Monday, September 27, 2010

Bishops' Haiti Report

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB task force on Haiti. introduced September 27 the report “The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions” on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) mission to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.

Archbishop Wenski made a plea to the international community not to lose focus on Haiti at this critical time. An executive summary of findings, recommendations contained in the report is below. Full report can be found posted at:

The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions

· Recovery and reconstruction efforts are proceeding slowly, leaving Haiti’s displaced, both inside the country and outside, at grave risk;

· After an initial generous response, nations in the region, including the United States, are beginning to pull back the welcome mat for Haitians displaced because of the earthquake;

· Haitian children remain in danger, subject to difficult living conditions, domestic servitude, and human trafficking;

· Haitian families are divided and policies pursued both by Haiti and surrounding nations, including the United States, have not been designed to reunite them; and

· Interdiction and deportation policies toward Haitians in the region continue or have resumed, despite the fragile state of the recovery effort in Haiti.

· The United States and other nations must provide reconstruction funds in a timely manner and assist the Haitian government in rebuilding the country, including a plan for re-location or return of the displaced to homes;

· Family tracing efforts for orphans must be increased and best interest determinations for Haitian orphans in Haiti and the Dominican Republic should be introduced;

· The United States should liberalize immigration policies toward Haitians, including the reunification of the families of medical evacuees, a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians who arrived after January 12, 2010, and humanitarian parole for Haitian family members who have been approved for a U.S. visa but await a priority date;

· Efforts should be increased to protect children and women along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border to minimize the incidence of human trafficking; and

· U.S. interdiction policies toward Haitians should include proactive asylum screening; the United States should urge the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas to cease deportations of Haitians until the recovery and reconstruction of Haiti progresses and new homes are built or identified.

Latter Day Saints Promote Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

A former Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City once facetiously boasted that he headed the second largest church in Utah. There Catholics comprise nine percent of the population. Well known of course is that most people in the state belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons.

The two churches differ significantly. However, in one area, that of family values, they hold much in common. That becomes clear in a recent article in the Mormon-owned daily newspaper, the Deseret News.

The Deseret News is now promoting the movie reviews of Catholic News Service, reviews that boast a 74-year history in the Catholic Church. A Sept. 23 article from The Deseret News explains the daily’s rationale:

The CNS reviews stand as a “unique voice in a noisy lobby,” the article noted.

Reviews offer both a moral and artistic analysis. Written primarily with families in mind, they offer guidance to filmgoers of any age. They’ve offered guidance to Catholics for almost 75 years. But obviously more than Catholics recognize their great value.

“The CNS reviews concentrate particularly on how a character’s negative behavior and ethical choices, such as crime and abortion, are presented: and depictions of human sexuality, including premarital sexual encounters, nonmarital cohabitation and adulterous relationships,” the article notes.

Given the popularity of movies, both on the big screen, video, CD and television, one has to be proud of this Catholic Church contribution to modern society. Adult moviegoers benefit by checking the CNS reviews before heading off to the cinema. The guidance makes for both more intelligent viewing and a warning that some movies aren’t worth your ten bucks. The reviews are a perfect resource for parents who must make decisions about what their offspring will view.

The Mormon Church has steadily supported family values. Their promotion of the CNS movie reviews is one more proof of this.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions

The Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will publish September 27, the document "The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions," a report on a recent mission to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas to study the situation of Haitians displaced by the January earthquake.

A link to the report will be provided through this blog on that day. Members of the news media also are invited to participate in a telephonic briefing on this topic with Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, as well as CLINIC and USCCB staff who participated in the mission. (Members of the media call 202-541-3200 for additional info.)

“It is clear that efforts to clean up and recover from the earthquake are progressing slowly,” said Archbishop Wenski. “However, the international community must remain steadfast in working with the Haitian government to reconstruct the country and strengthen its institutions. The survival and long-term future of the Haitian people are at stake,” said Archbishop Wenski upon returning from the fact-finding mission.

Following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of Haitians were forced from their homes and out onto the streets. While the international community provided a great deal of help in this time of crisis, including the distribution of daily necessities and the construction of tent camps, challenges continued to surface in the following months.

