Ambassador-designate cites commonalty with pope

WASHINGTON
President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, told senators Wednesday (July 22) that his socially conscious scholarship gives him common ground with fellow theologian Pope Benedict XVI, which could further U.S. policies and interests in Rome.

“My commitment to creating dialogue related to cultural diversity, immigration, poverty and the role of religion and society prepares me well for this endeavor,” Diaz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A relative unknown before being tapped by the Obama administration on May 27, Diaz has taught theology at the College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., since 2004. A handful of his students, as well as his wife and four children, attended Wednesday’s hearing.

If confirmed, he will be the first theologian to serve as ambassador to the Holy See since the U.S. established formal diplomatic ties with the Vatican 25 years ago. Former appointees have included political figures and businessmen.

However, Diaz was quick to tell the panel that “my experience is not limited to the realm of books, articles and the classroom.”

Democrats, progressives find unlikely ally in pope

WASHINGTON

The ink had barely dried on the pope's newest encyclical when the group Catholics for Working Families used the document to push for the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act.

Has Pope Benedict XVI suddenly become a liberal?

Worker's rights. Financial regulation. Environmental protection. They're all policies that are straight out of the Democratic Party platform, and, in many ways, the heart of Benedict's third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth).

Groups like Catholics for Working Families, along with the AFL-CIO and other liberal Catholic coalitions, say the encyclical gives "new ammunition" to push the bill, which would loosen restrictions on union organizing in the workplace.

To the delight of Catholic Democrats, Benedict's encyclical champions issues that are ripe for liberal reform -- especially regulation of the free market, which the pope says has left the poor and the "least of these" in the lurch.

Pastor Warren asks Muslims for interfaith action

WASHINGTON -- California megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren spent his Independence Day here in the nation's capital addressing the largest Muslim organization in North America.

The evangelical megachurch pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life, addressed a packed house at the 46th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an event which regularly draws 30,000 attendees.

Warren called on the world's two largest religions to partner in addressing global injustices like poverty and war. Warren emphasized interfaith action, not just interfaith dialogue.

"I like that for him it's not just about talking together, but about accomplishing something together," said Farhana Ahmed, 25, who heard the speech in its entirety. "With that, you have more interaction and relationship. You can talk forever and not get anywhere."

Ahmed's husband, Rafi Khan, 26, said he appreciated that Warren understood Muslim Americans seek not just to be tolerated, but to be respected.

Nadia Nawaz, an ISNA attendee, is a kindergarten teacher in Orange County, near Warren's 24,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

PBS puts limits on religious programming

WASHINGTON -- PBS officials voted June 16 to not allow new religious programming at member stations, but allowed select PBS stations to continue broadcasting their current faith-based line-ups.

The PBS Board of Directors took the action Tuesday after concerns were raised that religious programming could violate the organization's nonsectarian status.

The board unanimously elected to grandfather in the handful of existing shows that are directly religious in nature; the ruling does not affect news shows or documentaries.

"The board has basically voted to insure that the religious programming that stations currently provide and that communities have come to rely on are able to stay on air," said PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara.

Only six of over 350 member stations broadcast religious programming, according to McNamara. At stake for at least three of the stations were long-running Sunday Masses, broadcast mostly to the elderly.

For the last decade, the televised "Mass for Shut-Ins" has aired on Denver's KBDI every Sunday at 6:30 a.m. The Archdiocese of Denver produces the program, which has been on-air continuously for 53 years.