Bishops of Argentina denounce drug abuse widespread among youth

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov.14,2007 (CINS/Fides) - "Drug abuse, synonym of death " is the title of an pastoral Letter issued by the Catholic Bishops of Argentina at the end of their 94th plenary assembly 5-9 November. In the letter the Bishops remark on the "pain of many families all over the country whose children have been trapped by the effects of drug abuse and its consequences of death and destruction". The Bishops say drug trafficking is firmly established in the country and prospers destroying families and spreading death. Argentina “is not longer a passage way for drugs... drug abuse is widespread among our young people and it takes advantage of the innocence and fragility of children", generating corruption and death,,, drug abuse is dehumanising, it annuls the gift of freedom, causes programmes for life to fail and subject families suffering and grief".

One of the principal causes of this terrible evil the Bishops say is a lack of roots for young people "a precarious present and an uncertain future", very often "if they are unable to find adults willing to listen to them", they fall into "an existential void", and so "drug addiction is not just a problem of ‘substance’, it is a matter of culture, values, life style and decisions". The Bishops say the situation is serious and calls for action on the part of the whole of society, "a social network to promote a culture of life". The Letter gives three principal directions: "promote a culture of life based on transcendent dignity of every human person called to happiness and to live free of all slavery"; remove false illusions that drugs can be taken and left easily; "denounce and pursue traders of death who destroy humanity with their scandalous trafficking, especially the younger generations. The state must invest resources to fight drug trafficking and consumption".

The Bishops conclude expressing a "desire to serve society and help to tackle this evil. The Conference is preparing a programme of pastoral care to be a sign of God's love to those who suffer. The Bishops also express trust that "God the Father will inspire us that we may give an opportune and effective response to this tragedy".

Refusing to hide pectoral Crosses, Austrian Bishops not allowed to the Wailing Wall

Jerusalem, Nov.14,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) –Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, denied a delegation of Austrian bishop’s access to the Wailing Wall, because they were wearing their pectoral crosses.  The group of prelates was led by Card. Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna.

According to directives set out by Rabinovitch, the wearing of the Latin cross before the Western Wall of Jerusalem, one of the most sacred places for Jewish people is forbidden. “Crosses are a symbol that hurts Jewish feelings”, explained the Rabbi.

The Austrian Embassy cultural attaché Arad Benko told Associated Press (AP) the delegation of bishops “did not know of the existence of this dress code”. On November 8th last the “Archbishop and bishops arrived in their traditional dress complete with crosses and robes” – said Benko – “At the entrance they were stopped and told they could not come in unless they removed their crosses”. Instead, they retreated to a nearby terrace with view of the Wall, reserved to non Hebrews.

Card. Schonborn says he “was not disappointed” by the episode: “Our decision to heed the requests not to approach the Wall was made out of respect for the religious sensitivities of the Jews”.  Contacted by AsiaNews the cardinal reiterated in fact that the event “is not of any importance” and expresses his understanding of Rabinovitch wishes. “Neither do we Christians allow non believers come up to the altar”, he said.

For his part, the Wailing Wall Rabbi immediately clarified his position with AP, saying his decision was not made out of religious intolerance: “They did not have to take them off, just hide them. I've never encountered a Christian who has refused, including the Pope”. A somewhat provocatory and erroneous declaration, given the historic photo of John Paul II praying before the Wall in the Jubilee year 2000, wearing his pectoral cross.

U.S. Bishops elect Cardinal Francis George as president as expected

Baltimore, U.S.A, Nov 13, 2007 (CINS/CNA).- This morning in Baltimore, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected Cardinal Francis George as their new president as was anticipated. Cardinal George gained the presidency handily winning 85% of the vote in the first round of voting.

Commenting immediately after Cardinal George’s selection the outgoing president Bishop William Skylstad said, “I think that our applause speaks louder than any words could, congratulations, profound congratulations.”

Once Cardinal George was elected, the bishops moved on to choose the vice president from the remaining field of candidates. According to the rules for voting, the vice president must be chosen by a maximum of three votes, which it came down to.

On the final vote, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon was tapped to be the vice president by a 55% to 45% margin over Bishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee. Kicanas’ election to the number two slot means that barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will become the president in three years.

