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Doing some preparation for a panel tonight on Pope Francis's pontificate so far, I made a "word cloud" of his Twitter feed. The most frequently used words certainly corroborate most people's sense that Pope Francis focuses on the fundamentals of Christian life: God, Jesus Christ, love, prayer, life, faith.
But a few of his distinctive emphases appear too -- young and peace, and that prayerful verb of openness: Let.
The past few days have seen a burst of commentary from Catholic writers about the proposed attack in Syria. This blog has featured a lot, and the current issue of the magazine has Gabriel Said Reynolds's essential short take. A few other items of note, and feel free to add more in the comments:
Maryann Cusimano Love on the "just war" question in the Huffington Post
WIth two bishops from Aleppo and Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio still missing, the number of authoritative Christian leaders "on the ground" in Syria has dwindled. That makes it all the more important to consider the few remaining voices, as Christians ponder military action in Syria.
Today Vatican Insider reports that Gregory III Laham, the Greek Catholic Patiarch of Antioch and leader of the Melkite church, is leading a charge to stop a possible attack on Syria:
Perhaps of interest to Commonwealers in the New York area: Fordham University will be kicking off the new school year with a panel discussion of Pope Francis's pontificate. The panelists are three distinguished theologians (but they're letting me come too).
More importantly, we'll be welcoming Rachel Zoll, religion reporter for the AP, to keep us in line.
More information about "Six Months of Pope Francis" and RSVP online HERE.
Monday, September 9. 5:30 PM. Lincoln Center campus.
It's been almost two weeks since Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit leader of interreligious peacebuilding in Syria, has vanished. It's been more than one week since the date after which he told his friends "to raise the alarm" if they had not heard from him. They -- and we -- are still waiting.
The coverage of his disapperance has been relatively widespread. John Allen's Friday column led with the story, tying it to the previous kidnappings of the Syrian Orthodox bishop and Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo. It even made the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. But no one seems to know what, if anything, can be done.
I only met Fr. Paolo once, sharing a meal, when he visited Fordham University in 2011. I obviously can't claim him has a friend. But I have been unexpectedly angry, disdainful, and plaintive in heart since hearing of his alleged kidnapping. Part of my response comes from my writing a book about early Christianity in Syria at the same time as its current civil war. Another part of it comes from having written scholarship about the art of the medieval monastery, Mar Musa al-Habashi, which is what Fr. Paolo refounded after centuries of abandonment and made into a site of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims who wanted to meet in peace and prayer.
Many have been noting how Pope Francis has emphasized from day one his role as the Bishop of ROME. Another storyline has focused on his preference for simpler vestments and regalia, and this has been seen as a break with tradition.
In the chilling anthology, Poems from Guantanamo, the following was penned by Adnan Latif:
They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults and humiliation.
Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?
Mr. Latif was the same age as me when he died. But he had spent over ten years imprisoned in Guantanamo. He was guilty of no crime or conspiracy to commit one, as was repeatedly found by every conceivable authority who examined the case. A summary of his time there can be found here. He was cleared for release as long ago as 2004.
Antonin Scalia, just a few days ago:
In a speech to lawyers gathered June 21 in Asheville, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia decried judicial activism.
David Brooks's column today is vintage Brooks.
In preparation for a workshop at the New York Catholic Bible Summit, I have been exploring the ways in which Jesus' parables can be defamiliarized for seasoned Christians. The parables can lose some of their dramatic force through repetition over the years. How many times have you heard the Good Samaritan? When it comes up again in the lectionary next month, will your mind wander, since you know every word of the story by heart? How can we hear the parables anew?