Signs of the Times

Pope Expresses Hope for East Timor
Congratulating Nobel Peace Prize-winner José Ramos-Horta on his inauguration as president of East Timor, Pope Benedict XVI expressed hope for strengthened democratic institutions and an end to outbreaks of violence in the country. Pope Benedict met May 21 with Justino Aparicio Guterres, East Timors new ambassador to the Vatican. The ambassador presented his accreditation one day after Ramos-Horta was sworn in as the countrys president. The pope offered his congratulations to Ramos-Horta and said the high voter turnout in early May demonstrated a great civic maturity but also reflected the peoples hope for a strengthening of democracy five years after East Timors independence. The people of East Timor are preparing for another election. On June 30 they will go to the polls to elect members of the legislature.

Kidnapped Priest Returned Unharmed in Baghdad
After three days in the hands of kidnappers, an Iraqi Chaldean Catholic priest was released shaken but healthy, a Rome-based missionary news agency reported. The Rev. Nawzat Hanna, a pastor in Baghdads Baladiyat neighborhood, was released late May 21. He had been visiting a sick parishioner May 19 when he was seized by a group of men, who apparently had been waiting for him.
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told AsiaNews that he had been given the location of a place in the city where he would find the priest at about 9:30 p.m. May 21. When he saw me, Father Nawzat embraced me tightly, cried and was very shaken; then he thanked everyone who had prayed for him, Bishop Warduni said.
Speaking May 22, the bishop added: I hope he has the courage to continue serving the church in Iraq. His family already has moved abroad, but he had chosen to remain here, to remain at the side of his faithful. After the priest was kidnapped, Bishop Warduni had said the captors made immediate contact with Chaldean church leaders, demanding a very high ransom. The AsiaNews report did not say what finally led to the priests release.
The Rev. Philip Najim, the Chaldean representative in Rome, told Vatican Radio May 21 that the kidnapping of the priest is part of a general climate of continuing violence and of a growing persecution of Iraqs Christian minority. There is a persecution against all Christians in Iraq, Father Najim said. There are thousands and thousands of Christian families fleeing. The churches have opened their doors, as have the schools so that these families would have refuge and a place to sleep.... It is a situation of suffering, of martyrdom and of witnessing to our Christian faith....This is our land. We were born there, we grew up there and we will die there.
Father Najim also said it is true that some radical Muslim groups are trying to force Christians either to convert to Islam or pay the jizya, a tax once levied on Christians and Jews living in officially Muslim countries. Some fundamentalist groups have applied this norm to the Christians, and the Christians have been forced to leave the area and move elsewhere, he said. This is the current sitution facing Christians in Iraq.

CAFOD Official Welcomes Wolfowitz Resignation
A British Catholic aid agency official has welcomed the resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz after a controversy over the promotion of his female companion. George Gelber, head of policy at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, or Cafod, said Wolfowitzs departure presented an opportunity to change the way top appointments are made to the bank, which he described as a creditors cartel.
Cafod is the development and aid agency of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. It works to end poverty and make a just world in over 60 countries. Paul Wolfowitzs tenure at the World Bank and the recent scandal raise questions as to whether he was the right man for the job of fighting poverty in developing countries, Gelber said in a May 18 statement. It is remarkable that in the 21st century, these key appointments are made on the basis of nods and winks from the United States and Europe, he said, adding that the resignation is an opportunity for the position to be replaced by a democratic and transparent leadership selection process based on merit.

Muhammads Role Deserves Appreciation
Christians must distance themselves from anyone or anything that insults Islams Prophet Muhammad and should come to a greater appreciation of his role in bringing millions of people to recognize the one God, said a German Jesuit scholar. But Christians cannot share Muslims recognition of Mohammed as the last and greatest prophet, said Christian Troll, S.J., a professor of Islam and of Muslim-Christian relations at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany. Writing in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine reviewed by the Vatican prior to publication, Father Troll was responding to a question asked by many Muslims: We Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet and we venerate him. Why dont you Christians accept Mohammed as a prophet in the same way.

European Churches Should Defend Identity
Representatives of nearly 240 Christian movements have urged Europes churches to be a cohesive force in defending the continents Christian identity and pressing for greater solidarity with the poor and marginalized. We see more clearly our responsibility in facing Europes challenges today: to be a strong social, cohesive force in its cultural pluralism, the representatives said in a declaration to European politicians. Together we want to say to Europe and the world that our movements and communities are inspired by the Gospel of life and peace.
The declaration was published after a May 10-12 ecumenical gathering, Together for Europe 2007, in Stuttgart, Germany. About 10,000 peopleincluding members of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican groupsattended, as did Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot and Cardinal Walter Kasper, chairman of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a former bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

Academic Honors for America Writers
At its May 20 commencement, Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to William J. OMalley, S.J., a teacher, preacher and writer well known to readers of America. Father OMalley, 75, has been a long-time teacher of English, theology and drama at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, N.Y., and at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx. In addition he has written some 20 books and 50 articles for America, twice winning first prize from the Catholic Press Association. The LeMoyne citation noted his accomplishments during 56 years as a Jesuit, saying that perhaps his greatest was helping others to keep their faith. James Martin, S.J., an associate editor of America, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Wagner College in New York City. Sharing the platform with Father Martin were former Governor Hugh L. Carey of New York and the editor in chief of Newsweek, Jon Meacham.
Among other America authors receiving honorary doctorates are Richard J. Curry, S.J., founder of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped, by the College of New Rochelle in New York; and Gary N. Smith, S.J., a longtime minister to refugees in Eastern Africa, by Seattle University.

Media Nonsense Reflects Ignorance
The media spread all types of nonsense about religion, sometimes out of malice but usually out of ignorance, said U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley. While all Catholics have an obligation to share the saving love of Christ with others, Catholic communicators have an obligation to be accurate and to help others to be accurate, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications said May 17 in London. This is not so much to evangelize or even to catechize, butif I may invent a wordto accuratize, to make sure that all who write or broadcast or blog have accurate information and do not, consciously or unconsciously, disseminate misinformation, he said. Archbishop Foley was in London for a Mass in anticipation of the May 20 celebration of World Communications Day. The archbishop asked everyone present at the Mass to communicate truth and to insist on accuracy in reporting on religion.
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