Commentary on pope’s encyclical in Catholic press

It’s been two and a half weeks since the pope’s encyclical “Caritas in 09gx116cVeritate” (“Charity in Truth”) was released and there has been plenty of commentary in the Catholic press. Here’s a sampling:

The encyclical “comes at a precarious moment for the world economy,” Chris Gunty, editor of  The Catholic Review, wrote in the July 16 issue of Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper. “Everyone — from the most renowned economists to everyday Joe the plumbers — have ideas on how to fix this mess. Few have come at it from such a comprehensive position. Benedict’s solution is not just about numbers, because he acknowledges that at its root, it is not about numbers, but about people.”

The document is a long “meditation on the implications of Christian charity in today’s world without borders. The Christian truth has always been that human life originates and develops in the relationship of love. The crisis of our time happens to have an economic face, so the pope uses that lens for much of his focus,” wrote retired news editor Frank Wessling in the July 15 issue of the The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

In his column in the July 17 issue of his diocese’s newspaper, The Observer, Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Ill., acknowledged the document is not easy to get through but said it still “bears some serious reading.” The pope “convincingly demonstrates that if we are more than merely cafeteria Catholics … we will have to read and ponder this encyclical  in what remains of the summer and the fall, and even the winter too, to derive from it the fruit that it contains.”

Pope Benedict “offers a moral framework for economic life, a word of hope, a call to solidarity and a challenge to work together to build an economy which is founded on truth and charity. The task ahead of us is nothing less than a serious moral obligation,” Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., writing in the July issue of his diocesan newspaper, West River Catholic.

In a July 16 editorial, The Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Providence Diocese, tied the encyclical with pope’s visit July 10 with President Barack Obama, saying the pope presented in that meeting “the truth of Catholic teaching with clarity but also charity.” After their meeting at the Vatican and the release of the encyclical, the paper said, Obama “and his Catholic supporters would do well to remember the ‘Veritas’ part of ‘Charity in Truth.'”

Robbery of home of Near East Council of Churches Gaza official nothing more than a normal crime

Never let it be said that Judith Sudilovsky, Middle East correspondent for Catholic News Service, is asleep at the wheel.

She has been reporting for us for many years and hardly any news of significance escapes her careful watch. So when she learned that robbers invaded the home of  Constantine Dabbagh, executive director of the Near East Council of Churches, July 23, she was on the story in a flash. She wondered: Could he have been targeted because he’s Christian?

Sudilovsky got to the bottom of the story quickly and accurately. Here’s her report:

The robbery in his Gaza home could have happened anywhere, said Near East Council of Churches Gaza executive director Constantine Dabbagh, a day after three masked but unarmed men broke into his home and took money, jewelry and his car, leaving his four-room apartment in an upheaval.

Dabbagh was quick to dispel the notion that the robbery was an anti-Christian attack.

“It’s something that happens everywhere and yesterday I was a victim. My name could be Mahmoud or Cohen, it would have been the same thing,” said Dabbagh in a July 24 phone conversation with Catholic News Service.

“It had nothing to do with the fact that I was Christian. They were only interested in taking the money and jewelry and car.”

A day after the attack Dabbagh could even joke about the incident.

“Their questions were very unpolitical and very unreligious. They just asked where the gold and money was,” he said wryly.

The attackers forced their way into his home as he was leaving for work, he said, and handcuffed him and his wife and hit him once as they ransacked the apartment. The police responded quickly after he reported the crime, he said, and indeed found his dismantled car within 24 hours.

Dabbagh has heard of several instances of robberies in Gaza in the past few weeks. Most such robberies are carried out by one person and normally take place when the homeowners are away, he explained.

The fact that there were three robbers who carried out the attack in broad daylight has riled Gazans and the attack is the talk of the street now, Dabbagh said. People are furious, he said.

Still, he added, he can’t gauge whether these robberies are an indication of growing lawlessness in Gaza or just the result of “normal” crime as there is in every other society.

“In any place where this is unemployment and a continuing siege, you may expect to have more crime,” he said.

Mayor cooks up polenta and venison for papal entourage

VATICAN CITY — The papal spokesman’s update on Pope Benedict today contained very little information about the pope himself. Basically, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said the pope took an evening walk yesterday despite the rainy weather.

However, the e-mail dispatched from Les Combes, where the pope has been vacationing since July 13, did say that the mayor of Introd — which includes Les Combes — joined members of the papal entourage for dinner last night. The pope’s physicians, security agents and other aides are staying in a guesthouse next to the pope’s chalet.

Father Lombardi said the mayor “provided an excellent polenta with venison” from the small European roe deer, “which he cooked himself with great skill.”


Pope Benedict stands outside his vacation chalet in Les Combes. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

This morning, the spokesman said, the pope is putting the final touches on the homily he will give this evening when he celebrates vespers with priests, religious and laypeople in the cathedral of Aosta.

In addition, he said, the papal vacation compound is a beehive of activity as workers set up benches and barriers in preparation for the arrival of an estimated 5,000 people Sunday for the recitation of the Angelus.

Today’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, contains an interview with Father Aldo Armellin, who the newspaper describes as the contact between the Diocese of Aosta and the papal party.

The priest said there are a lot of people “who try to get close to the pope” while he’s on vacation. Some send notes, some send small gifts and others “want to show their affection and make him feel part of the family by welcoming him with a homemade dessert typical to the region.”