Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2013 (CNA) -
A group of 30 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders signed a statement urging the Obama administration to work for a “viable two-state peace agreement” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“We believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new Administration in 2013,” read the Jan. 25 statement of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.
“We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides.”
The Catholic signatories were Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines; Bishop Denis Madden, an auxiliary of Baltimore; and Cardinal Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington.
The statement said that “twilight has fallen” on the possibility of a two-state solution in the region. The initiative is urging that the U.S. show leadership before “darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.”
The religious leaders noted that the status quo is both “unsustainable and dangerous,” and that the current stalemate undermines American security, destabilizes the Middle East, and “allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion.”
They called a two-state solution “the only realistic solution to the conflict.”
The signatories pointed to the ceasefire achieved by American and Egyptian intervention in Gaza recently. This, they said, serves as a model for American leadership in the ongoing conflict.
“We affirm President Obama's support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state,” they said.
Jewish signatories included rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and imam Mohammad Magid of the Islamic Society of North America was among the Muslims.
The religious leaders' call has been echoed by John Kerry, who is currently undergoing confirmation hearings in the Senate to be Secretary of State in Obama's second administration.
He voiced concern at his hearings Jan. 25 that “the window or door on a two-state solution could shut,” which “would be disastrous for all concerned.” Two-state talks broke down in 2010 and have not been pursued since.
The talks broke down because of Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are illegal under international law, and Palestine is considering pursuing Israel at the International Criminal Court over the issue.
In Israeli elections last week, the incumbent party, the right-wing Likud, narrowly won. They will form a coalition government, though Likud has recently pushed for accelerated settlement construction in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war, now nearly two years old, threatens to destabilize the region. Some 60,000 have been killed in the conflict, and two million are internally displaced.
More than 670,000 Syrian refugees are straining resources in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt. Jordan has threatened to close its border with Syria, being potentially unable to cope with the scale of the refugee crisis.
Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The greatest blessing for Franciscan University of Steubenville's president has been witnessing the enthusiasm of students, Father Terence Henry said after the news of his retirement as was announced.
In a Jan. 28 interview with CNA, he recalled serving as pastor of the student body which he said was highlighted by greeting the students every day as they made their way to 8 a.m. classes.
“Seeing their enthusiasm and joy,” he said, “confirmed” the hope of Christ and his promise to “be with his Church until the end of the world.”
“One can never despair when you see our students and meet our graduates,” he said. “I feel my greatest blessing as president (has been) to see that every day – it’s just something that I’ll always remember.”
After serving as the university president for the past 13 years – significantly longer than the national average tenure of a school president – Franciscan University announced that Fr. Henry will step down from his role at the end of the academic year.
“I’m looking back on the time and it has gone by very quickly and I’m just grateful and conscious of the many blessings that the school has experienced during that time,” he said.
Fr. Henry, a Third Order Regular Franciscan, is the school’s fifth president, directly preceded by Fr. Michael Scanlan, the priest who reformed the school from a fading party college to a thriving university known for its authentic Catholic identity and academic excellence.
When he took over after Fr. Scanlon's “exceptional” 26-year term as university president, Fr. Henry said many people questioned what course the university would take following its radical transformation in the 1980s.
“I think that I helped answer that question by maintaining that fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church,” without which, he said, “a Catholic university has no purpose of existing.”
Already known for its theology and philosophy departments after the leadership of Fr. Scanlan, the university expanded its academic reach to include 19 new academic programs such as international business, legal studies, biology and bioethics, during Fr. Henry’s time as president.
“Other programs are getting there as well and it’s just awesome that our school’s reputation is continuing to grow,” he said.
In 2007, the university established the Institute of Bioethics under the direction of Dr. Patrick Lee which seeks to resist the “culture of death” by promoting Catholic-based research, writing, speaking and conferences.
Under Fr. Henry’s direction, enrollment has reached an all-time high in 2012 with 2,466 graduate and undergraduate students, the physical campus has more than doubled in size with 249 acres and Baron’s athletics have gained re-entry into the NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports with 15 men’s and women’s programs.
Fr. Henry’s time as president has been marked by growth and expansion of the university in ways that can only be attributed to God and the faithfulness of the faculty, staff and students in responding to the needs of the Church, he said.
“I attribute that to the real dedication of our faculty and staff and just about anybody who works for the mission of our school,” he said. “They really are mission-driven – they make the president look good.”
Although Fr. Henry does not know where his next assignment will take him, he said that wherever he goes “there will be a great demand because the needs of the Church are many.”
In response to the question of where the university will be another thirteen years from now, Fr. Henry said he prays it will be “right there at the points of attack” where the culture contradicts the Church.
