The pope, Twitter and what comes next

As soon as Pope Benedict XVI announced he would surrender St. Peter's throne, messages stopped flowing to the 1.5 million or so readers following his newborn @Pontifex feed at Twitter.This wasn't surprising since the 85-year-old theologian -- bookish and reserved, by nature -- cited his deteriorating health and declining energy as reasons to let a new pope wrestle with a world "subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith."Twitter … [Read more...]

Searching for Catholic sins

One tough challenge that Catholic shepherds face, Pope Benedict XVI said this past Lent, is that their flocks live in an age "in which the loss of the sense of sin is unfortunately becoming increasingly more widespread."The pope has consistently described the forces at work as "pluralism," "relativism" and "secularism.""Where God is excluded from the public forum the sense of offence against God -- the true sense of sin -- dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized … [Read more...]

Big Ben preaches human rights

It would be hard to pick a more symbolic moment to join the church than during an Easter Vigil Mass -- the high point of the ancient Christian calendar.Thus, the pope traditionally baptizes several new Catholics during this rite in St. Peter's Basilica. This year, one of the converts was Magdi Allam, a high-profile journalist and, perhaps, Italy's most famous "moderate" Muslim.This caused a firestorm. One Muslim scholar active in interfaith talks condemned the "Vatican's deliberate and … [Read more...]

A Catholic education flashback

The young pope was friendly, but blunt, as he faced the 240 college leaders from across the nation who gathered at Catholic University to hear his thoughts on faith and academic freedom."Every university or college is qualified by a specific mode of being," said Pope John Paul II, who was only 57 on that day in 1979. "Yours is the qualification of being Catholic, of affirming God, his revelation and the Catholic Church as the guardian and interpreter of that revelation. The term 'Catholic' will … [Read more...]

Was Ahmadinejad story left behind?

Imagine the following event in your mind's eye.President George W. Bush is addressing the United Nations amid global tensions about nuclear weapons. He closes with evangelical language that expresses his yearning for the triumphant second coming of Jesus Christ and prays that this apocalyptic event will unify the world -- sooner rather than later.Do you think the speech would cause a media storm? Do you think journalists would dissect his mysterious words, along with his theology? Would this be … [Read more...]

The popes and evolution, part II

It would be hard to name two more radically different men than the late Pope John Paul II and New York Times columnist Frank Rich.Nevertheless, the acerbic culture-beat scribe did his best to say something positive when biding the pope farewell. At least, said Rich, John Paul II had seen the light on the "core belief of how life began.""Though the president of the United States believes that the jury is still out on evolution," he wrote, "John Paul in 1996 officially declared that 'fresh … [Read more...]

The popes and evolution, part I

Editor's note: The first of two columns.Vatican watchers pay close attention to the sermons a pope preaches during the historic rites that immediately follow his election.Yet few flinched when Pope Benedict XVI made the following comment on the origin of human life during the Mass marking the inauguration of his pontificate."The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men," he said, in St. Peter's Square. "And only where God is seen does life truly begin. ... We are not some casual and … [Read more...]

Anglicans meet Rome’s Big Ben

Father Peter Toon is a strict traditionalist in all things liturgical, which is fitting since he leads the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer.Thus, the Anglican priest has little sympathy for those who want to wiggle out of translating the Latin word "Credo" -- the root for "creed" -- as "we believe" instead of the more personal and definitive "I believe.""Of course 'Credo' means 'I believe.' ... And it's the same thing in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, because 'Pisteuo' can … [Read more...]


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