Signs Of the Times

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    An ecumenical prayer service called for healing on April 9 at Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Murrysville, Pa., after a 16-year-old student rampaged in the hallways of Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh, wounding 22. • Along with other leaders and organizations that defend the rights of Tamils, the Rev. S. J. Emmanuel, the 80-year-old leader of the Global Tamil Forum, was named on April 10 to a list of “terrorists” by Sri Lankan...

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    Pope Francis has written to the leaders of government and the opposition in Venezuela, urging a peaceful, negotiated solution to the ongoing political crisis. The pope’s message was read at the start of a much-anticipated meeting between President Nicolás Maduro and key members of the opposition on April 10. Pope Francis wrote that he was aware of the “restlessness and pain felt by so many people,” but noted his deep conviction that violence can never bring...

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    State visits are usually occasions of pomp and circumstance signifying little. That was not true, however, of the recent formal introduction of President Michael Higgins of Ireland to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. During the president’s historic four-day visit, from April 8 to 12, the British Union Jack was hoisted alongside the Irish tricolor in courtesy calls around England, and the Irish president was feted at two banquets hosted by the queen...

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    In the first U.S. implementation of the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a Vatican-sponsored structure for dialogue between believers and nonbelievers, conversations at Georgetown University on April 10 touched on the role of religion in society. The Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson described a recent visit to the Central African Republic. He found the situation there especially frightening because a sectarian conflict arose very quickly in a country...

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    When the pope was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, he dragged the hidden problem of human slavery into broad daylight, annually celebrating open-air Masses in the city’s Constitution Square for and with victims of human trafficking. Now, as leader of the universal church, Pope Francis is dragging the blight of human trafficking onto the global stage, decrying the world’s indifference.

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    “I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests...have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done [because of] the sexual abuse of children,” Pope Francis said, speaking at the International Catholic Child Bureau meeting in Rome on April 11. “The church is aware of this damage,” he said, and is committed to strengthening child protection programs and punishing offenders. The remarks are among the pope’s strongest on the...

  • April 21, 2014

    Pew researchers report that six of the world’s 12 nations with a “very high degree” of religious diversity can be found in the Asia-Pacific region—Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Hong Kong; five are in sub-Saharan Africa—Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique; and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean—Suriname. No countries in Europe, North America or the Middle East-North Africa region have as high a degree of...

  • April 21, 2014

    Frans van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit who refused to leave war-torn Syria, was beaten by armed men and killed with two bullets to the head, according to a message sent from the Jesuits’ Middle East Province to the Jesuit headquarters in Rome on April 7. • Linda LeMura, named president of Le Moyne College in Syracuse on April 4, is the first laywoman to be appointed president of a Jesuit college or university. • Calling torture “an...

  • April 21, 2014

    The number of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy declined in 2013, while diocesan spending on child protection programs increased under the U.S. Catholic Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” according to a church-sponsored annual audit. Dioceses and Eastern-rite eparchies reported 370 new allegations of abuse of a minor brought by 365 people against 290 priests or deacons, said the Georgetown University-based Center for...

  • April 21, 2014

    The number of refugees fleeing from Syria into neighboring Lebanon passed the one million mark on April 3, according to U.N. officials, a bleak milestone exacerbated by rapidly decreasing social resources and a host community stretched to the breaking point. Just over three years after Syria’s conflict began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide and is struggling to keep pace with a crisis that shows...