Father Dear writes about his night in the Las Vegas jail

Franciscan Father Louis Vitale Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker from Malloy, Iowa, stand outside Creech Air Force Base during Holy Week and the annual Nevada Desert Experience to end nuclear war preparations and unmitigated militarism. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

Franciscan Father Louis Vitale and Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker from Malloy, Iowa, stand outside Creech Air Force Base during Holy Week and the annual Nevada Desert Experience. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

Digging a little deeper after yesterday’s blog post on the arrest of 14 peace activists who were guided by their faith to enter Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday, we found an interesting account of the event from Father John Dear, one of those accused of trespassing.

The group had been in the midst of a 10-day vigil at Creech to call attention to the dangers the unmanned drones — controlled from the base — pose to innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Writing on CommonDreams.org, Father Dear described the group’s initial encounter with the soldiers, machine gun at the ready, who approached the nonviolent trespassers. Here’s an excerpt:

At the first notice of our presence, a young airman approached, fear in his eyes, and he began yelling, ordering us to turn around. He had an M-16 slung over his shoulder and he swung it toward us. His order notwithstanding, we continued to walk and started to sing.

The poor airman was undone and started shoving, first a friend, then me. He was growing furious, so we knelt down. Soon three other soldiers approached, all of them toting machine guns. Together they shouted, as if that would make any difference. We assured them we were unarmed, and we offered them our roses. The poor airmen, they stood befuddled. Should they shout louder? Should they open fire? Whatever their script, it failed them in the face of nonviolence. Meantime another drone flew overhead.

Link here for the rest of the story (with apologies to Paul Harvey).

CNS correspondent from India raises uncomfortable questions about anti-Christian violence

Journalist Anto Akkara, who has covered the church in India for Catholic News Service for years, recently released a book on the continued violence in the Kandhamal district of India’s Orissa state.

Kandhamal is the scene of Hindu extremist violence against Christians which began last August and continues today. Sixty people were killed and 50,000 people were displaced by the violence. Churches and homes were burnt to the ground.

In his book, “Kandhamal – A Blot on Indian Secularism,” Akkara retells the horrors of the victims and discusses the gross impunity of the local government in controlling the Hindu mob attacks.

“I think the the ashes in the Kandhamal are not of the churches or the Christians there. I think the ashes are the ashes of Indian secularism,” Akkara said.

Bishop D’Arcy says planned demonstrations “unseemly and unhelpful”

Bishop D'Arcy

Bishop D'Arcy

This was news to us, though perhaps you’ve already seen it: Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., issued a new statement late last week calling on Catholics not to attend planned demonstrations when President Obama speaks at Notre Dame next month because they can be “unseemly and unhelpful.”

He also said he had a “positive meeting” with the president of the university, “and I expect further dialogue will continue.”

Here’s our story today.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who has opened an office in South Bend to protest the Obama speech (as noted in our story), responded to Bishop D’Arcy this morning in an opinion column published in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Holy Week actions connect Crucifixion with peacemaking

Catholic peace activist Paul Magno was arrested soon after he was chained to the White House fence in a "contemporary crucifixion" Good Friday as part of a campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Catholic peace activist Paul Magno was arrested soon after he was chained to the White House fence in a "contemporary crucifixion" Good Friday as part of a campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo from Witness Against Torture)

Among Catholic peacemakers Holy Week has become a time of witnessing for peace and prayerful resistance while recalling Christ’s crucifixion. Catholics were among 23 people arrested in at least three vigils across the country on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

The largest group of arrests came during the annual Nevada Desert Experience at Creech Air Force Base 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Fourteen people were charged with trespass after walking through an open gate seeking to talk with Air Force soldiers piloting unmanned drones over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, one of those arrested, told Catholic News Service the group wanted to ask why attacks on innocent people were being carried out.

