Signs of the Times

Chaldean Bishop Calls for U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq

U.S. troops should withdraw and let Iraqi factions fight it out, the bishop for most Iraqi Catholics in the United States said June 19. Let the Iraqis kill each other, but let the occupying power get out, because they are not killing each other because they are Sunni or Shiite, but because they are with the Americans or against the Americans, said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim. The head of the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle made the comments in an impassioned sermon at a special Mass at Mother of God (Chaldean) Cathedral in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, where the eparchy has its headquarters. The Mass, which drew close to 1,000 people, was celebrated to memorialize the recently slain Chaldean priest Ragheed Aziz Ganni and the three subdeacons who were killed with him, as well as to pray for all those who have died in the fighting in Iraq, including U.S. troops, and for the safety of Iraqs remaining Christians.

Christians in Particular Suffer Human Rights Abuse


Human rights are not respected in Iraq, and Christians in particular are suffering, said Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad. I have asked everyone to pray for us and to do something to reawaken the worlds conscience, the patriarch told Vatican Radio June 20 at the end of a Vatican meeting of church funding agencies for Eastern churches, known by its Italian acronym, Roaco. The patriarch said he has asked the United Nations, the European Union and other organizations to join him in demanding that all Iraqis, Muslims and Christians have their human rights respected. The Rev. Leo Lemmens, Roacos secretary general, told Vatican Radio, Christians are being killed or thrown out of their homes before the eyes of those who are supposed to be responsible for their security. Father Lemmens said, Christians always have lived in Iraq and have done everything possible to contribute to its development along with their Muslim brothers and sisters.

Chinese Government Calls Bishops Meeting

Catholic bishops who have registered with the Chinese government were called to a two-day meeting in Beijing in late June. Some bishops contacted by UCA News, an Asian church news agency, said they believed the June 28-29 meeting was related to an expected letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Catholics in mainland China; others said they did not know why the meeting was called. The pope promised to write such a pastoral letter after a summit meeting took place Jan. 19-20 at the Vatican to discuss the situation of the Catholic Church in China. The letter, which Pope Benedict reportedly signed May 27, is generally expected to be released soon. Vatican sources have said that as a courtesy the letter would be sent to the Chinese government before it is released publicly. Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, confirmed to UCA News June 27 that the bishops were invited to a June 28-29 meeting to discuss celebrating the patriotic associations golden jubilee. He denied that the meeting has any connection to the papal letter.

Cardinal Praises Bush for Stem Cell Veto

President George W. Bush vetoed a bill on June 20 that would expand federal funding for medical research on human embryonic stem cells, saying it would compel American taxpayers, for the first time in our history, to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the veto. This bill would not actually enhance stem-cell research, but divert federal funds from legitimate research toward avenues requiring the destruction of innocent human life, he said. The cause of science is not enhanced but diminished when it loses its moral compass. In conjunction with the veto, Bush issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to strengthen the nations commitment to research on pluripotent stem cells. Adult stem cells from a variety of sources, including bone marrow, the placenta and umbilical-cord blood, have led to successful treatments for a number of diseases. Adult stem cells are called pluripotent because they have the power to turn into many of the more than 200 types of differentiated cells found in the body. Embryonic stem cells are called omnipotent because they can turn into any of those differentiated cells.

Dialogue Seeks Unity With Polish National Church

Members of the Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic dialogue gathered in Milwaukee to discuss the opening to further steps toward unity created by last years Joint Declaration on Unity. The main focus of the meeting on May 30-31 was the relationship between the two churches. It included a review of the correspondence with the Holy See since 1991 on the validity of the Polish National Catholic Churchs sacraments, sacramental sharing and the extent to which the Catholic Church considers the P.N.C.C. fully a sister church, like the Orthodox churches. There was a consensus among the participants that their May 2006 Joint Declaration on Unity has helped create a new context in which the two churches can begin to move incrementally toward the full unity desired by both churches. The declaration, a result of 22 years of dialogue and several official acts of recognition and reconciliation by both churches, said that the dialogue members wish to reaffirm our resolve to overcome what still divides us and to state clearly that our goal is full communion between our churches.

Philippine Culture a Leaven in U.S. Society

In a homily at a San Francisco church, Cardinal Guadencio Rosales of Manila, Philippines, underscored the deep faith, generosity and hospitality of the Filipino culture and urged Filipinos living in the United States to use their cultural heritage as a leaven in U.S. society. A Mass on June 21 at St. Anne of the Sunset Church and a reception afterward were the final events of the cardinals three-day visit to the Bay Area. His U.S. trip included a stop in Washington, where he pre-sided at a Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on June 23. In a June 19 interview with Catholic San Francisco, the cardinal cautioned the United States about its social development aid in the Philippines and expressed enthusiasm about the impact of Pondo Ng Pinoy, a foundation he helped launch to aid the poor in his homeland three years ago.

