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Benedict needs to show that he 'gets' Africa

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The problem with first impressions, as the saying goes, is that you only get to make one.

As Pope Benedict XVI prepares for his African debut March 17-23, visiting Cameroon and Angola on his first swing through Catholicism's most dynamic "growth market," he faces a series of dilemmas:

  • How to raise consciousness about the continent's travails without feeding African resentments that Westerners only report bad news;

  • Signaling that despite his European baggage, the pope "gets" Africa — for example, that his crusade against a Western "dictatorship of relativism" is largely moot here, since the grass-roots reality is not secularism but rather vibrant religious pluralism;

  • Keeping lines of communication open with his local hosts without glossing over a serious "democratic deficit" in their regimes;

  • Encouraging the vibrancy of African Catholicism without turning a blind eye to its growing pains — including a sometimes shallow sense of Catholic identity and the lingering tug of tribal and regional divisions.

Pope Benedict decision might further irritate Jews

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In moves that may further aggravate Jewish/Catholic tensions, a Vatican envoy has announced that Pope Benedict XVI will not enter Israel’s main Holocaust museum during his May 8-15 trip to the Holy Land, though he will stop at a memorial connected to the site, and the pope has also sent a letter to the world’s Catholic bishops defending his controversial decision to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist prelates, including one who has denied the Holocaust.

Lefebvrite head: 'Not ready to accept Vatican II'

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VATICAN CITY
The head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said his order is not ready to accept the Second Vatican Council, which the Vatican has set as a condition for full reintegration in the church.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Swiss-based society, said Vatican II has brought "only losses" among Catholic priests and the faithful. He made the remarks in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier published Feb. 26.

Pope Benedict XVI recently lifted the excommunications of Bishop Fellay and three other bishops, who were ordained against papal orders in 1988, as a step toward dialogue and reconciliation. The Vatican later said the society would have to recognize the teachings of Vatican II and of post-conciliar popes to be in full communion.

In the interview, Bishop Fellay was asked if the society was ready to meet the condition of accepting the council.

Hans Kung papal criticism draws Vatican ire

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VATICAN CITY
The dissident theologian Father Hans Kung has criticized Pope Benedict XVI as isolated and unable to take creative steps to deal with a series of internal church questions, including priestly celibacy and birth control.

Father Kung said the pope's recent lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops illustrated the pontiff's desire for a smaller and purer church, and his inability to make necessary reforms.

"The church risks becoming a sect. Many Catholics no longer expect anything from this pope. It's very sad," Father Kung said in an interview published by the French newspaper Le Monde Feb. 24.

His remarks drew a sharp comment from the dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who told Vatican Radio he felt "wounded" when he read the interview.

"Fraternal criticism has always been possible in the church, from the times of Sts. Peter and Paul. Bitter criticism, on the other hand, especially when it's so broad, does not contribute to the unity of the church, for which Pope Benedict is working so hard," Cardinal Sodano said.

Benedict's U.S. appointments follow a pattern

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While Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to New York hardly marks a dramatic break with key picks under recent popes, it may confirm an intriguing pattern-within-a-pattern under Benedict when it comes to the most important jobs in the United States.

In a sound-bite, one might call it a choice for “the center-right with a human face.”

In essence, that means leaders who are basically conservative in both their politics and their theology, but also upbeat, pastoral figures given to dialogue.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan headed to New York

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Legendary pitcher Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, who threw for six teams during his pro career, recently described the difference between playing on the West Coast and the East Coast during a segment on the brand new MLB Network.

“In L.A., if the Dodgers are losing in the seventh inning, people just go home and watch the end of the game on TV,” Williams said. “In New York or Philly, if you’re losing in the seventh inning, they go home, get the TV, come back to the ballpark and throw it at you.”

In a word, Williams said, the difference is “intensity.”

In reality, it’s not just sports where things are amped up back East. Church leaders, too, play on a much bigger stage, facing greater scrutiny from the press and higher expectations of national leadership. They also preside over flocks which are often more unruly, and more vocal when they’re unhappy.

Nowhere is that high-octane atmosphere more pronounced than the Big Apple, which means that Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announced at the Vatican and in Washington Feb. 23, as the 13th archbishop of New York, is stepping into the biggest pressure-cooker in American Catholicism.

Cardinal stops Vatican official from saying Mass

LONDON -- An English cardinal has used canon law to prevent a Vatican official from celebrating a Tridentine-rite Mass in Westminster Cathedral and instead has asked an auxiliary bishop to celebrate it.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster refused to grant permission for U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, head of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form of the Latin rite, called the Tridentine rite, in the London cathedral June 20. The cardinal used the Code of Canon Law to insist that the Mass be celebrated instead by Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster.

Archbishop Burke already had accepted an invitation from the Latin Mass Society, a British Catholic group committed to promoting the Tridentine rite, but the invitation has since been rescinded.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor invoked Canon 838, which says that the diocesan bishop and the Holy See have competence over the liturgy.

A spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 17 telephone interview that "the cardinal was keen for one of the local bishops to celebrate that Mass."

Religious-order bishops are a long but contested tradition

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Few dioceses in the world have ever needed a breath of fresh air quite like Boston in early 2003, after the embattled Cardinal Bernard Law finally resigned amid a meltdown driven not only by the wider sex-abuse crisis, but also by Law’s own imperious, polarizing style.

When Bishop Sean O’Malley was introduced as Law’s successor, everything about him seemed to scream “change”: his bearded, beaming visage, his accessibility, his air of humility. The exclamation point came with O’Malley’s garb. Instead of French cuffs and other finery, he wore the simple brown robe of the Capuchin friars, the religious order he had joined while growing up in Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

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September 12-25, 2014

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