Thursday, July 31, 2008

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Interview With Caritas Expert on HIV

ZE08073112 - 2008-07-31

Beyond Condoms in the AIDS Debate

By Karna Swanson

MEXICO CITY, JULY 31, 2008 ( Teaching abstinence outside marriage and fidelity within has been proved to be much more effective in decreasing the spread of HIV than simply distributing condoms, according to the special advisor on HIV for Caritas Internationalis.

Monsignor Robert Vitillo, who will participate in the XVII International AIDS Conference, to be held Aug. 3-8 in Mexico City, adds that unfortunately, abstinence and infidelity are not given the attention they deserve among experts and researchers.

Some 25,000 experts, physicians, activists and decision-makers from around the world are expected to attend the conference organized by the International AIDS Society, which has at its theme "Universal Action Now."

Caritas Internationalis sponsored a pre-conference seminar Wednesday for Caritas participants from Latin America, and on Aug. 5, together with the Jesuits of Mexico and the Catholic HIV and AIDS Network, it will host delegates from Catholic organizations in an evening of prayer and discussion.

In this interview with ZENIT, Monsignor Vitillo shares what he sees as the Church's role in fighting the spread of the AIDS virus, and the role of faith-based organizations at the conference.

Q: You say a major challenge the Church faces with regards to AIDS is ignorance of what the Church is doing to fight it. What is the Church doing? What is unique about the Church's approach?

Monsignor Vitillo: As I have been privileged to witness the response of the Catholic Church to the HIV pandemic on literally every continent, I have noted that the Church's response is very consistent with its overall mission:

-- To teach people both about the facts related to this pandemic, and about the permanent values that should be the foundation of our response. This includes both how to prevent the further spread of HIV -- by observing sexual abstinence outside marriage and life-long, mutual fidelity within marriage -- and how we should respond to those already living with or affected by the virus -- with acceptance, love, and solidarity, and without discrimination, rejection, or stigmatization.

-- To serve people. Here the Caritas organizations at the regional, national, diocesan and parish levels have played -- and continue to do so -- an important role in organizing and replicating health care, social services, emotional support, income-generation activities, orphan care, advocacy and self-help programs for and with persons living with or affected by HIV.

In addition to Caritas, there are many other Catholic organizations working to help those affected by HIV.

-- To provide pastoral care to persons living with or affected by HIV.

Many people who know firsthand the impact of the virus are searching to deepen their relationship with God, especially as they face the challenge which HIV has posed to them and/or to their loved ones.

They also desperately want to understand that this virus has not been sent as a "punishment from God" -- a number of bishops' conferences, as well as Pope John Paul II, addressed this issue very clearly by explaining that, according to Catholic doctrine, God does not "punish" people by sending them illnesses.

Q: Last week 50 Catholic groups asked Benedict XVI to lift the Church's ban on artificial contraception, and accused the Church's stance of having "catastrophic effects" in the spread of AIDS. Does the Church's position against condoms constitute an obstacle against fighting AIDS?

Monsignor Vitillo: I would like to slightly transpose this question in order to emphasize my strong conviction that the Church's teaching, which insists on sexual abstinence outside marriage and lifelong, mutual fidelity within marriage, is indeed scientifically valid and has offered evidence-based proof that people who observe such behavior have been able to prevent the spread of HIV.

Studies in countries where the HIV prevalence rate has been decreased in recent years, such as Uganda, Kenya, and Thailand, indicate that people in these countries were more disposed to reduce the number of their sexual partners and/or to delay the onset of sexual activity than to adopt the use of condoms.

Such behaviors -- reduction of sexual partners and delay of onset of sexual activity -- are much closer to the Church's teaching on sexuality and on prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than is an exclusive focus on condom promotion.

Regrettably, however, many scientists, HIV prevention educators, and AIDS activists are so fixed on condom promotion that they do not give due attention to the risk avoidance that is possible to achieve through abstinence outside marriage and mutual, lifelong fidelity within marriage.

I believe that the Church does a great service to HIV prevention efforts by focusing on risk avoidance and on deeper and longer-lasting behavior change that is necessary to make a significant impact on reducing -- and, hopefully, stopping -- the further transmission of HIV.

Q: Will faith-based organizations have a strong voice at this international conference, or is the work of these organizations seen as being on the margin?

Monsignor Vitillo: In recent international conferences on AIDS, the voice of faith-based organizations has grown stronger, but there always is room for improvement in this regard.

For the past several International AIDS Conferences, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), based in Geneva, has made efforts to organize an ecumenical pre-conference. This year, in Mexico City, the EAA has some 450 registered participants for the pre-conference that will be held from July 31 to Aug. 2.

The EAA also organizes an inter-faith exhibit booth at which many organizations -- Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and others -- exhibit their resources. Because this is a joint effort, the booth is large enough to "compete" with pharmaceutical companies, large governmental displays, etc., for the attention of the some 25,000 participants in the International AIDS Conference.

There have been efforts by some of the conference organizers, including the International AIDS Society, to include the voices of religious leaders and of those working with faith-based organizations.

Regrettably, for some groups, including some particularly aggressive activist groups, faith-based organizations represent an obstacle to an effective AIDS response. I believe that such thinking is deeply flawed and fails to recognize the crucial and life-saving response to AIDS that is embodied in the faith-based efforts.

Some of these groups receive substantial funding from foundations, and even from some governments, that attempt to promote a relativist, secular agenda in the world.

