Signs of the Times

Plight of Marginalized Palestinian Christians

The permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, made the following statement on Nov. 2 during the 60th session of the General Assembly in respose to the Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA):

The Holy See willingly acknowledges the help that UNRWA offers all Palestinian refugees, without discrimination or reference to their religion, as is only just. Nevertheless, we are obliged this year to draw attention to the growing difficulties faced by Palestinian Christians who, although they belong to a faith born in that very land, are sometimes viewed with suspicion by their neighbors. Doubly discriminated against, it is hardly surprising to learn that this tiny group, less than 2 percent of the local Palestinian population, is particularly marginalized.


All Palestinians have the right to fair and fair-minded treatment from their peers and from the recognized authorities alike. Religious extremism of any kind, implicated in attacks, abuse and harassment of Christians in the area around Bethlehem recently, is not to be tolerated. No matter who is targeted by violence and bigotry, such acts are a stain on the conscience of peoples. It is thus the hope of my delegation that solutions will be found by local leaderships which will address the needs of all the members of local communities who suffer from violence.

Moreover, of ongoing concern is the security wall which cuts access to some Palestinians’ lands and water sources, as well as to employment, commerce, education, medical care and freedom of worship. My delegation freely acknowledges the right of all peoples to live in peace and security; on the other hand, we believe that the Holy Land is in greater need of bridges than of walls.

In the hope that the many problems of the region will be resolved by negotiation and dialogue, my delegation underlines that a lasting solution will include the question of the Holy City of Jerusalem. In light of the numerous incidents of violence and the challenge to free movement posed by the security wall, the Holy See renews its support for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.

Jerusalem is the acknowledged home of the three Abrahamic faiths, and whoever has custody of the Holy City has a particular responsibility for it before the international community. Borrowing the recent words of Pope Benedict XVI, we hope that Jerusalem will one day be a home of harmony and peace for all believers.

The time is long overdue for fraternal, open dialogue in order to bring about the birth of two states, side by side, mutually respecting each other’s right to exist and prosper. There have already been far too many innocent victims, be they Israeli or Palestinian, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Only with a just and lasting peace not imposed, but secured through negotiation, will the legitimate aspirations of all the peoples of the Holy Land be fulfilled.

Bishops to Address Lay Ecclesial Ministry

This fall the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to issue a major resource document on lay ecclesial ministry, a phenomenon of growing importance in the church. When the bishops meet in Washington on Nov. 14-17, they will vote on the proposed document, Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: Resource for Guiding Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry. The introduction calls the document a pastoral and theological reflection on the reality of lay ecclesial ministry, an affirmation of those who serve in this way and an attempt to pull together the current best thinking and practice in that field. The proposed document discusses the appropriate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of those who seek to engage in lay ministerial leadership in the church. It also addresses the role of lay ecclesial ministers in the church community, their relationship to the church’s ordained leaders, guidelines and procedures for authorizing lay people to enter such roles and concerns that should be dealt with in the ministerial workplace.

Dulles Discusses Benedict XVI’s Views on Vatican II

Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., said on Oct. 25 that Pope Benedict XVI differs in significant ways from Pope John Paul II in his view of the Second Vatican Council, but added that both would agree that it has been seriously misinterpreted. "The council, he said, needs to be understood in conformity with the constant teaching of the church.... The true spirit of the council is to be found in, and not apart from, the letter of the council texts," Cardinal Dulles said. When rightly interpreted, the documents of Vatican II can still be a powerful source of renewal for the church. The cardinal also said there is a striking contrast between the two popes. He described Pope John Paul II as a social ethicist who wanted to involve the church in shaping a world order of peace, justice and fraternal love, while Pope Benedict XVI expects the church to maintain a posture of prayer and worship and is suspicious of social activism and human claims to be building the kingdom of God. Cardinal Dulles made the comments in his annual McGinley lecture, which took place this year at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx. The cardinal is the Laurence J. McGinley professor of religion and society at Jesuit-run Fordham University.

