Signs of the Times

Top Vatican Diplomat Says U.S. Military Response Justified

Nearly a week into a U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan, a top Vatican diplomat said America’s military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was justified but must avoid taking civilian lives. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, also warned that taking up arms in self-defense could lead to the logic of violence, and that is always a risk for humanity. In an interview published on Oct. 12 in La Croix, a French Catholic daily, Archbishop Tauran said he thought the military campaign was justified in the measure that the use of force has clearly defined targets.

He said the United States had the moral obligation to protect the life of innocents and not take civilians as the direct target of attacks, and to use force that is proportional to the evil being fought. The position of the [Vatican] secretariat of state consists in underlining that the response to the barbarous acts of Sept. 11 must not be an act of vengeance but an act of justice that has as its aim the reparation of the grave injustice suffered, he said. In general, he said, recourse to force was acceptable after all political, diplomatic and financial means had been exhausted.


Archbishop Tauran said that underlying causes of the current crisisincluding the running aground of the Middle East peace process and the frustration of the Palestinians at the lack of concrete results from the processalso must be addressed. This means returning to the negotiations table and picking up anew a dynamic of peace that must lead effectively to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, he said.

Pro-Life Plan, Africa and Asian-Americans on Bishops’ Agenda

Three major documents face the U.S. Catholic bishops when they meet in Washington this November: A call to solidarity with Africa, an updated pro-life activities plan and a statement on the growing Asian and Pacific presence in the U.S. church. The bishops will elect a new president and vice president for the next three years, as well as a treasurer-elect and 22 new committee chairmen or chairmen-elect. They will vote on a budget, plans and priorities for their national offices and complementary norms applying general church law in the U.S. church in the areas of lay preaching and the discussion of Catholic teaching on radio and television. They plan to discuss the new norms for translation of liturgical texts issued last May in a Vatican instruction.

China Tells Underground Clergy to Lie Low During APEC Forum

Chinese officials told underground Catholic clergy in Shanghai not to wander around during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in their city. A church source told UCA News on Oct. 16 that Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, a prominent church leader, and other priests of the underground church in the Shanghai Diocese were given the warning before the APEC meeting on Oct. 15-21. The international conference brought top officials and more than 3,000 journalists from around the world. President George W. Bush was scheduled to be in Shanghai from Oct. 18 to Oct. 22. I do not know yet if Bishop Fan has to leave his home, as President Bush has not arrived, the church source added. The notice to the clerics differed slightly from past government action when important dignitaries visited Shanghai. Often in the past, underground church leaders were required to leave the city.

More Arms, Poverty Will Lead to Greater Disasters

A Vatican statement delivered at the United Nations on Oct. 15 said a world trend toward more arms and more poverty is leading toward disasters even greater than what we endured on 11 September. Archbishop Renato R. Martino, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations, said that this distressing time must teach us that violence and war are not inevitable. He said, The basic requirements for the peace we seek [are] the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, the curbing of the arms trade and the eradication of massive, endemic poverty. We have no choice if humanity is to survive.

Pope Says Nobel Peace Prize Crowns Annan’s Dedicated Work

Pope John Paul II congratulated Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary-general, telling him the award crowns a lifetime dedicated to serving peace and justice and the well-being of the world’s peoples. The pope said, I warmly congratulate you on this well-deserved recognition of your efforts to build up the U.N. system. The pope’s comments were made in a telegram after Annan and the United Nations were named the winners of the 100th annual peace prize in Oslo, Norway. The winners were picked from a field of 136 nominees, including Pope John Paul.

Reformed Churches Call for End to Air Strikes in Afghanistan

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches called for a halt to U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan, saying the attacks deepen the cycle of violence and risk igniting an interreligious conflict. The organization, which represents about 175 Presbyterian and other Protestant churches in more than 80 countries, made its appeal in a statement issued on Oct. 15 from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was signed by the group’s general secretary, the Rev. Setri Nyomi. The statement condemned the terrorist hijackings in the United States on Sept. 11 as criminal attacks and said Reformed churches shared in the grief over the loss of life and property.

Synod’s Small Groups Find Consensus on Several Issues

Members of the Synod of Bishops, meeting in Rome in small groups, appeared to find consensus quickly on issues ranging from their obligation to be strong teachers to the need for improvements to the synod structure. Seven of the 12 groups, divided according to language, presented their initial reflections at the morning session of the synod on Oct. 16. Each group underlined the importance of the local bishop as a teacher of truth and of Gospel values, a friend and father to his priests, a man of prayer who can lead others to holiness and a man who lives simply and defends the poor.

