Pope’s arrival speech in the Czech Republic

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican text of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech upon his arrival Saturday at the Ruzyne International Airport in Prague, the Czech Republic. The initial and closing lines, delivered in Czech, were translated into English:

Mr President, Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great joy to be here with you today in the Czech Republic, and I am most grateful to all of you for the warmth of your welcome.

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Outstanding in their field

There is a blogger for the Detroit News by the name of Michael Happy. He was a member of Holy Name Parish in Detroit in his boyhood, and has his fond memories of that time of his life. He has blogged about the Catholic neighborhood and school experience, and has rustled up ex-parishioners for the occasional reunion, or an electronic joint reminisce.

For Holy Name, though, everyone is an ex-parishioner. The Archdiocese of Detroit closed the parish in 1990 in the expectation that the city would require much of the land directly south of the church to further expand Detroit City Airport. The runway had been extended to accomodate 737 jets, a trailer park south of the airport had been condemned, parking lots were built and Southwest Airlines was successfully wooed to provide a low-cost in-city alternative to the suburban airport.

After a few years,  though, Southwest pulled out. The economic benefits that the city and its neighborhoods had hoped to realize never came about. The city, though, seemed to practice a policy of purposeful neglect of the old Holy Name neighborhood, including the abandonment of Fletcher Field across the street from the west side of the airport and a few blocks from Holy Name.

A few years ago, Happy, who writes the “Going Home” blog for the News, got in touch with his fellow ex-parishioners to make the field usable again. Then he got in touch with the Protestant congregation that bought the Holy Name property from the archdiocese to enlist its members’ help.

When officials at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, a large Catholic cemetery within the old Holy Name parish boundaries, got wind of the effort, they decided they wanted to help, too. Slowly, painstakingly, things started getting better.

The culmination of all their efforts was last Sunday, with the cemetery sponsoring a “sunrise run” to benefit the field rehabilitation effort, followed by a barbecue and a softball game at the rehabbed Fletcher Field. Among the treats were 1,000 hot dogs donated and grilled by the descendants of the old Chevrolet dealer in the neighborhood, who now operate a tire dealership on the site.

Friends of the field fixup went to a bakery in the city before the event, seeking five loaves of bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the like. Instead, the bakery donated 50 loaves. The bread was so plentiful that there were sandwiches for all of the volunteers.

One of the members of the Protestant congregation looked at the sandwich scene and told a Catholic volunteer, “You know what this bread is symbolic of,  don’t you?”

Happy himself wrote in his blog, “What was considered extraordinary at Fletcher Field has become downright ordinary today.”

Newman’s promoters excited by possible papal visit

Cardinal John Henry Newman (CNS photo from Crosiers)

Cardinal John Henry Newman (CNS photo from Crosiers)

UPDATE: On Sept. 27 the Vatican confirmed the trip, probably for the fall of 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI’s all but certain visit to Britain next year — while not yet official, an announcement is expected soon — is generating plenty of excitement this week across the UK. The joy and delight is even greater among the promoters of the canonization cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

It’s likely the pontiff’s visit will come in the spring, more specifically around the time of the May 2 beatification of Cardinal Newman at the Birmingham Oratory, which the great promoter of Catholic orthodoxy founded following his conversion to Catholicism in 1845.

Brother Lewis Berry, who manages the cause’s Web site tells CNS that the oratory recently conducted an interview with Sister Mary Dechant, custodian of Cardinal Newman’s home in Littlemore outside of Oxford beginning in 1842. It’s where he was received into the Catholic Church at age 44 by Blessed Dominic Barberi.

The interview provides plenty of historical and biographical information about the cardinal and the house itself.

Brother Berry promises to post the interview on the cause’s Web site in time for the anniversary of Cardinal Newman’s entry into the church, Oct. 9.

Pax Christi official finds hope growing amidst violence in Iraq

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, is helping craft a more peaceful Iraq by working with other religous leaders in teaching the art of nonviolvence to young people. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, is helping craft a more peaceful Iraq by working with other religious leaders in teaching the art of nonviolence to young people. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Just back from a fact-finding mission to Iraq, Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, saw that hope is growing among Iraqis that peace will return some day to the violence-torn country.

Speaking with Catholic News Service in her Washington office Sept. 23, Dennis said the hope lies in teaching the art of nonviolence.

Dennis returned to the U.S. Sept. 17 impressed by the promotion of interfaith understanding and nonviolence education among young people by church leaders such as Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. Working in cooperation with other religious leaders, the archbishop’s efforts are helping young people learn a new way of living, Dennis said.

“It was just very impressive,” Dennis said. “As always in situations of war, when you get inside the reality, people have amazing capacity to keep working for peace.”

Dennis also said the delegation, which included retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Bishop Marc Tenger, president of Pax Christi France, learned that the conflict that continues in Iraq revolves around politics rather than religion.

