From martyrs to moviestars: getting a Vatican stamp of ‘approval’

joan of arcVATICAN CITY — Most of the stamps the Vatican issues each year celebrate saints, popes or the birth or death of some late great European painter or composer.

Now and then there is a commemorative stamp marking a United Nations or Europe-wide year dedicated to themes such as water, books, forests and even the postal van! postal van

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rarely has the Vatican stamp and coin office issued what it did this year: celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Charlie Chaplin, “whose work impacted more than fifty years of the history of film,” the office said.

Chaplin 2014 minifoglio (2)

Some of the only other recent stamps celebrating “modern” and more secular artists have included:

  • a 2004 aerogram marking the anniversary of the birth of the 20th century Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali’
  • stamps in 2003 celebrating the 19th century post-Impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin
  • and a series in 2010 marking the birth of Anton Chekhov and death of Leo Tolstoy — two 19th century Russian writers

tolstoy chekov

aids

Sometimes the Vatican uses its collectors’ appeal for promoting important causes and raising funds for different initiatives, like when all proceeds from the sale of a 2004 stamp dedicated to children with AIDS were donated in the pope’s name to projects helping AIDS orphans.

 

Court grants college temporary relief from HHS mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday afternoon issued an unsigned opinion granting Christian-run Wheaton College in Illinois temporary relief from complying with the Department of Health and Human Services’ federal contraceptive mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act. The order in Wheaton College v. Burwell came three days after the court issued its Hobby Lobby decision.

(CNS file photo)

(CNS file photo)

The court said the college, located west of Chicago, does not have to fill out the self-certification form — known as EBSA Form 700 — directing a third party, usually the manager of an employer’s health plan, to provide the contested coverage. The college can send a letter to the government, the court said.

If the applicant informs the HHS secretary “in writing that it is a nonprofit organization that holds itself out as religious and has religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcement against the applicant the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review.”

The EBSA form is an accommodation the Obama administration put in place for religious employers who are not exempt from the HHS mandate. But Wheaton College and many other religious employers, including Catholic institutions, that have sued over the mandate argue that even filling out the form to direct a third party to take care of the coverage makes them complicit in providing coverage they find objectionable.

“The circuit courts have divided on whether to enjoin the requirement that religious nonprofit organizations use EBSA Form 700,” the Supreme Court said in its Thursday order. “Nothing in this interim order affects the ability of the applicant’s employees and students to ontain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.” The order also said it “should not be construed as an expression of the court’s views on the merits” of the case.

The order is similar to an injunction granted earlier this year to the Little Sisters of the Poor. On Jan. 24 the high court issued a three-sentence order affirming — for the time being — an injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate against the religious order, which runs housing for the elderly poor. The Jan. 24 order affirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Dec. 31 order.

But with regard to the order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, Sotomayor — joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan — issued a sharply worded dissent. She said this injunction “risks depriving hundreds of Wheaton’s employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage. … I do not doubt Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs. But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened — no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be — does not make it so.”

Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, called the court’s order “a wise decision.”

“On the eve of Independence Day, we are grateful to God that the Supreme Court has made a wise decision in protecting our religious liberty — at least until we have an opportunity to make our full case in court,” he said in a statement. “We continue to believe that a college community that affirms the sanctity of human life from conception to the grave should not be coerced by the government into facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs.”

In other court action on challenges to the mandate, the Catholic Benefits Association was granted a temporary restraining order against enforcement for 156 Catholic employers and more than 1,090 parishes that joined the association after June 4.

The association was formed last October with 450 Catholic employer members and 2,000 parish members. Among the members are eight archdioceses, 15 dioceses, religious orders, local Catholic Charities affiliates, colleges, nursing homes, cemeteries, retreat centers and medical facilities. It filed a class-action lawsuit in March against the mandate on religious freedom grounds, and on June 4 a federal district court in Oklahoma issued an injunction in favor of the group.

After June 4 more employers and parishes joined the association, so a second lawsuit was filed July 1 seeking a temporary restraining order for them. After an emergency hearing, it was granted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

 

 

Parsing the pope’s pallium

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis gave 24 new archbishops a pallium yesterday, it generated a bit of Twitter chatter … because of the pallium he was wearing.

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Conn., and Pope Francis -- wearing matching palliums --greeted each other yesterday. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Conn., and Pope Francis — wearing matching palliums –greeted each other yesterday. (CNS/Paul Haring)

It was the same as the pallium he gave to the archbishops, although his already had the three jeweled pins pushed through three of the six crosses. The new archbishops are given a nice box with their pins in it.

At least in the Vatican’s official version, the length and width of the papal pallium has been subject to change and development over centuries, usually for very practical reasons having to do with historical changes in the other liturgical vestments over which it was worn.

