Peace advocates plan to apologize for nuclear bombings

A group of faith-based peace activists will lead a small contingent to Japan to mark the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to apologize for the U.S. action.

“We want to acknowledge the tremendous damage done by our country, by what has happened,” long time Tacoma, Wash., peace advocate Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel told Catholic News Service. “We wish to attach ourselves to the continued work of nuclear abolition.”

The trip gets under way July 31. Sixteen people from various faith traditions will make the journey to the two cities on the anniversaries of the bombings: Aug. 6 for Hiroshima, Aug. 9 for Nagasaki. The group includes Dominican Sister Teresa Montes, Franciscan Father Louis Vitale, Catholic Worker and U.S. Navy veteran Tom Karlin and Mitch Kohjima, a former Buddhist monk.

Father Bichsel, 81, who has committed acts of civil disobedience to express his opposition to the nuclear weapons present at the Naval Base Kitsap near Seattle, has been working with Bishop Joseph Atsumi Misue of Hiroshima and Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki to coordinate activities.

The apology is necessary in order to begin to repent for the sins of war, Father Bichsel said.

“What we have done not only has inflicted tremendous damage on the Japanese, it also has done tremendous damaged on the (American) people when we don’t remember what we have done,” he said.

Pope puts “Ecclesia Dei” under doctrinal congregation

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has placed the commission responsible for relations with traditionalist Catholics under the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as he announced four months ago he intended to do.

In a brief note published this morning, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of 80-year-old Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which since 1988 has been charged with outreach to the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X as well as with assisting Catholics attached to the pre-Vatican II liturgy.


Cardinal William J. Levada (CNS/Rick Delvecchio, Catholic San Francisco)

As president of the commission, the pope named U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The pope also named Italian Msgr. Guido Pozzo, assistant secretary of the International Theological Commission and a staff member of the doctrinal congregation, to serve as secretary of “Ecclesia Dei.”

The Vatican also released today the formal papal document reorganizing the office.

In a March letter to the world’s bishops explaining why he had lifted the excommunication of four bishops ordained against Vatican orders by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Pope Benedict had announced his intention to place the commission under the guidance of the doctrinal congregation.

In the letter, the pope said excommunications were a disciplinary measure affecting the four bishops, but the fact that the Society of St. Pius X has no standing in the church is due to doctrinal reasons.

“Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the church, and its ministers — even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty — do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the church,” the pope had written.

Placing “Ecclesia Dei” under the doctrinal congregation, he had said, “will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the popes.”

Helping orphans in El Salvador get an education

Victoria Cavanaugh is just 23, a 2007 graduate of Boston College, and, oh yeah, she founded Nuestro Ahora, a scholarship program for orphans in El Salvador. It’s a fledgling but remarkably ambitious endeavor, especially considering Cavanaugh started it just two years ago with money she had saved up from campus and summer jobs.

Victoria Cavanaugh, far right, with four university students from Nuestro Ahora. (CNS/Nuestro Ahora)

Victoria Cavanaugh, far right, with four university students from Nuestro Ahora. (CNS/Nuestro Ahora)

She recently talked with Catholic News Service about the formation of Nuestro Ahora. Here are some links and information that couldn’t fit in that article:

In picking the destination for her semester abroad, Cavanaugh chose to go to El Salvador with La Casa de Solidaridad (House of Solidarity), a service-learning program through Santa Clara Univeristy in California.

Besides taking university classes at Jesuit-run Universidad Centroamerica in San Salvador, she also volunteered at Comunidad de Oscar Arnulfo Romero (COAR), an orphanage dedicated to the memory of Archbishop Romero. Most of these children are orphans of poverty and violence — meaning they still have living parents, but those parents can no longer provide a safe and nurturing home.

It was the example Cavanaugh saw at COAR that ultimately led to her setting up the university scholarship program that would be the foundation of Nuestro Ahora.

It’s really pretty remarkable that someone who started a program fresh out of college has been this successful in helping the children of El Salvador’s orphanages. Nuestro Ahora (Our Time) provided full university scholarships to four Salvadoran students last year and kept 14 high school students on track for college with regular mentoring and prep classes.

