The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem said he hoped that an effort to grant full UN membership to Palestine would be a step toward eventual peace in the region, leading to the “two-state solution.”
In a Sept. 20 interview in the suburban Washington offices of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Patriarch Fouad Twal told Catholic News Service (CNS) that “the question of full membership for Palestine does not mean the end of negotiations. On the contrary, they must continue negotiating and speaking to find a solution for everybody, peace for everybody, and security for everybody.”
Patriarch Twal, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, said that, in preaching about peace, he often says that it must be “peace for all the inhabitants, otherwise nobody can enjoy peace.” He and other Christian leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, often cite a two-state solution as the desired path to peace.
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, which administers the West Bank, plans to submit a formal request for UN membership and Palestinian statehood Sept. 23 after he addresses the General Assembly. The Palestinian organization has been an observer entity at the UN since 1974, but that conveys no voting privileges.
The bid for full membership is considered a step toward status as a sovereign nation, though it would not by itself create a Palestinian state.
The effort is opposed by the US, which will have a vote on the question in the UN Security Council. If that fails, the Palestinians may appeal directly to the General Assembly for status as a nonmember state observer, the same status held by the Holy See.
Patriarch Twal said that it’s time to “give back to the Holy Land its vocation as holy, not land, but as holy, as a land of peace, of coexistence, a land of cooperation between all people.”
He said the Palestinian people have shown great patience through decades of promises by political and religious leaders that have failed to come to fruition.
“They hoped, we hoped, I hoped in many international resolutions that were never fulfilled,” he said. “There needs to be some credibility from the leaders, from political leaders, and religious leaders. To give this credibility we must have some concrete steps.”
Patriarch Twal said Palestinians have shown great patience despite wars, checkpoints and other obstacles of daily life, and he expects that will be the reaction if the UN efforts fail. However, the climate in the region following citizen-led uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen might well help feed similar unrest among Palestinians, he said, adding, “This is good for nobody.”
“For people to have a sense of peace and hope and quiet they need trust,” he said. “For now there is no trust and hope.”
In a Sept. 15 statement, Patriarch Twal and 10 other heads of Christian communities in Jerusalem called on decision-makers and people of good will to “do their utmost to achieve the long-awaited justice, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians so that the prophecy of Prophet David is lived again.”
It listed five principles they said should guide decisions about Palestine’s status. They said a two-state solution “serves the cause of peace and justice” in the dispute over which community has claim to the territory.
Israelis and Palestinians should each live in independent states “with peace and justice, respecting human rights according to international law,” it said.
They added that Jerusalem is “a holy city to the followers of all three Abrahamic faiths, in which all people should be able to live in peace and tranquility, a city to be shared by the two peoples and the three faiths.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem functions like an archdiocese, and includes Latin-rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Cyprus, and Jordan.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services in the US is welcoming a steady increase of priestly vocations after declining numbers in recent years.
The upcoming fall academic year will greet 31 new seminarians compared with 23 last year, 12 in 2009, and only three in 2008.
Fr. Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv. and director of vocations, noted that the rise in numbers is due to recruiting efforts as well as Catholic bishops around the US agreeing to co-sponsor seminarians.
Fr. Abbott said that the archdiocese “is most grateful” for the bishops’ support and explained that co-sponsorship involves a diocesan bishop accepting a young man as a seminarian who will then participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the US armed forces.
The process then requires a bishop agreeing to release the seminarian for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he will return to the diocese.
“This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and those faithful fervently seeking to respond to the voice of God,” Fr. Abbott said.
The vocations director said he expects anywhere from five to 10 more men to enter seminaries next year, and that the archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains.
He also said that the timing couldn’t be better in light of the US armed forces experiencing a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. The number of military priests is down from more than 400 active in 2001, to 274 this year.
Statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, show that nearly 10 percent of men ordained as US Catholic priests over the past two years had previously served in the military with another 10 percent coming from military families.
“When you think about it, this makes complete sense,” Fr. Abbott said. “Both the military and the priesthood rely on a largely common set of foundational values, including a commitment to service, self-discipline, and a higher calling.”
“So it should come as no surprise that so many of our seminarians come from a military background and a growing number are looking to go back to the life they know after ordination.”
Fr. Abbott said the influx of seminarians poses a “delightful dilemma” on how to pay for the 50 percent share of the students’ five-year education. In just three years, the archdiocese’s annual seminary bill has climbed from less than $40,000 to more than $350,000.
The Knights of Columbus recently announced a new “Venerable Fr. McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” that will provide $200,000 a year over the next five years for the seminarians. The archdiocese is now in search of additional funding sources to make up the difference.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, remains a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Amarillo, TX, said Msgr. Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy in the diocese.