Tent camps are not a permanent solution. It has become critical to build long term shelters so that the Haitian people can continue on with their lives. Clearing away the debris and rubble that was left in the aftermath of the earthquake is a constant struggle, but a crucial first step in reconstruction efforts that are ongoing.

Children in particular are at risk of being trafficked, both domestically and also to countries in the surrounding region. Confronting this threat head-on remains a primary challenge for the Haitian government, the Dominican Republic (Haiti’s next door neighbor) and for the international community as a whole.

The effects of the earthquake are not felt in Haiti alone, but have spilled over into the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and surrounding countries. How are government officials from surrounding countries dealing with Haitians who are trying to start a new life? Will they put into place mechanisms that will help to integrate Haitians into their community or will they put into place policies that will further alienate them going forward?

Observations and recommendations moving forward will be published September 27 in "The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions," a Report of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raíces y Alas: Pensar y caminar con sus pastores

(Note: this is the Spanish version of yesterday’s posting “Raíces y Alas: Thinking and walking with their shepherds” by Mar Muñoz-Visoso)

Esta semana se realiza en Chicago el congreso nacional católico hispano “Raíces y Alas 2010” []. El congreso está organizado por el National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), una organización nacional que aglutina a más de cincuenta estructuras, organizaciones y movimientos nacionales y regionales. La agenda de la reunión es ambiciosa: “recrear y reconstruir la visión nacional para el ministerio hispano”. El congreso ha sido convocado en colaboración con el Secretariado de Diversidad Cultural en la Iglesia de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB).

Aunque el congreso está dirigido principalmente a líderes en el ministerio hispano, también acudirán representantes de entidades educativas, universidades, congregaciones religiosas y otras instituciones católicas estadounidenses “en reconocimiento de que cualquier aspecto del ministerio de la Iglesia afecta a la población hispana…de la misma manera [que] cualquier actividad de la comunidad católica hispana se entiende como una actividad de la Iglesia Católica.”
En total, se espera a más de 500 participantes.

Los objetivos planeados para la reunión son la “celebración”, la “reflexión” teológica y pastoral “de la realidad actual del ministerio hispano en Estados Unidos” y “una mirada hacia el futuro con proyecciones concretas para acciones ministeriales”.

Ha de notarse que la agenda de la reunión — esta reflexión sobre la realidad de los hispanos católicos en Estados Unidos — estará basada en las cinco prioridades actuales de los obispos estadounidenses:

· Matrimonio (aunque, como era de esperar, los latinos han ampliado la reflexión a la “Familia”)
· Formación en la fe y práctica sacramental
· Los jóvenes y las vocaciones
· Vida y dignidad de la persona humana
· Diversidad cultural, con énfasis especial en los hispanos

Hasta donde sabemos, esta es la primera organización nacional católica con una representatividad tan amplia y diversa en ministerios e intereses profesionales, con o sin un enfoque étnico o cultural, que haya manifestado de forma tan pública y abierta su intención de caminar con los obispos y de hacer suyas las prioridades de éstos. De hecho, se están retando a sí mismos a reflexionar sobre cómo sus estructuras, ministerios y enfoque pastoral abordan o no dichas prioridades.

Los participantes, de seguro, también lanzarán un reto a las estructuras diocesanas, regionales y nacionales (incluyendo las de USCCB) y a otras asociaciones católicas para que promuevan el liderazgo hispano en todas esas áreas. Se trata de un esfuerzo sincero para pensar y caminar con sus pastores; para dar un paso al frente y ejercer el liderazgo a que están llamados por los pastores, por el pueblo, y simplemente por su proporción en número dentro de la Iglesia.

En contra de lo que algunos han visto, y despreciado, como un esfuerzo por parte de los obispos de ser “políticamente correctos” — por haber hecho del reconocimiento de la diversidad cultural en la Iglesia con énfasis especial en los hispanos una de sus actuales prioridades dentro de su plan quinquenal — los esfuerzos de los obispos estadounidenses por entender, afirmar, guiar y caminar con su diverso rebaño puede que estén empezando a dar fruto.

Decir que una convocatoria del liderazgo católico hispano a este nivel hacía falta desde hace mucho tiempo se queda corto. Los organizadores afirman su “deseo de revivir el espíritu de los Encuentros y de celebrar el décimo aniversario del Encuentro 2000”.