Pope Benedict XVI initially used a pallium based on the most ancient existing depiction of the garment’s design — those seen in the 6th-century mosaics in the churches of Ravenna, Italy.

Pope Benedict XVI wearing the long pallium on Christmas Eve 2007. (CNS/pool)

Pope Benedict XVI wearing the long pallium on Christmas Eve 2007. (CNS/pool)

However, just a little more than three years into his papacy, Pope Benedict gave up the long, over-one-shoulder stole. Instead, he chose a pallium similar to that worn by archbishops — and by Pope John Paul II and dozens of popes before him — except that Pope Benedict’s had six red crosses instead of black crosses.

For the first 15 months of his pontificate — basically, until yesterday — Pope Francis wore a pallium of the same design as Pope Benedict used beginning with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 2008.

Archbishop Maximian in a 6th-century mosaic in Ravenna. (Wiki Commons)

Archbishop Maximian in a 6th-century mosaic in Ravenna. (Wiki Commons)

When people on Twitter began commenting on Pope Francis’ choice and asking questions about it, I turned to the one man who could settle the question, Msgr. Guido Marini, the papal master of liturgical ceremonies. However, he didn’t make it clear whether the change was permanent.

He simply said the pope wore the pallium with black crosses “to not differentiate himself from the other metropolitans.”

(Not all archbishops receive the pallium. For example, nuncios and the archbishops who secretaries of Vatican congregations or presidents of pontifical councils do not have one. The pallium goes only to those who lead archdioceses that are main see of a metropolitan province. As the bishop of Rome, the pope is the archbishop and metropolitan of the province of Rome.)

Pope Francis wearing the pallium with red crosses at Mass in southern Italy June 21. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis wearing the pallium with red crosses at Mass in southern Italy June 21. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Anglican-Roman Catholic bowling for unity?

VATICAN CITY — In the field of ecumenical dialogue, a key task always has been defining terms. Often, Christians have discovered, their beliefs are not that different, but the language they use is.

“Bowling” in the headline above does not involve an alley and 10 pins.

This is cricket. The game involves a ball and bat. And teams of 11. A field and a “pitch,” which is part of the field, not the act of throwing the ball.

As a group of priests and seminarians representing the Vatican and another representing the Church of England prepare to meet in September, it’s many of the rest of us who have to try to understand their terminology.

Father Tony Currer, the official in charge of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is a “right-hand batsman.” He’ll be traveling back to England with three “right-arm fast bowlers” and seven other seminarians in the name of Christian unity.

The members of St. Peter's Cricket Club, aka the Vatican team.

The members of St. Peter’s Cricket Club, aka the Vatican team.

“A bowler is like a pitcher” in American baseball, he said. “I guess in baseball you would distinguish between left-handed and right-handed pitchers, right? Then some are specialists in bowling quickly or bowling with a spin.”

Before coming to Rome, Father Currer played in the Durham City League, which is an amateur league, though at a level “higher than a parish team” or something like that.

Sometimes Christians complain that ecumenical dialogue has been limited to a small group of experts. Cricket seems mostly limited to residents of the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, the West Indies and South Africa.

The Vatican-Church of England cricket match Sept. 19 at the Kent County Cricket Club will be preceded by ecumenical vespers Sept. 18 in the Anglican’s Canterbury Cathedral. Although initially planned strictly as a challenge, the two sides have now decided the match will be an occasion to raise money together for the Global Freedom Network, an interfaith effort against human trafficking supported both by Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Pope Francis.

I asked Father Currer if the joint fundraising effort was designed to mitigate the potentially negative ecumenical impact of an Anglican-Roman Catholic showdown.

“Normally I am in the business of finding agreement with the Anglicans, not beating them. That’s not the way forward,” he responded.

The Vatican XI — captained by Father Currer and including seminarians from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — has a total of four matches scheduled for their September “Tour of Light” in England. At a Vatican news conference yesterday, they announced one that’s creating quite a buzz: A Sept. 17 match against the team of the Royal Household of Windsor Castle, one of the residences of Queen Elizabeth II.

Father Currer isn’t sure yet if the match will take place on the castle grounds, but “it is not an unusual thing for a stately home to have a cricket site.”

No word yet on whether there will be royal spectators.

The pope stopped outside their house

VATICAN CITY — Pamela Mauro thought it was unlikely Pope Francis would stop at her house, “but seeing how he is, I decided to try anyway.”

Mauro’s parents, and her sister Roberta, who is severely disabled, live in Calabria, just outside Sibari on the main road Pope Francis traveled Saturday on his way to a Mass with an estimated 250,000 people.

She and her family put up big signs on the road, asking Pope Francis, “Stop.” Another said, “There’s an angel waiting for you here.” And yet another said, “Dear Pope, bless and embrace little Roberta.”

