European bishops warn of ethnic tensions in Bosnia
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) - Catholic bishops warned of continued political instability and ethnic tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and urged the church to take the lead in peace and reconciliation efforts. "Bosnia-Herzegovina has no future if an unjust peace persists and equal human rights are denied to the constituent ethnic groups," heads of bishops' conferences from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey said in a March 1 statement after meeting in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. "Local political leaders must bring about institutional and economic reforms themselves and encourage ethnic groups to live side by side," they said. "The churches have the specific task of raising in peoples' consciousness the sense of truth, justice and forgiveness. "The church is aware of possessing a social doctrine which pushes it to be in the forefront. Political leaders have highlighted how this region of Europe is a test of the politics of the European Union: Work has begun, now it must be brought to completion," they said.
Church leaders say rules hamper election watch
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) - The Zimbabwean government's control over accreditation of election observers severely hampers the country's chances of holding fair elections, said church leaders in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Mumbure Mutume of Mutare, Zimbabwe, who hopes to observe the March 31 general elections along with other representatives of churches and nongovernmental organizations, said the state-controlled last-minute accreditation process diminishes observers' chances of doing a good job. "If we get permission the afternoon before the election there is not enough time for us to get to the far ends of the country," he said in a Feb. 25 telephone interview from Mutare. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said the rules are skewed in favor of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, and that there is continued violence and intimidation.
Florida bishops worry about fate of Terri Schiavo
CLEARWATER, Fla. CNS) - With a March 18 court-imposed deadline for removal of the feeding tube that keeps Terri Schindler Schiavo alive, the Catholic bishops of Florida reiterated their plea that the brain-damaged Florida woman will continue "to receive all treatment and care that will be of benefit to her." In a Feb. 28 statement of "continued concerns for Terri Schiavo" released by the Florida Catholic Conference, the eight bishops said they recognize that questions about her prognosis and her wishes persist, raising doubt about what she would truly want at this point in her life. "No longer able to speak on her own behalf, Mrs. Schiavo is a defenseless human being with inherent dignity, deserving of our respect, care and concern," the bishops said. "Her plight dramatizes one of the most critical questions we face: To be a truly human society, how should we care for those we may not be able to cure?" Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, the diocese in which Schiavo resides, asked that one last effort be made for mediation.
Parish prays for family of woman who faked cancer
STURTEVANT, Wis. (CNS) - For at least four years, the parish community at St. Sebastian in Sturtevant has been praying for one of its members, Heather Thoune Brehm, even including her in a list of about 70 ill parishioners in the parish bulletin. Now Brehm has been accused of bilking the local community out of at least $31,000 for alleging she suffered from ovarian cancer and for accepting donations given to her from the proceeds of several area fund-raisers. Franciscan Father James Kendzierski, St. Sebastian's pastor, has asked that Brehm's name be removed from the bulletin listing, but said prayers for the young woman and her family will continue, adding that they need prayers more than ever before. Brehm, 34, appeared in Racine County Circuit Court Jan. 24 after being charged with five counts of theft by false representation. If convicted, she could face up to 70 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. She waived her right to a preliminary hearing Feb. 16 and was expected back in court March 2 for arraignment.
Archbishop warns of large legal settlements
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) - Efforts to resolve more than 70 clergy sex abuse cases against the San Francisco Archdiocese could result in a heavy financial burden, cutting into church programs and services, said Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco. The archdiocese may be faced with balancing its moral obligation to victims with its moral obligation to provide parishes, schools and social services "for all who need them," the archbishop warned in a letter he asked be read at all Masses on the weekend of Feb. 26-27. "Resolving and balancing these two moral imperatives is a responsibility I share with all the people of God in the Archdiocese of San Francisco," he said. Archbishop Levada noted that the archdiocese is currently involved in a court-ordered mediation process "that may result in the settlement of many or all of its six dozen pending lawsuits." If settlements are not reached, some of the lawsuits may proceed to a civil trial, he said; the first such trial is scheduled for March 7.
Fordham gives doctorate to Archbishop Tutu
NEW YORK (CNS) - Fordham University in New York awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters Feb. 23 to retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. The presentation brought a standing ovation by students, faculty, trustees and visitors who packed the church on the university's Bronx campus. "Fordham University feels a special bond of spiritual kinship with Archbishop Tutu," said the degree citation read by Nancy A. Busch, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The archbishop's "lifelong quest for peace and justice, inspired by Gospel values," corresponds to what Jesuit-run Fordham considers the heart of its own mission, the citation said.
Christians, Jews begin bike trek to Jerusalem
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - In a show of interfaith relations, a group of Jewish and Christian cycling enthusiasts began a three-week bike trip from the Vatican to Jerusalem's Western Wall. The biking pilgrims kicked off their journey Feb. 27 from the obelisk in St. Peter's Square. They had hoped to receive a blessing from Pope John Paul II at his Sunday Angelus, but because the pope was recuperating at Gemelli hospital, they and other pilgrims received a blessing from Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, an assistant secretary of state. The trip, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge, England, was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's declaration "Nostra Aetate," on relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions.
Chilean Cardinal will announce new pope
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Pope John Paul II has confirmed Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez as the new senior cardinal deacon, the man who announces to the world the name of a newly elected pope. The pope's confirmation was contained in a letter divulged to cardinals at a consistory for sainthood causes Feb. 24, Vatican sources said. Cardinal Medina, 78, is the retired head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. He succeeds Italian Cardinal Luigi Poggi, 87, as senior cardinal deacon.