By Catholic News Service | Published October 24, 2013
Biotechnology must consider ethics, compassion, says Cardinal Turkson
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNS)—He came to engage in conversations about hunger. Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, came to Des Moines for the World Food Prize. He talked with scientists, researchers, policymakers and students. He also made time to talk with those who have concerns about genetically modified food and family farms. To both groups, he brought the same message: They must engage in conversation and dialogue. Cardinal Turkson delivered the keynote address at the World Food Prize’s Borlaug Dialogue luncheon Oct. 16, which drew more than 900 people from more than 60 countries to Des Moines. Research must be done with ethics and a clear long-term vision that respects human dignity and strives for the common good, he said. Praising Norman Borlaug, who founded the World Food Prize, Cardinal Turkson said the scientist left a rich legacy. The dialogue launched a yearlong centennial observance of Borlaug’s birth. An American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate, he has been called “agriculture’s greatest spokesperson.” Recently, there have been vocal concerns about a number of issues related to agriculture research and production to feed the world’s hungry. Cardinal Turkson visited a group with such concerns, Occupy World Food Prize, and encouraged them to have conversation and dialogue with the people with whom they have differences. He was warmly received at both presentations, receiving standing ovations from both groups.
Priest says call to new evangelization long a part of Hispanic ministry
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (CNS)—Pope Francis’ call for mission and the church’s emphasis on the new evangelization always has been in “our inner language,” Father Raphael Capo said about leaders of Hispanic ministry. “Maybe now as we work together in this context of cultural diversity in the church, it becomes ever more important,” said the Piarist priest, who heads the Miami-based Southeast Pastoral Institute, or SEPI. Father Capo was among about 150 participants representing 16 dioceses and 17 nationalities from throughout the Southeast who gathered in St. Augustine Oct. 17-20 for a regional encounter. The leaders in Hispanic ministry came together to share their pastoral and communications strategies—including many social media and Internet-based tools—and to take up the challenge to help step up the pace and effectiveness of Hispanic church leadership across the country. The regional encounter, or encuentro, marked the 35th anniversary of the institute, known in Spanish as Instituto Pastoral del Sureste. The event also was a precursor to the fifth national encuentro to take place in 2016. Father Capo told The Florida Catholic, Miami’s archdiocesan newspaper, that the institute is “excited to begin new partnerships and programs for evangelization and faith formation.” During the regional encuentro, the institute launched a new online Spanish-language formation program with the University of Notre Dame.
Pope authorizes leave of absence for German ‘luxury bishop’
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Pope Francis has authorized a leave of absence for a German bishop at the center of controversy over expenditures for his residence and diocesan center. “A situation has been created in which Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst currently cannot exercise his episcopal ministry,” said a statement Oct. 23 from the Vatican press office. Pope Francis, after being “continually, broadly and objectively informed” about the situation in the Diocese of Limburg, has authorized “a period of leave outside the diocese,” effective immediately, the statement said. A priest whom Bishop Tebartz-van Elst had selected as his vicar general will administer the diocese in his absence, the Vatican said. The bishop has been at the center of controversy for months over the remodeling and building project in Limburg, which is estimated to have cost about $40 million. German media have dubbed Bishop Tebartz-van Elst the “luxury bishop.” Pope Francis discussed the situation Oct. 17 with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German bishops’ conference, and with Bishop Tebartz-van Elst himself Oct. 21.
French court: No conscience clause for mayors in same-sex marriage
OXFORD, England (CNS)—French Catholics criticized a Constitutional Court judgment denying local officials the right to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages. Antoine Renard, president of France’s National Federation of Catholic Family Associations, charged that the court was operating under political pressure in issuing its decision. “This ruling could have dramatic consequences for religious freedom both here and abroad,” he said. “It also suggests the French Constitution is old-fashioned and needs verification.” Renard’s comments came as representatives of 20,000 French mayors prepared a series of appeals against the court’s Oct. 18 judgment that, in effect, rejected calls for a conscience clause to be added to France’s same-sex marriage law. The judgment was condemned as “liberty-killing” by the Catholic head of La Manif Pour Tous, a nationwide organization leading opposition to the law. Its leader, Ludovine de la Rochere, urged French citizens to back legal action in support of the mayors. “This is a very serious infringement on a freedom fundamental for mankind—to act according to conscience,” said de la Rochere, a former spokeswoman for the French bishops’ conference.