It costs anywhere from $3,000 to $3,500 a year to send the university students to their various colleges in San Salvador as well as provide groceries, clothing, and other supplies for the Nuestro Ahora house.

To facilitate funding and stablity, Cavanaugh completed the arduous task of making Nuestro Ahora a nonprofit organization. First she registered it as a corporation in Massachusetts, got nonprofit designation in that state, then finally received legal recognition as a nonprofit in the United States. Nuestro Ahora is due to receive the same recognition in El Salvador this summer.

“All of the legal recognition simply serves to make Nuestro Ahora Inc. more transparent and stable,” Cavanaugh said in an e-mail to CNS. “The public can find all of our financial and legal records online … past IRS forms, etc.”

The nonprofit status also makes it easier and more attractive for benefactors to donate.

With the 501(c)(3) designation as a nonprofit, “donors who work for certain corporations may be able to ask their company to match their gift, doubling their contribution,” Cavanuagh explained. Donations to a nonprofit are tax-deductible.

If you want to help out Nuestro Ahora, instructions on how to donate are on the Web site .

Cavanaugh said college students often tell her they want to help but can’t afford to donate extra money or go down to El Salvador themselves. So Cavanaugh registered Nuestro Ahora with the sites and All you have to do is type “Nuestro Ahora (Easthampton, MA)” as your charity of choice, and the sites will donate a few cents each time they are used in the program’s name.

‘Word cloud’ for the pope’s new encyclical

OK, I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of “word clouds,” those graphical representations of how often a particular word appears in a document. But this one works. CNS graphics artist Emily Thompson created it using the words that appear in Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”). The words “human” and “development” jump right out at you. And that’s what this encyclical is all about.

(CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)

Pope says moral value must be part of economic recovery, development

(Cross-post from our Web site)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ethical values are needed to overcome the current global economic crisis as well as to eradicate hunger and promote the real development of all the world’s peoples, Pope Benedict XVI said in his new encyclical.

The document, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) was dated June 29 and released at the Vatican July 7.

The truth that God is the creator of human life, that every life is sacred, that the earth was given to humanity to use and protect and that God has a plan for each person must be respected in development programs and in economic recovery efforts if they are to have real and lasting benefits, the pope said.

Charity, or love, is not an option for Christians, he said, and “practicing charity in truth helps people understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful, but essential for building a good society and for true integral development,” he wrote. Continue reading

Most-viewed CNS stories for June

Our Web stats always fascinate. They remind us of stories that were exclusive to us or items that touch our readers. So without further ado here is our list of most-viewed stories for June. Perhaps most fascinating is No. 9, a three-month-old story that many people must have missed the first time around.

1. Pope John Paul’s beatification delayed, Italian newspapers say (June 2)

2. Pope to meet Obama July 10 during evening audience (June 23)

3. Pope grants congregation power to more easily laicize some priests (June 3)

4. Liturgy translations fall short of two-thirds; mail balloting needed (June 18)

5. Few surprises, but some glimmers of hope in new US church statistics (June 5)

6. Off the radar: Pope’s teaching ministry finds little echo in media (June 18)

7. U.S. Dominican theologian named secretary of worship congregation (June 16)

8. High in the Andes, Peruvians mark Christ’s appearance to shepherd boy (June 26)

9. Pope declares year of the priest to inspire spiritual perfection (March 16)

10. With marriage laws changing, issue seen as top priority for bishops (June 18)

US miracle paves way for Cardinal Newman’s beatification


Cardinal John Henry Newman (CNS/Crosiers)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI this morning signed the decree recognizing the miracle needed for the beatification of British Cardinal John Henry Newman.

A date for the beatification of the 19th-century cardinal, who founded the Oxford Movement in the Church of England before becoming a Roman Catholic, has not been announced. Nor is it known where the ceremony will take place or who will preside.


Deacon John Sullivan (CNS/The Pilot)

Pope Benedict XVI has not been presiding over beatification ceremonies and most of the beatifications he has authorized have been celebrated in the blessed’s home country.

