Vacationing Catholics must learn to see nature as God’s handiwork and ensure that they do not disrupt the delicate balance of creation, a Vatican office said in a Catholic News Service report.
“Nature and biological diversity speak to us of God the creator,” said a message from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
The Catholic Church “reiterates insistently the responsibility of the human being in the preservation of an integral and healthy environment for all,” said the message released June 30 in preparation for World Tourism Day Sept. 27.
The United Nations-affiliated World Tourism Organization chose “Tourism and Biodiversity” as the theme of the 2010 celebration to highlight the care that must be taken when wilderness areas, oceans and deserts are tourist destinations.
“Recent studies indicate that on a worldwide level, 22 percent of mammals, 31 percent of amphibians, 13.6 percent of bird life and 27 percent of reefs are threatened or in danger of extinction,” the statement said.
Tourism is an important, growing sector of the economy, but it has “some major effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” which brings with it “serious environmental impacts — especially in regard to the exorbitant consumption of limited resources, such as potable water and land, and the enormous generation of pollution and residues,” the statement said.
The pontifical council called on governments to carefully regulate tourist development in sensitive environments, urged businesses to ensure that their land use is sustainable and told tourists that they “must be conscious that their presence in a place is not always positive.”
It also called on pastors to educate their faithful “in contemplation” to help them “discover the sign of God in the great wealth of biodiversity” present on the planet.
Requiring personnel in military hospitals to perform or participate in abortions would place “a very heavy burden” on those in the armed forces who value human life, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services told U.S. senators.
“The United States is one of the few nations in the world based on self-evident principles: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the archbishop said in a June 17 letter. “Constraining the very men and women committed to defending those principles for the rest of the country to act against their consciences violates the foundation of this republic.”
Archbishop Broglio was commenting on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011 that would require military hospitals to perform abortions in both domestic and overseas military bases.
Proposed by Sen. Roland Burris, the amendment would repeal a ban on abortion in military medical facilities in effect since 1996. The prohibition on using Department of Defense funds to pay for those abortions would remain in effect.
The amendment was adopted by a 15-12 vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee May 27. Consideration by the full Senate was expected later this summer; the final Senate bill also must be reconciled with the House version passed May 28, which does not include repeal of the abortion ban.
Archbishop Broglio, who said he spoke “as one concerned with the moral well-being of the armed forces,” said the proposed policy reversal “would contravene our military health care providers’ commitment to defending and protecting human life.”
“Military hospitals have an outstanding record of saving life, even in the most challenging times and conditions,” he said. “Their commitment extends to the smallest of human beings. Please allow them to continue abiding by these values.”
As passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the defense spending bill also would repeal the policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, which Archbishop Broglio also has opposed.
The repeal would take place six months after the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had certified to Congress that there has been “a comprehensive review” of the implications of the repeal; that “the necessary policies and regulations” had been prepared; and that implementation of the new policy was “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”
In a statement posted on the archdiocese’s website June 1, Archbishop Broglio said that “sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals” in response to “merely political considerations is neither just nor prudent especially for the armed forces at a time of war.”
Pope Benedict XVI will appoint a representative to the government of Vietnam as a first step toward establishing full diplomatic relations with the communist country, the Vatican announced.
After a meeting of Vatican and Vietnamese representatives June 23-24 at the Vatican, a statement said that unlike a nuncio, the Vatican’s representative would not be residing in Vietnam for the time being.
The meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group was chaired by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, and Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Vietnam’s vice minister of foreign affairs.
The June meeting was the second encounter of the joint working group.
The meeting took place about six weeks after 57-year-old Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi resigned his post amid rumors that the Vietnamese government had told the Vatican that the archbishop must go.
The archbishop denied he had been pressured to step down after he asked Catholics in 2007 to pray for the government to return the former apostolic nunciature to the church.
AsiaNews, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, said the archbishop stepped down because the Vietnamese government made his ouster a condition for launching full diplomatic relations.
