1. Reformer pope arrives in Sweden to mark Luther’s reforms, By Jan M. Olsen and Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, October 31 at 6:24 AM.

Pope Francis traveled to secular Sweden on Monday to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a remarkably bold gesture given his very own Jesuit religious order was founded to defend the faith against Martin Luther’s “heretical” reforms five centuries ago.

While the visit initially raised eyebrows, the Vatican and Lutheran church both insist the event is no celebration of Luther’s revolt. Rather, they say, it’s a solemn commemoration to ask forgiveness for the schism in Western Christianity and rejoice that relations have improved in the last five decades.

Francis has prioritized these deeply symbolic encounters to show that even while divided on dogma, the Christian faithful can and must work together and pray together, especially in times of religious persecution.


2. Vatican, China Consider Deal on Selection of Bishops After Decades of Division, Proposed compromise could draw fierce protests from Chinese Catholics, By Francis X. Rocca and Chun Han Wong, The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2016, Pg. A1.

Negotiators for the Vatican and Beijing reached a compromise on who selects Catholic bishops in China, said people familiar with the matter, potentially marking a major step toward ending six decades of estrangement.

If Pope Francis and Chinese leaders sign off on the proposed deal, the pope would accept eight bishops ordained by the Chinese government without the Vatican’s permission. But the deal would leave many other issues unresolved, including the role of China’s state-run Catholic institutions.

Negotiators are waiting for the pope’s decision; if he agrees, the final decision will be up to Beijing. It would be a diplomatic breakthrough for the pope, who has eagerly pursued an opening to China that eluded his predecessors, though re-establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican—which Beijing severed in 1951—would remain a distant goal.

Vatican officials, however, are bracing for strong protests from Chinese Catholics in the so-called underground church, some of whose members have suffered imprisonment or other punishment for defying government control of the church, and who could regard the agreement as a lopsided win for Beijing and hence a betrayal of their fidelity.

The deal would defer many thorny issues, including the legal status of underground Chinese bishops loyal to Rome, who currently operate without government approval.

The agreement would also mean the end of Vatican approval for ordinations of underground bishops, meaning that all new leaders of the Catholic hierarchy in China would be men acceptable to Beijing.


3. ‘It will never be good here’, Two years of Islamic State rule in Mosul have religious minorities doubtful about going home, By Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, The Washington Post, Pg. A1.

At the evening service, the priest counseled forgiveness to a congregation with little reason to forgive. They were Christians from Mosul, brutalized by the Islamic State and betrayed, in some cases, by neighbors, and nothing — not the priest’s pleas, not his invocation of Cain and Abel — seemed likely to heal those scars.

Khalid Ramzi, a congregant, seemed to choke on the sermon. “We can’t fall into the same hole twice. We don’t want our children to be raised in violence and fear,” he said, standing outside the church in Irbil. “Only in our dreams can we go back to Mosul.”

When the militants swept into the city two years ago, Christians were ordered to convert, pay a tax or die. As the Islamic State pushed beyond the city, onto the plains of Nineveh, its advance scattered the rich patchwork of religious and ethnic minorities — Yazidis and Assyrians, Kurds and Shabaks — that made the area a microcosm of diverse Iraq and a place unlike perhaps any in the world.

Churches were torched. Yazidis were massacred or enslaved. Villages emptied as hundreds of thousands of people fled.

The problems for Christians started before the Islamic State takeover, as the group’s predecessor, al-Qaeda, extended its grip in the city. Ewas said he received threatening phone calls and attempts at extortion. He stopped wearing his black robes and collar on the street. His wife covered her hair in an effort to blend in. Priests were murdered as Christians were targeted for their religion but also their perceived wealth, with many kidnapped for ransom.


4. Scholars: Faith revealed Scalia’s moral courage in law approach Catholic scholars honor late justice’s spiritual life, By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, October 31, 2016, Pg. A4.

A group of leading Catholics from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday evening to honor the spiritual life of the intellectual giant. Scalia, who died in February, was posthumously awarded the John Paul II New Evangelization Award by the Catholic Information Center.

The keynote address was delivered by Ed Whelan, a former Scalia law clerk who now heads the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Drawing extensively from the justice’s writings on religion, Mr. Whelan said Scalia spurned the notion that he was somehow a “Catholic justice.”

