Benedict XVI in the afternoon of Friday, July 10, just after the conclusion of a G8 summit in Italy and just head of the president's visit to Ghana.

tIn Saturday’s Corriere della Sera, Dino Boff, editor of L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, praised Obama’s “great honesty” and “great intelligence,” saying it was clear that Obama “is not playing the game of trying to divide the Holy See from the American bishops.”

Three conclusions from 'Bones of St. Paul' affair



tIronically, one can learn a great deal from Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement last Sunday that carbon-14 tests appear to confirm that St. Paul's remains lie under the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls – except, perhaps, who is actually buried in Paul’s tomb.

tDuring a Vatican news conference this morning, the scientist in charge of those tests, carried out in May 2007, said they prove that tiny micro-fragments of bone extracted from a sarcophagus under the basilica’s main altar date to the first or second century. In scientific terms, the result “doesn’t make certain, but also doesn’t exclude,” that the remains are those of St. Paul, said Professor Ulderico Santamaria, director of a diagnostic laboratory for the Vatican Museums.

Though that obviously doesn't amount to absolute certainty, it's nonetheless suggestive. Meanwhile, there are three other conclusions from the “Bones of St. Paul” affair which rest on firm ground.

Conclusion one: When he wants to, Benedict can be a showman

Former papal theologian praises Obama's 'realism,' even on abortion



In the run-up to President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated July 10 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, an influential cardinal and Vatican adviser has praised Obama’s “humble realism” and compared the president’s approach to abortion to the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas and early Christian tradition about framing laws in a pluralistic society.

U.S. envoy to Muslims lays out plans


Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appointed Farah Pandith as special representative to Muslim communities. Pandith, who had worked in the State Department’s European Bureau as a special adviser for outreach to Muslim communities in Europe, will now have “more of a global role,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said announcing the appointment.

She gave her first press briefing today and said, she expects to go beyond criticism of Washington's foreign policy, outlining an ambitious program of reconciliation.

Holiday weekend family traditions


Readers will find more thoughtful sentiments on the meaning of July 4th in my essay in the current print edition of NCR, which the editors tell me will be posted online this weekend. But, there is a more proximate, if less profound, meaning to the holiday that fits nicely with the "pursuit of happiness" mentioned in the document dated on July 4, 1776. It has become a family tradition now for friends to visit us at our home in Connecticut and go to the Goodspeed Opera House.


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September 12-25, 2014


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