Another quick round-up:
- Last month, in a letter to a Catholic-Orthodox event on the Greek island of Tinos, the Pope sent a special word to express his spiritual unity with Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, who's been under treatment for liver cancer in a Miami hospital in anticipation of a transplant. In his message to the Tinos symposium, dedicated to St John Chrysostom, Benedict XVI said that "in a truly special way," he wished for the 68 year-old archbishop's "full restoration of health" and his quick return to ministry. Earlier today, however, it was reported that Christodoulos suffered a setback as doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, halting the transplant operation, which had been in progress. While a priority toward closer bonds with Orthodoxy is a particular hallmark of the current pontificate, the senior hierarch of the Greek Orthodox church has maintained longstanding ties with Rome; Christodoulos received John Paul II on the late pontiff's 2001 journey to Greece and has been a key player in the Catholic-Orthodox dynamic, which has become increasingly warm in recent years. In other East-West news, the ground continues to be smoothed toward a meeting between Pope Benedict and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II, with current hopes (expressed even by the patriarch last week during his visit to Paris) tipping a sit-down to take place within two years, with potential meeting-sites already said to be under consideration.
- The last living sibling of a beloved "modern saint" has gone to be with her brother; Luciana Frassati Gawronska, sister of Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, died over the weekend at a family home in Italy, aged 105. Raised to the rank below sainthood in 1990, her blessed sibling -- who died at 24 in 1925 -- was renowned for his zeal, his humanity, his faith expressed especially in love for the poor and a commitment to the common good. Pier Giorgio Frassati (whose prayer-card is taped to the dashboard of a good friend's car) has inspired not a few current twentysomethings (and some older folks, too) as, with his mountain-climbing, activism and immersion in the culture of his time, he lived out St Irenaeus' great dictum that "Man fully alive is the glory of God." In a message to Frassati devotees announcing the news, the head of a group founded to promote the blessed's legacy said that "now, Luciana has the chance to meet Jesus, the Great Friend for whom her brother gave his life, and to see again her dear and good brother, to whom she was so strongly and devotedly linked." Among her contributions to the Frassati legacy, Luciana wrote a book on her brother's "Last Days." Pier Giorgio's feast is celebrated on the 4th of July.
- Speaking of early July, not a few gripes were heard on the release then of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Pope-approved Q&A that's better-known as the "One True Church" document. Contrary to perceptions, however, not all of the complaints about the text -- which underscored both "the full identity of the church of Christ with the Catholic church" and the Holy See's stance that post-Reformation branches of Christianity are "deprived" of standing as churches, "according to Catholic doctrine" -- have come from the church's lower ranks. Opening the plenary of the German bishops' conference with a two-hour address in late September, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz said of the Roman release that "It is not appropriate to repeat and republish reminders and admonitions on binding church teaching, which are moreover frequently incomplete or abbreviated, within a period of a few years -- even if they are necessary." First reported in English by The Tablet's Christa Pongratz-Lippitt in Vienna, the address by the president of the German episcopate was termed "striking" and, she wrote, "may signal a new intent to defend the reforms of the [Second Vatican] Council" on the part of Papa Ratzi's mitred countrymen. Pongratz-Lippitt also noted that "unanimously and with no abstentions," the German conference also "agreed on a 10-point guideline" to govern celebrations of the 1962 Missal in the 27 dioceses of Europe's largest country. Among the norms: a pro tem ban on the creation of personal parishes for the faithful attached to the Extraordinary Rite, and that "priests who celebrate the [1962 Form] had to also accept the Ordinary [Form] of 1970." The guidelines were reported to have come into force last week... whether they're permissible given the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, however, is another question entirely.
- Keeping an eye on next month's anticipated consistory, one glaring omission of B16's first class of cardinal-electors was the absence of an appointee from Africa; the Pope did give the red hat to the retired Ghanaian Archbishop Peter Poreku Dery in March of last year, but Dery turns 90 in May. This time around, however, Benedict might've found his man south of the Sahara by way of naming him -- on Saturday, the pontiff appointed the head of Kenya's episcopal conference, Coadjutor Archbishop John Njue of Nyeri, to the East African country's senior post, the archbishopric of Nairobi. Njue, 63, succeeds Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki, who reached the retirement age of 75 on Christmas 2006. A two-time seminary rector and product of Rome's Urbaniana and Lateran universities, Njue was elected to his third term as chairman of the Kenyan bishops last year. While his immediate predecessor didn't receive the call to the college (of cardinals) over the course of his nine-year stint in the capital see of 1.2 million Catholics, no one who ever met the nation's first prince of the church has ever forgotten him. Despite the requisite five-year waiting period, a popular movement to open the canonization process for Maurice Michael Otunga is already running at full tilt. The first native Kenyan to serve as Nairobi's chief shepherd -- a post he held for 26 years -- Otunga died in 2003 at age 80. Elsewhere on the continent that's been the vanguard of a burgeoning Catholic presence in the global south, still awaiting new management is the 3.5 million-member archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been vacant since the January death of Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nazbi-Bamungwabi.