Signs of the Times

Religious Freedom at the Core of Peace

The only way to ensure that religions contribute to peace rather than violence is to guarantee religious freedom and promote religious education so believers understand that peace and harmony are at the core of every religion, the Vaticans foreign minister said. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vaticans secretary for relations with states, spoke Oct. 5 at the U.N. General Assemblys high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation for peace. The text of his remarks was released Oct. 6 by the Vatican.

Archbishop Mamberti said Pope Benedict has taught that faithfulness to ones own religious convictions is not expressed in violence and intolerance, but in sincere respect for others, in dialogue and in an announcement that appeals to freedom and reason while remaining committed to peace and reconciliation. While religion is a herald and source of peace, the archbishop said, it too often has been manipulated by politicians, nationalists and those seeking power.


Catholic-Anglican Text Encourages Realism

Anglicans and Roman Catholics should witness to the faith they share and work together to promote Christian values in the world, but they also must be realistic about issues still dividing them, said a recent document by Anglican and Catholic bishops. Growing Together in Unity and Mission was published in mid-September by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, made up of bishops from the two communities. While leaked copies of the completed document were circulating already in February, the official release was delayed until commentaries commissioned by the Vatican and by the Anglican Communion were finalized.

The international bishops commission was formed in 2001 to develop a document summarizing 35 years of official Anglican-Roman Catholic theological agreements, to encourage wider study of the agreements and to demonstrate how much Catholics and Anglicans share by promoting joint activities such as prayer services, study, Christian witness and social action. However, the final document said, difficulties in the life of the Anglican communion, particularly the tensions caused by the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, the blessing of same-sex unions in British Columbia and the acceptance of women bishops in some Anglican provinces have forced Anglicans and Roman Catholics to recognize that progress toward full unity will be slower than many had hoped.

Jewish Leaders MeetPope on Anti-Semitism

Pope Benedict XVI welcomed to the Vatican the new leaders of the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish communities in more than 80 countries. Ronald S. Lauder, elected president of the congress in June, said the talks on Oct. 8 focused on interreligious dialogue and on anti-Semitism in a number of European countries. While the congress issued a press release after the meeting, the Vatican simply announced that the pope had met the officers of the congress.

The congress statement said Lauder, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria, told the pope that the anti-Semitic statements attributed to Tadeusz Rydzyk, the Redemptorist priest who is founder and director of Polands Radio Maryja, should not be tolerated anymore. Lauder called on the pontiff to take action against those in the church who wanted to do damage to the close and positive relationship between Christians and Jews, the statement said.

Australian Bishops Sever Ties With Amnesty

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has severed all ties between the Catholic Church in Australia and Amnesty International because the human rights organization changed its neutral stance on abortion. It is with much regret that we are now in a position of having to advise that membership in Amnesty International is no longer compatible with Catholic teaching and belief on this important point, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, president of the bishops conference, announced Oct. 3. After due consideration we now also urge Catholics and all people who believe in the dignity of the human person from natural conception until natural death to seek other avenues of defending human rights, the archbishop said. A statement from the bishops conference said that by imposing a new policy in favor of limited abortion rights, Amnesty effectively had created a human rights organization that excluded Catholic members.

Cardinal Decries Ecumenical Insensitivity

According to a report in The Tablet (Oct. 6), Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Bishops Confer-ence, told the annual assembly of bishops Sept. 26 that the so-called One True Church document issued July 10 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had led to anti-Catholic hostility among Protestants. It is not appropriate, the cardinal said, to repeat and republish reminders and admonitions on binding church teaching when time is needed for theologians and church officials to communicate the teaching in a fashion that does not lead to world-wide misunderstandings. The C.D.F. had attempted to correct misinterpretations of Vatican Council IIs Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The council fathers had avoided articulating a one-for-one equation of the Catholic Church with the church of Christ. Instead they used the term subsists, stipulating that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.

The cardinal lamented the insignificant role the Second Vatican Councils decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, played in the C.D.F. commentary. What is essential now, the cardinal said is to revive the largely abandoned discussion of the aims of ecumenism. Germany has sizable Catholic and Lutheran populations.

At the same meeting, the bishops decided that no priest is obliged to celebrate the Tridentine Mass and that for the time being the bishops would not establish special parishes for celebration of the Tridentine rite.

Fathers Stem Cells Provide New Life

Three-year-old Andrew Mueting of Dodge City, Kan., is a bright, happy-go-lucky, energetic little boy. But when he was 4 months old, doctors gave him a bleak prognosis. Born with malignant infantile osteopetrosis, an extremely rare blood disorder that affects approximately 20 U.S. babies a year, Andrew was expected to spend his few years of life fighting anemia and infections, struggling with weak bones and eventual blindness and deafness. Now, thanks to a new procedure that used his fathers adult stem cells, Andrew has a chance to live a long, healthy life with few ill effects. In treatments at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Andrew had to go through eight days of chemotherapy to completely wipe out his immune system, said his father, Nick Mueting. During the last five days of his treatment, I took a medicine that helped my body produce a lot of stem cells in my blood. At the end of that period...I was hooked up to a machine for five hours as it extracted the stem cells from my blood. After that, 50 cubic centimeters of the fathers stem cells were injected into his sons blood.

Market-Driven Medicine Threatens Human Dignity

Market-driven medical technology applied at the beginning and end of life is a growing threat to human dignity, speakers for the National Catholic Bioethics Center told a conference in San Francisco Oct. 3. Catholics must counter with an uncompromising defense of Christian ethics that also encourages lawful innovation to nurture and sustain life, the speakers said, adding that Catholic teaching provides the most reasonable framework for ethical decisions about human life in any clinical or research setting. I always encourage people that if youre ever confronted with a teaching of the church you dont understand and that at first looks problematic, stop and ask yourself what dimension of human dignity the church sees being threatened in this procedure that we wont allow, said John Haas, president of the bioethics center. The Philadelphia-based center is a scholarly institution that advises the Vatican and the nations bishops. Oaklands Bishop Allen H. Vigneron told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, that the main issues on which the church finds itself at odds with a lot of the trends in our culture were in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research and end-of-life issues.

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