Popes rarely get a “do-over,” an opportunity to make something right that didn’t exactly work out as planned the first time around. Yet Benedict XVI’s Nov. 18-20 trip to the West African nation of Benin, his second visit to Africa, represents just such a chance to tee the ball up again and see if this time he can avoid the rough.
The Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas is well known for his view that Christians must be uncompromising in their dealings with the political order. He refers positively to Christian "fanatics" and spiritual "terrorists." There is certainly a place for this sort of prophetic stance in Christian tradition, but it is not one that has typically been embraced by Catholic Christians. By contrast, Catholic tradition has sought to work pragmatically with political leaders to secure the common good, while not compromising core beliefs.
This is why the ongoing conflict between the Obama administration and the U.S. Catholic bishops is so disheartening. The most recent dust-up is over the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services not to award a federal grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services office to continue its work with the victims of human trafficking. Apparently the decision of HHS was influenced by the fact that MRS does not refer trafficking victims for contraceptive or abortions services.
The phrase is used 22 times in the 11 pages of the recent "note" from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace urging reform of the international financial and monetary systems.
The document also speaks of "common dignity," "common vision," "common decisions" and of "universal brotherhood." In fact, the needs of the latter, of "universal brotherhood," say the writers, transcend considerations of the marketplace.
FRIBOURG, Switzerland -- The patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt blamed Islamic fundamentalists for the increasing number of attacks on Christians and criticized a growing division between Muslims and Christians since the country's February revolution.
Speaking Oct. 30 at St. Nicolas Cathedral in Fribourg, Switzerland, during a day of prayer for persecuted Catholics, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, said the links between Muslims and Catholics that were reinforced in the period just after the revolution have deteriorated.
"Today, Islamic fundamentalists have come out of the woodwork, and there are recurring attacks on Christians," Cardinal Naguib said.
The attacks left dozens dead and "created a gulf between Muslims and Christians, which is being continually widened under the influence of fanatical leaders," he said during the event organized by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The cardinal said the unity that existed during the revolution, which saw Christians and Muslims praying together in churches and mosques for peace and a return to order, has virtually ended.
TEPOZTLAN, Mexico -- "Dia de los Muertos," the traditional Mexican commemoration of deceased loved ones, has taken on a deeper meaning in light of drug-related violence in recent years.
Drug-related killings have been on the rise since 2006, surpassing 15,000 in 2010, according to a study commissioned by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.
"We're living in a barbarian age," said Argelia Barcas Bello, a teacher at Santiago in Tepoztlan, a town built on Tepozteco Mountain near Mexico City. The town receives many visitors who come to see a nearby ancient pyramid.
Barcas and other merchants set up shops, selling items for "ofrendas," altars set up to remember deceased loved ones for the annual Day of the Dead observance.
"We're seeing many more deaths because of the delinquency," Barcas said, adding that those who died accidentally or due to violence are remembered in her town Oct. 28.
Alejandro Alvarez, another merchant, said Mexico has many ways of representing death -- the skull, or "calavera," and "Catarinas," dressed-up female skeletons, are two such ways.
"Since the Aztecs, we've been laughing at death," Alvarez said.
KATMANDU, Nepal -- An American priest was attacked and robbed in the center of the city as he made his way back to Assumption Church.
Spiritan Father William Headley, who is in his 70s, was struck from behind and robbed of his mobile phone, money and other personal effects as he approached the priest's residence next to the church Oct. 30, said Father Pius Perumana, an official of the Nepalese church.
MANCHESTER, England -- The law that bans a British monarch from marrying a Catholic is to be lifted after more than 300 years.
The reforms were announced following the unanimous agreement of the 16 nations that have Queen Elizabeth II as their constitutional head of state.
But they will not include the repeal of a Catholic becoming monarch because allegiance to the pope might conflict with the sovereign's role as the supreme governor of the Church of England.
The changes will also see the end of the ancient tradition of male primogeniture, the rule under which boys take precedence in the line to the throne over elder sisters.
The reforms will be included in the next British program of parliamentary business to be unveiled in November, while New Zealand will lead a working group to coordinate their implementation in other Commonwealth countries affected.
The announcement, made at an Oct. 28 summit of Commonwealth heads of government in Perth, Australia, was welcomed by Catholic leaders in Britain.
The Palestinians declared an independent state back in 1988, which has been recognized by more than 130 of the world’s nations. The Obama administration, however, insists that it is still too early for Palestine to be admitted into the United Nations.
Though the U.N. has been the arena in which international conflicts -- including those between Israel and its neighbors -- have historically been addressed, the Obama administration insists that this should no longer be the case. Instead, they argue, Palestinian statehood can only be recognized following an agreement resulting from negotiations between the Israeli occupiers and the Palestinians under occupation, facilitated by the United States, the primary military, economic and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power.
DUBLIN, IRELAND -- Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests marked its first year in existence with a Dublin meeting at which more than 300 priests heard a call for an end to mandatory celibacy and for the ordination of women.
The growth of the association has been rapid, with 540 Irish priests -- or one in eight -- now opting for membership. However, the absence of younger priests, sometimes called the “John Paul II generation,” was evident at the gathering.
The following is a speech given by Ian Linden, the director of policy of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, at the second of four seminars on faith and globalization. The initiative is a collaboration with the Fondazione per la Sussidiarietà, LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, University of Bologna, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and Ca' Foscari University in Venice to analyze the importance of religion in the interconnected world of the 21st century.
Read the first segment here.
It seems a long time since Jim Wolfensohn, then head of the World Bank, declared in 1999 that international development programs that ignored the importance of religion were doomed to failure. Religion for most of the world provided the core software of life's interpretative keys. If you hadn't figured that out, you might not have noticed that standard-issue development discourse often elicited polite incomprehension from its supposed beneficiaries. A lot of money went down the drain, assuming there was a drain, as a result.