The National Catholic Review
Jordanian King Abdullah Criticizes Hijacking of Islam by Violent and Ignorant Extremists’

Muslim political and religious leaders must fight to take back our religion from the vocal, violent and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam over the last 100 years, said King Abdullah II of Jordan in an address on Sept. 13 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. They do not speak for Islam any more than a Christian terrorist speaks for Christianity, he said. At one time or another, all religions have faced extremists who abuse the power of faith. The curt speech was made during the king’s only public appearance in a two-day visit to Washington. In the West and in Muslim countries, there are people who are working for a clash of civilizations, making it important that world political and religious leaders avoid dogmatic conflicts, he said. King Abdullah criticized Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge to issue religious edicts advocating violence. Al Qaeda planned and executed the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Archbishop Clarifies Catholic View on Dying

Catholics who wish to follow church teaching on end-of-life decisions must not attempt to continue life at all costs or reject all human suffering as without value, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said in a new pastoral letter. The 11-page letter on death and dyingtitled Whether in Life or in Death, We Are the Lord’s, quoting from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romanswas dated Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archbishop Myers said Catholics believe that death is not an evil that should be feared. Unnecessarily prolonging death, clinging at all costs to this life, can be an attempt to reject what our faith boldly proclaims, Death has no more power over Christ!’ he said. Similarly, the inability to accept that suffering is redemptive, or the inclination to immediately end the pain of those who are suffering, reveals that we have not yet accepted the way for us to live the fullness of our humanity. Church teaching makes us morally obligated to use ordinary means for maintaining and ensuring physical health, the archbishop said. But, he added, when specific medical conditions indicate that a medical treatment may place excessive burdens on the patient without a sufficient benefit, the decision not to undertake such a treatment can be morally licit.

Vatican Calls for U.N. Reform, Peace-Building

The Vatican secretary of state called for institutional reform of the United Nations that is attentive to the real demands of our peoples rather than to the balance of power. Cardinal Angelo Sodano also supported the establishment of a peace-building commission to help people heal after conflicts.

Speaking on the last day of the summit meeting of heads of state and government at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 14-16, the cardinal said that ordinary men and women, the many millions who constitute the we the people’ of the U.N. charter, are asking world leaders to give us a modern institution, capable of taking resolutions and then enforcing them. He added, This is an insistent appeal issued to us by men and women who are disheartened by promises made and not kept, resolutions adopted and not enforced. The high-level plenary session brought together leaders of more than 170 countries and resulted in a 35-page final statement that touched on terrorism, development issues, peace-building, human rights, the environment and international health.

Knights Appeal Ruling on Pledge of Allegiance

The Knights of Columbus and other parties in a lawsuit filed over the Pledge of Allegiance have appealed a federal judge’s ruling that the pledge cannot be recited in public schools because of its reference to God. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento, Calif., said on Sept. 14 that under a previous ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found the practice unconstitutional, the current case is already legally resolved.

In the earlier case, the Supreme Court ruled in June that Michael Newdow, M.D., lacked the legal standing to sue his daughter’s California school district over the practice of reciting the pledge. The high court declined to decide whether the words under God made it unconstitutional to recite the pledge in public schools. The new lawsuit was also filed by Newdow.

Iraq’s Bishops Seek Change in Constitution

Catholic bishops in Iraq are seeking last-minute changes to their country’s draft constitution amid grave concerns that it would lead to discrimination against Christians. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq, met Iraqi interim President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari Sept. 18 and asked them to remove Article 2.1(a) from the document. The article states that no law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam. Christian leaders fear this will inevitably lead to the country being governed by Shariah, or Islamic law. Church leaders in Iraq are opposed to Shariah because it demands inequalities between Muslims and non-Muslims and between men and women. Christians say it will make them second-class citizens and spark an exodus of the faithful from a country where Christian communities have existed since the first century. The Iraqi bishops’ conference made its concerns public in a statement on Sept. 19, the day after the meeting.

Bishop Campaigns for Katrina Aid to All

Slipping between the cracks of federal disaster aid programs are victims of Hurricane Katrina who entered the country illegally or who are in the United States legally but on a temporary basis. Under current federal rules they are ineligible for material and monetary aid. Compounding the situation is the fear of many illegal residents, mostly Hispanics, that if they even seek aid they run the risk of being deported. The situation has prompted calls by several Catholic organizations for an expansion of federal rules governing eligibility for disaster aid and for safeguards to ensure that people seeking help will not be subject to deportation procedures.

In a natural disaster of this scope, we firmly believe that benefits and services should be provided to Katrina victims regardless of an individual’s immigration status, said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, in a letter on Sept. 20 to members of the U.S. Senate. Now is the time to serve our common humanity and not discriminate against victims of the disaster because they are not U.S. citizens, he said.

Israeli Rabbis Urge Day Against Anti-Semitism

Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Israel’s two chief rabbis proposed that the church designate Oct. 28 an annual day against anti-Semitism to promote Catholic teaching on respect for Jews. The date is the anniversary of the promulgation in 1965 of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s landmark declaration that called for an end to anti-Semitism and all religious discrimination.The rabbis also asked the pope to speak out against the recent burning of synagogues in Gaza, following the departure of Israeli settlers there.

The pope welcomed Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger at his summer residence outside Rome on Sept. 15. Their meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

The rabbis told reporters afterward that the encounter was a positive one, marking another step in the deepening of relations between Catholics and Jews. They invited the pope to visit Jerusalem, an invitation made previously by the Israeli government.

Vatican Official Decries Lack of School Funding

The lack of public funding for religiously sponsored schools in the United States is an injustice and an incredible anomaly in the world, a Vatican education official said on Sept. 14. Archbishop J. Michael Miller, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, said Europeans are absolutely amazed at the situation in the United States, one of the few nations in the world that provides little or no public funding for the education of children in religiously run schools. That policy puts the United States in the company of Mexico, North Korea, China and Cuba, he said.

Citing the enormous contribution to society made by Catholic schools, Archbishop Miller argued that providing public funding for that service is a matter of distributive justice. The archbishop, a Canadian who was president of St. Thomas University in Houston for six years before his appointment to the education congregation in 2003, was the keynote speaker at a conference on Catholic elementary and secondary education held at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.