“Understood that way, the label of ‘Catholic justice’ is something that Justice Scalia emphatically rejected,” Mr. Whelan said. “As he put it: ‘I don’t think there’s any such thing as a Catholic judge. There are good judges and bad judges. The only article of faith that plays any part in my judging is the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Lie.’ “

“As a jurist, Antonin Scalia was an apostle of textualism,” Mr. Whelan said. “As a man, he was a disciple of the Word. By his example and quiet counsel, he encouraged those of us who knew him to embrace our faith more deeply and to strive to live our own lives of moral courage and integrity.”


5. Boston Archdiocese fighting pot campaign with $850,000, By Andrew Blake, The Washington Times, October 31, 2016, Pg. A7.

The Catholic Church in Boston is dumping nearly $1 million toward defeating a ballot measure that could legalize marijuana across Massachusetts as poll numbers suggest pot proponents will likely prevail after the Nov. 8 vote.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, The Boston Globe reported Friday that the local archdiocese is spending $850,000 in an eff ort to beat the ballot measure known as Question 4.

If the measure is approved, Massachusetts will have to establish a framework for regulating and taxing marijuana. As of Thursday, the results of a Suff olk University/Boston Globe poll suggest 49 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana compared to 42 percent opposed.

Catholic leaders across Massachusetts formally spoke out earlier this month in opposition to Question 4, writing in an open letter that the church believes pot use “inflicts grave damage on human health and life,” and “is a grave offense.”

The $850,000 will come from an unrestricted central ministry fund, not parish collection baskets, and will likely be allocated toward existing ad campaigns opposed to Question 4, according to The Globe’s report.


6. Obama requires LGBT equality from religious aid contractors, By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, October 31, 2016, Pg. A1.

The Obama administration announced a rule last week that threatens to strip federal contracts from religious relief organizations and charities that adhere to traditional views of gender and sexuality, continuing a trend of governmental hostility toward religion.

Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said the rule will create more problems than it solves.

“Of course everyone that is eligible for aid should receive it, but the new rule is a solution in search of a problem and threatens religious aid organizations that provide vital services in reasonable and culturally sensitive ways,” Mr. Severino said.

“Time and again, we see that when the LGBT agenda conflicts with religious liberty, according to President Obama, religious liberty must lose,” Mr. Severino said.

Pointing to a report from Faith Counts that shows religious charities, businesses and congregations contribute $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, Mr. Severino said the Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty is misguided.

“Every day, people of faith are contributing to society — sweat, money, education, effort and love — in a way that government simply can’t do,” he said. “They’re indispensable, and they have to be a part of the equation.”


7. ‘Fearless’ Justice Clarence Thomas Walks 25 Years in Footsteps of St. Thomas More, By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, October 31, 2016.

Hannah Smith, another former clerk of the justice and a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest group that represents EWTN, the parent company of the Register, in its legal challenge to the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate, celebrated Thomas’ principled legacy.

“Justice Thomas’ most enduring contribution to the law is that he truly believes that we should interpret the Constitution as it was drafted, not as he would have drafted it,” said Smith.

While some legal scholars disparage the justice’s refusal to adapt his judicial philosophy to changing times, Smith applauded his record.

“His fearlessness as a frequent lone dissenter gave his clerks an example of standing on principle, even when it’s not popular,” she said.

“His example in this regard is something I have thought of often in my legal career defending religious liberty for all.”

During the court’s 2016-2017 term, the justices will likely address a number of cases of special interest to Catholics, including legal challenges to the HHS contraceptive mandate filed by religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

If Hillary Clinton is elected president, and a liberal jurist joins the high court, Justice Thomas’ fortitude could be further tested as an ideologically divided court shifts decisively to the left.

Yet friends expect the deep sense of hope that has sustained him over the course of a tumultuous life will keep him on course.

“I am Catholic, and one of the great sins was to despair,” Thomas has said. “We have to be hopeful.”


8. Pope’s Refugee Message Proves Divisive in Sweden, By Charles Duxbury and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2016, Pg. A7.

When Pope Francis brings his message of open-door refugee policies to Sweden on Monday, his reception will shine a light on how sharply the attitude to refugees has changed here since the start of Europe’s migrant crisis.

Once of the most accommodating states in Europe for displaced people, this Nordic country now has among the tightest rules governing who can enter.

The pontiff’s two-day trip to this predominantly Protestant country is strictly religious: to commemorate the Lutheran Reformation that divided Catholics and Protestants five centuries ago and to promote ongoing efforts at their reconciliation.

But the pope is also expected to urge support for migrants and refugees, a keynote of his pontificate and a message that is striking a nerve here.


