Signs of the Times

Pope: Peace Entails Religious Freedom

Peace and justice in the world require respect for religious freedom, solidarity and policies that look beyond economic gain and show respect for the environment, Pope Benedict XVI told five new ambassadors to the Vatican. Peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, the pope said on May 18, welcoming the ambassadors from Chad, India, Moldova, Cape Verde and Australia. It is important that throughout the world all people can adhere to the religion of their choice and practice it freely and without fear, because no one can base his existence only on the search for material well-being, the pope said in his speech to the group. He also told the ambassadors that every country in the world has an obligation to work for the development of all peoples and to do so in a way that protects the earth’s resources.

Historian Jaroslav Pelikan Dies at 81

Jaroslav Pelikan, one of the 20th century’s most noted scholars of Christian history, died at his home in Hamden, Conn., on May 13. He was 82 years old. His funeral vigil service was held May 16, with a memorial Divine Liturgy the following morning in the chapel of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. Pelikan was a Lutheran most of his life, but he and his wife, Sylvia, were received into the Orthodox Church in 1998. He was author of nearly 40 books including a monumental five-volume work, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. The first volume, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, appeared in 1971; the final volume, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (Since 1700), was published in 1989. His The Riddle of Roman Catholicism appeared in 1959, just before John F. Kennedy’s campaign to become the first Catholic in the White House, and sold nearly 100,000 copies.


Catholics Poisoned’ by Abuse Crisis, Says Vlazny

The clergy child sex abuse crisis has poisoned the minds and hearts of too many Catholics toward the church to the point where they do not want to help pay for settlements, said Portland’s Archbishop John G. Vlazny. My friends, we are the ones who are being sued. We are the ones who compensate victims and pay attorneys, he said in his column on May 17 in The Catholic Sentinel, the archdiocesan newspaper. I grow weary of people who wash their hands of the whole matter and seek reassurances that their contributions will not be used to compensate victims or pay attorneys, he said. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 because of the number of claims by people who said that as minors they had been sexually abused by priests. Archbishop Vlazny said that no credit is given to the U.S. bishops, although they have taken a leadership role in society regarding the putting into practice of policies to protect children and to deal with complaints swiftly and fairly.

Vatican Decision on Legionaries’ Founder

In a decision approved by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican has said the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, accused of sexually abusing minors, should not exercise his priestly ministry publicly. The Vatican also said on May 19 it would not begin a canonical process against the founder, 86-year-old Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, because of his advanced age and poor health. The Vatican statement did not go into details about the allegations against Father Maciel, but Vatican sources said the wording of the statement and its call to penance signaled it had found there was substance to the accusations.

In the statement, the Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said the Vatican had investigated the claims made by former Legionary seminarians against Father Maciel, who founded the Legionaries in his native Mexico in 1941. After having submitted the results of the investigation to attentive study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, His Eminence Cardinal William Levada, has decidedtaking into account both the advanced age of Rev. Maciel and his delicate healthto forgo a canonical process and to call the priest to a life reserved to prayer and penance, renouncing any public ministry, the statement said.

Quicker Resolution of Tensions Under Benedict

The head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church said he expects the resolution of Catholic-Orthodox tensions to speed up under Pope Benedict XVI. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad met May 18 with Pope Benedict, then presided over the blessing on May 19 of the new Russian Orthodox church in Rome, St. Catherine the Martyr. He told reporters later that he had a deep and important conversation with Pope Benedict about possibilities for our churches working together, particularly in Europe. The Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church must work together to bring to light again the Christian roots of Europe, Metropolitan Kirill said.

While the centuries-old theological differences separating Catholics and Orthodox must be overcome, he said, people today want answers to the questions that are closest to them, and they want one answer. They want the churches to speak with one voice. He said the pope agreed that promoting moral values in Europeespecially the value of human life and the importance of the traditional familyshould be a priority for the two churches.

Change in Roman Curia

Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Italy to be the new archbishop of Naples and named Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai, India, to succeed him as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The appointments were announced on May 20 at the Vatican. Cardinal Dias, 70, is a former Vatican diplomat who has been archbishop of his hometown since 2001. Cardinal Sepe, who will turn 63 on June 2, was named prefect of the congregation the same year. He was born in a rural village not far from Naples and told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire on May 21, I feel like a son who, having left home many years ago, is returning with his heart filled with many experiences providence allowed me to have. Cardinal Sepe succeeds Cardinal Michele Giordano, 75, who retired for reasons of age.

Trusts Formed in Vermont to Protect Parishes

To protect Vermont’s 128 parishes and missions from unjust attack, Burlington’s Bishop Salvatore R. Matano has placed each under a charitable trust. That means the titles to all parishes, once in the name of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington Inc., are now in the name of the parishes with the bishop as trustee. We are doing this to preserve parish assets as parish assets, said the Rev. John McDermott, chancellor. The bishop and the diocese have a guardian role for the assets and must assure that they are used for the intentions which were the very source of their establishment. In a letter to all parishioners in the diocese, Bishop Matano said the action was taken to protect these parish facilities from unjust attack and to ensure that the parishes have the freedom to continue their ministries and that the monies raised to support these entities are not diverted to or transferred for other purposes inconsistent with the charitable mission of the parish and the diocese.

Church Offers Hospitality During World Cup Events

The German Catholic Church is harnessing the enthusiasm for the soccer competition for the World Cup in June and July by offering religious hospitality in all 12 cities in which games will be played. The church is focusing its activities on the World Cup slogan, A Time to Make Friends. Introducing the church’s program, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, a passionate supporter of his city’s soccer club, said: When guests come, we give them the best we have. We open our churches and make space for encounters: with the members of our parishes, with the history of faith in our country, and above all, with Jesus Christ himself.

The only major national event is a service to be broadcast on national television, which will be held just before the first match between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich on June 9. As with many of the regional activities, it will be carried out jointly by Catholics and the Protestant Church, a federation of Lutheran, Reformed and United churches. The Catholic Church has set up a Web site, www.kirche-am-ball.dewhich means church on the balloffering information about regional activities, as well as tips for liturgical elements related to the World Cup.

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