And these groups sponsor few, if any, direct services to those living with or affected by the virus, even though they represent themselves as the "voice" of people so affected. They certainly don't represent the majority of poor and marginalized people who very much appreciate the engagement of churches and faith-based organizations in the global response to AIDS.

I believe that we need to engage such negative "voices" in respectful dialogue, but, at the same time, we must stay focused on the activities that will have the greatest impact on the lives of those who know firsthand the impact of HIV in their lives.

Q: Is there a divide between faith-based and secular organizations, or do they work together? Do faith-based organizations face any extra challenges?

Monsignor Vitillo: There certainly is positive experience and much more potential for faith-based and secular organizations to work together on those efforts for which they share common values and strategies.

For example, in June 2007, Caritas Internationalis and the Unions of Superiors General jointly sponsored a Night of Solidarity -- an initiative of the World AIDS Campaign -- to promote universal access to anti-retroviral medications.

As another example, Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic HIV/AIDS Network plan to join the "Making Medicines Child-Sized" advocacy campaign of the World Health Organization to promote medicines, including anti-retroviral medications, that are better adapted for use among children.

I believe that faith-based organizations face some particular challenges related to such collaboration:

-- Many secular groups are not accustomed to working with faith-based organizations. The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance recently published a manual titled "Building Better Partnerships" to assist such groups to understand better the major faith traditions, the values that undergird their beliefs and actions, and the strategies employed by them in responding to AIDS.

-- Faith-based groups must exercise particular caution to avoid compromising their beliefs and values when they engage in such collaboration with secular groups, and must be careful to avoid creating any scandal through such collaboration.

-- Such collaboration may require that faith-based and secular groups "agree to disagree" on certain issues and make special efforts to respect each other without compromising their own basic identity and values.

Q: What is the message Caritas brings to the table at this conference? Conversely, what is Caritas hoping to take away?

Monsignor Vitillo: Caritas participants bring many gifts and skills, as well as needs, to the table of the International AIDS Conference.

First of all, we must remember that Caritas is rooted in Catholic teaching, especially in the social doctrine of the Church. That teaching brings us a vision of the whole person, created in the image of God, gifted with a God-given, unique and irrevocable dignity.

Catholic doctrine also reminds us that, as a Church, we are a community and must act as a leaven to help people, especially those who are most poor, vulnerable and marginalized, to develop themselves, even as we look forward to the fulfillment of our development at the end of our earthly lives and at the end of this world.

This vision is beautifully articulated in "Deus Caritas Est," the first encyclical of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. The Confederation of Caritas Internationalis has studied and continues to reflect on this encyclical with particular care and attention, and we bring that reflection to all our responses to the world social challenges and natural and human-made emergencies, including that of the HIV pandemic.

This equips us to bring to the International AIDS Conference a desire to identify more than technical or temporary solutions to this pandemic and, alternatively, to identify solutions based on values and on long-term behavior change on the level of relationships between individuals and in society as a whole.

For the past 20 years our confederation has joined other Catholic organizations in sharing both our learning and experience in responding to HIV and in advocating for more just policies and solutions to problems related to this pandemic. I think that we will have more participants from Catholic organizations than at previous conferences, so I hope we can make our presence known and appreciated.

Finally, I think that I can speak for other Caritas participants when I say that we hope to learn more -- the current scientific evidence related to the pandemic, projections for the future, effective strategies for prevention, care, support, and treatment. Of course, we will need to assess such strategies from the "lens" of our Catholic values and teaching.

And we wish to deepen our appreciation for the firsthand experience of those who live with or have been affected directly by HIV, and to engage them more actively in our Caritas-sponsored responses to the pandemic.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cardinal McCarrick and Cardinal Mahony on Immigration Policy

Cardinals say immigration at 'dark moment' in US but call for hope

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic cardinals called the current U.S. immigration situation "a terrible crisis" and "a dark moment in our nation's history" in remarks they made July 28 at the opening Mass and plenary session of the 2008 National Migration Conference.

Both Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles urged participants to hold on to hope in their work with immigrants for local and national church agencies.

The July 28-31 conference attended by more than 850 people was co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services.

Much of the agenda, built around the theme "Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice," reflected the struggles faced by those who work with immigrants.

Workshops were scheduled on topics such as "How to respond to federal raids," "Identifying and supporting survivors of traumatic events," "A Catholic response to human trafficking" and "Parenting challenges from an African immigrant perspective."

Another two dozen workshop sessions dealt with legal issues including "Filing waivers of inadmissibility" and "Immigration law and crimes"; strategies for fundraising; and getting out the church's message on immigration.

"I see our challenge as one of shouting out the message of the Gospel, the words of the holy fathers, the unchanging teaching of the church, and in the profound conviction of our nation's history that the real heart of America has not changed, that its willingness to right a wrong has not faulted, that it needs only continuous courage, unwavering confidence in the goodness of people and a trust in God's love for the poor and the stranger," said Cardinal McCarrick in his homily July 28.

Drawing from the Gospel reading of the parable of the mustard seed, Cardinal McCarrick said the story is full of optimism "that the kingdom of heaven itself can be sown in men's hearts like a seed."

The sowing of seeds is a theme in many of Jesus' parables, he noted, with one important lesson that the seed is the word of God.

He said that lesson "is often lost because of the hardness of men's hearts, the timidity of their belief and the temptations of the world, which sometimes allure them into political positions which they know in their hearts are wrong, since they do not conform to the loving providence of God."

