It’s official: Pope to sign second encyclical Nov. 30

CNS Rome bureau chief John Thavis reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, made the announcement today. As we reported in October, the pope’s new encyclical is on Christian hope.

Update: Catholic press meeting with Cardinal Levada

Update: Here’s a photo of the Catholic press meeting at the Vatican with Cardinal William J. Levada taken by Chris Gunty of the Florida Catholic:

Inside the doctrinal congregation: Catholic journalists meet Cardinal Levada

Cardinal William J. Levada (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)It’s not every day that a group of reporters can sit around the conference table in the doctrinal congregation’s inner sanctum and toss questions at its cardinal-prefect.

U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, named to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2005, generously gave time during a busy week to a delegation of Catholic journalists. They were in Rome for Saturday’s consistory, on a trip sponsored by the Catholic Press Association.

The setting alone was impressive. Cardinal Levada hosted the reporters in the “Sala di Consulta,” where three times a month about 30 consulters — mostly professors at Rome pontifical universities — meet to offer perspectives on whatever the congregation considers the pressing issues of the day.

Sometimes these discussions are the breeding ground of new documents; sometimes they’re just interesting exchanges of opinions. Participants sit at a large oval table outfitted with microphones. On the wall are portraits of Pope Pius V, a former prefect of the congregation and now its patron saint, and Pope Benedict XVI, who presided here for 24 years before becoming pope.

At the same table, the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation meet once a month — always on a Wednesday — to review issues and make decisions.

With the Catholic journalists, Cardinal Levada fielded questions ranging from ecumenism to excommunication. This was mostly a background conversation, but a few things can be disclosed:

— The cardinal doesn’t anticipate another Vatican document on politics and Communion as the U.S. election campaign gets into full swing over the coming year.

— The congregation is pressing ahead with a global study of “natural law theories for moral theology,” which could turn into a bigger project.

— The cardinal’s weekly meetings with Pope Benedict are not pro forma. As one might guess, the pope still takes a keen interest in the details of doctrinal affairs.

New blog combines reflections on faith, God’s presence outdoors

This one looks like a winner! The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., has announced “a new blog by staff photographer and outdoors columnist Dave Hrbacek” called “Faith Out­doors.” Located at, Dave’s blog looks like it’s perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors — “whether it be fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating or taking pictures” — and loves experiencing God’s presence in outdoor activities. Judging from Dave’s first two blog entries, this looks like it’s worth saving in your Internet favorites, even if you’re not the outdoors type. 

Historic university marks bicentennial

With the U.S. bishops’ meeting earlier this month in Baltimore, it would be easy to miss another story taking place at the same time — the celebration of the bicentennial of Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Catholic history buffs in particular might enjoy the coverage of the celebration by The Catholic Review in Baltimore, where the anniversary was marked on the day before the opening of the bishops’ meeting.

Two more Thanksgiving columns

  • Anna Weaver, writing in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, reflects on the simple gifts everyone should be thanking God for — including, for Hawaiians, “We live in a state that is beautiful and warm year round.”
  • Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, writing in the Rhode Island Catholic, offers a prayer for Thanksgiving that, with only minor adaptations, could be used by almost anyone before a Thanksgiving meal.

Local Catholic tries to bring faith back to ‘Ds’

This story may upset you or please you depending on your political affiliation, but in Oregon the Catholic Sentinel has a story on a Catholic man who is trying to organize and expand the numbers of religious believers in the Democratic Party in a state which is the home of the nation’s largest percentage of residents without religious affiliation.