In a statement June 26, the Vatican said the Vietnamese representatives said their country has a “consistent policy of respect for freedoms of religion and belief as well as the legal provisions to guarantee its implementation.”
“The delegation of the Holy See took note of this explanation and asked that further conditions be established so that the church may participate effectively in the development of the country, especially in the spiritual, educational, health care, social and charitable fields,” the statement said.
As temperatures climbed and most schools closed for the summer, church leaders called on their congregations to step forward and protect young people from the violence that often seems pervasive in Chicago.
In a letter sent to parishes for their June 26-27 bulletins, Cardinal Francis E. George wrote: “Gunshots and gang violence, rooted often in verbal and physical abuse at home, can scar children and youth. The sad reality of daily life is that our youth and their families often live under a veil of fear. Such an environment hinders the normal development of children, youth and their families.
“The daily threat of violence is greater in inner-city neighborhoods,” the cardinal added. “A number of our Catholic parishes in these communities are already providing secure spaces in churches, gymnasiums and other parish buildings for play, exercise and prayer.”
He thanked those pastors and parishioners but said, “There is a need for more of our parishes to provide safe haven as well, and I ask our pastors and their congregations to work toward offering this.”
St. Sabina Parish on Chicago’s South Side offers many opportunities for children and young people to stay safe and keep growing in faith and leadership, as well as offering all members of the community an opportunity to speak out against violence.
On June 18, the last day of classes for Chicago public schools, St. Sabina’s led a rally and march to “Silence the Violence.”
The group walked from the church down 79th Street to Halstead, making a loop of about a mile and a half, chanting slogans such as, “Stop the violence,” while waving at children in windows and passers-by.
Khari Riley, 16, is a member of St. Sabina’s choir and has participated in many such marches, she said in a Catholic News Service report.
“I think it’s important for us to get our message out,” said the Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School student. “I don’t care how far we have to walk. This is one of the few times we get our voices heard.”
Tonia Carr of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary also marched. She attended St. Sabina School as a child, lives in the community and still worships there.
Anti-violence marches show people they are not alone, Carr said. They help people feel less isolated and help give them the courage to speak out against violence.
As the U.S. divorce rate continues to climb, a New York-based Catholic organization has advice for those in a troubled marriage who are willing to help fix it.
The Christophers, founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, has created a new pamphlet titled “Hope for Troubled Marriages.” The free publication is part of “Christophers News Notes,” published 10 times a year to address timely topics in a way that reflects hope, encouragement and responsibility.
“Successful marriages don’t work on autopilot” is one of many points made in the new pamphlet.
The Christophers break down marriage problems into four basic stages: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
To help the relationship “sail smoothly and get safely through rough spots,” the pamphlet offers seven guiding principles. Among other things, it says husbands and wives need to communicate effectively and listen to each other, make decisions as a unit and always remember to fight fair and maintain self-respect in arguments that are unavoidable.
“Marriage is not for the fainthearted,” the pamphlet says.
“Most issues can be successfully handled with patience and persistence,” it adds. But it notes that if problems result in domestic violence, in most cases getting out of the relationship is the best and sometimes the only option.
Free copies of “Hope for Troubled Marriages,” News Notes No. 525, can be ordered by writing to the Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004 or by calling (888) 298-4050.
In a ceremony June 24 on the Monte Mario hill, Rome’s tallest, the pope praised the city’s residents for their particular devotion to the gigantic statue and noted the “dramatic and providential events” that surrounded its creation and installation in postwar Rome.
The copper and gold leaf statue, known as the “Madoninna” was swept off its base during a storm in October 2009 and was broken into three pieces.
The pope remembered how Pope Pius XII had prayed to Mary to protect the war-weary population from an imminent battle between German occupiers and allied forces June 4, 1944. Shortly after, word came that the Germans were retreating and that Rome had been spared.