El proceso de los Encuentros guió y proporcionó una visión nacional para la pastoral hispana en el último cuarto del siglo XX. Fruto de ellos — hubo tres — fueron el Plan Pastoral Nacional para el Ministerio Hispano, la creación de numerosas estructuras parroquiales, diocesanas, regionales y nacionales, muchos planes pastorales locales y numerosas asociaciones para el avance del ministerio hispano.

Cuando los católicos hispanos se preparaban para convocar el que sería su “Cuarto Encuentro” en el año 2000, se les pidió que sacrificaran — por esta vez — el enfoque ad intra étnico/cultural de su proceso de Encuentro y que lo compartieran y lo transformaran en una celebración multicultural del Jubileo 2000. Hubo sus más y sus menos pero, al final, el Encuentro 2000 resultó ser una expresión magnífica y multitudinaria de la catolicidad de la Iglesia, de su unidad en la diversidad en la diversidad. Es justo, pues, celebrar con gozo su décimo aniversario.

Pero los católicos hispanos y el ministerio hispano también necesitan atención y enfoque. Las realidades pastorales de hoy no son las mismas que hace 30 o 40 años. Tampoco los protagonistas son los mismos — tanto los ministros como la gente — ni sus necesidades. Por lo tanto, las estructuras que les sirven, así como su participación y liderazgo en la Iglesia en general, necesitan ser reexaminados a esa luz.

El último Encuentro Nacional de Pastoral Hispana sucedió hace 25 años. Tras el 2000, percibiendo la urgencia de abordar las necesidades particulares del desarrollo del ministerio hispano, los obispos realizaron una consulta al liderazgo. El fruto de este “Simposio 2001” en Colorado Springs, Colorado, fue el documento “Encuentro y misión: Un marco pastoral renovado para el ministerio hispano”, que los obispos ofrecieron como anexo y actualización del Plan Pastoral Nacional para el Ministerio Hispano de 1987.

Raíces y Alas 2010 promete ser un paso serio en la dirección adecuada; ambicioso, sin duda, pero también necesario.

El Cardenal Francis George de Chicago, presidente de USCCB, dará la bienvenida y liderará a los participantes en oración el viernes por la mañana. Representarán a los obispos estadounidenses en el diálogo el Monseñor Jaime Soto, obispo de Sacramento, presidente del Comité de Obispos sobre Diversidad Cultural; Mons. José Gómez, Arzobispo Coadjutor de Los Ángeles; Mons. Jerry Barnes, obispo de San Bernardino, CA; Mons. Francisco González, obispos auxiliar de Washington; Mons. Gustavo García Siller, obispo auxiliar de Chicago; y Mons. Felipe Estévez de Miami. Representando a los obispos de Puerto Rico estará Mons. Félix Lázaro, obispo de Ponce.

Otros obispos benefactores y que han dado su apoyo incluyen a: Mons. Timothy Broglio, arzobispo de los Servicios Miliares, USA; Mons. Robert J. Carlson, arzobispo de Saint Louis; Mons. Charles J. Chaput, arzobispo de Denver; Mons. Walter A. Hurley, obispo de Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mons. Edward U. Kmiec, Obispo de Buffalo, Nueva York; Mons. Roger P. Morin, obispo de Biloxi, Mississippi; Mons. Richard E. Pates, obispo de Des Moines, Iowa; Mons. Joseph A. Pepe, obispo de Las Vegas, Nevada; y Mons. Joe S. Vazquez, obispo de Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Raíces y Alas: Thinking and Walking with Their Shepherds

This week the Hispanic national congress “Raíces y Alas 2010” will be held in Chicago. The organizers are the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), an umbrella organization of more than fifty Hispanic Catholic national and regional structures and movements, with an ambitious agenda: “to recreate and reconstruct the vision for national Hispanic ministry.” The congress was convened in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Although this Congress is directed toward leaders in Hispanic ministry, there will be representatives from colleges, universities, religious congregations and U.S. Catholic institutions and movements “recognizing that any aspect of the Church’s ministry affects the Hispanic population. In the same manner, [that] any activity of the Hispanic Catholic community is understood as an activity of the Catholic Church.”