Charismatic Catholics Mark 40 Years of Praise

For most organizations, the 40th anniversary would not call for special celebrations. In the Catholic charismatic renewal, however, 40 is taking on biblical importance. As Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, La., pointed out in a keynote address at the Conference of the Charismatic Renewal on June 22-24, the number 40 appears in the Bible nearly 200 times: for 40 years the Israelites wandered in search of the Promised Land; for 40 days Jesus prayed in the desert; the ascension came 40 days after Jesus resurrection. Bishop Jacobs was among several speakers over the weekend who raised the possibility that God might have a similarly dramatic action in mind to mark 40 years of the Catholic charismatic renewal. We have a great challenge before us, he said. These past 40 years have been a time of cleansing and a time of new beginning; a time of preparation and a time of waiting upon the Lord...a time of renewal and of stirring up frequently the gifts given to us when hands were laid upon us and the Spirit invoked.

Spiritual Podcasts Target Busy Men

The Catholic Mens Fellowship of Pitts-burgh and that dioceses Department for Evangelization are producing weekly audio spiritual podcasts, specifically geared toward men, on the upcoming Sunday Scripture readings. Jeff Ludwikowski, co-executive director of the Catholic Mens Fellowship of Pittsburgh, said the weekly podcasts stem from a desire to respond to Pope John Paul IIs call for a new evangelization by utilizing new technologies to reach men who may not be tied into traditional methods of faith formation. The 10-minute podcast is available on the Web site of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men ( A podcast is a digital media file, or a series of such files, distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers. The Rev. James Wehner, director of the Department for Evangelization, is the voice of the podcasts. The initial target population was computer-savvy men who lacked time for spiritual reading. But Father Wehner noted that the audience is much broader than originally anticipated.

Diplomat Cardinal to Head Interreligious Council

Pope Benedict XVI named a French cardinal with extensive diplomatic experience as the Vaticans new coordinator of interreligious dialogue. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 64, will become president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Vaticans main liaison agency with Islam, on Sept. 1. Cardinal Tauran, a 28-year veteran of the Vaticans diplomatic service who has served in Haiti, Lebanon and Syria, is known as a knowledgeable and sometimes outspoken specialist in international affairs. For 13 years he was Pope John Paul IIs foreign minister, the official who dealt with all aspects of the Vaticans foreign policy.

Pope Benedict announced the appointment during a visit on June 25 to the Vatican Library and the Vatican Secret Archives, two institutions Cardinal Tauran has headed since 2003. In his new role, the cardinal will be responsible for overseeing the Vaticans dialogue efforts with representatives of other faiths, including Muslims. Early in his tenure as foreign minister, the Holy See concluded the Fundamental Agreement with the State of Israel; and during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, it supported the independence of Croatia and appealed for the first time to the duty to protect innocents, usually called the principle of humanitarian intervention.

Pope Restores Two-thirds Rule for Papal Election

Pope Benedict XVI has stipulated that a two-thirds majority is always required to elect a new pope, undoing a procedure introduced by Pope John Paul II. In a one-page document released June 26, the pope said the two-thirds-majority rule cannot be set aside even when cardinal-electors are at an impasse. Instead, the pope instructed that if the cardinals are deadlocked after 13 days, runoff ballots between the two leading candidates will be held. A papal election will continue to require that two-thirds of the cardinals present agree on a candidate.

In 1996, Pope John Paul introduced a change in the conclave procedure that allowed cardinal-electors to move to a simple majority after 13 days, when 33 or 34 ballots had been held. Pope Benedict said there had been significant requests for a return to the old rules, under which a two-thirds majority was always required. The pope effected the change by replacing two paragraphs of his predecessors apostolic constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis (The Lords Whole Flock), a document that defined conclave procedures.

Foley to Head Knights of Holy Sepulcher

Pope Benedict XVI has named Arch-bishop John P. Foley, of the United States, pro-grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a fraternal organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land. The 71-year-old Philadelphia native had been head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for 23 years. By naming Archbishop Foley pro-grand master, Pope Benedict seemed to indicate that he would be named a cardinal during the next consistory, which will probably take place in November. Archbishop Foley, who will remain in Rome, succeeds the retired Italian Cardinal Carlo Furno, who is 85.

The Vatican also announced June 27 that Archbishop Foleys successor at the social communications council would be Italian Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who will become 66 in July. Archbishop Celli had been a Vatican diplomat and was the Vaticans point man for contacts with the Communist governments of Vietnam and North Korea in the early 1990s, when he was an under secretary in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

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11 years 3 months ago
I am hoping the America staff will post an article in response to the Pope's recent comments on the Primacy of the Church. In a time when the people around the world are increasingly killing each other to prove their god is better than your god, the Pope's timing is once again off. It matters not that he was reiterating an existing church position. What matters is that the world “heard” from him that we are right and you are wrong, diminishing years of healing and efforts to find common ground in the love of Christ. All because we trace our ancestry back to the Apostles…but wait, were some of them married?


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