|March 10, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 5 • Oakland, CA|
| Vatican insider to speak on global
Christian persecution at the Cathedral
John L. Allen Jr., whose keen-eyed reporting on the Catholic Church — and the Vatican in particular — over the past two decades has made him the go-to source for news, will speak March 18 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
Before joining the Globe, Allen served as a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He has been a familiar face on CNN as senior Vatican analyst.
This book, his ninth, will be available at the Cathedral Shop adjacent to the cathedral before his talk.
Catholic Voice Associate Editor/Staff Writer Michele Jurich interviewed Allen by email before his arrival in Oakland.
What do you think it will take for people in the West to become more aware of the anti-Christian persecution that you document in "The Global War on Christians"? And what action can we take?
Primarily, it will take a change in the narrative that people in the West tend to carry around in their heads about Christianity. For most Westerners, Christianity is a large, wealthy and politically powerful institution, which makes it hard to get our minds around the idea that Christians can actually be the victims of persecution. Yet in the early 21st century, two-thirds of the 2.3 billion Christians in the world live outside the West, in places such as Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Many of those Christians are members of ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities, and they're targets of convenience for anyone who's mad at the West.
The typical Christian today is not a middle class American male pulling up to church in a Lincoln Continental; it's a poor black mother of four in Nigeria, or a Dalit grandmother in India, both of whom are perennially at risk because of their faith. Once we get that, everything else can fall into place.
A Time magazine headline called you, "John Allen Jr.: The Man Who Picked the Pope." But you had profiled about two-dozen candidates in your well-read "Papabile of the Day" stories last year. A year later, how has Pope Francis surprised you?
The single most surprising thing is the way he has completely changed the storyline about the Catholic Church. One year ago, the dominant stories about the church in the global media were pedophile priests, Vatican scandals, crackdowns on nuns and bruising political controversies. While those things haven't gone away, today the dominant story is "rock star pope takes world by storm." If that isn't a revolution, I don't think we've ever seen one, and I certainly didn't see it coming.
By the way, you're absolutely right that I profiled 22 "Papabili of the Day," and while Bergoglio was among them, he definitely wasn't on my A-list. Like most handicappers, I thought he was probably too old. On the other hand, imagine how bad it would have been if I had profiled 22 guys and the next pope wasn't even among them!
What do Catholics ask you most often? And anything you'd rather they not ask?
Catholics are deeply curious folks, so I get all sorts of questions. Today, the most common questions are obviously about Pope Francis — who is he, what was his background in Argentina, where is he taking the church and how are people in the Vatican and beyond reacting to him? In other words, Catholics exhibit the same fascination as the rest of the world with Francis, only they want a truckload more in terms of details!
No, there's nothing I wouldn't want Catholics to ask. I believe we're always better getting questions off our chests and talking them through, rather than suppressing them in the name of a faux sort of good manners.
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