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Vatican

Paving stones tell time in St. Peter's Square

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VATICAN CITY

Hidden among the paving stones of St. Peter's Square there is a simple clock and calendar. All you need is a sunny day.

The 83-foot stone obelisk in the middle of the square acts as a sundial that can accurately indicate midday and the two solstices thanks to a granite meridian and marble markers embedded in the square.

Archbishop Sambi, US nuncio, dies at age 73

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BALTIMORE -- Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican nuncio to the United States, died late July 27 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore after a hospitalization that began with lung surgery. He was 73.

On July 22, the apostolic nunciature in Washington announced that the archbishop had been "placed on assisted ventilation to attempt recovery of his lung function" two weeks after undergoing "a delicate lung surgery."

A veteran Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Sambi was appointed as U.S. nuncio, or ambassador, in December 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to the U.S. appointment, he had been nuncio to Israel and Cyprus; he was the second Vatican ambassador to Israel, after the Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1994.

Latest ferment shows German instinct to rebel

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Analysis

Of late, a cycle of hand-wringing over Germany has sprouted in wonkish foreign affairs journals. Germany’s waffling on aid to embattled Euro-zone economies, its abstention from a Security Council vote on Libya, and a $2.5 billion deal to sell crowd-control tanks to Saudi Arabia despite widespread revulsion over images of Saudi tanks crushing protests in Bahrain have all set off alarms.

At bottom, the fear is that after a half-century of moving in concert with other Western powers, Germany may be reverting to historical form -- putting its own strategic and commercial interests first, however destabilizing for the rest of the world.

As it happens, it’s not just the foreign policy establishment fretting.

Media groups name change doesn't satisify Vatican

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VATICAN CITY -- Two Vatican officials said the newly formed International Catholics Organization of the Media is simply a new name for a group that lost its official recognition as a Catholic organization.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, issued a joint statement on the name change of the International Catholic Union of the Press.

Pope taps Chaput for Philadelphia

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DENVER -- Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, widely perceived both as a leader of the church's conservative wing and a tough administrator with a strong work ethic, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI as the new archbishop of Philadelphia.

Sources confirmed the appointment to NCR, which is scheduled to be announced by the Vatican tomorrow. Chaput replaces Cardinal Justin Rigali, 76, who has led the Philadelphia archdiocese since 2003.

Chaput, 66, steps into an archdiocese in turmoil as a result of the sexual abuse crisis.

Vatican: 2010 budget surplus, giving down

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican reported a budget surplus for the first time in four years in 2010, but said contributions from Catholics and dioceses around the world had gone down.

The budget of the Holy See, which includes offices of the Roman Curia and related agencies, ended 2010 with a surplus of about $13.1 million.

The separate budget of Vatican City State, which includes the Vatican Museums, ended 2010 with a surplus of about $28 million, according to a Vatican statement July 2.

The figures were released following a three-day meeting of a council of cardinals charged with reviewing Vatican finances. The statement said the Vatican's financial picture continued to improve, but it cautioned that the global financial picture still presented "elements of uncertainty and instability."

Worldwide giving to the pope decreased in 2010, the statement said. Peter's Pence collected $67.7 million, compared to $82.5 million in 2009. In addition, the contributions of dioceses amounted to about $27.4 million, compared to $31.5 million the previous year.

Vatican's point man for religious life: 'We've started to listen again'

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From time to time, Vatican officials are accused of living in a bubble, detached from the complex and sometimes harsh realities facing ordinary people. However accurate that may be in individual cases, it’s certainly not the story of Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Consider these details from his biography:


  • Bráz grew up in a poor family in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, with four brothers and three sisters – the youngest sister, today 47, has Down’s syndrome. His father was a butcher.

  • His surroundings were so rural that when a child was born, the family had to travel by horse-drawn carriage for 25 miles to have the baby baptized. A priest visited their area once a month, so popular lay leaders were in charge of catechism, worship, and devotional life.

Israeli ambassador backpedals on wartime pope comments

After strong criticism from the Jewish community, Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican backpedaled from his praise of the controversial wartime Pope Pius XII for his “actions to save the Jews” during the Holocaust.

“Given the fact that this context is still under the subject of ongoing and future research, passing my personal historical judgment on it was premature,” Ambassador Mordechay Lewy said in a statement on Sunday (June 26).

Lewy had said many Catholic institutions in Rome hid Jews from the occupying Germans during the mass arrests on Oct. 16, 1943, which led to the deportation of more than 1,000 people to Auschwitz.

“It would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews,” Lewy said on Thursday. “To the contrary, the opposite is true: they helped wherever they could.”

Lewy’s remarks, which were seen as a conciliatory gesture on one of the most sensitive points of Jewish-Catholic relations, quickly drew fire from a large U.S. group of Holocaust survivors.

Vatican prepares document on clergy-laity relationship

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican is studying a possible document on the relationship of clergy and laity, which touches on the sensitive issue of the administration of the church's goods, Vatican sources said.

The sources denied an Italian report that the document will issue instructions on the reorganization of U.S. dioceses that face financial pressures in the wake of the sex abuse scandals -- in particular regarding parish closings.

A papal front-runner may get a boost in Milan

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Editor's Note: Cardinal Angelo Scola was named this morning as the new head of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy's largest diocese. Following is a look at who Scola is and what his appointment to Milan might mean. The article was written by NCR senior correspondent John L. Allen, Jr., for the June 24 print issue of National Catholic Reporter, before Scola's appointment was announced.

ANALYSIS

Sometimes a job is important not only for what its occupant does, but what it symbolizes. In the Catholic church there’s no better example than the archbishop of Milan, Italy, whose incumbent is almost automatically considered tanto papabile, i.e., a leading candidate to become the next pope.

In the 20th century, two archbishops of Milan went on to the papacy, Pius XI and Paul VI, while two others, Cardinals Carlo Maria Martini and Dionigi Tettamanzi, spent more or less their entire tenures surrounded by speculation over their future prospects.

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September 12-25, 2014

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