Pensacola, Fla., Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - In a telephone press conference given yesterday, Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the USCCB International Policy Committee, expressed his conviction that the direct involvement of President Bush and the U.S. government are needed to resolve the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which he called “the world’s worst humanitarian situation of the present time.”
Bishop Ricard, of the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, had recently returned from a trip to Darfur in which he visited various camps on the Sudanese border and in Chad, which are occupied by nearly 2.5 million people who have been forced from their villages by government-backed Arab militias known as the “Janjaweed.”
The people in the camps, according to Bishop Ricard, are in a state of constant anxiety and fear of being attacked. There is not enough food and it doesn’t come with any regularity, and the women are regularly raped when they leave the camp to fetch supplies or firewood. The displaced have tried to return to their villages but when they do they are attacked and some killed.
While the conflict has been on for decades, the Janjaweed have killed an estimated 30,000 Black Muslims in the Darfur region in the last 17 months.
According to Bishop Ricard, who has been visiting Sudan for 12 years, and has met with several government officials, the Sudanese government is ruled by a small elite who believe that Sudan is an Islamic country, but also believe that it should be arabized, which explains the attacks on the region of Darfur in which the people are predominantly Black Muslims.
The bishop expressed his fear that the peace process, which is moving towards bringing an end to the 20 year civil war in Sudan, may be derailed by the situation in Darfur.
“We must be convinced that the only way the crisis will be resolved is through the direct involvement of our government and our president.” The situation requires the continued contributions of donors, the continued involvement of the U.N., “and that the U.S. specifically focus on moving the peace process forward. Without that there will be no chance of resolving the situation.”
Ken Hackett, head of Catholic Relief Services, who accompanied Bishop Ricard to Darfur and was present at the conference said that “the purpose of the trip was to try to express the solidarity of the Church in the U.S. with the suffering Church in Sudan.”
Hackett, addressing the situation in the camps, said that people were on the brink of starving to death. “People are going to die if we do not send supplies and aid to them more quickly and in an environment in which allows them to get through. If there is a lack of security in the region, it will be impossible for supplies to get there and people will die.”
John Carr, of the USCCB Department of Social Development and World Peace, also present at the conference, said that the decision of the U.S. bishops to devote this coming sunday to preaching, prayer and a special collection for the people of Darfur is “unprecedented.” “We have to act, and we have to act now,” he said. “We don’t know enough…we are not doing enough.”
“We appeal to Catholics in the U.S.,” said Bishop Ricard, "because we know they will be ready to respond.”
Washington D.C., Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - The publisher of a leading Catholic magazine regrets the “low-brow tactics” of a left-wing newspaper, which is planning on publishing an article aimed at discrediting him.
In an effort to give “truth a head start,” Crisis Magazine publisher Deal Hudson wrote a column on the National Review On-line Web site, providing the context and history for the soon-to-be-published article.
In his column, called “The Price of Politics: Getting ahead of a potential distraction,” Hudson says a newspaper reporter interviewed him after a USCCB employee resigned from his position, following an exposé by Hudson and his magazine of the employee’s involvement on the "Catholics-for-Kerry" Web site.
Hudson eventually discovered that the reporter was also calling former employees and acquaintances and asking them for information about his personal life.
The longtime editor and Bush supporter believes his past was being dug up for political reasons — “in an attempt to undermine the causes I have fought for: the defense of Church teachings on life, the priesthood, the authority of the Pope, and the need for faithful Catholic participation in politics,” he wrote in his column.
“Like many people, I have done things in my life that I regret,” he continued, later adding: “In matters of this nature, exaggeration, half-truths, and rumor often tend to overtake the truth — and I wanted truth to get a head start.”
“When we entered the political fray in the 2000 campaign,” he said of his family – his wife of 17 years and two children – “we knew the risk of political involvement but considered the issues worth the potential cost. We still do.”
Hudson, who worked as an adviser in Bush’s last presidential campaign, said that while he remains “fervently committed to supporting President Bush's reelection,” he would not continue as an adviser in this year's campaign.
“While I have no intention of being dissuaded by personal attacks, I will not allow low-brow tactics to distract from the critically important issues in this election,” he explained.
For Deal Hudson’s full text, go to: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/hudson200408181000.asp
Vatican City, Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - The official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, called the recent trip by Pope John Paul II to the Marian shrine of Lourdes an eloquent “hymn in honor of life.”
According the front-page story published Tuesday and signed by Editor-in-Chief Mario Agnes, the Pope lifted up “a hymn in honor of joy, life, freedom and solidarity” with his trip to Lourdes.
Agnes said the Pope “did not go to greet the Virgin in an automobile but rather in a chair, which the instrument he uses to get around in his daily life.”
“Thus he passed by so many people who are suffering, drawing close to them, in that chair which is like an itinerant Cathedral, the itinerant Cathedral of the Pilgrim pastor,” he added.
, Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - Bursting with life and activity, the first Vietnamese parish in the United States marked its 25th anniversary last weekend with a mass, celebrated by Bishop Paul Loverde. Archbishop Stefano Nguyen Nhu The of Hue, Vietnam, flew in as a special guest for the evening mass.
It was standing-room only at the anniversary mass for Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parish in Arlington, Aug. 14, and the crowd that watched the mass on a television screen in the church lobby spilled out onto the sidewalk, reported the Catholic Herald.
This was not unusual for a parish that has been experiencing non-stop growth for the last quarter-century. When the parish first began, there were only 25 families, and mass was being celebrated in different locations. Today, the community has a church building and 1,750 families, says Bui Huu Thu, founding parishioner and president of the parish council.