Msgr. Waldow said Sept. 13 that Bp. Patrick J. Zurek only suspended Fr. Pavone’s ministry outside of the diocese because the well-known pro-life priest is needed for work in Amarillo.
Bp. Zurek in a decree Sept. 6 ordered the 52-year-old New York-born priest to return to Amarillo and announced it in a Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops. He pointed to “persistent questions and concerns” from clergy and laity about how the millions of dollars donated to Priests for Life are used as the reason for suspending Fr. Pavone’s ministry.
“He’s here to be obedient to the bishop and try to work with the bishop,” Msgr. Waldow said. “He’s going to have assignments, and he will be put on our payroll and given health care and other benefits like any other priest of the diocese.”
For his part, Fr. Pavone said he planned to return to Amarillo the evening of Sept. 13 from Birmingham, AL, where he had been taping programs for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) for more than a week. He also planned to meet Msgr. Waldow soon after he arrived.
Both Msgr. Waldow and Fr. Pavone said no meeting was immediately scheduled with Bp. Zurek, who was leaving the diocese the afternoon of Sept. 13 for two weeks.
Fr. Pavone also said he has already explored the possibility of being incardinated in another diocese so he could resume full-time ministry with Priests for Life as soon as possible.
“I fully expect that my time in Amarillo, both in terms of this immediate trip and in terms of my affiliation with that diocese is going to be temporary,” he said.
Fr. Pavone added that he has appealed the suspension to the Congregation of the Clergy at the Vatican.
In his own letter to the bishops Sept. 12, Fr. Pavone questioned the reason for the suspension of his ministry outside of Amarillo and said that Bp. Zurek’s claim that Priests for Life has operated with no financial transparency was unfounded.
He cited a list of 41 documents detailing the finances of the organization provided to Bp. Zurek since 2005, when he was incardinated in the Amarillo Diocese by Bp. John W. Yanta, who served on the organization’s board of advisers. Fr. Pavone said the documents continued to be sent to Bp. Zurek even after Priests for Life closed a small office in Amarillo while the organization studied whether to relocate its headquarters from New York to the Texas panhandle.
No acknowledgement of the documents was ever received, the priest wrote.
“We do not presume any ill will here,” Fr. Pavone wrote. “We may just be dealing with ‘cultural’ differences. But the result has been frustrating to all of us.”
By cultural differences, Fr. Pavone said he was referring to life in New York versus life in Amarillo and how people respond to receiving information.
He said the same documents provided to Bp. Zurek also have been sent to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York as well as to the 21 prelates who serve on the organization’s board of advisers.
Fr. Pavone also noted that he has never received a salary from Priests for Life nor is he on the payroll of the Amarillo Diocese. He said Priests for Life covers the cost of a small residence–about $2,000 a month–and his expenses associated with the ministry, which he called “very small.”
Records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show that the organization’s income topped $10.8 million in 2008, the latest year tax forms were available. In 2007, Priests for Life showed income of $9.2 million.
The same records show that Fr. Pavone received no income from the organization during those years.
Bp. Zurek raised questions about the financial dealings of Priests for Life in his letter to the bishops. He said Fr. Pavone had not adequately explained whether funds were being used “prudently” by Priests for Life.
“Since he has consistently refused to subject the PFL to a transparent and complete auditing of all expenditures, I have reasons to be alarmed at the potential financial scandal that might arise if it were the result of my failure to correct Fr. Pavone’s incorrigible defiance to my legitimate authority as his bishop,” Bp. Zurek said in his letter.
Since becoming national director of Priests for Life in 1993, Fr. Pavone has become one of the country’s most visible and outspoken opponents of abortion and advocates of pro-life issues, lecturing widely, leading retreats and prayer services and producing television and radio programs.
He also holds the same position with Gospel of Life Ministries, an interdenominational effort to end abortion, which shares its headquarters with Priests for Life.
In addition, Fr. Pavone is national pastoral director of both the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Rachel’s Vineyard, an abortion healing ministry. Both are affiliated with Priests for Life. He also is president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council.
The kitchen table where the Willits family usually eats was covered on a recent summer morning with cables, batteries, audio and recording paraphernalia–equipment to start filming a possible Catholic sitcom.
A crew of six and Fr. Robert Reed, president of CatholicTV, had flown in from Boston, turning the Willits’ home into a set for the pilot of the show tentatively titled “Mass Confusion.” What began as a casual idea turned into a full-fledged effort to create Catholic, family-friendly entertainment and hopefully inspire others to get involved.