“It’s a new form of warfare in which a soldier doesn’t leave the base but yet can wreak terrible havoc on people,” she said.
Other arrested include Jesuit Fathers John Dear and Steve Kelly; Franciscan Fathers Louis Vitale and Jerry Zawada; Holy Child of Jesus Sister Megan Rice; and Catholic Workers Mariah Klusmire of Albuquerque, N.M., Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, and Renee Espeland of Des Moines, Iowa. Arraignments are set for June 9.

On Good Friday eight people were arrested at the Pentagon for praying around a cross outside of a designated protest zone. They were among 50 people wearing black robes and white masks to symbolize the war dead. They had been part of a Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreat in Washington put together by the Jonah House community in Baltimore and Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington.

Charged with disobeying a lawful order of a government agent and given a June 19 court date were Molly Brechtel, Susan Crane, Nancy Gowan, Brian Hynes, Bill Frankel-Streit, Art Laffin, Sister Margaret McKenna and David Ryle.

Longtime Catholic peace activist Paul Magno of Washington was arrested during a noon hour witness Good Friday at the White House in which he was chained to a fence in a “contemporary crucifixion” as a group of people sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” His action was part of Witness Against Torture’s 100 Day Campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pope Benedict’s message “urbi et orbi”

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican’s English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s message “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world):

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

POPE-EASTER/

Pope Benedict XVI delivered his message and offered his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica this morning. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.” This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.

Many times, in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and was “conquered” by him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Let us look at this great evangelizer, who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him, because that sense of emptiness, which tends to intoxicate humanity, has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: “Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day” (Ps 139 [138]:12). It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things, but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free, because the Word of life has even reached the “underworld”, carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).

EASTER-HOLY LAND

Pilgrims praying last night during the Easter Vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. (CNS photo/ Debbie Hill)

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs. Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made”, and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has “redeemed the world”, the Innocent one who has “reconciled us sinners with the Father”. To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!

Pope Benedict’s homily at the Easter vigil

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican’s English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily this evening at the Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

POPE HOLDS CANDLE AS HE CELEBRATES EASTER VIGIL

Pope Benedict XVI holds a candle during last year's Easter vigil. (CNS/Reuters)

Saint Mark tells us in his Gospel that as the disciples came down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they were discussing among themselves what “rising from the dead” could mean (cf. Mk 9:10). A little earlier, the Lord had foretold his passion and his resurrection after three days. Peter had protested against this prediction of death. But now, they were wondering what could be meant by the word “resurrection”. Could it be that we find ourselves in a similar situation? Christmas, the birth of the divine Infant, we can somehow immediately comprehend. We can love the child, we can imagine that night in Bethlehem, Mary’s joy, the joy of Saint Joseph and the shepherds, the exultation of the angels. But what is resurrection? It does not form part of our experience, and so the message often remains to some degree beyond our understanding, a thing of the past. The Church tries to help us understand it, by expressing this mysterious event in the language of symbols in which we can somehow contemplate this astonishing event. During the Easter Vigil, the Church points out the significance of this day principally through three symbols: light, water, and the new song – the Alleluia.

First of all, there is light. God’s creation – which has just been proclaimed to us in the Biblical narrative – begins with the command: “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3). Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos. In the Biblical message, light is the most immediate image of God: He is total Radiance, Life, Truth, Light. During the Easter Vigil, the Church reads the account of creation as a prophecy. In the resurrection, we see the most sublime fulfilment of what this text describes as the beginning of all things. God says once again: “Let there be light!” The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One himself is Light, the Light of the world. With the resurrection, the Lord’s day enters the nights of history. Beginning with the resurrection, God’s light spreads throughout the world and throughout history. Day dawns. This Light alone – Jesus Christ – is the true light, something more than the physical phenomenon of light. He is pure Light: God himself, who causes a new creation to be born in the midst of the old, transforming chaos into cosmos.

