X-rays show pope’s wrist is healing well


Pope Benedict waving to the crowd outside the Aosta cathedral yesterday evening. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — X-rays of Pope Benedict XVI’s right wrist show it is healing well, the Vatican spokesman said today.

A portable X-ray machine was brought from the hospital in Aosta to the compound in Les Combes where the pope has been vacationing since July 13.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said the pope’s personal physician and his assistant, the two orthopedic surgeons who operated on the pope’s wrist after he broke it in a fall July 17, a radiologist and the orthopedic specialist who will care for the pope after he leaves Les Combes July 29 all were present for the exam this morning.

“The check-up began at 11:40 and lasted about a half hour with optimum results,” Father Lombardi said.

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.”

Year for Priests: Grateful for a special visitor

By Maryknoll Father Michael J. Snyder
One in a series

DAR ES SALAAM, Tananzia — Many people come to my office door here at the Catholic Chaplaincy of the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.  The university shares its campus with the national hospital with 1,200 beds and over 1,000 day patients.  There is also a large slum called Jangwani situated not far from the hospital.  The news has spread that Fr. Michael will help people in need.  That’s nice, but it has resulted in a steady stream of people coming to the door.

Many of the cases are genuine, some are con artists, and others, while poor, pretty much will say anything it takes just to get some assistance.  For so many, giving them money is just not the answer to the problems facing them.  Poverty is such a horrible disease!  Sometimes I feel I need a social worker who can listen and direct people to places where they can find the proper assistance.  My own background as a social worker years ago comes in handy.

I think the news is spreading that Fr. Michael asks many questions and often does not give money, so the numbers at my door are reducing.  Nevertheless, yesterday a lady came to the office.  She was ill, stricken with AIDS.  Her children and husband have died.  She has been told to vacate the room her husband was renting.  She has no money and feels it is time to return to her parents’ home in Mwanza, which is situated on the other side of Tanzania.  Her name is Rehema, which translated to English means “compassion.”  I tried to console her and direct her to the local parish.  Already she receives medicine from the archdiocesan AIDS outreach program named PASADA.  She seemed lost, her spirit broken.

I decided to give her 35,000 shillings (US$30) for the bus trip to Mwanza. She thanked me and began to shed tears.  As she stood to leave she said she would board a bus that very day.  Rehema extended her hand to me and then went down on one knee thanking me so much for helping her.  I took her hand into both of mine and prayed for a safe journey.  As Rehema left the office, it occurred to me that this had been a precious moment.  I had just been in the presence of God.  Jesus had come to me as Rehema asking me to never harden my heart to those who come to my office in need.

Rehema felt blessed for my assistance, but in reality I was the one being assisted and indeed blessed!  Later that day, I was the one on bended knee, grateful for such a precious moment.

Fr. Michael J. Snyder is a member of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, commonly known as Maryknoll. A native of New Jersey, he was ordained in 1979 and assigned to work in Tanzania, East Africa. In addition to various parish assignments, Fr. Mike served as the regional superior for the Maryknoll priests, brothers, and lay missioners working in Tanzania (1989-1995). In 1996 he returned to the U.S. to serve on the General Council for Maryknoll until 2002. Fr. Mike also served as vocation director for Maryknoll for seven years. In 2007 he returned for missionary service in Tanzania where he resides today.

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Fond memories of Walter Cronkite

Fred Caesar, a special assistant for communications at the Catholic Health Association, is one of numerous journalists personally touched by the life of Walter Cronkite, the CBS newsman who died last week. He sent us his thoughts this week, and we thought they were interesting enough to publish here.

Years prior to working with the Catholic Health Association of the United States, I worked for almost 20 years in TV and radio news. During that span of time I worked for three CBS TV stations (one NBC too): KMOX-TV (now KMOV-TV) in St. Louis, WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pa., and WGME in Portland, Maine. I was the news director at the latter stations.

In 1980 when working at WHP-TV, Walter Cronkite called me one afternoon to apologize. As news director I had sent him a letter in January 1980 inviting him to record a special commentary to be included in our station’s planned program in March to mark the first anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident. Well, in late March of 1980 at around 4 in the afternoon I was told that Walter Cronkite was on the phone.

(Photos courtesy Fred Caesar)

(Photos courtesy Fred Caesar)

My first thought was that someone was playing a prank. I picked up the phone and it really was Walter Cronkite calling me about two hours before his evening newscast. He said he had received my January letter and had put it aside but it had been misplaced until recently. He said that was not how he normally handled his correspondence and wanted me to know that he was very sorry for not responding earlier. He asked how the anniversary program was shaping up and said he was sorry it was too late for him to prepare anything. (Here he is about two hours from a major evening newscast of his own asking how our local program was shaping up!) He then asked that I extend his thanks to our news team for their work in contributing information during the last 12 months to the CBS Evening News about events at Three Mile Island. I recall saying something about that I wished him all the best and thanked him for the call.

This truly showed what a great man he was. He didn’t have to call me, and could have just sent a note. I was honored. But there is more.

Back in St. Louis in the early 1970s, KMOX-TV was moving to new studios in St. Louis and was discarding files at the time. In a stack of things to be pitched were a few promotional photos of Walter Cronkite at his anchor desk from the 1960s. Well, I pulled a few of the photos from the stack and put them in my memorabilia box. In 1986, when working at WGME-TV in Portland, Walter Cronkite was doing a book-signing event in southern Maine one afternoon. He had just co-wrote the book “North by Northeast.” I prepared a brief note to accompany one of my old promotional photos and put in an envelope and then asked our reporter covering the event to see if Walter Cronkite would sign the photo. He did. For years I have had the signed photo hanging on my wall in my office. I have used it as an inspiration and to recall good memories.

Year for Priests: A faith seen round the world

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

priestsRecently, a parishioner offered her gratitude for my work in her parish because, as she said, “It is the first time I ever felt like I belonged to something big enough to hold my faith.”  As we spoke, she went on to say that she has always felt a disconnect with the rest of the church.  Though she understands the theology and tradition of the Mass and our prayers that unite us together, she has longed for hear about the “big picture” — how the Gospel affects other parts of the world, what teachings are in progress, and the stories of faith beyond her own experience.

Though some people find this appeal of the universal church unsettling, it made perfect sense to me.  Other forms of information and sociology have embraced our universal and global connectedness through various forms of technology and media.  Why should people expect any different from their priests and parishes?

Almost one year ago, I was asked to help coordinate the Vocation Expo at World Youth Day in Sydney.  One of the many features of that exhibit that struck me was the attraction of young people to religious orders and movements that spoke of their relationship with the “universal church.”  After a while, I began to understand why this connection was so important.  Quite simply, the church offers stability and longevity.  Amidst so much change and diversity, the church has room for everything — it is the center of every polarity.  Furthermore, when our particular charisms are placed in line with the streams of the church, their effects are amplified.  We not only launch our ideas with momentum, but they progress with greater traction.  In the church, we have a container big enough for our imaginations.

In the Scriptures, Christ breaks through the old notions that God resides only in the temple in order for God to be greater than their experience of temple worship.  The same is true with Catholics today who need to know that God’s presence is more comprehensive than what is found in Sunday Mass.

So the challenge for all of us, all ministers and priests, is quite simple (if I may be so bold) — reference the instances of faith seen and heard around the world.  Read the weekly statements from Rome and the U.S. bishops and pass them on to others.  True, not all are appropriate, but I have been surprised at the excitement and willingness of so many to discuss the issues and learn from them.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May and will be teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan beginning in late summer.

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