Overall more than 500 participants are expected.

The gathering has been planned as one of “celebration,” theological and pastoral “reflection on the current reality of Hispanic Ministry in the United States,” and “a look toward the future with concrete projections for ministerial actions.”

Notable is that the agenda for the meeting — the reflections on the reality of Hispanics Catholics in the U.S. — will be based on the five priorities of the U.S. Catholic Bishops:
  • Marriage (though in pure Latino fashion, they’ve broaden it up to “Family”)
  • Faith formation and sacramental practice
  • Young people and vocations
  • Life and dignity of the human person
  • Diversity with special emphasis on Hispanics
To our knowledge, this is the first national Catholic organization representing such diversity and scope in ministries and professional interests, with or without an ethnic or cultural focus, that has so plainly and openly stated that it intends to walk with the bishops and make the bishops’ priorities theirs. In fact, they are challenging themselves to reflect on how the structures, ministries, pastoral focus do or do not address those priorities.

Participants will also challenge the diocesan, regional and national structures (including those of the USCCB) and other Catholic associations on how to promote and empower Hispanic leadership on all those areas. This is a sincere effort to think and walk with their shepherds; to step up to the plate and exercise the leadership called by their pastores, el pueblo, and just the sheer numbers.

Against what some viewed, and derided, as “political correctness” on the part of the U.S. bishops —who set cultural diversity with an emphasis on Hispanics as one of their five priorities in their current five-year plan—, the bishops’ efforts to understand, affirm, guide and walk with their diverse flock may just be paying off.

To say that a convening of the Hispanic Catholic leadership at this level is overdue is an understatement. Organizers affirm their “desire to revive the spirit of the Encuentros and celebrate the 10th anniversary of Encuentro 2000.”

The process of the Encuentros guided and provided a national vision for Hispanic pastoral ministry in the last quarter of the 20th century. Fruits of them — there were three— were the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry and the creation of numerous, parish, diocesan, regional and national structures, many local pastoral plans, and associations for the advancement of Hispanic ministry.

As Hispanic Catholics were readying themselves to convene their would-be ‘fourth Encuentro’ in 2000, they were asked to sacrifice — for this one time — the inward cultural/ethnic focus of their Encuentro process and to share it and to transform the Encuentro into a multicultural celebration of the Jubilee. In the end, Encuentro 2000 was a magnificent, massive expression of the Church’s catholicity, of its unity in diversity. It is right, then to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

But Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic ministry also need nurturing and focus. Today’s pastoral realities are not the same as they were 30 and 40 years ago. Neither are the actors — ministers and people alike — or their needs. Thus the structures that serve them, as well as their participation and leadership in the wider Church, need to be reexamined in that light.

The last Encuentro de Pastoral Hispana happened 25 years ago. After 2000, sensing the urgency to address the need to further develop ministry among Hispanics, a leadership consultation was held by the U.S. bishops. This “2001 Symposium” in Colorado Springs, Colorado, led to “Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry,” issued by the U.S. Catholic Bishops as an addendum to the 1987 National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.

Raíces y Alas 2010 promises to be a serious step in the right direction; ambitious indeed but so necessary.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president will be leading participants in prayer on Friday morning. Representing the U.S. bishops in the dialogue will be Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, president of the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity; Coadjutor Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Bishop Jerry Barnes of San Bernardino; Auxiliary Bishop Francisco González of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo García Siller of Chicago, and Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez of Miami. Also, representing the bishops of Puerto Rico will be Bishop Félix Lázaro of Ponce.

Other benefactors and supporters include Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese of Military Services, USA; Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Bishop Walter A. Hurley of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo; Bishop Roger P. Morin of Biloxi, Mississippi; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Bishop Joe S. Vazquez of Austin, Texas.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And So It Begins With Sartain

This morning's appointment of Joliet Bishop Peter Sartain as the new Archbishop of Seattle (succeeding Archbishop Alexander Brunett) is the first U.S. bishop appointment following the traditional summer slow-down at the Vatican. Archbishop-elect Sartain's appointment is also the second appointment of a bishop in the state of Washington in less than three months, the last being the June 30 appointment of Rapid City Bishop Blase Cupich to the Diocese of Spokane.

