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Vatican note on economy the first ripple of a southern wave

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Commentary

Whenever the Vatican appears to lurch in a given direction, there's a tendency in Catholic circles to become obsessed with how much ecclesiastical authority the gesture or text in question carries. For the most part, it's a legitimate question; when Benedict XVI uses kneelers during Communion, for instance, people have good reasons for wondering if it's a harbinger of a policy move or simply a matter of personal taste.

Sometimes, however, fussing about the authority behind something misses the bigger picture. Reaction to Monday's note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, titled "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority," offers a classic case in point. (Read the document.)

Vatican blasts 'idolatry' of global markets

VATICAN CITY -- Blaming the world's economic and financial crisis on an "economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls," the Vatican on Monday released an ambitious proposal for global regulation of the financial industry and the international money supply.

The 16-page document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a "central world bank" to regulate the "flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks," such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The proposal also calls for a global tax on financial transactions, whose revenue would go to a fund to help "support the economies of the countries hit by crisis."

Ultimately, the plan would help establish a "world political authority" envisioned by Popes John XXIII in 1963 and Benedict XVI in 2009. That body would have international governance on arms control, migration, food security, and environmental protection.

The proposal is the Vatican's newest response to globalization, which it says makes far-flung nations more dependent on each other but also more exposed to each other's risky choices and financial mismanagement.

Vatican document on brotherhood still in the works

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The Vatican is legendary for thinking in centuries, which may help explain why a document on the vocation to the religious brotherhood that in some ways has been in the works for a quarter century remains largely in the planning stages today.

When that document from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, better known as the Congregation for Religious, eventually appears, certainly no one can accuse them of having rushed into it.

Vatican treads carefully on Egyptian violence

VATICAN CITY -- Treading carefully on a subject that has proved diplomatically volatile for the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI lamented Sunday’s (Oct. 9) killing of two dozen Christian protesters in Egypt.

“I am profoundly saddened by the episodes of violence that took place in Cairo last Sunday,” Benedict said on Wednesday (Oct. 12), referring to clashes between Coptic Christians and government security forces that led to the deaths of at least 25 protesters.

The pope voiced his pain at “attempts to undermine peaceful coexistence” between Egypt’s Christian minority and Muslim majority, and called for “true peace, based on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of all citizens.”

“I support the efforts made by the civil and religious authorities in Egypt to foster a society in which everyone’s human rights are respected, in particular those of minorities,” Benedict said, without mentioning the religious affiliation of the protesters.

Pope condemns attack on Christians in Egypt

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VATICAN CITY -- Condemning an attack on unarmed Christians in Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI said that during the country's transition to democracy, all of its citizens and institutions must work to guarantee the rights of minorities.

At the end of his weekly general audience Oct. 12, Pope Benedict said he was "profoundly saddened" by the deaths Oct. 9 of at least 26 people, mostly Christians, after peaceful protesters were attacked by gangs, and then a speeding military vehicle ran into them and officers fired on the crowd. Hundreds of people were injured.

The pope said Egypt, which has been transitioning to democracy since the February ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, has been "lacerated by attempts to undermine peaceful coexistence among its communities."

Safeguarding harmony and cooperation is essential for a future of true democracy, he said.

The pope asked Catholics to pray that Egypt would "enjoy true peace based on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every citizen."

Schismatics discuss demands; future unclear

VATICAN CITY -- Leaders of an ultra-traditionalist group that’s in schism with the Roman Catholic Church met to consider the Vatican’s conditions for reconciliation, but failed to announce a decision or say when they would do so.

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) will respond to the Vatican’s conditions “in a reasonable time,” its leaders said, after they met on Friday (Oct. 7).

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX’s superior general, received the “doctrinal preamble” at a meeting in Rome last month. The document’s contents remain confidential, but the Vatican has indicated it includes a mandate to accept at least some of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the pope’s teaching authority in the decades since.

Founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the SSPX is the largest and most vocal group of ultra-traditionalist Catholics who reject the modernizing reforms ushered in by Vatican II, including the council’s teachings on religious freedom and subsequent changes to the Mass.

New nuncio is no stranger to politics

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Pope Benedict XVI’s choice as his new ambassador to the United States will find a badly polarized society in America, with contentious national elections in 2012 already heating up and no sign that the nasty divisions in Catholic opinion that erupted last time around have been smoothed over.

As strange as it sounds, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, assuming he gets the job, may just be glad for the break from politics.

Benedict XVI trying to meet the other Germany halfway

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Pope Benedict XVI has gone home to Germany twice before, but it is always been, in a sense, on his turf. The first German pontiff in 500 years was surrounded by throngs of pumped-up young believers for World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, and he took a trip down memory lane to ultra-Catholic Bavaria, where the young Joseph Ratzinger grew up, in 2006.

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