Signs of the Times

Bishops Issue Forceful Statement on Iraq

Some U.S. policymakers “seem to fail to recognize sufficiently the reality and failures in Iraq and the imperative for new directions,” warned the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a new statement on transition in Iraq. The statement issued Nov. 13 by the conference president, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., reiterates the bishops’ insistence that the transition of U.S. forces out of Iraq should take into account moral issues, such as minimizing the loss of human life, addressing the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the situation of refugees and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom. The bishops agreed a day earlier to have Bishop Skylstad issue a statement on their behalf. The statement bemoans the “political and partisan stalemate in Washington,” which it describes as a parallel to the “dangerous political stalemate” that blocks reconciliation in Iraq. It also includes a question-and-answer supplement that describes in greater detail the U.S.C.C.B. positions on action in Iraq, on withdrawal of troops, on fighting terrorism and on the treatment of religious minorities in Iraq, refugees and U.S. military personnel and their families.

Bishops Elect Francis E. George as President

The U.S. bishops Nov. 13 elected Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago as their president and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., as their vice president. Using an electronic voting system for the first time, the bishops voted on the second day of their fall general meeting in Baltimore, Md. Cardinal George won on the first ballot with 188 votes, or 85 percent. He is completing his three-year term as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the first cardinal to be elected president or vice president of the conference since 1971. Cardinal George succeeds Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., whose three-year term came to an end at the close of the meetings last week.


Mary Ann Glendon NewAmbassador to Vatican

President George W. Bush will nominate Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor at Harvard University and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, as the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The White House made the announcement late Nov. 5. The nomination becomes official when Mr. Bush sends it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold a hearing before sending the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. As of Nov. 7 no hearing had been scheduled. Glendon, a Catholic, said in a Nov. 6 statement that she hoped that her “background in international legal studies, together with my familiarity with Catholic social thought, will aid me in continuing the fruitful dialogue that presently exists between the United States and the Holy See” on a variety of issues. Those issues include human rights, religious freedom, human trafficking, development and “the fight against hunger, disease and poverty,” she said.

Annual Audits Urged for All Parishes

A report by the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Diocesan Audits recommends annual reporting by every parish as well as the exercise of a degree of caution in the traditional presumption that church employees view their work as ministry and do not need oversight. Such a “trusting environment” can be exploited by a dishonest worker, it said. “While the vast majority of our pastors, parish finance councils and staff does excellent work in managing very limited resources to the maximum advantage, we have all seen reports of occasional financial mismanagement in parishes,” said Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa, Calif., chairman of the committee.

Pope Will Visit U.S. in April 2008

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Washington and New York from April 15 to 20, 2008. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, confirmed the dates of the papal trip and announced the pope’s itinerary in remarks Nov. 12 at the beginning of the annual fall meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore. According to the archbishop, the pope will arrive in Washington April 15 and will receive an official welcome at the White House April 16. That afternoon he will address the U.S. bishops. The following day he will celebrate Mass at the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium in Washington. Later that day he will meet with heads of Catholic universities and colleges and diocesan educational leaders at The Catholic University of America in Washington, and then he is to attend an interreligious meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. On April 18, the pope will be in New York to address the United Nations in the morning and attend an ecumenical meeting in the afternoon. The following day he will concelebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the morning and meet with youths and seminarians in the afternoon. The pope also will visit ground zero on the morning of April 20. That afternoon, he will celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium as the final event of his U.S. trip.

Vatican Official Urges Holy Land Compromise

Not working to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiation and compromise will perpetuate continued injustice, said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations. Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican “remains convinced that the two-state solution has the best chance to settle the crisis.” However, he said, it is up to Israelis, Palestinians and neighboring states to “set aside the pretense of peacemaking and start full negotiations on the two-state solution.” The archbishop made his remarks Nov. 8 to a committee of the U.N. General Assembly. He said the Vatican also believes “a lasting solution must include the status of the holy city of Jerusalem.” He said, “The numerous incidents of violence and challenges to free movement posed by the [Israeli] security wall” along the West Bank have prompted the Vatican to renew calls for internationally guaranteed provisions that ensure the freedom of religion and conscience for those who live in Jerusalem and “permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.”

E.U. Criticizes Turkey for Not Protecting Minorities

As the European Union prepares for a summit in December, its governing commission has criticized Turkey for failing to protect Turkish Christian minorities. “Attacks against clergy and places of worship of non-Muslim communities have been reported. Missionaries have been portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the integrity of the country,” said a commission report published in early November. “To date, use of language that might incite hatred against non-Muslim minorities has been left unpunished,” it said, adding that non-Muslim religious communities continue to face a lack of legal norms “and restricted property rights.” Most of Turkey’s more than 70 million citizens are Sunni Muslims. Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the Turkish population, have often complained of discrimination in Turkey.

Jewish Scholar Writes on Palestinian Refugees

The Vatican newspaper had one of Italy’s most prominent Jewish scholars, Anna Foa, write an article about historical memory, focusing on a new book about the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem. Giovanni Maria Vian, the new editor of L’Osservatore Romano, said that since the Vatican newspaper is almost 150 years old, he could not say for sure if the paper had ever published a Jewish author. “But it probably is the first time that a Jewish voice has been asked to make a cultural contribution,” he told reporters. Foa told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she was pleased to have been asked to contribute to the Vatican newspaper and that seeing her name in the Nov. 9 issue “was moving.” Vian told reporters he asked Foa to write as part of an effort “to open the newspaper to a lively and broad cultural discussion with an international scope. For that reason, authoritative voices from various areas will be included.” Foa’s article focused on the recent publication in Italian of Bad Memories: The Debate in Israel Over the Expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-1949, by Anita Shapira.

Holy Land Religious Leaders Unite for Peace

Leaders of the three major religions of the Holy Land traveled to Washington, D.C., to announce initiatives to institutionalize their commitment to decreasing violence. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said the religious leaders will help expedite “rapid communication” among Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to address hot issues before they become sources of conflict. Holy sites can help spark conflict, but the religious leaders will work together so that the sites “remain only places for prayer,” Patriarch Sabbah said at a Nov. 7 press conference. He said the religious leaders also have agreed to “reflect on the status of Jerusalem,” a city regarded by Muslims, Jews and Christians as holy. Interfaith leaders announced the initiatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, an organization of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders. Council members’ visits to the United States were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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Joe Mcmahon
11 years 4 months ago
"Annual Audits Urged for All Parishes" is the six-word title given above for a multi-faceted topic. My fear is that the bishops want audits chiefly to secure the upward flow from the offertory collection to the bishop's treasury and then to the Holy See. As recent events in Altamonte Springs, Florida, have shown, huge weekly collections can lead to accusations of the skimming large amounts. In 2007, most of the publicly accused in 2007 have been lay people (about 24 laymen to 11 clerics, by my count). From what I have seen of parish disclosures, however, pastors are reluctant to disclose the parish balances (giving merely income and expenditures, but not a full report of assets) and to relate how much is sent to His Grace. Joe McMahon


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