Signs of the Times

Congolese Bishops Denounce International Silence on Genocide

A group of Congolese bishops has denounced the international community’s tolerance of increasing violence in eastern Congo, which they called a “silent genocide” against the civilian population there. “We are calling on the international community to work sincerely to ensure respect for international law,” said the Congolese bishops’ committee Nov. 13 in a statement on the war. Decrying the alleged inaction of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which the bishops accused of standing by and watching the violence, the bishops said it is “crucial that a peace and stabilization force be sent to re-establish order in our country.”

Large-scale massacres of civilians, the targeted murders of young people and systematic rapes now occur daily in the area north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province, they said. “It is obvious that the natural resources of...Congo are fueling the greed of certain powers, and these natural resources are not unrelated to the violence now being inflicted on the population,” they said.


‘Distorted Values’ Cause of Financial Crisis?

The head of the commission representing Catholic bishops from the European Union has demanded tighter rules for the world economy to correct a “distorted hierarchy of values” highlighted by the global financial crisis. “The current crisis has revealed that the pursuit of profit ultimately demolishes everything in its wake,” said Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, S.D.B., of Rotterdam, Netherlands, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. People who think the financial crisis has been caused by a lack of accountability are “perhaps overlooking the fact that it is far more our societal model that is being called into question,” the bishop told the meeting of the bishops’ commission on Nov. 12 to 14. “An economic model based on the continued and unlimited consumption of limited resources can only end in tears.” Bishop Van Luyn said the crisis in world markets had “badly shaken” public trust in the economic and social order and would have “economic, social and political consequences” that could only be guessed at.

60th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration

Sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the landmark U.N. document still is not respected fully around the world, said a top Vatican official. “Unfortunately nowhere in the world, even among [countries] that have embraced, promoted and highlighted this declaration,” are all its articles observed, said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He said the world’s prisons display some of the worst violations of human rights and dignity: “When I visit these penal is as if the declaration never even existed.”

Some prisons in northern and central Italy are so overcrowded that prisoners must spend the day lying in their bunk beds because six people are living in a cell built for two and there is no place to stand, he said. The cardinal spoke on Nov. 13 at a Vatican press conference describing events the Vatican will sponsor on Dec. 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the declaration in 1948.

Two Christians Murdered in Mosul

Two Christian women were shot and killed in their home in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, where the most recent wave of anti-Christian violence has left more than 15 dead and forced approximately 15,000 people to flee. Lamia’a Sabih Saloha and her sister, Wala’a, were killed when several men stormed their home on Nov. 12, a source told Catholic News Service. “Their mother is severely injured, as the terrorists stabbed her,” the source said in an e-mail dated Nov. 12. “In addition, the house was exploded completely.” AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency, reported the attack was carried out by a gang of 16- to 18-year-olds backed by a criminal organization. A police officer said another bomb near the house exploded when police came. Three police officers were injured. The incident occurred as more than 200 Christian families displaced from Mosul started to return home after more troops were deployed in the city.

U.S. Returns Baghdad Property

The U.S. Army has returned the Pontifical Babel College for Philosophy and Theology in Baghdad to the Chaldean Catholic Church, promising to repair or replace anything damaged while U.S. soldiers occupied the buildings, Vatican Radio reported. The seminarians, students and staff left the complex in January 2007, temporarily moving the college programs to northern Iraq because the students and staff were not safe in the college’s neighborhood in Baghdad. Three months later, the U.S. Army occupied the buildings as a “combat outpost.” The college was occupied first by the Fourth Cavalry Squadron of the First Mechanized Infantry Division, and then by the Second Squadron of the Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment. In a report on Nov. 14, Vatican Radio quoted Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Jacques Ishaq of Baghdad, rector of the college, as saying the army transferred the property back to the church on Nov. 6.

Little Rock Bishop Defends Immigrant Rights

Five months after being ordained bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor issued his first pastoral letter in hopes of teaching his flock about the human rights of undocumented immigrants. The letter, titled I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Rights of Immigrants, was introduced to the priests of the state Nov. 5 during a study day. Diocesan employees gathered for a similar event on Nov. 7. Bishop Taylor said he believes Catholics are not properly informed about the human rights of immigrants. “I hope that people will open their hearts to the call of Jesus in our time,” he said in an interview with The Arkansas Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. “More than that, I hope it goes down from their head to their heart and [they] see what the Lord is asking of us.... It is the biggest area where the teaching of the church is not well known.” Bishop Taylor, who is fluent in Spanish and has worked in Hispanic ministry for 28 years, said he believes being able to migrate to another country is an “intrinsic human right.”

Supporters of Aging Religious Honored

Support Our Aging Religious, a national organization working to help U.S. religious congregations finance the retirement of their elderly and infirm members, honored four people and was itself honored at two fundraising dinners in October. Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters in New Jersey, and Mary Berchmans Hannan, a member of the Sisters of the Visitation, received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, SOAR’s highest honor, at separate dinners in New York and Washington. Also honored at the dinner in New York’s Tavern on the Green were Dorothy Burns, O.P., and Jeanne Burns, O.P., who received the Father Victor Yanitelli, S.J., Award for their years of service to people in need in New York City. The two Dominican sisters are not related. At the event in Washington’s Renaissance Mayflower hotel, John Butler, vice president for advancement of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., presented Patricia Sullivan, a member of the Sisters of Mercy who is president of SOAR, with the university’s Bicentennial Medal “for ensuring resources to support the elderly and frail members of Catholic religious congregations in the United States.”

Bishops Cite Abortion Deregulation Fears

Fears about laws and changes in regulations on abortion that might advance under a new, Democratically controlled Congress and White House are the central focus of a statement approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 12 during their annual fall meeting in Baltimore. The majority of the 830-word, untitled statement focuses on concerns about the possible passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, calling it “an evil law that would further divide our country” and adding that the church “should be intent on opposing evil.” It warns against interpreting the outcome of the Nov. 4 elections as “a referendum on abortion” and says “aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans.” The statement was written during the bishops’ meeting and involved a total of nearly three hours of discussion on the topic during executive and public sessions Nov. 11. Under U.S.C.C.B. policies, statements drafted outside the usual committee approval process may be issued by the conference president on behalf of the bishops.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joe Mcmahon
10 years 4 months ago
Many thanks for providing the link to this letter. I particularly appreciate the explanations given in the appendices.


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