Signs of the Times

Focolare Members Elect New President

Maria Voce, a longtime close collaborator of the late Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement, has been elected the new president of the movement to foster worldwide unity. Almost 500 delegates from five continents voted nearly unanimously for Voce July 7 during the movement’s general assembly at Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town south of Rome. Voce, 70, has degrees in theology and canon law, and extensive ecumenical and interreligious experience, according to a July 7 statement from the movement. Born in Italy, Voce joined Focolare in 1959 and began living with the community in 1964. From 1978 to 1988, she lived in Turkey, where she worked closely with the Orthodox ecumenical patriarchs of Constantinople, the leaders of other churches and Muslim leaders. Assembly participants also elected the Rev. Giancarlo Faletti as the movement’s co-president. He had been serving as the co-head of the Focolare movement in Rome. Father Faletti, 67, has a degree in economics and served as head of the Focolare movement in Genoa and Rome.


Final Vatican Approval for Neocatechumenal Way

The Vatican has given final approval to a set of statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way, confirming the movement’s unique approach to adult evangelization but insisting on close ties with local bishops and parishes. The statutes, given to leaders of the movement June 13 after several years of review, also regularized the group’s distinctive liturgical practices. Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernández, the Spanish founders, welcomed the approval and said it would launch the movement on a new wave of evangelization. At a press conference June 13, the 69-year-old Arguello told how he initiated the movement in 1964 among Gypsies, the homeless and others living on the margins of society. He described the Neocatechumenal Way’s mission as a “battle” to reach young adults and said that in the early years it encountered frequent resistance from church leaders. “This battle we’ve fought has now been confirmed by the Holy See. This is very important, that this pope has approved this. It’s amazing, it’s fantastic,” he said.

Business Leaders Meet With Bishops

Effective organizations need good leadership and good management, but because “individuals frequently are much better at one than the other,” successful organizations make sure both skills are well represented on their leadership team, said the business leader Frederick Gluck. He spoke during the annual meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management held in Philadelphia, Pa., on June 26-27. Gluck, a member of the roundtable’s board of directors and a former managing partner of the international consulting firm McKinsey & Co., told the meeting’s 90 participants that while leaders and managers in the church might sometimes wish they could escape their responsibilities, “there is no escaping them.” One can, however, take steps to define leadership and management to create a balance between them that works for a given individual. Participating in the Philadelphia meeting were 10 U.S. bishops, along with business and financial leaders, pastors and lay pastoral ministers, philanthropists, educators and others. They discussed ways to promote excellence in the leadership and management of Catholic dioceses and parishes.

Tekakwitha Conference Pilgrims Gather in Canada

Frank Large’s dream came true July 5. A Cree Indian from Saddle Lake, Alberta, Large attended his first Tekakwitha Conference in Spokane in 1999. “When my wife and I were talking, I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have this at Lac Ste. Anne?’” he recalled. “That was my dream.” This year, the 69th annual Tekakwitha Conference came on July 2-5 to Edmonton, Alberta, and nearby Lac Ste. Anne, where the waters have been held sacred by aboriginal people for generations. It was the first time the conference has met in Canada. The conference brings together aboriginal Catholics from the United States and Canada and helps affirm their faith under the protection of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The final day of the gathering moved to the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site, 60 miles northeast of Edmonton, where every July tens of thousands of First Nations and Metis people gather for a weeklong pilgrimage in honor of St. Anne.

Pope Expresses Joy at Hostage Release

Pope Benedict XVI expressed joy upon hearing that hostages held by Colombian rebels had been freed after the Colombian army staged a bloodless military operation. The Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, S.J., said the July 2 liberation of 15 hostages held by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is also “a sign of hope” for peace in a country that has been plagued by rebel violence for decades. The pope “is happy about this very wonderful news,” he said July 2. Colombian soldiers disguised as rebels tricked local FARC commanders into letting the hostages be airlifted in an un-marked helicopter. Among those liberated were three U.S. contractors, who had been held by FARC since 2003. They had been captured when their drug surveillance plane went down in a rebel-held jungle.

Pope Invests New Archbishops

The mission of the Catholic Church is to overcome the divisions of the world and bring God’s healing power, love and peace to all people, Pope Benedict XVI told new archbishops from more than 30 countries. The permanent mission of St. Peter and his successors is that the church “never be identified with only one nation, only one culture or only one state...that it always be the church of all people,” the pope said June 29 during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome. During the Mass, the pope gave the archbishops named within the previous year a pallium, a circular band of white wool marked with six black crosses. The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s authority and unity with the pope. The 40 archbishops, who concelebrated the Mass with the pope, included U.S. Archbishops Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore, John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Ala.; and Canadian Archbishops Anthony Mancini of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Martin Currie of Saint John’s, Newfoundland.

