Signs of the Times

Jerusalem Hospice Open to Patients of All Faiths

When Sister Monika Dullmann first came as a volunteer to Saint-Louis Hospital in Jerusalem as a young theologian, the most difficult task she faced was watching terminally ill patients suffer. Sister Monika, now the hospital director, said 20 years of experience have taught her that she may never be able to relieve all pain, but she can help patients during their last and most difficult moments. Sister Monika noted that Jesus spent his last night in the Garden of Gethsemane alone. What she can offer, she said, is her simple presence, so that those in her care will not be alone in their final hours of suffering. I realized that the last thing I can do for someone who is suffering is...not to run away, said Sister Monika, 42, originally from Germany and a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition who run the hospital. Located just outside the New Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, not far from the sites where Jesus spent his last days, Saint-Louis Hospital provides hospice and geriatric care for Jerusalem residents regardless of their race, religion or nationality. The current staff of 60, which includes doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, support staff and 25 volunteers, provides care for some 50 patients.

Catholic Relief Services Responds to Tsunami

Catholic Relief Services stands ready to commit an initial $100,000 to aid emergency relief operations in the Solomon Islands after a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that flooded several villages, killing more than a dozen people and leaving more than 2,000 people homeless. C.R.S. will respond through our sister agencies Caritas Australia and Caritas Solomon Islands, said C.R.S. president Ken Hackett. We will provide our partners on the ground with whatever they need to respond to this tragedy. C.R.S. has been in touch with Caritas officials in the region and will provide any necessary emergency technical assistance. The most serious damage appears to have hit the island of Gizo, in the northwestern Solomons close to the Bougainville area of Papua New Guinea. At least a dozen people have been killed, and many more are reported missing. C.R.S. has received reports of widespread flooding, including Gizo’s market area and the airstrip that serves that island. Water tanks that serve villages along the coast have reportedly been destroyed.


Government Legislating for Intolerance’

A British cardinal has said that by sponsoring legislation for gay rights, the government is legislating for intolerance. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster also questioned whether the threads holding together democracy have begun to unravel. My fear is that, under the guise of legislating for what is said to be tolerance, we are legislating for intolerance, he said during a lecture on March 28 in London a week after the government forced through new gay rights legislation. Once this begins, it is hard to see where it ends, said the cardinal. He added, What looks like liberality is, in reality, a radical exclusion of religion from the public sphere.

Chinese Expect Help From Pope’s Letter

As Chinese Catholics await a letter from Pope Benedict XVI that is expected to appear after Easter, Jeroom Heyndrickx, C.I.C.M., a longtime China watcher and sometime back channel emissary, discussed the possible impact of the letter on the church in China with UCAN, an Asian Catholic news agency. The Belgian priest said that the announcement of the letter, following a Jan. 20 summit meeting on China at the Vatican, signals that [the pope] views the present situation of the Church in China as historically significant. Several pastoral questions have urgently awaited answers for years, he added. Many Chinese Catholics hope those questions have inspired the pope to write a pastoral letter that will clearly define the church view on those matters.

Of special interest is the status of a 1988 document from the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples that forbade sharing Communion with clergy and members of the Catholic Patriotic Association, a government-controlled body that oversees activities of the officially recognized church. Today priests in several unregistered communities, known as the underground church, tell parishioners they will go to hell if they receive Communion in an official church ceremony. While cooperation between the two faces of the church has grown over the last two decades and bishops have granted permission to the faithful to communicate in such services, the prohibition has not been formally withdrawn. As a result, hostility has arisen between different parties in the church. In this setting, Father Heyndrickx, who directs the Verbiest Center at Leuven University in Belgium, told UCAN, the pastoral letter should mainly be a call of the pope for unity and reconciliation inside the Chinese Church.

Vatican Employees Celebrate Pope’s Birthday

Vatican employees will celebrate Pope Benedict XVI’s 80th birthday with a day off from work and a fatter paycheck, said an announcement from a top Vatican official. April 16 will be a holiday for all Vatican workers, said the March 27 statement from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. Employees also will receive about $667 more in that week’s paycheck to mark the celebration. Pope Benedict will begin his birthday observance early by presiding at a special Mass on April 15 in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican also marks as holidays April 19, the day of the pope’s election in 2005, and the pope’s name day, March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph, because Pope Benedict’s birth name is Joseph.

U.S. Policy on Haitian Migrants Totally Immoral’

Calling U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians totally immoral, Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami has urged the powers that be to grant temporary protected status to all Haitian migrants until the political and economic situation in their island nation stabilizes. He also pleaded for the immediate release from detention of 101 Haitians, including 13 children, whose homemade sailboat washed up on Hallandale Beach March 28. One man died during the trip, which the migrants said took 22 days at sea, the last 12 without food or water. A U.S. Coast Guard official estimated the trip took about 12 days. The migrants, some of them suffering from dehydration, are being held by the U.S. Border Patrol at several detention centers in south Florida. Refugee advocates and immigration attorneys fear they will be moved elsewhere, far from relatives and a network of attorneys who could help them with their asylum claims. The church stands ready to make sure that these people have a place to go and people to take care of them while they make their claim, Archbishop Favalora said during a press conference at the archdiocesan pastoral center on March 30.

Focolare Founder Praised; New Writings Launched

As the end of the Lenten season approached, participants in a March 29 seminar at Fordham University in New York reflected upon Chiara Lubich’s call to unite the world around Jesus’ Good Friday plea, My God, why have you forsaken me? Some 200 gathered at the Jesuit institution’s law school in Manhattan to celebrate Lubich’s work with Focolare, a Catholic renewal movement that began in the Italian city of Trent in the midst of World War II bombings. The seminar also served as a launch for Lubich’s new book, a compilation of her writings published by New City Press. Lubich, 87, is suffering from ill health and was unable to attend the conference. But her presence at the gathering was felt nonetheless. Christ is present now too, Lubich said during an interview taped for Italian television in 2001 that was shown at the conference. She said that realization inspired her, as a 23-year-old, to found Focolare with a small band of friends.

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