A visit with our photographer in Rome

Sam Lucero, news and information manager of The Compass in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., is also an accomplished photographer. So on a recent diocesan pilgrimage to Italy, he came back with plenty of shots of historic Italian cities — Rome, Assisi, Venice and Florence.

In Rome he also caught up with our Rome staff photographer, Paul Haring, who has been there since 2009 after five years on the CNS photo desk in Washington and a few more as a freelance shooter in D.C. whenever we needed extra help with Washington assignments.

Sam has a nice write-up on his blog headlined “Meet the man who photographs the pope.” But also not to be missed is the audio slideshow Sam posted on The Compass’ website of his interview with Paul and a sampling of Paul’s photos in Italy. You can watch the slideshow below, embedded from Sam’s YouTube page. But the images are sharper and you can see the captions if you click on this link and then click on the first slide to launch the slideshow.

Father Roy Bourgeois addresses his Maryknoll community

Father Roy Bourgeois, who was automatically excommunicated and faces removal from the priesthood for his support for women’s ordination, discussed his position with fellow Maryknoll priests Tuesday evening during an impromptu gathering at the opening day of the order’s U.S. regional assembly.

Well-known for his work on justice issues, Father Bourgeois explained how he came to see the church’s stance on the ordination of women as an injustice. Church teaching holds that ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood is reserved for men and that the church has no authority to ordain women.

The discussion is reported by Father Joe Veneroso, a veteran journalist, on the knollnews blog.

The detailed report quotes several priests, some of whom questioned why Father Bourgeois did not at least approach the order about his views before going public and a few who openly supported Father Bourgeois’ and his stance. One called for a frank discussion within the church on the topic.

While the discussion may not resolve the issue of Father Bourgeois’ likely dismissal, as outlined in a recent Catholic News Service report, it sheds some light on the tensions facing the missionary order that may very well spill over to the church at large at some point.

A ‘no-vacation nation’

Summer is traditionally the time to take some time off, get away from the day-to-day work life and re-energize.

But do we?

Writing on the Archdiocese of Washington’s blog, Msgr. Charles Pope addresses the issue of vacations for American workers — more likely the lack thereof in comparison to the rest of the world — and offers a reflection on God’s call to rest, as expressed in Scripture.

The starting point for the pastor of Washington’s Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish was a recent CNN.com entry that asks the question “Why is America the ‘no-vacation nation’?

The article contrasts the work ethic of Americans, who take far less vacation time on average than their peers in some of the world’s leading economies, with the belief widely held throughout Europe that family life and the time to rest is as important as hard work.

What does God have to say about rest? Msgr. Pope cites several passages from the Old Testament in which God calls for six days of work and rest on the seventh. He writes:

Does it sound like the Lord is repeating himself? He is. But sometimes (most times) we’re slow to hear. He has written sleep into our physical nature and rest into our work week. The Lord also prescribed a series of feasts or holy days (holiday is just a mispronunciation of holy day), and here the people were to cease, pray and celebrate.

We Americans are miserable at this. We are hard workers, and that is good, but what good is it to work hard and never be able to enjoy the fruit of our work? Do we work to live, or live to work? Of all the commandments, you’d think we’d get this one right. God commands and prescribes a certain amount of rest and yet we seem to prefer the status of bond servants. How strange.

This coming Monday is Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer. Msgr. Pope’s commentary perhaps is the refreshing summer breeze we need.

Priest from Lebanon to head US-based eparchy for Armenian Catholics

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) –- Pope Benedict XVI has named Msgr. Mikael Mouradian, who is superior of the Convent of Notre Dame in Bzommar, Lebanon, as the new bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics.

The appointment was announced May 21 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Mouradian, who was born in Lebanon, succeeds Bishop Manuel Batakian, who is 81.

The New York-based eparchy serves about 25,000 Armenian Catholics in the United States and about 10,000 in Canada. The church has two parishes in Canada, in Toronto and Montreal, and seven in the United States — two in California and one each in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

(more to come for CNS clients on Monday)

Rome’s (unfortunate) statue of Blessed John Paul II

Statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II (CNS/Reuters)

ROME — This week the city of Rome erected its first statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II. The Vatican newspaper said yesterday what a lot of people were thinking: it’s ugly.

Sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi intended to show the late pope with his cape billowing in the wind, as a symbolic image of welcome. The 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture was placed outside Rome’s main train station, where tens of thousands of visitors arrive daily.

But when unveiled May 18, it looked more like an open tent, or a sentry-box, or a bell, commented L’Osservatore Romano. The papal cape looks like it was split open by a bomb. More importantly, the newspaper said, it’s unrecognizable as John Paul II — the head is “excessively spherical.”

The newspaper credited the sculptor with trying to move beyond classic papal iconography and attempt something new and different.

“But overall, the result does not seem to have matched the intention, and in fact there has already been criticism,” it said.

In Rome newspaper polls, public opinion is running 9-1 against the statue.

While the Vatican newspaper has its critical artistic eye open, it might take a look at some of the statues placed in recent years in the outside niches of St. Peter’s Basilica. Although made of Carrara marble, they would never be confused with works of Michelangelo. Some are downright clunky.

U.S. women named consultants to new Vatican office

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI chose two women religious from the United States to be consultants to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization: Sister Sara Butler, who teaches theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago; and Sister Mary Lou Wirtz, the Rome-based president of the International Union of Superiors General.

