LONDON -- In the abstract, if you were to pick the Vatican personality least likely to cause a diplomatic and media row on the eve of a papal trip, it would probably be Cardinal Walter Kasper, who recently retired after a decade as the pope’s top official for ecumenism and relations with Jews.
I'm a big fan on the NPR show "Speaking of Faith with Kristi Tippett" (usually broadcast at 7 a.m. Sunday mornings). It's a thoughtful place for journalism and discussion about deep subjects.
Over the summer the show announced a name change to "Being." My first thought was "Blech."
I've since visited the show's website, where host Tippett explains the reasoning behind the name change (and her own trepidation) in a letter to listeners--and a sample of the hundreds of comments from angry and supportive fans.
LONDON -- If there were any doubt that the battle against a secular “dictatorship of relativism” would be Benedict XVI’s top priority during his Sept. 16-19 trip to the United Kingdom, the pontiff has swiftly removed it.
Very soon the autumn equinox comes. Day and night are of equal length as the Earth tilts away from the sun in the Northern hemisphere. The sun itself rides lower in the sky. Dawns are a little chilly. Sunset comes earlier.
A sure sign of autumn here, and everywhere, is the fire of sumac. This wild plant grows everywhere on roadsides and at the edges of fields, native to almost every area of the world. The name comes almost unchanged from the Arabic down through Old French. The wild species goes unnoticed untl its leaves explode into a deep, vibrant red color as summer wanes.
Crimson is its main color but it also displays a brilliant yellow, a rich orange or an exquisite purple.
Hal Borland, a nature writer who wrote a weekly column in the New York Times for years, comments: "One wonders why the legend-makers never gave it credit for lighting the autumn flame in the forest, setting off the whole blaze of color. Legendary or not, there it stands now, full of cool autumn fire, ready to set the whole woodland aflame."
Yesterday Catholic News Service posted a short profile of St. Philip Neri Sr. Ana Maria Campos of Florida who turned 100 in August.
Among the things she's lived through in her years? The Cuban revolution.
The one thing she wishes she could do? Take herself to Mass. She says her legs just can't take her without help anymore.
LONDON -- In the old days, the normal Vatican pattern was that the pope would say or do something controversial, and then his aides would try to calm the waters. It’s a measure of how out of sorts the Vatican’s communications enterprise has been that these days, things seem to work exactly the other way around.
On the wire this morning:
By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett's resignation and appointed Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill., as his successor.
The changes were publicized in Washington Sept. 16 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Brunett, who was named to Seattle in 1997, is 76 years old. Under canon law, bishops must submit their retirement at age 75.
Archbishop Sartain, who is 58, has headed the Joliet Diocese since 2006. Before that he was the bishop of Little Rock, Ark., for about six years.
MORE TO COME
Writing in The Guardian, 50 British notables (including Richard Dawkins and Terry Pratchett) released a letter this morning decrying the fact that the Pope is being given "the honor of a state visit" to the UK this week.
The letter has sparked a response from Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League here in the U.S.
For your ease, here's excerpts from both.
From the letter:
Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.
Promoting segregated education.
Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.
Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The New York Post reports this afternoon that a Saint John's University fundraiser "embezzled more than $1 million from the Queens school, spending the stolen lucre on casinos sprees, shopping at Victoria’s Secret and funding her son’s tuition at St. John’s Law School."
The report goes on: