Lebanese bishops warn failure to reach consensus will mean chaos

Beirut, Lebanon, Nov.11,2007 (CINS/CNS) -- Lebanon's Catholic bishops warned that rival politicians' failure to agree on a consensus candidate for the presidency will lead the country to unprecedented disruption.

The prelates admonished pro-government and opposition leaders and insisted that elections take place "on time and in line with the constitution."

"The general situation (that) Lebanon is suffering does not call for tranquility, especially the presidential issue, which the Lebanese wait for with anxiety because of the strong tension between the pro-government (forces) and the opposition," said the Maronite bishops, following their Nov. 7 meeting.

"That's why we reiterate with insistence our appeal for unity, so the presidential issue will be held in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution," they said.

Time is running out for Lebanon's parliament to elect a new head of state before current Lebanese President Emile Lahoud steps down Nov. 24. Lahoud served one six-year term as stipulated by the constitution. In 2004 his term was extended three years by mandate, under pressure from Syria.

According to Lebanon's Constitution, the presidential post is reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

Presidential elections have been delayed twice, in September and October, due to a lack of consensus, and the scheduled Nov. 12 session was unlikely to occur unless there was a deal between Lebanon's ruling majority and the opposition.

Lebanon's need to fill the presidential post has been accompanied by a flurry of diplomatic activity, both inside and outside the country.

A few hours before meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman Nov. 8, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch, told reporters, "No one can solve our problems better than us (the Lebanese)."

Cardinal Sfeir noted that "the situation we are going through now is worse than what it was 30 years ago."

"Some are saying the Lebanese will try to use arms to settle matters," he warned, adding that history has proved that violence "solved nothing."

The cardinal repeated the importance of electing a president "who is at an equal distance" from political forces and who can bring about Lebanese stability.

In their statement, the bishops said: "The persistence of both sides (the ruling majority and the opposition) to stick to their positions puts the whole country in a critical situation and complete paralysis. This not only obstructs the democratic system which characterizes Lebanon, it will lead Lebanon to a disruption it has never faced before."

They placed blame on both parties for the current political deadlock -- the ruling majority for monopolizing the vote and the opposition for threatening to boycott the election.

In recent weeks, Bkerke, the headquarters of the Maronite Catholic Church, was the venue for a series of meetings among rival Christian leaders on the issue of the presidency. No consensus was reached.

"Finally," the bishops pointed out, "the responsibility (for the presidency) falls upon the parliament. It is a historic responsibility before God, conscience and the country."

"The Lebanese people, in general, are fed up with politicians," the bishops added. At this point, they said, people are concerned about "their daily bread, their children's tuition and daily worries because of the dreadful high cost of living, lack of job opportunities and economic paralysis."

Since the summer of 2006, for example, food costs have increased approximately 25 percent.


Karnataka Bishops’ Council to organise ‘Kristhotsava’, Celebration of the life and mission of Jesus Christ

Bangalore, India, Nov.09, 2007 (CINS/SAR) - The Karnataka Regional Catholic Bishops’ Council (KRCBC) will organise ‘Krishthotsava’, a three-day celebration of the life and mission of Jesus Christ, November 8-10, at the Good Shephered Convent Auditorium, Museum Road, Bangalore.

Speaking to reporters November 6, president of KRCBC, Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, said the congress would help spread the message of Jesus Christ through Christian educational institutions and hospitals.

“The theme this year is ‘Retelling the Story of Christ’. His message must be made relevant for everyone and it has to be lived and shared with others through self-less love and service,” he said.

The congress will host over 1,200 participants from the 11 Catholic dioceses of Karnataka. It will be inaugurated by Cardinal -designate Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India.

The event will be celebrated with prayers, worship, music and sharing of art and culture. An exhibition depicting the life and mission of Christ will also be organised, Archbishop Moras said.


Mass for deceased Cardinals and Bishops

Vatican City,Nov.05,2007 (CINS/VIS) - Continuing a November tradition, this morning the Pope celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the souls of the cardinals and bishops who died this past year. Concelebrating with the Holy Father were the members of the College of Cardinal s.

At the beginning of the homily, Benedict XVI named the cardinals who had died in the past twelve months: Salvatore Pappalardo, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi Bamungwabi, Antonio María Javierre, Angelo Felici, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Edouard Gagnon, Adam Koz?owiecki and Rosalio José Castillo Lara.

The Pope offered an invitation to give thanks to God "for the gift he has given the Church through them and for all the good achieved with their help. Likewise," he stated, "we entrust the souls of the departed patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops to the Eternal Father, also expressing our recognition of their work in the name of the entire Catholic community."

