Papal video message coming, and perhaps other images

(Cross-posted from CNS World Youth Day blog)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has recorded a video message for the people of Australia, the country’s Catholics and the young people traveling to Sydney for World Youth Day. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said the video is done, but its broadcast date has not been finalized. Probably, he said, it will air July 13 shortly after the papal plane touches down Down Under.

At a pre-trip briefing for the Vatican press corps yesterday, Father Lombardi also hinted that some video images may be released of the pope taking a stroll or praying at the Opus Dei-run Kenthurst Study Centre outside of Sydney. Pope Benedict will stay at the facility for a few days recovering from jetlag and preparing for his appointments with Catholic youth from around the world. A cameraman from the Vatican Television Center “will be standing by” in case the pope and his aides decide to give the world a peek at how the pope was spending his private time, Father Lombardi said.

The main part of the pope’s Vatican entourage will not be staying at Kenthurst, Father Lombardi said. But they won’t be sitting around their hotel. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and other top Vatican officials will be treated to “cultural, tourist visits” Monday and Tuesday morning. Their itinerary includes a visit to Parramatta and a visit to an Aboriginal village.

Another curiosity from the briefing: Father Lombardi noted that the July 12-21 trip to Australia, the ninth of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, is his longest in terms both of length and distance covered. After more than 15 hours in the air, the papal plane will land for refueling in Darwin. The stop is scheduled to last 90 minutes. “I’m not sure if the pope will get off the plane. He can if he wants to stretch his legs. He could meet the local bishop or the airport chief,” Father Lombardi said. But nothing formal and no speeches are planned.

And the 43 journalists in the back of the plane — me, included — probably will not be allowed off.

More on Templeton

CNS ran a story on the July 8 death of Sir John Marks Templeton at the age of 95. Over the years CNS has had numerous stories covering individuals who were awarded the Templeton Prize.

The Templeton Prize is awarded annually to an individual who has made major contributions to religion around the world.

The first Templeton Prize was awarded to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1973.

Here’s a look at some other news from CNS involving the Templeton Prize:

The 2008 Templeton Prize was awarded to Father Michal Heller, a Polish priest-cosmologist.

Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare movement who died in March, received the Templeton Prize in 1977.

Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize community, received the Templeton Prize in 1974. He died in August 2005 after being stabbed in the neck.

Changing perspectives on Down syndrome

Kristin Lanari’s younger sister, Lauren, is a pianist who loves to dance and bake cookies. Lauren also has Down syndrome, a condition where a child’s physical and cognitive development is delayed due to the presence of too many chromosomes.

The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., recently published a story about what Kristin is trying to accomplish on the behalf of people with Down syndrome.

Now that prenatal genetic testing can predict Down syndrome in an unborn baby, up to 90 percent of women opt for abortion if it’s determined their child has it. Kristin Lanari, a cantor, choir member and eucharistic minister at St. Joseph Parish in Appleton, Wis., was horrified by that statistic.

Lanari figured if there were more information and education available about “Down’s people,” doctors would be less inclined to recommend abortion and families would be less inclined to take that recommendation. With a grant from the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, she is compiling reflections for a book of stories about having a sibling with Down syndrome. Lanari hopes the books can be distributed to clinics, hospitals and schools to help families who learn the condition exists in their baby.

Lanari will be accepting submissions through the end of July. if you are interested in participating, e-mail her at

Arson fires in Catholic churches around the U.S.

Arson is not normally associated with Catholic churches. However, someone paying attention to diocesan newspapers in the past month might think otherwise.

In early June the Intermountain Catholic of the Diocese of Salt Lake City reported that a church in West Jordan, Utah, was damaged twice by arson.

Recently, The Catholic Observer in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., published an article detailing a parish in Chicopee, Mass., that had a new playground burned and melted (some parts were made of plastic) by an arson fire.