The new president will be decided by the board of trustees, who will select from friars recommended by the order’s minister provincial, Fr. Nicholas Polichnowski.
“Our present provincial is a former teacher here at Franciscan University,” Fr. Henry said, “so I know that the choice of successor will be in good hands.”
Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Americans who wish to be truly pro-life must be willing to examine the philosophical and cultural implications of these views, said George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré.
Being involved in the pro-life movement, she said, “will lead you places where you’ll be surprised to go, because abortion is not a single issue.”
Alvaré delivered the keynote address at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 26, explaining to participants that if they want to “keep the integrity” of their positions, they must be willing to take action on social and philosophical issues connected to abortion.
Hosted annually at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life is the largest student-run pro-life conference in the United States.
Alvaré, who was speaking at the conference for the third time since it began in 2000, told the 650 student participants that being pro-life may lead them to investigate the modern understanding of human rights and freedom.
In typical human rights discourse, she observed, weakness and disability are seen as a reason to extend “greater care” to people, “not as a premise for their destruction.”
However, under current abortion laws, she noted, it is permissible for the vulnerable to be killed “when you’re killed by a member of your own family.”
Alvaré explained that this radical re-imagining of human rights hinges on a revised definition of freedom as action without imposition or inconvenience from anyone else. But this definition, she warned, would eventually “take us to a really, really sorry place” where any kind of human relation is seen as an imposition upon freedom.
Paradoxically, she noted, women do not walk into an abortion clinic “feeling empowered” or free, but rather feeling like they have no other options.
The assumption that motherhood is “unacceptable” has made women dependent on abortion, she said, and this dependence has been enshrined in U.S. laws and culture so deeply that the Supreme Court has said that “women cannot order their lives” without abortion on-demand.
A pro-life position will also lead one to reconsider the ethical, class and race issues surrounding abortion, Alvaré observed.
Abortion advocates such as Sandra Fluke and Cecile Richards present abortion as a tool for relieving the economic burden on poor and minority women, she noted, but in reality, the cultural misunderstanding of sex has harmed the poor.
“Sex is not just tennis,” Alvaré reminded the students, adding that sexual intimacy cannot be purely recreational.
Sex produces babies – a fact that is often ignored – and is also for bonding and forming relationships, she explained. After more than four decades of promoting unrestricted contraception and abortion, there are still troubling rates of single motherhood and women in poverty, she said.
Rather than empower women, Alvaré underscored, the push for free contraceptives and abortions has made the situation worse, contributing to increased levels of infidelity, sexually-transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies among poor and minority populations.
Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to the current state of affairs by aggressively promoting domestic and international contraception programs, she added.
By equating “sexual expression” with freedom, she said, politicians gain “allegiance on the cheap,” while failing to address the real problems of unwed parenthood and severe economic crises.
The pro-life movement can benefit society, Alvaré said, through efforts to help members of all classes and cultures to “form stable families and take care of one another and their children.”
While acknowledging that such a commitment is not always easy, she added that each individual can make a difference in his or her daily life, simply by “going where a pro-life conviction takes you.”
Vatican City, Jan 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As the Church celebrates the 30th anniversary of canon law, legal experts at the Vatican are continuing their push for dialogue with their counterparts in other countries, hoping that these talks could reduce the hostility Christians are experiencing worldwide.
"Right now the Holy See is engaging in many different levels with world governments," reported Father Cuong M. Pham, an official at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the department that oversees the Church's laws.
"We have a growing tension between world governments and the Church because there's a lot of misunderstanding, and some see the Church as a threat," said Fr. Pham, who is from the Diocese of Brooklyn and currently works in Rome.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, explained in a Jan. 28 interview that canon law is different from civil law "because it pursues spiritual ends and not economic ends or those of power."
"There are laws in the Church that cannot change because they were set up by Christ. But society is constantly changing, and so we (the Church) can introduce certain changes when appropriate," he said as he explained why the Church updates its laws.
While there are many international agreements between the Holy See and local governments, but Fr. Pham says his office hopes to help lawyers "get to know the law of the Church better, to see what can and cannot be done."
"Many countries who aren't friendly to Christianity are increasing their level of supervision and control over freedom of religion," he observed.
"Christians have a very hostile climate in the United States, 'the land of the free,'" he remarked, also listing Middle Eastern, Asian, South American countries and the United Kingdom as places that are unwelcoming for Christians.
But he hopes there will be a growing number of "concord acts" between Church law and civil law around the world which might help create a friendlier environment for Christians.
At the same time, Fr. Pham noted that canon law sometimes completely opposes civil law, leaving Catholics confused about which one to follow.
