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Pope Benedict XVI announced the creation of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation yesterday. John Allen analyses the move (video, full text of papal homily).

The US Supreme Court has declined to review a case claiming that the Vatican is responsible for the actions of a clerical abuser. Jeffrey Lena, the Holy See’s lawyer, responds to the decision.

Westminster Cathedral is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its consecration this week (photo gallery).

Grant Gallicho is puzzled by yesterday’s Vatican statement “slapping” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Rod Dreher is infuriated by the rebuke, as is Andrew Sullivan.

John Allen explains why the abuse crisis is so explosive in Belgium. Time also offers analysis.

And Mark Shea says John Paul II sinned when he ignored warnings about Fr Marciel Maciel.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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The Foreign Office has ordered members of its papal visit team to undergo “urgent diversity training” following the leaking of a memo mocking the Pope.

Catherine Pepinster explains the background to the Foreign Office fiasco.

Andrew Brown, Neil Addison and Rob Vischer react to the Macfarlane ruling on religious discrimination. Simon Sarmiento has more reaction.

A 73-year-old priest has been killed in India.

The French Catholic Church is seeking candidates for priesthood on Facebook.

Philip Jenkins considers how the abuse crisis will change the Catholic Church.

Fr Raymond de Souza goes another round with Christopher Hitchens.

The Economist tours the Vatican Secret Archives.

Professor Eamon Duffy tries to define Anglican patrimony at a conference on Anglicanorum coetibus.

Joanna Bogle hails the new English translation of the Mass.

Matthew Archbold says ultrasounds will prove to be “the Rosa Parks of abortion”.

And the Church has finally done something to make Andrew Sullivan proud.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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In an oblique response to the abuse crisis, Pope Benedict has announced that he will dedicate his Easter weekly general audiences to the priesthood (video).

The Vatican confirmed yesterday that Fr Jerzy Popiełuszko, the Solidarity priest and martyr, will be beatified on June 6 in Marshal J Pilsudski Square in Warsaw.

Mexico City churches have reported a surge in Mass-goers during Holy Week.

Ross Douthat goes another round with Christopher Hitchens over the Pope and the abuse scandal.

Fr Joseph Fessio SJ defends the future Pope’s handling of the Kiesle case (video).

Paolo Rodari reports that the Vatican’s English Twitter feed is far more popular than those of other languages.

Thinking Faith salutes Robert Parsons, “the exemplar of the sinister Jesuit of popular imagination”, who died 400 years ago today.

Rod Dreher wonders if our minds are hard-wired for God.

Rob Vischer asks why senior Church officials are so gaffe-prone.

Andrew Sullivan suggests that new Catholic churches should look like Apple stores.

Catholic blogger Mark Shea wonders if the internet is making our manners coarser.

And, in response to the “12 evilest Pope pictures” meme, Anna Arco presents the “12 sweetest Pope pictures“. E D Kain applauds.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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There was a torrent of comment on Pope Benedict XVI and the sex abuse crisis at the weekend. Here is a selection: John Allen, Fr Raymond de Souza, Fr Federico Lombardi, Richard Dawkins, Andrew M Brown, Ross Douthat, Maureen Dowd, Tim Rutton, Andrew Sullivan, India Knight, Rod Dreher, George Weigel, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Matt Taibbi, Conrad Black, Elizabeth Lev, John Hooper, Catherine Pepinster, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, Rocco Palmo, Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Michael McCarthy.

About three dozen demonstrators” held a protest outside Westminster Cathedral yesterday.

The Guardian publishes an extract from Philip Pullman’s controversial new novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Insight Scoop tears it apart.

Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given a rare television interview (video).

And Mark Oppenheimer gives the thumbs down to a new computer game based on Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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John Allen has an exclusive interview with Mother Mary Clare Millea, the nun leading the Apostolic Visitation of America’s female religious.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Salesian Fr Enrico dal Covolo to preach at his week-long Lenten retreat.

The Pope is considering an invitation to consecrate the Sagrada Familia church, designed by Antoni Gaudí, in Barcelona.

The Pope told Rome’s priests yesterday that they must be true men in order to bridge the human and divine realities (video).

The number of students who claim they were sexually abused by Jesuit priests at schools across Germany has risen to 115, a lawyer has said.

Cardinal George Pell has confirmed that he had a pacemaker fitted in a Rome hospital after a cardiac problem during his visit to the Vatican last month.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has urged Christians not to fear Islam.

The American bishops are to offer seminars on the new English translation of the Roman Missal across the country.

Rocco Palmo reports on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s powerful Ash Wednesday homily and assesses the Pope’s choice as the next Archbishop of Prague.

Vatican Radio catches up with Cardinal Peter Turkson, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Andrew Sullivan challenges the US bishops to crack down on dissent from the Magisterium’s teaching on torture, while Fr James Martin SJ accuses EWTN of “cafeteria Catholicism”.

No Hidden Magenta suggests the Church needs to employ a PR firm.

Deacon Greg Kandra spots the rarely seen “Loggia whisperer”.

Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni says he would like to coach Vatican City’s football team after he retires.

The Vatican Observatory? There’s an app for that.

And Mark Shea discovers that rare thing: Lenten humour.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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Pope Benedict XVI said true conversion prevents us becoming “slaves of evil or at least prisoners of moral mediocrity” at his general audience yesterday (video). He received ashes at St Sabina, in accordance with tradition (video).

