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'Pax ≠vobiscum' - The forger's story

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I opened up this past weekend's edition of the Financial Times and noticed a curious headline about a "forger." It quickly became apparent that writer was doing an in-depth piece on the faux Jesuit priest "donating" fake paintings to museums.

"One morning last September, a visitor arrived at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana. ... His name was Father Arthur Scott, he was dressed in the outfit of a Jesuit priest with a Society of Jesus lapel pin, and he bore a gift.

A few weeks before, Father Scott had sent a letter postmarked Michigan to the museum, an elegant institution attached to the University of Louisiana. His mother, an art collector from Philadelphia, had died, and his sister Emily was still in Paris sorting out the estate, he wrote. His mother had left a number of paintings, including a pastel drawing by Charles Courtney Curran, which he wanted to donate. He planned to return with others and the family was also likely to make a financial donation.

Read the full story

Courtyard of the Gentiles

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Vatican's culture council launches new world forum for evangelization

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY -- The Pontifical Council for Culture is launching an international forum to promote dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.

The new Vatican network and forum, called the "Courtyard of the Gentiles," will be inaugurated in Paris March 25.

According to a Jan. 25 press release from the council, events will span two days and include lectures, a roundtable discussion and an outdoor party in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The lectures will center on the theme "Religion, Enlightenment and Common Reason," and will be held at UNESCO headquarters, the Sorbonne and the French Institute. The roundtable discussion will be held at the College des Bernardins.

Music, art, theater and a light show will be included in the evening celebration, called "Into the Courtyard of the Unknown," in front of the Paris cathedral March 25. A prayer vigil and moment for reflection will be held inside the cathedral, too, the council said.

Oprah's revelation

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On Monday,Oprah revealed a "family secret" on her show: She has a half-sister, a child their mother placed for adoption in 1963. As Oprah herself says, she has done similar shows through the years, uniting biological families separated through adoption, but never thought it would happen to her.

She especially praises her sister for not going to the media with the information, even though she has known for several years her biological relationship to the media star. Now, the family has decided to go public with the information, before the tabloids got the first word.

In this section of the show, Oprah encourages her mother to let go of the shame she believes her mother still carries for making the decision to "give up" her daughter for adoption.

On this day: The Bard of Ayrshire

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On this day in 1759, Robert Burns was born in South Ayrshire, Scotland.

Burns was not Catholic, but a famous copy of his poems belonged to Dr. John Geddes, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld, who "took an interest in the poet's work, and was responsible for getting 5 Catholic Seminaries, including that of the Scots College at Valladolid, of which he had once been Rector to subscribe to the Edinburgh Edition of 1787. Burns took Geddes's own copy, bound with blank sheets at both ends, with him on his Highland tour, and delayed returning it for almost 2 years."

Is it just a question of habit?

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Today a Jesuit friend and filmmaker sent me a link to a new documentary, "A Question of Habit."

It is being released this month by filmmaker Michael T. Whalen and "explores popular culture’s fascination with all things 'nun' and dives into the real stories behind the women religious in the United States from the battle field medics of the Civil War to the creators of the first HMO in the Country to the political activists fighting against capital punishment."

It is narrated by Susan Sarandon who won an Oscar playing Sr. Helen Prejean in the film "Dead Man Walking." Though it begins with pop culture, it soon turns to reverence. I have not seen the entire film yet, but did ask for a screener.

I am not sure I agree with the two experts in the preview who believe that people no longer understand who nuns are, that the historical and moral connection has been lost, and that nun kitsch is just that.

I think that nun "kitsch" works because people do get what being a nun, or woman religious means -- and what she stands for, especially when it comes to chastity.

Vasa named coadjutor to Santa Rosa, Calif.

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Pope names Bishop Vasa as coadjutor bishop of Santa Rosa

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Baker, Ore., to serve as coadjutor bishop to Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa, Calif.

The appointment was announced in Washington Jan. 24 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Vasa, 59, has headed the Baker Diocese since January 2000. He will automatically succeed the 73-year-old Bishop Walsh when he retires or dies.

Bishop Walsh has been a bishop since 1981 and was appointed to head the Santa Rosa Diocese in 2000.

NCR readers last read of Vasa in this story: Withdrawal of Catholic status impacted hospitals' operations little

More on Sargent Shriver

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You may have missed this over the weekend: The New York Times' Bob Herbert on Sargent Shriver ....

The Loss of a Good Man

"R. Sargent Shriver, one of America’s great good men, died this week at the age of 95. He was best known as the brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy. Married for 56 years to Kennedy’s sister, Eunice, who died in 2009, he was also the father of Maria Shriver, the former television personality who is married to Arnold Schwarzenegger. That Mr. Shriver was not better known for his own extraordinary accomplishments, and for his rock-solid commitment to the ideals that this nation ought to stand for, is not just unfortunate, but discouraging."

Ecumenical manners can't blunt pro-life message, pope says

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tAt the conclusion of an annual week of prayer devoted to overcoming divisions in Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI has warned that hard political choices over “the family, marriage and sexuality” cannot be played down for the sake of preserving good relations among the various Christian denominations.

t Such issues form the heart of the contemporary culture wars, and Benedict called for a united front among Christians on these debates, “which cannot be minimized or avoided simply to avoid endangering the agreement we’ve already achieved.”

tThe pontiff’s remarks came in an audience this morning with a delegation from the Lutheran Church in Germany, to mark the end of the Jan. 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

tNoting that since 2009 the Catholic bishops of Germany and leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church have had a bilateral dialogue commission on “God and Human Dignity," Benedict expressed the hope that “no new confessional differences” will erupt on the pro-life questions.

An admirer, from the other side, of Sr. Rosemary Lynch

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Many can attest that Sr. Rosemary Lynch could get along very well with the people who were on the opposing side of an issue. Even a sheriff who used to arrest her.

"She was a joy to talk to," Former Nye County sheriff Capt. Jim Merlino told the Las Vegas ReviewJournal. "I thought very highly of her, and she respected me, I know. "

Read more reflections on Lynch from Merlino and others at the ReviewJournal or see NCR's article on Lynch.

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