And you think YOUR neighborhood is noisy!

Clericus Cup logoWe’ve been devotedly following the Clericus Cup soccer tournament, which features teams from Rome’s major seminaries in friendly matches with an international flavor. So we wanted to make sure you didn’t miss yesterday’s story about how Clericus Cup fans are being asked to hold down the noise because of complaints from the neighbors. It seems that the tambourines, megaphones and boomboxes were interfering with Roman siesta times, especially on Sunday afternoons. Only in Rome …

Easter’s coming early this year

Shown is some of the frappe and castagnole served up at a Vatican press conference Jan. 24. (John Thavis)At the Vatican Press Office today, Archbishop Claudio Celli’s inaugural press conference was followed by an informal rinfresco — pizza and spumante. The archbishop had one slice, but some of the journalists made lunch of it.

The dessert tray held those pre-Lenten Italian favorites: frappe, a sweet fried flat pastry, and castagnole, fried and sugared dough balls. As they quickly disappeared, someone remarked that we’d better enjoy them now because Ash Wednesday was less than two weeks away.

Is that possible?

Yes. Lent begins on Feb. 6, and Easter is March 23. That’s the earliest Easter since 1913, when it fell on the same date.

In 1913, however, Ash Wednesday came on Feb. 5, a day earlier than this year.

Is that possible?

Yes, because 2008 is a leap year, thus adding an extra day in the middle of the Lenten season.

The earliest Ash Wednesday possible is Feb. 4, and the earliest Easter is March 22. That last happened in 1818.

The fact that Easter is a moveable feast confuses many people, even in Rome. So is the fact that Catholics and Orthodox Christians usually celebrate Easter on different dates, because they follow different calendars. This year, for example, the Orthodox celebrate Easter on April 27 — more than a month after Catholics.

It’s not easy to explain in a sentence or two, but here’s how the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” puts it:

At the Council of Nicaea in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (14 Nisan) after the vernal equinox. Because of the different methods of calculating the 14th day of the month of Nisan, the date of Easter in the Western and Eastern churches is not always the same. For this reason, the churches are currently seeking an agreement in order once again to celebrate the day of the Lord’s Resurrection on a common date.

Catholic and Orthodox leaders actually sat down several times in the late 1990s to try and resolve the problem of different Easter celebrations, but didn’t come up with an answer. At that time, the Vatican made it clear that the Catholic Church, following the lead of the Second Vatican Council, could accept the assigning of Easter to a specific Sunday agreed upon with other Christian churches.

One proposal was to celebrate Easter on the Sunday after the second Saturday in April. That sounded do-able. But, perhaps because old traditions die hard, it hasn’t happened yet.

PHOTO: Shown is some of the frappe and castagnole served up at a Vatican press conference Jan. 24. (John Thavis)

Catching up …

Stories worth noting before they get too old:

 — At least three of our papers had stories this month remembering the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Check out these stories in The Rhode Island Catholic in Providence, the Intermountain Catholic in Salt Lake City, and the Arkansas Catholic in Little Rock.

– Two interesting stories posted this week on the Web site of the Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., are on a local woman who spearheads a ministry to help post-abortive mothers heal and on a praise and worship music group called Second Collection that brings an upbeat tempo to Mass at one parish in the diocese.

– Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver often writes challenging columns in the weekly Denver Catholic Register, and this month has been no exception. He used coverage of the Iowa caucuses to say that the news media “simply don’t ‘get’ religion,” followed that with a column listing “10 simple points” for Catholic citizens to remember when considering political candidates, and this week writes that a Colorado proposal regulating nonprofits who receive state funds would strip Catholic Charities of the freedom it needs to be “Catholic.”

– A well-written feature on how the Retrouvaille program saved the marriage of a couple who faced dark clouds almost immediately after their wedding day is in the current Faith magazine of the Diocese of Erie, Pa.

Blogging from the March for Life

Those clever folks at the Florida Catholic — specifically, Miami bureau editor Ana Rodriguez-Soto — have posted a blog from the March for Life. Click here for day one and here for day two. You’ll see that the Miami high school students came here with contrasting emotions: excited to see snow but sad that the trip’s organizer for two decades, Jesuit Father William Kidwell, died the week before the march.

