Signs of the Times

Bishop Lifts Ban on Voice of the Faithful Meetings

Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn has lifted his ban on the use of church property for meetings of the lay group Voice of the Faithful. Bishop Daily said his decision was based on the recommendations of a diocesan committee, headed by Auxiliary Bishop Ignatius A. Catanello, which met with Voice of the Faithful leaders. The diocesan Presbyteral Council also recommended a relaxation of the ban.

“I am happy to report that the meetings that the committee has held with the leaders of V.O.T.F. in the Diocese of Brooklyn have been most fruitful,” said Bishop Daily. “In lengthy sessions, marked on both sides by openness, communication and most of all the spirit of charity and a deep love for the church, they have addressed my concerns regarding the group, and have reported back to me the results of their constructive dialogue.” Bishop Daily said he has found “that a number of good and dedicated members of the diocese, who were members of V.O.T.F., were truly desirous to prayerfully reflect on our present ecclesial concerns and collaborate in strengthening the unity of our church.”


The bishop said he initially had concerns “about the purpose of the group, and the danger that individuals with other agendas—some of them contrary to the teachings and discipline of the church—might use these well-intended members of our loyal faithful as unsuspecting vehicles for the promotion of their plans.”

Melissa Gradel, a parishioner at the Oratory Church of St. Boniface in downtown Brooklyn and the regional coordinator of Voice of the Faithful for Brooklyn and Queens, said the action “demonstrates that V.O.T.F. is strong, that we are loyal members of the church, not dissidents.” John Gallagher, a member of Voice of the Faithful and a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo in Brooklyn Heights, said: “This is a significant movement toward collaboration. Real collaboration between the laity and the hierarchy is the only way forward for our church. I applaud Bishop Daily’s willingness to consider the evidence and revisit an earlier decision in this way. I hope other bishops will follow his lead.”

Voice of the Faithful groups remain banned from meeting on church property in several U.S. dioceses, including Boston; Rockville Centre, N.Y.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Newark, N.J., and Camden, N.J.

Voice of the Faithful is developing a “statement of beliefs” that its leaders hope will answer questions some bishops have raised about the group’s loyalty to Catholic teachings. “We are faithful Catholics in communion with the universal Catholic Church,” says the first of several “affirmations” in a draft statement that has been sent to parish affiliates for comment and posted on the organization’s Web site, “We love and support our church and believe what it professes,” the statement continues. “We accept the teaching authority of our church, including the traditional role of the bishops and the pope,” it adds. David L. Castaldi, co-chairman of a committee developing the statement, said that Ladislas M. Orsy, S.J., a canon lawyer who has been advising the organization, suggested the need for such a statement.

Pope Encourages Spanish Youth to Life of Service

An obviously aging Pope John Paul II made his fifth visit to Spain on May 3-4, sharing his conviction that a life spent in the service of God and one’s neighbors is the only type of life worth living. In a May 3 evening meeting with more than 700,000 Spanish young people and again at a May 4 Mass for the canonization of five Spanish priests and religious, the pope called on Spaniards to live their faith with courage, to sow harmony in their nation, to stand up for Christian values in the new Europe and to work for peace in the world.

“Looking back and remembering those years of my life, I can assure you that it is worth it to dedicate yourself to the cause of Christ and, for love of him, to consecrate yourself to serving humanity,” he told the young people in Madrid, many of whom were not even born when he was elected pope in 1978.

The young people at the evening rally chanted, “The pope is young.” “I am a youth of 83 years,” he responded to more cheers and more chants. When the chants continued to interrupt his speech, despite the fact the event had already gone an hour overtime, the pope asked, “How long are we going to stay here? I must finish.”

The pope told them to be like the saints he was about to canonize, unafraid of proclaiming the Gospel message to all. At the canonization Mass in the city’s Plaza de Colón, he encouraged Spanish Catholics to continue proudly their country’s history of evangelization and to be witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout the world. An estimated one million people attended the Mass. The new saints, all of whom died in the 20th century, included José María Rubio, S.J., a famed preacher and worker among Madrid’s poor.

“Do not abandon your Christian roots,” the pope told the country. “Only in this way will you be able to bring to the world and to Europe the cultural richness of your history.” As the European Union moves toward the adoption of a constitution, the continent’s “rich and fruitful Christian roots” must be recognized and strengthened, he had said at the arrival ceremony.

