Signs of the Times

Israeli Troops Enter Village, Make Night ‘Like Hell’

Night in the mainly Christian village of Beit Jalla was “like hell,” said the Rev. Yacoub Abdel Nur, pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church, after Israeli forces entered the village. “It was terrible; nobody could sleep.” In the early hours of Aug. 28, Israeli forces swept into the upper part of Beit Jalla after hours of shooting by Palestinian Tanzeem militia into the Jewish area of Gilo. Palestinians consider Gilo to be occupied territory, and Israelis see it as a neighborhood of Jerusalem. Israeli troops took over a Lutheran church, orphanage and several houses. Father Abdel Nur said that on the first day of the occupation the Israelis patrolled the streets in jeeps and warned with a loudspeaker that people were not to leave their homes, that the area was under curfew until further notice and that they would shoot at anybody walking in the streets.

Lay Ministry Programs Form as Well as Inform, CARA Finds

U.S. Catholic lay ministry formation programs form their students spiritually while preparing them for ministry intellectually and pastorally, according to a national survey of directors of those programs. “On average, respondents estimate that approximately one-third of a candidate’s time is devoted to spiritual formation activities,” said the report published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. It said the program directors most often cited prayer as one of the most important elements in their candidates’ spiritual formation, with theological reflection also high on the list. Other elements frequently cited as most important were experience of a sense of community, retreats and development of a healthy sense of self.


Currently there are more than 300 professional Catholic lay ministry formation programs in the United States with a combined enrollment of more than 35,000—about 10 times the number of seminarians in post-college studies and 13 times the number of men in deacon formation programs. The bishops’ Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth has posted the full CARA report on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,

Milingo Meets With Korean Wife to Say He Is Leaving Her

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia recently met with the Korean woman he married in May to say he was leaving her, the Vatican announced. In a statement issued late on Aug. 29, the Vatican said the archbishop gave 43-year-old Maria Sung a letter telling her: “My commitment in the life of the church, through celibacy, does not permit me to be married. The church’s call to me to return to my first commitment is right.”

The two participated in a wedding ceremony performed in a New York City hotel on May 27 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, but the marriage was never registered in the State of New York. Sung, who earlier said she might be pregnant, now reports that tests indicate she is not.

In a television appearance on Aug. 24 and in two Italian newspaper interviews the following day, Archbishop Milingo said he married Sung because he had felt lonely and misunderstood by the Catholic Church. In 1983, after being relieved of his post at the head of the Archdiocese of Lusaka, Zambia, and moving to Italy, the archbishop drew the ire of many local Italian bishops because of his faith-healing ministry. “At times I was described as a witch, as superstitious. I felt alone. Then, little by little, I was approached by [Rev. Moon’s] Unification Church, which preaches true love in marriage. And I went,” he said. “But then I realized I had committed a serious error, and I repented, and that’s why I asked the Holy Father to [allow me to] re-enter the church,” the archbishop said.

Vatican at U.N. Conference on Racism

The Vatican warned that globalization and technological advances are threatening to generate new forms of racism against society’s weakest members, including immigrant populations, the poor and the unborn. It called on governments to be vigilant against the creation of a “sub-category of human beings,” which it said would represent a “new and terrible form of slavery.” The comments came in a new edition of the document, The Church and Racism, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. First published in 1988, it was revised in anticipation of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 7 in Durban, South Africa.

The introduction clearly signaled the Vatican’s determination to make migration, poverty and pro-life issues a key part of its agenda at the U.N. conference. It also called for a major educational effort against racism and intolerance and gave qualified support for affirmative action programs. The document described a troubling array of discriminatory practices that have emerged in various parts of the world, including ethnic or nationalistic wars, “zero immigration” laws, new forms of exploitation against immigrants or children and racist messages on the Internet.

Before the Durban conference began, some Arab countries drew the ire of Israel and the United States by saying they wanted participants to examine Zionism—the movement that supports the state of Israel—as a form of racism. The Vatican document did not directly address that issue, but it denounced anti-Semitism and said anti-Zionism sometimes serves as “a screen for anti-Semitism.” In an interview with the Vatican agency Fides, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Holy See’s permanent observer to U.N. offices in Geneva and the head of the Vatican delegation to Durban, said no one equates Zionism with racism any longer. But he said the conference might try to address the question of Palestinian suffering in other ways.

The Vatican document indirectly touched upon another controversial topic of the racism conference, the question of financial compensation to descendants of slaves. The document said that from a legal point of view, all persons have a right to equitable reparation if personally and directly they have suffered material or moral injury. Ideally, reparation should erase all the consequences of the injustice. When that is not possible, some form of equivalent compensation should be made—but that, the document acknowledged, is often difficult to calculate. The document said the principle of reparation also has implications in relations between nations, for example, the “obligation of giving substantial help to developing countries.”

The Vatican expressed qualified support for affirmative action policies, which aim to advance the position of racial or ethnic groups that have been discriminated against in the past—for example, in creating special employment, education or financial opportunities. The document said that, on one hand, there was a real risk that these policies could “crystallize differences” in society, favor recruitment on the basis of race rather than competence, and compromise freedom of choice. But it also noted the arguments of supporters, who say that sometimes it is not enough to recognize equality in society—it must be created. The Vatican said that in the end, such policies are legitimate as long as they are temporary and do not end up indefinitely maintaining different rights for different groups.

Kenyan Church to Investigate Death of U.S. Missionary

The Catholic Church in Kenya will launch its own investigation into the death of John Kaiser, of the Mill Hill Fathers, the country’s bishops announced. Bishop John Njue of Embu, chairman of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, said the church would pursue its own investigation because the Kenyan attorney general’s office ignored an earlier request by the church to investigate the priest’s death. Father Kaiser was found dead along a busy highway on Aug. 24, 2000, with a gunshot wound to the head.

Two California Dioceses Settle Sex Abuse Case

As part of a court settlement in a clergy sex abuse case, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange have agreed to abide by a series of policies aimed at preventing further abuses. These include a toll-free telephone number and a Web site to report alleged abuses. Other requirements are screening of seminarians and distribution of a pamphlet through churches and schools explaining why priests are not to engage in sexual activity. Church officials in both dioceses have said the requirements represent no major changes to current policies, as many conditions already are in place.

Latinos Becoming Less Catholic

According to a survey conducted last year in Los Angeles County, U.S.-born Latinos are less Catholic than immigrant Latinos, and many from both groups drop out of the church as they age. The study, conducted by David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at U.C.L.A., reports that while 79 percent of Latino immigrants said they were Catholic, only 63 percent of U.S.-born Latinos identified themselves as Catholic.

A greater cause for concern, said Hayes-Bautista, is that children who were raised with a religious tradition are tending to fall away from that tradition as they reach adolescence. When asked how they were raised, 89 percent of Latino immigrants said they were raised Catholic, even though only 79 percent still identify themselves as Catholic. Among U.S.-born Latinos, 79 percent said they were raised Catholic, even though only 63 percent still consider themselves Catholic. Some embraced other religions, and the remainder did not identify with any religion.

Northern Ireland Bishops Support Latest Police Force Reforms

Northern Ireland’s Catholic bishops have given their support to the latest proposals to reform the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The bishops appealed to Catholics to accept Britain’s latest proposed reform package for Northern Ireland’s predominantly Protestant police force.

“We believe that the time is now right for all those who sincerely want a police service that is fair, impartial and representative to grasp the opportunity that is presented and to exercise their influence to achieve such a service,” the bishops said. The bishops appealed to young Catholics to join the constabulary, which is 88 percent Protestant.

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