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Pope and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew Pray Together

Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople spent almost half an hour speaking privately March 6 before going into a small Vatican chapel to pray together. Although it was the patriarch’s first visit to the Vatican since Pope Benedict’s election, the visit was not a formal, orchestrated affair. The pope and the patriarch did not exchange speeches, but instead sat across a table from each other. And instead of participating in a liturgy, they walked into the tiny Chapel of Urban VIII near the papal library, stood in front of a painting of the Nativity and prayed silently. After a few moments, the two began reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. When the prayer was finished, the pope turned to his guest—as if to see if he was ready to leave—and the patriarch began reciting the Hail Mary in Latin. The pope joined in. When the prayer was finished, the two turned to their aides and together blessed them. It has also been reported that Benedict XVI has invited ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the upcoming synod of bishops, scheduled for October, and to give an address to the assembly, together with the pope himself.

The news of the invitation, not yet released by Vatican sources, comes during Bartholomew’s visit to Rome for the 90th anniversary of the Jesuit Pontifical Oriental Institute. The invitation to attend the synod was extended during lunch. In itself, the presence of representatives of other Christian Churches and confessions is a normal practice for synod assemblies, ever since Vatican Council II invited the “fraternal delegations.” What makes this event significant is the personal invitation extended to Bartholomew, the solemnity reserved for this and the atmosphere in which it took place. This academic year His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew is the holder of The Sir Daniel and Countess Bernardine Murphy Donohue Chair at the Orientale in Rome, which allows for his interaction with the pope and other Vatican officials as well as his contribution to the academic and ecumenical life and vitality of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, where Bartholomew himself studied.

Students Killed in Pakistan Bombing

A massive suicide bomb targeting a government building killed 23 people and badly damaged Catholic buildings in Lahore, Pakistan. The bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. March 11 outside the Federal Investigation Agency office, causing serious damage to nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, St. Anthony’s College, St. Paul Communication Center, the Caritas Pakistan building, a Catholic press building, a convent and a catechists’ house, according to the Asian church news agency UCA News. Initial reports said the blast killed two students at the church schools—one at Sacred Heart and one at St. Anthony’s—and injured more than 100. Four members of the Caritas Pakistan staff were hospitalized for their injuries. Caritas Internationalis is the Vatican-based umbrella group for national Catholic charities around the world.

Pope Expresses Alarm at Holy Land Violence

Pope Benedict XVI expressed alarm at a new wave of violence in the Holy Land and urged Israelis and Palestinians to set aside the logic of revenge. “In recent days, violence and horror have once again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding a spiral of destruction and death that seems to have no end,” the pope said at his noon blessing March 9. On March 6 a Palestinian gunman killed eight Jewish seminarians and wounded 11 others. The attack came after an Israeli military assault on Gaza left more than 100 Palestinians dead. The pope prayed for the innocent victims of the attacks and expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and wounded. He asked everyone to pray for peace in the region. “I ask everyone, in the name of God, to leave the twisted paths of hatred and revenge and to responsibly take up the paths of dialogue and trust,” he said. The attack on the seminary was a “monstrous” atrocity, said a former director of Jerusalem’s Franciscan seminary. Father Artemio Vitores, O.F.M., vicar of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, said he has lived through five wars and two Palestinian uprisings in the Holy Land; but the attack on the seminary, or yeshiva, affected him on a more personal level. “Seminaries have another atmosphere, whether they are Jewish or Christian students. They are young students dedicated to their religious studies. We have to avoid hate. That is not taking us anywhere.”

Fewer Abuse Allegations, But Rising Costs

The costs to the Catholic Church for legal settlements in abuse cases, therapy for victims of sexual abuse, support for offenders and legal fees soared to more than $600 million in 2007, the fourth year of reporting on the handling of abuse cases by U.S. dioceses and religious orders. The 2007 Survey of Allegations and Costs released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops March 7 also reported a continued decrease in the number of new credible allegations of abuse: 599 new allegations were made in 2007, compared with 635 in 2006, 695 in 2005 and 898 in 2004, the first year of the survey. According to the survey, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, dioceses and religious institutes paid $615 million for legal settlements, therapy, support for offenders, attorneys’ fees and other costs. In the four previous years of the survey, the highest amount paid out was $466 million in 2005. Of the $615 million, dioceses spent $499 million and religious orders paid $116 million. Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the costs may remain high in coming years.

Jesuits Conclude General Congregation

The Jesuit General Congregation concluded two months of work by approving five decrees, including one on obedience and a separate document reaffirming the Jesuits’ allegiance to the pope and fidelity to church teaching. The 225 Jesuits elected to represent their almost 20,000 confreres around the world marked the end of their meeting on March 6 with a Mass of thanksgiving in Rome’s Church of the Gesu, site of the tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Meeting reporters March 7, Father Adolfo Nicolás, who was elected superior general of the Jesuits in January, called the meeting an experience of “the union of hearts, the union of the Society” and of its “union with its head, who is the Holy Father.” The congregation approved formal decrees focused on the Jesuit mission in the modern world; Jesuit identity; collaboration with those outside the Jesuits; internal governance; and obedience to one’s superior as well as to the pope.

Jesuit Editor Walter Abbott Dies

Walter Abbott, S.J., known for his work with the Second Vatican Council, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and biblical scholarship, died March 5 at the Jesuit infirmary in Weston, near Boston. He was 84. A funeral Mass was celebrated March 11 at the Campion Center, the Jesuit renewal center and retirement home in Weston. A member of the Jesuits’ New England Province, he spent many years of priestly ministry at the Vatican, to which he was called from his position as associate editor of America by Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J. Among his accomplishments was editing a book of English-language translations of the Vatican II documents that included scholarly commentary. The 1966 paperback book, The Documents of Vatican II, with its familiar red cover showing the image of a coin bearing the likenesses of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, remains a well-thumbed staple in many libraries. Father Abbott also served for 10 years as the executive secretary of the Vatican Office for Common Bible Work. In retirement he served as a much sought-after spiritual director, especially for younger Jesuits.

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