Signs of the Times

Brother Roger of Taizé Murdered in Church

Brother Roger Schütz, the 90-year-old Protestant founder of the ecumenical Taizé community in France, was stabbed in the throat during a Vespers service in the Reconciliation Church near Maçon in France on Aug. 16. He died almost immediately. Some of those at the service immediately overpowered a Romanian woman, who was known to be deranged, it was reported. Brother Roger was awarded the UNESCO prize for peace education in 1988 and wrote many books on prayer and reflection, asking young people to be confident and committed.

Pope Benedict XVI paid special homage to Brother Roger during his general audience at Castel Gandolfo on Aug. 17. The pope revealed that he was particularly struck by the sad and dramatic news because just yesterday I received a most moving and loving letter from Brother Roger. In the letter, Brother Roger said that his health prevented him from coming to Cologne, but that I will be spiritually present as your brother. I am in communion with you and those gathered in Cologne. He ended the letter with the words: Holy Father, I assure you of my sentiments of profound communion, Pope Benedict said.


Pope Greets Chinese Priests at Audience

A relaxed Pope Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican on Aug. 3 from the tranquility of his summer villa to greet thousands of cheering pilgrims at a general audience. Walking down the full length of the Vatican’s air-conditioned audience hall, the pope was surrounded by outreached hands, which he shook. Aides lifted babies over the barricades for the pope to kiss. Among those present at the audience were 28 Chinese priests, seminary rectors and seminary spiritual directors who had been attending a course in Germany. AsiaNews, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, said the Chinese priests serve in seminaries approved by the government. The agency said the latest available statistics show there are about 1,000 seminarians studying at 19 seminaries and at five seminary preparation schools in China. Addressing various groups of English-speakers, the pope said, I greet with particular affection the group of priests from China. The priests sang for the pope.

Archbishop Subpoenaed Preparing for Rome

More than 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco on Aug. 7 to bid farewell to Archbishop William J. Levada as he prepared to start a new chapter in his life as the highest-ranking U.S. official at the Vatican. The 68-year-old archbishop, named in May by Pope Benedict XVI to be head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the crowd at the cathedral that his 10 years as archbishop of San Francisco had been a significant part of my life as a man, a priest and a bishop. He said he measured his success by asking if in these days I have helped God’s people as their shepherd here in the archdiocese to grow closer to the Lord.... Only God knows the answer to this question. Shortly before the Mass, Archbishop Levada was served with a subpoena ordering him to be deposed in relation to lawsuits about sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy filed by some 250 plaintiffs against the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., which the archbishop headed from 1986 to 1995.

Vatican Astronomer Says Evolution Helps Believers

The theory of evolution, instead of negating the need for God, helps believers understand that God’s relationship to the universe is that of a nurturing parent, said George Coyne, S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory. But there is a nagging fear in the church that evolution is incompatible with a divinely planned universe, and this fear has historically created murky waters in the church’s relationship to science, he said in an article that appeared in the Aug. 6 issue of The Tablet, an independent Catholic weekly newspaper published in London. The article was in response to an article in The New York Times on Aug. 7 by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. The cardinal wrote that an unplanned process of random variation and natural selection, both important parts of evolutionary thinking, are incompatible with Catholic belief that there is a divine purpose and design to nature.

Fired Teacher Charged With Rape

A teacher who was fired in June from a Christian Brothers all-boys high school in Albany for having sex with a 17-year-old student was charged with rape in early August after a 16-year-old student said he also had had sex with her several times. The school’s lawyer told Catholic News Service on Aug. 5 that the school immediately fired Sandra Beth Geisel, 42, after police said they found the teacher having sex in the back seat of a car with a 17-year-old. She was summarily dismissed and never allowed back in the building after a police officer found her in the car with the student, said Mae D’Agostino, attorney for the Christian Brothers Academy. According to investigators, after news of her firing became known, at least four academy students came forward to report having had sex with her. However, the other students were 17, the legal age for consent.

Vatican Questions Use of Boston Parish Assets

While it said it supports the principles and procedures behind the Archdiocese of Boston’s plan to reduce the number of parishes, the Vatican has questioned the disposition of assets of seven of the 15 closed parishes that filed appeals to the Congregation for Clergy. Several archdiocesan officials interviewed on Aug. 10 by The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, said that the appeals are still under review but that the Vatican has indicated a different interpretation of an aspect of canon law regarding use of the assets from the seven closed parishes. In the last three months, we have encouraged the Holy See to respond to the recourses in Rome to bring some closure to those communities, Boston’s Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., said. Clergy congregation officials are supporting our procedures to close the parishes, and they’ve said we’ve done the consultations correctly. They are not talking about reopening parishes, he added. However, they had other concerns about particular canons that were invoked in the process that we used here, he said.

Masses Crowded at Start of World Youth Day

World Youth Day activities began in three German cities with simultaneous Masses, overflowing crowds, waving flags and the energy of more than 200,000 young people from all over the world. In Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner welcomed more than 50,000 pilgrims to his city by reminding them that Cologne was the city of the Magi, the first pilgrims to Christ, whose relics are said to be in the cathedral. You are all following in their footsteps, he said in his homily at the Mass on Aug. 16 in RheinEnergie Stadium. The cardinal was repeatedly interrupted by the applause of the flag-waving young people. On one occasion he told them to keep quiet and let him talk, so they cheered louder. On another occasion, after he had finally silenced them, the cardinal, known as a strict theological disciplinarian, said with a smile, The people will be saying I have a lot of authority, since I was able to get you to obey me.