Other signs of life and community abound. For starters, there are 16 groups and seven choirs in the parish, and the senior citizen group has 100 members.
The parish produced the first Vietnamese priest for the Arlington diocese. Born in Vietnam, Fr. Augustine Minh Hai Tran, grew up in Springfield and his parents are members of Holy Martyrs Parish. Fr. Tran is the newest priest to be ordained to the diocese.
It also produces a Vietnamese Web cast of religious programming – the first such programming in the Eastern United States. Eighteen volunteers broadcast weekly local news, mass for shut-ins and people discussing their faith journey, all from the church basement. It is available at www.rc.net/arlington/cttdvn.
As well, many parishioners have followed in the spirituality of their parish priests and want to be members of the lay Dominicans. Fifty-eight were accepted in the novitiate last week, bringing the parish total to 70 members.
The recent renovations are a sign of the community spirit at the national parish. According to Thu, hundreds of volunteers worked 12-hour shifts, committed to finishing the renovations in time for the anniversary mass. Thu said one 80-year-old volunteer stayed at a room in the church and only went home on weekends.
The feeling of ownership is strong at the parish, said Thu, who adds that the community is grateful that it has been truly blessed.
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - Two Episcopal parishes in southern California announced Aug. 17 that they have left the U.S. Episcopal Church, in reaction to the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire last year, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. James Church in Newport Beach became the first of the 147 parishes in the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese to break from the church. They placed themselves under the leadership of an African Anglican bishop.
“The consecration of the gay bishop was like a line in the sand,” St. James parishioner Jane Irvine told the Los Angeles Times. “You could see the direction was not going to change, and we could not go any further.”
But Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, surprised by the split, said he would not relinquish control over the parishes.
Seoul, South Korea, Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - The issue of the acculturation of the Gospel into the Asian way of life and the issues arising from globalization, such as increasing consumerism, have emerged as central challenges for the Church in Asia in the deliberations of the 8th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) under way in Daejeon, South Korea.
In the opening speech Mgr. Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, emphasized the need to correctly understand the notion of acculturation. It is not, he said, “mere religious folklore and cannot simply mean incorporating local Asian languages, musical instruments, and dances into the liturgy.”
Acculturation to the Gospel, Bishop Sarah said, means having “God enter someone’s life and thought process” changing his or her “moral behaviour and culture” since “there always is a difference between their culture and the Gospel.”
He cited the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as an example of the right motivation for the Evangelization of Asia. “She saw in the destitute the one Jesus to love, serve, and help. Her example should make it easier for the Church to evangelise through love in Asia.”
The challenges of globalization were addressed by Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City. “Globalisation,” he said, “has brought new lifestyles that stress materialism, pragmatism and hedonism compared to Asia’s traditional values.”
However, he also stressed that not all the effects of globalization are negative. “Instead of just condemning (the changes),” Cardinal Pham Minh Man said, “the Church should engage them in a dialogue, one that would select the best of the new and preserve the good of the old.”
Materialism and consumerism are one of the worst consequences of globalization according to Mgr. Andrei Choi Chang-mou, Bishop of Kwangju and President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference; “Too many bad things that happen in families are money-related. Family problems and family squabbles come from serving Mammon more than God. For the Church God must always come first if she wants to help Christian families realise their lives in God and be a beacon to the world and the salt of the earth.”
The conference, whose main theme is “The Asian Family: towards a culture of life,” has been meeting since August 16 and will run until August 23.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, called on President Leonel Fernandez, who began his four-year term this month, to work for a restoration of morality that will allow the country to overcome its crisis.
The Cardinal presided at a thanksgiving Mass attended by the president and principal leaders of the country. In his homily, he recommended Fernandez fight corruption and illicit wealth, because “the people have been the victims of all these injustices, and they deserve and demand a remedy that is moral and satisfactory.”
The Cardinal recognized that “humanly speaking, it is very difficult to put up with such a chorus of evils for so long without falling into despair, but I know that there are moral and spiritual reserves in our people which have sustained them.”
Likewise he added that “we are all conscious that the task ahead of him (President Fernandez) is not an easy one” and that he will need the assistance of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit at every moment.
“It’s time for the triumph of honesty, seriousness, order, organization, institutionalization, discipline, complete respect of others, austerity, rationality, adherence to the law, responsibility, commitment and efficiency in work, good manners, transparency in everything, solidarity, just distribution, creativity, courage in business, truthfulness in the declaring and paying of taxes,” he said.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 19, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Jorge Urosa Savino, Vice President of the Bishops Conference of Venezuela, addressed national leaders this week, saying the bishops’ statements on the referendum do not make the Church a “partisan actor” and that the bishops will not be silent because they cannot be indifferent to people’s suffering.
“The Catholic Church is not a partisan actor; we are shepherds, servants and teachers of all the Venezuelan people, independent of their political sympathies. We are impartial but that does not mean we are indifferent to suffering, to the problem of violence, of unemployment, and to exclusion,” the Archbishop said.
Although he did not address the criticism by Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel of Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, who denounced Sunday’s referendum as election fraud, Archbishop Urosa insisted that “the members of the Catholic Church are not political actors in a partisan sense, they are not biased. We are not on the side of the government nor of the opposition, we simply maintain our position as the People of God and that is how it is perceived by the great majority of Catholic Venezuelans.”
Archbishop Urosa also clarified that politic violence is provoked by armed groups that attack peaceful political protests, a reference to an incident last Monday in which protestors against President Hugo Chavez were fired upon by government supporters.
The Archbishop called for “the exiling of political violence that has gone on too long and continues to bring grief to many Venezuelan families.”