He said the parable also has a message "to keep sowing the seed, no matter what the likelihood of success ... no matter how hard the sowing may be, no matter how challenging the prospects of success, keep sowing, keep sowing in confidence that God's providence will provide the good soil. Do not give up; your seed will reach it yet; keep sowing, because if you stop the people will perish."

Cardinal Mahony more directly took on the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation and the federal enforcement policies that have led to "the separation of families, the harassment and profiling of U.S. citizens and legal residents, the expanded use of detention against those who are not a flight risk or a danger and, tragically, deaths in the United States desert."

The recent national policy described as "deportation by attrition" has a goal of creating "such a dangerous and unwelcoming atmosphere that immigrants and their families leave the United States because they have no other choice," said Cardinal Mahony.

It has led to fear among immigrant communities and a hostile atmosphere, "fanning the flames of intolerance, xenophobia and, at times, bigotry," he continued.

"Such a national policy is doomed to fail because it underestimates the human spirit, the spirit of hope that we celebrate in this gathering," the cardinal said.

The very act of migration is a hopeful one, he said, because it is based in the belief that a better life is possible for the migrant and his family.

He encouraged conference attendees to consider the call to hope expressed by Pope Benedict XVI in the encyclical "Spe Salvi" ("Saved by Hope").

Hope "gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of the good even in seemingly hopeless situations, aware that, as far as the external course of history is concerned, the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence," the encyclical said.

Cardinal Mahony said that, "despite the attacks on our position and on those we serve, we must not lose faith as to the rightness of our cause and of our service to our immigrant brothers and sisters. The church must remain a prophetic voice in an increasingly hostile wilderness, defending her mandate, given by Christ, to welcome the stranger."

He outlined some suggestions for the church to work to change the current situation, including continuing to reach out and support immigrants; holding elected officials accountable by insisting on a human approach to immigrants; changing attitudes toward migrants through education; and working to reform immigration laws.

"While we are bound to respect our laws and not violate them, we also are bound to correct unjust laws," Cardinal Mahony said. "The terms 'rule of law' and 'national security' should no longer be used to justify the harsh and inhumane treatment of immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers. While we acknowledge the right and the need for our government to enforce the law, we must remind our fellow Americans that man-made law does not permit the violation of God's law."

A letter of greeting to the conferees from Cardinal Renato Martino, as president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, was read by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, the council secretary.

Cardinal Martino said an approach to the difficulties of migration should be intercultural, ecumenical and interreligious.

He said political action on migration should be comprehensive and "not turn the immigrant into the scapegoat for other crucial social issues, nor a threat to security and stability."

The basis for church action on behalf of immigrants is "the affirmation that all persons are equal, well beyond the differences deriving from origin, language and culture," Cardinal Martino said.
The church's approach "affirms the central role and sacred character of the human being independently from his/her regular or irregular legal status. ... The church is more and more convinced that making the most of the ethical-religious dimension of migration is the surest way to reach also other goals of high human and cultural value."

Other prelates attending the conference included New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan; Guatemalan Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of San Marcos; Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops' migration committee; Bishops Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., Frank J. DeWane of Venice, Fla., and Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio J. del Riego of San Bernardino, Calif.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


