Signs of the Times

Meeting the Food Crisis

Greater support for the world’s small farmers would enable them to produce more food in a sustainable manner and help address chronic hunger and malnutrition around the globe, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations said during a meeting of the world body’s Commission on Sustainable Development.

Speaking to the commission May 16, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, urged investment that reduces food prices and expands the global production and distribution of food, especially in Africa. He also called for agricultural policies that “rediscover the path of reason and reality” so that the needs of food production and the need to be stewards of the earth are balanced. The archbishop also urged the commission to undertake greater efforts to ease the impact of environmental change and financial pressures that affect food production.


Interreligious Dialogue Group Calls for Tolerance

Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders holding an interreligious dialogue meeting in Qatar said all religions and all schools must teach tolerance for religious diversity and respect for human life. At the end of the meeting, participants issued a declaration saying they had discussed not only the values and ideals of their faiths, but also “some of the difficult and tragic issues which disfigure our world and create violence and injustice in so many contexts.”

The statement reported, “In particular, we examined the ethical dimensions of issues such as suicide, abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, sale of organs, violence in the media and desecration of religious symbols.”

The gathering, the sixth annual Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, was held in mid-May and included participation by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The theme of the gathering was “Religious Values: Perspectives on Peace and Respect for Life.”

Hong Kong Cardinal Hopeful About Games

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong said he hopes the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing will be a success and will help encourage progress on human rights in China. “I think the Olympics are important and represent a value that cannot be compromised by other things. For this reason, [Pope Benedict XVI] has also expressed his hope that they will be successful,” Cardinal Zen told Vatican Radio in mid-May. The cardinal said the gathering of athletes from all over the world in peaceful competition was something worth protecting.

“Naturally, one should take advantage of this occasion to encourage the Beijing government to make progress on human rights, too—starting with the granting of greater freedom to those involved in communication—as it promised when it asked to host the Olympics,” he said.

China’s recent crackdown in Tibet has led some human rights activists to suggest a possible boycott of the Olympics. Cardinal Zen spoke to Vatican Radio during a visit to northern Italy, where he led a prayer service in Milan for the church in China.

Pope Addresses German Catholics on Faith

Having faith in God does not limit one’s life and possibilities, but rather opens a person to others and helps him or her face the future with courage, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to German Catholics released May 22 at the Vatican. Many people today “fear that faith can limit their lives, that they could be caught in a web of commandments and church teachings” and would no longer be free to explore and experiment, the pope said.

The message was read at the opening of the Katholikentag, the biennial German Catholic Church gathering, which met this year in Osnabrück on May 21-25. The pope made the comparison that many people today are like the young brother in the Gospel parable of the prodigal son; they feel they have to leave “the father” in order to experience life. But fullness of life comes only when one is in a relationship with God, the creator of all life, the pope said. “A life without God does not become freer and broader. Man is destined for infinity; nothing other than that can be sufficient for him,” he said.

Sendler Dies, Honored for Heroism in World War II

Polish church leaders paid tribute to Irena Sendler, a Catholic social worker who saved approximately 2,500 Jewish children from being killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Sendler, 98, died in Warsaw on May 12. “Everyone who survived the war is very much aware that her kind of heroism could be born only in someone with a very great heart,” said Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, former secretary general of the Polish bishops’ conference. “Irena Sendler was one of those people able to resist the greatest evil that rampaged through the world in the past century. It’s a pity her greatness was not noticed by the international institutions even after her actions were brought to light.”

Sendler was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations honor by Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial in 1965 and Poland’s highest honor, the White Eagle, in 2003 for smuggling children from Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto to safe homes, orphanages and Catholic convents in Poland.

Bomb Damages Catholic School in Gaza

A bomb placed by unknown assailants damaged the entrance of a Catholic school in Gaza May 16. Msgr. Manuel Musallam of Gaza’s Holy Family Catholic Church said there were no injuries in the early-morning explosion that could be heard in the surrounding neighborhood. Monsignor Musallam reported that it was a small explosion and damaged only the front gate of the Zahwa Rosary School, where both Christian and Muslim students study. Two nuns were in their convent adjacent to the school when the explosion occurred. “The sisters were very terrified in the morning,” said Monsignor Musallam. Last June, unknown assailants ransacked the school and convent. That attack took place during a week of heavy fighting between the rival Palestinian forces of the Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah parties.

Chaldeans Criticize Death Penalty for Assassin

Chaldean Catholic leaders in Iraq have criticized a death sentence for the man convicted of killing Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq. “Violence must not call for more violence. We are in favor of justice but not of capital punishment,” Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, told the Rome-based missionary news agency AsiaNews.

An Iraqi government spokesman said Ahmed was an Al Qaeda leader who was involved in a number of “terror crimes against the people of Iraq.” Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told the Italian Catholic agency SIR May 19 that Archbishop Rahho “would not have accepted such a sentence. Christian principles uphold that a death sentence is not permissible against anyone.”

