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Catholic or catholic?

If you do not know the blog Get Religion, you should, especially if you have any interest in reporting on religion in secular media, or any interest in how religions present themselves to the world through the secular media.

There was a recent post discussing the terms Catholic and catholic, and what they mean. While doing a good job of looking at catholic as universal versus Catholic as referring to the Catholic Church, it left a few vagaries intact, that I have always struggled with, especially in secular reporting on the Catholic Church.

Briefly, the most misunderstood aspect of secular reporting on these terms is to always conflate ‘Roman Catholic Church’ and Catholic Church.

I have mentioned it before, but, simply put, the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. It is not the only church that is catholic, nor is it the entire church catholic, but there is only one church called, officially, the Catholic Church., and it is the 1.1 billion member church in communion with Rome.

Roman Catholic, at most, indicates only a part of the Catholic Church – one of the 23 sui iuris churches that make up the Catholic Church. Roman Catholic and Latin Catholic are basically synonymous. However, Roman Catholic Church and Catholic Church are not synonymous. A Ukranian-Greek Catholic, a Chaldean Catholic, or a Maronite Catholic are all Catholic, but none are Roman Catholic.

More strictly, as I write from Rome, Roman Catholic means those Catholics who belong to the Church of Rome – that is, the Diocese of Rome. There are less than 3 million. Neither should the entire Catholic Church be referred to as the Roman Church – that would be like referring to the Anglican Communion as the Church of Canterbury, or to the Lutheran World Federation as the Augsburgian Church.

Yet, the AP style manual still insists on using ‘Roman Catholic’ instead of simply Catholic. In the end, admitting that the Catholic Church is properly called Catholic and not Roman Catholic does not mean it is, or thinks it is, the only catholic church, nor that it is the entire church catholic, but it is ecumenically appropriate to call a Church what it calls itself. The Catholic Church is the Catholic Church, and no high-church Anglicans were harmed in the making of this statement.


The Dialogue of Life in Rome

A former student-resident of the Lay Centre returned this semester as a visiting professor at the Pontifical University Gregoriana (the Jesuit university down the road). Dr. Esra Göezler is a Turkish Muslim who had studied in Rome and returned to co-teach a course with Christian and Jewish scholars, and as a scholar-in-residence at the Lay Centre.

Near the end of the semester Esra sat in a panel presentation at the Lay Centre with a German Jesuit and an Italian Jewish reporter titled “Abrahamaic Religions in the Dialogue of Life in Rome” in which each participant shared their experience of living in the Eternal City in the daily life dialogue with the other Abrahamic faiths. The Lay Centre and PISAI – the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam, another Jesuit faculty in the City – featured prominently in the discussion.

Over the next few days, Esra provided further opportunity for dialogue and encounter, as the Lay Centre hosted the (brand new) Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See, Professor Kenan Gürsoy and his wife for dinner on 25 May. The following evening Padre Miguel Ayuso-Guixot, director of PISAI presided at our final mass and community night of the academic year. We were honored by the presence and insights of all three distinguished guests by Esra’s initiative.

At around the same time we heard good news about our housemate, another extraordinary Muslim scholar, Rezart Beka of Albania. Rezart has been in Rome this year on scholarship from the Nostra Aetate Foundation, set up in 1990 by Pope John Paul II for non-Christians to study Christianity at the pontifical universities in Rome. Scholars usually stay for one semester, and Rezart was already granted an extension. Facing the possibility of losing him as a student next year as the scholarship came to an end, a donor has set up an entirely new scholarship for Muslims to study at PISAI and Rezart is the inaugural recipient!

Lay Centre residents Nagwa Zarkaa Elymama (Egypt) and Rezart Beka (Albania) are presented to Pope Benedict XVI

Maronite Mass with Fr. John Paul Kimes

Father John Paul Kimes is a Maronite presbyter serving in the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the section which deals with grave delicts, those sins which involve the desecration of the sacraments and, since 2001, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The Maronite Church is one of the 23 “self-governing” churches that make up the Catholic Church, and is the only patriarchal church with no Orthodox counterpart. The short version of the history is that while communion between the church of Rome and the church of Lebanon was never broken, communication was lost for some centuries at a time. However, at any opportunity where communion could be expressed, it was. So, it is common to say that the Maronite church was always a part of the Catholic communion. Born of the Syrian tradition surrounding Antioch and Edessa, this church settled in Lebanon and took its name from a hermit-priest of the late fourth century, St. Maron.

