Signs of the Times

Haughey Receives Intellectual Achievement Award

On Feb. 3 the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities presented its Monika K. Hellwig Award for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Intellectual Life to John Haughey, S.J., senior research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. Father Haughey was appointed by the Vatican’s Council on Christian Unity to serve as a member of its international dialogues with Pentecostalism and the World Evangelical Alliance. He also served as an associate editor at America and taught theology and religion at Georgetown University, Fordham University and Loyola University Chicago. His books include Revisiting the Idea of Vocation (Catholic University Press, 2004). He currently coordinates the Woodstock Center’s project on Catholic higher education.

Senators Encourage Catholic Social Ministry

Two U.S. senators lauded the work of people in Catholic social ministry and asked for their continued support in working to improve the lot of the poor. Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, spoke separately on Feb. 13 to the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, as people affiliated with parish, diocesan, national and independent Catholic programs wound up an afternoon of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Casey said it was vital that the conference attendees spend time in Washington to remind those in government of their efforts day after day, year after year to protect the least, the last and the lost. Casey, a Catholic and former member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, quoted St. Augustine’s observation that without justice, what are kingdoms but great robbers, and noted that often great work is done in the halls of Congress but too often it is a kingdom with robbers. He gave the example of the government’s role in the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to define what he called not just benign neglect, but malign neglect.


New U.S. Ecumenical Group Tackles Poverty

At their first official meeting as Christian Churches Together in the USA, leaders of 36 churches and national Christian organizations discussed the importance of evangelism and issued a call to cut child poverty in America in half by 2017. The scandal of widespread, persistent poverty in this rich nation must be called by its real names: moral failure, unacceptable injustice, they said. The new organization is the broadest and most inclusive fellowship of Christian churches ever formed in the United States. It includes national church bodies from all five major Christian familiesCatholic, Orthodox, Protestant, evangelical/Pentecostal and racial/ethnic. The inaugural meeting, held Feb. 6-9 in Pasadena, Calif., drew more than 150 participants and observers plus a group of seminarians and young church leaders who were invited to learn about the new ecumenical forum firsthand.

Polish Archbishop Retracts Confession

A Polish archbishop who resigned after admitting collaboration with Communist secret police has withdrawn his confession and asked a court to clear his name. Lawyers for former Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of Warsaw said he did not collaborate and that his secret police files were falsified. There was neither secret nor conscious collaborationin my view, the archbishop acted in the interests of the church, said Marek Malecki, a lawyer acting for Archbishop Wielgus. He said a trial would allow a different evaluation of the stance of clergy at the time. Waldemar Gontarski, another lawyer, told the Zycie Warszawy daily Feb. 13 that the national appeal the archbishop delivered Jan. 5 was not his own and that not just his signature, but the whole file covering his alleged cooperation with the secret services has been falsified. Malecki filed a petition with Warsaw’s Verification Court on behalf of Archbishop Wielgus, who resigned Jan. 7, two hours before his formal installation ceremony as archbishop of Warsaw was to take place.

Christianity in Europe Alive and Diverse

Europe may not be as obviously Christian as it once was, but vibrant new movements and communities have been born among Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches, according to members of those movements. Representatives from several of the larger movements met in Rome in mid-February to finalize preparations for Together for Europe, a May 10-11 meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, of at least 3,000 leaders from more than 170 groups representing a wide range of Christian denominations. We want to send a strong signal that Christianity remains alive in Europe and that diversity is valued, including among Christians, said Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Catholic-founded Community of Sant’Egidio. Gerhard Pross, head of a coordinating council for 130 new Lutheran movements and communities in Germany, told a press conference on Feb. 16, We live at a time when the Spirit of God is bringing about new things all over Europe, in all churches.

China, Vatican Must Work Out Ordination Issue

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., of Hong Kong has reiterated the need for negotiations to resolve the issue of Catholic bishops’ ordinations in mainland China and to find a bilaterally acceptable way of normalizing relations. Cardinal Zen said illegitimate episcopal ordinations have created new obstacles to the dialogue between China and the Vatican and the normalization of their relations, and he called for an approach acceptable to both sides. But Anthony Liu Bainian, vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, on Feb. 14 that the church in China will continue to elect and ordain its own bishops as it has done for the past 50 years. Currently, Liu said, China is examining applications for episcopal ordinations in the Guangzhou, Guizhou and Yichang dioceses.

U.S. Catholic-Buddhist Dialogue Continues

Abiding in Christ; Taking Refuge in Buddha was the theme of the first meeting in the second four-year cycle of dialogue between Catholics and Zen/Chan Buddhists on the U.S. West Coast. The meeting was held at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a 488-acre Buddhist community and monastery near Ukiah, Calif. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., issued a press release Feb. 12 reporting details of the Jan. 24-27 meeting. Zen and Chan are the respective Japanese and Chinese terms for the meditation school of Buddhism. The dialogue began with a public session, attended by local religious leaders and by monks and nuns, students and faculty of the city, at which panelists discussed unique features of the West Coast dialogue. During two days of spiritual exercises and closed-session dialogues, participants discussed the basis of Christian and Buddhist religious commitment.

San Diego Bishop Considers Bankruptcy

If more than 140 pending lawsuits alleging sexual abuse in the San Diego Diocese cannot be settled, the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court, according to Bishop Robert H. Brom. The statement was part of a pastoral statement on sexual abuse cases dated Feb. 21 and read at all Masses in the San Diego Diocese on Feb. 17-18. If the diocese were to file for bankruptcy, it would become the fifth U.S. church jurisdiction to do so since mid-2004. The first was the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., followed by the dioceses of Tucson, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; and Davenport, Iowa. Bishop Brom said that while sexual abuse cases involving 43 people have been resolved, with 18 of them receiving counseling and 30 getting financial compensation, negotiations with 143 other people have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful.

Families of Israeli Soldiers Meet With Pope

Searching anywhere and everywhere for information about their loved ones, the families of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers met Feb. 14 with Pope Benedict XVI. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Reghev were kidnapped last July near the Israeli-Lebanese border by the militant Islamic group Hezbollah in a raid that sparked a monthlong conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Despite efforts by the Israeli government and humanitarian organizations, the soldiers’ families have had no news about them. Benny Reghev, the brother of one of the missing soldiers, asked for Pope Benedict’s help in getting information, said Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, who joined the families at the pope’s weekly general audience. The Vatican has contacts, and any information might prove useful, Ben-Hur said. The ambassador said Karnit Goldwasser, the wife of one of the soldiers, told the pope she hoped to meet him again one day, accompanied by her husband.

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