Almost 10,000 Refugees in Orissa State
The superior general of the Missionaries of Charity said the situation in India’s troubled Orissa State is a call for Christians to be witnesses to the faith. “Disciples cannot be greater than their master,” said Nirmala Joshi, M.C., the successor of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who founded the Missionaries of Charity. “God will strengthen his people to face this tough situation,” Sister Nirmala said on Oct. 1 after meeting with bishops and leaders of religious congregations in Orissa. The church leaders met to develop a plan to take care of the tens of thousands of Christian refugees who have been fleeing attacks by Hindu extremists since August. More than 30 people have died in the violence. Nearly 10,000 refugees have fled to Bhubaneswar and government-managed refugee camps in the Kandhamal district. At the meeting, the church leaders decided to shift 800 teenagers to church institutions outside Orissa’s Kandhamal district so they could continue their education.
Lithuanian Bishops Urge Voter Responsibility
Lithuania’s Catholic bishops have called for Lithuanians to search their souls before voting in the upcoming parliamentary elections on Oct. 12. Responsibility for the future of the country “is a more complex and significant duty than just going to the polls,” the bishops wrote in a pastoral letter released on Sept. 22. “Disappointment [and] rightful indignation at the behavior of many of the elected politicians make us realize that these things happen due also to the fault of us voters: our indifference, lack of better understanding and responsibility,” they said. The bishops urged Lithuanians to consider whether their political decisions “are motivated by truth and justice, solidarity with the weakest and responsibility for the spiritual heritage of our ancestors.”
Rabbi Cohen Speaks at Synod on the Word of God
Israeli Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa, Israel, asked Pope Benedict XVI and other high-level Catholic leaders to continue learning to appreciate the Jewish people and to speak out in defense of Israel. “I thank God who has kept us alive to be together and work for a future of peace and coexistence the world over,” the 80-year-old rabbi told the Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome. With Pope Benedict sitting nearby, Rabbi Cohen addressed synod members on Oct. 6, telling them of the centrality of the word of God in Jewish life and prayer and its continuing relevance in responding to modern concerns, including promoting the dignity of human life, fighting promiscuity and secularism and encouraging tolerance and peace. But Rabbi Cohen also asked Catholic leaders to speak out against anti-Semitism and attacks on the State of Israel. Without mentioning Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by name, he spoke of “deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East in his speech last month at the United Nations General Assembly.”
Bishops Stress Bible-Related Priorities
Translating the Bible, making copies affordable, helping people understand it and, especially, helping people live its message are important tasks for the Catholic Church, although the priorities differ from continent to continent. Before individuals began addressing the Synod of Bishops, synod organizers chose five bishops to report Oct. 6 on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The Vatican released four of the reports early on Oct. 7; the report on the Americas was not immediately available. Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria said most African Catholics were thirsting for the word of God. While the archbishop praised the remarkable work done by mainline Protestant churches and organizations to translate, print and distribute Bibles in Africa, he also said there were many anti-Catholic, fundamentalist groups using the Bible to try to lead Catholics away from the church.
Suicide Initiative Reaches Washington Ballot
The governance board of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability is urging rejection of Washington State’s Initiative 1000, saying the so-called Death With Dignity Act “substitutes lethal prescriptions and illusory safeguards for compassionate care.” The proposal before the state’s voters on Nov. 4 would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of narcotics to terminally ill patients, who would then self-administer the drugs. The resulting deaths would not be listed as suicides, and death certificates would list the underlying illness as the cause of death, according to the initiative language. “Legalizing assisted suicide is abandoning the higher goal of truly compassionate care for the dying,” the board statement said. “We urge you to vote ‘no’ on Initiative 1000 because, rather than providing patients death with dignity, it presumes that they are only dignified when dead.”
Priests and Lawyers Are in ‘Related Vocations’
Priests and those who work in the field of law “are in related vocations,” said Cardinal John P. Foley at the Red Mass on Oct. 5 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. “We both seek to challenge people to recognize their dignity and to live according to it,” said Cardinal Foley. The U.S. cardinal who headed the Pontifical Council for Social Communi-cations for 23 years, said both priests and those who work in civil law try to establish “mutual respect and love” as they carry out their vocations. “We both consider law as a guide to a well-ordered society. We both see law as a means in which people can be educated to perceive what is good and to strive for it,” the cardinal said. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court attended the 55th annual Red Mass in the nation’s capital. The Mass is traditionally held the Sunday before the first Monday in October, when the Supreme Court opens its annual term.
New Poll Finds Generational Divide Among Catholics
A major new survey released on Oct. 8 by the progressive organization Faith in Public Life revealed that younger Catholics more strongly support Senator Barack Obama, access to abortion, same-sex marriage and a more active government than do older Catholics. While Catholics age 35 and older were split between the presidential candidates (46 percent for Senator John McCain and 44 percent for Obama), Obama held a 15-point lead over McCain among younger Catholic voters (55 percent to 40 percent), according to the survey.
The poll also found a generational divide among Catholics on other issues. Sixty percent of younger Catholics surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to half of older Catholics. Younger Catholics, the survey found, are also more likely than older Catholics to support a larger government providing more services rather than a smaller government providing fewer services (67 percent to 41 percent), indicating that younger Catholics are more pro-government than any other religious group. Forty-four percent of younger Catholics said they supported same-sex marriage compared with 30 percent of all Catholics surveyed.
The poll is the most comprehensive assessment of the faith and political views of young people thus far in the 2008 election cycle. The results were based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 2,000 Ameri-can adults and a large over-sample of younger adults (age 18 to 34), including both land line and cell phone interviews. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent to 3 percent. The poll can be accessed online at http://www.faithinpubliclife.org.