ZE08072805 - 2008-07-28Permalink:
"All Persons Are Equal, Well Beyond the Differences"
WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 28, 2008 ( Here is the message Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, sent to the 2008 National Migration Conference, which is under way in Washington, D.C. through Thursday.
The theme of the conference, sponsored by the U.S. bishops, is "Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice."
* * *
Your Eminences,Your Excellencies,Honorable Participants,Ladies and Gentlemen:You are gathered here for the 2008 National Migration Conference on the theme “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice”, organized by the “Migration and Refugee Services” (USCCB/MRS) and co-sponsored by the “Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.” (CLINIC).
Being it impossible for me to be physically with you, I make myself present to you through this Message, happy to encourage and praise your annual effort and to wish you every success.
I believe it is important to underscore, with you and for you, first of all, the positive aspects of migration especially in the perspective of the pastoral care of the Church. After all, it is in this context that places itself the Instruction "Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi" (The Love of Christ Toward Migrants) of our Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, approved by the Servant of God John Paul II, on May 1st 2004, and published two days later. This document, viewing the migration phenomenon under a new light, states that "the cultural situation today, global and dynamic as it is, calls for the incarnation of the one faith in many cultures and thus represents an unprecedented challenge, a true kairòs for the whole People of God" (n. 34).
As a matter of fact, this condensed expression condenses a series of positive features, rising above the controversial and dark facets of migration, beginning with the observation that "the passage from monocultural to multicultural societies can be a sign of the living presence of God in history and in the community of mankind, for it offers a providential opportunity for the fulfillment of God’s plan for a universal communion" (n. 9).
Moving the focus from the phenomenon itself to the people going through migration, it must be recognized that "migrants, too, can be the hidden providential builders of such a universal fraternity together with many other brothers and sisters. They offer the Church the opportunity to realize more concretely its identity as communion and its missionary vocation" (n. 103). Therefore, broadening even more the scope of this vision, it continues: "Today’s migrations may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, already present in His Church which is its beginning (cf. LG 9), and an instrument of Providence to further the unity of the human family and peace" (n. 104).
The far-reaching vision of the Instruction, in the end, demonstrates that "the migration phenomenon, by bringing together persons of different nationalities, ethnic origins, and religions into contact, contributes to making the true face of the Church visible (cf. GS 92) and brings out the value of migrations from the point of view of ecumenism and missionary work and dialogue" (n. 38).
In fewer words, the way of thinking of the Church, expressed particularly through the "Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi," urges Christians to react to the challenges of migration in a positive, decisive, convinced, and coordinated way. The migration phenomena, in fact, are not confronted only by means of a series of random good deeds (first welcome), that are only the first step towards planned interventions with a much larger scope. A simplistic vision of the difficulties must give way to a global vision of all the human experiences that enter into the confrontation, the dialogue, the enrichment, and the interchange between different peoples. The development of an approach that be intercultural, ecumenical, and inter-religious is absolutely necessary, it demands the converging of a great number of responsibilities and offers new opportunities, as the "Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi" observes: "The growing number of Christian immigrants not in full communion with the Catholic Church offers particular Churches new possibilities of living ecumenical fraternity in practical day-to-day life and of achieving greater reciprocal understanding between Churches and ecclesial Communities, something far from facile irenicism or proselytism" (n. 56).
In this context the pastoral concern of the Church shows a singular merging of strategies and contents, proposing a course that will respect and build on the person of the migrant: keeping in mind the structural character of migrations, it is then expedient also to develop a political action explicit and comprehensive, that does not turn the immigrant into the scapegoat for other social crucial issues, nor a threat to security and stability. Our Instruction clearly emphasizes this point: "the precarious situation of so many foreigners, which should arouse everyone’s solidarity, instead brings about fear in many, who feel that immigrants are a burden, regard them with suspicion and even consider them a danger and a threat. This often provokes manifestations of intolerance, xenophobia and racism" (EMCC n. 6).
The basis for the action of the Church, instead, is the affirmation that all persons are equal, well beyond the differences deriving from origin, language and culture, in the belief of the unity of the human family. The approach of the Catholic Church, therefore, affirms the central role and sacred character of the human being independently from his/ her regular or irregular legal status, most of all in cases of defenselessness and marginalization, taking also into due account the family. Not only, the Church is more and more convinced that making the most of the ethical-religious dimension of migration is the surest way to reach also other goals of high human and cultural value.
[The message continued in Spanish]Naturally there exists the need for a specific pastoral care, especially for the first and second generations of immigrants, which is laid out in "Erga Migrantes Caritas Cristi" (cf. Parts II, III and IV), under the responsibility of the local bishop, but in communication with the Church of the originating nation (cf. Ibid. No. 70). In this respect, even in the United States, a cordial reception of "Erga migrantes caritas Christi" is necessary, such as the reception in other countries.[Translation by ZENIT]
Finally, I am happy to encourage you to study and to delve into the migration issues that are on the agenda for these days, and in communion of prayer I extend my best wishes for the success of this very important happening.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele MartinoPresident of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant PeopleVatican City, July 16, 2008

Cardinal Looks at Role of Providence in Migration

ZE08072804 - 2008-07-28Permalink:

Says Phenomenon Helps Make Church's Face Visible

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 28, 2008 ( The phenomenon of migration contributes to making the true face of the universal Church visible, says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, affirmed this in a message sent to the 2008 National Migration Conference, sponsored by the U.S. bishops, and under way in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference is "Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice."

The cardinal began his message affirming the importance of underscoring the positive aspects of migration, "especially in the perspective of the pastoral care of the Church."Referring to "Erga Migrantes Caritas Cristi," a 2004 instruction from that pastoral council, the prelate said the document views the migration phenomenon under a new light."

The passage from monocultural to multicultural societies can be a sign of the living presence of God in history and in the community of mankind, for it offers a providential opportunity for the fulfillment of God's plan for a universal communion," the cardinal cited.He added: "Moving the focus from the phenomenon itself to the people going through migration, it must be recognized that 'migrants, too, can be the hidden providential builders of such a universal fraternity together with many other brothers and sisters.

They offer the Church the opportunity to realize more concretely its identity as communion and its missionary vocation.'"Therefore, broadening even more the scope of this vision, it continues: 'Today's migrations may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, already present in his Church, which is its beginning, and an instrument of Providence to further the unity of the human family and peace.'"

The pontifical council instruction, Cardinal Martino affirmed, "demonstrates that 'the migration phenomenon, by bringing together persons of different nationalities, ethnic origins, and religions into contact, contributes to making the true face of the Church visible and brings out the value of migrations from the point of view of ecumenism and missionary work and dialogue.'"

Christian reactionThe Vatican official's message went on to consider the Church's call to Christians in the face of the migration phenomenon."A simplistic vision of the difficulties must give way to a global vision of all the human experiences that enter into the confrontation, the dialogue, the enrichment, and the interchange between different peoples," he said. "

The development of an approach that be intercultural, ecumenical, and interreligious is absolutely necessary, it demands the converging of a great number of responsibilities and offers new opportunities."

The cardinal added that it is "expedient also to develop a political action explicit and comprehensive, that does not turn the immigrant into the scapegoat for other social crucial issues, nor a threat to security and stability."Again citing "Erga Migrantes Caritas Cristi," he said, "

The precarious situation of so many foreigners, which should arouse everyone's solidarity, instead brings about fear in many, who feel that immigrants are a burden, regard them with suspicion and even consider them a danger and a threat. This often provokes manifestations of intolerance, xenophobia and racism."

"The basis for the action of the Church, instead, is the affirmation that all persons are equal, well beyond the differences deriving from origin, language and culture, in the belief of the unity of the human family," the cardinal affirmed.

"The approach of the Catholic Church, therefore, affirms the central role and sacred character of the human being independently from his or her regular or irregular legal status, most of all in cases of defenselessness and marginalization, taking also into due account the family. Not only, the Church is more and more convinced that making the most of the ethical-religious dimension of migration is the surest way to reach also other goals of high human and cultural value."