"If I want to be a good Catholic, I have to disobey civil law. And if I want to be a good citizen, I can't be a good Catholic," he said, summarizing the predicament.
His comments come after the Church celebrated the 30th anniversary of the current code of canon law on Jan. 25.
Pope Benedict XVI recently met with a top communist leader of Vietnam for the first time to cut down on the country's harassment of Christians.
"We need to show people that many of their laws are based on our system and this isn't only the oldest system in the world, but also the most cohesive," remarked Fr. Pham.
Portland, Ore., Jan 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Alexander K. Sample of Marquette, Mich., to shepherd the archdiocese of Portland, Ore.
In a Jan. 29 statement, Archbishop-designate Sample noted his “excitement and joy at taking up this new challenge that God has placed before me.”
“I have always tried to be obedient to the will of God and to accept whatever the Church asks of me to be God’s will,” he said Tuesday.
“It is in this spirit that I have said 'yes' to the Holy Father’s request for me to serve the Church in a new place in western Oregon.”
However, he said he is leaving the Catholic Church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula “with a certain heaviness of heart.”
“I will profoundly miss the people, the clergy and religious of the diocese. I will miss my brother priests in a special way, since I was chosen from among them to be their bishop.”
The 52-year-old archbishop-designate will succeed Archbishop John G. Vlazny, who submitted his resignation last year when he reached the canonical age limit of 75.
Archbishop-designate Sample has been Bishop of Marquette since 2006. He was 45 at the time of his ordination and was the youngest U.S. bishop at the time.
He serves on U.S. bishops’ conference subcommittees on Native American Catholics and on the catechism. He is vice-postulator for the canonization cause of Venerable Frederic Baraga, the Diocese of Marquette’s first bishop.
The archbishop-designate was born in Kalispell, Montana in 1960. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering before completing philosophy studies at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. in 1986, the Diocese of Marquette reports. He studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical College Josephinum Seminary in Ohio and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Marquette on June 1, 1990 by Bishop Mark F. Schmitt.
There are more than 415,000 Catholics in the western Oregon archdiocese, where they make up 12 percent of the archdiocese’s total population. There are 150 diocesan priests, almost 400 women religious, 78 brothers and 79 permanent archdeacons.
The archdiocese has 124 parishes, 22 missions, 40 Catholic elementary schools, 10 Catholic high schools, two Catholic colleges and universities and 10 Catholic hospitals.
The archdiocese is the second oldest in the U.S. after Baltimore. Its present territory is almost 30,000 square miles and reaches the state borders of Washington and California.
Archbishop-designate Sample will serve as administrator of the Diocese of Marquette until he is installed as archbishop in Portland.
Bud Bunce, the Archdiocese of Portland's director of communications, told CNA that Archbishop-designate Sample's installation will take place on April 2. The time and venue are still to be determined.
Rome, Italy, Jan 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is having his message for this year's World Day of the Sick published in Arabic for the very first time.
"The Holy Father probably wants to transmit a message on this day to the Syrian people because it's the first time that his message will be published in Arabic," said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers.
The Pope's message, drafted in several languages, is centered on the Good Samaritan. It is titled "Go and you, too, do the same," and was released at a Jan. 29 press conference in Rome.
The World Day of the Sick is observed annually on Feb. 11 for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and this year it will be held at the Marian shrine of Altötting in Bavaria, Germany.
"The World Day of the Sick was created by Blessed John Paul II 20 years ago," explained Archbishop Zimowski.
"Pope John Paul II, a suffering man among the suffering, wanted for suffering to be seen close to Jesus Christ, who suffered for us for our salvation," the archbishop reflected.
"He wanted that God's people become more sensitive to the sick and the suffering and that those suffering find a deeper meaning to their suffering," he added.
Archbishop Zimowski noted that John Paul II wrote about the Good Samaritan and he taught that “doing good to those who suffer is doing good from one's own suffering.”
For the upcoming World Day of the Sick, the archbishop explained that Pope Benedict is helping people see the good Samaritans of our times.
"The message relates to those who have suffered for others like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and Anna Schäffer, a Bavarian saint that offered her life for all humanity," Archbishop Zimowski stated.
"These Good Samaritans offer their time, their heart, and their money to those who suffer, and we recall Mother Teresa of Calcutta and several others," he added.
"Each one of us can and must be a Good Samaritan among us, and when we have to suffer, we need to, through our suffering, do good to the world and to humanity," the archbishop said.
Father Jansusz Surzykiewicz, a priest who teaches psychology and theology at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, is also concerned with spiritual health being neglected or forgotten in Germany.
