Shopping mall evangelization?

From Glen Argan at the Western Catholic Reporter comes a link to a video of shoppers at a mall near Niagara Falls, Ontario, being surprised with a rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” These singers were not in choir robes — watch and see!  As our colleague said, “One might call it guerrilla evangelization, although I don’t know if that was quite the intent.”

Mourning in the papal household (updated)

Latest update: The pope knelt and prayed in silence before Manuela’s casket on Friday during a service held in the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in the Vatican.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said he was “visibly moved” and remained kneeling in silence for some time.

He sang briefly in very hushed tones, the paper said, and then greeted Manuel’s brother and other relatives who attended the service.

(Original post, Nov. 24):

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI is mourning the sudden and tragic death of one of the women who work in the papal household.

Manuela Camagni, 56, was walking with friends late Tuesday night when she was hit by a car. She died early this morning from severe brain injuries.

Manuela Camagni -- a member of the papal household who died tragically Nov. 24. (photo-Communion and Liberation website http://www.tracce.it)

Manuela was a member of Memores Domini, an organization of men and women from Communion and Liberation who have made promises of poverty, chastity and obedience.

A group of four women from Memores Domini care for Pope Benedict’s apartment.

The pope expressed his sadness for the unexpected loss of such a close collaborator in a short notice printed in the obituary section of the Vatican newspaper. He prayed for the eternal rest of her soul during a Mass celebrated with the rest of the papal household this morning in his private chapel, said an accompanying article.

Manuela joined the pope’s staff soon after his election in 2005.

He has a very close relationship with his “papal family,” as he calls them in his recent book, “Light of the World.”

Members of the papal family eat their meals together and often relax in the evenings watching DVDs, he said in the book. They celebrate the holidays and feast days together, even exchanging gifts, and “there is above all Holy Mass in common in the morning,” the pope said.

“That is an especially important moment in which we are all with each other in a particularly intense way in the light of the Lord.”

More people continue to seek help from Catholic Charities

Even though the government says the economy has turned the corner and things are slowly getting better, Catholic Charities agencies nationwide reported more people seeking assistance over the summer.

For instance, agencies saw a growing number of requests for assistance from the working poor (up 81 percent), families (up 71 percent), seniors (up 48 percent) immigrants (up 48 percent) and homeless people (up 45 percent), according to Catholic Charities USA’s Snapshot Survey covering the third quarter of 2010.

“The number of moderate income families continues to increase,” Linda McKamie of Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi, Texas, was quoted as saying in the most recent survey. “A group that in the past was not in need of the type of assistance we provide started to access our pantry and financial assistance — these families report a lost of financial assets due to the loss or lack of employment.”

A big concern facing local agencies is the loss of state funding for poverty programs. With less money coming in under government contracts, programs that provide employment training, child care, pregnancy counseling, emergency shelter to domestic violence victims, housing support, health services and food distribution have implemented significant cutbacks.

Local agencies don’t expect the trend to get better any time soon as many states face large deficits because of a loss in income tax revenues.

The economic challenges have led Catholic Charities agencies to look at ways to trim costs, consolidate services and raise additional money in new ways, all in the hope of continuing to serve as many people as possible, the most recent survey said.

Newspaper gives close-up look at Cardinal Wuerl

Washington Cardinal Wuerl at Vatican (CNS photo)

The Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, provided in-depth coverage of the Nov. 20 consistory where Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl’s and 23 other prelates received their red hats.

The online edition includes stories on the ceremony itself as well as reflections by the new cardinal and reaction of Washington pilgrims in Rome. The print edition of the paper also includes background pieces on the new cardinal, a Pittsburgh native.

Two days before the consistory, Cardinal Wuerl spoke with the Standard’s editor Mark Zimmermann about his upbringing and his father’s example, saying: “My father was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a man of enormous integrity, a very kind but firm man.”

His father, Francis, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a weighmaster in a marshaling yard.

One memory Cardinal Wuerl cherishes is of a Saturday morning when he was about to run out the door and play ball with his friends and he saw his father, just home from working the night shift, kneeling beside his bed and praying.  “I’ve never forgotten that scene. … That image will come into my mind as I go into my room to say my prayers,” he said.

The Standard also focused on Cardinal Wuerl’s reputation as a teaching bishop, pointing out that he is nationally known for his catechetical and teaching ministry. He co-wrote the best-selling catechism “The Teaching of Christ,” which has been translated into 13 languages, including Chinese.

At the cardinal’s boyhood parish, St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh, a stained-glass window depicts the young Jesus teaching in the temple. Below the window is the inscription, “With gratitude, the Wuerl family.”