--- ---- ---On the Net:Erga Migrantes Caritas Cristi:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Caritas Group Decries European Immigration Rule

Recalls Opposite Situation in Colonial Times

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, JULY 23, 2008 ( ).- The Caritas network of Latin America and the Caribbean is reminding Europe that immigrants are not delinquents.

A joint statement from representatives of the network responded to the "Return Directive," approved by the European Union last month. The measure, which could go into effect in 2010, has been criticized by human rights groups and Latin American government officials as overly harsh. It allows for up to 18 months' detention prior to deportation and banishment from the E.U. for several years.

The Caritas statement appeals to the European Parliament and its representatives in European Union governments, to "desist from the tendency to criminalize migrations and the expulsion of people in irregular situations."

The statement is signed by Bishop Fernando Bargalló, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Caritas, and by José Antonio Sandoval, executive secretary of the secretariat.

The E.U. directive, the statement adds, "is contrary to a global, safe, humane migratory system consistent with the fundamental rights of the human person."

The communiqué's signatories reject "categorically that migrants, being in an irregular situation, should be regarded as criminals, promoting their expulsion, measures that deprive them of liberty and ban them from entry."

The signatories expressed their special opposition to the "application of these measures to minors, as we believe this violates their fundamental rights."

They expressed their disagreement "with the shielding of economies and systems of social protection that for years have benefited from the effort of a working population seeking to improve the living conditions of their families."

Brothers and sisters

The Caritas statement recalled that religious traditions teach the faithful to welcome one another with love.

"Every day we witness the suffering of immigrant families who have lost loved ones, who died at sea, or of immigrants themselves who have experienced exploitation in their work or abuse at the hands of human traffickers and other unscrupulous individuals," it continued. "We also witness the pain of those who remain; we see children and elderly people taking on responsibilities that do not correspond to them to take care of homes, and we also see the daily sacrifice, full of love and tenderness, to take care of families from a distance."

It is alarming, say the signatories, that educated Europe, a traditional land of asylum and a rich land, has approved this directive to expel immigrants in irregular situations.

It is painful "to witness that representatives of countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, England, etc., whose migrations in colonial times to America, Asia and Africa, represented for them not only an immense opening of horizons but also the concrete possibility of economic growth, have forgotten that recent history and now vote and approve, in an ill-timed manner, this inhuman directive," they added.

The Caritas statement appeals instead for measures from Europe to help fledgling economies in Latin America.

"As organizations and networks of a religious nature, of solidarity and charity, we call attention to the ethical dimension of the European Directive," the statement concluded, "and to the need to put into practice policies that safeguard the human dignity of all people."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI Message on Water


VATICAN CITY, 15 JULY 2008 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father's message to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, representative of the Holy See for the "Day of the Holy See" at the International Expo of Saragossa (Spain), was made public. The message, written in Spanish, is dated 10 July.

"I am pleased to send a message of faith and hope", the Pope writes, "to those who are visiting the 2008 Saragossa Expo dedicated to the complex themes tied to the importance of water for human life and the maintenance of equilibrium among the diverse elements of our world. The Holy See wanted to be present at the Expo with a pavilion that was jointly prepared with the archdiocese of Saragossa, which I thank for their generous commitment to promoting proper cultural initiatives that draw the visitor closer to the immense patrimony of spirituality, art, and social wisdom that is inspired by water and which has been safeguarded by the Catholic Church".
"We have to be aware that, regrettably, water - an essential and indispensible good that the Lord has given us to maintain and develop life -, because of incursions and pressures from various social factors, is today considered a good that must be especially protected through clear national and international policies and used according to sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility. The use of water - which is seen as a universal and inalienable right - is related to the growing and urgent needs of those living in poverty, keeping in mind that the 'limited access to drinkable water affects the wellbeing of an enormous number of people and is frequently the cause of illness, suffering, conflict, poverty, and also death'".

"Those who consider water today to be a predominantly material good", the Pope concludes, "should not forget the religious meanings that believers, and Christianity above all, have developed from it, giving it great value as a precious immaterial good that always enriches human life on this earth. How can we not recall in this circumstance the suggestive message that comes to us from Sacred Scripture, which treats water as a symbol of purification and life? The full recovery of this spiritual dimension is ensured and presupposed for a proper approach to the ethical, political, and economic problems that affect the complex management of water on the part of all concerned, as well as in the national and international spheres".

Monday, July 14, 2008

Charity Workers Invest Time to Pray

ZE08071410 - 2008-07-14

Charity Workers Invest Time to Pray

Interview With Cardinal Paul Cordes of Cor Unum

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2008 ( A spiritual retreat for leaders of Catholic charities on the American continent was not a waste of time, but rather a way to make them more efficient, explained the cardinal who oversees the Church's charity work.

Cardinal Paul Cordes presides over the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery that coordinates the charitable activity of Catholic institutions around the world. It also distributes aid from the Pope, offered as a gesture of charity to populations struck by natural disasters or war.

In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Cordes talks about the first ever spiritual exercises organized by the pontifical council for directors of diocesan and national Caritas organizations and other Catholic charitable organizations. The exercises were held June 1-6 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and directed by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

Q: For the first time, directors of some of the Church's charitable institutions met in a continental retreat to meditate and pray. During those days there were global emergencies, such as the global food crisis, which leaves the peoples of developing countries going hungry. Wasn't a retreat a waste of time?

