Signs of the Times

Pope Urges World to Address Underlying Causes’ of Terrorism

At a special general audience marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Pope John Paul II said it was necessary and urgent to address the global injustices that created the conditions for terrorism. At the same time, the pope told some 8,000 pilgrims in the Vatican’s audience hall that no situation of injustice could ever justify terrorism, which is and always will be a manifestation of inhuman ferociousness.

In prayers the pope led at the end of the audience, an Arabic-language petition asked God to help believers of all religions reject every form of violence and make a committment to dialogue to resolve conflicts. The pontiff also asked for prayers for the Sept. 11 terrorists. May God show mercy and forgiveness for the authors of this horrible terror attack, he said in unscripted remarks in Polish.


During the audience the pope devoted his entire text to remembering the terrorist attacks, saying the barbarous and cruel violence killed many innocent brothers and sisters of ours. He said, A year after Sept. 11, 2001, we repeat that no situation of injustice, no feeling of frustration, no philosophy or religion can justify terrorism. Terrorism can never resolve human conflicts, he said, because armed violence [and] war are decisions that only sow and generate hatred and death.... Reason and love are the only valid means to overcome and resolve strife between persons and peoples.

At the same time, the pope called for new political and economic initiatives to address the scandalous situations of injustice and oppression that continue to afflict many members of the human family. He said, When fundamental rights are violated, it is easy to fall prey to the temptations of hatred and violence. It is necessary to build together a global culture of solidarity that would give young people hope for the future.

Earlier, Pope John Paul II urged the international community to address the underlying causes of terrorism, saying inequalities and injustice can lead desperate people to turn to violence. While terrorism and disregard for human life can never be justified, he said on Sept. 7, history shows that the recruitment of terrorists is more easily achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon and where injustice is a part of daily life. He said, The international community can no longer overlook the underlying causes that lead young people especially to despair of humanity, of life itself and of the future, and to fall prey to the temptations of violence, hatred and a desire for revenge at any cost. The pope made his remarks during a meeting with Britain’s new ambassador to the Vatican.

The pontiff called international terrorism a true crime against humanity that represents a formidable and immediate threat to world peace. He said an essential part of fighting terrorism must be political, diplomatic and economic initiatives aimed at relieving the scandalous situations of gross injustice, oppression and marginalization which continue to oppress countless members of the human family.

The building of such a global culture of solidarity is perhaps the greatest moral task confronting humanity today, he said. For developed Western countries, he said, this task will prove particularly challenging because a spreading exaggerated individualism there had called into question its long-held Christian principles and values. This has led too often to indifferentism, hedonism, consumerism and a practical materialism that can erode and even subvert the foundations of social life, he said.

The pope praised the British government for recent initiatives, such as its debt reduction for poor countries, its leading security role in Afghanistan, its focus on Africa in international meetings and its peace efforts in Northern Ireland.

Tauran Says Action Against Iraq Needs U.N. Approval

A top Vatican official said any military action against Iraq should be carried out only after approval by the United Nations, with careful consideration of potential effects on the civilian population. Obviously, we cannot combat evil with another evil, said Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister. He made the comments in an interview published on Sept. 10 by the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Archbishop Tauran expressed doubts that a military strike against Iraq would be productive in the global fight against terrorism. If the international community, guided by international law and in particular by U.N. Security Council resolutions, decides that the use of force is opportune and proportional, this should happen with a decision taken in the framework of the United Nations, he said. The United Nations would have to weigh the possible repercussions not only on Iraqi civilians, but also on regional and global stability, he said. If not, it would simply be the imposition of the law of the strongest, he said.

One can certainly question whether the type of operation being considered [against Iraq] is an appropriate way to bring about real peace, he said. Reviewing the year since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Archbishop Tauran said the world has learned that those guilty of terrorism should be punished and prevented from carrying out further deadly acts. Part of the common task is to disarm hatred, he said. But we need to be careful not to confuse justice with revenge and to make sure that entire populations do not pay the price for the cruelty of those responsible for terrorist attacks, he said.

Pope Asks Bishops to Exercise Care Selecting Seminarians

Pope John Paul II asked Brazilian bishops to exercise greater care in selecting candidates for the priesthood, with special concern for whether they would be able to live celibately. He also called for a general renewal of seminary training, saying the presence of professors who disagreed with church teaching or were underprepared was a cause of great sorrow and concern. The pope made his remarks on Sept. 5 to a group of Brazilian bishops who were making their ad limina visits, which heads of dioceses make every five years.

The pope said, It would be lamentable if, out of a misunderstood tolerance, they ordained young men who are immature or have obvious signs of affective deviations that, as is sadly known, could cause serious anomalies in the consciences of the faithful, with evident damage for the whole church.

Part of the problem, the pope said, was that the secularist and hedonistic modern world was exerting a growing influence on Christians, especially young people. The pope said bishops must remind seminarians that celibacy is not an extrinsic or useless elementa superstructureto their priesthood, but is intimately suited to participation in Christ’s dignity and service to the new humanity that has its origins in him and for him and that he leads to fullness.

He said that in some parts of the world, including Brazil, seminaries and theology institutes were promoting a mutilated vision of the church and were forgetting the essential: that the church is participation in the mystery of Christ incarnate. In some cases, he said, legitimate theological efforts to make the Christian message more accessible to modern men and women had not been duly controlled, resulting in compromising the nature of theology and even the content of faith.