(UPDATE: Click here for day three)

Advocating for life: Images from the Roe v. Wade anniversary

Visitors to the CNS News Hub and to our homepage don’t often get to see many of the photos we supply daily to the Catholic press. It’s our hidden gem, known best by the clients who subscribe to our photo service.

Here are some images from last night’s and today’s commemoration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade here in D.C.:

NEW CARDINAL CONCELEBRATES VIGIL MASS — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston is one of the concelebrants at the vigil Mass for life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. Thousands attended the service at the basilica on the eve of the annual March for Life. The events marked the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country. (CNS/Paul Haring)

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TEENS ATTEND VIGIL MASS — Paige Blawas, 17, Sarah Moss, 16, and Katie Warner, 16, listen as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, delivers a homily during the vigil Mass for life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. Thousands attended the service at the basilica on the eve of the annual March for Life. The events solemnly marked the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country. (CNS/Paul Haring)

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RALLY BEFORE THE MARCH — Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh arrives with other bishops for a pro-life rally and Mass at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Young people from across the nation packed the arena for the Rally for Life and Youth Mass in advance of the annual March for Life. (CNS/Paul Haring)

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CHEERING AT YOUTH RALLY — Evan Sgroi, 17, from Syracuse, N.Y. cheers during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Young people from across the nation packed the arena for the Rally for Life and Youth Mass in advance of the annual March for Life. (CNS/Paul Haring)

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SIGNS EVERYWHERE — Signs are displayed during the 35th annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 22. The demonstration marks the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion across the country. (CNS/Bob Roller)

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VISITING FROM ALABAMA — Dominican Sister Mary Johanna of John Carroll High School in Birmingham, Ala., talks with student Marena Molay, left, during the 35th annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 22. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Imam’s visit to Rome synagogue postponed

The visit of the imam of Rome’s mosque to the city’s historic synagogue has been postponed to an undetermined date. Abdellah Redouane, secretary general of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, which is based at the mosque, told the Italian news agency ANSA that the visit was postponed “for organizational reasons.” Mario Scialoja, a leader in the Italian Muslim community, told ANSA that so many members of the community wanted to accompany the imam that a whole new plan for the visit was needed. 

But ANSA also quoted sources inside and outside Rome’s Muslim community saying the visit was postponed because of new Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Gaza.

In a statement Rome’s Jewish community said it was disappointed the visit was postponed because it would have been a “historic encounter that could reinforce dialogue and not only in Italy.” The statement said, “Religions can and must make their contribution to social well being and coexistence,” particularly in fighting prejudice and racism. “The doors of our synagogue remain open to our Muslim friends,” the statement said.

Portraits of the new Jesuit general in words and pixels

cg35logo_eng.jpgWhen the Jesuits announced Saturday that members of their General Congregation elected Father Adolfo Nicolas to be the new superior general, they put out a fairly bare-bones biography. Although not much was added to the biography, the Jesuits soon revamped the announcement into an election-day “chronicle.”

Sunday evening’s Mass of Thanksgiving in the Church of the Gesu, where the order’s founder St. Ignatius is buried, gave the public an opportunity to form a first impression of new superior, who was born in Spain but has ministered in Asia for 40 years.

Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas takes the oath of office as superior general of the Society of Jesus at the order's 35th General Congregation Jan. 19 in Rome. (CNS/Don Doll, S.J.) Little by little, Jesuits among the 217 electors are writing about the man they believe the Holy Spirit led them to elect. Several of the testimonials are on the Internet, including one by the Jesuit provincial of the Philippines, Father Daniel Patrick Huang, who has lived and worked with Father Nicolas.

Another portrait — a visual one — is being offered to news media and Web sites by Jesuit Father Don Doll.  On the roof of the Jesuit headquarters, just a block from St. Peter’s Square, he also took a group photograph of all 225 participants in to the General Congregation. One Jesuit had said that getting all of the Jesuits on the roof and looking at the camera at the same time would be like “herding cats.”

The Jesuits thoughtfully have included photos of the heights Father Doll had to go to in order to get the shot.

PHOTO: Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas takes the oath of office as superior general of the Society of Jesus at the order’s 35th General Congregation Jan. 19 in Rome. (CNS/Don Doll, S.J.)

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