Let us try to understand this a little better. Why is Christ Light? In the Old Testament, the Torah was considered to be like the light coming from God for the world and for humanity. The Torah separates light from darkness within creation, that is to say, good from evil. It points out to humanity the right path to true life. It points out the good, it demonstrates the truth and it leads us towards love, which is the deepest meaning contained in the Torah. It is a “lamp” for our steps and a “light” for our path (cf. Ps 119:105). Christians, then, knew that in Christ, the Torah is present, the Word of God is present in him as Person. The Word of God is the true light that humanity needs. This Word is present in him, in the Son. Psalm 19 had compared the Torah to the sun which manifests God’s glory as it rises, for all the world to see. Christians understand: yes indeed, in the resurrection, the Son of God has emerged as the Light of the world. Christ is the great Light from which all life originates. He enables us to recognize the glory of God from one end of the earth to the other. He points out our path. He is the Lord’s day which, as it grows, is gradually spreading throughout the earth. Now, living with him and for him, we can live in the light.

At the Easter Vigil, the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat. The symbolism of light is connected with that of fire: radiance and heat, radiance and the transforming energy contained in the fire – truth and love go together. The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: Cross and resurrection are inseparable. From the Cross, from the Son’s self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world. From the Paschal candle we all light our own candles, especially the newly baptized, for whom the light of Christ enters deeply into their hearts in this Sacrament.

The early Church described Baptism as fotismos, as the Sacrament of illumination, as a communication of light, and linked it inseparably with the resurrection of Christ. In Baptism, God says to the candidate: “Let there be light!” The candidate is brought into the light of Christ. Christ now divides the light from the darkness. In him we recognize what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand. On one occasion when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to him, seeking some guidance from him, he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34). Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion he must feel in our own time too – on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the values by which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. Thus at this hour, Saint Paul speaks to us with great immediacy. In the Letter to the Philippians, he says that, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, Christians should shine as lights in the world (cf. Phil 2:15). Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle he has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and his love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time.

MAN FILLS GLASS WITH WATER FROM SPRING IN LOURDES

(CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

The second symbol of the Easter Vigil – the night of Baptism – is water. It appears in Sacred Scripture, and hence also in the inner structure of the Sacrament of Baptism, with two opposed meanings. On the one hand there is the sea, which appears as a force antagonistic to life on earth, continually threatening it; yet God has placed a limit upon it. Hence the book of Revelation says that in God’s new world, the sea will be no more (cf. 21:1). It is the element of death. And so it becomes the symbolic representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross: Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. Having risen from death, he gives us life. This means that Baptism is not only a cleansing, but a new birth: with Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth. According to the earliest practice of the Church, Baptism had to be administered with water from a fresh spring. Without water there is no life. It is striking how much importance is attached to wells in Sacred Scripture. They are places from which life rises forth. Beside Jacob’s well, Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of the new well, the water of true life. He reveals himself to her as the new, definitive Jacob, who opens up for humanity the well that is awaited: the inexhaustible source of life-giving water (cf. Jn 4:5-15). Saint John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from his open side – from his pierced heart – there came out blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34). The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus. In his death, Jesus himself became the spring. The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of the new Temple from which a spring issues forth that becomes a great life-giving river (cf. Ezek 47:1-12). In a land which constantly suffered from drought and water shortage, this was a great vision of hope. Nascent Christianity understood: in Christ, this vision was fulfilled. He is the true, living Temple of God. He is the spring of living water. From him, the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful; the great river of living water, his Gospel which makes the earth fertile. In a discourse during the Feast of Tabernacles, though, Jesus prophesied something still greater: “Whoever believes in me … out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth. We all know people like that, who leave us somehow refreshed and renewed; people who are like a fountain of fresh spring water. We do not necessarily have to think of great saints like Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and so on, people through whom rivers of living water truly entered into human history. Thanks be to God, we find them constantly even in our daily lives: people who are like a spring. Certainly, we also know the opposite: people who spread around themselves an atmosphere like a stagnant pool of stale, or even poisoned water. Let us ask the Lord, who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of his truth and his love!