While the full, 20-minute reports of each group were confidential, the Vatican provided summaries of each report.

Five of the seven summaries included calls for improvements to the Synod of Bishops to make it a more efficient and effective model of shared responsibility in the church. One of the French groups said, The Synod of Bishops must become a better instrument of effective collegiality with and under the pope. Another French group said that when discussing collegiality, group members felt first of all [that] the exercise of the Petrine ministry could count more on the Synod of Bishops. Its method of operating could be reviewed, and it seems important to us to study this matter, drawing inspiration from the working style of council assemblies.

One English group said the synod itself requires attention so that it can better promote mutual understanding in the church. The group also said the synod should be adapted so that continuity and follow-up are ensured. Another English group suggested the more frequent convocation of special synods to deal with concrete problems, as well as changes to the synod structure to improve consultation with bishops and collaboration in finding real solutions to problems.

In addition, most of the groups urged efforts to improve relations and communications between bishops and heads of Vatican offices. The synod’s midterm report, meant as a summary of individual synod speeches and a starting point for the small-group discussions, spoke of the bishop’s need to increase and nurture communion, in the first place with the vicar of Christ and with the close collaborators that form the Roman Curia.

But, as one of the small groups reportedly pointed out, the overwhelming majority of bishops’ speeches that mentioned the Curia saw need for a different emphasis, asking the Curia for a greater effort to consult and show respect for local bishops and bishops’ conferences. We believe that a relationship of co-responsibility, consultation, mutual trust and charity should exist between the Roman Curia and episcopal conferences, one English group said.

Another English group said: The bishop’s role in his diocese is strengthened when the offices of the Roman Curia show in their communications and in their actions that they understand the variety of local conditions. Otherwise they risk becoming obstacles to communion.

A French group pointed out that many bishops had expressed difficulties with the Curia and if problems exist, they should be faced. We could take advantage of this synodal assembly to look into this argument.

Several of the groups also highlighted the important role of bishops’ conferences not only in expressing a feeling of unity among bishops, but in responding to the concrete challenges and needs of people in their countries. Members of one French group said that in reviewing the 10 questions synod leaders asked them to discuss, they were surprised at not finding any question regarding bishops’ conferences, when many interventions in the hall referred to them explicitly. The working group reaffirms its conviction that episcopal conferences play an indispensable role in the church as an instrument of collegiality.

An English group said, Episcopal conferences are places where communion is fostered and enriched; they are also vehicles that bring about healthy international exchanges. Another English group asked the synod to consider strengthening the decision-making power of bishops’ conferences, especially in applying church teaching to local situations and adapting the liturgy to the local culture. Between the authority of a bishop in his own diocese and the authority that comes from all the world’s bishops acting together with the pope, bishops’ conferences should have an intermediate level of authority, the group said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
12 years 2 months ago
Your Signs of the Times (10/28) reports that five of the seven bishops’ groups at the October Synod of Bishops called for improvements in the synod process itself. A significant improvement could entail publishing the specific propositions made at the end of the synod to the pope and then a more systematic response to them, in his “Exhortation,” made a year or so later. The propositions are now kept secret and the pope’s response, quite accurately termed an exhortation rather than a systematic response, does not follow the order of the propositions. His observations are footnoted to the bishops’ propositions, but it is impossible to ascertain precisely what the bishops proposed and precisely where and how the pope responded.

A proposition leaked from the 1998 Synod for Asia requested that local churches be authorized to approve vernacular translations of liturgical texts without prior Vatican review. In his exhortation John Paul II declared that “the national and regional conferences of bishops need to work more closely with the Congregation for Divine Worship.” The footnote reads, “Proposition 43.” In that synod, the pope’s observations footnoted 50 of the Asian bishops’ 59 propositions, leaving nine without any response.

Publishing the specific propositions of the synod and being readily able to identify the pope’s response would be helpful to the synod’s goal of achieving collegiality and communio.


The latest from america

Israel’s upcoming election, which takes place on April 9, is casting uncertainty over House of Grace’s future.
Eloise BlondiauMarch 26, 2019
The freshness and wonder, the way that what was there before still exists but is now shot through with newness. The city glitters. Why not? Lent is the season of baptismal preparation as much as penance.
We have experienced God’s benevolent interventions in our own lives.
Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of "Women Church World" a monthly magazine distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, poses in her house in Rome. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
"We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization," founder Lucetta Scaraffia wrote in the open letter to Pope Francis.