But Will She Sing "Behind These Papal Eyes"?
It's now circulating pretty widely, but it's worth noting here that Kelly Clarkson -- the first winner of American Idol -- will indeed be playing the 19 April rally with B16 and 20,000 young people at St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie.
And that's not all in terms of high-grade pop talent: Harry Connick Jr. is on-deck to headline a 90-minute concert prior to Sunday's climactic Gotham Mass in Yankee Stadium.
On the classical side, while works by Brahms, Palestrina, Schubert and the gathering of a 200-voice choir figure into the plans for the liturgy itself, one treat the Mozart-loving pontiff won't be getting is an encore from Renee Fleming, whose memorable rendition of Exultate, jubilate brought down the St Pat's house at Cardinal Edward Egan's 2000 installation. This time, the operatic honors have fallen to another Met vet -- Italian tenor Marcello Giordani -- who'll perform Franck's Panis Angelicus before B16 and the congregation of 65,000.
- Yet again, all hell has broken loose in the diocese of Belleville, where 44 priests -- 60 percent of the "active, incardinated" presbyterate -- have signed a letter calling for Bishop Edward Braxton's resignation. Saying that they've become "increasingly frustrated by the lack of collaborative and consultative leadership" on the part of the oft-embattled Braxton, the move is the first taken by a defined group of clerics since 58 Boston pastors moved for Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation in 2002, and the first in memory to come from a majority of a diocese's clergy. While the signers' identities were concealed, one local priest who wasn't among them took out an ad in the Illinois city's exhorting "faithful Catholics" to support Braxton "against the constant harassment directed toward him by... ultra liberal organizations." The call from Fr Richard Weidert, a chaplain at a retirement home, asked that "should their relentless campaign succeed, might the next target on their agenda be Pope Benedict XVI?" When a local reporter tried to get a response from Braxton by going to the bishop's residence, the voice on the front-door intercom replied that "The bishop is not available." And so it goes -- Belleville's Chrism Mass is scheduled for Tuesday.
- Described as one of the church's most influential women, the Focolare foundress Chiara Lubich died early yesterday at 88. One of the leading "new movements" that burst into the global church in the 20th century, Lubich founded the group after experiencing "an intuition of what her vocation would be: a reproduction of the family of Nazareth, a new vocation in the church" -- the term Focolare is drawn from the Italian for "hearth," conjuring the image of a small community gathered around it. The Holy See approved Focolare's statutes in 1962; the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB will celebrate Lubich's funeral in Rome early next week.
- And after two weeks of high tension in Iraq, the body of kidnapped Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was found buried outside the city on Thursday. Rahho, 65, had been abducted in late February after celebrating the Stations of the Cross; two of his aides were killed in the initial ambush. On learning of the prelate's death, the Pope immediately issued a statement deploring "an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the cause of the fraternal coexistence of the beloved Iraqi people." B16 prayed "that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq." The Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly celebrated the archbishop's funeral yesterday north of Mosul. His voice said to be breaking, Delly told mourners that Rahho "became a martyr because of his great faith, and his love for his service."