Coming to Rome … holy hoopsters!

A basketball game is played in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Pius XII in 1955. (CNS photo/Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity)Priests and seminarians studying at Rome’s pontifical universities and institutions are warming up for season two of the Clericus Cup, which kicks off in a couple days. The immensely popular soccer series was established late last year by the Catholic Italian Sports Center and was based on a brainstorm idea by the Vatican’s “numero uno” soccer fan, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

But first some new news: seminarians are also going to get a chance to fine tune their shooting skills — swishing nets, that is. A new basketball tournament is going to be unveiled soon (though it won’t be played in St. Peter’s Square like the game shown here in 1955). An Italian Sports Center representative recently confirmed a rumor I had heard that the seminarians were expanding their priestly sports series to include hoops. He said the new basketball tournament was expected to be announced in February. So heads up: priests can jump!

Photo courtesy of the Italian Sports Center

Now, rebound back to soccer: An all-new lineup is in store featuring 16 teams with players from 50 different nations. The new season will open on Tuesday as players from the Legionaries of Christ’s Mater Ecclesiae go head to head against players from Rome’s major seminary.

The North American College team (check out this video on YouTube), which showed surprisingly strong performances during the first season, is due to vie again for the coveted Clericus Cup. The 2007 trophy was nabbed by undefeated champions Redemtoris Mater – the Neocatechumenal Way’s Rome seminary.

A few of the technical differences between Clericus Cup games and regular league soccer? Aside from players and fans having lots more spirit, Clericus Cup soccer games run 30-minute halves instead of 45-minute halves. Referees also have another penalty option. In addition to the yellow warning card and the red expulsion card, they can flash a blue card, which requires an overly aggressive player to leave the field for five minutes … presumably to pray for more patience.

Kentucky student honored at U.S. bishops’ meeting

Early this week a 22-year-old student from Kentucky was honored at the U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore. Here’s a more detailed look at David Golemboski from The Record, Louisville archdiocesan newspaper.

Preparing for the release of “The Golden Compass”

Preparing readers for next month’s release of the theatrical movie “The Golden Compass,” the National Catholic Register this week offers a story on the controversy surrounding the film. Since part of the controversy is about the atheism of the author on whose book the film is based, the paper also lists what it calls six common myths of atheism.

Seminarians and blogging

Seminarians blog not just to keep up with friends and families but also as a means of evangelization, according to this story in The Leaven of Kansas City, Kan. Writer Kara Hansen interviewed several local seminarians to paint a picture of how future priests are using modern tools like Facebook and xanga.com. (And if you missed it, check out last month’s CNS story on seminarians in Rome who share their faith journeys online.)

Archbishop Gregory recovering, compares nurses to work of Christ

This week’s Georgia Bulletin updates us on the recovery of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta after his Nov. 5 surgery for prostate cancer. In the same edition, Archbishop Gregory uses his weekly column to reflect on the nurses who have helped him in his recuperation, comparing their work to the example of Christ’s humble service.

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