Cardinal Cordes: Indeed, it might seem that way, at least at the practical level. However, I think a better service can be offered the poor only when people who are dedicated to charitable activities are profoundly and solidly rooted in Christ and in ecclesial life.

This meeting was a strong investment: The efficacy of the Church's charitable action does not depend -- as Benedict XVI states in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" -- only on professionalism and the amount of interventions. What characterizes charitable intervention is its insertion in the Church's life itself, the fact of taking to men a message of hope and love, the love of God, in fact, for those who suffer most. This transforms aid into an act of charity, as understood in sacred Scripture.

The Holy Father says that an activity of Christian aid must be, in the first place, professional and efficient, but that this is not enough in itself. We organized the spiritual exercises in Guadalajara precisely in response to this "not enough." We witnessed that, although the dioceses already take the spiritual aspect into account, people have a great thirst for meetings of this sort. At the end of the exercises, one of the participants said to me: "Your Eminence, I return to my diocese, to my work, as though recharged, and with a great and renewed desire to continue serving, helping my neighbor as the Church requests."

Q: Many describe the Catholic Church as "the largest nongovernmental organization of the world." Do you agree with this definition? What is the difference between the Church and any other nongovernmental organization?

Cardinal Cordes: Father Cantalamessa, who directed the retreat with his conferences, has often addressed this argument. The greatest charity consists in helping our neighbor by offering him, along with concrete aid, also the greatest, most ineffable good: Christ himself. Therefore, the Church is called to help the poor, the needy, people hit by calamities in their material needs; but along with this, one who acts as a Christian -- that is, from his faith -- is called to take the love that God has as Father to each man, especially to those who suffer.

Nongovernmental organization are used to reflecting on the problems of the world, such as disasters, hunger, drought, migrations and war, in order to be able to address these challenges, especially, politically and technically. In giving priority to these practical and organizational interventions, the profound spiritual aspect is easily lost. From the quantitative point of view and using purely sociological categories, we can certainly confirm that the Catholic Church is the world's largest Nongovernmental organization, but this "primacy" is of little interest to us. The Church hopes to be a sign, to make visible the fact that no person has ever been excluded from God's paternal concern even if he is stricken by destructive, terrible and dehumanizing poverty. And, no less important, is to proclaim that there is eternal life.

In addition to this, there is a second argument. The great strength of the Church is found in the fact that often those who act in her are "incarnated," rooted in the concrete realities, in their field: They are present, they come from the same situations of suffering, they know them personally. Moreover, we have an extraordinary resource: Most of the volunteers offer their help for free. They commit themselves even before the arrival of funds or means sent by others.

Q: The Pope sent a message to the participants inviting them to intensify their friendship with Christ. Addressing those in charge of large aid institutions, it would seem that this message did not address its specificity: aid, development. Do you share this judgment?

Cardinal Cordes: A pastoral impulse should not stress so much the qualities already practiced by those who are listening, but rather aspects sometimes taken for granted and which, instead, should be reinforced. The Pope thinks that, to address the real problems better, what is necessary as foundation and point of departure is friendship with Christ. This friendship makes the agent of charity a Good Samaritan, according to the model and example of Christ.

Q: Father Raniero Cantalamessa has said that the Church should not only work with the poor but should be poor. What does this mean and how do you see this invitation?

Cardinal Cordes: Father Cantalamessa, who has truly addressed the core of the problem, stressed the importance of the way the Church presents herself when helping the poor. In this connection, he gave the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Church makes herself credible by the way she presents herself before the various forms of poverty. Significant is the anecdote often mentioned of the journalist who, on visiting the House of the Dying in Kalighat, and after seeing the work of the religious who cared for the patients, exclaimed: "I wouldn't do this for a million dollars!" To which Mother Teresa responded: "Nor would I!"

Mother Teresa had understood, in her charism of help for the unfortunate, that in each poor person we are serving Christ. If I do not appear poor before the poor man, before Christ himself, I will not be living true charity.

Q: What were the participants' reactions to this new experience of spiritual exercises?

Cardinal Cordes: Many testimonies of satisfaction and gratitude. We are now preparing a publication in various languages with some experiences, as a memento for the participants. Moreover, some of the participants have already included in their agendas the taking of these exercises to their dioceses, in agreement with the local bishop.

Q: It's the first time an organization of the Holy See organizes such a meeting. Will there be others?

Cardinal Cordes: We hope so, given the joy and enthusiasm experienced, lived and referred to by the participants. I sincerely hope, from my heart, that this experience might be repeated also in other continents.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Caritas Laments G-8's Lack of Fresh Leadership

Says Failure to Meet Millennium Goals a Scandal

ROME, JULY 9, 2008 ( ).- The Caritas representative at the Group of Eight meeting in Japan lamented that the results of the summit were a stalemate and a repetition of the same failing promises.

Joseph Donnelly, who is the head of the Caritas delegation at the United Nations in New York, gave a bleak evaluation of the G-8 meeting that ended today.

"The outcomes of the 2008 G-8 are stalemate on climate change and a broken record on aid for Africa," he said. "The world was looking for fresh leadership, but instead got Groundhog Day."

The leaders promised to uphold previous pledges made at the 2005 G-8 summit on increased levels of aid, but did not define the concrete steps to fulfill the promises, Caritas reported. Three years into the G-8's five-year plan on increasing overseas aid to $50 billion a year, only a fifth of the money has been delivered.

