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

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

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

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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

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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.

New archbishops and the abuse crisis

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Colleague John Allen, who covered the recent pallium ceremony in Rome, has given us a good look at some new leaders in the U.S. episcopacy with his interviews of Archbishop George Lucas, who will be installed in Omaha July 22, and Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who will be installed as the head of the church in New Orleans Aug. 20.

Both men seem, at first reading, to be more moderate and less the ideological campaigner than many of those appointed, especially during his final years, by the late John Paul II. And they seem to have an ease – perhaps the product of unfortunate familiarity – in speaking about the sex abuse crisis and what is required of this new generation of church leaders in the United States.

Obama Briefs Catholic Press

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President Obama took questions from eight members of the Catholic press corps this morning in anticipation of his upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. It was, as they say in Washington, a wide-ranging discussion: his hopes for the meeting with the Holy Father, reactions to US bishops who have been critical of the administration, efforts to combat poverty and hunger in the developing world, efforts to find "common ground" on abortion, and the impact of his work as a church-funded community organizer in Chicago on his worldview and policies. Stay tuned: My complete story on the meeting will be posted in the next few hours.

Illinois governor vetoes bill drastically cutting human services

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The governor of Illinois yesterday vetoed a proposed state budget that would drastically cut human services, a move applauded by many Catholics who have been protesting the cuts to services to the poor, developmentally disabled, children and seniors.

"The legislature decided to slash human services, the budget for the important programs that help vulnerable people, mostly people who have no lobbyists, who don't have political action committees, who don't have friends in high places, who have workers in their agencies that are receiving very modest salaries but they do it because they love the job, they love people," Gov. Pat Quinn said.

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