The Patriarchs and church leaders of Jerusalem have issued the following statement, dated March 29, written after the elections in Israel. It read in part:
The Israeli citizens voted yesterday for a new Knesset, from whose members a government is expected to be established within the coming weeks. However, this election does not end the concerns over a possible continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a long time to come.
Despite today’s publication of the Israeli election results, it is clear to us that the politician who is going to formulate the coming Israeli government will continue to have significant margins of operation, between resuming the peace process with the Palestinians and further escalating the relations with them.
On this occasion we wish to express our concerns regarding the frequent talk of Israeli intentions to proceed in implementing unilateral measures in the West Bank, while seemingly ignoring the Palestinians and their democratically elected leadership.
We urge the elected Israeli leadership to demonstrate courage and wisdom by resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. At the same time, we urge the Palestinian leaders to send a clear message of peace to the Israeli citizens, as well. We are confident that the vast majority of the Israelis and Palestinians are tired of the conflict and eager to live in security, peace and justice....
Finally we would express a message of hope and trust in the Almighty that our peoples and land will enjoy, someday, peace and prosperity, based on respect for all human beings.Audits Not Enough, Says Head of Review Board
The U.S. bishops need to rise to a new level in assessing their programs and policies to protect children and prevent sexual abuse by members of the clergy, the head of the bishops’ National Review Board said on March 30. The present audit process is insufficient, Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, the board’s chairwoman, told journalists gathered at Washington’s National Press Club for the public release of the 2005 audits of the responsiveness of dioceses and male religious orders to problems of sexual abuse. The process must move from seeing whether dioceses have requisite policies and programs in place to assessing how effectively those policies and programs are being implemented, she said.
The board, a 13-member panel of prominent lay Catholics, was established by the bishops in 2002 to monitor the compliance of dioceses with the provisions of the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. One of its tasks is to review annual audits of diocesan child protection and sexual abuse response policies and programs and make recommendations to the bishops for improvements in those areas.
Allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy dramatically declined in 2005 over the previous year, but costs skyrocketed, according to the yearly audit on how the U.S. church is applying child protection policies. Dioceses, Eastern-rite eparchies and religious communities paid out $467 million in abuse-related costs in 2005, $309 million more than in 2004, while new credible allegations dropped by 28 percent to 783, said the audit report, which was made public on March 30.Interreligious Dialogue More Than Intercultural
Clashes between Christians and Muslims can be avoided through a sincere attempt to follow the will of God in one’s own life and to get to know one another, said Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the new Vatican ambassador to Egypt. The difference between intercultural dialogue and interreligious dialogue is precisely the interreligious dialogue participants’ willingness to share their faith and deepen their commitment to doing God’s will, he said. The archbishop spoke on March 29 at Rome’s Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, where he taught before leaving to take up his new post in Cairo. He headed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue until Feb. 15. After Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Fitzgerald nuncio to Egypt and the Vatican’s representative to the 22-member League of Arab States, the pope named Cardinal Paul Poupard of France to head the council for interreligious dialogue. The cardinal also heads the Pontifical Council for Culture.Forgiveness Sought for Polish Priest Informers
Poland’s Catholic bishops have requested forgiveness for priests who served as secret police informers under Communist rule. The dramatic experiences of Polish history show trust was...betrayed by certain people of the churchwe are pained by this and apologize to those who experienced distress and harm, the bishops’ conference said in mid-March. But we also stress that the Christian attitude is to extend mercy and forgiveness toward those who show repentance and offer recompense. We are concerned for everyone’s salvation, including those who persecuted the church. The statement also criticized the media for sensationalizing reports that about 10 percent of Catholic priests are believed to have acted as Communist informers in Poland, although wider secret police recruitment was recorded in some dioceses in the 1980’s.Prayer, Rallies, Boycott Mark Immigration Debate
The immigration-related rallies and marches of the last month will be capped off by a rally in Washington, D.C., on April 10 and a planned one-day work boycott on May 1. Meanwhile, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles called for the observance on April 5 of a special day of prayer and fasting for just and humane immigration reform. Let us pray for our legislators and for all those who would be affected by the legislation under consideration, said Cardinal Mahony’s statement. Let us fast in solidarity with those members of our community, especially the undocumented, who often endure lives of deprivation and hardship. He encouraged all Catholics to attend Mass or set aside time on April 5 to pray for legislators, for humane immigration laws and for those people who will be most affected by such laws.Bishops’ Chairman Analyzes Immigration Bill
The immigration bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27 addresses many of the Catholic Church’s concerns, although it also needs work, according to statements from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other church representatives. A letter dated April 3 to senators from Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, described in detail what legislative proposals for immigration the bishops support and which ones they oppose.
The letter lauded provisions of the bill approved by the Judiciary Committee that would allow the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize their status, establish a temporary worker program and reorganize legal immigration procedures to reduce the backlog of applications for family reunification visas. Bishop Barnes praised the committee bill for including legislation that would allow several hundred thousand agricultural workers already in the United States to legalize their status and seek permanent residency visas. He also supported a provision that would create a way for students brought illegally to the United States by their parents to legalize their own status while getting a college education at in-state resident rates.U.S.C.C.B. President for Marriage Amendment
Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged his fellow bishops in a letter to get involved in the effort for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Today there is a growing sense shared by many people, including a wide range of religious leaders, that a marriage protection amendment is the only federal-level action that ultimately will protect and preserve the institution of marriage, Bishop Skylstad said in his letter, dated March 27 and made public on April 3. Timely and focused efforts are needed to help the Catholic faithful form their conscience on such an important matter.
Bishop Skylstad said the Knights of Columbus have started a national postcard campaign to back a federal marriage amendment. The Knights are distributing the postcards through their state, district and local councils through May, and have offered to extend the campaign to each diocese and parish in the country. The Senate is expected to consider a constitutional amendment on marriage in June.New Papal Nuncio Impressed by U.S. Charity
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, new papal nuncio to the United States, said on April 3 that he is impressed by the vitality of U.S. Catholicism. There are problems in the church of the United States, he said in an interview with Catholic News Service. I know also there is a lot of vitalityI would like that this be more known. The nuncio, who arrived in the United States on Feb. 24, just before Lent began, said he was impressed by reports from U.S. bishops on the hundreds and hundreds of adult persons who came to their cathedrals on the First Sunday of Lent to begin the final stages of preparation to be baptized or enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church at Easter. He said he is also impressed by the level of weekly Mass attendance among U.S. Catholics and by their generosity toward others. As a papal diplomat, he said, I travel a lot throughout the world.... It is difficult to find a part of the world where the charity of U.S. Catholics did not reach the poor or sick people.