New York Priest Denies Affair, Leaves Cathedral

Msgr. Eugene V. Clark has resigned as rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York while denying allegations that he had an affair with his secretary. In a brief statement on Aug. 11, Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said Cardinal Edward M. Egan had accepted the resignation. Monsignor Clark will not be celebrating Mass or the sacraments publicly until this matter has been iresolved, Zwilling added. Although Monsignor Clark continues to deny the allegations against him, he offered his resignation for the good of St. Patrick’s and the archdiocese, he said. Monsignor Clark, 79, long a prominent priest in the New York Archdiocese, has been rector of the cathedral since 2001. He was private secretary to Cardinal Francis Spellman in the 1960’s and served as an official spokesman for his successor, Cardinal Terence Cooke. He is also well known as a fundraiser for Catholic causes and as host of the program Relationships on the Eternal Word Television Network.

Closing of Catholic Schools a Warning Sign

At the end of this past school year, Catholic schools in Chicago, Brooklyn, N.Y., Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Boston and several other cities closed their doors for good as church officials pointed to declining enrollments, changing demographics and overall lack of funds needed to keep the schools functioning.

Students left with tearful farewells, armed with advice about nearby Catholic schools. Teachers and administrators, also hard hit by the closings, had to scramble for new jobs, many of them after decades of working in the same school. The Archdioceses of Chicago and Detroit closed 18 schools, and the Diocese of Brooklyn closed 19. Initially, both Chicago and Brooklyn planned to close more, but the number was reduced when a handful of schools came up with additional funding. Other dioceses closed a smaller number of schools, but even a few closings had an impact on local communities.

The wave of inner-city Catholic school closings across the country has served as a wake-up call, say Catholic educators. No one was aware of the crisis facing Catholic schools, said Jean O’Shea, executive director of Futures in Education, a program that provides scholarships for students who attend Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. She said the announced closings of schools in Brooklyn hit everyone, and the immediate response was a resolve to plan for the future.

O’Shea told Catholic News Service in July that many Catholic school administrators have been trained as educators, not as fundraisers or business managers, yet they need business savvy to keep their schools afloat. She said diocesan officials in Brooklyn are taking a close look at how they can provide the resources for school administrators, especially in the city’s poorer areas, to develop and carry out a five-year plan. To do this effectively, the city’s struggling Catholic schools will now be run by lay boards, which will take the financial reins of the schools from the pastors and principals.

Eastern Catholics Plan International Meeting

Representatives of the Eastern Catholic churches of the United States and Canada plan to hold a second international encounter on Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 2006, in Chicago. The bishops of all Eastern Catholic churches in the two countries are expected to attend, along with representatives of priests, deacons, religious and laity from their churches, said Bishop Nicholas J. Samra, chairman of the preparatory committee for the meeting. Eastern Catholic bishops from Australia and Great Britain will also be invited, he said. The first international encounter was held in 1999. Bishop Samra, who retired earlier this year as auxiliary bishop of the Melkite Diocese of Newton, Mass., described the upcoming meeting as a gathering for common prayer, study and sharing ideas for further growth and interdiocesan relations for all the Eastern Catholic churches.

Patriarch Opposes Pursuit of Lynchers

Although the lynching of a Jewish extremist should be condemned, Israel should not pursue the perpetrators, said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem. Patriarch Sabbah told the Ha’aretz newspaper on Aug. 12 that an investigation into the lynching of Eden Natan-Zada, an Israeli soldier who was absent without leave, could lead to further bloodshed on both sides. It was unnecessary to perpetuate negative feelings in a way that could cause even greater harm, not only to all of Israeli society, but even to the law, the patriarch said.

Natan-Zada opened fire with his army-issue rifle on an Arab bus in the northern village of Shfaram on Aug. 4. Four people, including two Melkite Catholics, were killed in the attack. A videotape showed the mob later beating to death the handcuffed and subdued Natan-Zada. Police were unable to control the crowd.

Sainthood Cause for P.O.W. Priest Advancing

The cause for sainthood of an Army chaplain who died in a Chinese prisoner-of-war camp during the Korean War is advancing well, said the promoter of the cause during a fact-finding trip to the St. Louis area. The chaplain, the Rev. Emil J. Kapaun, was taken prisoner by the Chinese communists in North Korea in 1950. During his seven months in captivity, Father Kapaun tended to his fellow P.O.W.’s, nursing the sick and wounded and giving them hope. He developed a blood clot and was denied medication. He died in the prison camp on May 23, 1951.

The Rev. John Hotze of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., the promoter, was in St. Louis at the end of July to interview three surviving seminary classmates of Father Kapaun. Wichita was the late priest’s home diocese. Father Kapaun graduated in 1940 from Kenrick Seminary in Shrewsbury in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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11 years 11 months ago
George V. Coyne, S.J., would like me to believe in evolution (Signs of the Times, 8/29). O.K., where’s his proof? It was not in the brief report. I well recall the late John Paul II calling it “more than a hypothesis” without further elucidation. Well, popes make mistakes. One pope banned the Jesuits. Two popes later, they were reinstated. (Today, some would say the first decision was the correct one!). Has Father Coyne found the “missing link”? Nah. Yet kids in the local Jesuit high school are being brainwashed that evolution is, of all things, fact. Father Coyne may believe he is descended from the apes. I don’t.


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