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Catholic-Orthodox urged toward reunion

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WASHINGTON – The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has urged the world's Catholic and Orthodox churches to begin envisioning what shape "worldwide ecclesial communion, sacramental and spiritual, between our churches, might look like" – and to begin taking steps toward realizing that goal.

Dialogue participants acknowledged that the "root obstacle" to moving toward unity "has been, and continues to be, the role that the bishop of Rome plays in the worldwide Catholic communion."

"The role of the bishop of Rome would have to be carefully defined, both in continuity with the ancient structural principles of Christianity and in response to the need for a unified Christian message in the world of today," they said.

Protests against 'Roman imperialism' at Middle East synod

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ROME -- While the Christians of the Middle East face a staggering variety of external challenges, from the Israeli/Palestinian problem to the rise of radical Islam, it was internal ecclesiastical questions which actually loomed largest during day two of the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.

Concretely, several representatives of the Eastern Churches of the region registered strong protests against what they almost seem to regard as a sort of “Roman imperialism” inside global Catholicism. Their basic argument is that reforms are required if the identity, authority and heritage of the 22 Eastern Churches in communion with Rome are to be preserved.

Whether any of those ideas actually survives in the propositions which the Synod of Bishops will eventually deliver to the pope remains to be seen, but collectively they suggest a fairly widespread frustration with what leaders of the Eastern Churches sometimes perceive as a sort of second-class citizenship within Catholicism.

Read the full report here: Protests against 'Roman imperialism' at Middle East synod

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."

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April 11-24, 2014

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