"Reheated commitments on aid that we're still waiting to see fulfilled three years later will not deliver food, education, clean water, and health to the poorest people," Donnelly said. "The tragedy is that we can show the massive improvements that have been made in developing countries with the little amounts of aid that have been delivered. The G-8 countries can afford to deliver on their aid pledges so it will be a scandal if the Millennium Development Goals fail to be reached because of lack of financing."

Climate change

Caritas also lamented the results of the summit discussion on climate change.

"G-8 leaders needed to end the inertia on carbon emissions, instead they repeated in 2008 what was said 16 years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio," Donnelly said. "It's a plan for inertia in which the poor are paying the cost now on behalf of the rich countries who are responsible, but in which the whole world will eventually foot the bill of an increasingly hostile climate."

The G-8 includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

What I Did in Guadalajara: Spiritual Exercises for Charities/Caritas Directors

From Roundtable of Diocesan Social Action Directors Newsletter, National Pastoral Life Center

by Brian Corbin
Executive Director, Catholic Charities Services & Health Affairs
Diocese of Youngstown, OH

I gratefully participated as one of approximately 75 US delegates at the "Spiritual Exercises" sponsored by The Pontifical Council, Cor Unum (One Heart). This Vatican dicastery, organized by Pope Paul VI, helps to coordinate the charitable works of the Church on a global level, fosters the catechesis of charity, and operates various development foundations. Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes , in attendance with us, serves as President of the Council.

Over 450 Catholic Charities/Caritas directors from all the countries of North, Central, South America and the Caribbean came to Guadalajara, Mexico from June 1-June 6, 2008 to engage in a first ever hemispheric retreat led by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. Two major aspects moved me during this unique experience: 1) the power of the reflections by Fr. Cantalamessa on the nature and work of "charity/Love" based on the papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est; and, 2) the interactions I had with many directors of Catholic Charities (or Caritas in all other parts of the world except in the US).

Fr. Cantalamessa led us in a series of meditations that helped us as “Caritas” workers to integrate in our agencies and personal lives various aspects of systematic theology, spirituality and Scripture. He called us to meditate on the six strophs/verses of the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost). I gained a much deeper insight into the work and theology of the Trinity through his reflections on the power and gifts of the Spirit. Cantalamessa continued his meditations on four specific "beatitudes" (blessed are the poor, the meek, the hungry, the peacemakers) and challenged us to review in our own lives how these impact us as leaders of Catholic Charities/Caritas agencies. He then led a series of meditations on several well known parables: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Lazarus and Dives, and again called us to better understand how these stories form our spiritual lives and apostolates. Finally, during the daily Eucharistic celebrations, Cantalamessa preached on the various aspects of the Mass (the Word, the Eucharist, Communion) and on Mary. Some very specific themes that impacted me specifically related to the Christian call to holiness, the need to refuse/reject “indifference,” and the radical witness of the call to love God and our Neighbor.

Another aspect that moved me involved the interactions I had with Caritas Directors from many other countries of the American hemisphere. I gained new insights into the work of the Church in various dioceses of the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala to name a few. I grew to appreciate how the Church is a trans-national/global institution with local outreach in almost every neighborhood on earth. I learned that even though I need to focus my work in my own diocese, that there is a need to find ways to connect to our brothers and sisters around the world. I gained an appreciation on how some of our fellow directors are personally at risk for their work. I experienced how all of us share in the work of the Church continuing Jesus’ call to be servants. The mission is universal: be a sign of God’s love in the world.

I left this retreat more committed to living out my faith – both personally and institutionally -- as a director of a Caritas agency in the US. We are called to act --and love-- locally and think globally by practicing some of core insights of our faith: solidarity and communion.

Books by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Preacher of the Papal Household:

  • Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator Liturgical Press (May 2003)
  • Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to the Abundant Christian Life Word Among Us Press (January 15, 2007)
  • The Eucharist, Our Sanctification Liturgical Press (January 1993)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bishops Decry Mistreatment of Guatemalan Migrants

Criticize EU, US and Mexico

GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 7, 2008 ( ).- The bishops of Guatemala are pleading for better treatment for migrants from their country, just as the European Union is hoping to finalize its new policy on immigrants.

In a statement Thursday, the prelates expressed their "regret and concern" over the worldwide situation of immigrants, noting that migrants are motivated by "extreme reasons -- poverty, unemployment, insecurity, natural disasters, war, and others."

Meanwhile European Union officials, at informal talks in France today, expressed optimism that the "European Pact on Immigration and Asylum" could be finalized by October. Many are criticizing the measure as xenophobic, though defenders say it is just an attempt to control and regulate human movement in the union.

The bishops took particular issue with some of the clauses in the pact, saying, "This initiative is excessively restrictive and does not give sufficient guarantees for respect of migrants' human rights." In that regard, they lamented that the policy gives authorities the right to detain immigrants for 18 months for processing, without any criminal charge.

The Guatemalan bishops' statement, signed by Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, president of the Pastoral Committee for Human Mobility, expressed their "solidarity, and moral and spiritual support to all those migrants suffering persecution, raids and deportations at present in the United States of America." They also address "those who with despair are about to suffer xenophobic laws and policies violating fundamental human rights in the European Union -- a hostile and incoherent policy such as that implemented in the United States."

The statement notes that this year, an average of 6.5 flights a week have returned deported Guatemalans from the United States. Nevertheless, migrants in the United States have already sent $1.7 million back to their families in Guatemala during 2008.