GIRL SINGS DURING MASS FOR YOUNG CATHOLICS OF AFRICAN ANCESTRY I

A young girl sings during a Mass in New York (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is something rather different; it has to do with man himself. It is the singing of the new song – the alleluia. When a person experiences great joy, he cannot keep it to himself. He has to express it, to pass it on. But what happens when a person is touched by the light of the resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love? He cannot merely speak about it. Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing. The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has risen out of slavery. It has climbed up from the threatening depths of the sea. It is as it were reborn. It lives and it is free. The Bible describes the people’s reaction to this great event of salvation with the verse: “The people … believed in the Lord and in Moses his servant” (Ex 14:31). Then comes the second reaction which, with a kind of inner necessity, follows from the first one: “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord …” At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God’s power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life.

There is a surprising parallel to the story of Moses’ song after Israel’s liberation from Egypt upon emerging from the Red Sea, namely in the Book of Revelation of Saint John. Before the beginning of the seven last plagues imposed upon the earth, the seer has a vision of something “like a sea of glass mingled with fire; and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb …” (Rev 15:2f.). This image describes the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world. Humanly speaking, it is self-contradictory. On the one hand, the community is located at the Exodus, in the midst of the Red Sea, in a sea which is paradoxically ice and fire at the same time. And must not the Church, so to speak, always walk on the sea, through the fire and the cold? Humanly speaking, she ought to sink. But while she is still walking in the midst of this Red Sea, she sings – she intones the song of praise of the just: the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony. While, strictly speaking, she ought to be sinking, the Church sings the song of thanksgiving of the saved. She is standing on history’s waters of death and yet she has already risen. Singing, she grasps at the Lord’s hand, which holds her above the waters. And she knows that she is thereby raised outside the force of gravity of death and evil – a force from which otherwise there would be no way of escape – raised and drawn into the new gravitational force of God, of truth and of love. At present she is still between the two gravitational fields. But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death. Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. Saint Paul illustrated this situation with the words: “We are as dying, and behold we live” (2 Cor 6:9). The Lord’s saving hand holds us up, and thus we can already sing the song of the saved, the new song of the risen ones: alleluia! Amen.

Parents rank Notre Dame fourth top choice

In spite of the recent troubles the University of Notre Dame is having over its invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address and receive an honorary laws degree, many parents still think the Golden Dome is a great destination for their children.

In its annual “College Hopes and Worries” survey of college applicants and their parents by The Princeton Review, Notre Dame ranked fourth overall with parents when asked what their dream college would be for their child if costs were not an issue.  The university ranked behind Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, and just ahead of Yale. No other Catholic college or university ranked. Neither Notre Dame nor any other Catholic school ranked in the top 10 with students.

The Princeton Review received almost 16,000 responses from respondents in all 50 states, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The organization did not diferentiate between Catholic and non-Catholics in its survey.

Notre Dame has long ranked in the top 20 major research universities in the United States by many different ranking organizations. Catholics make up about one-fifth of the U.S. population.

The Tablet weighs in on Obama-Notre Dame controversy

The Tablet – a Catholic weekly in London — offered an editorial about the controversy surrounding the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address at the 2009 graduation.

The editorial suggests a difference in attitude between American and European Catholics.

A symbol of ‘new life, new hope’

Two Franciscan sisters who are pastoral coordinators at Sacred Hart Parish in Champion, Mich., say blooms on what they thought was a dead tree branch symbolize “the Lord giving us new life and new hope” at Easter.

Sisters Margey Schmelzle and Lois Risch tell the story of the branch in an interview with The U.P. Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Marquette, Mich.

Bishop Zubik’s ‘Service of Apology’

Here is the text of Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik’s reflection during a special ‘Service of Apology” he led this past Tuesday during Holy Week at St. Paul Cathedral.

“If you have been harmed by the church in any way, I invite you to come,” the bishop said when he announced the service March 13 in his column “Bridging the Gap” in the diocesan newspaper, the Pittsburgh Catholic. “There will be nothing expected of you but your presence and your willingness to pray with me.”

He said that he began holding the services in 2000 when he was the bishop of Green Bay, Wis. His inspiration was a jubilee-year apology Pope John Paul II made for sins of members of the church, sometimes committeed in the name of the church. Bishop Zubik was installed as Pittsburgh’s bishop in September 2007.

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