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Woman knocks down pope at Christmas service, pontiff unharmed


A woman jumped a barrier at the start of Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down the pope, briefly disrupting ceremonies.

Screams erupted from onlooking worshippers when the woman ran toward Pope Benedict XVI and grabbed onto his vestments as he walked down the main aisle of the church, video footage showed.

He was quickly helped to his feet by his aides -- prompting cheers from the crowd -- and the service was resumed, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told CNN.

Sainthood without Saintliness


While I was growing up, I was always aware, at least subliminally, that there were certain rare people in the little churches we went to who held the whole thing together through their faith and compassion.

Later I understood what St. Paul meant by "all the saints" he was corresponding with. They were ordinary Christians, largely anonymous and unheralded, who simply lived the Gospel.

They weren't always models of perfection. A father of a friend of mine, a man whose nature was loving, sang in the choir, led a prayer meeting, visited old people in the hospital and sometimes chased women, with what results I don't know. He was no angel but we thought he was God's UPS man.

Same with a woman who brought hope to people suffering from all sorts of mental and spiritual ills. She'd listen and minister to them with no fanfare. One day we discovered that in her role as church treasurer she'd made off with $5,000 (a tidy sum then) to bail her husband out of perilous gambling debts.

In those days, the Catholic system of sainthood was even more remote than Catholicism itself. It was a bit spooky and kind of super hall-of-famy populated by those who had just appeared to be human.

Catholics United Backs Senate Bill


A prominent progressive Catholic group, Catholics United, has announced it endorsement of the Senate health care reform bill.” Like many supporters of health care reform, our members are clearly disappointed with the Senate's failure to include a public option, expand Medicare coverage, or do enough to improve the general affordability of health insurance for low- and middle-income families,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. “We support final passage of the Senate bill, but call on negotiators from both houses of Congress to address these deficiencies in conference negotiations.”

Catholics United polled its membership before giving its endorsement. More than 71 percent of the 4,356 people participating in the poll indicated that they want the Senate measure to proceed although the same percentage expressed the fear that the Senate bill does not go far enough to cover the uninsured.

On Pius XII, somebody needs to explain why



tNews that Pope Pius XII is now a step closer to sainthood has reignited debate over the wartime pontiff, and non-experts could be forgiven for thinking there’s a pretty big hole in most discussion. Whether or not Pius was “silent” on the Holocaust, the obvious question is: Why would the church want to make him a saint in the first place?t

tThere is, of course, an abundant literature on the role of Pius XII during the Second World War, and plenty of reasonably neutral observers believe the evidence doesn’t support an indictment. To say that Pius XII was not “Hitler’s Pope”, however, is hardly the same thing as placing a halo on his head.

tLacking any clear sense of what the positive case might be for canonizing Pius XII, many people might reasonably ask that if sainthood is sure to offend a broad swath of Jewish opinion, and to create yet another black eye for the church in PR terms, why do it? At least, why do it now?

Background to the Christmas Eve vote


As the U.S. Senate moved toward a Christmas Eve vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- apparently with the 60 senators on board that are needed to block a Republican filibuster and pass the bill -- I was again struck by the key role that 31 Catholic Democrats in the House have played so far and are likely to play in the final outcome of the legislation.

Read the full story here: To pass, health reform needs House Catholic Democrats
Blue Dogs, Catholic, Democrats: What's it all mean for health reform?

Christmas contrasts


Here's a contrast to a story we posted yesterday: Church shuns decorations to help the poor. This is an Associated Press story: Some churches stage 'mega-Nativities'

Not content with simple, static manger displays, some churches are turning the familiar Christmas Nativity scene into elaborate "mega-Nativities" with detailed costumes and more action. ...

The Nativity productions range from about 70 actors and support workers in Mill Hall, Pa. — population 1,375 — to a $40,000 extravaganza with a giant, holographic Angel Gabriel at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.

The shows, many of which are free, can seem like a Christmas pageant crossed with a Renaissance fair. ...

At Emmanuel Baptist Church in Alexandria, La., for instance, visitors are guided on a "Pilgrimage to Bethlehem" by the character Abraham of Jericho, who walks the audience through scenes of beggar children stealing fruit or Roman soldiers arresting a man who refuses to carry their packs.


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November 20-December 3, 2015


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