National Catholic Reporter

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African synod heard the cry of women, laity


Should historians in the future rummage through the final documents of Vatican synods, they will find tepid accounts, blandly written and largely cleansed of the motivating tensions and contentious discussions of the moment.

We expect the same of documents that ultimately will be compiled and then stashed as a result of the recently completed Synod on Africa. The sad consequence, if past experience is any indication, is that the life in evidence at the synod, the energy bubbling up from this somewhat newly minted and wildly growing version of an old, old church, will be ignored. Much of that life issues from the questions being raised about the future, about the empowerment of women, about a larger role for laity. It is the result of the kind of back-and-forth that disturbs the Vatican’s meta-narrative, a vision of calm continuum that needs only to be reinforced.

Women may come out winners in the Synod for Africa


Coverage of the final conclusions from the Synod for Africa so far has focused mostly on the African bishops’ stinging rebuke of corrupt politicians -– in effect, telling them to repent or get out. In all honesty, however, there’s relatively little the Catholic church can do, at least in any direct sense, to control the behavior of national leaders in Africa or anywhere else.

Proof of the point is that the first Synod for Africa in 1994 issued a similar call for more ethical governance, and it’s not clear that such statements have changed very much.

There is a fair bit that Africa’s bishops can do, however, to shape the life of the Catholic church on the continent, and that may be where the synod’s concluding message, as well as the 57 propositions for action submitted to Pope Benedict XVI, have their most immediate impact.

On that front, if there's one big idea that seemed to surface, it was a call to take women more seriously -- in society, and also in the church.

In keeping with the candor exhibited throughout the synod about the church’s need to confront its own failures, the bishops called for:

    Archbishop Burke will help shape world's episcopate


    VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI's naming of U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke to the Congregation for Bishops was a small but significant appointment that could have an impact on the wider church for many years to come.

    The congregation's members generally meet every two weeks to review candidates for vacant dioceses and make their recommendations to the pope -- recommendations that carry a lot of weight. Precisely for that reason, the Congregation for Bishops is known as one of the most important Roman Curia agencies.

    Vatican welcomes Anglicans: React story No. 2


    Subdued reflection seemed to be the most common reaction from Catholics and Anglicans to the Vatican's plans to more easily welcome Anglicans into the Roman Catholic fold.

    Seeming to welcome the announcement was Msgr. William H. Stetson, an Opus Dei priest from the Washington, D.C., area, who since the 1980s has personally supervised the conversion of approximately 100 Episcopal priests.

    He told Religion News Service, "There's no structure like it in the modern history of the Catholic church. This is a historic moment."

    Vatican welcomes Anglicans: React story No. 1

    WASHINGTON -- Parishioners at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, the largest Anglican-use Catholic parish in the U.S., have plenty to talk about these days.

    "Everyone is excited, but they have lots of questions," said the pastor, Father Christopher Phillips, about the Vatican's Oct. 20 announcement of a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Celibacy a deal-breaker for some Anglicans

    VATICAN CITY -- While Pope Benedict XVI hopes to encourage conversions by allowing disaffected Anglicans to continue to use traditional forms of worship, the Catholic tradition of celibate clergy may be an insurmountable obstacle for some potential converts.

    The Vatican announced Tuesday (Oct. 20) that it will create new national dioceses tailored to Anglicans upset with their church's growing acceptance of homosexuality and female clergy. The dioceses will feature not only distinctively Anglican music and prayers, but also the trait that till now has most conspicuously distinguished Anglicanism from Roman Catholicism: married priests.

    Vatican reveals plan to welcome disaffected Anglicans


    Married priests to be part of the deal in new 'personal ordinariates'

    In a move with potentially sweeping implications for relations between the Catholic church and some 80 million Anglicans worldwide, the Vatican has announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to absorb disaffected Anglicans wishing to become Catholics. The structures will allow those Anglicans to hold onto their distinctive spiritual practices, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests.

    Those structures would be open to members of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the main American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. American Episcopalians are said to number some 2.2 million.

    The announcement came this morning in Rome in a news conference with two Americans: Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

    Benedict's 'affirmative orthodoxy a model of engagement


    During Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 26-28 trip to the Czech Republic, a spider that crawled across the pope’s garments probably got more play in the American press than anything the pope actually said or did. That’s a pity, because Benedict’s relentlessly positive tone on the trip set an important example for how the church can successfully engage cultures, and political leaders, with which it has serious disagreements.



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