These men, our brothers, he continued, "were certainly men of distinct character, both for their personal trials as well as for the ministry they exercised. Nevertheless, they all had a great commonality: their friendship with the Lord Jesus."

"During their temporal existence," the Holy Father asserted, "Jesus led them to know the name of God, granting them participation in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, (...) an experience of divine communion that, by its nature, tends to envelop one's entire existence, transfiguring it and preparing it for the glory of eternal life."

Commenting on the responsorial psalm, "My soul is thirsting for God, for the living God. When will I see the face of God?," the Pope emphasized that "this thirst holds a truth that does not betray, a hope that does not delude. It is a thirst that, even through the darkest night, illuminates that path toward the source of life."

Benedict XVI pointed out that the psalm acquires a tone of confidence at its heart as well as at its end: "Why are you discouraged, my soul, why do you worry me? Trust in God that I may praise him, my salvation and my God." In the light of Christ and his paschal mystery these words reveal a wonderful truth: not even death can render a believer's hope worthless because Christ," he concluded, "has entered the sanctuary of heaven for us and wants to lead us there where he has prepared us a place."


Cardinal Ricard leaves the presidency of the French Bishops

Bordeaux, France, Nov.01,2007 (CINS/SIR)- A positive balance. The Church of France is full of “signs” that make us “hope”. It was drawn up by card. Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, since 2001 president of the French Bishops Conference. After two mandates, at the next General Assembly, due in Lourdes from 3rd to 8th November, card. Ricard will leave his position as president of the French Bishops Conference. In an interview published today on the French Catholic daily paper La Croix, the cardinal draws up his balance of these 6 years. Despite “the movement of laicisation” that is spreading above all in the West, undermining “people’s relations with faith and the Church”, there are – said the archbishop – “Christians who are committed to ecclesial life, men and women who rediscover the walk of faith, many devotees who invest in Christian education. These signs make us hope”.

Seen from Rome – comments the journalist –, France remains an “enfant terrible”, especially because of the drop in the number of callings. “These arguments – replies Ricard – are the same as 15 years ago. Nowadays, Rome says the opposite is true. Rome knows that our situation is difficult and knows what we have done to keep our Church alive”. 


Mass for the faithful departed of the Chinese Church, appeal for bishops release

Hong Kong, Oct.29,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – A mass in suffrage of Msgr. John Han Dingxiang, bishop of Yongnian who died “in mysterious circumstances” and cremated immediately afterwards, but also an appeal for the release of all Catholics “unjustly” detained in China.  This is the objective set out by Hong Kong’s Justice and peace Commission who have organised a mass for November 2nd next to which all of the faithful across the territory have been invited.                                                   

The ceremony will be presided over by Fr. Jacob Kwok in a church in Kowloon. According to Fr. Gianni Criveller, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and expert on the Church in China, “this initiative is laudable, because it underlines the closeness of Catholics in China and the universality of the Church.  Moreover it is the first time that a mass of this nature will be celebrated here, in which a deceased member of the Chinese Church will be remembered”.

The initiative was launched by the Commission, which published an article in the diocesan weekly Kung Kao Po. In the article Fr. Criveller goes on to explain, “The seriousness of Msgr. Han’s death is underlined (to find out more, click here) and the many interrogatives regarding the situation of the Church, which Beijing has still to answer.  What’s more, the members of the Commission recall that the Olympics should be and occasion for greater openness in China, which has yet to concede full religious freedom”.

The death of the Yongnian bishop provoked widespread disdain among figures across the Catholic world.  Even the Vatican daily, Osservatore Romano, expressed it’s “sorrow at the death of the prelate and the circumstance surrounding his burial, which forbid the participation of priests and Catholic faithful”.

The Kung Kao Po article, goes on to recall that “religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and this is why it must be conceded to every individual.  We are particularly concerned for the welfare of elderly and ill bishops, who should be able to receive the necessary medical care”.  Among these are underlined the “unjust living conditions” of  Msgr. Giulio Jia Zhiguo, bishop of Zhengding; Msgr. James Su Zhimin,  bishop of Baoding and missing since 1997 and Msgr. Cosma Shi Enxiang of Yixian, arrested in 2001.

Every year, concludes Fr. Criveller, “The Commission celebrates a mass for the deceased of Tiananmen, therefore these initiatives held to remember the sensitive situations in China are not unknown.  This mass represents another step forward, a considerable gesture that must be supported”.


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