Signs of the Times

Vatican Condemns Regrettable Incidents’: Attacks on Nuns, Arrests of Priests in China

The Vatican has condemned two regrettable incidents in Chinathe beating of several nuns and the continued arrests of underground Catholic priests. The violence used against several defenseless religious women in Xi’an in central China must be firmly condemned, said the Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls. Even the detention of six priests from Zhengding, as with previous cases involving various priests in other locations, is reason for serious concern. As on previous occasions, the reasons for the coercive measures taken against [the priests] are unknown, the spokesman said in a statement on Nov. 30. Navarro-Valls said that even though it was not possible to verify the exact extent of the circumstances surrounding these incidents, the news of the beatings and arrests nevertheless prompts grief and disapproval.

Catholic Agencies Monitor Effects of New Drug Plan

As seniors across the country struggle to decide whether to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and which plan to choose, Catholic health care and social-service organizations are working to ensure that the poorest and frailest are not left behind. Both the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA are part of the Access to Benefits Coalition, coordinated by the National Council on the Aging and dedicated to helping Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources understand and use the prescription drug program. Julie Trocchio, senior director for continuing care ministries at C.H.A., said the new benefit was very much needed to help Medicare beneficiaries pay for drugs prescribed to supplement the medical treatment they receive. But whether [Medicare Part D] will do what it is intended to do remains to be seen, she added. The new drug benefit program was created under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Unlike Medicare itself, Part D will be administered not by a government agency but by hundreds of private plans that contract with Medicare.

Ghana’s Bishops Stress Right to Good Schooling

Ghana’s bishops asked the church and government to emphasize education, noting that all Ghanaians had a right to schooling. In Ghana, many children and young people are still without elementary education, and many others are deprived of a suitable education which inculcates truth and charity, the bishops said. Christians have a right to a Christian education, just as Muslims have a right to Islamic education and others have a right to the type of education that they want, the bishops said in a statement.

Advocating more attention to vocational education, the bishops said skills for youth are lacking in the current education system. In the statement, issued on Nov. 18 at the end of their annual meeting, the bishops pointed out that methods of education and instruction were under experimentation, but criticized the present situation. The bishops also said they were fearful of the effect of bribery and corruption, which they said had taken a very subtle but dangerous turn in every section of Ghanaian society and institutions.

Christians Evicted to Make Way for Muslims

Hundreds of Christian families in Pakistan are being driven out of their homes to make way for Muslims left destitute by the Kashmir earthquake, a Catholic bishop said. Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Pakistan, said the Pakistani government has evicted Christians to solve the problem of how to house some three million people left homeless by the disaster. An earthquake on Oct. 8 killed more than 73,000 people, and those left homeless continue to be threatened with death from exposure to single-digit winter temperatures. Bishop Lobo told the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, on Nov. 29 that Christians in the neighboring Sind Province, which was unaffected by the earthquake, might now also perish because they were being turned onto the streets without alternative accommodation provided for them. He said that he knew of at least 40 families, or about 200 people, who had been evicted around Joharabad, near Karachi.

Church Not So Good at Fishing for People

While the Catholic Church has a rich array of teachings and traditions to help Christians live holy lives, it is not so good at bringing people to Christ in the first place, a Capuchin told Pope Benedict XVI. Our past has prepared us better to be pastors rather than fishers of men, Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap., told the pope and top Vatican officials on Dec. 2. Father Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, leads meditations for the pope and his closest advisers on Fridays in Advent and Lent. Father Cantalamessa said almost everyone in the world has heard of Jesus, and writers manipulate his life and message in popular books and films, adding that The Da Vinci Code is the latest and most aggressive episode in a long series. But having heard the name Jesus and having heard his message in a way that brings a person to faith are two entirely different things, the preacher said. The Catholic Church has built an immense doctrinal edifice around its faith, but the basic messageJesus is Lordhas never changed, he said.

Pope, Palestinian Minister Discuss Peace Process

In Pope Benedict XVI’s first meeting with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, the two leaders discussed the Middle East peace process and the difficulties Palestinian Christians face in the territories. At the end of a private audience on Dec. 3 in the Vatican, the Palestinian leader also invited the pope to visit the Holy Land, saying the pontiff would be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the holy places. The pope thanked Abbas for the invitation, while another member of the Palestinian entourage gave the pope a special entry permit for the West Bank town of Bethlehem, according to Italian news reports. The Palestinian minister of tourism, Ziad al-Bandak, told the pope that the document was a gift from the people of Bethlehem and that it made the pontiff an honorary citizen of the town where Jesus was born.

Middle East Patriarchs Deplore Insecurity

Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East denounced terrorism and called upon the international community to put an end to the human drama in Iraq. The patriarchs addressed a number of issues affecting the region in their 15th annual congress on Nov. 28-Dec. 2 in Amman, Jordan, where terrorist attacks on Nov. 9 left 60 people dead. In a concluding statement, the patriarchs said that they prayed for Iraq and deplored its insecurity and assassinations on the national level, as well as its insecurity on religious, social and moral levels. The people of the Middle East region are suffering from repression, hunger, unemployment, occupation, exploitation and a lack of human rights. They also face the threat of losing their national identity in the face of foreign political, military and economic aggression, the patriarchs said. The assembly included the Eastern Catholic patriarchs of the Maronite, Coptic, Melkite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean churches and the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.

C.R.S. Peace-Building in East Timor, Philippines

Maria Ida Deng Giguiento grew up on the Philippine island of Mindanao hearing the chiming of Catholic church bells alongside the daily Muslim call to prayer. Giguiento, who still lives on Mindanao and works for the Catholic Church there, feels totally comfortable in both Muslim and Christian settings, she told parishioners during a visit to the Archdiocese of Anchorage. Anchorage and the Archdiocese of Cotabato, on Mindanao, have a global solidarity partnership, and her visit to Alaska in November further cultivated the year-old bond between the two archdioceses. Giguiento works for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. She is a key player in the church’s efforts to build lasting peace in the Philippines and East Timor, both of which have been marred by civil strife and war in recent years.

Based in the Mindanao city of Davao, Giguiento, 50, is project officer for C.R.S.’s peace and reconciliation program on the island. She also is a facilitator at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute, which trains youth groups, church organizations, village elders and entire nongovernmental organizations to become catalysts for peace.

11 years 7 months ago
Thank you publishing in your Christmas issue the picture of the Chinese Sisters of the Sacred Heart protesting in Xian, China - an important sign of the Church's presence in a country where wearing of religious habits in public is formally banned. The short article missed the most important aspect of the story - they were protesting illegal sale of their property for commercial interests, sharing in the fate of thousands of poor Chinese who have lost homes and lands due to corrupt politicians and greedy entrepreneurs. As such they share in the life of the historical Mary so well described in Robert Maloney's feature article in the same issue.

11 years 7 months ago
Thank you publishing in your Christmas issue the picture of the Chinese Sisters of the Sacred Heart protesting in Xian, China - an important sign of the Church's presence in a country where wearing of religious habits in public is formally banned. The short article missed the most important aspect of the story - they were protesting illegal sale of their property for commercial interests, sharing in the fate of thousands of poor Chinese who have lost homes and lands due to corrupt politicians and greedy entrepreneurs. As such they share in the life of the historical Mary so well described in Robert Maloney's feature article in the same issue.

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