Signs of the Times

C.R.S. Will Not Leave Despite Tension in Kenya

A church aid worker said Catholic aid agencies in Kenya will not evacuate their staff, but he expressed concern over the increasing insecurity across the country. “We will continue to keep a close eye on security issues and take action accordingly,” said Ken MacLean, Kenya country representative for the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services. MacLean told Catholic News Service that “C.R.S. has staff members monitoring the situation in four of the most affected towns—Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kericho.” Insecurity is at times preventing field visits, but C.R.S., Caritas Kenya and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development will not evacuate their workers, he said. Cafod is the aid agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Caritas Kenya is the local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.

Interfaith Leaders Press for Middle East Peace

Two U.S. cardinals are part of an interfaith group of religious leaders who have asked President George W. Bush for his “active leadership” in achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and for a comprehensive cease-fire covering Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. “The split in Palestinian governance between the West Bank and Gaza is incompatible with a durable peace agreement,” said the letter, which was signed by Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. The United States should “quietly support efforts by others, possibly including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to help form a new unified Palestinian government...committed to rejecting violence, accepting previous agreements, and negotiating a two-state solution as the basis for peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine,” they said.


Peace Activist Praises Greater Accountability

A leading Catholic peace activist in England praised a British High Court ruling that lifted a ban on making public recent allegations of the murder and torture of Iraqis by British troops. Pat Gaffney, general secretary of the British branch of the international peace organization Pax Christi, said it was important that the public be allowed access to such information, no matter how shocking it is. “In relation to anything that’s happening in Iraq, there should be much greater accountability and transparency if we are to secure justice and democracy,” she told Catholic News Service Feb. 1. “We have to be seen to be open and just in the treatment of the Iraqi people and in how we process the treatment of the Iraqi people in terms of human rights abuses, prisoners and executions. Within the framework of international law we also have to be abiding by conventions that protect both military and civilian populations,” Gaffney added.

Church Should Reconsider Communion in the Hand

The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said he thinks it is time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand. Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the Vatican official, made the suggestion in the preface to a book about the Eucharist by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Bishop Schneider’s book, Dominus Est: Reflections of a Bishop From Central Asia on Holy Communion, was published in Italian in late January by the Vatican Publishing House, though portions of it had been released earlier in the Vatican newspaper. In the newly released preface to the book, Archbishop Ranjith wrote, “The Eucharist, bread transubstantiated into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ—God in our midst— must be received with awe and an attitude of humble adoration.”

Martini Expresses Hopes for Synod on Bible

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., the retired archbishop of Milan and a biblical scholar, who has urged that a meeting of the World Synod of Bishops take the Bible as its topic, said he hopes the coming synod will focus on practical pastoral initiatives to bring Catholics closer to the Scriptures. The synod, from Oct. 5 to the 26, should be “a pastoral discernment” aimed at helping the church offer Catholics “authentic itineraries of worship, prayer and service” based on the Bible, he said in an article published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit journal customarily reviewed by the Vatican prior to publication. Cardinal Martini said the synod also should be an “examination of conscience” of how well the church has put into practice the teachings of the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.” The cardinal said he hoped the synod would avoid “prolonged and abstract” discussions on matters already dealt with by the Second Vatican Council, such as the relationship between Scripture and tradition or an examination of particular methods of biblical interpretation and scholarship.

Tong Named Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong

Pope Benedict XVI has named Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong as coadjutor bishop of the diocese. As coadjutor, Bishop Tong, 68, will automatically succeed Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun upon his retirement or death. On Jan. 13 Cardinal Zen turned 76, one year past the age at which bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation. Bishop Tong is considered to be a specialist on the church in mainland China. For the past 28 years, he has headed the Holy Spirit Study Center, which studies and documents the church there. The bishop also has been a close collaborator of Cardinal Zen since 1996, when Pope John Paul II named them both as bishops of the Hong Kong Diocese. In a statement released Jan. 30, the date the appointment was announced at the Vatican, Bishop Tong praised Cardinal Zen for his “excellent work in guiding the diocese.” The diocese acts as an essential link to the church in mainland China, he said.

Sainthood Cause Opened for Brooklyn Pastor

The name of Msgr. Bernard Quinn, founding pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the first parish established for black Catholics in the Brooklyn Diocese, will be sent to Rome to be considered for canonization. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn officially approved the effort Jan. 13. The same day Auxiliary Bishop Guy A. Sansaricq was the main celebrant of a Mass at St. Peter Claver Church. The congregation of 500 people included members of the Quinn family. Joining him at the altar were retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn, and the Rev. Paul Jervis, the current pastor and main promoter of Monsignor Quinn’s cause. Another concelebrant was Msgr. William Rodgers, 85, a member of St. Peter Claver Parish who became the first African-American accepted into Brooklyn’s diocesan seminary and the first to be ordained for the Brooklyn Diocese.

Youths Gather for Holocaust Congress

The murder of six million Jews by the Nazis is a human tragedy that must not be forgotten regardless of one’s religion or nationality, said several Catholic participants in the first International Youth Congress on the Holocaust. “This is not something that happened only to the Jewish people, but it happened to the human family. It happened to all of us,” said 17-year-old Augustina Dighiero-Neme, a Catholic from Uruguay. She was among more than 100 young people from 62 countries who took part in the three-day congress that began Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Lerato Matsio, an 18-year-old Lutheran from South Africa, said love for a fellow human is fundamental to all religions, and that entails not standing by quietly in situations of injustice. Participants in the youth congress included Jews, Christians and Muslims, who went through a rigorous selection process that included written essays and oral interviews. The congress, sponsored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, was held under the patronage of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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