Signs of the Times

Justice for Immigrants

Citing reasons as broad as Catholic teaching about the right to migrate to improve one’s life and as narrow as the need of one emigrant from Guyana to support his family, more than a dozen church organizations and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on May 10 launched a campaign called Justice for Immigrants.

The program is intended to educate the public, and Catholics in particular, about how immigration and immigrants benefit the nation; to improve public opinion about the contributions of immigrants; to advocate for changes in immigration laws and policies; and to organize networks that assist immigrants with legal problems. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, of Washington, D.C., a consultant to the U.S.C.C.B.’s Committee on Migration, said at a press conference announcing the campaign that the bishops have grown increasingly disturbed by the current public discourse surrounding immigrants, in which newcomers are characterized as a threat to our nation and not a benefit. He said, Anti-immigrant fervor on TV and radio shows, citizens attempting to enforce immigration laws, and, most disturbingly, the enactment of restrictive immigration laws are evidence of this negative public environment.


San Francisco Archbishop Named to Vatican Post

Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency charged with protecting and promoting the church’s teachings on faith and morals.

The appointment, announced on May 13, marked the first time a U.S. prelate has headed the congregation. It is the oldest of the Vatican’s nine congregations and is considered primary in responsibility and influence. Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was prefect of the doctrinal congregation from 1981 until the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2.

The appointment of his successor was closely watched, and sources said cardinals and archbishops from Italy, Austria and Spain were also considered as candidates for the position. In naming Archbishop Levada, 68, the pope chose someone who has worked closely with the congregation over the last 30 years. He was a congregation staff member from 1976 to 1982 and has been a bishop-member of the congregation since 2000.

Shared Values in Europe

Pope Benedict XVI is as committed as any of his predecessors to promoting a united Europe based on shared ethical and moral values, the Vatican foreign minister said. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, represented the Holy See at the May 16-17 summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw, Poland; a copy of his remarks was released at the Vatican. The archbishop told the heads of government that former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, had proposed a number of considerations, both historical and doctrinal, on the subject of European unity and values, which remain relevant and worthy of attention.

Agreement in East Timor on Religion Classes

The government of East Timor and the local Catholic Church signed an agreement recognizing religion classes as part of the regular school curriculum, ending a dispute on the predominantly Catholic island. The agreement was signed on May 7 by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Bishops Alberto da Silva of Dili and Basilio do Nascimento of Bacau in the presence of President Xanana Gusmao at his office in Dili. The agreement said there would be no repercussions against the Timorese who rallied against a government decision to make religion classes optional. In the joint declaration, the government and the Catholic Church recognize and accept the importance of religious values and their contribution to the building of the nation. They also recognize the important role of moral and religious values in the life of a person and agree that these values must be included in the mission of education, which must meet the needs of every citizen regardless of background.

Bishops Will Examine Charter and Norms

When the U.S. bishops meet on June 16-18 in Chicago, they will work to revise their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms implementing the charter legislatively. They will also be asked to approve spending up to $1 million from their reserve funds to fund a major study into the causes and context of decades of sexual abuse of minors by clergy that exploded into a major church crisis in 2002. The documents the bishops will be asked to revise and renew were originally adopted in 2002, with a projected two-year life span before review. That life span was extended when the bishops were not able to conduct the revisions at their November 2004 meeting. Proposed revisions in the Essential Norms are reported to be few and limited in scope.

Death Penalty Debate

For years, the two most prominent voices among U.S. Catholics on the subject of the death penalty have been those of a nun who is a former schoolteacher and a Georgetown- and Harvard-educated Supreme Court justice. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of two books that draw on her experiences as a spiritual adviser to men on death row, and Justice Antonin Scalia, the fourth most senior member of the Supreme Court, have come to represent divergent Catholic thought about capital punishment.

In her newest book, The Death of Innocents, the nun takes on the jurist over their theological and constitutional differences on the issue. With a movie, an opera and a stage play all recounting the story she told in her best-selling book Dead Man Walking, Sister Prejean, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, has become the most recognizable figure working to abolish the death penalty in the United States. Justice Scalia, meanwhile, anchors the diminishing segment of the court that consistently votes to uphold the constitutionality of the death penalty. His disagreement with the court majority was vehement as those justices recently overturned death sentences for mentally retarded people and juveniles convicted of murder.

Missionary Spirit on Molokai Recognized

Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai was beatified during a ceremony in Rome that recalled her missionary spirit and her self-giving work among leprosy patients in Hawaii. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the beatification Mass on May 14 in St. Peter’s Basilica. Also beatified was a Spanish nun who founded a missionary religious order. After brief summaries of their lives were read aloud, Cardinal Saraiva Martins read the decree proclaiming the two blessed. As giant banners with portraits of the newly beatified were unveiled, a wave of applause swept through the basilica. In attendance were more than 100 Catholics from Hawaii and more than 300 from Syracuse, N.Y., where members of Blessed Mother Marianne’s order, the Sisters of St. Francis, have their motherhouse. The Spanish nun beatified was Blessed Florentina Nicol Goni, also known as Mother Ascensión del Corazón de Jesus, founder of the Dominican Missionaries of the Rosary.

Ordinations in Rome

Continuing the practice of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI ordained 21 priests and urged them to lead people to Christ through the Eucharist. By centering their mission on the Eucharist, the new priests can bring the joy of Christ to those who suffer, those in doubt and even those who are reluctant, the pope said during the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on May 15. The newly ordained, who completed their priestly studies in the Diocese of Rome, were applauded by friends and relatives who packed the basilica. The priests included 11 from Italy and 10 other countries in Europe, Africa and South America. The annual ordination Mass was a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, who in later years needed help getting through the long and taxing liturgy.

Jean Vanier of L’Arche Receives Knights’ Award

Jean Vanier, founder of the international L’Arche network of faith-based communities that care for people with developmental disabilities, is the 2005 recipient of the Knights of Columbus’s Gaudium et Spes Award. The award, which comes with an honorarium of $100,000, is the highest honor bestowed by the Knights of Columbus.

Jean Vanier exemplifies the call to self-giving and Christ-centered community involvement that is such a central theme in Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,’ said Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight, who presented the award in April in Montreal. His entire life of service is an inspiration to all, and an eloquent witness to the Gospel of Christ, Anderson added. Vanier is the sixth person and the first layman to receive the award.

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