A ‘Global Lens’ on Egypt

Readers of Catholic News Service have seen Paul Jeffrey’s stories from around the world: Libya, Philippines, Sudan, Honduras. In this, his own blog, he talks about his recent experience in Egypt: the Advent of Egyptians in Tahrir Square; good cops and bad cops; the wisdom of elders trying to calm youth.

But if a picture speaks a thousand words, blog readers will learn even more about Egypt. The photos are stunning, as always.

A demonstrator prepares to throw a smoking tear gas canister back at police during Nov. 25 protests in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

A demonstrator prepares to throw a smoking tear gas canister back at police during Nov. 25 protests in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Nuns’ CD ‘Advent at Ephesus’ now heard ’round the world

Benedictine nuns unpack a delivery of copies of their CD at Missouri priory. (Photo courtesy of Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles)

“A worldwide album distribution deal” doesn’t sound at all like something that would apply to the musical artistry of  members of a Benedictine cloister set in the rolling farmland of  northwest Missouri. But indeed it does. Just over a week ago, on Nov. 20, “Advent at Ephesus,” a 16-track CD of vocal performances by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, went international.

“The sisters maintain silence through much of their days, speaking only to ask work-related questions or to give instructions. An ancient Cistercian sign language is used for other communication. Silence ‘cultivates an atmosphere of prayer.’ Their silence is broken in chapel during the praying and singing of hymns, psalms and the Office,” writes reporter Marty Denzer of  The Catholic Key, newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.

The Benedictine priory is located in the diocese. Denzer describes the nuns as a youthful group consecrated to Mary whose charism is “praying for priests.” They pray and sing “hymns and chants in their chapel eight times each day.”

Their CD of Advent music – released by DeMontfort Music and distributed internationally through Decca – captures what is described by many as “angelic music.” A press release from the Maximus Group promoting the album says it “represents a rare approach — one that focuses on music celebrating the introspective anticipation of the Nativity that is the foundation of the Advent season.” Song titles include “Come Thou Redeemer of the Earth,” “Regnantem Sempiterna,” “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” “O Come Divine Messiah” and “Like the Dawning.”

The first Sunday of Advent is Dec. 2, which is also when the Eternal Word Television Network will begin airing a program on the daily life, spirituality and “musical gifts” of the Benedictine nuns. It recounts the three days they spent recording the CD this fall at their priory in a mobile studio set up by award-winning producer Glenn Rosenstein.

50 years later, Catholic-Orthodox developments ‘remarkable’

Fifty years ago today, participants in the Second Vatican Council began talking about Christian unity, especially unity with Eastern Christians. Two prominent leaders in the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, Jesuit Father Brian Daley and Orthodox Father Thomas FitzGerald, spoke to Catholic News Service about the progress that has been made since Vatican II. See their interview below.

Vatican Voices: Father Robert Prevost

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

By Greg Watry

VATICAN CITY — In the latest Vatican Voices podcast, Father Robert Prevost, Prior General of the Augustinian Order, talks about the dominance of mass media in the West and the church’s response to secular culture.



Click here:

Vatican Voices: Father Robert Prevost

For related videos click here:


Will either of these new Vatican releases be on your Christmas list?

VATICAN CITY — With Advent just a couple of weeks away and Christmas on the horizon, the Vatican is set to release two great works that will help people get in the right spirit.

ImageThe first is Pope Benedict XVI’s much-awaited final volume of his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, “The Infancy Narratives,” which will use the Gospels to explore the infancy and childhood of Jesus.

The Vatican is presenting the book and handing out copies to the press Nov. 20, but it won’t go on sale to the public until the next day, Nov. 21, which is the feast of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The book can be pre-ordered from the English-language publisher, Image (a division of Random House) or from other online book outlets.

The first volume, published in 2007, covered the period from Jesus’ baptism to his Transfiguration; while the second, regarding his passion and death, came out in 2011.

The other new release from the Vatican is a special CD of Christmas music performed by the Pontifical Swiss Guard band. Image

The music features the Swiss harpist, Daniela Lorenz. While she is not a guard, she is accompanied by guards playing clarinet, horn, trombone and saxophone.

On the CD, Ms. Lorenz plays an instrument called the Paraguayan harp. The harp, which is the national instrument of Paraguay, was introduced to Latin America by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Guard got the idea for a Christmas CD after members performed a benefit concert with Ms. Lorenz last year. Apparently the last time the guard produced a recording was in 1979. This year sound engineers from Vatican Radio helped with the production.

The CD, titled “Weihnachten mit der Schweizergarde,” will be released Nov. 22, the feast of St. Cecilia — the patron saint of musicians, and it can be ordered on the Swiss Guard’s website here.

Pope not bugged by small creatures

VATICAN CITY — This is not news, nor is it important in the scheme of things. This is just a simple blog post about a simple matter.

Today a bug landed on Pope Benedict XVI’s forehead during a visit to a home for the elderly in Rome.

The pope greets guests, ignoring the guest closest to him. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Instead of brushing his guest away, the pope stayed focused and continued greeting other guests. Five seconds later, the bug left on his own.

