Signs of the Times

Chicago Archdiocese Takes Part in No Sweatshop’ Campaign

Chicago’s cardinal said his archdiocese has joined a national anti-sweatshop campaign because the church is called in a jubilee year to proclaim liberty to captives,’ including those enslaved to undignified working conditions.’ Cardinal Francis E. George said the archdiocese is working to make sure that school uniforms are made sweat-labor free. Similar campaigns are under way in the archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark, N.J. The cardinal said the U.S. Labor Department has been asked by the archdiocese to review a list of 19 uniform vendors known to be used by Catholic school personnel in an effort to identify the source of manufacturers of school and sports uniforms.

Promoting Healthy Ecology Is Sacred Duty, Bishop Says

Promoting a sound and healthy ecology is a sacred task which affects every aspect of life, said Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo, Tex., in a statement for Earth Day, April 22. This earth is our home, and there is an integral bond that connects us to all life on this planet, he said. There is a close bond between soul and soil, between life and air and water, between human and all other forms of life on planet earth. An eco-theology of creation looks upon the universe as a communion of subjects, rather than a collection of objects and gives emphasis to both earth-keeping’ and earth-healing.’


Vatican to Publish New General Instruction on Liturgy in June

The Vatican plans to publish updated instructions for celebrating the Mass when it releases the third Latin edition of the Roman Missal in early June. A Vatican official said the revised general instruction largely retains the content of the 1975 version, although with added restrictions and cautions about using optional prayers and gestures. They did not openly outlaw anything that has been permitted, the source said. He said the revised instruction emphasizes the need to show special respect for the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament, urging that it be close to the center of attention in a church. While the instruction does not say the tabernacle should be returned to a position near the central altar, he said, the document says that if the tabernacle is kept in a separate place it must be a suitably special Blessed Sacrament chapel.

To Understand Eucharist, See Christ in Everyone, Says Cardinal

Catholics will never understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist until they see Christ’s presence in everyone, said Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. As the central expression of the church’s call and commitment to communion and justice, the Eucharist expresses how we are to live the whole of our lives, thus becoming a eucharistic people, the cardinal said during a lecture at the Newman Center of the University of Toronto on April 12. Unwillingness to share in the rest of life as well as in the eucharistic celebration may signal our inability to recognize God’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine, he added.

U.S. Bishops Plan Guidance for Families in Cyberspace

The U.S. Catholic bishops plan to vote on a statement, Cyberspace and Your Family, during their national spring meeting on June 15-17 in Milwaukee. The meeting’s agenda also includes setting time aside for the bishops to discuss the impact of fewer priests on pastoral ministry in the United States. Proposals or documents facing decisions by the bishops include:

a proposal to develop a national adult Catholic catechism;

the country’s first National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States;

a national plan for ongoing formation of priests;

a statement in support of catechetical ministry;

a plan for a national Renewing the Mind of the Media pledge campaign;

a statement on civility in the media;

a protocol for Catholic media programming and media outlets.

Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, director of communications for the U.S.C.C., said the proposed cyberspace statement discusses Internet literacy and provides guidance for parents on their children’s use of the Internet. He said the proposed pledge campaign for media renewal is an effort to involve U.S. Catholics in supporting and encouraging good programming and opposing immorality in the media.

The Catholic media protocol, he said, provides guidance for bishops on reviewing local programs and media outlets that say they are Catholic and determining whether or in what way to approve them. Msgr. Maniscalco said the statement on civility in the media addresses such things as not reporting rumors as fact and avoiding ad hominem arguments.

Last November Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism, reported to the bishops on the feasibility of producing an adult catechism, but no decision was made. In June they will vote on whether to take that up as a project.

East Timorese Church Official Stresses Reconciliation

Reconciliation and the return of East Timorese refugees from Indonesia are needed for an independent East Timor, said a church official visiting the United States. Probably the most important thing we’re working on is to unite the East Timorese people, said Ilidio Gusmao, coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Baukau, during a visit to the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington on April 12. The church is working to educate the people, particularly the Catholic people, about the role they can play in the reconstruction of our land which was destroyed, he said.

Vatican Diplomat Presses for Law Against Kids Enlisting

While applauding an international effort to raise the minimum draft age to 18, a Vatican diplomat pressed for a broader law prohibiting children under 18 from even voluntarily enlisting in the armed services. In many cases, it is difficult to recognize a truly voluntary and free decision, said Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva. The papal diplomat spoke in Geneva during a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which discussed new rules to prevent child soldiers and the sexual exploitation of children.

U.S. Bishops Oppose Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China

The U.S. bishops are urging members of the House of Representatives to vote against granting China permanent normal trade relations because of China’s human rights violations, especially in the area of religious freedom. Boston’s Cardinal Bernard F. Law, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy, stated the bishops’ position in a letter to House members on April 12. Under a historic U.S.-China trade deal announced last November, the United States agreed to support China’s long-sought membership in the World Trade Organization.

Cardinal Mahony Celebrates Mass for Striking Janitors

More than 1,000 striking Los Angeles County janitors cheered on April 10 as Cardinal Roger M. Mahony called for a timely conclusion to their efforts to earn a living wage. I’m here to accompany you all in your struggle, Cardinal Mahony said during a Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, addressing the predominantly Latino crowd in Spanish. Let us capture the memory of Cesar a model for all of us in this struggle. Supported by the Service Employees International Union Local 1877, janitors are requesting a $1-an-hour pay raise. The strike began on April 3, when negotiations with 18 cleaning contractors ended without resolution.

Cardinal Mahony also expressed support for the striking workers in a statement on April 8, noting that starting pay for Los Angeles janitorswhich ranges from $6.80 to $7.90 per hourkeeps their families living close to the poverty level. The janitors’ cause is about fundamental economic justice, said Cardinal Mahony. I urge building owners, contractors and union representatives to return in good faith to the bargaining table at the earliest possible date in order to negotiate an end to this current confrontation.

Trócaire Official Says U.S. Can Help Avoid Famine

The U.S. government can help avert a famine in Ethiopia by delivering aid it has already committed to the drought-hit country, said an Irish church official. If the food aid pledges from the European Union and the American government are actually delivered, Ethiopia could have enough food for the rest of the year, said Justin Kilcullen, director of Trócaire, the Irish bishops’ overseas aid agency. Irish aid agencies say the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the Horn of Africa is mainly the result of the international community cutting back on food aid to Ethiopia.

The United Nations estimates that 8 million Ethiopians risk starvation because of the current crisis, caused by lack of seasonal rains for the fourth successive year. An estimated 12 million people are at risk in the Horn of Africa region. Gode is the worst affected region in the current crisis. Tens of thousands of people have flooded into the main towns of Gode, Danan and Imi after losing their livestock to the drought. More than 90 percent of all cattle have died.

Vatican Official Calls for Crackdown on Forms of Slavery

Women and girls forced or encouraged to become prostitutes in another country are part of a new and growing form of slavery, a Vatican official said. A growing number of young women, children and illegal immigrants are the objects of a sordid trafficking which recalls the darker times of slavery, said Msgr. Dominique Rezeau, the Vatican’s representative to U.N. agencies in Vienna. The 10th U.N. congress on the prevention of crime was held on April 10-17 in Vienna.

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