Signs of the Times

Oakland Diocesan Service Offers Apology for Clergy Sex Abuse

Pain, anger and healing surged through an Oakland gathering as Bishop John S. Cummins and other leaders of the Diocese of Oakland publicly apologized to victims of clergy sexual abuse. More than 130 people, including survivors, their families and friends, attended the service. To the men and women who were sexually abused by priests when they were children, teenagers or adults, Bishop Cummins said, "For our lack of facing the truth regarding abuse by clergy and others, for our tendency to retreat into denial and selfprotection 'm the face of such abuse, for our response of fear and avoidance rather than of care for the survivors of clergy sexual abuse, we ask pardon and forgiveness."

South African Bishop Urges Continued Aid for Mozambique

A South African bishop said it was crucial "that there is the political will to keep aid flowing" to Mozambique so that people there can rebuild their lives after severe flooding. "There is concern that, when the cameras go, the help will stop," said Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, who heads the justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.


Indonesian Refugees Fleeing Violence in Moluccas

Churches in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua have stepped in as the local government finds itself unable to deal with the recent influx of people fleeing violence in their country's Molucca Islands. Bishop Francis Hadisumarta of ManokwatiSorong said in a letter on March 24 to the Indonesian Bishops' Conference that since ntid-NIarch nearly 1,000 Indonesians have fled to Papua. The local district government, he said, was caught unprepared to handle the sudden influx of a large number of people. Those displaced from the Moluccas, all Protestants or Catholics, came by boat from Bula on March 14 to 16. "They were expelled and pursued by Muslims in Ceram," the bishop said. More than 300 Catholics who had fled were taken to the cathedral church hall. "They are packed like sardines, but there is nothing we can do about it. That is the only place we have," explained the bishop.

"Since the day the refugees were taken in, local people have continuously pushed for their return," the bishop said. "Every day, they [refugees] were terrorized by the locals." Unable to stand the pressure, refugees finally left Sorong. Most of them went to Tual on Key island, about 330 miles south of Sorong. "It is sad. People who had been expelled were expelled again," said Bishop Hadisumarta.

Pope Tells Judges to Leave Lawmaking to Legislative Branch

Pope John Paul II said judges should leave lawmaking to the legislative branch of modem democratic societies, especially concerning the right to life and biotechnology. Speaking to judges participating in a congress of the Italian National Association of Magistrates, the pope acknowledged that legislation sometimes lagged behind technical and social change. Because of this, he said, "jurisprudential interpretation of die law is increasingly assuming the value of a source of power." But judges should not step in to fill legislative gaps, he said.

The independence of the judicial branch is central to a healthy modem democracy, he said, but did not free judges from the duty to respect values written in human nature. "The independence of the judiciary will never be able to be exercised by ignoring values rooted in the nature of the human being, whose inalienable dignity and transcendental destiny must always be respected," he said. Turning to criminal law, the pope said prescribed punishments and their application must guarantee society's security without striking at the dignity of the criminal, "who is loved by God and is called to redeem himself if guilty." "The punishment can never shatter the hope of redemption," he said.

East Timorese Refugees Must Be Allowed to Return, Says Bishop

The 100,000 East Timorese refugees residing in Indonesia-controlled western Timor must be allowed to return to their country and not be forced to resettle in other parts of Indonesia, said Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator of Dili. "No forced resettlement must be permitted. I know that many want to come home, and they have not yet been given the freedom to do so," Bishop Belo said. The bishop called on the international community to pressure the Indonesian government not to resettle the East Timorese.

Supreme Court Tackles Prayer Before Football Games

The Supreme Court, having barred organized school prayer from public school classrooms and graduation ceremonies, must now decide if it will allow student-led prayers over the public address system before football games. In oral arguments before the court, most of the justices seemed hesitant to allow this now-suspended policy of a pre-game invocation in a Texas school district to resume.

U.S.C.C. Urges Public Interest Obligation on Digital TV

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Catholic Conference urged the commission to require holders of digital television broadcast licenses to provide free programming in the public interest. The F.C.C. should "impose clear, enforceable requirements that digital broadcasters ascertain the needs and interests of their communities of license and set a minimum amount to frree public affairs and other free programming which meets those needs and interests," said the comments, submitted by the U.S.C.C.

Sri Lanka Bishop Calls for End to 17Year War

Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna called for an end to the 17-year war in Sri Lanka at a peace rally in Jaffna attended by 6,000 people. "The conflict has been going on for many years with suffering increasing year by year," said Bishop Savundaranayagam. The bishop urged all concerned leaders to stop hostilities and war, to seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict and to ask for a third party to help in the peace process. "While we earnestly desire for peace, let us ask what we ourselves can do to bring about peace," he told a rally organized by the Peoples' Committee for Peace and Goodwill in collaboration with at least 60 organizations.

$6 Million for Textbook Aid to Maryland Nonpublic Schools

The Maryland House of Delegates has joined the state Senate in approving $6 million to help pay for nonreligious textbooks in Maryland's Catholic, private and other religious schools. By a vote of 72 to 68 the delegates agreed to keep the money in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's $19.6 billion state budget when they defeated an amendment introduced by Democratic Del. Sharon Grosfeld that would have removed the aid. Mary Ellen Russell, president of the Maryland Federation of Catholic School Families, said she was overjoyed that the aid was approved to help some 134,000 nonpublic school students.

Dalit Bishop's Transfer in India Brings Mixed Reaction

The appointment of India's first dalit Pow caste] archbishop evoked mixed reactions among church people in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. While some have criticized the Vatican for ignoring "ground realities" in transferring Bishop Marampudijoji of Vijayawada to Hyderabad, others said Ms promotion as the state's metropolitan archbishop will bring "new life" to the 1-milhon-strong Andhra church.

Expressing shock over the appointment, outgoing Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad said, "Rome is being taken for a ride. Rome does not know the ground realities," reported UCA News. Claiming that 95 percent of the priests of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad opposed the appointment, he gave his successor less than five years in his new post. Hyderabad's chancellor, the Rev. Henry D'Souza, however, described Archbishop Joji as a "good administrator," although he remained noncommittal about the new archbishop's efficiency as a pastor. He said he foresaw trouble if the new archbishop failed to adjust to Hyderabad's cosmopolitan community. In Vijayawada, he "deals mostly with villagers," Father D'Souza said.

His priority, he said, is to reorganize the archdiocese's pastoral setup so that development will reach the needy. Ensuring dalits' equal rights in education and women's development and empowerment are the new archbishop's other priorities. "We should see to it that the church is at the service of the public," he added. A Jesuit priest in Andhra told UCA News that Archbishop Joji needs to be careful in Hyderabad, because its several linguistic groups and communities would try to pull him in different directions. Archbishop Arulappa expressed fear that the dalit prelate would work only for his own caste.

Christian Brothers Investment Services to Manage Mutual Fund

Christian Brothers Investment Services has been selected as the new investment manager of a socially responsible fund that enables investors to give all or part of their fund appreciation to microentrepreneurs in Africa Asia and Latin America through Catholic Relief Services. The investment goal of the DevCap [Development Capital] Shared Return Fund is to match the total return of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Christian Brothers Investment Services, based in New York, is a leading in vestment adviser for Catholic institutions, established in 1981 by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. As of Dec. 31, the organization had in excess of $2.4 billion in assets under management.

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