Religious Rights at Stake in Tea Case

As they heard oral arguments on Nov. 1 in a case over a religious group’s use of a federally prohibited tea in its rituals, the Supreme Court justices seemed inclined to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on which the church’s case is premised. The Brazilian-based church, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, known as U.D.V., has only about 140 members in the United States. The case began in 1999 after U.S. Customs agents seized a shipment of hoasca tea, which is used by the church’s followers in sacramental rituals that are derived from Amazonian spiritual traditions and Christian theology. The tea is made from plants that contain dimethyltryptamine, a hallucinogen known as DMT, which the federal government classifies as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Lower federal courts ruled in favor of the church, saying that the government failed to prove a compelling interest in prohibiting its members from using a controlled substance. The small church has attracted the support of more mainstream groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Civil Liberties Union, because of the potential implications of a ruling that might allow the government to decide the importance of a religious ritual in relation to federal laws.

Hindu Extremists Continue Attacks on Christians

Three nuns were attacked on Oct. 25 in the latest incident of violence against Christians in India’s Rajasthan state. A Hindu fundamentalist spotted five nuns waiting for a bus near Kushalgarh. As the nuns were boarding, the activist and six friends from a nearby Hindu hostel pulled three of the nuns off the steps and attacked them with wooden sticks. On Oct. 16, the date for local celebrations marking the end of the year of the Eucharist, Bishop Joseph Pathalil of Udaipur was stopped in his vehicle by Hindu extremists. Bishop Pathalil was heading to one of the celebrations in Kushalgarh, more than 130 miles from Udaipur. Police escorting the bishop chased the protesters away, but the protesters stoned the bishop’s vehicle on his return journey.

Poem by U.S. Founding Father Found in England

A poem written by one of the U.S. founding fathers has been discovered in the archives of a Catholic high school in England. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, wrote the poem in Latin in 1754 when he was a student in his final year of high school in Saint-Omer, France. It was found in the archives of Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe, England, by Maurice Whitehead, a professor at the University of Wales, Swansea, who is doing research at the Jesuit high school. This is a significant discovery, Jan Graffius, curator of the school’s collections, announced on Oct 28. This previously unknown composition is bound to be of immense interest to American scholars. The poem was composed to be read to an unnamed visiting dignitary to the Jesuit high school in Saint-Omer, and it bears Carroll’s signature. It is being translated by a group of seven 17- and 18-year-old Latin students at Stonyhurst and their classics teacher, Judith Parkinson.

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12 years ago
Just a couple of comments on the Nov. 14 issue. In Signs of the Times America quotes Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., that the council “needs to be understood in conformity with the constant teaching of the church....” This cliché offends the history of the church by subscribing to a view of its history that cannot stand the light of day, unless of course he is referring to those few teachings that deserve such recognition. In that case, we can forget most of the favorite subjects for debate that trouble the church today.

On the Letters pages, Leon Suprenant seems to represent that wing of the Catholic laity that swallowed a seminary text without digesting its contents. The present situation in the church is due chiefly to such indigestion on both right and left. If more Catholics, both clerical and lay, had a profound understanding of the history of the church, they would gain perspective and realize that their “issues” should not divide Catholics but encourage them to work together. It is silly to talk about the priesthood as if the 19th-century model was the way Christ wanted things. The priesthood is sacramentally central to Catholicism. Even when leaders stumble, Catholics need to unite in solving the existing problems, not perpetuating favorite mythologies. One faith, one church, one baptism has never been a formula for stagnancy.

12 years ago
In the news section, Signs of the Times, on Nov. 14, there is a story about Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. (“Dulles Discusses Benedict XVI’s Views on Vatican II”) with a picture whose caption says the cardinal was walking with Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., of Fordham University, “in the streets of Rome on Feb. 20, 2003.” The year is not correct. The caption refers to “the day before he [Cardinal Dulles] became a cardinal” and that historic date was two years earlier, Feb. 21, 2001.

12 years ago
I noted in Signs of the Times of Nov. 14 the item about Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., and the caption under the accompanying picture.

If the picture was taken before Avery Dulles was elevated to the rank of cardinal, the year must have been 2001, not 2003. My only reason for responding is I was at that consistory, for both the hat ceremony and the ring ceremony in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

I had only arrived in Rome on Monday, Feb. 12, as a participant in the sabbatical program for U.S. priests at the North American College. Notice was posted on the bulletin board that tickets were available for any of the priests who might be interested in attending. If my memory serves me right, Cardinal Dulles’s reception was held in the courtyard below my room.

In any case, if the picture needs dating, while it may have been taken on Feb. 20, 2003, it would have been years after the consistory naming him cardinal.


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