Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
World News in Brief
Vatican commission to study Medjugorje events
At the request of the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Vatican has established an international commission to study the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, a small Bosnian town.
The commission will be led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired archbishop of Rome, and will operate under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican announced March 17. Commission members will include cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
Lombardi said the commission would have about 20 members, but he did not say if or when their names would be published.
The commission is unlikely to make any statements, he said. Their work and recommendations, if any, will be turned over to the doctrinal congregation.
The commission's work, he said, is expected "to take some time."
In 1991 the bishops' conference of Yugoslavia issued a statement saying "it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occurring here." It also asked priests and bishops not to organize official pilgrimages to the town.
In 1996, the Vatican confirmed that official pilgrimages should not be held, but also said individual Catholics who travel to Medjugorje should be given pastoral care and access to the sacraments.
Number of priests continues to decline
The number of priests and religious in Canada continues to decline, while there is ongoing growth in the number of permanent deacons. The annual Directory of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that the number of priests in Canada fell from 7,846 in 2008 to 7,546 in 2009. A comparison with earlier directories shows that since 1998, the number of priests has declined from 9,594, a decrease of 21.3 per cent. However, the number of permanent deacons across the country rose from 1,472 to 1,511 in one year and has increased from 856 in 1998, a jump of 72 per cent.
The number of religious sisters has fallen from 24,040 in 1998 to 16,945 in 2009, a decline of 29.5 per cent. Since 1998, the number of religious brothers has decreased from 2,284 to 1,511 and the number of parishes and missions across Canada has been cut from 5,681 to 5,043.
U.S. passes health care bill over bishops' objections
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an historic health reform bill March 21 but rejected a last-ditch effort to send a package of legislative fixes back to committee in order to insert language on abortion supported by the U.S. bishops.
There was no immediate comment on the votes from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said in a March 20 letter to the House the Hyde amendment must be included in the final health reform measure. The bishops also had urged enhanced conscience protections.
The House votes came only after the White House promised that President Barack Obama would sign an executive order stipulating that the Hyde amendment would apply to the health reform legislation.
In a March 21 memo, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said the courts would override any executive order or regulation that is not part of the legislation. "Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation."
Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, praised the legislation, saying it "represents great progress in the long effort to make health care available and affordable to everyone in the United States."
Tensions mount between Church, Mexico City gov't
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard was witness to four same-sex marriages March 11 in Mexico City, the first such unions in the country and the first ones under new laws approved in the Mexican capital. The Mexico City Archdiocese expressed disappointment. Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, archdiocesan spokesman, said in a statement March 11, "It's clear that Mr. Marcelo Ebrard is responsible for the approval and execution of these laws that are destructive to the family and he doesn't conceal his aversion to the churches and the majority of people he governs, who profess the Christian faith and reject the perversion of their most cherished values." The disagreement escalated tensions between the archdiocese and the local government. During the last three years Mexico City also decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy - and paid for abortions performed in public hospitals - and liberalized euthanasia laws.
Nuclear deterrence unacceptable - UN nuncio
Nuclear deterrence - the concept that possessing nuclear weapons will thwart an enemy from attacking - is preventing the much-needed goal of disarmament from being achieved, said the papal nuncio to the United Nations. Archbishop Celestino Migliore also told an audience at Georgetown University March 16 that the conditions that prevailed during the Cold War and that provided the basis for the Church's "limited toleration of nuclear deterrence" no longer exist. The nuncio's comments came during a panel discussion on nuclear issues.
Status of women improving but many face hardships
The status of women around the world has improved in the last 15 years with better educational opportunities, less discrimination and more laws against domestic violence, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said March 8. The progress of women also can be seen in their promotion as "key to eradicating poverty and fostering development" and the growth of their participation in civil society, the Vatican's UN nuncio told leaders of the world body. However, women continue to suffer, he said. Women and girls remain victims of various forms of violence, including "female feticide and infanticide," and account for a significant number of those infected by HIV/AIDS, he said. They also make up the majority of those who are trafficked across international borders and sexually exploited, Migliore said.
U.S. Latinos becoming secularized - study
A new analysis of religious identification data finds that contrary to popular belief, U.S. Latinos are not leaving Catholicism for Protestant churches. Instead, they are affiliating themselves with no faith at all. A study released March 16 by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., reported that although Latinos remain predominantly Catholic, those who have left the Church since 1990 have shifted more toward secularism as they become Americanized. The study compared changes in the Latino population's responses to questions about faith between 1990 and 2008. Among Latinos, those who said they identify with no faith grew from six per cent in 1990 to 12 per cent in 2008.
Bishops urge neutrality in Thai political conflictHeadline
The bishops of Thailand urged all Catholics to remain neutral as the country's political conflict deepens. The call came as the Thai government faced growing challenges by anti-government campaigners demanding new elections. "The Church shouldn't take any side and judge who is correct or wrong as this will create more conflict," said Father Pipat Rungruangkanokkul, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand. Thousands of supporters of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have descended on Bangkok, demanding that the government dissolve the lower house of parliament and call new elections.
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