Last year, Greg and Jennifer Willits, who host “The Catholics Next Door” on SiriusXM satellite radio, approached Fr. Reed with an idea for a new program: a humorous Catholic situation comedy reflecting family life and its rewards and struggles.
Greg Willits said that like many turns in the road that his family has already experienced, this was an idea he pitched expecting to be turned down. But their steps in faith seem to lead to more doors opening.
It began with the Rosary Army, a rosary-making apostolate they started in 2003, and then “That Catholic Show,” an educational video series they produced, and then a podcast, which was picked up by the Catholic Channel and turned into their current radio show, “The Catholics Next Door.” Now it may be a Catholic family show inspired by their lives as parents with five children.
“We’re excited and scared about this, but that’s pretty much been the case with every new endeavor we’ve taken on,” Greg wrote by Email to the Georgia Bulletin, Atlanta archdiocesan newspaper. “When we started Rosary Army, we felt the same way. When we started podcasting, we felt the same way. When we went to radio, we felt the same way. It makes no sense that we, without any experience in this area whatsoever, should be doing this, but it seems with the doors open, God wants us to at least give it a try.”
After getting a green light from Fr. Reed and CatholicTV, the Willits began writing a script with their friends Mac and Katherine Barron, another Georgia-based couple involved in new media with their podcast “Catholic in a Small Town.” The Barrons are the parents of three.
The two couples ran through their lines as the CatholicTV crew checked audio levels and framed shots. Director Robert Kaminski called “action,” and the group dived headfirst into an experience that was mostly new to all of them. Jennifer Willits has been in front of the camera before for “That Catholic Show,” but filming the pilot added a new level of excitement and pressure.
“It was a very ‘mom and pop’ production,” said Jennifer Willits about “That Catholic Show.” “The only other person in the room was Greg.”
“It adds to the excitement and the weight of the scene, having to interact with a lot of people,” she added.
Mac Barron, who has emceed the national Catholic New Media Celebration for the past two years, had to become familiar with the dynamic of rehearsing lines, taking direction and reshooting scenes over and over.
“It is different being in front of the camera than doing the podcasts,” Barron said. “In the podcast we get to call the shots and we don’t have to rehearse.”
“It is very exciting,” he added. “It’s great that CatholicTV has been so supportive.”
Filmed in a style similar to primetime shows like “The Office” and “Modern Family,” the show focuses on the two Catholic couples and their families. Greg Willits said the idea for this venture isn’t to teach Catholic doctrine but to be entertaining.
“There is a lot of Catholic catechesis out there but not a lot of Catholic entertainment. We want to prove that it can be done,” he said. “This is going to be a pilot, simply a proof of concept to hopefully inspire others in Catholic and secular media to push the envelope a bit creatively.”
While it was exciting, it was also a bit of a sacrifice for the two families, who used some of their vacation time to film the pilot, not to mention the Willits’ home being taken over as a studio and set.
The Willits, members of St. Pius X Church in Conyers, asked for prayers that the show would be an inspiration for others and have a positive impact on Catholic news media.
The pilot will premiere on the CatholicTV Network, Thanksgiving night, Thu., Nov. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be available Online at www.catholictv.com. CatholicTV is also available on some cable and satellite TV networks, including Sky Angel in Georgia.
“Our goal and our hope is to get 1 million views, which as you may know, has so far been pretty much impossible for Online Catholic media,” wrote Greg Willits. “If we can reach that goal, then we’ll have something to work with if we decide to shoot more episodes since at that point we’ll need to secure some sort of funding to do so.”
Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Service
A new book by a Catholic talk show host looks at how media and culture are sending unhealthy messages to women and how the Church can fill the emotional and spiritual void left behind.
The book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture, looks at how the culture is “going after women” and how women are hurt, “whether it be body image, eating disorders and sexual objectification,” said the book’s author, Teresa Tomeo.
Tomeo, a syndicated talk show host on Eternal Word Television Network, said in Rome that women are pressured into being many different things to different people: a powerhouse professional, a flawless wife and beautiful woman.
She said much in society is contradictory: “We have all these advancements and yet we’re more objectified than ever.”
There’s a kind of “split personality” in the media, she said, when a newspaper or newscast reports on studies showing how influential media are on an audience, especially children, or studies showing ways women are still objectified.
“And then they turn around and promote sex at 2 in the afternoon in a soap opera or a commercial,” she said.
Women’s self-image is often distorted because of too much emphasis on youth, physical beauty, and sexuality, she said.
Add to the mix the modern-day “freedoms” of contraception, abortion, and sex outside of marriage, and women end up being not more free or equal “but more in bondage, and you don’t realize it when you’re accepting it.”
