Thursday, March 20

The new Word from Rome is up:

John Paul II is not a man who goes off script much these days. In the vast majority of his public appearances, the pope limits himself to reading a prepared text, keeping the crowd hooked with a wave, a smile, at most a small quip, perhaps a refrain or two from a favorite Polish folk song.

Thus last Sunday’s Angelus address, when the pope spoke in ad-lib fashion from his own biography about the danger of war in Iraq, is yet another measure of his deep personal anxiety about the U.S. assault. The pope’s voice boomed, and his right hand chopped the air, reflecting a level of vigor that had not been seen in years.

From a certain point of view, one could say that the papal appeal fell on deaf ears. Yet John Paul has always been addressing multiple audiences, one of which is the Islamic street. His last-ditch appeals have been, in part, designed to hammer home the point that this war is being waged by George Bush and Tony Blair, not by Western Christianity. A less overt, but equally compelling, aim is to protect Christians scattered across the Islamic world.

Some Catholics, especially those sympathetic to the Bush administration on the war, wish the pope would premise his opposition more straightforwardly on the fate of Christian minorities......

And then on another matter....

In the wake of the American sex abuse crisis, the canonical issues surrounding involuntary laicization of priests have become a matter of unusually broad public interest. Some Catholics have forgotten, however, that these are not the only offenses for which the pope imposes the canonical equivalent of the death penalty. A reminder of the point came March 13with the forced laicization of an Italian priest named Franco Barbero....

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