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Vatican

A time to act for Catholic-Jewish reconciliation

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Editor's note: Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome Jan. 17. It will be only the second such occasion after the groundbreaking visit by Pope John Paul II in 1986. The visit coincides with the Italian Catholic church's celebration each Jan. 17 of a day for Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The visit is being watched especially close after a year of tension relations between Catholics and Jews.

The recent decree by Pope Benedict XVI advancing the sainthood of Pope Pius XII is another serious blow to Catholic-Jewish relations. Pius’ record during the Shoah remains a legitimate historical question and is, as well, the subject of a long-time emotional disagreement between some in the Vatican and Jewish leaders.

Pope meets, forgives Christmas Eve attacker

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VATICAN CITY -- As a sign of his forgiveness, Pope Benedict XVI met with the woman responsible for knocking him down during a Christmas Eve Mass, a papal spokesman said.

The pope met with Susanna Maiolo after leading his weekly general audience Jan. 13 in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, Father Federico Lombardi said in a written statement.

French seminary trains for Orthodox resurgence

EPINAY-SOUS-SENART, France -- Inside a plain stone building that was once a Catholic convent in the center of town, a dozen black-robed seminarians struggle over French theological phrases.

The nuns are long gone, their Catholic crucifixes replaced by Russian icons and incense that form the trappings of a bold experiment: the Russian Orthodox Church's first seminary outside the former Soviet Union.

Officially launched in November, the small Paris-area school nurses big ambitions: to train a new generation of Orthodox priests capable of serving Russia's growing Diaspora. Even more, the school hopes to foster exchanges between Europe's Christian East and West; and, more specifically, help nurture warming ties between Moscow and the Vatican.

Papal secretary visits pope's Christmas attacker

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary visited the woman responsible for knocking the pope down during a Christmas Eve Mass.

Msgr. Georg Ganswein, papal secretary, visited Susanna Maiolo at the psychiatric hospital in Subiaco, outside of Rome, where she was transferred Dec. 25.

The papal secretary made the private visit to Maiolo "to show her the Holy Father's interest in her situation," the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a written statement Jan. 3.

Papal scare not really a shocker

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Video images of Susanna Maiolo’s Christmas Eve lunge at Benedict XVI – her second in as many years, and by far the bolder attempt – certainly made for a striking bit of reality TV, Vatican-style. Yet for anyone who’s spent much time in close proximity to the pope, they weren’t really a shocker.

In comparison to presidents, prime ministers, or even rock stars, the security membrane around a pope is remarkably permeable. While it’s rare for the pope to get bowled over by someone hurling themselves at him, as happened in St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday night, that’s more a matter of luck (or providence) rather than a reflection of how thoroughly insulated he is from potential threats.

Everyone who follows the pope probably has their favorite illustrations of the light security touch; here are a couple of mine.

Humpty Dumpty in the Vatican

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Commentary

TOKYO -- In Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that’s all.”

The egg-man is convinced that whatever nonsense he utters makes sense because he says it does.

Vatican moves John Paul II and Pius XII closer to sainthood

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Two instances of something may not constitute a trend, but they can at least suggest a strategy. Last week, an apparent Vatican strategy on turning popes into saints came into view: When you’re going to move a controversial pope along the path to sainthood, bundle him with a more popular pontiff – the PR calculation apparently being that acclaim for the latter may drown out negative reaction to the former.

Call it a “two-for-one” strategy, one that appears especially probable when the controversy concerns Jewish/Catholic relations.

The Vatican announced Dec. 19 that Pope Benedict XVI has approved decrees of heroic virtue for two of his 20th century predecessors: Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII.

A decree of heroic virtue is a finding that someone lived a saintly life. It allows the candidate to be referred to as “venerable,” and means the only hurdle left for beatification is a documented miracle, with one more miracle necessary for canonization, the formal act of declaring someone a saint.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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