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From the Vatican

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I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but this headline conjures all kinds of strange visions: “Pope, Looking Slightly Stronger, Makes More Saints.”

I picture Pope John Paul, weak and doddering, dragging himself out of bed, muttering under his breath in Polish, and shuffling over to his chemistry set where he, briefly rallied by the thought of women and gay Catholics running amok through the Vatican after his own departure from this mortal coil, whips up a few more saints before shuffling back to bed.

But I don’t imagine that’s the way it really happenend:

    Amid African singing and dancing, a slightly stronger-looking Pope John Paul extended his saint-making record on Sunday by canonizing three men who worked as missionaries in the 19th century.

    ….There have been growing fears recently for the health of the Roman Catholic leader, who can no longer walk without assistance and has struggled to speak at some public appearances.

    But his words were much clearer on Sunday than they were on Saturday when he appeared particularly tired during a meeting with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

    At the end of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, the pope said that “God willing” he would make a planned trip on Tuesday to a shrine in the southern city of Pompeii.

    His chair was then placed on an open “popemobile” and driven through the crowd.

    ….Sunday’s ceremony brought to 476 the number of people the pope has canonized, more than all of his predecessors combined since the current saint-making process began in the 16th century, according to Vatican figures.[Reuters]

“Popemobile” – does he also have a popecave? Sorry. I just have the sense this pope lost touch with his own church and became a liability some time ago.

On a much more serious and positive note, this Reuters story lists a number of resources for troubled Catholics:

    Disgruntled Roman Catholics in the United States have turned to a wide variety of Web sites for information, ideas and services over the past few years as abuse scandals raged and a clergy shortage shrank the number of parishes.

    The Internet has also made it easier for Catholics to find everything from pet-blessing ceremonies to a traditional Latin Mass.

    Anyone who types “lapsed Catholic” or “frustrated Catholic” into a search engine is likely to find the “Once Catholic” Web site put together by the St. Anthony Messenger Press and Franciscan Communications of Cincinnati, Ohio.

    “It has been said that former Catholics constitute the nation’s second-largest (Christian) denomination,” said John Bookser Feister, director of electronic media for the group affiliated with the Franciscan friars.

    The site addresses thorny issues that studies show have alienated people from the church. It offers “online companions” trained to answer questions in a compassionate and nonjudgmental way and a “Help Room” listing parishes with “welcome home” programs.

    “We don’t want people to walk back into a parish where they wouldn’t be welcomed,” Bookser Feister said.

Several other sites and services are listed as well.

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About Eric Olsen