Video: Brazil protesters await pope

Professor Rachel Nigro of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro discusses the recent wave of protests across Brazil and how the pope’s visit to the country might impact national politics.

Video: Why WYD? Americans in Rio explain.

U.S. pilgrims in Rio discuss their expectations for World Youth Day 2013.

Video: Homes opened for World Youth Day

Brazilian Catholics renew their faith when they open their homes to volunteers helping to run World Youth Day 2013.

Look what a flurry of letters to the pope may get you

VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis gears up to go to Brazil next week, a bit of Brazil showed up on his doorstep this morning.


Leandro Martins from Porto Alegre, Brazil, was granted an unexpected audience with Pope Francis July 18. Leandro was biking from Amsterdam to Asia. (Photo courtesy of Leandro Martins)

Leandro Martins from Porto Alegre rode into the Vatican by bicycle today on a much anticipated pit stop from his planned 6,200-mile journey from Amsterdam to Asia.

As a fellow-Latin American, Leandro said he wanted to greet the new pontiff even though he knew it was a long shot.

In one of numerous letters (about 15) he wrote to Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, the pope’s secretary, Leandro said, “I know it’s going to sound ridiculous and you are going to laugh at me but… I really would like to meet him, OK go ahead….”

Well, if they did laugh, it worked. Leandro got a call yesterday from the monsignor saying he was welcome to come to morning Mass at the pope’s residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, followed by a meeting with the pope.

Leandro tells the tale best in the “Vatican City” entry on his blog  The post also contains a slideshow of shots of the pope and the traveling “gaucho” (as he calls himself), including one of the pope visiting the bicycle parked outside.


Leandro Martins of Porto Alegre, Brazil, shows Pope Francis the bicycle he is using to trek from Amsterdam to Asia as well as the Brazilian flag he is asking the people he meets along the way to sign. (Photo courtesy of Leandro Martins).

Pointing to all the gear packed on the back of the bike, Leandro said he told the pope: “this is my house, the bed, and kitchen.”

The pope also signed Leandro’s flag, which is peppered with the  signatures of many of the people he has been meeting on his journey. The pope wrote: “Que Dios te acompane. Francisco.” (May God accompany you. Francis).

Video: Rio hospital ready for pope

A look at the Franciscan hospital Pope Francis will visit during his trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.


Video: Brazilians eager for pope’s visit

Catholics in Rio de Janeiro await Pope Francis’s visit for World Youth Day this month and examine the legacy of Blessed John Paul II’s visit to a slum.

Notes on peace and justice

Priests, women religious, Catholic Workers among 24 arrested in K.C.

Five women enter the National Security Campus in Kansas City, Mo., July 13 to protest the construction of nuclear weapons under the watchful eye of police. (Courtesy of Bryan Lloyd)

Five women enter the National Security Campus in Kansas City, Mo., July 13 to protest the construction of nuclear weapons under the watchful eye of police. (Courtesy of Bryan Lloyd)

For Oblate Father Bill Antone, a few hours behind bars last Saturday was far tougher than any night he has spent camping in the wildest countryside.

The provincial of the U.S. province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate got a taste of jail life for the first time following his arrest on the grounds of the new National Security Campus under construction in Kansas City, Mo. He was among 24 people cited for trespassing for crossing onto the edge of the campus July 13 to call for an end to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

He was there at the invitation of fellow Oblate, Father Carl Kabat of St. Louis, who has spent more than 17 years behind bars for his lifelong pursuit of ending nuclear weapon production and storage. Father Kabat, 79, was arrested as well.

Father Antone, 61, told Catholic News Service the experience was worthwhile.

“It’s incredible the amount of money we spend to maintain a nuclear arsenal in our country,” he said. “It’s really something in our right minds we would never use. We keep and maintain it even though the rhetoric is to disarm.”

The arrestees entered the campus by walking through a door brought to the site. It was emblazoned with a banner reading “Open the door to a nuclear weapons-free world.”

In all, about 80 protesters organized by PeaceWorks, Kansas City joined the hourlong protest, the most recent in a series as construction has continued on the campus run by the National Nuclear Security Administration and contracted to Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies. The main facility, the size of more than a dozen football fields, will manufacture non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons.

Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel of Tacoma, Wash., Franciscan Father Jerry Zawada of Milwaukee, Notre Dame Sister Theresa Maly of Kansas City, Mo., Charity Sister Cele Breen of Leavenworth, Kan., Christian Brother Louis Rodemann of Kansas City, Mo., and several Catholic Workers from throughout the Midwest were among those walking through the door and taken into custody.

Jane Stoever, 70, a volunteer with Holy Family House, a Catholic Worker community in Kansas City, was among those detained for several hours.

“I come in immediate contact with hungry people at Holy Family Catholic Worker,” she said. “I see where the resources of the country are not funneling down to those in need and there are many needs in this country crying for attention.”

Court dates are set for September.

Council for Research in Values and Philosophy honored

After decades of research and promoting intercultural understanding, the Washington-based Council for Research in Values and Philosophy will be honored with the Global Dialogue Prize.

Since its founding in the early 1960s, the council has published more than 300 books and sponsored dozens of seminars around the world focusing on cross-cultural topics.

Oblate Father George F. McLean, professor emeritus of philosophy at The Catholic University of America, has been council president since Day One.

He told CNS the council brings members of the worldwide academic community together to explore, discuss and research topics with the goal of promoting intercultural understanding.

