Indian Court Urged to Protect Christians
The Catholic Church in India has petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to protect Christian lives and property in Orissa State. Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar told the Asian church news agency UCA News Sept. 2 that the church decided to approach the highest court, “as we are not getting sufficient response” from the Orissa government. The archbishop, whose archdiocese is in Orissa, said the church wants the court to order federal authorities to protect Christians in the eastern state. “We want some clear help and response” from the government, added the archbishop, who has stayed in New Delhi since the violence broke out in Orissa Aug. 24. The church petition seeks the deployment of sufficient riot police in villages where Hindu extremists continue to destroy churches and other Christian buildings. It also demands that the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s criminal investigative agency, investigate the violence.
Religious Orders Plan Joint Initiative at Border
It is not uncommon for pregnant women who cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally to have a miscarriage during their journey. Sister Maria Engracia Robles, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, knows this all too well. She also knows that unaccompanied women are the most vulnerable of all illegal border crossers. “The women who migrate [illegally] need to accept that they will be raped—not once, but many times,” Sister Engracia said. For the past year the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist have been running El Comedor, a migrant care center for deported migrants just a few hundred feet south of the Arizona border. Many depressed migrants become dependent on services like the sisters’ migrant care center, Sister Engracia said. To change this, the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist will team up with Jesuits of the California Province, Jesuit Refugee Service and the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus. This binational effort, called the Kino Border Initiative, will work closely with the bishops of the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, starting in January. The primary social ministry of the initiative, according to the Jesuit’s California Province, will be to help staff the sisters’ migrant care center.
Freedom Brings New Challenges to Lithuania
A Lithuanian archbishop said freedom and Western ideas have led to a resistance to Catholic teaching and severe clergy shortages in the former Soviet republic. “Freedom has brought people many possibilities, but most are not capable of using it responsibly, and this is also a test for the church,” said Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius of Kaunas, president of the Lithuanian bishops’ conference. “For decades, we lived in conditions of occupation. We then accepted every idea from the West with exceptional openness as if everything from there was good, which it isn’t.” He told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI Sept. 1 that the priest shortage makes it difficult to provide clergy for pastoral work in schools and hospitals. Some priests serve three parishes by themselves, and in one parish in his archdiocese two priests minister to 40,000 Catholics. “In the first years of independence, an especially large number of men entered our seminaries, but roughly half didn’t last till the end—not all those wanting to be priests had vocations,” the archbishop said. Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
Pelosi Agrees to Meet San Francisco Archbishop
Responding to an invitation to meet with Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco to discuss church teaching on abortion and other topics, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said she would “welcome the opportunity” to meet with him “to go beyond our earlier most cordial exchange about immigration and needs of the poor to church teaching on other significant matters.” But the furor that arose after Pelosi said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Aug. 24 that church leaders for centuries had not been able to agree on when life begins received further fuel Sept. 7 when Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, responded to a similar question on “Meet the Press.” Biden, who like Pelosi is a Catholic, said he accepted Catholic teaching that life begins at conception but did not believe that he could impose his beliefs in the public arena. Biden’s remarks drew an almost immediate response from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. and Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver, who said in a Sept. 8 statement that the Delaware senator “used a morally exhausted argument that American Catholics have been hearing for 40 years: i.e., that Catholics can’t ‘impose’ their religiously based views on the rest of the country.”
Iraqi Refugees Hoping for Better Life in U.S.
Laith Kasshana left Baghdad, Iraq, early in 2007, when his 2-year-old daughter Media was an infant. In Baghdad, Kasshana’s life was threatened and his brother was shot. “I felt so afraid,” he told Catholic News Service. “Even today, when I talk about Iraq, I feel full of anxiety.” But Kasshana, his wife and his two children—10-month-old Mathew was born in Lebanon—were scheduled to leave Sept. 7 for resettlement in San Diego. “I just want to start from zero again so that I can give my children a better future,” said the 34-year-old Kasshana, a Chaldean Catholic. “In the time of Saddam Hussein, we felt secure,” he said. “People were afraid of Saddam, so there was respect for all religions. The slogan of Iraqi law then was ‘religion is for God; the country is for everyone.’” All through the family’s troubles, Kasshana’s 25-year-old wife, Ban, never lost faith that God would do something for her family. “He is my only salvation,” she said, “the only one I can depend on. God is my way out. He will light the way.”
Program Tackling Alaska’s Health Care Shortage
A class of eight students will be the first to participate in a doctoral-level occupational therapy program sponsored jointly by Omaha’s Jesuit-run Creighton University and the University of Alaska at Anchorage. The pilot program is meant to address the lack of occupational therapists in Alaska, bringing students to the Anchorage campus for the next four and a half years to earn a doctorate in occupational therapy. “If successful, it could serve as a national model for addressing shortages of health care professionals in Alaska as well as other rural underserved areas in the United States and worldwide,” said J. Chris Bradberry, dean of the Creighton School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. Cheryl Easley, dean of the College of Health and Social Welfare at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, said Alaskans pursuing degrees in occupational therapy, physical therapy and pharmacy have to attend out-of-state schools, and many of these students do not come back to their home state to practice—one reason for Alaska’s scarcity of health care professionals.
Faith Groups Challenge Candidates on Poverty
People of faith are being urged to “move their feet” to elevate poverty as a campaign issue in the final weeks leading to the November election. “We have a lot of work to do,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told representatives of the media and advocates for the poor during a Sept. 9 nationwide conference call that opened “Fighting Poverty: A Week of Action.” The effort is sponsored by a coalition of more than 20 religious groups including Catholic Charities USA. “We have to...make it clear that we care about something that a lot of elected officials don’t care about,” he said. Initially, during the week ending Sept. 16, the emphasis will be on seeking out ways to raise awareness of poverty in communities across the country. Rabbi Gutow reported that programs in 100 communities in 36 states were planned for the week. Follow-up actions will find advocates for poor and marginalized people seeking out candidates and asking for a commitment on how they will address poverty during the first 100 days they will be in office in 2009.