Signs of the Times

Study Reports Influences on Newly Ordained Priests

According to a new study, recently ordained priests are now older and more culturally diverse than those of 15 years ago. The major theological influence on new priests was Pope John Paul II. The German Jesuit Karl Rahner, who easily ranked at the top in a similar survey 15 years earlier, dropped to a distant tie for third in the new survey, Experiences of Priests Ordained Five to Nine Years, written by the sociologist Dean R. Hoge of The Catholic University of America’s Life Cycle Institute and published in September. Hoge’s findings were based on a 2005 survey to which 1,000 U.S. priests ordain-ed between 1996 and 2000 responded. The 182-page study includes numerous comparisons with the 1990 findings and commentaries on the findings by six experts in seminary formation and church leadership. In both studies, recently ordained priests most frequently cited America as one of the periodicals that had the most influence on them. Others included The Priest, The National Catholic Register, Firsts Things and Origins.

Lebanese Bishops Criticize Hezbollah, President

Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic bishops criticized the Hezbollah militia and said they were concerned that Christians were marginalized because of the lack of leadership by the country’s president. In a statement following their September meeting, the bishops addressed the issues faced by Lebanon in light of Hezbollah’s 33-day war with Israel. Alluding to Hezbollah, the bishops said: A Lebanese faction continues to bear arms despite the Israeli withdrawal from most of the South [of Lebanon] in 2000. This was against the resolutions of the Taif Accord of 1989. This group developed into a religious, military and political organization. The result was the war on July 12. The bishops also said that such powerful countries as Syria and regional forces have interfered in Lebanese affairs, backing one sect or another. Despite the end of Syrian dominance, they said, Lebanon is still experiencing division.


Sister, Trainer of Nurses, Murdered in Somalia

Pope Benedict XVI deplored the slaying of an Italian missionary nun in Somalia and called for mutual respect of religious convictions among peoples. A telegram sent in the pope’s name by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, called the killing of Consolata Sister Leonella Sgorbati on Sept. 17 tragic and barbaric. The pope said he hoped that the blood shed by such a faithful disciple of the Gospel may become a seed of hope for building authentic fraternity between peoples, in the mutual respect of the religious convictions of every person.

Sister Leonella and her bodyguard were shot and killed as they left a children’s hospital in Mogadishu where she worked training nurses. Authorities arrested one suspect and said they believed a second gunman was involved. Islamic leaders in Somalia have condemned the killing. The 65-year-old nun had worked in Africa for 35 years and had been in Somalia since 2001.

Chinese Security Officers Take Bishop by Force

A young bishop whose episcopal ordination is not recognized by the Chinese government was taken away by plainclothes security officers who broke into the cathedral compound to arrest him. Various church sources told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, that Bishop Joseph Wu Qinjing of Zhouzhi was taken away by force and his whereabouts remain unknown. Since May, officials have taken the young Vatican-approved bishop several times to be questioned and to attend classes on the religious affairs regulations that took effect last year. Witnesses said the incident occurred in the late evening on Sept. 11 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral in Zhouzhi, about 600 miles southwest of Beijing. UCA News reported that some people in the vicinity saw a couple of men jump over the wall of the compound. Then a group of about 20 security officers entered the compound, made their way to the room of the 37-year-old bishop and knocked on his door without disclosing their identity. When Bishop Wu opened the door, he was taken immediately to one of the vehicles parked outside the compound.

It has been reported that he was released after five days but is now hospitalized with a concussion.

British Bishops Call for Help for Polish Migrants

The increasing number of homeless Polish migrants sleeping on Britain’s streets has prompted a Catholic bishop to urge parishes to do all they can to help the destitute. An estimated 3,000 of the 600,000 Poles who have arrived in Britain to look for work since their country was admitted to the European Union in May 2004 are believed to be homeless. Another 45,000 are living in poverty or squalor, while a further 100,000 are in difficulty, according to the Barka Foundation, a Polish charity that has opened a London office to help Poles either return home or find work and housing in Britain. In a statement on Sept. 12, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England, called on Catholics to be generous toward such migrants.

Church Leaders Join Pleas for Aid to People of Darfur

As people around the world joined peace rallies, concerts, prayer vigils and even a yogathon to press for action to bring peace to Darfur in Sudan, the head of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee and others pleaded for more efforts to end the killings, rape and wanton destruction. Events in dozens of cities drew tens of thousands of people on or around Sept. 17, which was designated by peace groups as Global Day for Darfur. Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., the committee head, said that despite hopeful signs of a peace agreement in the spring, conflict has been mounting among rebel groups, the Sudanese military and its proxy militias, known as the Janjaweed.

The offensive has trapped innocent and defenseless civilians in the middle of the fighting, Bishop Wenski wrote in a statement released on Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C. And with the deteriorating situation, it has become a deadly challenge, he said, to deliver humanitarian aid to the 2.5 million people who have fled their homes and another million who are at risk of starvation, he said. A dozen aid workers have been killed since June.

Bishops: Amnesty Should Stay Neutral on Abortion

Amnesty International would risk its own well-deserved moral credibility if it were to abandon its neutral stance on abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a letter to the secretary-general of the international human rights organization. To abandon this long-held position would be a tragic mistake, dividing human rights advocates and diverting Amnesty International from its central and urgent mission of defending human rights as outlined in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., said in a letter on Sept. 12 to Irene Khan, who is based at the organization’s London headquarters. Amnesty members have been debating the abortion issue at country meetings since 2005, when the International Executive Committee was asked to set policy by the end of 2006 on the questions of decriminalization of abortion, access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion and legal, safe and accessible abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest and risk to the woman’s life.

Pope Repeats Regret, Stresses Respect for Muslims

Pope Benedict XVI again expressed regret that his remarks on Islam had been misunderstood and emphasized his profound respect for Muslims. At his weekly general audience on Sept. 20, during which he reviewed his recent trip to Germany, the pope turned his attention to his academic address at the University of Regensburg and the wave of Muslim indignation that followed. The pope said his citation of the words of a medieval emperor, which sound incomprehensibly brusque in today’s world, was unfortunately misunderstood. The attentive reader, he said, would have known that he was not agreeing with the polemical criticism of Islam expressed by the emperor.

In his Regensburg speech, the pope introduced the theme of faith and reason by quoting from statements of the 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, including the emperor’s criticism of the Islamic concept of holy war and the line that Islam had brought things only evil and inhuman. In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor. I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together, the pope said in his general audience. His words were greeted by strong applause in St. Peter’s Square, where several thousand pilgrims had gathered.

The pope noted that during his trip he had underlined the need for all people to respect what is sacred to religious culturessomething that reflected his esteem for the followers of other religions, in particular Muslims, he said. I hope that my profound respect for world religions and for Muslims, who worship the one God and with whom we promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity, is clear, he said. He said he hoped that after the initial reactions, his speech in Regensburg would come to be understood as an encouragement to a dialogue that is positive and also self-critical, both among religions and between modern reason and the Christian faith. Criticism of the papal speech came from Muslim representatives in many countries.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Jesuits, identified three “signs of the times”: secularization, the digital world and multiculturalism.
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 15, 2018
For years, the Polish church has been torn between supporting the government’s anti-migrant stance and adopting Pope Francis’ commitment to foreigners.
Melissa VidaOctober 15, 2018
The cast of “Girl From the North Country” (photo: Joan Marcus)
How did an old war horse manage to outrun a rolling stone?
Rob Weinert-KendtOctober 15, 2018
El Salvador celebrates the canonization of their patron saint—but should the ceremony have taken place in San Salvador?
James T. KeaneOctober 15, 2018