The popular Roman priest and saint, Don Luigi Orione, and his followers subsequently arranged for the creation of a work of art to thank Mary for her intercession. The finished statue of Mary with outstretched arms to welcome and protect the people of the Eternal City was installed in 1953.
“How could I not renew with you, dear friends of Rome, that gesture of devotion to Mary by blessing this lovely statue?” Pope Benedict said in a Catholic News Service report.
The pope praised the works of St. Luigi Orione and the order of Orionine Fathers that he founded to perform works of charity, especially for the benefit of orphans and disadvantaged children and young people.
Remembering the life and work of Don Orione, as he was known, the pope said that work in the service of others should be carried out through “an authentic and holy spiritual life” in order to be truly charitable.
The priest was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004, and the order, sometimes known as Little Works of Divine Providence, operates in many parts of the world.
Pope Benedict also visited an order of cloistered nuns at the nearby Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario, where he said the daytime prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours.
He told the nuns that their contemplative life “places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the mystic body of the Lord, that is the church” and that their “hidden existence with Christ” served as strong support for the church.
The convent houses a 7th-century Greek icon called the Virgin Hagiosoritissa, an image of the Virgin Mary without child that is locally known as Our Lady of St. Luke. The relics of St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena and other Dominican saints are also found there.
A Vatican official said the international community should create wider categories of protection for the growing number of refugees and displaced persons.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said states have an ethical responsibility to respond to the needs of refugees and displaced persons and to reject the disinformation that fuels fear of other cultures.
“The responsibility we owe to vulnerable groups of our one human family prompts adequate answers to remedy the violation of rights and to assist the victims,” Archbishop Tomasi told a meeting of the executive committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees June 22.
“Today’s ‘boat people’ from Africa, Asia and elsewhere cannot simply be towed back to the port of origin of their journey, as if distancing their presence would offer a real solution. Similarly, the automatic resort to detaining potential refugees and asylum seekers — often in appalling conditions — is inappropriate,” he said.
Archbishop Tomasi said the number of people of concern to the UNHCR has grown to 43.3 million worldwide, the highest number since the 1990s.
Those needing “more targeted” protection, he said, include mixed flows of refugees and migrants, the millions of internally displaced people in places such as Colombia and Kyrgyzstan, and the rising number of urban refugees.
He said refugees are moving to cities in greater numbers, where they can become invisible populations. Urban refugees face specific challenges such as registration of their children at birth to avoid statelessness, finding employment possibilities, access to education and legal residency, he said.
The archbishop said the international community needs to make better efforts to prevent forced displacement before it starts, anticipating events that can trigger population movement.
While contributions provided for refugees have increased, they are still among the most economically vulnerable populations, he said.
“In the final analysis, one cannot say that a state has met its responsibility when persons of concern are left in a state of destitution,” he said in a Catholic News Service report.
Archbishop Tomasi added that the mass media have a responsibility to present a positive perception of forcibly displaced persons and to give a fair indication of the causes of displacement. He said they should also help “counteract disinformation and the political manipulation of fears of unknown cultures and people” by showing that refugees have talents and capacities to offer.
Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Schultheis plans to take a different kind of camping trip this summer.
Schultheis will be among the activists at Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville, Ontario, where the Group of Eight leaders will meet June 25-26; the activists will be calling for more action on global poverty.
Dozens of young people from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace are expected to pitch tents at the park’s campsites to pray and attend a special Mass geared toward the G-8, a grouping of eight industrialized nations.
It’s important “to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice,” said Schultheis, who lives in Toronto.
Schultheis is organizing Development and Peace activities for youths at the park June 24-26. There will be prayer times, nonviolence training sessions, nature hikes, campfires and street theater.
“If things turn violent, we’ll leave. We don’t want to be part of that,” he said to Catholic News Service.
The events, Schultheis said, are about ensuring that G-8 leaders pay attention to the more than 1 billion people who go hungry every day.
