Friday, October 9, 2009

This Week In Rome

John Allen writing for NCR recaps this weeks events:

Rome certainly has its own rhythms, which can be either charming or annoying depending upon your point of view. On the ecclesiastical scene, periods of relative calm alternate with occasional bursts of near-frenzy. This week is one of those peak moments, as even a partial run-down of what's going on will illustrate:

  • The Synod for Africa, a gathering of almost 300 bishops from around the world to discuss the promise and the perils of the faith on the continent where it's experienced the most explosive recent growth, is meeting Oct. 4-25. So far, the synod has considered a bewildering variety of topics, from the challenges of Islam and Pentecostalism to the perennial problems of tribalism and ethnicity -- including, notably, echoes of ethnic prejudice inside the church.
  • The officers of the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops are in town, making their regular annual rounds of Vatican offices. (On Wednesday, I almost literally ran into Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., vice-president of the conference, on his way to a meeting with Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We were both walking through a tunnel linking two sides of a street, and I stopped just short of plowing into Kicanas -- who was his usual gracious self.)
  • Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the USCCB, presented his new book, The Difference God Makes, at the Lateran University on Wednesday. Present were the new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, and his wife Marian, along with legendary Italian philosopher, politician, and confidante of Pope John Paul II, Rocco Buttiglione.
  • Five new saints will be canonized on Sunday, including Fr. Damien of Molokai, the famed Belgian "missionary to the lepers." (Among other things, that's made for the unusual spectacle of Belgian and Hawaiian pilgrims mingling in the streets of Rome).
  • Díaz is making his first round of public events and comments to the press since presenting his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 2.
  • Leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious, one of two groups for superiors of women's religious orders in the United States -- by reputation, the more conservative one -- are in Rome for regular annual meetings in the Vatican. (I bumped into three officers of the CMSWR in a coffee bar Thursday morning while meeting an old friend who works in the Vatican. That's the thing about Rome; stand near the Vatican long enough, and you'll probably see every Catholic you've ever met, or even heard about.)
  • Several religious orders are currently in the middle of their general chapter meetings, or getting ready for them.
  • An article on Tuesday in the Italian paper Il Foglio by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, responding to a friendly essay about U.S. President Barack Obama by Swiss Cardinal George Cottier over the summer, set tongues wagging. (The headline was especially striking: "The Axe of the Redskin Bishop," a reference to Chaput's Native American ancestry, which goes to show that the canons of political correctness often just don't apply in Italy.) In the piece, Chaput suggests that Cottier, while well-meaning, doesn't quite appreciate American political realities.

In light of all that activity, to call this week "eventful" would be an exercise in understatement.

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