As Church leaders, "we are worried by such events suffered by the immigrant community in the said nations, which have opted for repressive and discriminatory dispositions against thousands of illegal immigrants who contribute clandestinely to the economy of their countries of origin and of destination."

The bishops said deportations from the United States and Mexico "in no way solve the migratory problem; they are counterproductive and inhuman actions."

Appeal to government

The episcopal conference also called on the Guatemalan government for better measures to reinsert deported workers back into society.

"To date, the actions of the government do not guarantee a dignified stay in our country for the deported," they lamented. "Given the economic, political and social situation, many are obliged to attempt a return to the north. Thus migration is transformed into a constant vicious circle that fosters the increase of debt in families."

Given the migratory panorama and the situations faced by their fellow countrymen and migrants of the Central American region, the Guatemalan bishops call for "reflection by member nations of the European Union, by the United States of America and by Mexico, to act with solidarity and without prejudice to migrants."

The bishops also exhort the migrants "to be strong in face of such blows and to remain united and in solidarity in their struggle against such adversities. They have our support and solidarity. They are present in our prayers."

The Guatemalan bishops proposed united action from Central American groups so as to be able to "influence the European Union and call it as a whole to reflect on these attitudes against migrants."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Holy See on Global Food Crisis

ZE08070305 - 2008-07-03

"World Spends $1.3 Trillion in Armaments; Lifesaving Funds Are Unavailable"

NEW YORK, JULY 3, 2008 ( Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave Wednesday at the general debate of the U.N. Economic and Social Council Substantive Session for 2008.

* * *

Mr. President,

This year's High-Level Segment calls world leaders to reflect upon the progress made in achieving the United Nations development agenda and the urgency to address the developmental needs of rural communities. The ongoing food crisis, as well as the economic downturn in some developed countries, highlights the importance and relevance of our theme.

The food crisis has impacted all societies. In some places it manifests itself in scarcity of food with consequent malnourishment and starvation; in others it appears in the form of higher prices for families trying to provide for their basic needs. Despite its different manifestations, it stems from a series of concomitant causes: shortsighted economic, agricultural and energy policies, which cause a clash between the increasing demand for food and insufficient production of food, and the increase in financial speculations on commodities, the uncontrollable rise of oil prices and adverse climate conditions.

While today's debate will appropriately focus on the structural defects of the world economy and on the causes of the emergency, we must work to ensure that this discussion is accompanied by immediate and effective action. Failure to do so will deem our meeting as a mere rhetorical exercise and avoidance of responsibilities.

Mr. President,

While this year marks the 60th anniversary of the UDHR, the worldwide food crisis threatens the attainment of the primary right of every person to be free from starvation. In this light, the Resolution on the Right to Food, recently adopted by the Human Rights Council, emphasizes correctly the obligation of States, with the assistance of the international community, to make every effort to meet the food needs of their populations through measures which respect human rights and the rule of law.

At the outset, action must be taken to assist those suffering from malnutrition and starvation. It is difficult to think that, in a world which spends over 1.3 trillion dollars each year in armaments, life-saving funds to help people in need are unavailable. A sincere will to tackle the issue must be accompanied by the necessary action, not simply words and intentions.

Going forward, the initial economic emergency aid must be accompanied by a concerted effort on the part of all to invest in long-term and sustainable agriculture programs at the local and international levels. The last twenty-five years have seen considerable progress in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty. Unless we reinvest in agriculture, however, the progress that has been achieved through hard work and dedication risks being lost. To this end, agrarian reforms in developing countries must be sped up in order to give small-holder farmers the tools for increasing production in a sustainable manner as well as access to local and global markets.

Moreover, agricultural and environmental policies must walk the path of reason and reality in order to balance the need for food production with the need to be good stewards of the earth. The current food scarcity reemphasizes the urgency to explore new energy supplies which do not pit the right to food against other needs.

My delegation welcomes the recommendations of the recent High-level Conference on World Food Security held in Rome at the FAO. They offer a practical guide on how to deal with the short and long term consequences of the food crisis and give guidance on how to prevent it from recurring in the future.

Mr. President,

The twentieth century suffered in a tragic way from the effects of people and governments looking only within their national borders and from lack of consultation and multilateral cooperation. The present crisis is an opportunity for the global community to come together and take responsibility for our neighbor.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Papal Peace Day Message Looks at Poverty

Says Solution to "Scandal" Is Conversion of Heart

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2008 ( ).- Benedict XVI is dedicating his message for the World Day of Peace to a theme lurking behind many conflicts: poverty.

"Combating Poverty: Building Peace" is the theme chosen by the Pope for this January's 42nd World Day of Peace, celebrated on the first day of each year.

A Vatican communiqué released today explained: "The theme chosen by the Holy Father highlights the need for the human family to find an urgent response to the serious question of poverty, seen as a material problem but above all as a moral and spiritual one."

The statement noted how the Pope -- in a June 2 message addressed to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization -- denounced the scandal of world poverty in the following terms: "Poverty and malnutrition are not a simple fatality, provoked by adverse environmental situations or by disastrous natural calamities. [...] Purely technical and economic considerations must not prevail over the duties of justice toward people suffering from hunger."

The communiqué added: "The scandal of poverty reveals the inadequacy of current systems of human coexistence in promoting the realization of the common good. This imposes the need for reflection on the deep roots of material poverty and, consequently, also on spiritual poverty that makes man indifferent to the suffering of others.

"The answer, then, is to be sought first and foremost in the conversion of the human heart to the God of charity, so as to achieve poverty of spirit in the terms of the message of salvation announced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."