‘Voice of the church’ together again


About 200 members of the Papal Mass Choir sing together again at a special reunion. (Catholic Standard)

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Pope Benedict XVI was here in Washington. Members of the 570-voice choir that sang for the pope at his first public Mass in the United States, at Nationals Park in Washington, recently reunited for the first time, as detailed in this story by Mark Zimmermann of the Catholic Standard. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl said the group represented “the voice of the church in our country” before the pope.

Jumping the gun on the greening of the Vatican


Solar panels are seen from the roof of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. The Vatican installed its first solar-generated electrical system in November 2008. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Several news  sources were all aglow last week saying the Vatican was going to build Europe’s biggest solar plant.

While that may be on Vatican engineers’ wish list, to be making such claims “is extremely premature right now,” Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services for Vatican City, told me today.

The Vatican turned the football field-sized roof of its Paul VI audience hall into a giant solar-power generator last November and the city’s engineers have several other green ideas up their sleeves. Their goal is to have Vatican City using renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs by 2020, a target set for all the European Union.

But some reporters jumped the gun last week, saying the solar plant project intended to be built on Vatican territory north of Rome would be subsidized by Italy and help supply 400,000 Roman families with electricity.

Such news reports are based on “a lot of imagination,” Cuscianna told me.

He said they are still in the very early planning stages and still have to map out technical details and carry out feasibility studies before any sort of proposal is presented to Vatican officials governing Vatican City State for approval.

Right now, he said, the whole pile of different “hypotheses” and ideas for the new solar project are on his desk waiting to be worked on.

Same goes for finding funding sources and sponsors. Italy has not gone to the Vatican ready to pony up money, he said, because no completed project proposal exists. Once the proposal is completed and approved, then the Vatican will concern itself with finding ways to cover the costs, he said.

Cuscianna wouldn’t give me any idea about when he thought the proposal would be ready, but he assured me when the plans were finalized and approved they wouldn’t be keeping it in the dark.

Actor rediscovers his Catholic faith

The St. Anthony Messenger magazine has a profile of Canadian actor — and Catholic — Chris Kramer. Canadian TV watchers know him well from his star turn as Morgan Pym on the CityTV series “The Collector,” and U.S. audiences, if they’ve watched closely enough, would remember him last year as Chavez in four episodes of the CBS series “Jericho.”

Kramer realized he had let his faith slip away, but was as determined to reconnect with God as he was to succeed as an actor. By all accounts, he’s done just that.

He’s become affiliated with Family Theater Productions. His most recent project with Family Theater was as assistant director and an on-camera participant in “Rosary Stars,” a DVD featuring 21 young adult Catholic celebrities offering reflections on the rosary and its role in their lives.

Read the full story here.

‘Our own from the very beginning’

A column in the latest issue of  The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, puts a very personal face on the immigration debate by telling the story of Cynthia Hernandez, a mother of four who was recently deported to Mexico. 

The plight of Hernandez, a member of the parish council at St. Mary’s Parish in Marshalltown, Iowa, and the wife of a deacon candidate in the archdiocese, prompted some in the parish to rally around “one of our own,” writes Dick Schrad, parish council president.

But Catholics must remember that all immigrants “have been ‘our own’ from the very beginning” and that Christ asks us to share our blessings with others, Schrad adds. Read the full column here.

If I could talk to the animals

CNS reporter Mark Pattison and photographer Bob Roller are traveling through Iowa and Minnesota this week for a series of stories on rural America.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Perhaps I was driving down the wrong highways and roads in Iowa, but I expected to see far more farm animals within view of my car than I did. Iowa is a rich agricultural state, so crops may take precedence. Still, I was a bit sad not to have seen more moo cows and horsies.

I can remember being driven into rural areas on family trips, and there would be no shortage of cows and horses. Lucky was the one of us three kids who got the right window in the back seat of the car. We would low like cattle, neigh like horses, bray like donkeys and so on, naively thinking that as our Ford Falcon zipped by them at 60 mph, the beasts would understand our attempts at talking to them, lift up their heads in recognition, and maybe even follow us along the fence line until our car had sped out of sight.

There is a wonder in childhood that is too easily buried by the time we grow up.

Rumors that don’t die: Take 2

Caroline Kennedy has publicly denied to CNN the persistent — though oft-rebutted — rumor that she had been tapped as U.S. ambassador the Vatican and that the Holy See had rejected her for being pro-choice.

For good measure, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has told USA Today (scroll down to “in other comments”) that he never put Kennedy’s name forward for the post, a popular variation of the blogosphere’s bad reporting on the topic.

Catholic News Service (here and here),  The Associated Press and other mainstream news organizations weeks ago shot down the Kennedy rumor, as well as the equally ubiquitous fable that the Vatican had rejected three Obama nominees.

To date, Obama has only announced nominees for ambassadors to Iraq, Afghanistan and Ireland. It would be logical that nominations for slots such as Paris, the Court of St. James in London and Moscow will be higher priorities than an ambassador to Vatican City.

A billboard and an unlikely combination

CNS reporter Mark Pattison and photographer Bob Roller arrived in the Midwest this past weekend and are traveling through Iowa and Minnesota for a week for a series of stories on rural America.

ALONG INTERSTATE 35  — After having reported on a Le Moyne College-Zogby survey that examined Americans’ and Catholics’ attitudes on a host of issues — including gambling (they don’t seem to mind it that much) — I was confronted April 19 by a slew of billboards advertising casinos in Iowa.

The champion in the attention-getting department was a billboard on I-35 near the Iowa-Minnesota border, which advertises the Diamond Jo Casino and the fact that it has a Burger King on the premises.

Neither is a draw for me personally, but some find the pairing to their liking no doubt.