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There is speculation in Rome that Pope Benedict might receive about 400,000 (yes, 400,000) Traditional Anglican Communion members into the Roman Catholic Church this summer, after the official Anglican Communion finishes its ten-yearly Lambeth Conference on August 3. Both the Church of England Newspaper in the U.K. and the National Catholic Register in the U.S. have run stories on this. Both sides are subscribers only, so all links here are to reports about them.
According to the Church of England Newspaper, talks between the Vatican and the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) focus on the question of whether a group can enter into full communion with Rome as an independent rite, similar to the Eastern rite churches that keep their own traditions and leadership. That sounds like it means they would want to use the Book of Common Prayer, keep their married clergy and retain some autonomy of member churches.
The newspaper quotes the Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, the Rt Rev Jack Iker -- now in Rome on study leave -- that "it is thought that the Pope is sympathetic to the dilemma of traditionalists in the Anglican way."
It noted that "no formal dialogue exists between TAC and the (Council) for Promoting Christian Unity -- the Vatican agency tasked with ecumenical relations." Catholic Online commented:"The TAC may be getting ahead of itself on how quickly such a request will be acted upon."
A rabbi, an imam and a Catholic priest have written a book about the "painful verses" in scriptures that offend other faiths. Instead of plucking quotes out of each others' holy books, however, they went to their own texts and picked out the passages they found difficult themselves. The result, recently published in France in the book Les Versets douloureux (The Painful Verses), amounts to an interfaith dialogue that goes straight for some of the most sensitive topics between different faiths.
The trio -- Rabbi David Meyer, Imam Sohaib Bencheikh and Rev. Yves Simoens -- thought it was a needed switch from the polite interfaith meetings they were used to attending.
The June issue of "Harper's Magazine" has a provocative essay by Garret Keizer called "Turning Away From Jesus: Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church."
The split in the global Anglican Communion over the consecration of the openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson and the broader issue of the church's take on sexual orientation and other social issues in general has been extensively reported on.
from Tales from the Trail:
HOUSTON - Barack Obama is a man without a church.
The Illinois Senator and likely Democratic Party nominee for the November presidential election against Republican John McCain said on Saturday he had quit his Chicago church in the aftermath of inflammatory sermons that could become a political lightning rod.
Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, cut ties last month with the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Jeremiah Wright, who angered many with anti-American and racially charged sermons.
Given the discussion about the new Latin prayer to be read at Catholic Good Friday services in the Tridentine rite today, I've tried to find estimates for how many people will actually hear it. Jewish groups have expressed dismay that the new version of the prayer, which drops references to the "blindness" of the Jews but still calls for their conversion. The leader of Germany's Jewish community said she could not fathom how the German-born Pope Benedict could "impose such phrases on his church." The Vatican rejects this criticism and sources there say it could soon issue a conciliatory note. So there's a lot of talk about this issue, but how much is actually happening on the ground?
Actually, the vast majority of Catholics attending Good Friday services around the world will not hear this prayer in Latin but a different one in their own native language. That prayer is based on a 1970 text without any explicit reference to the conversion of the Jews. There is no official number for how many will attend the Latin services in the older Tridentine rite that Pope Benedict promoted with a ruling last year authorising wider use of the old Latin Mass. But even ardent supporters of the traditional rite agree that the number is very, very small. Some have objected to our use of the term "tiny minority" for it, saying this was dismissive and implied the number was insignificant. It wasn't, but it's very hard to write about such a small amount without seeming to write it off.
Priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois are staging a rare rebellion -- demanding that their bishop, Edward Braxton, resign because of a lack of "collaborative and consultative leadership" since his installation in June, 2005.
"Because of the bishop's lack of cooperation, consultation, accountability and transparency, it is the judgment of a great number of the presbyterate that he has lost his moral authority to lead and govern our diocese," 46 priests -- representing about 60 percent of those regularly assigned to parish work in the diocese -- said in a statement issued on March 12. He should resign, they added, "for his own good, for the good of the diocese and for the good of the presbyterate."
Catholic priests in Ireland complained last year that tougher laws on drinking and driving meant they would easily go over the limit just by saying mass a few times in one day. Priests in rural areas often drive to several villages every Sunday to say mass, during which drinking a small quantity of wine is an essential part of the ritual.
The Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans, is warning its Dutch province against sliding into schism by pressing its proposal to allow lay Catholics to say mass if they have no priest available to do so. The Dutch Dominicans have proposed that because the worsening priest shortage means many congregations there don't have anyone to celebrate the eucharist.
The Dutch Dominicans caused an uproar last autumn when they mailed a booklet called "Church and Ministry" ("Kerk en Ambt") to parishes across the Netherlands without informing the country's bishops beforehand. In it, they said a congregation should be allowed to appoint any devout Catholic as a lay minister -- "Whether they be men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, married or unmarried is irrelevant" -- and did not need the local bishop's approval. The bishops promptly denounced the booklet and the order's Rome headquarters distanced itself from it.
Father Adolfo Nicolas, the new superior general of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests, possesses, besides decades of experience, a good sense of humour. At his first meeting with reporters since his election on Jan 19, the 71-year-old Spaniard spoke about his life, his formation in Asia and what he had been reading about himself in the media.
"I've read that I am 50 percent Kolvenbach and 50 percent Arrupe," he said, referring to his two immediate predecessors, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach and Pedro Arrupe. "However, no one has yet said I'm 10 percent Elvis Presley, although one could say this and it wouldn't surprise me. But I think this is all false."
When journalists write about churches in decline, we usually cite facts such as falling attendance and dwindling vocations to illustrate the trend. On a recent trip to the remote southern island of Ikitsuki to visit descendants of Japan's Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians), a Reuters team discovered a surprising new indicator with a fascinating story behind it. Apart from suffering from dwindling numbers, some congregations in this unique branch of Christianity no longer know how to baptise new members.
The secrecy and suspicion of outsiders that helped the Kakure Kirishitan preserve their rituals and traditions through centuries of suppression have also contributed to the loss of those rites. Their story is explained in my feature and the video below.