Signs of the Times

Indian Bishop Requests Tree Saplings as Gift

A newly installed archbishop in a central Indian state made an unusual demand of those wanting to congratulate him on his appointment. He said he welcomed gifts, but they had to be tree saplings. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, that he wanted to highlight the churchs concern for the environment amid rising pollution levels and increased news of environmental destruction around the globe. He said the more than 10,000 saplings he received would be planted in Christian institutions and other public places, where he feels sure they will be nurtured. Several officials of Madhya Pradesh State said Archbishop Cornelios decision had a powerful symbolic meaning and environmental impact, as love for trees is part of Indian culture and mythology. The archbishops message was purely an inspiration to live for others, said Kunwar Vijay Shah, state minister for forest and tribal welfare, who attended a congratulatory function for the archbishop after his Sept. 16 installation ceremony.

Israeli Authorities Deny Priest Re-entry Into Israel

A Jordanian Catholic priest who works at a West Bank parish was denied entry into Israel en route from Jordan to the Palestinian territories. The Rev. Faris Khaleifat of Annunciation Church, a Melkite Catholic parish in Ramallah, was returning to his parish on Sept. 14 when Israeli authorities at the Al Sheik Hussein Bridge crossing canceled his multiple-entry visa without explanation. According to a statement released to the press Sept. 19 by the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a week earlier Father Khaleifat, who holds Jordanian and Vatican passports, had traveled to Jordan for several days and had returned without incident. For the past six years, I have been traveling regularly between the West Bank and Jordan on church affairs without any problems whatsoever, Father Khaleifat said in the statement, which explained that the priest was one among thousands of foreign passport-holders who have been denied entry by Israeli authorities over the past several years.


Fordham Panel: U.S. Has Moral Obligation to Iraqis

The United States has a moral obligation to the people of Iraq that must be met regardless of when U.S. troops ultimately withdraw from that country. That was the conclusion of the panelists at a forum titled Exit or No Exit? Morality and Withdrawal from Iraq, held in New York Sept. 18 on the Lincoln Center campus of Jesuit-run Fordham University. It was attended by 450 people. We must distinguish between the ethics of intervention and the ethics of exit, said Gerard F. Powers, director of policy studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and former director of the U.S. bishops Office of International Justice and Peace. The U.S. intervention may have been an optional, immoral war, but the post-intervention U.S. involvement is not an optional moral commitment, he said. Quoting the U.S. Catholic bishops, Powers said that the U.S. intervention has brought with it a new set of moral responsibilities to help Iraqis secure and rebuild their country and to address the consequences of war for the region and the world.

U.S. Will Admit More Iraqi Refugees Next Year

The United States should have the capacity to admit around 1,000 Iraqi refugees a month next fiscal yeara number substantially higher than this years, said a senior U.S. Department of State official. The United States has a moral obligation to protect Iraqi refugees, particularly those who belong to persecuted religious minorities, as well as those who have worked closely with the United States government, said Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. She told the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom at a hearing on Capitol Hill Sept. 19 that the U.S. has been slow to admit the thousands of Iraqis referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees because the system was not in place. The United States has admitted less than 1 percent of the more than 10,000 refugees that the U.N. referred for admission this year. We had to start building an infrastructure that didnt exist, but operationally things are moving along, Sauerbrey said. She noted the work of faith groups, in particular the U.S. bishops overseas relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services, and the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission, for their work providing humanitarian assistance for Iraqi refugees.

Ordinations of Chinese Bishops Raise Hopes

The Vatican said the recent ordination of two Chinese bishops in communion with Rome was a positive sign for the church and raised hopes of further appointments. The comment came in an article in the Vatican newspaper, LOsservatore Romano, which reported on the Sept. 21 ordination of Bishop Joseph Li Shan as head of the Diocese of Beijing, the Chinese capital. The two-hour ordination liturgy, attended by hundreds of local Catholics and a number of government officials, followed the ordination of Coadjutor Bishop Paul Xiao Zejiang of the Province of Guizhou, China, earlier in September. The Vatican newspaper indicated that both ordinations had been carried out with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The local Catholic communities, who elected the bishops, had indicated to the Vatican that they were worthy candidates, the newspaper said. The Catholic communities of Guiyang and Beijing, having received news of the communion granted by the pope to Bishop Xiao and Bishop Li, gathered in celebration around the new pastors, the newspaper said.

Lebanese Bishops Plead for Timely Elections

Lebanons Catholic bishops said the country is on the verge of [an] abyss and warned that if a new president is not elected within the constitutional schedule the fate of the nation would be grim. In a statement, the countrys Maronite bishops called for cooperation between parliament and the [feuding] factions so that Lebanon can regain its status among nations. The statement was issued following the Maronite bishops monthly meeting, presided over by Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Lebanons parliament was scheduled to convene Sept. 25 to choose a president. In addition to an ongoing political impasse and threats by some factions to boycott the election, the makeup of parliament was further disrupted by the assassination of a Christian lawmaker just hours after the bishops concluded their meeting Sept. 19. Lebanons parliament must choose a successor to President Emile Lahoud before his extended mandate ends in November. Some Lebanese fear that if the lawmakers cannot agree on a candidate, parallel governments could result.

U.S. Resembles Poland as Rampart of Christianity

The head of Polands military diocese has accused Islamic militants of seeking revenge for a Polish-led victory over the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century and urged Christians to prevent Europe from being turned into Euro-Arabia. The military defense against Islamic terrorism is being led today by the United States, which is playing a very similar role to that played centuries ago by Poland, when it was the rampart of Christianity, said Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, head of Polands military diocese. Today, alongside the American soldiers and those of several dozen states in the anti-terrorist coalition, there are also soldiers of the Polish army, he said. Poland is among the 21 nations contributing to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Polish military forces are also deployed in Afghanistan. During a homily at Mass in Warsaw Sept. 11, Bishop Ploski said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States had been planned with criminal precision by Osama bin Laden to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, in September 1683, when an Ottoman Empire invasion force was defeated by Christian armies under King John Sobieski of Poland.

George Tavard Dies; an Ecumenical Saint

The late George Tavard, an Assumptionist priest and noted ecumenist, was remembered as an ecumenical saint and one of the great pioneers in Catholic ecumenical work at a memorial Mass celebrated in the chapel at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. Tributes at the Sept. 16 Mass came from church leaders near and far, including ecumenical representatives and his brother Assumptionists.

The French-born Father Tavard, 86, who had lived at his orders residence in the Boston suburb of Brighton for the past 15 years, was vacationing in France with family members. He died Aug. 13 at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris shortly before he was to return to Boston. He was buried at the Assump-tionist plot in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris following a funeral Mass Aug. 21 at St. Dominic Church in Paris.

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