Signs of the Times

Anglican Archbishop Calls for Mutual Responsibility

The spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, called for moratoriums on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of openly gay people and naming bishops for disgruntled Anglicans in other church jurisdictions. “I hope that a little more mutual responsibility and accountability, a bit more willingness to walk in step will make us more like a church” rather than a loose collection of nation-based Christian communities, the Archbishop said. The archbishop spoke on Aug. 3 at the end of the Lambeth Conference, a 19-day meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world. Some 200 bishops declined their invitations to participate because of the presence of bishops from North America, where some dioceses bless same-sex unions and where an openly non-celibate gay priest was ordained a bishop.


Kasper Encourages Deliberations

In a related development, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity told a convocation held at the University of Kent, near Canterbury, on July 30 that the Anglican Communion needs to find a way to affirm the dignity of all people and encourage the active role of women in the church while remaining faithful to the Christian tradition and Scriptures. Offering “Roman Catholic Reflections on the Anglican Communion,” the cardinal told the bishops he spoke “as a friend,” representing a church committed to dialogue with Anglicans and praying that the Anglican Communion does not split as a result of differences over ordaining women and over homosexuality. The ordination of women bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of an openly gay bishop in some Anglican provinces are seen as practices that will make Roman Catholic-Anglican unity impossible, in addition to straining relations among Anglicans.

Hope for Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Deal

Church leaders expressed cautious hope over a deal signed by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that lays the framework for negotiations aimed at forming a power-sharing government. “The immediate expectation is that it will bring an end to the violence,” said the Rev. Frederick Chiromba, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a telephone interview from the capital, Harare, on July 22. “Once peace has been established, meaningful dialogue can take place,” Father Chiromba told Catholic News Service, noting that the “parties need to enter into dialogue in good faith” and to not revert to violence “if things don’t go their way.” Human rights groups said opposition supporters have been the targets of brutal state-sponsored violence since March, leaving more than 80 dead and 200,000 displaced. The preliminary agreement, mediated by South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, was signed July 21. It sets a two-week deadline for the government and two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to discuss issues, including a unity government and how to hold new elections.

Immigration in U.S. at ‘Dark Moment’

Two Catholic cardinals called the current U.S. immigration situation “a terrible crisis” and “a dark moment in our nation’s history” on July 28 at the opening Mass and plenary session of the 2008 National Migration Conference. Both Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles urged participants to hold on to hope in their work with immigrants for local and national church agencies. The July 28-31 conference, attended by more than 850 people, was co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services. Much of the agenda, built around the theme “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice,” reflected the struggles faced by those who work with immigrants. Workshops were scheduled on such topics as “How to respond to federal raids,” “Identifying and supporting survivors of traumatic events,” “A Catholic response to human trafficking” and “Parenting challenges from an African immigrant perspective.”

Catholic Legal Immigration Network Marks 20 Years

Since at least as far back as the 1930s, the U.S. Catholic Church has been helping immigrants wade through the legal quagmires of immigration law. But it was not until the creation in 1988 of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as Clinic, that the church’s role in providing legal services to immigrants was formalized and expanded nationwide. From 17 church-sponsored immigration service agencies around the country in 1988, Clinic has grown to 173 diocesan and other affiliated programs with 260 field offices in 48 states. Its affiliates employ about 1,200 attorneys and paralegals and serve an estimated 600,000 people each year, Clinic’s executive director, Don Kerwin, told Catholic News Service. Kerwin has been with Clinic since 1992, when he ran its political asylum program for Haitians. He became director in 1993. He listed more statistics that define Clinic’s success: more than 1,000 training sessions have been conducted for attorneys and staff members, and more than 100,000 people who have been helped to become naturalized citizens.

Paraguayan Bishop Laicized after Election

The Vatican has laicized a bishop who has been elected president of Paraguay. This allows him to take office in August without violating church law, said the papal nuncio to Paraguay. “The pope has granted him the loss of his clerical status.... He’s a layman now,” said Archbishop Orlando Antonini, the papal nuncio, at a press conference July 30. Fernando Lugo, who became known as “the bishop of the poor,” was elected president of Paraguay April 20 after campaigning against corruption and for greater equality for the country’s indigenous people and poor peasant farmers. When Lugo takes office Aug. 15, he will end the more than 60-year rule of the Colorado Party. “This is the first case within the church in which a bishop receives a dispensation,” said Archbishop Antonini. “Yes, there have been many other priests the pope has left in the status of layman, but never a member of the hierarchy until today.”