The remaining bishop in that state, Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, of Yakima, turned 75 last month.

This morning's appointment is also the first U.S. appointment to drop under the leadership of Rome's new Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who was also appointed June 30. The Congregation for Bishops is the Vatican committee that consults with papal nuncios and advises the pope on bishops' appointments worldwide.

With this morning's appointment, the number of U.S. bishops serving past the retirement age of 75 decreases by one, and the number of vacant U.S. dioceses increases by one.

Currently serving past retirement age are:
  • Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of Oklahoma City
  • Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia
  • Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia
  • Bishop John M. Smith of Trenton, New Jersey (whose successor, coadjutor Bishop David O'Connell, has already been named)
  • Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, of Yakima, Washington
  • Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  • Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Florida
Dioceses currently vacant are:
  • San Antonio, Texas, since the April 6 appointment of Archbishop Jose Gomez as coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles.
  • Orlando, Florida, since the April 20 appointment of Archbishop Thomas Wenski to Miami.
  • The Ruthenian Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, since the June 10 death of Archbishop Basil Schott, OFM.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota, since the June 30 appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich to Spokane, Washington.
  • Joliet, Illinois, since the September 16 appointment of Archbishop-elect James Sartain to Seattle.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Benedict XVI and meeting with Victim/Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Reports on Pope Benedict’s September 16-19 visit to England and Scotland where he is expected to meet with victims of sexual abuse by clerics recalls the similar meeting that took place in Washington when the pope visited the United States in 2008. Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston was at that meeting. He recalls the event in the just released book, Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on his Papacy. (Full disclosure: I’m the editor.)The book is available in bookstores and on
Here in Cardinal O’Malley’s own words:
“Prior to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States in 2008, much discussion took place about whether or not the Holy Father would address the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Once the Pope arrived, his words and actions made clear that he would not avoid this painful reality. In the midst of Pope Benedict’s second day in Washington, two of my colleagues from the Archdiocese of Boston and five survivors of clergy sexual gathered in the chapel at the Vatican embassy for what turned out to be an historic and pivotal meeting with the Pope. We spoke with the Holy Father about the impact of the abuse crisis, and heard his message of hope and reconciliation. For many Catholics in the United States, and members of the wider community, this meeting was the high point of the Papal Visit and one of the Holy Father’s most important actions.
During our very prayerful and emotional encounter with the Holy Father, we were blessed with an extraordinary opportunity to witness Pope Benedict not only as the leader of our Church, but as our pastor. The Holy Father took care to address each person individually and provided the survivors the time to speak freely. It was evident that at times they shared their painful experiences in a whisper. The Holy Father listened intently, often clasping the survivors’ hands, and responded tenderly and reassuringly. One of the survivors, unable to find words, conveyed her heartache through tears that spoke volumes with her ‘sounds of sorrow.’ Though we would not hear the Pope’s private conversation with the woman, by observing her moving from tears to a calmed, smiling expression, we knew that the Pope had gently comforted her. Later that day, she shared with us that the Holy Father had offered his congratulations on learning that she would soon be married. In doing so, the Holy Father helped her to experience a healing moment and to see a future that would hold the promise of renewed hope and joy.”
Similar meetings have occurred since then and reveal the pastoral side of the pope who has taken strong steps to address the terrible human sin that has blighted the Catholic Church and been strongly condemned by him. The crime touches him deeply, as he indicated to reporters flying with him to the United States : “I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future.” He went on to say that, “It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen…It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.”
Pope Benedict has enough staff to deal with painful and troublesome matters. That he chooses to become so personally involved in addressing this crisis speaks loudly of his caring, commitment and leadership.

Friday, September 10, 2010

“Cash-for-Work” programs helping Haitians get self sufficient

Guest blogger Todd Scribner, of USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, brings to our attention today the “Cash-for-Work” program that is helping people in Haiti to earn a living while preparing the country to live through the first rainy season after the earthquake:

The January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti left tens of thousands of people with next to nothing. Homes were destroyed, businesses closed and, worst of all, lives lost. In its immediate aftermath, hundreds of thousands of people in the Port-Au-Prince area were forced to move into tent camps set up throughout the city. Thanks to the dedication of organizations like Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the basic needs of people living in these camps were taken care of in the following months.

