Montevideo, Uruguay, May 23, 2011 (CNA) - The Latin American Bishops' Council has called on Catholics to strive for personal conversion based on the Gospel in order to transform society.
“As the Church, the bearer of the life of the Kingdom of God, we feel called to carry out a new evangelization that lifts the fallen, welcomes those excluded from our society, heals the hurting, answers those who ask where God is amidst all the calamities, and return hope in the abundant life that springs forth from the Risen Crucified One,” the council said in the statement released May 20.
The council released the message at the conclusion of its 33rd General Assembly.
The Latin American bishops also urged that life be promoted amid the culture of death, which has resulted in many young people falling victim to the violence of drug trafficking and “becoming disenchanted with the institutions that have lost their credibility because of entrenched corruption.”
“Jesus teaches not to remain inactive before this situation,” they said.
The evangelization of the continent today is a “continuous” task that requires diligence in overcoming “not a few obstacles and resistance.”
“In Jesus people sense the presence of our faithful God who journeys with his people and His answers to their deepest desires,” they added. They invited all the bishops of the region “and the entire People of God to promote living and vibrant experiences of the Gospel.”
Guatemala City, Guatemala, May 23, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Gabriel Penate Rodriguez of Izabal, Guatemala has expressed both sadness and outrage over the massacre of 27 people near the country’s border with Mexico.
These persons endured “a cruel death, carried out with unheard of brutality and barbarity. It is impossible to believe that a human being could be capable of committing such an act,” the bishop said in a May 20 statement.
All of the victims were found decapitated in the province of Peten. The attack took place the weekend of May 14.
Bishop Penate Rodriguez said that the victims of the massacre carried out by the drug cartel “Los Zetas” were poor and humble people who “sought their livelihood in Peten by working at the large farms there.
“They went in search of life and they found death.”
Bishop Penate called on officials to launch an immediate investigation to protect citizens “from these criminal gangs who wander about our country with impunity.”
He urged those behind the acts “to repent, to cease giving their lives over to death and to spreading so much pain and suffering among Guatemalan families.”
“They should abandon evil and devote themselves to good. Let us build a world of love,” the bishop concluded.
Washington D.C., May 23, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops told President Obama to act quickly if a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to work, warning that the chance for peace could be fleeting.
“If the opportunity for a two-state solution is missed,” they said in a May 20 letter, “there almost inevitably will be renewed violent conflict with more suffering for Israelis and Palestinians, and increased dangers of extremism.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the bishops’ international justice and peace chairman Bishop Howard J. Hubbard sent the May 20 letter to the president on behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Together with a group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders, they praised the president's “strong affirmation … that peace is possible” between Israel and the Palestinians. In a May 19 speech, President Obama called for negotiations that would establish a Palestinian state on the basis of Israel's 1967 borders, with land swaps that would be “mutually agreed-upon.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes the approach would compromise Israel's security, and there are further concerns about what policy the new Palestinian unity government – incorporating the Hamas and Fatah factions – will take toward Israel. Last year, peace talks broke down over the issue of Israeli settlements.
The bishops, however, believe that neither party can afford to forestall negotiations – nor can the U.S. take the risk of withdrawing support from the Palestinians.
“We believe the United States, in coordination with the Quartet, should continue to respond carefully to the new Palestinian unity agreement,” the bishops stated. They urged the president not to “cut off aid that is essential for humanitarian purposes and for building the capacity of a future Palestinian state.”
For its part, the Hamas-Fatah unity government “must commit itself to rejecting violence and negotiating a two-state peace agreement with Israel.” The bishops said the U.S. and its international partners “should insist on these commitments” from the Palestinian side.
The Catholic bishops and other religious leaders once again affirmed their support for a peace proposal brought forward by a group of former Israeli government officials in March of 2011. That proposal, like President Obama's, involves a return to Israel's 1967 borders “with agreed modifications.”
They renewed their call for President Obama to visit Jerusalem, in order to offer “urgently needed, strong, sustained U.S. leadership “ to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Valletta, Malta, May 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Bishops of Malta are reminding the faithful that they are responsible before God for their votes in an upcoming referendum that could legalize divorce.
“The Christian must always act with reference to our Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings,” they stated in a May 21 pastoral letter entitled “Opting in Favor of Permanent Marriage.” They explained that when voting, a Christian “must bear in mind that he shall be accountable to Jesus for his choice.”