The small guest, right, flies away after spending five seconds meeting the pope. (CNS/Paul Haring)

This was not the pope’s first encounter with a wayward insect. In 2009, a spider took his time climbing on the pope’s cape as he gave a speech inside the presidential palace in the Czech Republic. While the pope seemed not to notice and did not react, the incident drew a lot of international media attention. In fact, the spider garnered more media coverage than the pope’s speech.

Pope Benedict XVI is known for his immense powers of concentration. This is likely why he seems to not be bothered by little creatures.

“De Pontificia Academia Latinitatis condenda”

VATICAN CITY — On Saturday the Vatican published — in Latin — Pope Benedict XVI’s document establishing the “Pontifical Academy for Latinity,” a title meant to project the fact that it won’t be concerned only with the Latin language, but also with the Latin culture and literature that are part of the Western cultural and intellectual heritage. (See CNS STORY: Pope establishes pontifical Latin Academy)

Until the academy’s establishment was announced Saturday, the Vatican’s Latin scribes were doing double-duty as the manpower behind “Latinitas,” a Latin-studies journal.

U.S. Msgr. Daniel B. Gallagher is one of the seven staff members of the Vatican Secretariat of State’s Office of Latin Letters, which translates papal correspondence and documents into Latin, which is still the official language of the church.

Msgr. Gallagher said it was significant that the papal document was signed Nov. 10, the feast of St. Leo the Great, “whom most of us consider to be the most outstanding Latin stylist.”

CNS interviewed Msgr. Gallagher in September. You can watch the video here:

Earlier, Msgr. Gallagher and some students at the Pontifical North American College in Rome spoke to CNS about their interest in Latin studies:

Vatican II, the Vatican Press Office and covering the council

VATICAN CITY — The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is being celebrated as a major step in the opening of the Vatican Press Office, the successor of the council’s information office.

(CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

LUMSA, a Rome university nestled between St. Peter’s Square and Vatican Radio, held a conference this morning marking the 50th anniversary of the press office, its evolving role and — more generally — the church’s changing attitude toward and relationship with the press.

As Catholic News Service marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II by posting the dispatches written by its team of reporters covering the council, the work they produced becomes even more striking in the light of the problems that faced Italian Catholic journalists trying to report on the council.

During the Second Vatican Council, Raniero La Valle was editor of Avvenire, the Italian bishops’ daily newspaper. He said the fact that during the first session of the council almost everything officially was considered secret “put us in great difficulty.”

“Information did come out, but we couldn’t write most of it,” he said this morning. “Our hands were tied behind our backs.”

La Valle said Italian news stories about the 1962 session of the council are “not fully accurate” because the Italian Catholic press felt bound by the secrecy rules, while the Italian secular press based their reports on interviews with anyone they could find. La Valle said most of those willing to be interviewed had an agenda and wanted to get out their point of view.

“The council could not be covered except as a scoop by secular journalists,” he said.

As the old CNS stories spelled out, the U.S. bishops participating in the council acted quickly to help the English-speaking journalists cover the council. They established a panel of experts to meet with reporters each day and answer their questions.

La Valle said that when the second session of the council opened in 1963, Msgr. Pericle Felici, the council’s general secretary, told reporters that while the workings of the council were to be considered secret, reporters should feel free to use “common sense” in determining the limits of the secrecy. From then on, he said, the Italian Catholic media began fully reporting the council.

“For four years, the council was good news and that’s how the public saw it,” he said. Despite traditionalist voices that try to imply the council — or interpretations of it — have destroyed the church, “it remains good news, which is the reason the church is celebrating its 50th anniversary,” La Valle said.

Nov. 24 consistory won’t be one for the record books

VATICAN CITY — Setting a Vatican record today isn’t easy. It took only a few minutes Oct. 24 to find out that the Nov. 24 consistory for the creation of cardinals will not set a record for being the smallest consistory.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Only six prelates are scheduled to receive their red hats in late November: U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Indian Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.

As we reported in our announcement story, Pope Benedict himself was created a cardinal at a smaller consistory. In 1977, the then-archbishop of Munich and Freising was one of four cardinals created.

But many people thought perhaps Pope Benedict would go down in history as the first pope to hold a consistory at which no Europeans were created cardinals.

However, that’s not true either. In 1924, Pope Pius XI held a consistory and created only two cardinals and both were from the United States: Cardinals George W. Mundelein of Chicago and Patrick J. Hayes of New York.

Forces of coercion and the “right to die”

In the New York Times, a writer with personal experience of lifelong disability warns against the spreading legalization of assisted suicide:

Perhaps, as advocates contend, you can’t understand why anyone would push for assisted-suicide legislation until you’ve seen a loved one suffer. But you also can’t truly conceive of the many subtle forces — invariably well meaning, kindhearted, even gentle, yet as persuasive as a tsunami — that emerge when your physical autonomy is hopelessly compromised.

Advocates of Death With Dignity laws who say that patients themselves should decide whether to live or die are fantasizing. Who chooses suicide in a vacuum? We are inexorably affected by our immediate environment. The deck is stacked.

This is eloquent and disturbing first-hand testimony of our society’s growing tendency to define and prize “quality of life” at the expense of life itself.


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