The Iraqi government announced May 18 that an Iraqi criminal court had sentenced Ahmed Ali Ahmed to death for killing Archbishop Rahho. The date of the execution has not yet been made public.

Jesuit School President Heads Campaign Board

Joseph Parkes, S.J., president of Cristo Rey New York High School in East Harlem, was named chairman of the New York City Campaign Finance Board on May 8 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The five-member board is an independent, nonpartisan city agency charged with administering the city’s campaign finance program, publishing a voter guide on city candidates and issues, and overseeing debates during election cycles. “Father Parkes has demonstrated exactly the kind of pragmatic, evenhanded, intelligent and independent leadership that the C.F.B. needs and deserves,” the mayor said in a statement. Father Parkes has served on the boad since last year.

Father Parkes is the second Jesuit to serve as chairman of the C.F.B. Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., was named founding chairman by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1988, a position he held for 15 years.

C.H.A. Head Draws ‘Ugly Picture’ of Health Care

Adding up the economic toll on the nation caused by the health care crisis, the head of the Catholic Health Association urged the United States to “act in its own best interest and in the interest of its people” to solve the problem.

Sister Carol Keehan, a member of the Daughters of Charity who is president and chief executive officer of the C.H.A., presented what she called “a very ugly picture of what many people in our country are having to cope with.” With the United States spending 16 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and other developed countries spending a median of 8.5 percent, United States businesses face “a serious competitive disadvantage,” she said. U.S. firms also pay twice as much for health insurance as their foreign competitors, she added, citing a study by the New America Foundation. But that does not result in better health care or reduced mortality in the United States, Sister Carol said.

Sister Keehan spoke on “Health Care Reform That Is Worthy of the American People” May 16 at the City Club of Cleveland. The club’s prestigious Friday Forum has hosted many prominent speakers and airs on a radio network in more than 40 states from Maine to Alaska.

Schools Should Train Communicators in Ethics

It makes little sense for the Catholic Church to complain about ethical failures in the media if it is not educating future communicators in ethics, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told communication specialists in a Rome meeting. The archbishop said he wanted to know how Catholic universities are preparing students to work in the media and how his office could support them in their work. The council invited 90 professors and staff members from 58 departments of communications at Catholic universities and institutes in 44 countries to a meeting on May 22-24 to share their curricula, experiences and concerns. “The council needs to know, to understand what is happening in forming professionals in the field,” he said. Archbishop Celli reported that he extended the invitations and posed questions, but planned to spend most of the meeting listening.

Lawmakers Override Veto of Farm Bill

Not long after President George W. Bush vetoed the farm bill May 21, the House overrode his veto and enacted the bill into law.

Known officially as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, the law is the principal piece of federal farm legislation, although the farm provisions of the law are now overshadowed by food stamps and other nutrition provisions. Farm and rural provisions account for less than one-fourth of the $300 billion law, while nutrition programs, including food stamps, account for two-thirds. The rest of the legislation includes such items as conservation and renewable energy programs, including biofuels production.

Rural life advocates, including the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, lost their bid in Congress to reduce sharply the crop subsidies given to farmers. The group contends that the lion’s share of the subsidies goes to the wealthiest farmers.

Bishops to Vote on Missal Translation

The U.S. bishops will take up the English translation of the Roman Missal at their June 12-14 general meeting in Orlando, Fla. The section of the missal translation under consideration this spring involves the proper prayers—the opening collect, the prayer over the offerings and the prayer after Communion—for Masses during Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter as well as the Sundays of Ordinary Time and the solemnities and holy days of obligation.

The nearly 700-page section is the second of 12 units into which the Roman Missal has been divided for translation purposes. The first unit—the Order of Mass, involving the main constant parts of the Mass, including the penitential rite, gloria, creed, eucharistic prayers, and other prayers and responses used daily—was approved by the bishops in June 2006 in Los Angeles.

The Committee on Divine Worship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to present several units to the bishops for approval at the bishops’ general meetings in November 2008, June and November 2009 and November 2010.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

The church is my home because my home was a domestic church.
Katie Prejean McGradyJanuary 22, 2019
Teachers and supporters hold signs in the rain during a rally on Jan. 14 in Los Angeles. Thousands of Los Angeles teachers went on strike for the first time in three decades after contract negotiations failed in the nation's second-largest school district. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Strikes have likewise been prominent in Canada’s southern neighbor over the last year. Teachers in West Virginia made national headlines when strikes across the state won higher wages from a Republican governor and legislature
Dean DettloffJanuary 22, 2019
This year’s W.Y.D takes place less than three months after the conclusion of the Synod for Young People that was held in the Vatican last October.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 21, 2019
On Jan. 18, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington. (Survival Media Agency via AP)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An exchange between Catholic high school students and a Native American tribal leader in Washington Jan.