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TV and John Paul II

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An estimated crowed of a million and a half people jammed into St. Peter's Square this past weekend for the beatification of Pope John Paul II -- a visual tribute to the sustained popularity of the late pontiff. And the visual tribute is fitting, because John Paul was the first pope to fully embrace television.

In a column on the beatification in The Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten questions what lies at the heart of that popularity. He wonders "how well this approving crowd listened to or read what John Paul II preached and wrote," or if they were -- instead -- drawn in by the pagentry and show of his papacy.

It's a question that followed John Paul II throughout his long reign: if the medium is indeed the message, could the pope's message -- often at odds with technology and modernity -- cut through the TV-ready imagery?

Back in 1987, I wrote a magazine piece profiling John Paul's then-new media team, headed by a TV-saavy archbishop from Philadelphia, John Foley. Along with his ex-actor-boss, Foley crafted irresistable images of a charistmatic leader.

Is there no room in our church for a bishop like Bishop Morris?

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Frankly, I do not know Bishop William M. Morris of the Toowoomba diocese personally. I suspect few U.S. Catholics do. (By the way, if you do, please contact me at tfox@ncronline.org.) But what is emerging in interviews he has given to the media in Australia in recent days since he was sacked by Pope Benedict XVI is that of a gentle, pastoral bishop.

Morris, having learned that we was to be removed from his post, after the complaints of a band of hard core conservative Catholics, went to Rome to speak with the pope. That meeting took place 14 months back.

On this day: St. Hilary of Arles, Bishop

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Hilary of Arles. He was born about 403, and, at an early age, he joined Lérins, the monastery founded by his relative, St. Honoratus. Hilary succeeded Honoratus as abbot, and, in 429, as bishop of Arles.

Bishop Hilary's famous clash with Pope Leo the Great came in 445 after Hilary deposed Celedonius, bishop of Besançon, for marrying a widow and, before his ordination, for having presided over a trial that ended with capital punishment.

Celedonius appealed to Rome. Even though Pope Leo knew that a predecessor, Pope Zosimus, had granted primacy over Besançon to Arles, he quashed Hilary's ruling.

Morning Briefing

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Canadian bishop pleads guilty to possessing child pornography

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Catholic News Service reports:

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- The former bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.

Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded to the charge of possession "for the purposes of importation child pornography in the form of graphic computer images." However, he told the judge he was not guilty of possession with the intent to distribute.

Biden and the Rosary Beads

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As the White House contemplates whether to release photos of bin Laden's remains, the picture of the "situation room" during the operation to capture bin Laden continues to captivate. President Obama is described as "stone-faced," Hillary Clinton anxiously places her hand over her face, vice-president Biden grasps his rosary beads.

Biden and rosary beads? Yes, it's true. Though Biden usually carries a rosary ring, rather than a full set of beads, he has long relied on it to bring him comfort. According to the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael Sneed, Biden recites the rosary daily.

Thank you, Mr. Biden, for reminding us that socially and politically liberal Catholics can also find meaning in this traditional devotion.

Three Possible Popes

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ROME -- There’s no indication whatsoever of any health crisis around Pope Benedict XVI, and every reason to believe he’s capable of leading the Catholic church for some time to come. Nevertheless, the May 1 beatification of John Paul II brought a host of media agencies to Rome anxious to update their briefing books for an eventual conclave, which meant that speculation about possible successors has been in the air.

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