Signs of the Times

Patriarch’s Hopes for Papal Visit to Turkey

Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he hopes Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will help calm recent tensions with Islam and advance his church’s struggle for religious rights. Patriarch Bartholomew, meeting with a group of reporters at his headquarters in Istanbul on Sept. 28, said the visit also would underline the pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue at a time when Catholic-Orthodox theological talks are resuming. The 67-year-old patriarch acknowledged that the pope’s recent speech in Regensburg, Germany, had caused problems with Muslims in Turkey and elsewhere, but he said that only intensified the importance of the upcoming papal visit. It’s an opportunity to cultivate dialogue and to remove misunderstandings. The circumstances at this moment make this visit more interesting, more necessary and more important than at any other moment, he said.

Vatican at U.N.: Peace Tomorrow Requires Justice Today

Building peace for tomorrow requires doing justice today, a top Vatican official told the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo of Italy, president of the Governor’s Office for Vatican City State, addressed issues ranging from development and human rights to religious freedom and dialogue in his speech on the final day of the assembly’s annual opening debate. The archbishop, who was the Vatican’s foreign minister before he took up a new post on Sept. 15, warned that failures to correct fundamental inequalities in the world economic system are fast becoming lost opportunities to advance a moral alternative to war. He praised the Millennium Development Goals adopted by key world leaders but warned that implementation has been lacking. He said, The present lack of progress in the fields of development aid and trade reform threatens everyone’s security and well-being, and added, The surest way to prevent war is to address its causes.


Media Day Should Focus on World’s Children, Says Pope

Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Catholic Church to focus on the influence the mass media has on the world’s children when it marks World Communications Day in 2007. Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education is the theme chosen by the pope, said Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Archbishop Foley said the theme underlines the need for parents and educators to realize the important formative influence of the media in the lives of children. In most dioceses, World Communications Day 2007 will be celebrated on May 20.

Missionaries of Charity Invited to China

The Missionaries of Charity congregation, founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is close to realizing one of her unfulfilled dreamsa presence in China. We are waiting for them [Chinese officials] to tell us when to come, Sister Nirmala Joshi, superior general of the congregation, told Catholic News Service in September. Speaking to CNS at the motherhouse in Calcutta, Sister Nirmala said that following the election of Pope Benedict XVI, China invited the Missionaries of Charity to open a home for the elderly as a step toward improving relations with the Vatican. At the invitation of the Chinese government, Sister Nirmala visited Qingdao in July 2005 and was shown the building where the congregation has been invited to run a home for the elderly and the handicapped.

Church Has No Political Role in Cuba, Say Leaders

The Cuban church’s role in national life after President Fidel Castro relinquishes power is not to be political but to accompany the people wherever the future leads, said two Cuban Catholic leaders. I don’t think the people see the church as a political player. Nor has the church presented itself as a political player, said Orlando Márquez Hidalgo, spokesman for the Cuban bishops’ conference. The Rev. René Ruiz Reyes, delegate from the Archdiocese of Havana to the bishops’ National Commission for Priests, said that the mission of the church is to accompany the people along the road at a time when no one in the Caribbean island country can predict the future. Both Cubans were interviewed by Catholic News Service on Sept. 29 while in Washington to meet with officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were part of an 18-member delegation of Cuban priests and lay people who initially arrived in the United States to attend a gathering on Sept. 18-21 in Miami with Cuban Catholics living in the United States.

Proposed Restructuring Reduces U.S. Bishops’ Staff

If the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approves a proposed reorganization plan this November, by 2008 there will be at least 63 fewer employees on the bishops’ national staff than are currently authorized. The 260 currently authorized positions under consideration are to be reduced to 197. The cost savings would allow the bishops to reduce their yearly diocesan assessment for U.S.C.C.B. staff and programs by 16 percent in 2008. In 2007 the assessment will account for $11.9 million, or 9 percent, of the organization’s $139 million budget. Of the positions that the bishops will consider eliminating from the 2008 budget, 35 have already become vacant by not replacing employees who have retired or left. The figures do not include staffing for Catholic News Service, Migration and Refugee Services, the National Religious Retirement Office or the offices for the bishops’ national seminaries in Rome and Louvain, Belgium. A news release on Sept. 29 said one of the goals of restructuring is to assure that the U.S.C.C.B. emphasizes major themes or priorities in three- to five-year cycles.

Mother Kathryn Sullivan, Pioneer of Biblical Studies, Dies at 101

Mother Kathryn Sullivan, R.S.C.J., a pioneer of modern Catholic biblical renewal and the first woman to be accepted into the Catholic Biblical Association, died on Sept. 22 at Kenwood Convent of the Sacred Heart in Albany, N.Y., at the age of 101. A funeral Mass for Sister Kathryn, a native of Philadelphia, was celebrated Sept. 26 at the convent, and she was buried in the cemetery on the convent property. When Mother Kathryn entered the field of biblical studies in the 1950’s, women were not admitted to advanced degree programs in Scripture studies, so she studied privately under Msgr. John Steinmueller, founder of the Catholic Biblical Association. She and Msgr. Steinmueller co-wrote several books on Scripture. She also wrote several books of her own, as well as articles and translations in biblical studies, including Catholic biblical manuals and textbooks. Sister Sullivan was a founding editorial board member of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and of the bimonthly publication The Bible Today.

Cardinal Condemns BBC Documentary on Abuse

The president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales condemned the British Broadcasting Corporation for a documentary that accused Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse of children by priests. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster made a formal complaint to the director-general of the BBC about the documentary, which aired on Oct. 1. The documentary claimed to reveal how the pope issued a secret Vatican edict instructing bishops to put the interests of the church before the safety of children. In a letter of Oct. 2 to Mark Thompson, the director general and a Catholic, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor expressed the enormous distress and alarm of the Catholic community at the decision made by the publicly funded broadcaster to show the documentary called Sex Crimes and the Vatican.

The documentary said that in 2001 Pope Benedict, who then, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was head of the doctrinal congregation, issued an updated version of a 1962 Vatican document that specifies the canonical rules for judicial treatment of priests accused of sexual crimes, not just the sexual abuse of minors. The BBC misleadingly represented the standard confidentiality of such canonical trials as concealing evidence of abuse.

U.S. Antiterrorism Hinders Catholic Aid Groups

Two leaders of Catholic aid organizations warned Congress in late September that the war on terror is having unintended consequences on the poorest of the poor around the world. Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, told a House International Relations subcommittee on Sept. 28 that the government’s narrow focus on antiterrorism is diverting resources from long-term efforts to address the root causes of poverty and hunger, which can themselves contribute to political instability.

Kenneth Gavin, S.J., director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA, testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Sept. 27 that his organization’s work with refugee populations facing political or religious persecution was being compromised by a rigid interpretation of what constitutes material support to a terrorist organization under U.S. law.

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10 years 10 months ago
My freshman theology course at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in 1956 was Mother Katherine Sullivan’s study of the Bible (Signs of the Times, 10/16). Thanks to her challenge, I read the entire Bible (slogging through even the doldrums of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, not to mention the disjointed though delightful Wisdom literature). But the most important influence she had was her encouragement to us to re-examine the Bible in terms of modern life and its place in our lives. “How odd of God to choose the Jews” was a mantra that led her classes into innumerable discussions of responsibilities that we were required to explain and take note of as they evolved with the times.


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