Signs of the Times

At U.N. Holy See Cites Ideologies of Force

Addressing the 61st United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 27, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s special envoy, contended that a lack of political consensus and an ideology of force undermine the cause of peace. It is not so much the want of peacemaking and peacemaking experience and resources which leaves vulnerable noncombatants to suffer and die, he told the delegates. There exists the difficulty of molding a consistent political will on the part of the international community.

Terrorists and their various organizations, he said, represent a new barbarism, rejecting the best achievements of our civilization. At another level, he added, superpowers, regional powers, aspiring powers and oppressed peoples sometimes yield to the temptation to believe, despite the evidence of history, that only force can bring about a just ordering of affairs among peoples and nations. The ideology of power, he said, scorns any restraint placed upon the use of force. He expressed special concern over failures to limit nuclear weapons.


Until Sept. 15 Archbishop Lajolo served as the Holy See’s foreign minister. He is now president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

Benedict Meets With Muslim Representatives

Meeting with Islamic ambassadors and representatives on Sept. 25, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his deep respect for Muslims, pledged to continue dialogue and said Islamic and Christian leaders should cooperate to curb violence. Faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence, the pope said. As for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction, he said. The unprecedented encounter at the pope’s summer residence was designed to soothe Muslim resentment over a recent papal speech that cited a historical criticism of Islam and the concept of holy war. The pope later distanced himself from the quoted material and said he was sorry Muslims had been offended.

Chinese Sanction Unapproved Bishop

A young bishop whose episcopal ordination is not recognized by the Chinese government was released five days after being taken away by plainclothes security officers. A church source close to the 38-year-old bishop, Joseph Wu Qinjing of Zhouzhi, reported that before his release he was forced to write a statement saying his episcopal status was illegal. The statement said he was ordained without an election. It added that his management of the diocese and presiding over church activities as bishop have violated the Chinese government’s religious affairs regulations. The church source added that Bishop Wu also was forced to promise in the statement that he would not wear a miter or bishop’s vestments during liturgies or appear as a bishop at large-scale church activities.

Thai Cardinal Prays for Return of Democracy

Thai church leaders said the recent coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra does not affect the church, while some expressed relief over the ouster. Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu of Bangkok, president of the Bishops Conference of Thailand, said on Sept. 21 that the local church has great concern for the situation in the country, but the coup does not affect the church. We will strongly pray that the situation will become normal as soon as possible and democracy will be back soon, Cardinal Kitbunchu told UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Retired Bishop Michael Bunluen Mansap of Ubon Ratchathani, head of the bishops’ justice and peace commission, said on Sept. 20 that he was personally glad for the change of government, even if it did not come by good means. Army Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin took over power after staging a bloodless coup on Sept. 19.

Cardinal Questions Entry of Turkey to E.U.

A British cardinal has questioned whether predominantly Muslim Turkey should be admitted to the European Union. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster said he had concerns that Turkey’s Islamic culture meant that the country would not be integrated easily into a continent with a Christian heritage. In a radio interview, the cardinal challenged the position of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has consistently argued for Turkey’s accession to the European Union on the grounds that its exclusion would be damaging. There may be another view that the mixture of cultures is not a good idea, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Sept. 21. I think the question is for Europe: Will the admission of Turkey to the European Union be something that benefits a proper dialogue or integration of a very large, predominantly Islamic country in a continent that, fundamentally, is Christian?

Catholic, Orthodox Plan 2007 Meeting

Catholic and Orthodox representatives ended an important theological meeting on a good note, citing a spirit of friendship and making plans for a follow-up encounter next year. A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting from Sept. 18 to 25 in Belgrade, said the approximately 60 participants had discussed in depth a draft document that touched on papal primacy and the role of Eastern Catholic churches. The draft document was carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity, the statement said. A joint committee was appointed to revise the text in light of the many observations and comments made during the discussions. The revised text is expected to be taken up in a meeting hosted by the Catholic Church in 2007, the statement said. It was the first time the Catholic-Orthodox international dialogue commission had met since 2000, when talks were broken off over tensions related to the re-emergence of Eastern Catholic churches in post-communist Eastern Europe.

Milingo Excommunicated After Ordinations

Recent ordinations made without papal approval have placed Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia and the four prelates he ordained under automatic excommunication, the Vatican said. "Starting with his attempted marriage in 2001 until his ordination on Sept. 24 of four bishops in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Milingo’s actions have led him to a condition of irregularity and progressive breach in communion with the church," said a written statement by the Vatican press office. "Various church officials tried in vain to contact the retired archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, and dissuade him from continuing acts that provoke scandal," the press statement of Sept. 26 said. "Despite the patient vigilance shown by the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI in hopes that the retired archbishop would return to full communion with the church," the statement continued, "the ordinations have dashed such hopes." Because of the unapproved ordinations, both Archbishop Milingo and the four ordained men are under a latae sententiae’ excommunication, according to Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. A bishop who consecrates a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him automatically incur the penalty of excommunication.

Bishop Addresses Gay Ministries Conference

The National Association of Catholic Diocesean Lesbian and Gay Ministries held its 13th annual conference from Sept. 21 to 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y., with over 120 participants attending. Founded in 1994, the organization is a resource for individuals, parishes, schools, religious orders, hospitals, retreat centers and other Catholic institutions that minister to gay and lesbian Catholics. According to the conference organizers, the group stays in communication with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The organization has members in 84 parishes and 52 dioceses in the United States and Canada. Among the speakers for this year’s conference were J. A. Loftus, S.J., pastor of the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston; Susan Ross, professor of theology at Loyola University, Chicago; Diana Hayes, associate professor of systematic theology at Georgetown University in Washington; and Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan, retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn. Bishop Sullivan’s plenary address was entitled "The Church: A Communio We Strive to Become." The bishop told America that such conferences help to "promote a genuine dialogue and that he hoped that the lesbian and gay community will see itself as a respected and cherished member of the community of the church."

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