Given the connection to these communities, the liturgical rites are West Syrian, or Antiochene, and the liturgical language is a variation of Aramaic, and also includes Arabic. While most of our celebration was in English, some key prayers and responses were said in Arabic, and only our Egyptian Muslim and our Italian scripture scholar could keep up without the transliteration!

It’s a beautiful liturgy, even in the simple setting of our chapel. Perhaps especially so. After my experience with the Syro-Malabar Divine Liturgy recently, I was stuck by how much more of a role the deacon has in the Maronite rite. Also that neither the Alleluia nor the Gloria are omitted in the Maronite liturgy during Lent.  (I found a Maronite liturgy on YouTube you could check out)

After dinner Fr. Kimes engaged questions and shared something of his work in the CDF. One of the questions posed was around the role of lay people in curial offices. There are few offices which are actually required, by law, to be held by a cleric, and the CDF tribunal is one of them. In most dicasteries it is simply a culture that has not been challenged. When he was prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger apparently filled as many positions as he could with qualified non-ordained people. Even when, after becoming pope, the Congregation needed the very particular expertise of a lay person in a position reserved in canon law to a cleric, Pope Benedict granted it without question.

So why hasn’t this openness translated into changes across the curia now that he’s pope? He leaves his deputies to do the hiring themselves; rather than micromanage he prefers to lead by example. I’m not sure it’s a clear example, however, to most that are unaware of this. There remains, too, what might be described as a benign clericalism (my term, not his), a belief that the limitations to certain offices to clergy is broader than it actually is. In some cases this is more explicit and less benign. But even in the case of the Supreme Tribunal of the CDF, which is clearly clerical by law, Fr. Kimes expressed the opinion that this was a wisdom – some of what is dealt with is so heinous, the thought is that the judges need all the sacramental graces and spiritual strength that they can have, hence the preference in law for someone ordained.

Holy Land Seminar Day #3

I woke up to the sun rising over the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee). We celebrated the Eucharist on the shore on an outdoor altar. Father Fred Bliss served as presider and homilist, with all eight of our presbyters concelebrating. Matthew and I served as lectors, and as I read the Isiah passage and the psalm, and especially as I listened to the gospel of the day, I could not but wonder at the small miracles that happen in the Holy Land. We could not have planned it better than to be in this place on this day in the cycle of readings.

(In case you forgot:

We then left the Lake, with a brief stop at a popular baptism location on the Jordan river, west to Nazareth, the main site of which is the Church of the Annunciation, the largest in the Holy Land, sitting on top of a crusader church, on top of a byzantine church, on top of a cave thought to be Mary’s house. We were also treated to what may be the most famous restaurant in Israel, Diana restaurant in Nazareth serving traditional Arab food, and lots of it!

On our way, we pass by Cana. In ancient times as today, the valleys serve as the major roads. Merchants, armies, caravans, people of the world come through the valleys, such as the way past Cana, which was a small town. But Nazareth was a tiny village, tucked away in a closed-off valley. In relating to my own childhood, I was struck by thinking of Cana as parallel to North Bend, a small town on the side of a big highway going from much larger places to other cosmopolitan ends. Nazareth was more like Duvall. Or Stillwater. Today, it’s a thriving Arab town, popular with pilgrims and tourists.

After lunch we drive along the Yizre’el valley to Mt. Tabor, the traditional site associated with the Transfiguration, atop of which is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen, though relatively new, and a commanding view of the region.

The evening we spent returning to Jerusalem, though we went by a different route, and once back at the hotel had dinner and settled in.

Witness through Faithfulness to the Scriptures: WPCU Day #6

From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:


Isaiah 55:10-11, The word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty.
Psalm 119:17-40, Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your Law.
2 Timothy 3:14-17, All scripture is inspired by God.
Luke 24:28-35, Jesus opens the Scriptures to His disciples.


