Pope presents Middle East synod document focused on peace, dialogue

From CNS Rome correspondent Cindy Wooden, traveling with the pope in Cyprus:

Pope presents Middle East synod document focused on peace, dialogue

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

NICOSIA, Cyprus (CNS) — Presenting the working document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for “just and lasting solutions” to the region’s conflicts, which cause so much hardship.

“I reiterate my personal appeal for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed,” the pope said June 6 at the end of a Mass in a Nicosia sports arena.

The pope gave the document to representatives from the Latin-rite, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Coptic, Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic Churches living in countries from Egypt to Iran.

The synod will be held at the Vatican Oct. 10-24 and focus on “communion and witness” in the region where Christianity was born, but where Christians are a minority.

Pope Benedict told the region’s Catholics that the synod would be an occasion “to highlight the important value of the Christian presence and witness in the biblical lands, not just for the Christian community around the world, but also for your neighbors and fellow citizens.”

(Full story)

CNS editor in chief given top Catholic press honor

Tony Spence accepts the 2010 St. Francis de Sales award from the Catholic Press Association June 4 during the Catholic Media Convention in New Orleans. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

In case you missed this on our Facebook page, CNS director and editor in chief Tony Spence was honored Friday with the Catholic Press Association‘s St. Francis de Sales award, named for the patron saint of journalists. You can read the full story here.

This is the second time in the last four years that Catholic News Service has been honored with the award. CNS Rome bureau chief John Thavis was recipient of the award in 2007.

Pope meets Muslim spiritual leader in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Pope Benedict XVI held an unscheduled meeting with the grand sheik of a Muslim spiritual movement from northern Cyprus June 5.

Sheik Mehmet Nazim Adil, 88, head of a Sufi confraternity — an organization dedicated to the practice and study of Islamic mysticism — met with the pope outside the Vatican nunciature in Nicosia.

During his visit to Cyprus June 4-6, Pope Benedict stayed at the nunciature, which is located on the edge of the line separating the South from the North. Most of Cyprus’ Muslims live in the North, which is controlled by Turkish Cypriots, supported by troops from Turkey.

Pope Benedict did not visit the northern part of the island during his trip; the chief mufti of Cyprus — the religious leader of the Muslim community — invited the pope to cross the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone, but refused to go south to meet the pope.

While the mufti has an institutional and social role among Cypriot Muslims, Sheik Nazim’s authority extends only to his disciples.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Sheik Nazim was seated on a chair on the street leading from the nunciature to the church where the pope was about to celebrate Mass.

As the pope passed in procession on the way to the church, he stopped to greet the sheik, Father Lombardi said.

The sheik told the pope, “I’m sorry. I’m very old, so I sat to wait,” the spokesman said.

The pope responded, “I’m old, too,” he said.

Sheik Nazim brought the pope a walking stick and a set of Muslim prayer beads, Father Lombardi said. The pope gave the sheik commemorative medals of his pontificate.

The sheik asked the pope if he could embrace him, the pope said, “yes,” and the whole thing was over in just 3 or 4 minutes, the spokesman said. “It was brief and very beautiful.”

Performing for the pope in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Dozens and dozens of children — and a few adults — performed for Pope Benedict XVI this morning at St. Maron Catholic School in Nicosia.

There was some quarreling and some crying backstage before the performance, after all the little ones had been waiting in the hot sun for more than an hour.

But the performance went off without a hitch. The pope seemed to enjoy it. The kids were bursting with pride. And parents distributed lots of hugs.

Maronite Archbishop Youssef Soueif of Cyprus said the theme of the performance was the four seasons and that the various songs and dances were drawn from Cypriot heritage, Latin culture and traditional life in the Maronite villages.

Tips to getting around the Holy Land

Domes and cropped bell tower of Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo from seetheholyland.net

Pat McCarthy, a retired Catholic newspaper editor in New Zealand, has turned a retirement project into an online resource for Christians around the world who are considering a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The site  is an online guide to the history and significance of most of the sites on a pilgrim’s itinerary, describing with words and photographs the Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy places in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt. McCarthy, the founding editor of New Zealand’s national Catholic newspaper, NZ Catholic, has led pilgrimages to many of these sites and has visited almost all of them, some several times.

The website, launched in May, also includes pilgrim information describing authenticity of sites, travel tips and how to organize a pilgrimage.

McCarthy said pilgrims not only get a spiritual benefit from visiting places where Jesus lived but their presence also show solidarity with the declining number of Christians still living in the Holy Land.

