Signs of the Times

Pope: Dialogue Can Help End Terrorism, War, Strife

Addressing international diplomats on his first day in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI said respectful dialogue must be the basis for ending terrorism, wars and religious differences in the world. Religions have a key role in this dialogue, but on the condition that they utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of religion, the pope told a gathering of about 90 ambassadors in the Turkish capital of Ankara Nov. 28. The pope, on his first trip to a predominantly Muslim country, made a point of expressing his great esteem for Muslims. He also cited Turkey’s constitutional protection of religious freedom and said every democratic state was duty-bound to guarantee those rights. The papal speech came at the end of a long day of activities in Turkey, where the pontiff was making a difficult four-day pilgrimage aimed at building ecumenical and interreligious bridges. He met the diplomats in a small auditorium at the apostolic nunciature. On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the pope celebrated his first public Mass in Turkey next to the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus and encouraged the faithful to live with courage, hope and optimism.

Amnesty International Urged to Oppose Abortion

Dozens of members of Congress joined several pro-life organizations Nov. 20 in urging Amnesty International not to embrace policies on abortion that they described as antithetical to...our shared duty to protect. The international human rights organization is consulting its two million members in 74 countries over whether it should expand its policy on sexual and reproductive rights, according to a Nov. 20 statement by Amnesty. The release said that under discussion is whether to develop policies on access to health care related to complications from abortion; access to abortion in cases of rape, incest, sexual assault or risk to the woman’s health; and removal of criminal penalties for abortion providers and those who seek abortions. A Nov. 15 letter signed by more than 70 members of the House said it is not possible for Amnesty to justify any position that condones abortion based on international human rights law while at the same time objectively adhering to legal instruments and processes. No United Nations human rights treaty or convention recognizes a so-called right to - or even addresses the issue of - abortion.


Vatican Studies Use of Condoms Against H.I.V.

An exhaustive Vatican study requested by Pope Benedict XVI on condom use in H.I.V. prevention is awaiting a response from the church’s doctrinal office and the pope, a senior Vatican official said. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said his office handed in a large study of almost 200 pages to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that it is hoping [the congregation] and the Holy Father say what is [best] concerning this argument. The cardinal spoke in response to journalists’ questions during a Nov. 21 press conference about an upcoming Vatican meeting on the church’s pastoral approach to treating infectious diseases. He said the pope had asked that his council commence a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on condoms. Cardinal Lozano said his council completed a thorough study on condoms covering the latest medical data and the complete spectrum of opinions by moral theologians.

Pope, Anglican Leader Pledge Friendship

The journey of friendship between Roman Catholics and Anglicans will continue even though the path toward full unity seems to be blocked, said Pope Benedict XVI and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury. The two leaders spent 25 minutes speaking privately Nov. 23 at the Vatican before giving speeches that candidly recognized the divisions within the Anglican Communion and between Roman Catholics and Anglicans over the ordination of women and homosexuality. After their private meeting, the pope and the Anglican leader processed side by side into the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel for midday prayer before eating lunch together. Archbishop Williams’s visit marked the 40th anniversary of the visit made by a predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, to Pope Paul VI. The 1966 meeting marked the launch of the official Anglican-Roman Catholic theological dialogue.

Founder of AIDS Orphanage in Kenya Dead

Angelo D’Agostino, the American Jesuit priest who built and directed Kenya’s first orphanage for children with H.I.V. and AIDS, died of a heart attack in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 20 following hospitalization and surgery for abdominal pains. He was 80 years old. He was buried Nov. 27 at the Jesuit cemetery in Nairobi following a funeral Mass at the Consolata Shrine there celebrated by the archbishop of Nairobi, who was joined by the nuncio, three bishops and 50 priests. After the Mass, Father D’Agostino’s younger brother, men and women heads of his charitable boards from the United Kingdom and Italy, and the first lady and president of Kenya all paid tribute before the massive gathering.

A surgeon and psychiatrist, Father D’Agostino was noted for his efforts to bring affordable AIDS drugs to the poor in Africa as well as for his pioneering work with AIDS orphans. In Nairobi, in 1992 he founded Nyumbani, the first home for abandoned and orphaned H.I.V.-positive children in Kenya. Nyumbani means at home in Swahili. It started with three children and currently is home to nearly 100. We give them a chance to die with dignity, he said in a 2000 interview, reflecting the children’s lack of access to expensive H.I.V.-fighting drugs.

Caritas to Provide Relief in Uganda Peace Effort

Caritas Uganda is to provide food, sanitation facilities, medicine and other nonfood items to the guerrilla Lord’s Resistance Army when it assembles in southern Sudan under the terms of a recent peace agreement. The rebels are to assemble at two designated points in southern Sudan, according to the Aug. 26 peace agreement they signed with the Ugandan government. In early November, the Ugandan government set a Dec. 1 deadline for the rebels to assemble at the two points or the government would withdraw from the ongoing peace talks in Juba, Sudan.

Vincent Sebukyu, deputy director of Caritas Uganda, told Catholic News Service the role of Caritas Uganda will be to assist in speeding up the peace process by providing supplies to the assembling rebels. Sebukyu said distributing the resources at the right places at the right time and securing appropriate funding would be a challenge.

'Blatant Anti-Catholicism’ in Scotland, Says Cardinal

A Scottish cardinal criticized the blatant anti-Catholicism in his country after a study revealed that Catholics were five times more likely to become the victims of a religious hate crime than Protestants. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said the findings of a Scottish government report were a matter of grave concern. In a statement Nov. 27, the day the report was published, Cardinal O’Brien challenged the popular belief that most incidents occurred at either sectarian parades or at soccer matches between Glasgow Celtic, a team with a large Catholic fan base, and the Glasgow Rangers, which has a huge following among Protestants. He said the figures showed 70 percent of the cases between Jan. 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005, did not take place at soccer venues and that the violence was deeper, wider and altogether more pervasive than drink-fueled post-match rivalry.

America Gives Campion Award to Andrew Greeley

The editorial board of America bestowed the 2006 Campion Award on the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, one of the most prolific Catholic authors of our time, at a reception held on Nov. 16, 2006, at America House. Named after the 16th-century Jesuit martyr St. Edmund Campion, the award recognizes a Christian person of letters. The citation accompanying the award read in part: We especially recognize and honor his impressive contributions to furthering dialogue in the church he clearly loves. The range and breadth of categories in his nonfiction writing reflect his full engagement with the church in the modern world. A distinguished sociologist and scholar, Father Greeley has published some 170 works, both fiction and nonfiction. Prior honorees include Shusaku Endo, Walter and Jean Kerr, John Updike, Annie Dillard, Muriel Spark, Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, John Courtney Murray, S.J., Avery Dulles, S.J., T. S. Eliot and Karl Rahner, S.J.

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