Christians encounter God’s Word in a privileged way through reading the Sacred
Scriptures and celebrating the sacraments. In faithfully listening to the proclamation of Holy Scripture, and by prayerfully reading the various books of the Bible, they open their hearts and minds to receive the very Word of God. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to make them understand the Word of God, and to guide them in all truth.

Historically, Christians have been divided in reading and understanding the Word of God. Fortunately, in recent times, in their search for unity, Sacred Scripture has brought Christians closer to one another. Shared Bible study has become a major means of growing together among them. The Christian journey that we celebrate during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is one that is firmly rooted in our shared listening to God’s Word, trying together to understand and to live it.The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s Word powerfully proclaimed is indeed effective and operative. It does not return to God empty but succeeds in the purpose for which He sent it.

This message is repeated in the words addressed to Timothy, as he is directed to believe in the efficacy of the Scriptures by which the faithful are equipped for every good work. Our psalm gives praise for God’s words and statutes and implores God to give understanding, that we may keep the Holy Law with our whole heart.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we pray that all Christians may enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s wonderful revelation as it comes to us in Holy Scripture. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us better comprehend the Word of God and to direct us on our common journey of faith until we will all be gathered again around the one table of the Lord.


God, we praise and thank you for your saving Word as it reaches out to us through the Sacred Scriptures. We thank you too for the brothers and sisters with whom we share your Word and discover together the abundance of Your love. We pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, so that Your Word may lead and direct us in our quest for greater unity. Amen.

Reflection Questions

What are the passages of Scripture that mean most to you?
Who or what in your life makes your heart burn with a passion for the gospel and a desire to give witness to Christ?
Which passages from the Scriptures have helped you to better understand the witness of other Christians?
How may our churches use the Scripture more effectively in their daily life and prayer?

Bearing witness through celebrating the faith we have received: WPCU Day #4

From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:


Deuteronomy 6:3-9, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
Psalm 34, I will bless the Lord at all times.
Acts 4:32-35, Of one heart and soul.
Luke 24:17-21, But we had hoped…


We have an enormous debt of gratitude to those whose faith has provided the foundation for our Christian lives today. Numerous men and women through their prayer, witness and worship have ensured that the faith is handed down to the next generations.

Today’s readings affirm the importance of supporting the community of faith in order to ensure the dissemination of the Word of God. The passage from Deuteronomy gives us the beautiful prayer of our Jewish sisters and brothers who every day use these words to praise God. The Psalm invites us to bear witness through praise for what we have received as believers, so that our faith may be shown through glorifying and thanksgiving. The extract from Acts reveals a community united in faith and charity. The gospel passage shows us Jesus as the center of what we have received in faith.

As we unite with our Christian brothers and sisters in praying for unity during this week, we welcome the rich variety of our Christian heritage. We pray that awareness of our common heritage may unite us more closely as we progress in faith.


Lord God, we give you thanks for all the people and communities who have communicated the message of the Good News to us, and thus given us a solid foundation for our faith today. We pray that we too may together bear witness to our faith, so that others may know you and place their trust in the truth of salvation offered in Jesus Christ for the life of the world. Amen.

Reflection questions

Who inspired you in your faith?
What are the aspects of faith which inspire you in your everyday life?
What do you feel were the most important teachings which were passed on to you?
How can you recognize God at work with you in the transmission of faith the future generations?

Witness through Awareness: WPCU Day #3

From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:


1 Samuel 3:1-10, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.
Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.
Acts 8:26-40, Philip proclaimed to him the Good News about Jesus.
Luke 24:13-19a, …their eyes were kept from recognizing him.


Growing in faith is a complex journey. It is easy to miss God’s revealing love to us in our everyday life and experiences. The more pressure and activity we surround ourselves with, then the greater the possibility of overlooking what is in fact before our very eyes. Like the two disciples in the gospel, we sometimes think we know what is real, and try to explain our view to others, yet we are not aware of the full truth. In our world today we are invited to be aware of God in the surprising and unlikely events of life.

In our Old Testament reading, we hear how God calls and invites Samuel to bear witness. Samuel first of all has to hear this word. Hearing requires an open disposition and a willingness to listen to God.

