Signs of the Times

Vatican Praises Galileo as a Man of Faith

Sixteen years after Pope John Paul II said the Catholic Church erred when it condemned the 17th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei, the Vatican secretary of state said the astronomer was “a man of faith” who recognized God as creator of the cosmos. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state, spoke briefly Nov. 26 at the opening of a Rome conference titled, “Science 400 Years After Galileo Galilei,” designed to bring scientists, ethicists and other experts together to discuss the role of ethics in scientific research. The cardinal said recent studies and the Vatican’s own review of the Inquisition trial of Galileo “have shed light on the shortcomings of churchmen tied to the mentality of their age,” but also gave people a more accurate understanding of Galileo’s beliefs. “Galileo, a man of science, also cultivated with love his faith and his deep religious convictions,” Cardinal Bertone said, repeating Pope Benedict XVI’s statement that “Galileo Galilei was a man of faith who saw nature as a book written by God.” In 1992, Pope John Paul said the church had erred in condemning Galileo for asserting that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Positive ID of Copernicus’s Remains in Poland

The bishop who supervised a successful search for the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus, a priest and the father of modern astronomy, said the discovery can represent the resolution of disputes between science and religion. “The conflict between interpretations of holy Scripture and empirical observations about the world resulted from a great misunderstanding which we’ve gradually moved away from,” Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Jezierski of Warmia told Catholic News Service Dec. 1. “Since Copernicus was a key figure in this process, we wanted to honor him by finding his bones and reinterring him in a fitting way, something previous generations couldn’t do despite 200 years of searching.” Copernicus’s remains, discovered at the town of Frombork’s 14th-century cathedral in 2005, were identified positively in November with forensic and DNA testing in Poland and Sweden.


Bioethics Document Coming Soon

The Vatican plans to issue a new document on bioethics that addresses human cloning, stem cell research and other issues, informed sources said. The Vatican instruction, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was scheduled to be published Dec. 12, the sources said. The document was designed to examine ethical issues in biological research and health care that have emerged in recent years. When members of the C.D.F. met in a plenary session last January, Cardinal William J. Levada, the congregation prefect, said much of their discussion focused on the field of bioethics. At that time, the cardinal hinted that a document was in the works. He said it might examine new therapeutic options and some ethical problems that were not explicitly considered by two previous church documents: the doctrinal congregation’s instruction Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life) in 1987 and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) in 1995. A Vatican press conference was planned for the day of the document’s release.

Ethics Key to Solving World Financial Crisis

A leading Vatican diplomat warned that the current financial crisis could become a catastrophe unless solutions are found that respect ethics and involve all levels of society. “It is necessary to recover some basic aspects of finances, such as the primacy of labor over capital, of human relationships over purely financial transactions, and of ethics over the sole criterion of efficiency,” Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, told Vatican Radio Nov. 28. “For some time we’ve found ourselves in the middle of a financial crisis that could become a catastrophe if its effects are allowed to impact other crises: in economics, food and energy,” he said. Archbishop Migliore made the remarks on the eve of the U.N.-sponsored International Conference on Financing for Development from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in Doha, Qatar. The archbishop led a Vatican delegation to the conference.

Papal Visit to Holy Land Likely in May 2009

The Vatican has confirmed tentative plans for Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land in 2009. The pope was invited to visit by President Shimon Peres of Israel in 2007. At that time, the pope made it clear he hoped to make the trip, but Vatican diplomats said the timing would depend in large part on efforts to calm the simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent months, Israeli and Vatican officials began making more concrete plans for a papal visit. The contacts were first reported Nov. 27 by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and were confirmed by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See. Israeli sources said the most likely time for the visit would be May, with stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Mumbai Bishop Urges Unity, Forgiveness

A church leader in Mumbai, India, urged Catholics and people of all religions to forgive and unite after the terrorist attacks in that city. Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Penha of Mumbai told the Asian church news agency UCA News Nov. 27 that the church condemned “this dastardly act of terrorism.” All Catholics, he said, should “go on their knees to pray and get involved in building bridges” among people of all religions and “spread peace, harmony and brotherhood in the city.” “The unprecedented ferocity of the terror attack” shocked local church leaders, Bishop Penha admitted. He said he had talked to Mumbai’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias about the Catholic Church taking more “responsibility” to do “something solid in Mumbai.” Bishop Penha is currently in charge of the archdiocese while Cardinal Gracias recuperates from cancer surgery.

Maryknoll Elects New General Council

Edward M. Dougherty, a Maryknoll priest from Philadelphia, took office Nov. 25 as superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Father Dougherty, 59, and three other Maryknoll priests form a new general council that will lead the society for the next six years. They were elected during the society’s recent 12th general chapter.

General chapters are convened every six years to hold elections and to set goals and policy for the society. In a statement, Father Dougherty said: “Our council will focus on the goals set by the recent general chapter that include an emphasis on protecting the integrity of creation, and on strengthening our partnerships with other like-minded groups, while looking forward to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Maryknoll’s founding in 2011.”

The other members of the four-man council and their posts are: José A. Aramburu, 61, of Utuado, Puerto Rico, vicar general; Paul R. Masson, 64, of Oil City, Pa., assistant general; and Edward J. McGovern, 53, of New York City, assistant general. They will be responsible for leading about 450 priests and brothers who serve in 27 countries worldwide.

Hospitaller Brother Beatified in Cuba

José Olallo Valdes, a member of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God who worked among Cuba’s poor and sick in the 19th century, was beatified at an outdoor Mass attended by thousands of joyous people and broadcast nationwide. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, presided at the beatification of the Cuban brother during a three-hour Mass Nov. 29 in the Plaza of Our Lady of Charity in Camagüey. It was the first beatification ceremony held in Cuba. In his homily, Cardinal Saraiva Martins said the event was a milestone and told the people of the Cuban Catholic Church: “You live in a memorable time. Confronted by a prevailing materialistic culture that is imposing and abandons the side of the weak and helpless, we learn from Blessed Olallo the virtue of knowing how to trust in God, of knowing how to love our neighbor in universal form.”

Editors of ‘America’ Honored at Philadelphia Parish Anniversary

The past and present editors of America were honored at a gala celebration in Philadelphia’s Constitution Center on Nov. 8. Old Saint Joseph’s Parish was celebrating the 275th anniversary of its foundation by Joseph Greaton, S.J. The present pastor, Daniel Ruff, S.J., spoke of freedom and religious liberty in Catholic history before presenting the Greaton Award to Drew Christiansen, S.J., America’s current editor in chief, on the occasion of the magazine’s 100th anniversary. Left to right are: Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Drew Christiansen, S.J., Maurice Timothy Reidy, Jan Attridge and Dennis M. Linehan, S.J.

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