Liberian President Honors U.S. Nuns Killed in 1992

During ceremonies marking Liberia’s Independence Day, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf honored five U.S. members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ murdered in 1992 during the country’s civil war. The five nuns, all natives of the state of Illinois, were named grand commanders in the Order of the Star of Africa for their sacrifice for Liberia and for their “invaluable services to education” in the country before the war began. The awards ceremony took place July 24 in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, according to the order’s Rome offices. The order’s Web site reports: “The exact circumstances of their deaths probably will never be known. It is believed that Sisters Barbara Ann Muttra and Mary Joel Kolmer were caught in the crossfire of an ambush as they drove one of their workers from Gardnersville to Barnersville on Oct. 20. Three days later soldiers of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia lined up Sisters Kathleen McGuire, Agnes Mueller and Shirley Kolmer in front of their convent in Gardnersville. The soldiers then murdered them in cold blood.”

Vatican Paper Calls Humanae VitaeFarsighted

In the face of “disquieting developments in genetic engineering,” Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on human life and birth control was “lucid and farsighted,” said Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, in an editorial marking the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). The encyclical “gave rise to unprecedented opposition within the church,” which he said was due to many factors, “from the complex cultural climate of those years to the enormous economic interests involved.” Vian said the encyclical, which was “mocked as ‘the encyclical on the pill,’” actually furthered the positive teaching on marriage developed by the Second Vatican Council. “But despite this, it was submerged in polemics,” he wrote. The encyclical affirmed “the principle of respect for the laws of nature and for a conscientious and ethically responsible parenthood,” he said.

Chaldean Archbishop: Dialogue the Only Way

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraq, said his city was calm a day after a suicide bombing left dozens dead, but he also said people in the area are forced to live with absolutely no idea of what the future holds. “I went on the radio and said that dialogue is the only way to resolve our problems,” said Archbishop Louis Sako. “I wish people would listen; I wish they would listen to the voice of conscience.” Interviewed by telephone July 29, the archbishop said calm was restored to the city fairly quickly July 28 after a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a Kurdish political demonstration in Kirkuk. Archbishop Sako said demonstrators ran toward a center operated by ethnic Turkmen, who thought they were under attack and began firing. Thirty-eight people were dead from the day’s violence “and there are many injured,” he said. The political situation in Kirkuk is in turmoil as ethnic Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen quarrel over sharing power in the government.

Pope Sends Greetings to China, Olympic Athletes

Pope Benedict XVI offered his best wishes to China, the International Olympic Committee and to all the athletes who will participate in the games in Beijing on Aug. 8 to 24. “I am happy to send the host country, the organizers and participants—especially the athletes—my cordial greeting with the hope that each one can give the best of his- or herself in the genuine Olympic spirit,” the pope said Aug. 3. Beijing invited two Catholic bishops from outside the mainland—Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong and Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau—to the opening ceremony Aug. 8 but did not invite an official representative of the Holy See, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. Pope Benedict spoke about the Olympics after reciting the midday Angelus prayer with about 9,000 people gathered in the square in front of the cathedral in Bressanone, where he is on vacation. The pope said he would be following the Olympic Games.

Vatican Approves New Mass Translations

The Vatican has given its approval to a new English-language translation of the main unchanging parts of the Mass, but Catholics in the pew are unlikely to see any of the approved changes at Masses for a while to allow for catechesis on the reasons for the revisions. The approved text, sent to the Vatican for recognitio, or confirmation, after a June 2006 vote by the U.S. bishops in Los Angeles, involves translation of the penitential rite, Gloria, Creed, eucharistic prayers, eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily. But it is only the first of 12 units into which the third edition of the Roman Missal has been divided for translation purposes. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of Mass, including responses by the assembly. “In terms of the people’s part, it’s not going to require too much adjustment,” Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, told Catholic News Service July 25. “It’s a refinement of the language, a clearer theological language. “Not much of the people’s part is changed, and I think once or twice after they use it, they will hardly notice the change,” he said. While the changes have been approved, Bishop Serratelli said it will be some time before they become part of regular worship at Mass. “I’m hoping for two years,” he said. “I’m an optimist.”

New General for Sulpicians

Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., elected July 11 as the 26th superior general of the Sulpicians, said his top priorities will be promoting unity, communicating the society’s pedagogy and recruiting new members. He was elected by delegates from 11 countries during a meeting near Paris. Bishops want “to keep their own priests because they all have needs in ministry,” said Father Witherup, noting that priests must have the permission of their bishop to become Sulpicians. “So it’s a challenge to recruit new members.” Father Witherup most recently served for more than a decade as provincial of the religious community’s Baltimore-based U.S. province.

Among their ministries in Baltimore, the Sulpicians operate St. Mary’s Seminary and University. The Sulpicians, formally known as the Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice, are an international society of diocesan priests focused on the education and formation of priests and future priests. Worldwide, there are 320 Sulpicians, 71 of whom serve in the society’s U.S. province. The priests minister in approximately 13 countries, with the society growing fastest in Africa and South America—areas where religious vocations are flourishing, Father Witherup said.

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