At the end of March, the Haitian government ended the general food distribution services in the camps, with the hope that Haitians living there would become more self sufficient. In response, and as a way to help achieve this objective, CRS and other organizations that were running camps around the city put into place a “Cash for Work” program. This program has provided some employment opportunities for people living in the camps in and around Port-Au-Prince.

Their aim was to give people more than just handouts; to offer an opportunity to make some money that could then be used as an investment in a small business of their own or to cover the cost of their daily necessities. Cash-for-work programs also provide residents an opportunity to reinvest in their own community and in doing so help the local economy. The jobs that people fill provide vital services for their neighborhood, including digging drainage channels to protect against flooding and ensuring that washrooms remain clean, so as to avoid the spread of disease.

Visit to see a short video on the indispensible contribution that the cash-for-work program provides in preparing for and living through the rainy season in Haiti and the dangers of flooding that accompany it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


The rancor that a Florida pastor of 50 people can create with inflammatory rhetoric and threats to burn the Koran, Islam’s holy book, is sad on many levels. When rumors of the planned desecration first surfaced, most people thought it best ignored. Now, given the bizarre nature of 21st century media, where every oddball can have frequent five minutes of fame, the church leader of a few dozen in Gainesville may have become the best known pastor in the world. Amazingly, he seems to be finding a bit of ripe soil in an anxious world where rather than sow peace he sows discord.

Pastor Terry Jones’s distortion of Islam undercuts efforts for peace, which are part of interfaith efforts of Christians, Jews and Muslims. The spirit of this dialogue was stated clearly by King Abdullah of Jordan, in a foreword he wrote for an about-to-be-released book Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy. It is available through Amazon .com and other distributors and soon will be in bookstores nationwide. (Full disclosure: I’m editor of the work.)
Here are some of King Abdullah’s remarks in which he referred to Pope Benedict’s visit to Jordan in 2009.
“His Holiness spoke of his own deep faith, but also of the important common ground between Christianity and Islam -- the central commandment of both faiths: to love God and love our fellow human beings,’ King Abdullah said.

“Pope Benedict XVI's visit will long be remembered in Jordan. But at this critical time in history, its impact goes far beyond. Today, Muslims and Christians make up more than half the world's population. Misunderstanding and conflict between us would devastate all humanity. Working together is essential to the future all of us want: a healthy planet, peace among nations, the end to poverty, and bright futures for today's children. To me, these efforts and more are global expressions of the "love of neighbour" that God commands.

“By the bridges he is working to build between faiths, by his engagement in a global dialogue of mutual respect, His Holiness has won tremendous appreciation. His words of wisdom have reached millions of people on every continent. It is my hope that together, we can expand this dialogue to engage all our people in finding their common ground. For Muslims such an endeavour is an integral part of faith. For, God Almighty has said in the Holy Quran: O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know each other. (49:13)

“ Nowhere are our shared interests clearer than in the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Everything that can be seen in these countries,’ said His Holiness, ‘cries out for reconciliation, justice and peace.’ A special concern is safeguarding the multifaith identity of Jerusalem, Holy City to all three monotheistic faiths -- in His Holiness's words, ‘a microcosm of our globalized world.’ His call to conscience and his global statesmanship are vitally important to achieving the only settlement that will last -- two sovereign, recognized states, with freedom and statehood for Palestinians, and the security and acceptance Israelis need.

“These and other challenges of our age call us to come together, on common ground, to do God's will on earth. In this effort, Pope Benedict XVI has raised his voice for reason, justice, and love. May his efforts continue fruitful for many years to come.”

Let’s hope peace-loving people of all religions can be heard above the din in Gainesville.
# # #

Responding to Hate with Love

On September 8 at noon, religious leaders, including two priests of the Diocese of St. Augustine, gathered at an Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Florida for an "Interfaith Prayer Service for Unity and Remembrance" to honor the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While such services will no doubt spring up all over the country as the ninth anniversary of 9-11 passes, what set the Gainesville gathering apart was that it was a response/alternative to the now on-again, off-again plans by Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville to burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11.