What is clear, however, is that the healing accepted as the miracle needed for the beatification involves Deacon John Sullivan of Marshfield, Mass. The deacon was cured of a debilitating back injury after praying for the intercession of Cardinal Newman.

Year for Priests: Different roles, common mission

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

As a young religious priest, I am often the anomaly living in houses with men who are as old or older than my own grandparents. In recent weeks I have had a number of conversations about the differences between my own ministry as a priest and the ministry my confreres knew when they were young priests. Since most people are familiar with the “traditional” ministries of priests as teachers, pastors and administrators of various sorts, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a bit of my own experience of the priesthood and religious life.

When I first met the Congregation of St. Basil, I arrived with a U-Haul full of possessions. Now I can barely fill the trunk of a car. My life has been a steady progression towards simplicity and re-defining what it means to be “self-sufficient.” No doubt, this is the natural consequence of moving to a new part of the world almost every year.

I have never known what it was like to live in religious house with dozens of my peers. Seminarians were the minority in my theology classes — most were lay ministers and women. As a result my approach to ministry reflects the need for dialogue and collaboration all the while respecting the authority of the church. I am well-trained in media and interreligious issues and have completed more psychosexual education than most of my confreres have had during their entire life.

I would estimate that 30 percent of my ministry occurs entirely online. I maintain a number of Web sites, write frequently, host and/or am interviewed for various radio, TV, and Web programs, and email often. It is quite possible that I minister to more people than I will ever see or meet. I have found the greatest asset to my ministry is availability. I am on Facebook, carry a smart phone, text as much as I talk, listen to podcasts and read just about everything in digital format. Though I have students frequently in my office (usually without any warning or appointment), they are more likely to reach me virtually than face-to-face (their preference, not mine).

As an extrovert, I am around people almost all the time, but after years of living in religious life, I have come to appreciate quiet time. The first cup of coffee (that I affectionately call Jesus-and-Joe Time) is sacred. As a distance runner and tri-athlete, I do some of my best thinking around between miles 5 and 10 and in the water.

Whether I am in a classroom, parish, coffee shop, pub, gym or running down a street in the early hours of the morning with friends, I consider myself a teacher and a witness of the Gospel. Though the particulars of my priesthood are very different from the priesthood of my confreres, we are bonded by our mission. As I listen to their stories, I am amazed at how hard they worked, which was magnified by their numbers. I must admit that I am intimidated when I think about the road ahead — one with more work and fewer priests, but I also take great comfort in the amazing lay ministers with whom I work. So while we pray for more priests, may we not forget to pray for more men and women to serve their church as professional ministers. In the end, I believe this is one of the most exciting moments in our history to be a Catholic priest and that my ministry is as limitless as my imagination.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May and will be teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan beginning in late summer.

Click here for more in this series.

Obama cites influence of Cardinal Bernardin, prepares to meet pope

(cross-post from our Web site)

UPDATED: Read full story here

SECOND UPDATE: Two more stories here and here

THIRD UPDATE: Obama says he wants to talk with pope about aid to world’s poor

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Barack Obama told a round table of religion writers July 2 that he continues to be profoundly influenced by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, whom he came to know when he was a community organizer in a project partially funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

President Obama at today's meeting with religion writers. (CNS/White House)

President Obama at today's meeting with religion writers. (CNS/White House)

Obama said his encounters with the cardinal continue to influence him, particularly his “seamless garment” approach to a multitude of social justice issues. He also told the group of eight reporters to expect a conscience clause protection for health care workers currently under review by the administration that will be no less protective than what existed previously.

In addition to Catholic News Service, the round table included reporters and editors from other Catholic publications: National Catholic Reporter, America magazine, Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, Commonweal magazine and Vatican Radio. The religion writer from The Washington Post also participated.

It was held in anticipation of Obama’s audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican July 10. The 45-minute session touched on his expectations for that meeting as well as aspects of foreign policy, the public criticism directed at him by some Catholic bishops and others in the church, and the Obamas’ own search for a church home in Washington.

