Signs of the Times

Indian-American Convert Elected Governor

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Republican governor-elect, will not only be the nation’s youngest governor when he is sworn into office in January. He will be the first Indian-American governor and the first who is a convert from Hinduism to Catholicism. Jindal, 36, is a U.S. congressman elected in 2004 to represent Louisiana’s 1st District. Raised a Hindu by his Indian-born parents, he converted to Catholicism when he was a student at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

He may also be the first Louisiana governor to have written for America: “Has Ecumenism Made Evangelism Irrelevant?” (7/31/93) and “Choosing Between Church and Family: The Spiritual Journey of Converts” (7/2/94). The latter is an open letter Jindal wrote to a college friend from a Sikh family, who had begun to explore the faith of a Catholic woman he was dating. Jindal found his friend’s situation “peculiarly similar” to his own. “It has taken years for my parents to acknowledge my Christian Catholic faith,” he wrote, “and this has come very reluctantly. I was careful to choose which battles were worth fighting. My parents gradually respected the fact that I did not lie about my faith, that I was willing to compromise on certain issues...and that I had answers to their questions.... It was important that I had given our shared faith fair consideration.”


Read an excerpt from one of Jindals articles.

Blair Says United States, Europe Have a Shared Mission

The United States and Europe must stand together against terrorism and make it their shared mission to spread justice and liberty throughout the world, said the former British prime minister on Oct. 18. “The values we have are not our property. They are our gift to the world,” Tony Blair said in his keynote speech at the 62nd annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Blair was given two standing ovations by the 1,100 participants at the black-tie event that raises funds for health care initiatives of the Archdiocese of New York. The formally dressed philanthropists, politicians and clergy heard some good jokes and some inspiring words during the evening, but they did not hear Blair, an Anglican, announce that he will become a Catholic, as some had speculated. Blair’s wife, Cherie, and the couple’s children are Catholic, and he regularly attends Mass with them.

Pastoral Letter on Work and Justice

Kentucky’s Catholic bishops said in a new pastoral letter that a worker’s labor needs to be honored, and that the state should ensure that more people can escape poverty. “We honor employers who provide an opportunity for meaningful work and who provide safe, humane working conditions, just wages and benefits, including retirement benefits, health insurance and liability insurance,” the bishops said in Just Work: A Pastoral Letter About Work and Justice. The letter was released Sept. 20. “The pursuit of justice where ‘each person receives what is his or her due’ is a demand of the Gospel,” the bishops said. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”), they added that the state has a fundamental obligation to pursue “a just social order” that ensures “each person his share of the community’s goods.”

Vision of Populorum Progressio

If Pope Paul VI reappeared on earth to assess progress toward meeting the challenges he addressed in his 1967 social encyclical, Populorum Progressio, he would say: “You’ve done a lot, but you haven’t even started—and you’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm.” That was the conclusion of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, in an Oct. 17 speech at a side event to the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly. The event, called Development: The New Name for Peace, was organized by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations and co-sponsored by the Path to Peace Foundation. “Our current family of nations is a dysfunctional family,” said the archbishop, who was formerly Vatican nuncio to U.N. agencies in Geneva. “The existing structures [for the governance of global goods] are often inadequate, politically weighted in one direction or the other, and at times they work against one another.... [The family members] do not have the courage to move forward.”

‘First Step Toward Healing’

Understanding the roots of past conflicts can help Catholics and Mennonites heal their relationship and move toward a common witness of faith in Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said during an Oct. 19 meeting with leaders of the Mennonite World Conference. “Since it is Christ himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the 16th century,” the pope said; “to understand is to take the first step toward healing.” The Mennonites are a branch of the Reformation movement known as Anabaptists because they rejected infant baptism and insisted adults be baptized as a public confession of faith. In the 16th century, thousands of Anabaptists were declared heretics and put to death by some European Catholic governments, such as the Habsburgs in the Netherlands and the Tyrol region and the dukes of Bavaria, as well as by Protestant governments in Germany and Switzerland.

Women Religious Combat Human Trafficking

Women religious from around the world have formed a global network aimed at combating human trafficking. More than 30 nuns from 26 nations launched the initiative, called the International Network of Religious Against Trafficking in Persons, during a conference on human trafficking Oct. 15-19 in Rome. The U.S. State Department funded the conference and training seminar, which were organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican and the Italian Union of Major Superiors. The International Organization for Migration helped design a program for workers to assist women who have been forced into prostitution to flee and get off the streets. Once upon a time, the notion of human trafficking “was a kind of global family secret,” said Msgr. Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary of state. But now, he said, thanks to public awareness campaigns, more people know about this $12 billion business, which in 2005 was built on the forced labor of at least 12 million people. He expressed hope that greater attention will translate into more decisive responses to the problem.

Poland’s Parliamentary Elections

The Civic Platform Party, led by Donald Tusk, defeated the Law and Justice Party of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the Oct. 21 parliamentary elections in Poland. Fifty-three percent of the population, the highest percentage in 18 years, turned out to vote. The Civic Platform Party promised lower taxes, rapid privatization and the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq.

Church leaders welcomed the record turnout of voters in Poland’s parliamentary elections that led to the defeat of the governing center-right party. “There is now a new generation that thinks differently about the state and its future. Concern for Poland has proved victorious,” Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency, KAI, Oct. 22.

But Archbishop Slawoj Glodz of Warsaw-Prague expressed caution. “All post-Communist countries face the same problem of low civic awareness—democracy is maturing only slowly,” Archbishop Glodz said in an Oct. 22 interview with Dziennik, a Polish daily. “The future belongs to centrist groups,” he said.

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