U.S. Bishop Discusses Palestinian Plight
The encroachment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian water sources must be addressed, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., said his two-day visit to view Catholic Relief Services projects in West Bank farming villages brought to his attention the plight of farmers who are losing access to their water supply. It is the first time I have become aware of the critical nature of the water supply. [Palestinians] feel their water supply is being cut from them by the encroachment [of Israeli settlements] beyond the green line, said the bishop, who grew up on an apple farm in Washington and has been interested in farming all his life. Bishop Skylstad visited Israel and the Palestinian territories from Jan. 11 to 18, participating in the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land and the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. Bishop Skylstad and other bishops traveled to the Gaza Strip on Jan. 13 and spent the following three days visiting Catholic parishes and religious leaders in northern Israel.
Chaldean Patriarchate Transfers Seminary
Continued violence against Catholic priests and church property in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, has prompted the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad to move the city’s theological university and seminary to northern Iraq. Iraq’s only Christian theological university, the Pontifical Babel College for Philosophy and Theology, and the patriarchal major seminary, Simon Peter, were to be transferred to Arbil, said a Jan. 4 report by the Rome-based AsiaNews news agency. The two institutions had been closed for several months because of a lack of security and increasing violence in Baghdad. The seminary’s rector and vice rector had been kidnapped in September and December, respectively; the two men eventually were released unharmed. AsiaNews said the move had been in the pipeline for some time, but the decision was not made official until Jan. 4.
New Congress More Religiously Diverse
With one Muslim member and two Buddhist members, the 110th U.S. Congress is the most religiously diverse ever. Catholics remain the largest denominational group in Congress, with 155 members25 in the Senate and 130 in the House. But there are fewer Catholic Republicans in both houses since the 109th Congress and many more Catholic Democrats. In the last Senate, Catholic members were nearly evenly split between the parties, with 11 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Now there are 9 Catholic Republicans and 16 Catholic Democrats in the Senate. In the House at the start of the 109th Congress, there were 129 Catholics57 Republicans and 72 Democrats. Although the total number of House Catholics in the 110th Congress is nearly the same, 130, the current group includes 42 Republicans and 88 Democrats. Even Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, a Muslim who was sworn in as a member of Congress using a Koran once owned by President Thomas Jefferson, was raised a Catholic. He became a Muslim while in college at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Musicians, People in Pews Differ on Helps for Singing
People in Catholic music ministry and Catholics in the pews hold slightly different opinions on what helps congregations sing, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. Participants included 1,541 people who said they were involved in church music ministry, and 808 people who said they were not involved in music ministry. All respondents were asked to choose from up to 14 different factors that help them sing in church. Only two were cited by a majority of Catholics in the pews: a familiar melody and easy to sing. In contrast, more than half of Catholics in music ministry voted for five choices. Leadership of organ or instruments and meaningful text garnered the votes of close to two-thirds of these respondents, while leadership of cantor or director, linked to liturgy of the day or season and enthusiasm of the congregation got smaller majorities. Familiar melody and easy to sing placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
Warsaw Archbishop Resigns After Two Days
Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of Warsaw resigned just two days after formally taking office, after admitting that he acted as an informer for Poland’s former Communist secret police and that his cooperation harmed the church. Although the press officially learned of his resignation less than two hours before what was to have been Archbishop Wielgus’s installation Mass Jan. 7, the archbishop made the announcement to the congregation just after the start of the ceremony in Warsaw’s St. John Cathedral. The Mass was turned into a service of thanksgiving for the work of his predecessor, Cardinal Jozef Glemp. In a short statement on Jan. 7, the Vatican’s apostolic nunciature in Warsaw said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the archbishop’s resignation under Canon 401, which states, A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office. It added that Cardinal Glemp had been asked to stay on as Warsaw archdiocesan administrator pending further decisions.
The Polish bishops’ conference has set out measures for easing the controversy caused by the resignation of the archbishop of Warsaw, saying decisions about bishops who collaborated with the former Communist regime would be left to the Vatican. After an emergency bishops’ meeting in Warsaw Jan. 12, Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl, conference president, said there had been unanimous agreement that a five-member church commission, created in October, would study secret police files on a Catholic bishop only if the bishop in question requested it. However, he said, a final decision about those burdened by collaboration would be left to the pope or relevant Vatican department after the documentation had been passed to them. Archbishop Michalik told journalists that a team of legal experts would be set up in March to help, while individual dioceses would be encouraged to form their own local commissions. But church investigators, he said, would provide only a dry report on the contents of files, without judging or evaluating.
Florida Bishops Challenge Catholics on Farmworkers
Challenging Catholics and all people of good will to see where love is needed and act accordingly, Florida’s bishops urged consideration of how everything from consumer decisions to government policies affect the state’s most vulnerable workers. The bishops’ new pastoral letter, titled Honoring the Dignity of Work: A Call for Solidarity With Florida’s Farmworkers and Other Vulnerable Workers, calls for specific actions by individual Catholics and families, parishes, Catholic institutions, government agencies and others. This is an appropriate time to call attention to the human dignity of people from many backgrounds and nationsparticularly people from Mexico and Central America, but also Haitians, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Vietnamese and otherswho have come to Florida to work in agriculture, our second-largest industry, said Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee at a Dec. 11 press conference in Tallahassee. The document, a publication of the Florida Catholic Conference, the bishops’ lobbying arm, was written in response to situations affecting farmworkers identified at a Farmworker Forum in October 2005.
Trautman Finds New Translations Inadequate
The Catholic Academy of Liturgy met on Jan. 4, 2007, in Toronto, Canada, prior to the annual meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy. The keynote speaker was Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In his address, entitled When Should Liturgists Be Prophetic? Trautman raised concerns about current directions in the revision now underway of the English edition of the Roman Missal being prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). The first edition in English of the Roman Missal was issued in 1973. Drawing on biblical scholarship, historical theology and his many years of pastoral experience as a bishop, Bishop Trautman contended that the new translations do not adequately meet the liturgical needs of the average Catholic and expressed fears that the significant changes in the texts no longer reflect understandable English usage. Trautman argued that the proposed changes of the people’s parts during the Mass will confuse the faithful, and he predicted that the new texts will contribute to a greater number of departures from the Catholic Church.