ROME -- It’s only day one of the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, but already its signature issue has come into focus: Religious freedom, seen as the cornerstone of a healthy democratic society, and as a universal cause rather than special pleading for the region’s embattled Christian minority.
In broad strokes, one Synod of Bishops in Rome is pretty much like another one – the same procedures, the same structures, often the same faces and same issues. Yet there are several features which make the Oct. 10-24 Synod for the Middle East unique, which were highlighted this morning by Archbishop Nikola Eterovi?, a Croat who heads the Vatican department for synods of bishops, in a briefing for reporters.
For one thing, this is clearly a synod ad orientem, meaning directed to the East. Of the 185 bishops taking part (out of a total of some 270 participants), 140 come from the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome, meaning that just 45 represent the Latin Rite. In most synods, the bishops and other participants from the East are almost a footnote – this time around, they’re the main act.
Read the full report here: Middle East synod is unique, and here's why
VATICAN CITY -- The Catholic Church obviously believes it has an important message to share with the world. And with relatively easy access to the printing press, the airwaves and the Internet, it would seem that communicating the Gospel would be easier than ever today.
In North America and Europe, especially, the church has relied for decades on the Catholic press to provide the faithful with news, information and the perspective they need to understand the church's position on a variety of current political, social and ethical issues.
Church officials, though, recognize that even as opportunities to communicate expand, its message is often muffled.
Pope Benedict XVI, meeting Catholic journalists and communications professionals Oct. 7, said that despite the "multiplication of antennas, dishes and satellites," the printed word is still essential for communication, especially for a church community that draws its inspiration from Scripture.
"The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with passionate minds and hearts, but also with the professionalism of competent workers with sufficient and effective instruments," he said.
Italian authorities froze some $30 million in assets of the Vatican Bank Sept. 20, and placed the bank’s president and general director under investigation for alleged violations of anti-money-laundering protocols.
VATICAN CITY -- In June, Pope Benedict XVI announced he was establishing a major Vatican agency to deal with "new evangelization" in traditionally Christian countries.
The pope's initiative was seen as a bold stroke in the church's ongoing effort to engage the modern world. But three months later, the project is still stuck in the slow wheels of Vatican bureaucracy.
Officially, in fact, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization doesn't yet exist. Although the pope proclaimed its formation and then named its president, Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the office will formally be launched only with publication an apostolic constitution, in which the pope will lay out the council's structure and tasks.
In the meantime, Archbishop Fisichella is in a kind of limbo.
"We're hoping it will come around the end of September. I don't know any more than that. We need to be patient with the bureaucracy here," he said.
The pope keeps mentioning the importance of the new council. Most recently, he urged British bishops to "avail yourselves of its services."
VATICAN CITY -- The president of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, has been placed under investigation by Italian magistrates in a money-laundering probe, the Italian state television RAI reported.
RAI, citing judicial sources, said the move followed the seizure Sept. 20 by Italian treasury police of 23 million euros (US$30 million) that had been deposited in a Rome bank account by the Vatican bank.
LONDON -- In his final act before departing the U.K. for Rome, Pope Benedict XVI has challenged the Catholic church to “humbly” present itself as a model for all society in the protection of children and young people from abuse.
It marked the fourth time the pontiff has addressed the sexual abuse crisis during his Sept. 16-19 trip to Scotland and England. The crisis has not taken on the same dimensions here as in the United States, Ireland, Germany, and other countries, but it nevertheless formed an important subtext to the trip.
This was the first time the pope has explicitly suggested that the experience accumulated by the Catholic church over the last decade could be a model for the wider world.
London -- On day three of Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit to the United Kingdom, the pontiff has once again used strong language on the sexual abuse crisis, expressing “deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes.”
The pontiff said he feels "shame and humiliation" because of the scandals, and called upon Catholics to express "concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests."
Cardinal John Henry Newman will be beatified at a Mass Sept. 19 presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. It will be the first time Benedict has presided over a beatification ceremony, indicating the great reverence in which Newman is held.
Pope Benedict XVI is midway through his trip to the United Kingdom, and so far reaction has been all over the map, from wild enthusiasm among devotees, to overt hostility among determined protestors, to benign indifference in a broad swath of secular society. Of course, the pope always evokes a range of opinions, but they’re rarely on full public view as they are here.