Less Support for Lay Ministry Reported Among Young Priests

Younger priests are less supportive of lay ministry, according to a specialist researching U.S. priests. Dean R. Hoge, a sociologist and director of the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America, said among priests ages 56 to 65, 86 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, The Catholic church needs to move faster in empowering lay persons in ministry. Of priests in other age groups, he said, the least agreement with that statement came from the youngest priests. Only 54 percent of those 26 to 35 years old said the church should move faster to advance lay ministry. He said younger priests are also the most likely to espouse a cultic model of priesthood that emphasizes the priest’s sacramental functions and the distinction between priests and lay people. The older priests, he said, were more likely to view priesthood in terms of a servant leadership model that stresses close collaboration with laity, de-emphasis of the clergy-lay differences and greater social involvement.

Johannesburg Development Summit Disappointing

The World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, failed to achieve the ambitious goals set by environmental and development groups. The original themes of poverty, social injustice and environmental down-graded in favor of market globalization, according to SJS Headlines, an e-newsletter published by the Jesuit Social Justice Secretariat in Rome. The Johannesburg Plan of Action still repeats humanitarian, social and environmental language, but reflects the increased corporate sway and the dominance of trade over practically all other considerations.

The summit, which concluded on Sept. 4, agreed on some timebound targets: on funding for implementing the Montreal protocol on ozone by 2005, on halving the proportion of the population without access to water and sanitation by 2015, on restoring depleted fisheries by 2015 and on minimizing the adverse effects of the production and use of chemicals by 2020.

On the critical issue of energy, commitment was made to work together to improve access to electrical energy for those in poverty as an important means of working to meet the target of halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015. Although the statement on alternative or renewable energy expresses urgency, all specific goals and targets were removed at the insistence of the United States and oil-producing states.

The final document acknowledges that some nations and people suffer serious problems as a result of the globalization of the economy, but it ignored the criticism made by nongovernmental organizations that the structures of the trading systems themselves are biased in favor of the rich and cause severe problems plaguing poor nations. While the United States demands the elimination of trade barriers and subsidies in developing countries, for example, it continues to protect and subsidize U.S. agriculture.

Trade policy dominated the most difficult negotiations in Johannesburg. The United States and the European Union fought against any progress in addressing agricultural production and export subsidies, which are among the developing nations’ most important demands. An estimated $1 billion a day in agricultural subsidies effectively denies developing nations market access in agriculturetheir primary exportand undermines local agricultural production and food security in the South.

The call for the establishment of an international mechanism to stabilize commodity prices and reverse declining terms of tradean effort in the draft document to protect commodity-dependent countriesdisappeared from the final document, replaced by a call to build those nations’ capacity to diversify and increase their exports. Regulatory efforts once more fell victim to the insistence on market solutions, reports SJS Headlines.

The final document acknowledges that both creditors and debtors share responsibility to prevent debt burdens from becoming unsustainable, and the beginning of some type of debt arbitration procedure is suggested. But it lacks the explicit reference to an international debt-workout mechanism proposed by the Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey.

The plan of action calls for fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume. Developed countries, whose consumption and production patterns are unsustainable without destroying the environment, must take the lead. Whether this will happen remains to be seen.

Was Johannesburg a success, as leaders predictably claim, or a failure according to the equally predictable chorus of journalists and N.G.O.’s? asks SJS Headlines. Success’ and failure’ are the wrong terms. Rather, these were 17 days of an abundant and scattered Expo on sustainable development representing the planet’s majority, and 10 days of opaque and frustrating official Summit, reflecting rich and powerful interests. The two events togetherrather disconnected with each otherdo represent the world of 2002. Johannesburg was an honest and true summit, no more failed or successful than our worldscarred as it is with gaping divisions like those separating upscale Sandton [Centre, where the delegates met] from degraded Alexandra and alienated Soweto. In order to heal our suffering human world and our dangerously damaged planet, there’s a lot to do! For more on the summit see

News Briefs

Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw ordered the largest church-owned radio station in Poland to shut down because of the station’s repeated criticisms of church hierarchy. Critics have frequently accused its director, the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, of using the radio politically and stirring prejudices.

At the end of August, Pope John Paul II’s pontificate became the fifth longest in the church’s history.

Clergy sexual abuse scandals are harming the U.S. bishops’ efforts to influence public policy, said the vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference. Our moral credibility, effectiveness and leadership will likely be diminished as long as this shadow hangs over us, said Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash.

Gasper Lo Biondo, S.J., an expert on global economy, has been named director of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Msgr. Emilio Colagiovanni, an 82-year-old retired Vatican official, pleaded guilty on Sept. 5 to a federal conspiracy charge of taking part in an international insurance scam with Martin Frankel, an imprisoned financier from Greenwich, Conn. The priest pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Photo: IMDB
A new Netflix miniseries brings out the story’s aspects of adventure and conflict, with occasionally pulse-pounding results.
Rob Weinert-KendtJanuary 19, 2019
Protestors march to support a U.N. anti-corruption commission in Guatemala City on Jan. 6. Photo by Jackie McVicar.
“What they are doing not only puts Guatemala at risk but the entire region. Bit by bit, for more than a year, they have been trying to divide us. The elections are at risk. We are six months away.”
Jackie McVicarJanuary 18, 2019
“We will just do what we need to do to help people in need,” said Antonio Fernandez, C.E.O. of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Emma Winters January 18, 2019
The study found Latina immigrant women in Arizona who were pregnant during the contentious S.B. 1070 passage had babies with lower birthweight compared with those in prior years. Average birth weights did not decrease among U.S.-born white, black or Latina women during the same time.
J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 18, 2019