Signs of the Times

Women Religious Call for Withdrawal From Iraq

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has called on the U.S. government to develop a responsible plan for the withdrawal of troops in Iraq and to redirect needed resources to meet human needs at home and in other parts of the world. In a statement approved at the L.C.W.R. assembly held on Aug. 19-22 in Anaheim, Calif., the leaders of women’s religious orders said, War dehumanizes and diminishes all of the human community and devastates Earth. The statement added, The ongoing war in Iraq is taking an immense toll on human life, not only of young men and women in the military but also the lives of innocent civilians of all ages. It said, This war has caused untold damage to the land and to the infrastructures of Iraq. The women religious also expressed grave concerns about the alienation and diminishment of the moral and political leadership of the United States in the world community.

Pope Expected to Visit Istanbul

A top Vatican official said he expects Pope Benedict to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, in late November for a meeting with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who coordinates ecumenical dialogue at the Vatican, said Patriarch Bartholomew had issued the invitation the day after the pope’s election last April. I referred this proposal to the pope, who welcomed it with great pleasure. I think Pope Benedict will make the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew, Cardinal Kasper told the Italian Catholic news agency SIR in early September. Each year, the Vatican sends a delegation to Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew, and the patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome for the celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Patriarch Bartholomew attended the Sts. Peter and Paul liturgy in June 2004 and invited Pope John Paul II to return the visit, but the late pope’s health made a trip last November impossible.


The Turkish government, nervous about the November visit, issued a formal invitation to the pope on Sept. 15 to visit during 2006. This would enable the government to improve the climate of religious freedom as part of its bid to join the European Union.

Canonizations in October

Pope Benedict XVI will create five new saints when he presides over his first canonization ceremony on Oct. 23 in St. Peter’s Square. While Pope Benedict will lead the canonization Mass and ceremony, it was his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who approved the decrees creating the five new saints. Those who are scheduled to be canonized are: Blessed Jozef Bilczewski, Blessed Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Blessed Felice da Nicosia, Blessed Gaetano Catanoso and Blessed Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J. Father Hurtado was the founder of the Chilean Jesuit monthly Mensaje.

The late pope had also approved the decrees authorizing several beatifications this autumn. Various cardinals will preside over those ceremonies, Vatican Radio reported. Pope Benedict has not yet signed or approved any decrees that would conclude pending causes for a beatification or canonization, said Vatican officials. In an attempt to highlight the difference between a beatification and a canonization, Pope Benedict is presiding over canonizations only.

Pope Names Four Chinese Bishops to World Synod

In what could be a promising move for Vatican-China relations, Pope Benedict XVI has named four mainland Chinese bishops as members of the Synod of Bishops, which will meet on Oct. 2-23. Church sources in Rome said two of the bishops belong to the government-approved Catholic Church in China, while the other two have been members of the underground church, which has rejected official government ties. None are listed in the Vatican’s official pontifical yearbook.

The appointments were announced without comment by the Vatican on Sept. 8. Those named to the synod are: Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai, a government-recognized bishop; Bishop Anthony Li Du’an of Xi’an, a government-approved bishop; Bishop Luke Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang, an underground church leader; and Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, another underground church bishop. The appointments were seen as a potential breakthrough, in part because the full spectrum of the Catholic community in China would be represented at the Rome assembly for the first time.

Swiss Scholars Want Hagia Sophia Returned

Swiss scholars have petitioned the European Parliament to ask that Istanbul’s sixth-century Church of Hagia Sophia, now a museum, be restored for Christian worship before Turkey joins the European Union. This is not a public building that changed ownership with the conquest of a warHagia Sophia is a place of God, Christendom’s grandest place of worship for over 900 years, and arguably the most perfect and beautiful church erected by any Christian people, the group said in statement on a Web log about Hagia Sophia. Turkey has long severed its ties with darker aspects of its Ottoman past. It aspires to join the European Union. The time has come to restore Hagia Sophia’s spirituality as a place of Christian worship, the Swiss scholars said. The statement noted that Turkey was trying to convince the European Union that it deserved membership by 2015. We need a million signatures to force the European Union to consider this proposal seriously and debate it immediately, said the group, chaired by psychologist Angeliki Papagika, a psychologist at the University of Zurich.

Pope’s Message to U.N. World Summit

Pope Benedict XVI challenged participants at the U.N. World Summit to fulfill their previous commitments to help the poor, sick and hungry. The pope, speaking at his Sunday blessing on Sept. 11, said he was sending Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, to attend the summit in New York on Sept. 14-16. The summit’s agenda includes world peace, human rights, development aid and U.N. internal reforms. I express my fervent hope that the governments united there may find appropriate solutions to reach the great goals that have been set previously, in the spirit of harmony and generous solidarity, the pope told pilgrims at his summer villa outside Rome. The Vatican has been a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, in which world leaders laid out a timetable to cut global poverty in half by 2015. To meet the goal, richer countries would increase development aid to 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product.

Archbishop Sees Genuine Renewal of Priests

I believe we’re on the brink of a genuine renewal of life of the priests of the United States, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee said at a symposium on priests’ spirituality on Sept. 12. He said American priests have undergone intense upheaval in the past four years, but in the church’s long history seasons of defeat and decline unfailingly lead to renewal. Archbishop Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, was the keynote speaker at the half-day symposium. Held at the Life Cycle Center of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the symposium focused on the recently published book, Stewards of God’s Mysteries: Priestly Spirituality in a Changing Church. The book was developed out of a series of consultations sponsored by the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.

Funeral Held for Rehnquist at Catholic Cathedral

Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s funeral on Sept. 7 was a simple, family-oriented Lutheran service in Washington’s elegant Catholic cathedral. Three ministers from the two Lutheran churches to which Rehnquist belonged presided over the two-hour service at the invitation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C. Rehnquist, 80, died on Sept. 3 after a yearlong fight with thyroid cancer. His family requested the use of St. Matthew Cathedral when they learned the larger National Cathedral was unavailable the day they wanted to hold the funeral. The Episcopalian-administered National Cathedral is more commonly the site of large Protestant or nondenominational Christian funerals and religious services. Church law permits the local Catholic bishop to allow the use of a church for services of other denominations under certain circumstances. Cardinal McCarrick welcomed Rehnquist’s family, friends and colleagues to the cathedral, led the funeral procession into the church and sat to one side at the altar during the service.

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