Basilian Father Bob Holmes, coordinator for peace and justice for his order, plans to celebrate a Mass at the park. Father Holmes said it is important to “send a message to the leaders of these very wealthy countries that they can’t consider only the bottom line of monetary transactions and profit.”
“We want them to consider the bottom line is for planet Earth. The social bottom line (means) people are involved,” he said.
The U.S. bishops publicly expressed their “heartfelt prayers and pastoral solidarity with all those affected by the oil that continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.”
“We pray first and foremost for those who died in the initial explosion and for the grieving members of their families,” they said, according to a Catholic News Service report.
“We express our prayerful support as well for the families and individuals whose lives and livelihoods have been so negatively impacted by the oil that daily contaminates water, beaches and God’s creation in the Gulf Coast area,” the bishops said in a statement written during their spring gathering in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It was released by their press office in Washington June 18.
Because of the nation’s ongoing economic crisis, the bishops said they have special concern for those who have lost jobs and income because of the man-made disaster, the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.
“We offer our prayers for our government leaders and for the industry leaders and experts who are working to cap the leak and repair this damage,” they said. “May God give them wisdom and strength in this trying hour, and may he move them to seek lasting solutions benefiting the common good of our society.”
After meeting with President Barack Obama, BP executives agreed to set up a $20 billion relief fund for victims of the spill. The company continued to work on a way to plug the damaged well, which has spilled millions of gallons of oil and methane gas into the Gulf.
The whole question of a separation between church and state originated with Jesus, who told believers they must give to God what belonged to God and to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, the Vatican’s foreign minister told a gathering in Cuba.
Without the Gospel, the fundamental distinction between the religious and secular spheres “would not have entered into the history of humanity,” Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said June 16 in Havana, opening a weeklong series of conferences on Catholic social teaching.
Addressing Cuban government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, bishops and laity, Archbishop Mamberti said it was obvious that church-state relations have been different throughout history and across cultures.
But, he said, it is clear that secularism and the secular state are terms that often take on “a nuance of or the acceptance of an opposition to the church or to Christianity.”
“In this regard, one cannot forget the fact that in the name of this concept (separation of church and state) decisions are sometimes made or norms sometimes enacted that objectively damage the person and communal exercise of the fundamental right to religious freedom,” he said in a Catholic News Service report.
Although Cuba has a strong Catholic heritage, under communism the church has faced serious restrictions. Church-state relations have shown improvement in recent years, but only slowly.
The Vatican released the text of Archbishop Mamberti’s talk June 18.
A healthy form of church-state separation, he said, establishes an atmosphere of respect for the proper role of each and of cooperation in promoting the good of all citizens.
“Respect for the principle of secularity requires Catholics to recognize the just autonomy of the temporal reality” and to “avoid any type of confusion between the religious sphere and the political sphere,” he said.
But it also means that the state must not try to control religion, convince people to give up their faith or exclude believers from participating in public life, he said.
When the secular nature of the state is exaggerated, “paradoxically, the state becomes the state religion and it is no longer secular because secularism is its supreme value, its dominant ideology, a kind of religion, perhaps even with its own civil rites and liturgies,” Archbishop Mamberti said.
It is not enough for a government to recognize the right of an individual citizen to believe in God, he said. True respect for the whole person means recognizing that person’s need to share his or her faith with others and to live its values at home and in society, he explained.
The church’s respect for the autonomy of governments, the archbishop said, also does not mean Catholics will sit by silently when a proposed law or policy clearly violates ethical norms or would harm the dignity of the human person.
“Unfortunately, history demonstrates with abundant examples the harmful consequences of forms of governments and states that considered themselves to be superior to laws and moral values,” he said.
Basic moral values, the archbishop said, are not religious doctrines but are human values that anyone with a good heart and good will can recognize.
Still, “the presence of Christians in society is a leaven that keeps society’s attention tuned to the need to pursue the authentic common good,” he said.