The response of the Florida Catholic community was not limited to these two priests. Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine wrote an August 28 letter to the editor of The Gainesville Sun, in which he said burning the Qur'an "presents a counter-witness to the Gospel message by engendering fear and hatred rather than the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. The proliferation of negative stereotypes in the media, distorted information, and caricatures of Muslims and other faith traditions must be addressed at every level of society."

On September 7, the story leaped to the national stage, first when General David Petraeus said such an act could endanger U.S. troops overseas and then when dozens of religious leaders issued a statement condemning not only Qur'an burning, but the "anti-Muslim frenzy" in U.S. culture. Speakers at the event included Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, who was quoted in a Catholic News Service story as saying, "I fear the story of this animosity will be taken to be the story of the real America. It's not. America was not built on hatred, but love. ... This is not the real America. When you attack one religion, you attack them all."

A day later, the Vatican itself entered the fray with a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue saying that the acts of 9-11 "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community. Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection."

A day after that, the U.S. bishops affirmed both the words of the Vatican and the U.S. interreligious leaders with a statement of their own.

That the Catholic Church would join the chorus of voices roundly condemning anti-Muslim actions is no surprise. Nor is it news and different. The Church's position on Islam -- and non-Christian religions in general -- has been firmly in place since the Second Vatican Council issued Nostra Aetate in 1965. Section 3 of this document describes at length the esteem the Church has for Muslims:

They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

The words of the Council fathers are particularly striking against the current cultural backdrop, what the statement from U.S. religious leaders called an "anti-Muslim frenzy." They cite the example of the controversy surrounding efforts to build an Islamic community center near ground zero in New York. The Church weighed in on that issue too, not by taking sides, but with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio offering to serve as a peaceful mediators in the dispute.

But both "Koran Burning Day" and the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy suggest a creeping cultural acceptance of prejudice and hostility toward Muslims. This would be alarming in its own right, but it's also distressing since, in the days following 9-11, Americans seemed to get it right -- that the attackers were violent extremists, not faithful representatives of Islam. President George W. Bush said in 2002: "Millions of our fellow Americans practice the Muslim faith. They lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion. ... Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace."

It seems perceptions have deteriorated a great deal in eight years.

Whatever the cause of what the U.S. bishops call the "derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America's Muslim community," it's clear that U.S. Catholics are in a position to make a positive difference. As always, Catholics are called to embrace the Church's teaching, even when -- or perhaps especially when -- those teachings (on abortion, immigration, social justice, etc.) are countercultural.

The letter from Bishop Galeone suggests that the teaching to embrace here is unconditional love of neighbor. The statement from the U.S. bishops says religious intolerance has no place in a country built on religious freedom. And the Vatican puts it into perhaps the sharpest perspective by saying anti-Muslim bigotry is no way to honor the memories of those who lost their lives on 9-11. Whether responding to acts of terrorism or acts of intolerance by fellow Americans, the Christian challenge will always be to respond to hate with love.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heads Up: Haiti Report Coming

The U.S. bishops’ delegation that visited Haiti earlier this summer, led by Miami’s Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, will soon publish a report on their fact-finding mission along with several recommendations. Over the next few days, we will highlight some of the main findings ahead of the release. In the meantime we want to draw your attention to progress reports by some of the agencies involved in the visitation.

Though there are tremendous amounts of rubble still lying around in and around Port-au-Prince and the lack of heavy machinery available has slowed its removal considerably — sometimes to a frustrating point — the process of moving thousands of Haitians from tent camps to temporary housing certainly has begun. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers some pictures along with some first-hand accounts of the work accomplished in the last 6-7 months sprinkled with some interesting facts and financial stats.

The mission included staff representatives from Migration and Refugee Services and the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC), and Catholic Relief Services.

Father Juan Molina, Policy advisor for the International Peace and Justice Office, who travelled with the delegation, weighs in on our Haiti page on what he saw and heard the local people say about Haiti’s upcoming elections in November:

“The upcoming elections are important for the stability of a democratic government,” many people said, but it seems they want more than the power to vote. They want to create a future together. People want a transparent electoral process. But they also want to move beyond that to a process of dialogue that can help Haiti and its government find solutions to the challenges of good governance, development, and inclusion.
Read full article here.

More on Haiti’s recovery efforts and how Haitians are enduring soon. Stay tuned.