This desire to hear God’s Word is also experienced by both Philip and the Ethiopian in the reading from Acts. They witness to their faith by responding to what is asked of them at that precise moment in time. They listen attentively and respond accordingly. The psalm of the Good Shepherd reflects the quiet trust of the one who is aware of the tender care of God, who gathers the flock and leads them to green pastures.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we seek to be aware of God in our everyday events and experiences. We meet people who are familiar and others who are strangers. In these encounters we learn from each other’s spiritual experiences and so get a new view of God’s reality. This awareness of God’s presence challenges us to work for Christian unity.


Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, You encounter us and remain with us in everyday life. We pray for the grace to be aware of all you do for us. We ask that you prepare us to be open to all you offer us and bring us together in one flock. Amen.

Reflection Questions

When have you been aware of God’s presence in your life? Are you aware of global celebrations and tragedies, and how might our churches together respond to these? Is being aware enough, or is there something more that you might do in order to give witness to your faith? How do you make yourself aware of God when the reality of God’s presence does not correspond to your expectations?

Witness through Celebrating Life; Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day #1

From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:


Genesis 1:26-31, God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
Psalm 104:1-24, O Lord, how manifold are your works.
Corinthians 15:12-20, If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.
Luke 24:1-5, Why do you look for the living among the dead?


Our journey of Christian unity is firmly rooted in our common belief that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, – we celebrate not only the life God has given us but the offer of new life through Jesus’ conquering death once and for all. As we meet together during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we witness to our shared faith by our concern for the life of all.

The reading from the book of Genesis reminds us of the creative power and energy of God. It is this power and energy that St. Paul encounters in experiencing Jesus’ resurrection. He challenges the people of Corinth to put their total trust in the Risen Lord and his offer of new life. The psalm continues this theme as it proclaims the glory of God’s creation.

Our gospel passage challenges us to look for new life in the face of a culture of death that our world frequently presents to us. It encourages us to trust in Jesus’ power, and so to experience life and healing.

Today, we thank God for all that shows God’s love for us: for all of creation; for brothers and sisters in all parts of the world; for communion in love, for forgiveness and healing and for life eternal.


God our creator, we praise you for all who give witness to their faith by their words and actions. In living life to the full we encounter your loving presence in the many experiences you offer us. May our common witness of celebrating life unite us in blessing you, the author of all life. Amen.

Reflection Questions

To what extent do your own witness and the witness of your church celebrate life? Will others know from your witness that Christ has been raised from the dead? What do you see as the areas of growth in your life? Are there things of the past that the churches cling to which ought to be laid to rest because of a new ecumenical consciousness?

It’s a Small (Catholic) World After All

I think John Allen, Jr. said that if you stand in the same place in Rome long enough, you will meet every Catholic you have ever known, or at least someone who knows them.

Nancy left for home on Thursday after three weeks here in Italy, and I spent the next day sleeping to recover from vicarious jetlag! As Sunday approached I had not yet decided where I would be worshipping in my quest to pray in as many of Rome’s different churches as possible (without becoming just a liturgical tourist). So when Donna asked me to deliver some propaganda for Lay Centre events to the “Caravita”, the oratory of St. Francis that Nancy and I had been to a couple weeks ago, I agreed, still thinking I should be going somewhere new.

The Spirit works in little ways too.

When I arrived at del Caravita, I looked around for someone to ask about the material – where to put it, if we could announce the events, etc. As I watched two people seemed to be the “go-to” folk, one was a woman clearly preparing to serve as lector, and the other a tall, thin, bald guy who seemed to know everyone. So, i approached him with, “you seem to know whats going on around here, who would I talk to about this?” He offers to introduce me to the lector, “Cindy”, who would know. Here’s a transcript:

Me: Hi, my name is AJ Boyd, and I’m from…

Cindy: Oh my God! You’re AJ! I’m Cindy… Me: [Shocked expression] Cindy: …Woodin!

Me: Oh that Cindy!

Cindy: So you’re at the Angelicum right? Are you in Don’s class [indicating tall, thin, bald guy]?

Me: No, I just met him.