Unlike past USCCB elections, the prospect of Cardinal George as president has raised some controversy because of comments he made about legislation being proposed for sex abuse cases.

The legislature of Illinois has proposed the suspension of the statute of limitations for clerical sex abuse cases which the cardinal wrote was “not about the safety of children as the sponsor claims, and is clearly, to me at least, about money.” Cardinal George’s remarks echo those made earlier this year by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. 

Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences:The “Eucharist as Communication” is theme of the next Bishops' Meet

Bangkok , Thailand, Nov.13,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – The “Eucharist as Communication” is the theme of this year's Bishops' Meet. Organised by the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), it will be held at Bangkok’s Gabrielite Center from November 26 to December 1.

The press release issued announcing the event indicated that the theme was chosen in view of the next FABC Plenary Assembly which will take place in early 2009 on the theme the “Living Eucharist in Asia.”

The upcoming 12th annual Bishops' Meet will start from the Eucharist as the “most intimate form of communion between God and men possible in this life” (Communio et Progressio, 11), and them move to explore the “Role of Meals and Celebrations in Asian Cultures,” the “Communication Dimension of Liturgy” and the “Eucharist and Inculturation.”

The Bishops' Meet has taken place since 1996 on an annual basis. It brings together bishops in charge of communication in Asia and their secretaries in the bishops’ conferences.

The participants deliver reports on their work in their respective countries.

At the end of the meeting, a Final Statement is published on the considerations and recommendations made by the participants.

Saturday in the Vatican: A telegram of condolences, Portuguese Bishops and Italian Confraternities

Vatican City, Nov.12,2007 (CINS/EWTN:Joan's Rome) - It was a very busy Saturday morning for the Holy Father, who sent a telegram of condolences for the death at age 77 of Japanese Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, and then met separately with Portuguese Bishops and, in St. Peter’s Square, with 40,000 members of Italian Confraternities.

In his telegram, Benedict spoke of Cardinal Hamao's pastoral ministry for nearly two decades in Yokohama, as well as his "lively concern for the poor and his generous service to the universal Church" as president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. Commending "the soul of this proud son of the Japanese people to the loving mercy of God our heavenly Father,” the Pope also wrote to the cardinal’s sister, Teresa Teruko Uematsu, assuring her of his prayers for the repose of the soul of her late brother.

Also on Saturday, the Pope met with the bishops of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference as they concluded their quinquennial "ad limina" visit. He gave an overview of activities and initiatives undertaken by the Church in Portugal in recent years, and spoke in particular of the need “to change the manner of organization of the Portuguese ecclesial community and the mentality of its members," so as to ensure "that the Church marches to the rhythm of Vatican Council II and that the functions of clergy and laity remain clearly established." Benedict XVI underscored that, “ecclesiology of communion in accordance with the Council, is the right path that must be followed," without however, "losing sight of possible obstacles such as horizontalism, ... democratization in the attribution of sacramental ministries, parity between conferred orders and new services, and discussion over which of the members of the community is first (a useless discussion because the Lord Jesus has already decided who is last)."

The Pope pointed to “the large number of non-practicing Christians in your dioceses," saying, "it might be worthwhile to verify 'the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically Eucharistic direction.” He closed by recalling celebrations for the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

An estimated 40,000 members of confraternities in Italian dioceses gathered in St. Peter’s Square Saturday morning for Mass, at the end of which the Pope arrived in the square to greet everyone. He highlighted "the importance and influence confraternities have had in the Christian communities of Italy since the early centuries of last millennium" and how they soon became "groups of lay faithful dedicated to accentuating certain features of popular religiosity associated with the life of Jesus Christ ... and with devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints," often combining this with "works of mercy and solidarity."

He noted how confraternities were formed in the Middle Ages, “a time when structured forms of public assistance ensuring social and health care for the weakest groups of society still did not exist.” However, he said, confraternities "are not mere mutual-assistance societies or philanthropic associations, but groups of brothers who, wishing to live the Gospel in the awareness of being a living part of the Church, aim to put into practice the commandment of love, which encourages people to open their hearts to others, especially to those in difficulty. … In the period of great change we are going through, the Church ... also needs you, dear friends, to ensure that the announcement of the Gospel of charity reaches everyone, along old paths and new.”


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