This fall, Cardinal Wuerl issued a pastoral letter on the new evangelization that he described as “retelling the story” and helping people to “hear all over again … the good news.”

The cardinal told the Catholic Standard that he sees the church’s new evangelization effort as “the defining pastoral initiative” in his ministry and that as cardinal he looks forward to “having a wider platform, a bigger pulpit, to proclaim the importance” of this work.

U.S. ‘ad limina’ visits expected to begin in late 2011

VATICAN CITY — Word around the Vatican is that U.S. bishops will begin making their next round of “ad limina” visits — their first with Pope Benedict — in late 2011, about a year from now.

The visits feature individual and group meetings with the pope, encounters with Vatican officials and prayers at the tomb of St. Peter. In a sense, they are “reporting to headquarters” sessions, and the pope’s speeches to each regional group are considered a highlight.

Theoretically, these visits are made every five years by heads of dioceses around the world, but they’ve been backlogged for some time, so the interval has lengthened. U.S. bishops last came for “ad limina” visits in 2004. That year, it took 10 months for all the U.S. groups to come through Rome.

If the Vatican holds to a similar schedule, that means the pope will be addressing U.S. bishops well into 2012 — an election year, by the way — on topics that typically range from internal church affairs to public policy issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Haitians ‘running scared’ from cholera

(CNS/Reuters)

Illinois human services worker Brent DeLand says Haitians are “running scared” as they try to cope with a cholera epidemic that has claimed at least 1,415 lives since the outbreak began Oct. 19.

“Cholera is a bad disease, but it’s exacerbated by fear like I’ve never seen by the people before,” said DeLand, president of the board of directors of the Haitian Development Fund, who returned Nov. 21 from his most recent trip to the impoverished island nation. “People don’t understand it.”

DeLand, who first volunteered in Haiti in 1996, said confusion about the disease is widespread. That’s because Haiti has not had an outbreak of the waterborne disease in 50 years.

The first cases were reported in central plateau of Artibonite department. The Haitian health ministry has reported more than 23,000 hospitalizations from the illness. The actual amount of people affected, including deaths, is likely much higher, according to the United Nations, because information from rural areas are impossible to collect.

DeLand found Haitian medical staff in Sarthe, a community northeast of the capital of Port-au-Prince where the fund supports a medical clinic, unsure of how to treat the disease and how it spreads.

Cholera can kill a person within hours of the onset of symptoms because of dehydration. The trouble is that symptoms may not be apparent for several days. The disease can be treated with fluids and antibiotics. People who receive treatment quickly usually survive.

During his weeklong visit, DeLand and his Haitian colleague, Dr. Moise Cely, clinic director, treated just one person suffering from the disease. The victim, a woman, was stabilized and taken to a nearby hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. She had been carried to the clinic by relatives from her home about a mile away.

The clinic earlier had treated one other cholera patient, said DeLand, whose regular job finds him serving as assistant chief of the bureau of research and analysis for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The disease has reached eight of Haiti’s 10 departments and the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the former French colony.

“People are scared for a good reason,” said DeLand, a member of Christ the King Parish in Springfield.

Catholic Workers open Giuseppe Conlon House in East London

A group of Catholic Workers and their supporters celebrated the formal opening of the Giuseppe Conlon House in East London Nov. 21.

Longtime Catholic Worker Ciaron O’Reilly is among the leaders of the effort. He has lived in Catholic Worker communities around the world and has been involved in nonviolent protests against war in Australia, Ireland and the United States.

A project of the London Catholic Worker, the new house of hospitality is offering shelter for undocumented refugees.

About 200 people attended the celebration at the house, which once was a Methodist church.

The house is named for the father of Gerry Conlon, who served 16 years in prison as part of the so-called Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. The two groups eventually had their convictions in connection with the Guildford pub bombings in the 1970s overturned after judges ruled the defendants were wrongly convicted. It turned out that the 1974 bombings at two pubs, popular with British troops, were carried out by the Irish Republican Army.

Giuseppe Conlon was arrested in London while seeking an attorney for his son in connection with the case after Gerry falsely implicated innocent family members during beatings while he was held in custody by British police, according to historical accounts. Giuseppe died in jail in 1980.

Vatican clarifies pope’s reference to ‘male prostitute’ in condoms comment

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict commented in a new book that using condoms to reduce the risk of disease could, in some circumstances, be a step toward moral responsibility, he used the example of a male prostitute.

That raised the question: Was the pope deliberately limiting his observations to this particular group?

The answer is no, according to Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who presented the pope’s book today at the Vatican press office.

