Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape an ongoing political and economic crisis amid signs that Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in the country. Forty-three percent of Maronite Catholicsthe largest of the country’s 12 Christian denominationspolled recently said they were considering emigrating. Nearly a third of them have applied for visas in the last six months, according to the study by Information International, an independent Beirut-based research body. The study is to be published in May. Some 60,000-70,000 Christians have left the country in the last six months, said George Khoury, executive director of Caritas Lebanon, the local agency of the Caritas Internationalis confederation of Catholic relief, development and social services organizations. In some ways Lebanon is becoming increasingly Islamized because of the demographic shift. The high emigration statistics also are affecting Lebanon’s Muslims, many of whom are thought to have left Lebanon since last summer’s war between the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Israel.Farm Bill Affects Everyone; Church Must Be Involved
The farm bill is not just about farmers and will have an impact not just on our food and land, but everywhere. That is why the church needs to be involved, said Bob Gronski, policy coordinator for the National Catholic Rural Life Conference based in Des Moines, Iowa. Gronski spoke March 31 at St. Michael Church in Farmington during an ecumenical forum on the federal 2007 farm bill. Titled Seeding Our Future, the forum provided information about specific aspects of the farm bill and encouraged participants to take political action. The farm bill is a multiyear omnibus bill that is reauthorized every four to seven years. As an omnibus bill, it includes policies on a wide range of agricultural and food-related issues, including commodity subsidies, international aid, food assistance, conservation, agricultural trade, credit, rural development and research. Many provisions from the last farm billthe Farm Security & Rural Investment Act of 2002will expire in 2007. Congress is expected to reauthorize the bill this year.Drop in Number of Abuse Allegations, Rise in Costs
The number of people who said that as children they were victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy has dropped 34 percent since 2004, according to a national survey of dioceses and religious orders. The survey was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in conjunction with the 2006 audit of U.S. church compliance with child protection policies. The annual report on the survey and audit showed the same drop since 2004 in the number of credible allegations made and a 40 percent drop in the number of reported offenders. The report collected data on credible allegations and costs related to sexual abuse of children in 2006 and compared them with the figures gathered in 2004 and 2005. Lawyers’ fees continued to skyrocket in 2006 but the amount of money paid out in settlements dropped by nearly $122 million from 2005, it said. Lawyers’ fees totaled $75.1 million in 2006, an 82 percent rise from the 2005 figure of $41.2 million, the report said. Also on a major upswing was the amount of money paid for living expenses, therapy and other support for offenders, it said.Education of Women the Best Investment for Africa
The best and cheapest way to prepare Africa for a better future is to educate all its youths, especially girls and young women, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, said April 10. Addressing the 40th session of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, the archbishop said that according to projections, by 2050 a large portion of Europe’s population will be dependent elderly, but Africa is set to have the lowest dependency ratio in the world. This projection should hand that continent an unprecedented advantage in economic terms, as a young and numerous workforce should be available to it until at least 2050, while the demographic dividend in most other regions will have run out, he said. He said it is important to assure that Africa will not miss this window of opportunity for economic development, and in the view of the Vatican’s U.N. delegation, the most decisive investment to be made here is in education. Since many of the people who will make up Africa’s workforce in the coming decades are already born and are already of school age, Archbishop Migliore urged immediate efforts to achieve primary education for all African children by the year 2015. He said that according to an estimate by the U.N. Secretariat, meeting that goal would cost $9 billion, estimated in 1998 dollar value.... By any estimate, this can hardly be considered a high price to pay for such a prize.Pope’s Book: Christ, Son of God, on Divine Mission
In his new book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI said Christ must be understood as the Son of God on a divine mission, not as a mere moralist or social reformer. Re-emphasizing Christ’s divine nature is especially important in a world that tends to ridicule religious faith and that is experiencing a global poisoning of the spiritual climate, the pope said. While Christ did not bring a blueprint for social progress, he did bring a new vision based on love that challenges the evils of today’s worldfrom the brutality of totalitarian regimes to the cruelty of capitalism, he said. The 448-page book was presented in its Italian, German and Polish editions at the Vatican on April 13. It was to go on sale April 16, the pope’s 80th birthday, with subsequent editions in 18 other languages. Doubleday, the U.S. publisher of the pope’s book, plans to release the volume in English in May. The book, the first of two planned volumes on Christ’s life, covers the public acts of Jesus from his baptism in the Jordan River to the transfiguration before his disciples. Its 10 chapters analyze scriptural passages, but also explore commentary from early church fathers and modern scholars.L’Osservatore Romano in Non-European Language
The first edition of the noted Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano to appear in a non-European language was launched in India’s Kerala State, which is home to the highest vocation ratioabout one priest or nun for every 70 Catholicsin the world. The faithful have a right to know what the pope is telling the world. It is being realized here now, said Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, at an April 2 event marking the release of the edition in Malayalam, the language of Kerala State. Mathew Thundathil, a Carmelite priest who is the editor of the new edition and director of Carmel International Publishing House, told Catholic News Service that the edition is a recognition of the vibrancy of the faith here. Father Thundathil has been in charge of the English-language weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano for India since its launch in 2002. Kerala, which has a population of 31 million people, is the strongest Christian pocket in India with more than 6 million Christians4 million of whom are Catholics.Nuncio to Israel Attends Holocaust Ceremony
In a reversal of an earlier decision, the papal nuncio to Israel attended a Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial ceremony after receiving a personal letter from the memorial’s chairman. Archbishop Antonio Franco said he decided to attend the ceremony April 15, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, after receiving assurances from Chairman Avner Shalev regarding the memorial’s willingness to review any new documentation regarding Pope Pius XII’s actions during the Holocaust. Archbishop Franco said his earlier announcement that he would not attend the ceremony was meant to be a strong signal of the need to reconsider the way Pius XII is presented at Yad Vashem. He said the depiction of the World War II-era pope in a photo caption at the museum was offensive to his sensibilities and those of Catholics worldwide. Archbishop Franco said his intention had not been to dissociate himself from the commemoration or to make a polemic statement but to reach an aim of consideration of how the pope is presented. I have no further reason not to go, the nuncio said before the ceremony.