Rest, Therapy ‘Rejuvenate’ Pope for Trips in 2003

After staying home for nine months, Pope John Paul II opened his 2003 travel schedule with a short trip to Spain. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, said on May 4 that the pope was “rejuvenated” by rest and physical therapy. The pope’s speech, which had been slurred and becoming more and more difficult to understand, has shown marked improvement since September. And once again, especially when meeting with young people, his public gatherings were peppered with impromptu remarks and quips in response to cheers.

But the pontiff, who will turn 83 on May 18, has great difficulty walking even a few steps and stands only when he has something to lean on, either a lectern or the railing of the moving platform aides push in liturgical processions and use when getting him to and from an airplane. The Spain trip marked the first time Pope John Paul has used his new wheeled chair during a Mass abroad. The chair, which can be raised and lowered, allows the pope to celebrate liturgies while seated.

The visit on May 3-4 to the Spanish capital, Madrid, was the first of five likely trips this year, Navarro-Valls said. The Vatican has officially announced plans for a visit on June 5-9 to Croatia. The spokesman said other destinations include: Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in late June; perhaps Mongolia in late August; and Slovakia in September.

Globalization Must Be Regulated by International Consensus

If globalization is to benefit all the world’s inhabitants, it must be directed and regulated with international consensus, Pope John Paul II said. When the forces of a market economy and special interests are the only things guiding the international exchange of capital, goods and information, the weakest members of society have no guarantee of benefit and risk greater exploitation, the pope said on May 2.

“Globalization itself is not the problem; rather, difficulties arise from the lack of effective mechanisms for giving it proper direction,” he told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences at the beginning of a five-day plenary session focused on “the governance of globalization.”

“It is disturbing to witness a globalization that exacerbates the conditions of the needy, that does not sufficiently contribute to resolving situations of hunger, poverty and social inequality, that fails to safeguard the natural environment,” the pope told the academy members. “These aspects of globalization can give rise to extreme reactions, leading to excessive nationalism, religious fanaticism and even acts of terrorism,” he said.

What is needed, the pope said, is consensus on an international political and economic program that aims to “serve the whole human family, no longer bringing benefit merely to a privileged few.”

Pope John Paul said the success of globalization will not be measured by how much money it generates—often concentrated in the hands of a few—but by how it enables “every person to enjoy the basic goods of food and housing, of education and employment, of peace and social progress, of economic development and justice.” The pope said he was not calling for the creation of a “global superstate,” but for the strengthening of processes already under way “to increase democratic participation and promote political transparency and accountability” on an international level.

News Briefs

• The Swiss government has withdrawn a series of anti-AIDS posters after protests by the Swiss bishops’ conference. One poster included the slogan, “Rome has put the condom on its Index—we advise putting it on something else.”

• Speaking on May 1, international Labor Day, Mexican bishops struck out at the rock-bottom wages earned by tens of millions of Mexican workers and criticized the widening gap between Mexico’s rich and poor. “We complain about the treatment of [Mexican] workers in the United States, but here in Mexico the treatment of workers is a lot worse,” said Bishop José Vera López, O.P., of Saltillo.

• The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that during the U.S. school year 2002-3 there were 3,414 postgraduate seminary students, down 170 from the year before. That figure was still 300 more than the low of 3,114 hit in the 1997-98 school year, and it marked the first decline since 1997-98. The number of collegiate seminarians hit a modern low with 1,376—down 218 from last year. Lay ministry formation programs registered an enrollment increase of more than 1,000, from 34,414 in the 2001-02 school year to 35,448 in the current year.

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


The latest from america

Join Kirsten Powers, CNN analyst and USA Today columnist, and Rev. James Martin, S.J., Editor at Large of America Media and New York Times best-selling author, for a live show celebrating the 100th episode of Jesuitical.
America Media EventsApril 24, 2019

Some three months before Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the lunar module and left his footprints upon the surface of the moon in July, 1969, and uttered those immortal words about it being but “one small step for man” and yet “a giant leap for mankind,” a young, brown-haired, freckle-

Joseph McAuleyApril 18, 2019
You give us hope when we’re reporting on challenging issues in the church.
James Cappabianca April 18, 2019
For decades, Lopez has sought to re-establish our ethical relationships with the land and the other creatures who dwell on it. But Lopez, like many authors, struggles against labels.
Vincent J. MillerApril 18, 2019