Father Lombardi acknowledged confusion over the gender question. He said the Italian version of the book, which translated the pope’s example as “prostitute” using the feminine gender, was an error. The original German used the masculine noun for prostitute, but there was debate over whether the word was being used generically or specifically.

So Father Lombardi took the question to the pope.

“I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point — and this is why I didn’t refer to masculine or feminine in (my earlier) communiqué — is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations,” Father Lombardi said.

“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point. The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person,” Father Lombardi said.

For his part, Peter Seewald, the German journalist who posed the questions in the book, said at the press conference today that “there is no difference between male prostitute and female prostitute” in the pope’s remarks, despite all the controversy over the translations. He added: “The pope indicates that, in addition to the case he cited, there may be other cases in which one may imagine that use of a condom could be a step toward responsible sexuality in this area, and to prevent further infection.”

Here once again is the key passage on the subject in the book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” when Seewald asks the pope whether it was “madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.”

Pope Benedict: As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward discovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Pope Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Oprah features Michigan religious order once again

The first time was a charm so Oprah thought she’d do it again.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Mich., will be featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Nov. 23.

The show will feature a sister entering religious life and explore what it means to live a religious profession being “married” to Jesus. Several sisters, including Mother Assumpta Long, major superior, were interviewed. The program’s producers also filmed Masses at which several sisters made their first and final professions and the entry of 22 aspirants into the order. 

Life in the order was portrayed during Oprah’s Feb. 9 program. That segment received so many positive responses that the TV talk show host thought it would be a good idea to visit again.

In a statement, the order said it hopes to reach viewers who otherwise would have no exposure or understanding of vowed religious life.

Founded in 1997, the rapidly growing order (now more than 100 members) made headlines recently when it became public that it had signed a purchase agreement with the Archdiocese of Detroit to buy the 100,000-square-foot center Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington and use it as a house of study for its members.

Check local listings for broadcast times.

Translation of Vatican spokesman’s statement on pope and condoms

UPDATE: Full story: Pope’s remarks in book open new chapter in condom debate

VATICAN CITY — Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, issued a statement today regarding Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms in an upcoming book (see below). He called the pope’s remarks couragous and new, but not revolutionary. He said they upheld the church’s teaching on sexuality, but also recognized that in some cases a decision to use condoms may reflect concern for causing harm to others.

Here is a CNS translation of Father Lombardi’s statement:

At the end of Chapter 10 (Chapter 11 in the English edition) in the book, “Light of the World,” the pope responds to two questions about the struggle against AIDS and the use of the condom, questions that refer back to the discussion that followed the pope’s comments on this topic during his trip to Africa in 2009.

The pope underlines clearly that, at that time, he did not want to express a position on the problem of condoms in general, but he wanted to affirm strongly that the problem of AIDS cannot be resolved solely with the distribution of condoms, because much more must be done: prevention, education, assistance, counsel, being close to people, both so that they do not become sick, and also in cases where they are sick.

The pope observes that even in non-church circles a comparable awareness has developed, as is seen in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condoms), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are much more decisive and fundamental in the struggle against AIDS, while the condom appears as a last resort when the other two are lacking.

It should therefore be clear that the condom is not the solution to the problem.

The pope then takes a wider view and insists on the fact that concentrating only on the condom signifies the “banalization” of sexuality, which loses its meaning as the expression of love between persons and becomes like a “drug.” To fight against the banalization of sexuality is “part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.”

In the light of this ample and profound vision of human sexuality and its modern challenges, the pope reaffirms that the church “of course does not regard (condoms) as a real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS.

In saying this, the pope is not reforming or changing the teaching of the church, but reaffirming it by putting it in the context of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

At the same time, the pope takes into consideration an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality may represent a real risk to the life of another person. In such a case, the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but maintains that the use of the condom to diminish the danger of infection may be “a first assumption of responsibility”, “a first step in a movement toward a … more human sexuality”, as opposed to not using the condom and exposing the other person to a fatal risk.

In this statement, the pope’s reasoning certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary shift.

Numerous moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have maintained and still maintain similar positions; however, it is true that until now we had not heard them expressed with such clarity from the mouth of a pope, even if it is in a colloquial, and not magisterial, form.

Benedict XVI therefore courageously gives us an important contribution that clarifies and deepens a long-debated question. It is an original contribution, because on one hand it maintains fidelity to moral principles and demonstrates lucidity in refusing an illusory path like “faith in condoms”; on the other hand, however, it shows a sympathetic and far-sighted vision, attentive to discovering small steps — even if they are only initial and still confused — of a humanity that is often spiritually and culturally impoverished, toward a more human and responsible exercise of sexuality.

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