1. Vatican’s natural affinity with Iran, Shia Islam may be key to Gaza drama, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, November 7, 2023, Opinion  While it might be tempting to see these largely as symbolic courtesy calls, in fact there are good reasons to believe the Vatican may be positioned to play a key role in persuading Iran to exercise restraint and to avoid escalating the conflict beyond a point of no return. As is well known, Iran has warned both Israel and the U.S. that the war could expand if Tel Aviv presses the fight beyond the Gaza Strip. Israel already has bombed positions in Lebanon and Syria, both places Iran regards as key allies, and there’s growing concern about the role of Iranian-backed militias in accelerating attacks on Israeli targets. One principal agenda item for Blinken over the weekend was to send clear signals to Iran to back off, but there’s no a priori reason to believe that Tehran will be inclined to take its cues from the American government. The Vatican under Pope Francis, on the other hand, might stand a decent shot at getting through.  First, Iran’s leadership class isn’t motivated solely by Realpolitik, but also by theological convictions. Raisi, for instance, occasionally refers to himself as “ayatollah,” and although his claim to that title is disputed, there’s no question that he’s a Shia cleric and jurist who studied at the holy city of Qom.  The pope and his diplomatic team, however, can meet the Iranians on their own turf, so to speak, from within a shared universe of spiritual and theological convictions. Second, there are several striking parallels between Catholicism and Shia Islam, which make the two traditions natural conversation partners. Iranian writer Vali Nasr, author of the 2006 book The Shia Revival, argues that the divide between Sunni and Shia bears comparison to that between Protestants and Catholics, with Shia being the branch closer to Catholicism.  Third, strictly at a policy level, Iran and the Vatican under Pope Francis in many respects have a shared agenda. Both aspire to a more multilateral world order, no longer dominated exclusively by the Western powers and especially the United States. Francis is a key backer of the BRICS alliance, of which Iran is one of six newly minted members, and the pope can be counted upon to continue to encourage the emergence of BRICS into a genuine economic and strategic counterweight in global affairs.  https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2023/11/vaticans-natural-affinity-with-iran-shia-islam-may-be-key-to-gaza-drama__________________________________________________________ 2. US religious orders could face $10 billion deficit in care for elderly, retired members, By John Lavenburg, Crux, November 7, 2023 A Nov. 6 announcement from the U.S. Bishops’ Conference about next month’s national religious retirement collection came with a chilling warning that a very small percentage of religious communities actually have enough money to care properly for their elderly members. The National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), which runs the collection, reported that only six percent of religious communities that shared data with the office last year have sufficient retirement funding, and that share is expected to continue to fall as average ages go up and costs increase.  For added context, a recent Mercer Human Resources study that the office commissioned projected that by 2034, religious institutes will face a retirement deficit of about $9.8 billion. The annual collection announced Nov. 6 will take place nationwide the weekend of Dec. 9-10. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2023/11/us-religious-orders-could-face-10-billion-deficit-in-care-for-elderly-retired-members__________________________________________________________ 3. Cardinal Ghirlanda denies papal election changes under consideration, By The Pillar, November 6, 2023, 11:33 AM A senior cardinal has denied reports that he is involved in prospective changes to Universi dominici gregis, the apostolic constitution governing the events surrounding the death of a pope, and the election of his successor in a conclave. Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a career canonist and close collaborator with the pope on key legal reforming projects, gave comments to several news outlets Monday, after reports that he had been asked by Pope Francis to examine proposals to make the process of selecting a future pope more “synodal.” Ghirlanda described the reports, first published by The Pillar, as “absolutely false” in statements provided to media outlets.  Separately, the Holy See press office issued a statement saying the reports of possible changes to Universi dominici gregis “have no basis.”  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/cardinal-ghirlanda-denies-papal-election__________________________________________________________ 4. By the numbers: Did Aparecida ‘work’?, By Brendan Hodge, The Pillar, November 6, 2023, 2:09 PM In an interview last week, Cardinal Christophe Pierre emphasized a focus in the Church on “synodality” — and focused on a 2007 meeting of South and Latin America’s bishops in the city of Aparecida, Brazil. Pierre told America Magazine that when he arrived in the United States, he had been “shocked” to see that many U.S. bishops were unfamiliar with important developments in the synodal style of leadership — which he said was manifested at the 2007 Aparecida conference.  The Aparecida meeting, he told America, was “a kind of synodal process of the South American bishops.”  There, “the bishops developed a kind of dynamic of working together and looking for solutions together, to evangelize better, which is what the synod [on synodality] is all about. Nothing else: Better evangelization. And they accompanied the people in their suffering, in their difficulties, and in their challenges,” the cardinal said. That 2007 Aparecida conference produced a document which the future Pope Francis helped to draft. And for his part, Pierre told America that a better understanding of Aparecida, its document, and its effect in the Church across South and Central American could help the U.S. bishops to address declining rates of faith in their country.  But if the Aparecida approach is the model — it seems worth asking whether it’s worked.  Whatever effects the evangelization developed through the synodal process of Aparecida may have had, it does not seem to have resulted in the countries of Central and South America being more successful at retaining members than is the Church in the U.S. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/by-the-numbers-did-aparecida-work__________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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