“The United States, by our invasion, we were told over and over and over again, broke open a situation that is extremely violent, extremely unsettled, and probably doesn’t have an easy solution now that we’re in the mess that we’re in,” she said.

Iraqis face the challenge of rebuilding a country after six years of war and a generation of repression under former leader Saddam Hussein. She said Iraqis expressed their desire to see the U.S. help with rebuilding their country.

“The U.S. invasion of Iraq gives the United States of America an obligation to accompany Iraq in the reconstruction and reconciliation process,” she said.

Year for Priests: Recovering from our mistakes

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

This past week, my English students took their first major exam, which I had graded and posted to our electronic grade book prior to the start of the weekend. Since this grade book can be viewed by parents through a secure login, a few of my students found their weekend far less interesting than they would have liked.

One student, who I shall name Steve, bombed the exam and as a result is now failing my class. His parents grounded him for the weekend and from the biggest football game of the year. They also instructed Steve to e-mail me and basically beg for a way to improve his grade.

Steve is a good kid but, like so many, just hasn’t realized his full potential yet. When I received his e-mail, it was very clear to me that he would not make this mistake again as his language was abundantly apologetic and remorseful. I almost felt sorry for him (though he did bring this on himself) and quickly e-mailed him an additional assignment. When I returned home from the football game, I found his paper waiting for me since he was instructed by his parents to write the paper during game time. I responded via e-mail, asked him to make a few corrections and, in his response to me, suggest how I should apply this extra credit.

Once again, he responded with remorse and stated that any amount I was willing to apply to his exam grade would be appreciated. However, I wanted him to be specific — how much should I apply? I instructed him to be fair, but to be confident in his own effort, and then I wrote him not to apologize anymore. The lesson has been learned and it is time to move on.

No doubt, Steve was taken aback by my request to name his own score, but it is a regular practice of mine to require students to grade themselves — honestly. I used to have a confessor who used the same practice in confession, asking me to name my own penance. If I was too hard (or too easy) on myself, he would tell me, but usually he thought I was right on target. Every now and then I would try and weasel my way out and have him do the work for me, to which he would always respond that I knew myself better than he did. He reminded me that I knew both what I needed to grow and what I needed to do in order to let go of these things that hold me down. No one else can do this but me.

Now that I am in the confessional, I always remind people that the hardest part about the sacrament of reconciliation is not voicing your sins out loud (though it usually feels like it) but leaving those sins behind and walking out the door — feeling truly forgiven.

Ultimately forgiveness is the thing that is hardest to give ourselves. I have no doubt that Steve will do much better in my class, not just because of the consequences, but (hopefully) because he named forgiveness for himself. As for the rest of us: May we have the courage recognize when we are wrong, and what it takes to make it right and let it go.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May.

Click here for more in this series.

Bishop Hubbard joins call to reduce threat of nuclear catastrophe

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., has lent his name to a newspaper ad calling for the United States to take a leadership role in reducing the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles and, in doing so, strengthen national security.

The bishop, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed to have his name placed in the ad after being approached by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the ad’s sponsor.

Produced and paid for under the organization’s Reduce the Threat campaign, the ad presses President Barack Obama “to take advantage of the opportunity presented by his administration’s nuclear policy review to forge common-sense, forward-looking policies that will increase U.S. security and reduce the threat of nuclear catastrophe.”

Also lending their names to the effort are retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, former deputy U.S. military representative to NATO; Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland — A Church Distributed; Barry S. Levy, former president, American Public Health Association; Leon M. Lederman, Nobel laureate and director emeritus, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; and Charleta B. Tavares, a city council member in Columbus, Ohio.

The ad is appearing Sept. 22 and 23 in such publications as Washington Times, Politico, Congress Daily, Roll Call and The Hill. The National Review published the ad Sept. 19 and will run it again Sept. 26.

The full text of a letter upon which the ad was based can be seen here.

The ownership society

In the era when automobile production ruled the roost in my native Detroit, people didn’t say they worked for Ford. Instead, by some grammatical quirk, they’d say they worked for Ford’s. Or Chrysler’s. Or, in an earlier time, Packard’s.

That same quirk entered into parish life in the city. It wasn’t St. David, but St. David’s. Or St. Brendan’s. Or St. Juliana’s. Or St. Jude’s. One would think that parish’s whose patronal named ended in “s” would be exempt, but tell that to Catholics who were members of St. Ladislaus — er, St. Lad’s.

I had uncles who worked in auto assembly plants, although the closest my father ever got was a brief stint at a tool and die shop that serviced the auto industry but shut down during a late-1950s recession. That lack of familiarity with car production (although I loved looking at new cars once they came off the delivery trucks) may be why I’ve recoiled at the whole apostrophe-“s” phenomenon. We may dedicate our parishes to a particular saint, but we don’t cede ownership to him or her, as if we were expecting the saint to run the place. That’s our work here on earth.