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has a simple message for Lent: “Get back to confession.”

Fr Tom Rosica, head of Salt + Light Television, Canada’s national Catholic television station, has uploaded a series of Lenten meditations to YouTube.

More than one million people have already reserved a place to see the Turin Shroud when it goes on display for the first time in a decade in April.

Pope Benedict XVI must not overlook the suffering of those abused in the care of Church-run institutions in Northern Ireland, an abuse victim there has said.

Paul Inwood, Director of Music and Liturgy of Portsmouth diocese, says the impact of the new English translation of the Mass “is not as upsetting as one might have thought” (scroll down to comments). Meanwhile, Jeffrey Tucker is disturbed by Mr Inwood’s suggestion that he attended a demonstration Mass with the new texts with music.

The BBC hopes that the Pope will appear on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day during his visit to Britain.

No more than 200 people attended the protest against Pope Benedict in London last Sunday, says Fr Tim Finigan.

A father in Chicago could be jailed after taking his three-year-old daughter to a Catholic church.

Andrew Sullivan is appalled by EWTN’s decision to broadcast an interview with a leading apologist for torture (warning: graphic images).

Rob Vischer asks what Catholic legal theory has to say to the Tea Party movement.

And No Hidden Magenta says the Church and controversial ethicist Peter Singer have a surprising thing in common.

Morning Catholic must-reads

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John Allen reflects on the lessons the Irish Church must learn following the abuse crisis.

Benedict XVI meditated on St Francis and the Christ Child at his general audience yesterday.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster will celebrate Midnight Mass live on BBC One tonight. The Beeb has a sneak preview of his homily.

Nicholas King SJ explains what we can truly know about the first Christmas.

The controversial theologian Edward
Schillebeeckx has died.

The new head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said gay people should not face unjust discrimination.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City has condemned the capital’s decision to recognise same-sex unions.

Umberto Eco deplores the lack of religious literacy in secular Europe.

As the Holy See responds to criticism of the Pius XII move, Hugh O’Shaughnessy considers the case against the Cause of the wartime pope. John Allen urges someone – anyone – to make the case in favour.

Andrew Sullivan says Robert George’s philosophy is “evil”.

Dr Samuel Gregg applauds Pope Benedict’s “stinging rebuke” to liberation theologians.

An adult stem-cell breakthrough has restored a man’s sight.

PETA encourages Pope Benedict to become a vegan.

Finally, I would like to thank you for reading this blog and wish you a very happy Christmas.

The Anglican provision: All about Islam?

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Did the Pope’s overture to Anglicans have something to do with Islam? That notion is being discussed pretty vigorously across the Atlantic.

It all started with Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times, suggesting that the Apostolic Constitution was part of Pope Benedict’s “response to the Islamic challenge”. He wrote:

In making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind – not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly [questioned] Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason – and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

Douthat was promptly accused of advocating a “holy war” against Islam.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote:

It’s hard to imagine anything more inflammatory, hostile and outright threatening than a call for Christians of all denominations to unite behind the common cause of fighting against Islam as Christianity’s most ‘enduring and impressive foe’.

Adam Server of The American Prospect added:

Douthat is considered a ‘reasonable conservative’ in liberal circles, but this column is downright nutty. It’s frightening enough that someone who attended school in a city as international as Boston could endorse the idea of viewing Muslims worldwide as a ‘foe’ of Christianity. But consider the fact that there are probably a number of people in charge of making foreign policy decisions in the last administration, who saw Christianity and Islam as ‘foes’ and acted or advised accordingly.

And Andrew Sullivan, Douthat’s former stablemate at the Atlantic, commented:

I’m with Greenwald and Serwer about 80 per cent. But they miss Ross’s context: Islam currently is nowhere near the levels of openness and dialogue that have been achieved in the West within Christianity these past few decades. It isn’t wrong to point this out or to see it as a very large obstacle to a civil modus operandi between Muslim citizens and the liberal Western state. In fact, to deny this is to betray those who really are working within Islam for some kind of reformation.

Now, a rabbi has backed Douthat’s thesis. Rabbi Ben Kamin believes the New York Times columnist was on to something.

But the real question is, why aren’t people in Europe and Africa – the continents where intra-church tensions most simmer – making more noise about this bold exploit? One reason may be that since the 1960s there actually has been an improvement in ecumenical discussion and relations and that the Catholic Church has proven its relevance by spending a lot of time on pertinent issues such as the environment, social justice and world peace. The other reason, not spoken out loud perhaps: Islam.

My own view is that there is no obvious Muslim dimension whatsoever to the new provision.

Photo: A mosque and a church stand side by side in Doncaster, South Yorkshire (John Giles/PA)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

This veil of tears

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Andrew Sullivan makes a passionate and incisive defence of belief in God in the face of suffering:

For me, the unique human capacity to somehow rise above such suffering, while experiencing it as vividly as any animal, is evidence of God’s love for us (and the divine spark within us), while it cannot, of course, resolve the ultimate mystery of why we are here at all in a fallen, mortal world. This Christian response to suffering merely offers a way in which to transcend this veil of tears a little. No one is saying this is easy or should not provoke bouts of Job-like anger or despair or isn’t at some level incomprehensible.

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Written by Luke Coppen

September 22, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Posted in theology

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