VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has named U.S. Msgr. Charles J. Brown, a longtime official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as the new apostolic nuncio to Ireland. With the appointment, he was named archbishop of the titular see of Aquileia.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND -- The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland may be over. The memories live on.
The British and Irish flags on Shankill Road and Falls Road are division markers like the painted curbstones that proclaimed the different territories. The flags, increasingly tattered and bedraggled, still flutter from some windows and back fences in proud, if lame, protest.
Google “Bloody Sunday 1972” and the Wikipedia entry will show you a camera shot no one who saw it on television that Jan. 30 will ever forget. It was of a Catholic priest in the Bogside area of Derry in Northern Ireland. It shows him crouching down and waving a bloodstained white handkerchief. Behind him come four men carrying a dying man out of the range of British soldiers who that day shot 26 innocent protestors, 14 of whom died.
The priest was Fr. Edward Daly, who later became bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993. His book A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop has just been published by Four Courts Press.
By the time we got to downtown Cairo on Nov. 14, Tahrir Square was already an undulating school of people. The crowds swayed back and forth across the roads, stepping over people still wrapped in blankets sleeping on the cement. Like any Fourth of July program in our own parks, a group was banging together the skeleton of a speaker's platform and small groups were already beginning to unwrap the sandwiches they'd brought with them for the day.
MEXICO CITY -- More than 300 theologians and pastoral workers met here last month in anticipation of the anniversaries of two events that have shaped contemporary Latin America: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 40th anniversary of the publishing of Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book Liberation Theology.
These two events unleashed in Latin America a liberating process on the part of many Catholics at the grass roots as well as among theologians who reaffirmed a Latin American theology based on their own struggling people’s problems, an approach that became known as liberation theology.
Imagine being a mom and having to choose between purchasing safe drinking water or enough food for your family. If you opt for adequate meals, everyone -- including yourself -- gets sick from intestinal parasites. This is the plight facing thousands of women living in the impoverished Colonia Fuerzas Unidas neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- By now, Americans are inured to seeing war portrayed as televised theater, replete with accompanying cable news theme music, television banners and the like.
Not so for Kenyans, who are experiencing what they call "Kenya's first war" -- the first cross-border military incursion since Kenya's 1963 independence into border areas of Somalia.
The purpose? Rout out al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group that rules much of Somali territory and is blamed for terrorist strikes within Kenya.
"It's a very unsettled time for us as Kenyans. You don't know who is al-Shabaab," a Kenyan Catholic Relief Services worker told me during a visit to Kenya and Ethiopia to report on the drought and other humanitarian problems affecting both countries. "We've never been to war. It's a very new thing for Kenyans."
While an external war may be something novel, crises within Kenya are hardly unusual -- Kenyans still talk about the lasting effects of a political crisis that erupted in late 2007 and early 2008 and resulted in massive violence throughout the country.
We’re back in Ireland at Róisín’s kitchen table (NCR, Oct. 14), though I’m really back in Maryland pondering my notes. In Dublin, tea and sandwiches are still a half hour away.
What was my takeaway from my recent trip to Ireland?
The 21st century is unlikely to see a fundamental conflict of political ideology in the way the 20th century was dominated by it. But it might well see a clash of religious or cultural ideology.
The reason the study and understanding of religion matters today more than ever before is this: The world is undergoing rapid and tumultuous change. Globalization, accelerated by the communications revolution, is driving much of it, breaking down boundaries, altering the composition of whole communities, even countries. The changing circumstances create new overlapping challenges that can only be met effectively together: terrorism, financial crises, climate change, even how we respond to the Arab Spring.
DUBLIN, IRELAND -- Catholic Ireland has its woes (see story), yet the life of the church goes on -- particularly where the religious are concerned.
Pragmatic nuns, brothers and priests simply do whatever it takes.
Charity Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy began her religious life begging in the streets. Supplicants with bowls on street corners, Kennedy and her sisters went door-to-door.
She hated it. As a young novice, begging companion to an elderly nun, she had no choice. It was an era when some women’s congregations raised money for the poor that way.
There were, however, lessons to be learned from her elderly companion, said Kennedy, now known throughout Dublin as “Sr. Stan.”
“When the money was enough to purchase children’s clothes for some poor families, we went only to Dublin’s finest stores.” The elderly nun “bought only the best quality clothes, beautiful clothes -- I’d nothing like them as a child.
“Then she brought the families in, one by one. I saw the respect she had for the poor. She’d say, ‘We must give to the poor what the rich can buy with money.’ It marked me for life,” Kennedy said.