The letter, authored by Maltese Archbishop Paul Cremona along with Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo and Auxiliary Bishop Annetto DePasquale, encourages citizens to support marriage and the family with their votes on May 28. On that day, voters in the small, largely Catholic island nation will decide whether or not a bill allowing divorce will be allowed to advance in Parliament.
In their letter, the bishops said it was a moment for Catholics “to make a choice in favor of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They stressed that voters “must look through his eyes,” and “choose Jesus as the path that leads to this truth.”
“Other paths will not lead us there,” they warned. “We hope that even with regard to the Divorce Referendum, which is actually a referendum on marriage, we will be guided by the words of Jesus.”
The words in question – in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke – forbid divorce and remarriage in any case where a man and a woman are legitimately married.
The Catholic Church regards this teaching as a matter of both faith and reason, comparable to its teaching on abortion or same-sex “marriage.” In cases of an illegitimate marriage, the Maltese legal system allows for the possibility of an annulment.
In their pastoral letter, the Maltese bishops laid out reasons for preserving this teaching about marriage within the framework of the law.
“Marriage and the family form the natural core which is essential for a person to live and grow within an atmosphere of genuine love, as well as for the building of a strong society,” they taught.
“For this reason, Jesus Christ teaches us that marriage – which goes hand in hand with the dignity of mankind – should, by its very nature, be a permanent bond.”
The bishops acknowledged the pain of those whose marriages had broken down, but said that legalizing divorce would not solve the problem.
They observed that “the teachings of Jesus Christ, expressed through the moral law of the Church, leave no doubt that divorce is the wrong solution – a solution upon which a stable society cannot be built.”
Instead, “as a gesture of love towards those who are suffering, and towards future generations, we must together try and improve the conditions of marriage and the family.”
“By his vote, the citizen will either build or destroy,” they said, posing the question of divorce as a fork in the road for Malta's future.
“A choice in favour of permanent marriage is an act of faith in the family, built upon a bond of love which cannot be severed,” they wrote. “Whereas a choice in favour of divorce leads to the further destruction of marriage and the family and, as a consequence, the destruction of values and the quality of life.”
They urged all of the Catholic faithful to ponder the choice carefully, and not neglect to vote “due to lack of enthusiasm.” Every citizen, they said, would have to “shoulder the responsibility for the consequences of our decision.”
Chicago, Ill., May 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis George has reinstated controversial Chicago priest Fr. Michael Pfleger. The St. Sabina pastor said he did not intend a public remark to be a threat to leave the priesthood and that he was sorry for how his comment appeared.
“I am committed to the priesthood and the Catholic Church,” Fr. Pfleger said in a May 20 statement. “I believe all who know me know well that I want to be a Catholic priest. I have spent the last 36 years of my life trying my best to preach the Gospel, be a voice for justice and the poor, and build up the Church.”
He said he and the cardinal recognized that the Church has been “hurt.” Fr. Pfleger pledged to do “all in my power to foster healing” for the people of his parish, St. Sabina’s, and for the Church as a whole.
Cardinal George said the statement was “a genuine step toward healing the hurt and clarifying the confusion.”
“Many people have been personally affected by these events, including the people of St. Sabina Parish, and I hope that our statements now will bring the peace necessary to strengthen the mission of the Church,” the cardinal continued, saying he was “personally pleased” to restore Fr. Pfleger to his sacramental and pastoral ministry.
Fr. Pfleger celebrated Mass at the parish on Sunday, his 62nd birthday.
“I want to thank Francis Cardinal George. I thank him for lifting the suspension; I thank him for our conversations,” he said. He also expressed remorse several times to his parishioners.
“I love being a Catholic priest and I love being in the Church,” he added. “Like any family we fight, we disagree.”
The priest is a long-time social activist who is known for supporting gun control and preaching against violence. In 2008 Cardinal George asked him to go on a two-week leave of absence after he publicly mocked then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama’s rival in the Democratic primaries.
In April the priest had told media outlets that he would leave the Catholic Church if the Archdiocese of Chicago “removed” him from his role of pastor at St. Sabina’s Parish to serve as president of the nearby Leo High School.
Fr. Pfleger has been pastor of the parish since 1983.
In his May 20 statement, the priest said Cardinal George has asked him to prepare a transition plan for the future of St. Sabina. Fr. Pfleger will present the plan to the cardinal and the archdiocese’s Priests’ Placement Board by December 1.
“Cardinal George and I are committed to work together to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his Body, the Church,” he said.