During the Cold War, the council worked to connect with philosophers, social scientists and others in Eastern Europe. By the 1990s, the effort turned to China as the country began lifting restrictions on international contacts.

The Global Dialogue Prize was established to promote intercultural value research. Its sponsors said such research is important at a time the world faces global policy challenges including climate change and numerous issues related to global health and security.

The award will be presented Aug. 4 at the 23rd World Congress of Philosophy at the University of Athens in Greece. Father McLean will be there.

Preparing for World Youth Day with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY — What a difference a year makes.

When the Vatican sponsored a meeting in April 2012 to review what went right and wrong in Madrid at World Youth Day 2011, the purpose was to ensure a smoother experience for the young people who were to have joined Pope Benedict XVI in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio’s gearing up. Young pilgrims from around the world are on the move. But it’s Pope Francis who is preparing to fly down to Brazil to join them.

The popes have changed. The Rio site for the vigil and closing Mass are much bigger than the space in Madrid was. (So many unregistered young people were allowed into the area in Madrid, that thousands of those who were registered were shut out.) Some 7,000 young pilgrims from the United States have registered to attend WYD Rio.

Even though we did this video last year, it shows the kind of planning that went into the Rio event. And the reference to encountering the reality of poverty in the developing world is something to keep in mind when Pope Francis arrives next week. He’s likely to challenge the young people — and the rest of us — to look at how our lifestyles and political choices impact the poor, but also to look at what we can learn from them.

Canonization may prove a boon to Washington shrine

Roman street vendors and devotees of Blessed John Paul II aren’t the only ones happy about what the canonization of the late pope will mean for them.

Officials at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C. also hope the upcoming canonization of the Polish pontiff will be a boon to their center, which has struggled in the past with visitors and finances.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the shrine, said changes already were underway for expansion (in the spring of 2014) of exhibition space devoted to the life of Karol Wojtyla and his journey toward becoming John Paul II. However, with news in early July that Pope Francis signed a decree clearing the way for John Paul’s canonization, shrine officials quickly began planning events and an expanded exhibit in case he is canonized before the year is out. The Vatican has not yet announced a date for the ceremony.

“We were shocked but very happily surprised” with the timing, Smith said. “We knew he was a going to be saint.”

Besides changing the name to the St. John Paul II Shrine, the Washington center named after the pope will feature, at the time of his canonization, a liturgical schedule, including a Mass and a feed to the goings on at the Vatican, for those who want to take part of the historical day.

“If you can’t go to Rome for the canonization, come to the shrine,” Smith said.

The shrine also plans the exposition of a relic – a piece of the blood-stained cassock John Paul was wearing during an assassination attempt – for veneration.

The day of John Paul’s canonization “will be the most important day this place sees,” Smith said.

The Knights of Columbus bought the property in 2011 for $22.7 million and plan to quadruple the exhibition space devoted to the Polish pontiff. The center originally opened in 2001 as the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and cost $75 million to build. The property has been valued at $37.7 million.

The pope’s (not quite) vacation

VATICAN CITY — Usually by now, the pope would be enjoying cooler climes and fresher air up in the mountains of northern Italy or at the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo. But Pope Francis is still at home in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guest house. Fortunately, it’s air conditioned.

However, the pope plans to spend a good chunk of Sunday at the papal villa overlooking Lake Albano. He’s scheduled to arrive by car at 9:30 and meet with the employees of the papal villa and farm, the local bishop and the mayor of Castel Gandolfo. At noon, he’ll recite the Angelus with townspeople and pilgrims gathered in the main square outside the papal villa. Then he’ll have lunch with Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes and his team of astronomers at the Jesuit-run Vatican Observatory.

Closer to home, the pope reportedly visited the Vatican garage yesterday morning. Some say it is part of the normal papal tradition of visiting Vatican employees. But it made headlines because of Pope Francis’ remarks Saturday evening to seminarians and novices about eschewing a fancy set of wheels.

Was it a papal inspection?

It must be said that the deluxe, super-accessorized models housed in the garage were gifts, including the Mercedes-Benz popemobiles and the two armored black Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Pope accepts gift of electric Smart bike from chairman of Daimler AGThe two Harley Davidson motorcycles Pope Francis was given in June have been passed on to the Vatican police force. But I’m not sure what happened to the electric Smart bicycle the head of Mercedes-Benz gave him July 2, along with the keys to a new Mercedes-Benz popemobile that will be used at World Youth Day in Rio 10 days from now.

The papal visit to the garage and its employees is not the only sign that Pope Francis is not really on vacation. Everyone assumes he’s working on the speeches and homilies for his July 22-29 trip to Brazil.

He also met Wednesday morning with the members of the special commission he established in late June to study the role and purpose of the Vatican bank and how it fits into the universal mission of the church.

The Vatican press office said yesterday that in addition to the commission members, the meeting was attended by Ernst von Freyberg, the bank president. “Pope Francis wanted to be present to encourage the work of the commission,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis also, apparently, continues to work the phones. One of his former students, the Argentine writer Jorge Milia, blogged about call he recently received from Pope Francis.

Among other things, the two spoke about Pope Francis’ apparently frequent visits with Pope Benedict, whom he referred to affectionately as “el viejo,” the old man. “It’s a pleasure to exchange ideas with him,” Pope Francis said.Retired Pope Benedict and Pope Francis

Milia said Pope Francis told him: “You can’t imagine the humility and wisdom of that man.”

“Then keep him close,” Milia said he responded.

Pope Francis told him, “I would never think of giving up the counsel of a person like him, it would be foolish of me.”


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