Signs of the Times

Pope Presides Over Biggest Consistory in History

On Feb. 21 John Paul II created 44 new cardinals, bringing to 166 the number of cardinals he has appointed—more than any other pope in history. Of the 184 living cardinals, 160 were appointed by John Paul. Forty of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and therefore have the right to vote in a conclave for the next pope. John Paul has appointed all but 10 of the 135 cardinals under the age of 80 who will elect his successor. Among the new cardinals are three from the United States: Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington D.C., Edward M. Egan of New York and Avery Dulles, a renowned Jesuit theologian.

Church, Social Workers Seek to End Child Labor in Pakistan

Church and social workers in Pakistan say that child labor is a serious problem that can be eradicated only if tackled at its roots. The government has promulgated laws to curb child labor, but the economic conditions of the people—which force many children to work as factory workers, cleaners and in other occupations—render the laws ineffective. Ayub Anjum, a worker of the church-led Human Development Center in Toba Tek Singh, told UCA News that even collecting information about child labor is difficult. Parents are often uncooperative, he said, for fear that they might lose their source of income.


Palestinian Melkite Priest Wins Peace Prize

The Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Foundation will award its annual peace prize to the Rev. Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Israeli Melkite, for his efforts to promote peace through interreligious understanding. The 61-year-old Catholic priest is the founder and president of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions, a group of schools that bring together Christian, Muslim and Jewish students. Announcing the award on Feb. 19 in Tokyo and Rome, the Niwano foundation said that Father Chacour “has dedicated himself totally over the last 30 plus years to efforts for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians in Israel.”

Layman to be President at Georgetown University

John J. DeGioia will become the first layman to head a Jesuit university in the United States when he assumes the presidency of Georgetown University in Washington July 1. DeGioia, 44, currently the university’s senior vice president—analogous, he said, to a chief operating officer—will succeed Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., who has been at the helm of the school since 1989. The only other Jesuit university with a non-Jesuit president is Detroit-Mercy, where Sister Maureen Fay, O.P., is president.

Catholic Healthcare West Restructures Its Hospitals

The San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, the largest Catholic hospital system in the western United States, said it will reorganize and cut about 350 jobs in an effort to recover from losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The health care system, which is owned by nine orders of women religious, will reorganize into four regional divisions, down from 10, which now manage 47 hospitals with nearly 40,000 health care professionals and support personnel in California, Nevada and Arizona. Catholic Healthcare West officials said streamlining operations will save $100 million annually and help the company get back in the black.

Catholic Healthcare West has blamed its problems on issues plaguing hospitals statewide, including low reimbursement rates from health plans and Medi-Cal, anticipated costs of seismic upgrades, rising pharmaceutical prices and the cost of caring for the uninsured.

In an unrelated announcement on Feb. 12, Catholic Healthcare West and the California Nurses Association said they had reached an exclusive agreement. Key elements of the agreement include guidelines on behavior during organizing campaigns, assurances of registered nurses’ rights to representation regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and an expedited process for conducting private representation elections conducted by a neutral third party.

Bishop Asks Bush for U.S. Support of East Timorese

Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, East Timor, called on President Bush to support the international peacekeeping mission in East Timor and to help the population rebuild from violence by Indonesian troops that occurred in 1999. Bishop Belo urged Bush to support the presence of the international peacekeeping force under U.N. leadership, saying it would be “badly needed in East Timor for the foreseeable future” to protect against attacks by militias and Indonesian forces. He said the peacekeeping troops, which arrived in September 1999, “were our salvation: Without them, East Timor faced obliteration.”

Bishop Belo said at least 65,000 East Timorese refugees who remain in refugee camps in West Timor are being terrorized by militias who, despite disarmament promises, remain armed and occasionally launch attacks at the border. He said most of East Timor’s infrastructure, which was demolished in 1999 by departing Indonesian troops and their allies, has not been rebuilt. He expressed hope that reconstruction would advance more quickly and that East Timorese, “who now have a very high rate of unemployment, are engaged in this work so that our community may truly regenerate.”

Russian Orthodox Describes ‘Cold War’ with Catholics

The head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church has described relations with the Roman Catholic Church as being in a state of “cold war.” A visit by Pope John Paul II to the “canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church,” including Ukraine, would not be appropriate when relations are so strained, said Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the church’s department for external church relations. Pope John Paul is scheduled to visit Ukraine on June 23-27.

Meanwhile, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow told the newspaper Sevodnya on Feb. 15 that the Catholic Church was trying to spread throughout the former Soviet Union and win converts from Orthodoxy. Catholics are evangelizing in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan, he said. Patriarch Alexei said that during discussions with Vatican officials regarding a possible meeting with Pope John Paul, there was talk about signing a joint declaration. The patriarch said he would want the declaration to include “the rejection of proselytism and encroaching on our churches.” But the Vatican did not agree “that these two articles should come into the declaration,” he said.

Booklet Reviews 30 Years of Methodist-Catholic Dialogues

A new booklet on 30 years of Methodist-Catholic dialogues says that those dialogues “have yielded amazing areas of agreement.” It says, “Were Roman Catholics and Methodists to learn about one another in light of this material over the next quarter of a century, the whole ecumenical climate in the United States would undoubtedly be revolutionized.” The 34-page booklet, Methodist-Catholic Dialogues: Thirty Years of Mission and Witness, was published jointly by the U.S. Catholic Conference and the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church.

Vatican Official Condemns Use of Force Against Iraq

Three days after U.S.-British air strikes against Iraq, the Vatican’s secretary of state condemned force as a means of bringing stability to the region. “Maybe some think that the problems can be resolved with force, but the Holy See thinks differently,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano told reporters on Feb. 19. Without specifically referring to the raids by U.S. and British warplanes against Iraqi air defense installations on Feb. 16, the cardinal said the Vatican hoped that violent “methods do not continue. If you want peace, you have to prepare for peace.”

U.S. Help Needed for El Salvador

Relief workers from Catholic and other agencies asked the U.S. government to increase emergency aid and favored channeling aid through Salvadoran local and nongovernmental organizations. A An official of Catholic Relief Services said there is no evidence of widespread corruption by the Salvadoran government. The problem is inefficiency in getting the aid to the people in need, he said.

The aid agencies also said the U.S. government should grant Salvadoran immigrants in irregular situations special status so they can remain in this country. Jared Hoffman, C.R.S. regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that C.R.S. supports a request by the U.S. bishops to grant temporary protected status to Salvadorans in irregular situations. This status would allow Salvadorans to remain and work in the United States for a 6- to 18-month period regardless of their legal status.

The request that such a status be granted was made in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft on Feb. 9 by Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Camden, N.J., as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration. The bishop noted that the status can be granted to nationals of countries who would face “natural disaster” or “extraordinary temporary conditions” if they returned. “The earthquake in El Salvador, in our view, meets this definition,” he wrote in the letter. Also supporting the granting of temporary protected status were representatives of Oxfam America, the Salvadoran-American National Network and the SHARE Foundation.

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