His research on the holy places has turned up interesting facts on sites that have disappeared, some that have been rediscovered and others that are not what they claim to be.  And he’s not done yet. After more than three years of research, he says the website is still a work in progress, with more holy places to be added.

Papal Plane to Cyprus

VATICAN CITY — Our senior correspondent, Cindy Wooden, is with the pope in Cyprus. Here is a snippet of what the pope talked about with journalists on the flight over from Rome:

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO CYPRUS (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply saddened by the murder of the president of the Turkish bishops’ conference, but he said Bishop Luigi Padovese’s death should not cast a shadow over his visit to the eastern Mediterranean or over Catholic-Muslim dialogue.

The murder “has nothing to do with the theme of this trip, with dialogue; it has nothing to do with Turkey or the Turks,” he told reporters flying with him to Cyprus June 4.

“Right now we have little information, but it is certain that it was not a political or religious assassination; it was personal,” the pope said.

Bishop Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia, died June 3 of stab wounds. His driver and friend, who had been undergoing psychiatric treatment, was arrested and reportedly confessed to the crime.

Flying to Cyprus, an island divided between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the pope said, “It is a tragedy that saddens us, but it should not cast a shadow over the dialogue in every sense that will be a theme of this trip.”

The pope spent just under 15 minutes answering five questions posed to him by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Journalists had submitted questions to Father Lombardi in writing before the trip.

Pope Benedict said that by visiting Cyprus and by presenting the working document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, he hoped to promote peace, which is “the common responsibility of all who believe in the one God, creator of heaven and earth, the God in whose image and likeness we were created.”

Church on the ball

With the focus on South Africa during the June 11-July 11 World Cup soccer tournament there, the country’s bishops are highlighting efforts of the local Catholic Church in a video  called “Church on the Ball.”  The video portrays the church’s efforts in responding to HIV/AIDs, caring for orphans, migrants and refugees and trying to prevent human trafficking. The site also includes plenty of soccer news with Catholic angles such as a World Cup prayer, report of a stadium blessing and news of a parish welcoming an onslaught of soccer fans.

Remembering Art Linkletter

Take a look at this entertaining retrospective of some highlights from the late Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

1947 caricature by artist Sam Berman/Courtesy of NBC

I don’t think there’s anyone who won’t get a chuckle at some of the video from the show hosted by one of broadcasting’s icons. Many of us remember that show, though the late Linkletter had many shows over a very long career.  It’s interesting to note that one retrospective was put together as a tribute by Bill Cosby when he revived Linkletter’s format in the 1990s. Cosby, a comedic force in his own right, had Linkletter on the show more than once.

When news came that Linkletter had died May 26 at the age of 97, memories poured forth from all quarters about the impact he had not only on the broadcasting industry but U.S. society in general.

The Christophers organization was among those who mourned his passing: In 2004 he received the Christopher Life Achievement Award “for his remarkable contributions to the craft, business and spirit of the broadcasting industry, as well as for his work with children on stage and off, as a mentor and educator in the war against drug abuse.”

Only eight individuals have won this achievement award in the organization’s 61-year history.

The Christophers’ statement said Linkletter’s “genial determination to communicate one-on-one with the American public via radio, TV and print impacted generations of Americans. His trailblazing career behind a microphone and in front of the camera, his support of ‘lifelong learning’ and resilience amidst personal tragedy truly reflected the goals and mission of the Christophers.”

Pope greets and blesses Catholic Media Convention

VATICAN CITY — While journalists and communications experts gathered in New Orleans for the Catholic Media Convention were probably still slumbering peacefully (or fitfully depending on their jet lag), Pope Benedict was sending them his greetings and blessings from Rome.

During his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope delivered this message to those attending the event:

I send cordial greetings to the delegates gathered in New Orleans for this year’s Catholic Media Convention.

The theme of your meeting, “Spreading the Good News – Byte by Byte,” highlights the extraordinary potential of the new media to bring the message of Christ and the teaching of his church to the attention of a wider public. If your mission is to be truly effective — if the words you proclaim are to touch hearts, engage people’s freedom and change their lives — you must draw them into an encounter with persons and communities who witness to the grace of Christ by their faith and their lives. In this sense, it is my hope that your days together will renew and refresh your shared enthusiasm for the Gospel. Notwithstanding the many challenges you face, never forget the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, to the close of the age,” (Mt 28:20).

Dear friends, with these few words of encouragement, to all of you gathered for the convention, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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