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Vatican

Benedict issues forceful environmental message

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Benedict XVI has already earned a reputation as the “green pope” because of his repeated calls for stronger environmental protection, as well as gestures such as installing solar panels atop a Vatican audience hall and signing an agreement to make the Vatican Europe’s first carbon-neutral state. Now he’s cemented that profile by issuing his most comprehensive document on environmental ethics to date, in the form of an annual message for the World Day of Peace.

Strikingly, the document appeared as the nations of the world were meeting in Copenhagen to hammer out a deal on climate change – one of a host of environmental threats Benedict identified as an urgent moral priority.

The pope’s language was forceful.

“How can one remain indifferent in the face of problems such as climate change, desertification, the degradation and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase in extreme weather, and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical areas?” he asked.

Where hype meets reality

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Somebody with a flair for taxonomy could probably go to town creating tongue-in-cheek categories for news stories on the Catholic beat. Entries might include the “scandal” story, the “sleeper” story (one whose significance takes a while to sink in), and the “woe-is-me” story (involving anybody put upon by officialdom).

Then there’s what might be called the “invitation to hype” story, meaning a development that stirs massive discussion and controversy, even though its real-world significance isn’t actually all that great. A classic example came in 2007, with Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to authorize wider celebration of the old Latin Mass. Intense debate ensued about what the move augured for the direction of the church, yet two years later the tiny number of people regularly attending Mass in the old rite could probably be captured with the Italian expression quattro gatti e un cane -- “four cats and a dog.”

At least in the United States, we may have a new entry in the “invitation to hype” category, with the Vatican’s recent decision to create new structures, called “personal ordinariates,” to welcome former Anglicans wishing to become Catholic.

Anglican leader, in Rome, optimistic

VATICAN CITY -- Speaking in Rome a month after the Vatican unveiled plans to facilitate the conversion of conservative Anglicans to Catholicism, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion offered a moderately hopeful assessment of ecumenical relations between the two churches.

The "ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Thursday (Nov. 19), at the conclusion of a 30-minute lecture at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Pope John Paul reported closer to 'venerable'

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VATICAN CITY -- The cardinal- and bishop-members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes voted unanimously Nov. 16 to recommend that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognize that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues, Italian newspapers reported.
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tThe Vatican did not deny or confirm that the vote took place because the process is supposed to be secret until Pope Benedict signs the decree recognizing the heroic virtue of his predecessor and declares him venerable.
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tPope Benedict generally signs a dozen or more decrees three times a year: in April, in June or July and in December.
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tMembers of the saints' congregation meet regularly to study the life stories, eyewitness testimony and other documentation promoting the causes of proposed saints. The information is contained in a "positio," or position paper, prepared by the promoter of the individual's cause.
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tWhen the cardinals and bishops are satisfied that the "positio" is complete and demonstrates that the sainthood candidate lived an extraordinarily holy life, they recommend the pope sign the first decree.

Hope among thorns

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Essay

In the English Catholic church, cardinal archbishops of Westminster tend to punch above their weight. One of those who punched hardest was Basil Hume. It was to this Benedictine monk that the nation came to look for spiritual leadership, and that same quality was recognized internationally -- including by the American and European bishops.

Hume received a number of invitations from the United States. The last one asked him to address a meeting of the bishops’ conference in Tucson, Ariz., in June 1999. Shortly before, in April, he learned that he had advanced cancer, so would not be able to go. Instead he videotaped what he wanted to say, and it was played to the bishops’ assembly on June 18, the day after his death. This last testament from beyond the grave is as pertinent now as it was then.

Traditional Anglicans hope for Easter reunion

OTTAWA -- The primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion said he hopes churches take action to enter into full communion with the Catholic church before Easter.

Archbishop John Hepworth said he reacted "with overwhelming joy" to the apostolic constitution published Nov. 9 establishing the structure for Anglicans to be in full communion with the Catholic church.

Nostalgia is not a path to the future

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Editorial

It has been an open secret that powerful forces in the church’s leadership have strongly opposed the reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council and have worked quietly yet assiduously during the past 40 years to roll back what has been accomplished. The regression is usually couched in Orwellian churchspeak, which lavishes praise on the council even as its intentions are reversed. Or sometimes in this parallel universe the argument is made that nothing really happened during the gathering of the world’s bishops over a four-year period to redirect the church and its mission.

The Vatican angles in rightist waters

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Viewpoint

After Pope Benedict XVI’s offenses to Jews and Muslims, to Protestants and to reform-oriented Catholics, it is now the turn of the Anglican Communion, which encompasses some 77 million members and is the third-largest Christian confession after the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches. Now that he has brought back the extreme anti-reformist faction of the Society of Pius X into the fold, Benedict hopes to fill up the dwindling ranks of the Catholic church with Anglicans sympathetic to Rome. Their conversion to the Catholic church is supposed to be made easier: Anglican priests and bishops shall be allowed to retain their standing, even when married. Traditionalists of the churches unite under the cupola of St. Peter’s.

Burke's influence is set to grow

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Analysis

Archbishop Raymond Burke’s Oct. 17 appointment to the powerful Congregation for Bishops offers an illustration of how in the Vatican, even the ordinary can be extraordinary.

The appointment means that the 61-year-old Burke, a frequently polarizing figure during his 12-year run as a bishop in the United States, is now in a position to put his stamp on the next generation of Catholic bishops all over the world.

Cardinal Franc RodÈ statement on Apostolic Visitation

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The following statement was issued by the Vatican Press Office Nov. 3, 2009:

STATEMENT OF THE PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION OF INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, CARD. FRANC RODÉ, C.M., ON THE APOSTOLIC VISITATION OF INSTITUTES OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS IN THE USA

Since the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious was first announced in January 2009, there has been great interest in the study that the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) has undertaken to look into the fundamental aspects of women religious in the United States. This Apostolic Visitation hopes to encourage vocations and assure a better future for women religious. Having read many news accounts and received various inquiries, I offer the following in response.

For many years this dicastery had been listening to concerns expressed by American Catholics – religious, laity, clergy and hierarchy – about the welfare of religious women and consecrated life in general, and had been considering an Apostolic Visitation as a means to assess and constructively address these concerns.

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