9. Iraqi Christians Return as Islamic State Retreats, By Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2016, Pg. C3.

As Iraqi and Kurdish forces advance toward the Islamic State-held metropolis of Mosul, they are battling through a ring of booby-trapped ghost towns like Bartella. There is a dark reason why these ancient towns and villages in the fertile Nineveh Plain, the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization, are now devoid of inhabitants.

Before Islamic State took over the area in the summer of 2014, it was home to a kaleidoscope of ethnic and religious minorities—a reminder of the extraordinary diversity that once characterized much of the Middle East. But the Sunni extremists of Islamic State branded these Iraqis as infidels or heretics, and several hundred thousand members of these communities fled the group’s clutches, abandoning their property and homes.

These days, these displaced Iraqis are no longer just victims. Many minority refugees from the Nineveh Plain are fighting alongside Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers to retake their hometowns. How—and whether—they coexist with the area’s Sunni Arab majority is one of the crucial questions that Iraq and the wider Middle East will face once Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate finally crumbles.


10. Working toward a vision on high, With cardinal’s blessing, dome at basilica in D.C. will undergo mosaic transformation, By Michael E. Miller, The Washington Post, October 29, 2016, Pg. B1.

It was a holy moment at high altitude.

With his miter nearly brushing the 159-foot ceiling, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl stood atop 620,000 pounds of steel and scaffolding Friday morning to bless the dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“If we were to have a hymn to open this entire celebration, I think it would be ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee,’ ” joked Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. “This is about as close as we are going to get physically to that experience.”

The unusual ceremony marked not only the completion of the scaffolding on which Wuerl stood but also the beginning of the end of 100 years of construction on the country’s largest Catholic church, where Pope Francis canonized a Spanish missionary last year.

The plain gray plaster walls of the dome, which the cardinal splashed with holy water, are the last item on a century-old checklist.


11. Opinion: The Church has done us a favor clarifying the issue of cremated remains, By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, Fox News Latino, October 28, 2016.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

When Abuelita died we had a wake that lasted late into the night. Her children and grandchildren sat by her open casket, praying and sometimes dozing, as mourners came and went at the funeral parlor, eating pastelitos and drinking coffee. In the morning we accompanied her, in a long cortege, to her funeral mass, and from there to the peaceful cemetery. We honored her, mourned her, and said our farewells, as lovingly and respectfully as we possibly could.

The Catholic Church knows that grief and loss come to all of us, and that we need to take the time to mourn properly, and say our good-byes with the solemnity our grief calls for. And they also know that what we do with the remains of the ones we love is significant and instructive. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued specific guidelines on how it is best and proper to treat the dead and their remains. And it’s not only about tradition and long-standing practice, but about what our actions mean.

The foundation of the Church’s preference for a solemn funeral and Christian burial is based on the counterintuitive belief that death has a positive meaning. That is because it is really a moment of transition to a new life, not an ending. 

The Church has done us all a favor by clarifying these things and reminding all of us why the rituals around dying and burial are so significant. In them we show what we believe about the meaning and transcendence of life and how much we value every part of the person of our beloved departed. In them we find a way to mourn when it’s time to mourn, and then, if we are so fortunate to have faith, to hope with all our hearts for resurrection and reunion.


12. Top Christians in South Sudan urge Pope to visit to foster peace, By Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, October 28, 2016,

After a decades-long bloody war that ended in 2005, six years later South Sudan got its independence from Sudan, becoming the youngest nation in the world. Yet the bloodshed is far from over, as ethnic-related fights are still ongoing.

Trying to help broker peace, Pope Francis on Thursday welcomed to the Vatican the three top Christian leaders of South Sudan.

The three were in Rome after having accepted an invitation handed to them through Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope’s point man on issues of justice and peace. (That’s literally the case, since the prelate from Ghana heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and will soon be the top man at the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.)

During their encounter, the South Sudanese pastors invited Francis to visit their country in the near future, and the pontiff, who’s told journalists he’s contemplating a trip to “several African nations” for next year, showed interest.

“He agreed in principle, said that he would work on that,” Marrow, the Presbyterian leader, said.

Even if there’s no firm commitment as to when, nor has an official invitation been presented from the president – when travelling, the pope does so as a head of state, so he needs an invitation from his counterpart – the pressure is on: “We cannot hide that we’ve extended this invitation,” Marrow said. “We will share it with the president, and with the whole country, with our religious communities.”