Obama said in some ways he sees his first meeting with the pope as the same as any contact with a head of state, “but obviously this is more than just that. The Catholic Church has such a profound influence worldwide and in our country, and the Holy Father is a thought leader and opinion leader on so many wide-ranging issues. His religious influence is one that extends beyond the Catholic Church.”

He said he considers it a great honor to be meeting with the pope and that he hopes the session will lead to further cooperation between the Vatican and the United States in addressing Middle East peace, worldwide poverty, climate change, immigration and a whole host of other issues.

Several of the questions addressed the sometimes contentious relations between the Obama administration and some U.S. bishops, notably surrounding the president’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May. The university’s decision to invite Obama and present him with an honorary degree led to a wave of protests at the university and a flurry of criticism by more than 70 bishops who said his support for legal abortion made him an inappropriate choice by the university.

Statements by the U.S. bishops also have chastised Obama for administrative actions such as the reversal of the Mexico City policy, which had prohibited the use of federal family planning funds by organizations that provide abortions or counsel women to have abortions.

But Obama said he’s not going to be deterred from continuing to work with the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, in part “because I’m president of all Americans, not just Americans who happen to agree with me.”

“The American bishops have profound influence in their communities, in the church and beyond,” Obama said. “What I would say is that although there have been criticisms leveled at me from some of the bishops, there have been a number of bishops who have been extremely generous and supportive even if they don’t agree with me on every issue.”

He said part of why he wants to establish a good working relationship with the bishops is because he has fond memories of working with Cardinal Bernardin when Obama was a community organizer, working with Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago.

“And so I know the potential that the bishops have to speak out forcefully on issues of social justice,” Obama said.


Renaissance sculptor mixes secular, religious

Yesterday I ran into the first artwork I’ve seen from the Italian Renaissance that didn’t depict angels or Mary. Much of sculptor Tullio Lombardo’s work still remains in churches and shrines around Italy, but his pieces at the National Gallery of Art here in Washington leave the viewer wondering about characters’ identities and emotions.

Sculpture in National Gallery of Art exhibit. (CNS photo/Jessie Abrams)

Sculpture in National Gallery of Art exhibit. (CNS photo/Jessie Abrams)

The exhibit, opening to the public July 4, is small and includes mostly marble sculptures and busts. Lombardo’s work is not the only art in the display; also included are a few pieces from those who worked closely with him or were influenced by him.

Even though the art was not what I expected, I found a different type of divine presence in some of Lombardo’s work. There were two sculptures in particular in which the smooth marble made characters seem very present in form but their looks gaze up and away, indicating their focus is somewhere else.

Alison Luchs, the curator of early European sculpture at the National Gallery of Art, said by placing young beautiful nude characters close together and simultaneously having them look away from each other suggested to her the idea that physical beauty is not enough. She terms much of Lombardo’s work in the exhibit as “physically present but spiritually distant.”

Sculpture by Tullio Lombardo at National Gallery of Art. (CNS photo/Angela Cave)

Sculpture by Tullio Lombardo at National Gallery of Art. (CNS photo/Angela Cave)

In another one of Lombardo’s sculptures, again a young man is looking up into the sky instead of out into the world around him. I found the sculptures description — “Relief bust of a male saint?” — to clearly encompass the mystery Lombardo left in his artwork.

While he did become a secular artist at a time when many artists were still primarily bound to the needs of the church, Lombardo’s work still is too spiritual and too complex in composition to rule it out as strictly secular. Lombardo’s work still makes me wonder at the shift in his subject matter. Was he privately commissioned to sculpt images that were not for the church? Unlike some privately commissioned Renaissance paintings, Lombardo’s sculptures are not clear attempts at portraiture. Did some in Italy around the time of the Renaissance look past the art of the church and into more subjective art forms?

Although the gallery is displaying only about 10 pieces of Lombardo’s artwork, the exhibit raises many questions. Gallery officials say they expect Lombardo’s art to remain on display through the first of November.


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