Signs of the Times

In Toronto, Pope Urges Youth to Follow Christ, Transform World

Capping a week of prayer and celebration by more than 500,000 Catholic youths, Pope John Paul II urged the church’s younger generations to follow Christ and transform a world torn by hatred and terrorism. He also asked them to keep loving the church and its ministers, despite the harm done to the young by a small minority of priests. The pope’s words and his presence highlighted World Youth Day ceremonies on July 23-28 in Toronto, where an army of young people in T-shirts and backpacks spent the week praying, listening to homilies and making friends among their peers from more than 170 countries.

The aspiration that humanity nurtures, amid countless injustices and sufferings, is the hope of a new civilization marked by freedom and peace. But for such an undertaking, a new generation of builders is needed, the pope said at an evening vigil in a Toronto park on July 27. You must be those builders, he said. The future is in your hearts and in your hands.


During the closing Mass at the rain-dampened site the next day, the pope addressed the sex abuse issue, saying the harm done to the young and vulnerable by some priests and religious fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But the vast majority of ministers want only to serve and do good, and the young people should love and support them, he said to cheers from a crowd estimated at 800,000 people.

Describing himself as old, the 82-year-old pontiff looked and sounded remarkably good throughout the week and proved once again that his chemistry with young people was something special. Unlike his last few trips, he pronounced his speeches in their entirety in a strong voice.

When he landed in Toronto on July 23, the pontiff praised the gifts of intelligence and heart that make young people the future of humanity. But he warned that they also were affected by conflict and injustice in the contemporary world. Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is one of the principal reasons for World Youth Day. Young people are coming together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great cause of peace and human solidarity, he said.

At an official arrival ceremony on July 25 at a Toronto fairgrounds near the shores of Lake Ontario, the pope told a cheering throng of young people that real happiness is found in the Gospel, not in worldly success or the fleeting pleasures of the senses. He said Christ’s advice to be pure of heart, to love the poor and to build peace has special resonance in a world torn by violence and terrorism. Last year we saw with dramatic clarity the tragic face of human malice. We saw what happens when hatred, sin and death take command, the pope said, referring to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. But today Jesus’ voice resounds in the midst of our gathering. His is a voice of life, of hope, of forgiveness; a voice of justice and of peace. Let us listen to this voice, he said.

For many of the young people, the joyous ceremony gave them their first glimpse of the pope. Some cried, some snapped pictures, and some climbed on friends’ shoulders for a better view. When he greeted the crowd with the words, The pope, who loves you dearly, the young people interrupted his talk with a five-minute ovation.

At their next major encounter, a prayer and song vigil in Downsview Park on July 27, the pope challenged young people to lead the world away from hostility and toward a civilization of love. Speaking from a stage overlooking a sea of flag-waving youths, he again evoked the terrorism of Sept. 11 as an emblem of a world gone wrong and said the remedy depends on faith in Christ, the faithful friend who never lets us down.

The enthusiasm of the gathering was evident as groups from various continents gathered informally to sing songs, share stories and trade pins to stick on their red World Youth Day backpacks. Many said the multilingual, multicultural assembly had given them a sense of belonging to the universal church. The important thing is seeing how young people from other countries are proud of their faith and knowing I’m not alone, said Pamela French, 16, of Salem, Ore.

For three mornings, the participants also attended talks and liturgies by more than 500 bishops, cardinals and archbishops, who spoke on this year’s youth day theme, You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world. Some outlined political areas that need to be flavored by the salt of the Gospel. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged young people to change a world that has become increasingly bland and morally unfocused.

Amid the excitement and noise, many of the participants found quiet time for prayer, reflection and confession in a downtown Toronto park. One section, set off with a sign that read, silence area, was set aside for eucharistic adoration. Thousands of the young participants also joined the Way of the Cross through the streets of downtown Toronto on the evening of July 26.

Review Board Wants Sex Abuse Data from Dioceses Right Away

The U.S. church’s new national review board on sexual abuse by members of the clergy wants a current status report on sex abuse policy and practice from every diocese by the end of August, said the board chairman, Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma, at the end of the board’s first meeting on July 30 in Washington, D.C. Keating told reporters another top board priority is the selection of a director for the bishops’ national Office for Child and Youth Protection.

Created by the bishops in June as part of the implementation of their national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the review board is to oversee the work of the national office and review the office’s annual audit of the sexual abuse policies and practices of every U.S. diocese before the audit is published. The board is also mandated to commission a comprehensive study of the causes and context of the crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors and a second study on the extent of the problem in the U.S. church, including factual data on numbers of perpetrators and victims. Among items on its agenda for its Sept. 16 meeting will be meeting with additional victims and discussing who should be commissioned to do the studies.

Voice of Faithful: Keep the Faith, Change the Church’

More than 4,000 people from 36 states and seven countries attended a conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Mass., on July 20 sponsored by Voice of the Faithful, which has an estimated worldwide membership of 19,000. The group’s motto is Keep the Faith, Change the Church. Organizers say its goals are to support those who have been abused, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the church.

The Archdiocese of Boston was represented at the conference by Barbara Thorp, delegate for healing and assistance ministry, who said after attending a workshop led by sex abuse survivors that the experience was very humbling and moving. This is a great moment of light, Thorp said. All deeds of the evil shame done by priests and church representatives [inflicted] great harm to children, which followed them into adulthood. As a church, we must do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.

But Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston, criticized the organization’s Voices of Compassion initiative to provide an alternative collection for Boston Catholics who do not wish to contribute to the Cardinal’s Appeal for support of the archdiocese. This approach of donating money to the mission of the church which has been proposed by the Voice of the Faithful does not recognize the role of the archbishop and his responsibility in providing for the various programs and activities of the church, Morrissey said.

In a keynote talk, Thomas Doyle, O.P., said, What we have experienced in our lifetime as Christians and as Catholics is a disaster, the horror of which is equaled only by the bloodshed of the Inquisition. During the 1980’s, he served as secretary-canonist at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, where he became an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of clergy sexual abuse.

For years the rape and the pillage of the children and young adults in our community in our midst has been allowed to go on, and why? he asked. The sexual abuse phenomenon, the sexual abuse disaster, the sexual abuse disgrace, has been a symptom of the deeper and much more pervasive and destructive malady, the fallacy of clericalism, Father Doyle said. He added: They have lost sight of the Christ-given reality that the church is us. The most vital members of this church...are the marginalized, the hurting, the rejected, the forgotten, the voiceless. And today we are taking back what’s been hijacked from us. Father Doyle is a chaplain at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and serves as a consultant and expert witness in cases of sexual abuse.

Study Finds Generation Gap’ in Church on H.I.V.-AIDS

A study of what Catholics know about AIDS found what H.I.V.-AIDS advocates characterize as a generation gap between young people and their teachers and youth ministers. It showed young people want more practical information about how to avoid becoming infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and guidance on making decisions about sexual activity. But educators focus on a more theoretical approach and want to talk about the Catholic faith tradition and what it has to say about the impact of AIDS on individuals and on human society, said the Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, president of the board of directors of the National Catholic AIDS Network and executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The study was coordinated by the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Drew Christiansen to Join America’ as Associate Editor

Drew Christiansen, S.J., acting director of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, will join America as an associate editor in September. He is a former director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, United States Catholic Conference (1991-98). In addition, he has been an associate professor of theology and staff fellow of the Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame (1986-1990); assistant professor of social ethics, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Graduate Theological Union (1981-86) and director, Center for Ethics and Social Policy (1982-86). He received his Ph.D. in religious social ethics from Yale University in 1982.

Father Christiansen’s staff work for the U.S. bishops included their 1991 environmental pastoral, Renewing the Earth. He also served as the lead staff person in the drafting of The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace in 1993, the 10th anniversary of the bishop’s peace pastoral. As director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, he traveled frequently on missions to world trouble spots, including the Balkans and the Middle East. Pope John Paul II appointed Father Christiansen as an expert to the 1997 Synod for America, and he served as a member of the Holy See Observer Delegation to the November 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, Wash.

He is the author of more than 80 articles on moral theology, ethics and international affairs, the just war and nonviolence, Catholic social teaching and family care of the elderly. He is co-editor of Peacemaking: Moral and Policy Challenges for the 90’s and And God Saw It Was Good: Catholic Theology and the Environment.

News Briefs

A spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops urged the Senate to follow the House in approving a bill to ban partial-birth abortions.

Two decades after soldiers and national police carried out torture and murder against civilians in El Salvador, two retired military officers from the Central American nation were found liable for atrocities committed during the nation’s bloody civil war. Victims and human rights experts said the verdict in the civil suit handed down in a federal courtroom in Palm Beach County is the first time Salvadoran military officers have been brought to legal accountability for human rights abuses committed in those years.

Despite the conviction of four men in the murder of a Guatemalan bishop in 1998, the country’s church still has much work to do documenting abuses, said a retired bishop. There are thousands more crimes, thousands more victims, but to date only those in the Bishop Gerardi case have been brought to justice, said retired Bishop Gerardo Humberto Flores Reyes of Vera Paz-Coban, referring to the conviction of three military men and a priest in the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala City.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, praised the Bush administration on July 23 for its wise action in withholding $34 million in U.S. funding from the U.N. Population Fund because of the agency’s support for coercive population programs in China.

Saying there was no illegal use of funds, U.S. District Attorney Steven Biskupic closed his investigation of a $450,000 payment by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to Paul Marcoux to settle his sexual abuse claim against now-retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B. Biskupic said the funds came from the $1 million sale in 1997 of the Wauwatosa headquarters of the DeRance Foundation, donated to the archdiocese. He said no restrictions had been put on the use of proceeds from the sale.

British Catholic leaders welcomed the announcement that the new archbishop of Canterbury will be Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, praised Archbishop Williams as a theologian of distinction, a man of deep spirituality and a gifted communicator.

Pope John Paul II condemned the desecration of graves in Rome’s Jewish cemetery and an analogous series of events occurring with worrying frequency around Europe.

The framework for peace talks agreed upon in late July offers hope for Sudan, especially its Christian minority, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek said. The agreement said Islamic law, the shariah, will not be applied in the south and that after six years of full peace, a referendum will be held to determine if the people in the south want to remain part of Sudan. One of the main sticking points, however, was over how to share the wealth from the rich oil deposits in the southern part of the country. Bishop Mazzolari was disappointed that there was no promise by the government to guarantee the safety of humanitarian corridors for the delivery of emergency aid to people in the south.

The bishops of six Central African nations have condemned the exploitation and mutilation of women, saying such practices violate the Christian image of the human person created in God’s image and likeness.

Pakistani police have arrested four suspects in the massacre of 16 people at a Catholic church in Bahawalpur in October.

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