Signs of the Times

Maryknoll Magazine Marks 100 Years

In an age of e-mail, digital photography and computerized layout, the Rev. James A. Walsh might not recognize the mission publication he founded 100 years ago as The Field Afar. But Father Walsh, who went on to become a bishop and co-founder of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also known as Maryknoll, would undoubtedly be overjoyed that the magazine not only reaches more than 500,000 readers but also involves them, said Joseph Veneroso, a Maryknoll priest who is the current publisher, in a statement. Now titled Maryknoll, the monthly magazine reports on the work of Maryknoll missionaries in Africa, Latin America and Asia and has a bilingual sister publication, Revista Maryknoll. Many of our missioners say their vocation was inspired by the magazine; many more readers have become our partners in mission by their prayers, their financial support and by reaching out to the needy in their neighborhoods, Father Veneroso said.

Bishops Urge E.U. to Acknowledge Heritage

European Catholic bishops have urged European Union officials to acknowledge Europe’s Christian heritage in a major declaration marking 50 years of European integration. For many founders, the Christian imprint on the European project has been an indisputable fact, said the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, known by the acronym Comece, in a Dec. 11 statement to E.U. officials. For a majority of E.U. citizens, their Christian faith is the living source for their support of our common values and ambitions. The declaration, which will be published in March in Berlin, will be a unique opportunity for E.U. officials to set out the values they share, the commission said. E.U. politicians have been accused of ignoring the role of churches and religions, which were not mentioned in E.U. documents until the late 1990’s.


Vatican Convinced New Warsaw Prelate Not a Spy

The Vatican and the Polish bishops are convinced Warsaw’s new Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus was not a spy for the secret police under Poland’s former Communist regime, the Vatican said. In deciding to nominate the new metropolitan archbishop of Warsaw, the Holy See took into consideration all the circumstances of his life, including those regarding his past, said a statement issued Dec. 21 by the Vatican press office. This means that the Holy Father has full trust in His Excellency Msgr. Stanislaw Wielgus and, with full awareness, entrusted to him the mission of pastor of the Archdiocese of Warsaw, the statement said. The Polish Catholic Church has been rocked for months by revelations that some members of the clergy cooperated with the secret services of the country’s old Communist regime. Rumors had been circulating for weeks that Archbishop Wielgus, formerly bishop of Plock, had been among the collaborators. After his appointment as archbishop of Warsaw was announced Dec. 6, the rumors were published more widely.

Congress Accepts U.N. Status of Holy See

In the final hours of the 109th Congress, the House and Senate passed a bill that would let President George W. Bush grant diplomatic privileges and immunities to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. The Holy See is not a member of the United Nations, but its status as a permanent observer, held since 1964, entitles it to participate in General Assembly debates, have its communications issued and circulated as official documents of the assembly and co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions that refer to the Holy See. The bill authorizes the president to give the observer mission and its members the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the diplomatic missions of member states to the United Nations, and their members. The provision was passed the evening of Dec. 9 as part of H.R. 6060, the Department of State Authorities Act of 2006, one of the final acts of the 109th Congress before it adjourned. President Bush was expected to sign the bill but had not yet done so as of Jan. 2.

Catholic Medical Mission Board Grant to Fight AIDS

The Catholic Medical Mission Board has received a grant of approximately $1.7 million for H.I.V. prevention and care services abroad, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The award to the New York-based organization was part of the first round of grants by the New Partners Initiative, announced by President George W. Bush at the conclusion of a round-table discussion about global H.I.V. and AIDS at the White House on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. The Catholic Medical Mission Board will use its three-year grant for programs in Zambia aimed at preventing mother-to-child H.I.V. transmission. Specifically, the funds will be used to implement Men Taking Action, a program developed to enable men to become part of the solution to prevent transmission of the H.I.V. virus from mother to child.

Spiritual Ecumenism’ Promotes Christian Unity

Every time Christians of different communities pray together, witness to the Gospel and help people in need, they are promoting Christian unity, said the Vatican’s top ecumenist. Joint prayer and Bible study, attendance at a major event of another denomination and working together for justice and peace are the components of spiritual ecumenism suggested by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The cardinal is the author of A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, a booklet published in English late in 2006; the Italian edition will be released at the Vatican in time for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18 to 25. In fact, participating in ecumenical prayer services and discussions during the Christian unity week is encouraged throughout the booklet. In the introduction, Cardinal Kasper said the booklet was the result of a discussion by members of the pontifical council focusing on the need for prayer and conversion in the search for Christian unity.

Public Support for Death Penalty Is Shifting

As 2006 came to an end, capital punishment was making headlines for what is not happening. There is overall declining use, waning support and recent challenges at the state level about how it is conducted. Shifting public support for capital punishment is a ray of good news for Frank McNeimey, co-founder of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, who said he hopes the trend continues. Death penalty statistics in a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington offered reasons for optimism among opponents of capital punishment. For starters, the group noted the results of a newly released Gallup Poll showing that more Americans support alternative sentences of life without parole over the death penalty as punishment for murder. The center also reported that the number of death sentences imposed in the United States is the lowest in 30 years; executions have sharply declined and the number of people on death row has decreased. During 2006, 53 people were executed, down from 60 in 2005 and 98 in 1999, the report said.

Holy Land Christmas Brings Joy Despite Conflict and Death

Once again Christmas in the Holy Land is faced with circumstances of death and frustration, but the holiday still brings joy and announces salvation to all, said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem in his traditional Christmas message. Christmas is coming to Bethlehem with the wall and the checkpoints on the ground, he said in the message read to journalists at a press conference Dec. 20. The occupation and deprivation of freedom on one side and fear and insecurity on the other continue as before, he said. Gaza remains a big prison, a place of death and of internal Palestinian dissension. Though the West Bank city of Bethlehem should be a city of peace, it is a place of conflict and death, Patriarch Sabbah said. Peace could be reached if those responsible were sincerely determined, he said. Life in Bethlehem has become very difficult to endure despite the numerous solidarity initiatives, for which Palestinians are grateful. Palestinians’ fundamental need is for peace, justice, freedom and an end to the occupation, the patriarch said.

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