Signs of the Times

Security Must Not Trump Human Rights

Counterterrorism strategy must not sacrifice fundamental human rights in the name of security, said the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations Oct. 16. The ambassador, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, spoke at a U.N. committee session deliberating on a proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. It is fundamental to affirm from the very outset that effective counterterrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, he said. Indeed the former must serve the latter, because the protection of human rights is the primary objective of any counterterrorism strategy. The absolute unacceptability of terrorism lies precisely in the fact that it uses innocent people as means to obtain its ends, thus showing contempt and utter disregard for human life and dignity. When states fail to protect human rights it only diminishes their own moral standing and lets terrorists dignify in the eyes of some the grievances that the terrorists cite to justify their aberrant behavior, Archbishop Migliore said.

Vatican for Control of Conventional Weapons

The Vatican expressed strong support for an international treaty to regulate the sale of conventional weapons, saying light arms and small-caliber weapons have been used to harm millions of people in recent decades. Conventional weapons are an element in every civil conflict and constitute one of the most common instruments in most violations of human rights and disrespect for international law, said a Vatican statement released Oct. 10. The statement, issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, came as the United Nations was debating a proposal by seven countries to take steps toward a legally binding agreement on the import, export and exchange of conventional weapons. Earlier in October, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio, told the U.N. General Assembly that the Vatican supported controls on the small-weapons trade.


Turkish Youth Sentenced for Priest’s Murder

A 16-year-old Turkish youth was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for the murder of an Italian Catholic priest in February. The young man, identified in court only by his initials, O.A., was found guilty of premeditated murder, possessing a weapon without a license and endangering public security. Media reports from Turkey said the boy’s family criticized the sentence, announced on Oct. 10, as too harsh, and his lawyer said the sentence would be appealed. The youth was arrested two days after the murder on Feb. 5 of Father Andrea Santoro, a missionary from Rome who had been in Turkey for 10 years. Father Santoro was praying in St. Mary Church, in the Black Sea coastal city of Trebizond, when he was shot twice.

Belarusian Bishop Asks Support for Visa Requests

A Belarusian bishop has called for prayers for seven Polish priests and five nuns who were denied visas for 2007 by Belarusian officials. A Polish priest also was arrested for celebrating Mass without permission in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Bishop Aleksander Kaszkiewicz of Grodno asked the diocese’s 170 parishes to pray for the clergy and to sign a petition of support. A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Grodno said it had appealed the visa decision to the government’s committee for religious and minority affairs and was still awaiting an answer. The spokeswoman, who declined to be named, told Catholic News Service Oct. 10 that the situation remains unclear. She said the diocese does not know why this problem has suddenly arisen and would not know until late December who would have to leave.

Catholics Urged to Imitate Virtue of Amish

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles called on the Catholic faithful to imitate the heroic virtue displayed by the Amish of Pennsylvania as they faced the tremendous tragedy of the recent schoolhouse shootings. "I was simply stunned," the cardinal said, "when I first heard about these shootings and these children being killed and critically injured. But I was more astounded as I began to see these Amish people going about dealing with this tremendous tragedy," he added. The cardinal’s remarks came in a homily to the Western lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, who had gathered for a Mass and investiture ceremony on Oct. 8 on the campus of the University of San Diego. Addressing his remarks primarily to the men and women who were about to be invested into the order, the cardinal recounted how the Amish had gone on the very day of the shootings, Oct. 2, to console and bring forgiveness to the wife of the shooter. He recounted how they had made meals for her and her three children throughout the week, just as they had for the families of the girls who were shot. "That is heroic," the cardinal said.

Vatican Confirms Papal Trip to Turkey

The Vatican officially confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Turkey at the end of November, despite misgivings among many Muslims over recent papal remarks on Islam. The pope’s trip on Nov. 28-Dec. 1, his first to a predominantly Muslim country, will include stops in Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul, the Vatican said Oct. 16. The pope will travel at the invitation of the Turkish government and the Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In Ankara, the capital, he is expected to meet with political leaders Nov. 28. The following day he is expected to say Mass in Ephesus, an important early center of Christianity in western Turkey. The pope will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on the evening of Nov. 29 and participate in an Orthodox liturgy Nov. 30. On Dec. 1 he is expected to celebrate Mass for Catholics in the city before returning to Rome.

Fourth Diocese Files for Bankruptcy

The Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, is now the fourth Catholic diocese in the United States to file for bankruptcy protection because of lawsuits it faces over sexual abuse. On Oct. 10, the diocese filed a petition for Chapter 11 reorganization in the Iowa District of U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The action came 22 days after a jury awarded $1.5 million to a Davenport man who claimed he was sexually abused by a diocesan priest nearly five decades ago. Demands for settlement of that lawsuit and 25 claims that exceeded $7 million prompted the diocese’s decision to go to trial for the first time rather than settle out of court. The possibility of bankruptcy had been looming large in the diocese since October 2004, when it announced an agreement to settle 37 abuse claims and lawsuits for $9 million. In the past two years the diocese has reached settlements totaling more than $10.5 million. The jury’s award on Sept. 18 left diocesan leaders with no other option, they said.

South Korean Bishops Work for Peace

Catholic bishops in South Korea have insisted that peace in the Korean peninsula can be achieved only through dialogue and patience, after North Korea announced it had conducted a nuclear test on Oct. 9. The bishops issued their Message for Peace and Reconciliation on Oct. 13, after discussing the nuclear test during their general meeting on Oct. 9-12. In their message they said they cannot but feel deep sorrow at the North’s decision to conduct the test, and they stressed that North Korea must cooperate with us to maintain peace. The bishops also said that having a nuclear weapon cannot be justified in any way, even if it is for self-defense, reported UCA News, church news agency. Peace can be achieved only through incessant forgiveness and reconciliation, the bishops said, urging the international community to walk the path of reconciliation and peace through dialogue and negotiation. The message, published in Korean and English, was signed by Auxiliary Bishop Lucas Kim Woon-hoe of Seoul, president of the bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, and Bishop Boniface Choi Ki-san of Inchon, president of the bishops’ Committee for Justice and Peace.

Newly Opened Necropolis Shows Rome’s Conversion

While constructing a new parking area, the Vatican made one of the most important archeological discoveries of recent decades, a cemetery dating to the reign of Augustus.

According to Vatican Radio, the archeological site represents a complete image of Roman society from the age of Augustus to that of Constantine, with the tombs of noblemen mingled with those of poorer people. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City, presided over the opening on Oct. 13. The site contains 250 tombs from the first to fourth century after Christ and demonstrates the gradual conversion of Roman society from paganism to Christianity. The necropolis will be open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays. Visitors will have to make reservations to tour the site.

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