Battle against bottled water spreads to Catholic groups

You’ve probably heard of the effort to ask people to stop using bottled water because of the environmental damage the used bottles create. What you maybe didn’t know is how many Catholic groups have joined the fight. Details are in the current edition of the National Catholic Reporter, which also offers a sidebar on how we got to the point where bottled water is everywhere.

Rome’s imam to visit city’s synagogue

Obviously Rome is a city where religion makes the news regularly and prominently. The Italian news agencies, television and radio stations and newspapers all have reporters working full-time covering the Vatican, which makes it even more amazing when an Italian religion story does not involve Catholics.

That’s what happened a few days ago. Italian news outlets, including Vatican Radio, have dedicated print space and airtime to the fact that the imam of Rome’s mosque will pay his first visit ever to Rome’s synagogue.

Ala Eldin Mohamed Ismail el Ghobashy, the imam of Rome’s main mosque, will visit the synagogue Jan. 23, Rome’s Jewish community announced.

His visit comes almost two years after Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of Rome made his first visit to Rome’s mosque, which opened in 1995. The mosque can hold 2,500 worshippers and includes a library, cultural center and auditorium.

Leone Paserman, president of the Rome Jewish community, told the Italian newspaper Il Tempo, “We are very honored by this visit. We are an ancient community ready to help a young community like the Islamic one,” which is made up mainly of recent immigrants.

Along with the lay Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, Paserman said, the Jewish and Muslim communities have been sponsoring a series of meetings and joint projects and have even published together a magazine called “Knowing One Another and Living Together.”

“Rome has a huge symbolic value,” he said. “Everything that happens here takes on greater importance.”

‘Catholic evangelization with YouTube’

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia appeared on YouTube last year with video reflections for each Sunday of Lent. (CNS image)If you’re not very familiar with what Catholics are doing on new media sites such as YouTube or Facebook, this story will get you up to date. Published in the latest edition of the Western Catholic Reporter in Edmonton, Alberta, the story is by Alicia Ambrosio, whom we’re pleased to feature because last year she was an intern in our Rome bureau, contributing plenty of interesting articles to our news report, like this one.

PHOTO: Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia appeared on YouTube last year with video reflections for each Sunday of Lent. (CNS image)

Inside the Jesuit General Congregation

After the opening Mass for the Jesuit’s General Congregation and the election of the congregation officers last week, the Jesuit press office wasn’t exactly rolling out reams of reports. In fact, there was nothing.

Father Jose DeVera, the press officer, and his staff were patient with repeated phone calls and gave a general idea of what the 225 congregation delegate were doing, but that’s all. And an e-mail to a Jesuit friend on the inside didn’t yield anything more than a teasing rebuke from Father DeVera, who found out about it.

So, until his office sent out a press release today announcing that the General Congregation had accepted the resignation of Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as superior general, the only thing to do was looked at the photographs taken by Jesuit Father Don Doll and surf the Internet for new entries from Jesuit delegate-bloggers. Two writing in English are Father Dave Schultenover, a professor of theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and Father Fernando Franco, a Basque-born member of the Jesuit’s Gujarat province in India and director of the Jesuits’ Social Justice Secretariat in Rome.

The rest of the week promises to be even quieter as the delegates devote Tuesday through Friday to silence, prayer and quiet conversations in preparation for the election Saturday of the society’s 30th superior general.

NAC suffers a soccer shutout

logo_clericus_cup_copia.jpgNot a good Clericus Cup weekend for North American College.

The seminary’s soccer team, known as the North American Martyrs, struggled in a 3-0 loss Saturday to the International Ecclesial College “Sede Sapientiae.”

It was a windy, wet and somewhat gloomy day, and to top it off team manager and star Daniel O’Mullane ended the game holding a very swollen hand. He was pushed into a fence late in the second half.

O’Mullane, a seminarian for the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., made the only near-score for the Martyrs, driving a shot that sailed just above the crossbar.

At least the Martyrs’ fans continued to dominate the cheering section. One seminarian brought a battery-powered megaphone, and at one point he led the crowd in singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

OK, “crowd” may be an overstatement. I counted 20 people, but it was raining, after all.

Sede Sapientiae is a relatively new seminary in Rome run by Opus Dei, with about 90 seminarians. Their players, many of them from Latin America, looked like they were born on the soccer pitch, handling the ball with flair and shooting passes with precision.

Last year, Sede Sapientiae made the semi-finals, and they don’t seem to have lost anything this season.

Thanks to two earlier victories, NAC remains tied for first place in its division. But the Martyrs’ schedule doesn’t get any easier next week. They play Redemptoris Mater, the winner of the 2007 cup, who are undefeated so far this year.

Journalist tells of life in Pakistan after Bhutto

A supporter of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party, cries during a protest in Islamabad Dec. 28. (CNS/Reuters)For a first-person account of what it feels like to live under the threat of violence in Pakistan these days, check out this account by Kamran Chaudhry, Pakistan bureau chief for the Asian church news agency UCA News. Chaudry writes of a bomb explosion outside the high court, the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the effects of the crisis on the country.

PHOTO: A supporter of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, cries during a protest in Islamabad Dec. 28. (CNS/Reuters)

CNS column explores why Catholics stop going to Mass

A column by Father Eugene Hemrick on why Catholics stop attending Mass is getting well-deserved attention in the blogosphere, but no one knows that it’s ours! Actually, we’re not that bothered by isolated instances like this. Besides, the original post of the column came on the site of the Catholic Times in Springfield, Ill., one of our clients.

This also serves as a reminder that we don’t just produce news stories. We also provide our publishing clients with a variety of products, including columns that enliven the Catholic press. It’s just one more indication that Catholic News Service is your prime source for news, photos, graphics, columns and documentation on the church in the modern world.