Pope says he’s drawn to prisoners because he’s human like they are
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Pope Francis said his care, concern and prayers for those in prison flow from a recognition that he is human like they are, and it’s a mystery they fell so far and he did not. “Thinking about this is good for me: When we have the same weakness, why did they fall and I didn’t? This is a mystery that makes me pray and draws me to prisoners,” the pope said Oct. 23 during a brief audience with about 200 Italian prison chaplains. Pope Francis told the chaplains that he still makes Sunday afternoon phone calls to the prison in Buenos Aires that he used to visit and that he continues to correspond with some of the inmates. Most prisoners find in serving their sentences that one day is fine and the next is awful, he said, and “it’s this up and down that’s difficult.” “Please,” he said, tell the Italian prisoners that “I pray for them, that they are in my heart, that I ask the Lord and the Blessed Mother to help them overcome this difficult period in their lives.” The task of a chaplain, he said, is to let them know that “the Lord is inside with them.” “No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out,” the pope said. “He is there. He cries with them, works with them, hopes with them. His paternal and maternal love arrives everywhere.
Mary is model of faith, charity, union with Christ, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Seeing Mary as a model of faith teaches Christians that total dedication to Jesus does not take them away from real life, because faith is lived through the chores and cares of everyday existence, Pope Francis said. Mary lived her faith “in the simplicity of the thousand daily tasks and concerns every mother has, like preparing food, clothing, caring for the home,” he said Oct. 23 at his weekly general audience. With more than 85,000 people gathered inside and outside St. Peter’s Square for the audience, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the church by focusing on the Second Vatican Council’s assertion that Mary is “the model of the church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.” Many people, he said, believe that because Mary was so special to God and was chosen to bear his son, she can’t really be a model for their faith. But the pope said Mary’s “normal, daily existence was precisely where the unique and profound dialogue between her and God took place.” The first step in emulating Mary, the pope said, is to know that God “wants always and only the best for us.” Pope Francis said Mary is also a model of charity or love for Christians. When, for example, she went to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, she did not just bring material help or gifts; she brought Jesus.
European bishops call for protection of religious minorities
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Europe’s Catholic bishops and a New York-based interreligious foundation called on the United Nations to adopt a resolution for the protection of religious minorities. “We condemn all acts or threats of violence, destruction, damage or endangerment directed against religious minorities, including the destruction of places of worship and sacred religious texts of any kind,” said a common declaration by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. The groups said their declaration, released Oct. 23, was a response to “persistent violence, persecutions of Christian minorities and other religious groups.” “We call upon all states to prevent acts or threats of violence, and invite relevant intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to contribute to those efforts by developing appropriate initiatives to advance mutual respect and recognition of religious minorities,” the declaration said. Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, said in a statement that the declaration was necessary because the “number of people who are suffering because of their faith is a scandal in our modern world.”
Lebanese cardinal seeks Qatar’s help finding kidnapped Syrian clerics
BEIRUT (CNS)—As part of an official visit to Doha, Qatar, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, appealed for help gaining the release of two kidnapped Syrian bishops and three priests. Maronite Archbishop Paul Sayah, patriarchal vicar, told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 23 email from Qatar that the kidnapping of the two bishops and the three priests had been on the agenda with the three officials Cardinal Rai had already met: Qatar’s prime minister, the minister of culture and the emir. Archbishop Sayah, who was traveling with the cardinal, said the officials “all promised to do their utmost to find out who their kidnappers are and their whereabouts, and help, in any way possible, to secure their release.” Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo were kidnapped April 22 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission. Several priests also have been kidnapped this year. Archbishop Sayah told CNS he found it “very strange and utterly unacceptable that no one has been able to locate the bishops and the priests after all this time, knowing that each one of the rebel factions is financed and presumably directed by one country or another.”
Ambassador, priest pay tribute to Jesuits who perished in Holocaust
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CNS)—Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See joined Oblate Father Thomas B. Curran, president of Jesuit-run Rockhurst University in Kansas City, in laying a wreath Oct. 9 at a plaque on campus that pays tribute to the more than 150 Jesuits who died at the hands of the Nazis. “It is an honor for us to be here together to pay our respect to all the Jesuits who perished in the Holocaust, who sacrificed their lives to save Jews,” said Ambassador Zion Evrony. “This is a very unique opportunity to pay our respects on behalf of Israel.” The 55-by-28-inch bronze plaque, dedicated in April 2007, bears the names of 152 Jesuits, who are grouped into three categories: those who were killed, those who died in captivity or as a result of prison conditions, and those who died in concentration camps. The plaque was a gift of the late Eliot Berkley, a university regent, and his wife, Marcia. The lists were compiled by Jesuit Father Vincent Lapomarda, associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit school in Worcester, Mass. “This plaque, the memory of Dr. Berkley and the memory of all those who perished in the Shoah is a reminder that in life and in death, we belong to God,” Father Curran said. “This is the first time the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican has paid a visit to the U.S. and to come to a Jesuit university during a time when we have a Jesuit pope further strengthens our friendship,” the priest said. “This plaque is a reflection of our friendship that has endured.”