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...]

State of the Godbeat 2010

This was not your typical New York Times headline: "For Catholics, a Door to Absolution is Reopened."The news report itself offered a flashback into an earlier age, back to the days before Vatican II or even to the tumultuous times of Martin Luther. On one level, this was simply a trend story about the Vatican trying to revive some old traditions. However, there were complicated details behind the blunt headline."In recent months," the Times reported, "dioceses around the world have been … [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...]

Nervous believers in Year 18

Religious folks sure get nervous when public officials talk about "fundamentalist" gunmen invading a school.Consider what happened recently after a staged emergency at Burlington Township High School in New Jersey. The police script for the drill called for armed men to crash the front doors, shoot several students and barricade themselves in the library with hostages. This document, according to the Burlington County Times, described the intruders as part of "a right-wing fundamentalist group … [Read more...]

Second thoughts on Christmas 2001

The images flash by on television screens during every Christmas season.The pope moves slowly around the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve or sits on his balcony throne, solemnly waving to flocks of New Year's pilgrims. He reads sermons which news reports crunch into sound bites about hope and world peace, or joy and world peace.This year it was children and world peace."My thoughts go to all the children of the world," said the frail Pope John Paul II, struggling to emphasize key … [Read more...]