“You have to go through your own crisis” to see there is another way, she said.
In her book, published by Ignatius Press, Tomeo details the personal crises she weathered–an eating disorder, a frenetic work ethic and a crumbling marriage. She had been living distant from God, she said, and just accepted the current culture’s stereotypes wholesale.
“I realized I was living in the world so strongly, it consumed me. My career was everything and I let everything else slide and almost lost everything in the process,” she said.
Many people, whether they are religious or not, “are sick and tired of the way women are treated, the way families are treated and the way marriage is disrespected,” she said.
The women’s liberation movement failed to provide the solution, she said, because what brings freedom and dignity to women are in the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church, Tomeo said.
“The church has been teaching for 2,000 years that there is a plan” called natural law, she said.
Natural law, whose basic norms are reflected in the Ten Commandments, are rights and wrongs that are part of human nature and can be identified by the use of human reason, according to church teaching. Pope Benedict XVI has said natural law is the only sure foundation for regulating social life and can guarantee that people live in true freedom with their dignity respected.
Tomeo said it was becoming familiar with natural law and the church’s writings on women and life that led her back to the church.
In her book, Tomeo makes a considerable number of references to surveys, studies, and research done by well-known secular organizations to support her arguments and show how natural law reveals itself in reality.
She said she hopes the book will inspire women, especially teens, to learn about the Catholic faith, study it, pray and find out who they are in Christ.
By transforming themselves, women can change the culture, she said, quoting St. Catherine of Siena: “When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze.”
Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Service
A decade after the terrorist attacks on the US on Sept. 11, 2001, led to a backlash against Muslims, many Americans are still uncomfortable with followers of Islam and think its teachings are at odds with American values.
Slim majorities of the people polled this summer by the Public Religion Research Institute say Muslims are an important part of the US religious community and that they are comfortable with Muslim women wearing burqas or Muslim men praying in public in an airport. Those majorities were less than 55 percent in each category.
The report released Sept. 6 by the Brookings Institution, which partnered with the religion institute for the study, noted similarities to how Catholics and Mormons were treated in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Throughout American history … immigrants professing faiths outside the existing mainstream have tested the commitment to religious liberty,” said the report, “What It Means To Be An American.”
It noted that Mormons’ endorsement of polygamy was seen as an affront to marriage and a threat to democracy, leading to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being “hounded” to “the brink of legal extinction by the 1890s.”
Antipathy toward Catholics went deeper, the report said in an analysis of the data by Brookings fellows E.J. Dionne and William A. Galston.
“Catholicism aroused two fears,” they said, “that its theological principles were incompatible with liberal democracy and that it required transnational loyalties to a ‘foreign potentate’ (the pope) that took precedence over American citizenship.”
It took American Catholics a century to allay those fears, the pair noted. And part of that included the reinterpretation of Catholic teaching by the Second Vatican Council “to eliminate the elements least compatible with liberal democracy… the tendency toward theocracy and reservations about freedom of religion and conscience.”
The study also found a double standard for how people judge whether those who commit violence in the name of religion really represent that faith.
A large majority–83 percent–told researchers they do not think self-identified Christians who commit violence in the name of Christianity are really Christian. But when it comes to self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence, less than half–48 percent–say the perpetrators are not really Muslim.
Galston and Dionne drew parallels to previous generations when, in times of world war, German- and Japanese-Americans were subjected to intense persecution. Some of that was fostered by the government, they noted, such as when more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes into concentration camps.
“Respect for civil liberties is more entrenched than it once was,” observed Galston and Dionne, “and the large flow of immigrants since the mid-1960s has accustomed younger Americans to a more diverse society. Muslims in America have benefited from these trends.”
They noted that despite “highly publicized outbursts from some localities and candidates for political office, more than three in five Americans reject the contention that American Muslims want to establish Shariah as the law of the land.”
Still, in just the past six months, the study found an increasing number of people believe Muslims want to establish Islamic law in the United States. The figure grew from 23 percent of the general public in February to 30 percent in August. Among Republicans, 45 percent say Muslims want Shariah law in the US, up from 31 percent in February. Twenty-two percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents agreed that Muslims want Shariah, up from 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively, in February.
At a news conference where the report was released, Robert Jones, founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, said there were 49 bills introduced in 2011 in 22 state legislatures aimed at heading off the introduction of Shariah-based law in local statutes or its use in courts.