"Many Germans say they are spiritual and want to have spiritual support even though they don't want to belong to an institution like the Church," he remarked.
He believes that one way to address this would be for hospitals and institutions to focus on improving patients’ spiritual well-being.
"There is a kind of evidence that this is important because people who believe in God are better patients, cope better with stress, and have more confidence within their families," Fr. Surzykiewicz asserted.
The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt will host a conference Feb. 7 – 8 with the head of German doctors and a professor in philosophy and medicine as guest speakers to discuss how spiritual health can be introduced in German health care.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 29, 2013 (CNA) -
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to Mexico, voiced prayers and expressed solidarity with the family members of a local priest who was kidnapped last month.
“In the Diocese of Zamora, there is a priest who disappeared days ago,” the nuncio explained. “He disappeared and nobody knows anything.”
Archbishop Pierre spoke at the conclusion of a Jan. 26 Mass in Guanajuato with 35,000 young people. He said that he is praying for Father Santiago Alvarez, who went missing on Dec. 27, 2012.
“(W)e know very well that this priest is one of thousands of people” who have been kidnapped, he said, adding that “there are thousands of families suffering like you.”
According to the Fides News Agency, Archbishop Pierre spoke about having met Fr. Alvarez and said that he shared in the sorrow of the priest’s local bishop.
“I also share in the suffering of thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who don’t know the whereabouts of their loved ones,” he said. “It is a tragedy.”
“We all long for greater justice,” he acknowledged, and while it is not always easy, “we all have to work, each one in his own place” to attain it.
Kansas City, Mo., Jan 29, 2013 (CNA) -
The editor of the National Catholic Reporter responded to Bishop Robert Finn's warning that the publication undermines the faith by saying that paper confidently describes itself as Catholic.
“NCR is proud to call itself a Catholic publication. We report and comment on church matters, including official teachings,” Thomas Fox wrote Jan. 27 on the paper's website.
“We also report and comment on those who call into question some of these official teachings,” he said.
In a Jan. 25 column for his diocesan paper, “The Catholic Key,” Bishop Finn wrote that “in light of the number of recent expressions of concern, I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name 'Catholic.'”
The National Catholic Reporter is based in Bishop Finn's Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. As the local bishop, he noted his responsibility to “call the media to fidelity in the use of means of social communications.”
In his column, the bishop did not take issue with the paper's reporting, but with its editorial stances.
“In the last months I have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.”
For example, a Dec. 3, 2012 editorial appeared on the Reporter's site saying that “Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church.”
That editorial noted John Paul II's 1994 apostolic constitution, requiring definitive assent, that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. The editorial stance noted, and disregarded, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's decision that the teaching requires definitive assent and is part of the deposit of faith.
The Reporter was established in the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese in 1964. Bishop Finn noted that four years later, in 1968, “Bishop Charles Helmsing...issued a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter and asked the publishers to remove the name 'Catholic' from their title – to no avail.”
“From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.”
Canon 216 of the Church's Code of Canon Law says that while the Christian faithful may promote or sustain their own apostolates, “Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”
The Reporter's refusal to remove “Catholic” from their title contrasts with the attitude of other media organizations. In December 2011 Michael Voris' online network “Real Catholic TV” was requested by the Archdiocese of Detroit to remove “Catholic” from its name.
Shortly thereafter, in June 2012, Voris changed the name to “ChurchMilitant.TV,” complying with the request of the archdiocese where the website's content is produced.
Fox backed up the Reporter's claim to the title “Catholic” by saying that “Meanwhile, we belong to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ sanctioned Catholic Press Association.”
When it was pointed out that Catholic Press Association is not sanctioned by the U.S. bishops' conference, an editor's note was added to Fox's piece explaining that the sentence has been changed to “better reflect” the truth.
“Meanwhile, we are a part of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, an independent membership association comprised of Catholic media organizations and individuals,” it now reads.
The Catholic Press Association's code of fair practices state that the mission of an “authentically Catholic press is to inform and to form public opinion in conformity with the Truth and the pursuit of truth.”
Fox also supported his publication's Catholic status by pointing out that Bishop Finn's predecessor, Bishop Raymond Boland, interacted positively with the paper on two occasions.
“Once, Boland came to our Kansas City, Mo., office and blessed our building as we consulted with him about use of new emerging media technologies. Later, Boland spoke at NCR's 40th anniversary ceremony in Washington, D.C.”
In his Jan. 25 column, Bishop Finn's concluded his concerns with the paper by saying, “While I remain open to substantive and respectful discussion with the legitimate representatives of NCR, I find that my ability to influence the National Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the Church seems limited to the supernatural level. For this we pray: St. Francis DeSales, intercede for us.”