The National Catholic Review
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Peace Gathering Marks 20 Years Since Assisi

Themes of prayer, peace, justice, love, dialogue and care for the poor intermingled as representatives of world religions gathered in Washington, D.C., on April 26 for the 2006 International Prayer for Peace. It marked the 20th anniversary of the first such gathering, convened by Pope John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi, Italy, and it was the first time the yearly interreligious prayer and dialogue meeting was held in the United States. Religious leaders of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists and Sikhs were among the more than 500 participants. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, one of the co-sponsors of the two-day gathering, told the group that by coming together they were fulfilling Pope John Paul’s dream that we would pray together for peace. Religion and Cultures: The Courage of Dialogue was the overall theme of the two-day gathering, co-sponsored by Georgetown University, the Archdiocese of Washington, The Catholic University of America and the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community.

Bishops Say U.S. Cannot Remain Silent on Darfur

As thousands of Americans gathered at Save Darfur rallies across the country on April 30, the nation’s Catholic bishops joined with other religious and political leaders in calling for greater U.S. efforts to end the genocidal campaign against the non-Arab population of Sudan’s Darfur region. Sunday’s Save Darfur’ rally should remind our leaders that our nation cannot remain silent in the face of killings, rape and wanton destruction, said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy. Our country can and must do more, much more, to defend and protect innocent civilians in Darfur. Anything less would be unworthy of us as a people committed to human life and dignity, he added. At the chief Save Darfur rally, held on the National Mall in the nation’s capital, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington reminded an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 participants that people of the world are all brothers and sisters. What happens to the people of Darfur happens to us, he said.

Vatican Official Suggests Boycott of Da Vinci’ Film

Catholics should consider boycotting the film The Da Vinci Code as one way to let the world know the story offends and defames the church, said Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. If the kind of slander, offenses and errors contained in Dan Brown’s best-selling book and the film based on it had been written about the Quran or the Shoah [the Holocaust], they rightly would have provoked a worldwide uprising, the archbishop told Catholic communications directors. The archbishop spoke on April 28 at a conference in Rome for church communications personnel sponsored by the Opus Dei-run University of the Holy Cross. In responding to questions at the end of his talk, Archbishop Amato declined to issue a clear call for all Catholics to boycott the film. During his speech, however, he said to the communications directors, I hope you all boycott that film.

Church Must Choose Saints More Selectively

The Catholic Church should be more selective and very rigorous in choosing candidates for sainthood, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. The pope, who as a cardinal expressed concern over the number of causes being promoted, wrote to the congregation as its members met on April 24-26 for a plenary assembly. Congregation members discussed a new instruction for the initial diocesan stages of the sainthood process and were looking at possible changes to the formal criteria for determining martyrdom and for miracles. Pope Benedict told the congregation that from the moment of his election a year ago, he had put into effect changes that met the widespread hope that the difference between beatification and canonization would be underlined and that local churches would be more involved in the entire process. Modern men and women need true models of holiness, he said, and they must be chosen with care.

Cherie Booth Blair Opens Rome Conference

With a hard-hitting message from Pope Benedict XVI and some practical advice from Cherie Blair, who is the mother of four, the Vatican opened a conference dedicated to the challenges facing young people today. The plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on April 28-May 2 was dedicated to the theme Vanishing Youth? Solidarity With Children and Young People in an Age of Turbulence. Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was a surprise guest at the opening session and spoke about her experience as a human rights lawyer, a Catholic and a mother. One of her main points was that parents today need to carve time from their busy schedules and invest it in conversations with their children. The adult-child relationship must be based not on dogmatic assertion but on love and listening, she said. The church’s role, she said, is not just to prescribe a set of rules but to encourage youths to listen to their own consciences and look at social reality with an informed eye.

Immigration Rallies and Marches Draw Crowds

Calls for a work, school and shopping boycottcombined with broader calls to rallies, prayer services and other eventsdrew crowds across the country on May 1 as supporters of immigration reform staged their second day of major activities in less than a month. In Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, in which he emphasized the U.S. history of welcoming immigrants. The nation has offered to people fleeing conditions of poverty and persecution and other difficult situations relief and opportunity, freedom and justice, Cardinal Rigali said in his homily. Above all it has recognized and sustained their human dignity and given them the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of God to provide for their family and to transmit these blessings to us. The events on May 1 followed rallies and marches on April 10, which also drew hundreds of thousands of people in cities and towns large and small.

Ordination Class of 2006 Better Educated, Older

Although the number of new priests remains steady, the ordination class of 2006 in the United States is better educated, older and more likely to be foreign-born than their colleagues of years past. Data gathered by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation were analyzed by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a Catholic research organization based in Washington, D.C., and made public on May 1 as part of an annual report. Based on survey responses from 233 seminarians from 98 of the 195 U.S. dioceses and 24 of the more than 200 religious orders of men, CARA found that nearly 80 percent of the men scheduled for ordination in 2006 had a bachelor’s degree before entering the seminary and 30 percent had earned a graduate degree. The average age of the class of 2006 is 37, with 22 percent under 40 and 4 percent over 60. Almost a third of the men were born outside the United States.

O’Connell: Welcome Immigrants

At a Mass concelebrated by eight U.S. cardinals, the head of The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., asked Catholics to welcome illegal immigrants. Christ was not excluding anyone when he said, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, said David M. O’Connell, the Vincentian priest who is president of the university. Christ was speaking for everyone, not only for those within our borders but for those who cross them, no matter how they got here, he said during a homily at an afternoon Mass on April 28 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He is asking us to be that kind of salt and light for the world, the kind that welcomes people home, said Father O’Connell. Earlier in the day several cardinals visited key Bush administration and congressional officials to push for an immigration reform bill that deals compassionately with the country’s illegal immigrants.

Way Clear to Canonize Indiana Foundress

Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for the canonization of Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin, the 19th-century foundress of a religious order and numerous schools in Indiana. During a private meeting on April 28 with head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the pope signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of the French-born nun. Born in France’s northern province of Brittany on Oct. 2, 1798, Mother Theodore traveled to the United States as a missionary in 1840 at the request of the French-born bishop of Vincennes, Ind. Mother Theodore, who had been superior of the Sisters of Providence at Ruille-sur-Loire in France, founded the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She and her companions also started Indiana’s first boarding school for young girls. Before Mother Theodore died on May 14, 1856, she set up 10 other Catholic schools throughout Indiana.