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Does benign neglect spell the 'Death of Christians of the East'?

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ROME -- Sprawl usually marks the opening stages of a Synod of Bishops, as participants use brief speeches to raise a bewildering variety of topics, and common threads can be hard to find. Attempts to identify key ideas too early in the game risk jumping the gun.

That said, yesterday’s first round of speeches in the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East repeatedly seemed to flag a threat facing the churches of the region, less visible than the rise of radical Islam or the war in Iraq, but potentially no less fatal: A sort of “benign neglect” across the Catholic world, which could mean acquiescence as the spiritual and social capital of the churches of the Middle East ebbs away.

That neglect seemed especially acute when it comes to the six Eastern Catholic churches of the Middle East (Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite and Syrian) vis-à-vis the dominant Latin tradition within global Catholicism.

Read the full report here: Does benign neglect spell the 'Death of Christians of the East'?

Index of stories from Synod of Bishops on the Middle East

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For the past two weeks, John Allen has been in Rome covering the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. Allen filed a range of stories in his time at the Synod, from describing the intricacies of ecumenical dialog to following the dangers of being a Christian in some of the most volatile areas of the world. You can find all of Allen's stories from the synod here.

Redemptorist Tobin ordained archbishop

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VATICAN CITY -- In a ceremony rich with symbolism, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone ordained two new bishops and two archbishops, including U.S. Redemptorist Father Joseph W. Tobin.

"The fundamental mission of a bishop is proclaiming the Good News," said Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, who presided over the ordination Mass Oct. 9 in St. Peter's Basilica.

Middle East synod is unique, and here's why

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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.

Ad orientem

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

The muffled message of Catholic media

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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.

Waiting game: New Vatican agency yet to materialize

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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 bank head in money-laundering probe

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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.

Pope calls church to be 'humble' model on abuse

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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.

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