Tuesday, May 27

Israeli Arabs tour Auschwitz

It was the largest organized visit yet by Arabs to the camp, which annually sees about 500,000 visitors, according to the Auschwitz museum. The group of Israeli Arabs included intellectuals, professionals and businessmen, most in their 40s. About 200 young Jews and Arabs from France are accompanying the group on the visit, which continues Wednesday. "We came here in order to know what happened exactly in order to express our sympathy and solidarity with the Jewish people," said Awwad Nawaf, 57, a teacher who lives in Nazareth. "We hope this will help us and the Jews to live in good neighborhood, and to understand each other. We hope it can help stop the bloodshed and the cruelty." The joint visit was the idea of Rev. Emil Shoufani, 47, an Arab Catholic priest from Nazareth, in northern Israel. He hoped the trip could help lessen the deep-rooted bitterness between Arabs and Jews, which has worsened after more than 30 months of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Big church congress in Germany this weekend:

A religious event set to draw up to 300,000 Christiansto Berlin over the next five days could prove a turning point in reviving the flagging fortunes of the church in Germany, according to the event's organisers.

With a heady mixture of prayers, politics and pop, the Kirchentag or church congress, is set to dwarf music festivals, sports fixtures and other popular attractions in Europe this summer, and could prove to be the biggest ever international religious event of its kind.

"The Pope draws more people when he goes on tour, but that is just for a few hours. People are coming here for five days," says Theodor Bolzenius, Kirchentag spokesman. "This is going to be historic."

The religious extravaganza, organised jointly at a cost of €18m ($21.4m, £13m) by the lay associations in the German Catholic and Protestant churches, comprises over 3,200 individual events, starting with an open-air service at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg gate, where a huge, inflatable orange halo has been erected.

Here's the website. It's in German.

The coolest thing about it is the little picture up in the upper left-hand corner - it changes with the various pages. Ordinary people with lights over their heads in halo-like fashion. Very Teutonically Hip, very Dieter, if you ask me.

"And now...we pray!"

Here's the official website for the Pope's upcoming trip to Croatia

Here's what the Croatian church is doing in preparation:

A prayer chain and fund-raising campaign have been launched for the occasion of John Paul II's 100th and 101st international apostolic trips. Those two trips will take the Pope to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. On Friday, the secretariat of the Croatian bishops' conference announced that Croatian Caritas, Croatian Catholic Radio, and the Radio Maria Association are planning the prayer chain and fund campaign, called "Pope-Ecumenism-Tolerance." It will include five weeks of unbroken prayer for the success of the Pope's visits. It will also be five weeks of fund raising for the most needy in the two countries, regardless of nationality, ethnic origin, or religious affiliation, the Catholic agency Croata Ika reported.

Tomorrow it's off to 'Ca-go, as Joseph calls it. When asked he will tell you that he is going to see horsies there, but, we are not so sure.

The purpose of the trip is to sign some books and check out the competion at the Religious Bookseller's Trade Exhibition. Michael will be signing for OSV, and I'm there on behalf of Loyola Press. On our whirlwind trip, we hope to visit a couple of shrines, per usual, see some of downtown Chicago we've not yet seen and perhaps go to Wheaton to see the museum at the Marion E. Wade Center that holds The Wardrobe (although whether it really is or not is controversial) of C.S. Lewis, as well as other memoribilia of Tolkein, Sayers and so on.

And maybe a horsie - somewhere.


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