Shortly before the pope was due to pass, the family went to the edge of the road, brining Roberta with them on a reclining wheelchair.

Pope Francis did indeed stop his car. He got out of the car and blessed and caressed Roberta.

He blessed the others, shook hands, posed for photos and put up with some ear-piercing shouts of approval, mostly “Bravo, Francesco.”

The Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino posted a story and photographs on their website and Ivan Parfenie posted a video on YouTube.

Supreme Court’s inaction signals bad news for heavily indebted poor countries

A man walks next to his makeshift home in 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Argentina in a case in which a hedge fund has sued the country for $1 billion, meaning the country will be forced to turn over information about financial assets in New York banks and face the possibility of not providing development aid for the country's poorest residents. (CNS/Cezaro De Luca, EPA)

A man walks next to his makeshift home in 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  (CNS/Cezaro De Luca, EPA)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision yesterday not to hear an appeal from Argentina after being sued by a hedge fund for $1 billion has upset advocates for debt relief.

The inaction by the Supreme Court lets two lower federal court rulings stand and Argentina now must turn over information about its U.S. bank holdings to the hedge fund.

Catholic News Service recently reported on the case and the work of Jubilee USA to advocate for debt relief for poor countries.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, told CNS this morning that the case means it is open season on the assets of other heavily indebted poor countries.

“It has incredible impacts in terms of how the financial system operates, how poor countries have the ability to become middle income countries,” he said. “There are few winners and lots of losers.

“A small group of hedge funds, less than 100 engage in this predatory behavior, are the winners. The losers, it’s most of us. The U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, legitimate Wall Street investors, who supported Argentina and any poor country that would qualify for debt relief are the losers,” LeCompte explained.

“It affects all of us because debt relief is brokered using U.S. taxpayer money. Essentially the ultimate money that these predatory hedge funds will collect is U.S. taxpayer money.”

Because the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, LeCompte fears that the floodgates could open for other hedge funds to recover the assets of defaulting countries to the detriment of poor citizens. He identified Ivory Coast, Zambia and some Eastern European countries as “on the chopping block.”

The Argentine case dates to 2001 when it defaulted on its loan payments and subsequently was sued by the hedge fund firm NML Capital. The hedge fund won in both in U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Argentina had resisted the requests and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the matter.

The court offered no comment on its decision to decline the case.

Debt relief advocates call companies like NML Capital “vulture funds” because they swoop in to buy up debt for pennies on the dollar and then sue for full repayment. Some of the claims result in huge profits for the funds.

The International Monetary Fund, Wall Street firms and the governments of the U.S., France, Mexico and Brazil sided with Argentina because of the potential impact on debt restructuring programs, access to credit by poor countries and global financial stability.

“These are the actors that Pope Francis described as savage,” LeCompte said of the hedge funds. “These are the type of actors he was speaking about because these are people who profit off the backs of the poor.”

‘We want to be Barnabas’

NEW ORLEANS — At the June 11 opening Mass of the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in New Orleans, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the church leaders who had gathered for two and a half days of meetings “want to be Barnabas.”

By that, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, meant the bishops want to be men of encouragement to Catholics, society and each other.

St. Barnabas, whose feast day is celebrated June 11, was given the name Joseph at birth but then was renamed Barnabas by the early apostles after he sold his property and gave them the proceeds, the archbishop explained.

The new name, which he said means “son of encouragement,” aptly describes the characteristics of this early apostle who encouraged the Christian community and even introduced Saul — before he also had a name change to Paul — to this group. Barnabas also went on to Antioch to preach the Gospel message to an audience that was not very receptive.

Archbishop Kurtz said he and his fellow bishops in their time together in New Orleans want to focus on how they can encourage the faithful to take up the task of being new evangelists and to also consider how to encourage the larger society, noting that faith is good for everyone “not just the faithful.”

He added that bishops also need to encourage each other, pointing out that certain bishops “have that knack.”

In his case, the bishop who provided this constant encouragement — with a phone call, a note, or a pat on the back —  was the late Bishop David B. Thompson, who headed the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, from 1990-1999. He died last fall at the age of 90.

“He was a true friend,” the archbishop noted.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond attends session on opening day of bishops' spring assembly. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

At the beginning of Mass, Archbishop Kurtz thanked New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond for the “truly warm New Orleans welcome,” which could very likely be interpreted literally that sunny and humid afternoon.

Archbishop Aymond indeed welcomed his fellow bishops to the city and St. Louis Cathedral, established as a parish in 1720. He also welcomed the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, to the afternoon Mass.

A handful of protesters stood outside the cathedral prior to Mass holding signs in favor of women’s ordination to the priesthood. By the middle of Mass they were gone and the area outside the church was instead dotted with tourists taking pictures and children chasing each other.

 

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