Saints in the pipeline?

L’Osservatore Romano has turned into a real newspaper, and that means its delivery every afternoon is no longer a nonevent. One huge change is that the paper is actually interviewing Vatican officials.

Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, is shown at at a Rome press conference in 2006. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)The latest was Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins (left), who leaked word Tuesday of an upcoming document that will set stricter rules for dioceses in opening sainthood causes.

We love it when Vatican media come up with Vatican scoops.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins also offered some hints about potential beatifications and canonizations in coming months.

For those wondering about the status of Pope John Paul II’s cause, the cardinal said all the documentation was in the hands of his Congregation for Saints’ Causes after the Diocese of Rome concluded its work last April.

At the moment, he said, the congregation is pulling together the “positio,” the report that systematically presents the most relevant testimony about the “heroic virtues” of the late pope. When it’s printed, it will be examined by various levels of the congregation, the cardinal said.

He offered no target date or timeline.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins also mentioned the sainthood cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century English philosopher, theologian and spiritual writer.

In 2006, the Vatican began studying evidence of an alleged miraculous cure in the Archdiocese of Boston attributed to Cardinal Newman’s intercession. That raised expectations, but to date there’s been no news.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins didn’t make any promises, but he said: “Personally, I hope this beatification can occur within a short time because it would be very important at this moment for the path of ecumenism.”

Cardinal Saraiva Martins also indicated that the Vatican was close to finishing the beatification process for Louis Martin and Azelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.” They are among the very few Catholic married couples being considered for sainthood.

UPDATE: Contrary to some other stories floating around on the Internet, Cardinal Saraiva Martins never said the beatification of Cardinal Newman was “imminent.”

PHOTO: Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, is shown at at a Rome press conference in 2006. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

An idea whose time has come

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes speaks at a news conference at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo in 2006 after Pope Benedict XVI named him head of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy. (CNS/Reuters)When Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes (left) recently launched a worldwide prayer campaign to seek spiritual reparation for priestly sexual abuse, it rang a bell.

A quick search of our files showed that Cardinal John P. Foley made a similar proposal back in 2002, when the accusations and revelations of abuse were building to a full-fledged scandal.

Here’s what we reported in a couple of stories at the time:

Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said the real tragedy of clerical sex abuse is not the embarrassment caused to the church, but the grave offense against God and children. Speaking in Philadelphia … he said he suggested to Pope John Paul that the church declare a period of prayer and reparation for the “tragic moral flaws” revealed in the lives of some priests. (Full story here.)

And:

“In this time of great tragedy for the church, I have suggested to the highest authority that the three days before Holy Thursday, which is the day on which we recall the institution of the priesthood, be dedicated to reparation and to prayer for the sanctification of priests,” he said. (Full story here.)

Archbishop Foley’s idea didn’t go anywhere at the time. Or at least it didn’t seem to — the path of Vatican initiatives is often circuitous and lengthy.

Today, nearly six years later, much has changed. The Vatican has had ample time to reflect on the damage caused by sex abuse. There is a new pope, of course, and more to the point there is a new head of the Congregation for Clergy in Cardinal Hummes.

His predecessor, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, will be remembered by many journalists for refusing to answer questions about sex abuse during a Vatican press conference in March 2002 — a week after Archbishop Foley made his proposal of churchwide prayer.

PHOTO: Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes speaks at a news conference at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo in 2006 after Pope Benedict XVI named him head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy. (CNS/Reuters)

Let the sun shine

This photo montage provided by SolarWorld shows how solar panels will look on the roof of the Vatican's audience hall when installed in 2008. Some 2,000 panels were donated to the Vatican by SolarWorld, a German company. (CNS/SolarWorld)The German solar company SolarWorld gave Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican a brilliant gift for Christmas.

Thanks to the Bonn-based company’s generosity, a $1.5 million solar power system will be donated and installed for free on the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall this year — fulfilling Vatican engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna’s dream of making the Vatican greener and going solar.

After writing the story, which you can read here, I was able to talk with the company’s CEO, Frank Asbeck.

He was very happy to be offering the Vatican this gift and told me about the time he met Pope John Paul II in Rome just a few years ago.

Asbeck said he was at one of the general audiences in “prima fila,” that is, the front row where attendees get to shake the pope’s hand as he goes down the line. When the pope got to him, Asbeck showed him a small solar panel and said “Look Holy Father at what we can do, making electricity from sunlight.”

Asbeck told me Pope John Paul looked at him with a smile and said “My son, God can do everything.” And then the pope asked that “God bless your activities.”

Asbeck said there is a commercial somewhere showing a nun wearing sunglasses saying solar energy “is power from the boss himself.” Solar energy, Asbeck said, is a free gift from God that belongs to everyone. And the German CEO is doing a lot to make sure the capability of capturing power from the sun is shared.

He established an “Ethics Council” at SolarWorld just last year. According to the SolarWorld Web site, the council’s mission “is to support not only the economic growth of the company but also the ecological and social dimensions of solar energy for a fair and sustainable worldwide development. “

Through their Solar2World project, the company gives solar technology for free to poor communities. In one case cited on its Web site, the company donated a photovoltaic system for an AIDS orphanage in Malawi in Africa. 

Asbeck told me a project is more likely to be a success when “a priest or good teacher takes responsibility” for the donated solar technology.

“People need a shepherd and if someone takes responsibility then the project is a success; people feel responsible,” he said, and it is less likely the solar-power system will be stolen, damaged or neglected.  

PHOTO: This photo montage provided by SolarWorld shows how solar panels will look on the roof of the Vatican’s audience hall when installed in 2008. Some 2,000 panels were donated to the Vatican by SolarWorld, a German company. (CNS/SolarWorld)

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