Vatican Regrets Church of England’s Decision

The Vatican has expressed its disappointment with a July 7 decision by the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, to move ahead with plans to allow the ordination of women bishops. “We have learned with disappointment of the news of the vote by the Church of England that opens the way to the introduction of legislation that leads to the ordination of women bishops,” said a July 8 statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “Such a decision means a break from the apostolic tradition maintained by all the churches of the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England,” said the statement published by the Vatican press office. The 428 bishops, clergy and laypeople who make up the General Synod of the Church of England spent more than six hours July 7 debating what accommodations, if any, would be made to allow Anglicans who object to women bishops to continue to be part of the church.

Despair Engulfs Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans were in widespread despair as the country’s longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president for a sixth term on June 29, a Catholic Church official said. In rural areas of the southern African country, the June 27 runoff election, in which Mugabe was the only candidate, “was masterminded by thugs” loyal to the ruling party, said Alouis Chaumba, who heads the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. “People know if they disobey, they will be beaten up,” Chaumba said on June 30. “The level of brutality in the rural areas has reached unimaginable proportions.” While many people in Zimbabwe’s cities did not turn up at the polling stations, people in rural areas “were warned that they had to go and vote,” he said. “They were not allowed into the booths on their own but were made to tell the electoral officers that they were unable to read or write and then were given folded ballots [for Mugabe] to hand in,” he said.

Torture Survivors Lead Vigil at White House

Torture survivors and friends gathered outside the White House on June 28 to share stories, poetry and artwork, and to remind political leaders that “torture is terrorism.” The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, based in Washington, D.C., held its 11th annual 24-hour vigil in commemoration of the U.N. International Day to Support Victims and Survivors of Torture. During the vigil, hundreds of visitors stopped to listen to the survivors’ stories. One observer marveled at their strength and faith: “How is it they have not been destroyed? How can the spirit of hope shine through all that was done to them?” Survivors shared the stage with their advocates, and musical groups brought their own message in support of human rights. Dianna Ortiz, an American Ursuline sister who was raped and tortured in Guatemala in 1989, founded TASSC in 1998 to bring the practice of torture to an end and to empower survivors and their families.

Salesian Priest Murdered in Eastern Nepal

A Catholic priest was shot dead by armed men who broke into the priest’s residence in Nepal. Johnson Moyalan, a Salesian priest from Kerala, India, had been living in Nepal for more than 10 years before he was killed July 1. The 60-year-old priest was the principal of a Don Bosco school in Sirsiya, in eastern Nepal. A group of four or five armed men forced their way into the mission and locked up one of the two priests residing there while they assaulted and shot Father Moyalan, said George Kalangara, another Salesian priest, in an interview with the Asian church news agency UCA News. He said that it was not clear what happened next, but that there was an explosion that caused extensive damage to the building. According to an Indian police report sent to the Salesian generalate in Rome, the armed men detonated small bombs at the residence.

Catholic Educator: Virtue Brings Success

Business students need to hear from their professors that the pursuit of virtue—particularly moral courage and humility—will not put them at a disadvantage in the business world, but really does lead to success, said the president of Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. “Some students think you have to be cruel to succeed,” explained Robert Spitzer, S.J., “but we, as mature professors, can convince them these virtues are very much worth seeking and help us to be great leaders, [and] will produce esprit de corps and empathy.” Father Spitzer made the comments in the opening plenary session at a mid-June conference on business education at Catholic universities. More than 200 Catholic educators gathered at the University of Notre Dame to discuss how business schools within Catholic colleges and universities can do a better job of educating thoughtful and faith-filled executives for the future. The conference was co-sponsored by 18 Catholic colleges and universities across the country.

Williams Gives Common Ground Lecture

The NBC “Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams told a gathering at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., that the late Tim Russert’s Catholic values propelled him as a political journalist in his mission to seek out the truth. Williams, a Catholic college dropout who had attended the university and two other colleges, was a replacement speaker for Russert at the 2008 annual Philip J. Murnion Lecture, hosted by the Catholic Common Ground Initiative June 27. Russert, the NBC News Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” moderator, died unexpectedly June 13 at the age of 58. “Tim wore his Catholicism proudly,” said Williams, 49, who eventually was awarded an honorary doctorate from Catholic University. “His Catholicism was an overwhelming influence on him to seek out the truth.” Though Russert’s Catholic values drove him to push guests on “Meet the Press” to reveal political truths, those same principles motivated him to hold them accountable for their actions, but in a civil manner, Williams said.

Canonization Closer for Father Damien of Molokai

Pope Benedict XVI has authorized publication of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Damien de Veuster of Molokai, clearing the way for his canonization. The decree was the first of 13 published by the Vatican July 3 after Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, met the pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome. Blessed Damien was a 19th-century Belgian missionary and a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Born in 1840, he spent the last 16 years of his life caring for patients with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Blessed Damien died in 1889 and was beatified in 1995. With the recognition of the miracle, the date for Pope Benedict’s celebration of his canonization will be set later. Another of the decrees approved by the pope July 3 involved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Louis lived from 1823 to 1894 and his wife from 1831 to 1877.

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