Weekly round up: Protesting religious, rockin' monks, and soccer stars

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I’m sure you’ve all had busy weeks filled with summer fun. The news doesn’t sleep and there's been a lot going on. Here’s what you might have missed over the last few days.

Summer is a great time for sports, with baseball season well underway, American golfer Jason Dufner taking home the trophy of the PGA, and football season fast approaching. Who doesn’t enjoy watching a game? Even the pope has his favorite teams. This week, the Argentinean and Italian football (soccer) teams met for a private audience at the Vatican and presented the pontiff with an olive tree. It had been 12 years since the teams met in Rome and Pope Francis was glad that it was a friendly match so he didn’t have to choose a side to cheer for.

Speaking of Pope Francis, who knew he would be so good for the economy? According to the Huffington Post, Catholic retailers are catching up to the dominating lead that evangelical Protestants have when it comes to selling religious items. Now Catholics are starting to buy more rosaries, icons, prayer cards and other devotional objects. Alan Napleton, the president of the Catholic Marketing Network credits it in part to the pope. “He’s a hard guy not to love,” said Napleton, “and that will drive people into the churches—and the bookstores.”

The Vatican Museums are known around the world for their exquisite collections. A smaller museum within it is home to the Vatican’s popemobile collection. Over the last two centuries, the pope of the time used this method of transportation to weave through the crowds during audiences and Masses. The exhibit, known as the “Carriage Pavilion,” features chariots, automobiles, and even its prized piece: the car in which John Paul II was shot in 1981. If you’re planning a trip to Rome, make sure to add this to your list of things to see!

A Catholic priest in Rhode Island, in defending the church’s stance on same-sex marriage, e-mailed 26 state senators and threatened to preach to his congregation about why they should not be re-elected. Many feel that the priest has taken this a step too far since, as non-profit organizations, churches are legally prohibited from participating in political campaigns. This is not the first time Father Brian Sistare has gotten into trouble for taking drastic actions.

There is still no verification for whether Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest and a vocal supporter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and some Islamist rebel groups, is alive or dead. He was abducted by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria and has been missing since July 29. He was reported dead earlier this week, but there are now “reliable" sources that can confirm he is alive. We pray for his safe return. (For more information about Fr. Dall’Oglio, read his interview with U.S. Catholic.)

At 137 percent capacity, the prisons in California in 2011 were vastly overcrowded. By ordering the Californian government to release 10,000 inmates, the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to reduce the mass incarceration for the state which has caused “severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.” Now Governor Jerry Brown has decided that the “prison emergency is over.” Will the Californian government give just sentences to inmates or will they listen to the governor and stop their efforts (they have made great strides of the last two years) to reduce the prison population?

Two Roman Catholic communities in Kentucky, the Sisters of Loretto in Marion County and the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County, are forbidding representatives of Tulsa-based Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners from putting a natural gas pipeline through their properties. Eminent domain under Kentucky law allows the right for the companies to build their pipeline, even if the property owners don’t want to participate. Hopefully the sisters can hold strong in preserving the historic and holy land, that according to them will result in fast money and long-term, negative consequences that will harm their beloved property.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a voter identification bill into law on Monday that many disapprove of. Sen. Kay Hagan (D) on Tuesday called for the Justice Department to review the law, claiming that it would restrict the ability of minorities, seniors, students, the disabled, and low and middle incomes citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Many states have passed laws to restrict voters—something the U.S. Catholic bishops are against because they firmly believe participating in political life is a right and moral obligation. (For our feature on voter restriction, see “Voting block: How new laws are preventing voters from casting their ballot”.)

And before you head out for your weekend plans, here’s a song for all of you Christian rock fans. With yesterday being the Assumption of Mary, Fratello Metallo, an Italian Capuchin friar, wrote "Maria Maiestatis" in honor of the Blessed Virgin. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it is well worth the listen!

That's all for today! Enjoy the weekend, everyone! Anything big happen in your hometown this week?


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