Also at the news conference, Muqtedar Khan, associate professor in political science and international relations at the University of Delaware, said the figure that 47 percent of Americans disapprove of Muslims and Islam has remained constant for many years. But what has changed is that now, instead of saying they disapprove because of terrorism, more people are replying that Shariah is the reason they disapprove of the religion.
Khan said that’s especially disheartening because “it’s never going to disappear,” since “living by the Shariah is an important aspect of Muslims’ faith.” He gave the example of following the Ramadan practices of fasting, prayer and charitable giving that are laid out in Islamic law as a typical way Muslims follow the law. “Because of that we are going to have a perennial problem.”
“I sometimes wonder if those who disapprove of Shariah, if they find out murder is prohibited, will they approve,” he said. He likened the possibility of American Muslims being able to implement Shariah law in the United States to the efforts by some Christians to enact elements of Christian teachings against abortion and same-sex marriage.
After decades of trying to make those illegal and not succeeding, even with the strong majorities Christians hold in legislatures and Congress, Khan questioned how people expect Muslims to enact the whole of Shariah law in the US when they constitute less than 2 percent of the population.
“Muslims have failed to enact the Shariah in countries where they have 100 percent Muslim population,” he said. “The point is really Shariah is just a prop to say we don’t like Islam and Muslims.”
The survey was based on 2,450 phone interviews in English and Spanish conducted in the first two weeks of August. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points for the general sample.
Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Service
The US Archdiocese for the Military Services is reporting an increase in the number of seminarians who want to become military chaplains. For the 2011-2012 academic year, there are 31 co-sponsored and military-affiliated seminarians. Last year there were 23; in 2009-2010 there were 12 and the previous year only three. Co-sponsorship means that a diocesan bishop agrees to accept the seminarian who will participate in the chaplain candidacy program of one of the branches of the US armed forces. The bishop agrees to release him for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he returns to the diocese. Conventual Franciscan Fr. Kerry Abbott, director of vocations for the military archdiocese, called the increase one of the “untold stories” of spiritual blessings. He said Catholic seminaries in the US and the Pontifical North American College in Rome are straining to accommodate the influx of seminarians and many seminaries have converted guest rooms to seminarian quarters. The outlook for future vocations is just as bright, he said. The archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains. Fr. Abbott expects anywhere from five to 10 more to enter seminaries next year, with still more to come in years to follow. The timing could not be better. The US armed forces have seen a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. Their numbers are down from more than 400 active in 2001 to 274 this year. ©CNS
The church bell tolled at 2:46 p.m., marking six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan. Throughout the nation Sept. 11, Japanese gathered for memorial services and to offer prayers for the more than 20,000 people who died and the hundreds of thousands made homeless in the disaster, which also triggered a nuclear meltdown. The Japanese bishops’ conference and the National Christian Council in Japan conducted a joint memorial service at the United Church of Christ’s Shitaya Church. Approximately 180 people gathered for the service, which also had the support of the Japan Evangelical Association, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The congregation offered prayers in memory of the victims, for the recovery of the worst-affected regions, and for a swift resolution to the nuclear crisis that arose in the wake of the tragedy.UCA News reported that Abp. Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo participated. During the ecumenical gathering, Isao Tadokoro of Caritas Japan gave a short account of the Catholic Church’s relief work in the disaster area. Similar memorials for the dead and prayers for renewal in the disaster-struck areas were conducted throughout Japan. The president of the bishops’ conference, Abp. Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka, composed texts for the prayer of the faithful to be offered on the occasion. He urged all bishops to use them during the Sept. 11 Masses, UCA News reported. ©CNS
Abp. Pietro Sambi, the late Vatican nuncio to the US, “viewed his diplomatic vocation, as an ambassador of the vicar of the crucified one, as an extension of the invitation to mercy, reconciliation, unity, peace and life inherent in the Triumph of the Cross,” Abp. Timothy M. Dolan of New York said Sept. 14. Abp. Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant and homilist at a memorial Mass for the Italian prelate at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The nuncio, who died July 27 at age 73, “saw the cross in his varied diplomatic missions, in the poverty and oppression of peoples, in religious acrimony and war,” said Abp. Dolan. “We bishops of the US will never forget the warm, personable manner in which he summoned us to be ambassadors of the healing and reconciliation won by Jesus on the cross, and be ever grateful for the tender way he unfailingly responded to our own needs.” Dozens of US bishops, many of them in Washington for a meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee, concelebrated the Mass. Sept. 14 is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, which Abp. Dolan used as a theme in his homily. While Abp. Sambi’s service in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps was important, Abp. Dolan said, “what is of far more profound meaning and of everlasting consequence in his life was that the cross of Christ, triumphant over sin, Satan, and death, was on his heart.” ©CNS