Sister Sara Butler (CNS/USCCB)

Sister Butler is a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity and a papally-appointed member of the International Theological Commission. Sister Wirtz is superior general of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Two other women were among the 10 people named consultants to the new evangelization council today. Both are Italian laywomen. Chiara Amirante is founder of the New Horizons Association, which offers a practical and spiritual outreach to people experiencing difficulty often as a result of addiction. Lucetta Scaraffia, is a professor of contemporary history at Rome’s La Sapienza University and a very regular contributor to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Columban suggests a synod for creation

Father Sean McDonagh

A synod for creation?

Columban Father Sean McDonagh believes it would be a good thing for the church and for the future of the earth.

He repeated his suggestion for Pope Benedict XVI to call such a synod during a visit to the Center of Concern in Washington May 17 in a visit also sponsored by Pax Christi USA and Missionary Society of St. Columban.

“It would give everyone a chance to share insight,” said the Irish priest, who has spent more than 30 years urging the world to do a better job of caring for God’s creation. “The synod would be a great impetus to the task for caring for the earth and caring for every creature. It would give new life to the Catholic faith in contemporary society.”

It’s not just the duty of the Catholic Church to care for the earth, but for all religions to lead the way, he said.

Drawing on long-held beliefs, traditions and revered writings that point to the sanctity of creation, all religions can inspire people to alter their habits and reduce their impact on the planet, explained the author of nine books on the environment.

The constant push to consume goods in the name of economic growth is destroying the earth and hardly poses an appropriate model for sustainable development around the world, Father McDonagh said.

Economic growth cannot be unlimited and the sooner the world realizes that, he said, the sooner humanity can address massive environmental challenges such as climate change, species extinction and polluted air, land and water.

The Irish priest was in town days after the conclusion of the most recent gathering of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development. He was the Irish government’s representative to the 11-day meeting, which, he contended, failed to address major concerns of environmentalists.

That makes the work of individuals, particularly people whose lives are rooted in religious practices and beliefs, all the more important, he said.

Father McDonagh finds Christians specially positioned to develop inspiring messages on the importance of protecting creation based on Scripture.

“The Christian faith is founded on the belief that God is the creator and God is present in all of those processes,” he said. “It’s founded on the belief of incarnation, that the divine became part of this extraordinary emergence. And it is celebrated in the most intimate way. Communion is not just my prayers or my thoughts. It is the true world of nature. We have bread, wine.”

UPDATED: Pope to address crews on space station Saturday

UPDATED information: The pope’s hookup with the International Space Station is now set for tomorrow at 13:11 Rome time (7:11 A.M. EDT) and the Vatican Television Center plans to live-stream it here.

VATICAN CITY — Now that the Space Shuttle Endeavour has lifted off and is scheduled to dock tomorrow with the International Space Station, plans are back on for Pope Benedict XVI to chat with the astronauts.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said today that the pope’s audiovisual satellite linkup with the space station is scheduled for 13:56 (1:56 p.m.) Rome time Saturday. The conversation originally was scheduled for May 4, but the Endeavour’s liftoff was delayed.

The papal linkup was organized by the European Space Agency, which has one Italian on the Endeavour and one Italian already on the space station. Both crews will be in the space station when the pope calls.

Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo last summer. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Father Lombardi also confirmed today that Pope Benedict has declined invitations for a summer vacation in the northern Italian Alps. Instead, the pope will go to his summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, early in July. There will be no weekly general audiences in July, Father Lombardi said.

While the pope isn’t scheduled to return to the Vatican until late September, he won’t be spending all his time at Castel Gandolfo: he’s scheduled to travel to Madrid in August for World Youth Day and to his native Germany in September.

Vatican announces study meeting on HIV/AIDS

VATICAN CITY — At the end of the month, the Vatican will host a study meeting on caring for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Lighting candles for AIDS awareness. (CNS/Reuters)

Originally announced as a one-day gathering, the encounter now is scheduled for May 27-28. Technically it is being sponsored by the Good Samaritan Foundation, a small initiative that helps pay for antiretroviral drugs and others services for people with HIV/AIDS. The foundation operates under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mpendawatu, undersecretary of the council, said in February that the study meeting would take a comprehensive approach to AIDS prevention and treatment and that it would precede the publication of pastoral guidelines for Catholic health care workers in the field.

A press release from the council dated Saturday said the meeting would look at current medical and scientific information, education programs and treatment options, but with a special emphasis on “aspects of humanization and fairness and the magisterial and pastoral orientations that should guide caring for sick people.”

It pointed out that the study meeting would include “non-Catholics and people with beliefs that are not always totally in harmony with the church.” Their presence, the press release said, does not signal an attitude of questioning church teaching, but rather is an opportunity to explain how programs that follow church teaching are focused on fully respecting the patient as a person and promoting his or her dignity.

Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS – known as UNAIDS — is expected to attend.

A World Youth Day song? Quite Normal!

A musical ensemble calling itself “Witnesses to Love” from the Pope John Paul II Catholic Newman Center at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., has one of only six U.S. entries in a World Youth Day song contest.

However, while there may be only six songs from the States, worldwide there are 138 tunes in the competition. And while Witnesses to Love’s song, “Planted,” was not placed into competition until April 30 — the last possible day it could have — it climbed to 50th place after just five days and has inched its way up to 44th in electronic voting conducted at the contest site.

The top 25 vote getters will be judged by a panel, with five of them selected to be performed at World Youth Day in Madrid.

The one catch is that voting ends May 31, which means that “Planted” is going to need a lot more votes to make it to the next round.

To read more about Witnesses to Love and “Planted,” check out the story written in The Catholic Post, Peoria’s diocesan newspaper.

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