Cindy: He’s teaching a course on Methodism, and he’s just been named bishop of Saskatoon

Me: That’s Don Bolen?! I didn’t recognize him! I am taking his class… it starts tomorrow.

Ok, so it was more comical in real life. Cindy is a college friend of one of my parishioners from St. Brendan, and when I decided to come to Rome, she decided to put the two of us in touch. Cindy and I had been exchanging sporadic emails since July, and just had not yet met in person. She has lived in Rome for 20 years as part of the Catholic News Service Vatican Bureau.

Monsignor Don Bolen recieving the Cross of St. Augustin from Archbishop Rowan Williams

Monsignor Don Bolen is the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and former staff of the Anglican/Methodist desk at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Over Christmas break his election as bishop was announced, which I followed and even posted on Facebook. He’s teaching the second half of our course, Methodism and its Dialogue with the Catholic Church. He was the presider and homilist for the Sunday Eucharist, and was clearly loved by the people who had known him there from his time in Rome.

First impressions – after one mass and one class – is that the people of Saskatoon are blessed among Canadians. Home of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, it seems like a great fit, and any diocese would welcome a bishop who is so genuine, humble, intelligent and obviously a gifted ecumenist. A good preacher and teacher too!

Sunny Assisi

Cathedral of San Rufino (left) and Basilica of Santa Chiara (right) in Assisi

The last time I was in Europe, I had only made a day trip to Assisi. This time, we spent three full days in this quiet Umbrian hill town made famous for its twin medieval saints, San Francesco (Francis) and Santa Chiara (Clare). It was probably my favorite part of our holiday, and I cannot thank Nancy enough for arranging for us to stay there as long as we did – and in such comfort as we did.

Through her timeshare, we landed a last-minute deal at some vacation condos 5km from the old city. (I wanted to stay in a cave to get the full Franciscan experience, but she convinced be that the on-site sauna would serve just as well: both are dark and damp, and not very spacious. Not sure Francis would be sold on the idea though…)

St. Francis statue at Cathedral of San Rufino

The first day was a beautiful, cold, crisp, clear day, sunny and freezing. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have the lucury in this town not to feel as though one has to see everything in a day. You can – it is not very big – but you get so much more out of the experience with a leisurely pace. We decided to roughly follow the Rick Steves’ Assisi stroll, and started at the higher end of town with the old Roman Amphitheatre, now converted for use as a restaurant with a garden.

Because of the fame of Francis and Clare, I always think o Assisi as the quintessential medieval town that it became by the 13th century, but forget that long before that it was also a Roman town, built in 295 BC. Before the Romans, it was Etruscan. Before that, there were Umbrians in the area, perhaps as early as 1000 years before Christ.

By the end of the third century AD, the town and environs had been largely converted to Christianity by Bishop Rufino, a martyr and the patron saint of Assisi, for whom the cathedral is named. We arrived there just in time to join the Sunday Eucharist, which happened to have an American Franciscan presiding (in Italian). The small baptismal font is near a plaque noting some of the notables who had been baptized there, including Sts. Francis and Clare, Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (the young Passionist saint whose sanctuary we visited in novemeber) and Frederick II.

Chapel of the San Damiano Crucifix at Santa Chiara "Francis, my house is in ruins. Fix it!"

After mass we took a tour of the Cathedral crypt, one of Francis’ frequent places of prayer, mostly dating from the 9th century and later, but including the third century ossuary thought to have held the remains of Bishop St. Rufino, the martyr Apostle of Assisi.

Down the hill from the Cathedral is the Basilica Santa Chiara and a beautiful view of the valley below, including the “new” part of Assisi, also known for its major church, Santa Maria dei Angeli. In addition to the resting place of the little rich girl who “fell in love” with the older Francis and his order, a side chapel holds the cucifix that was in the Church of San Damiano, where Francis had his conversion experience.

Just off the piazza Santa Chiara was the site of the best meal we had all week, a small trattoria 50 meters off the main street boasting traditional Umbrian cuisine. Plenty of time in the shops nearby, and we did not make it much further than the central Piazza Communale, on which you can find an original Roman temple rededicated as a Christian church.

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