The Society of Jesus has welcomed the US Department of State's prompt correction of a terrorism report that originally said Jesuit priests founded Colombia's largest terrorist group.
In a statement May 5, the State Department said its annual terrorism report's allegation that Jesuit priests founded Colombia's National Liberation Army was "absolutely false."
"We sincerely regret the error," the statement said. "We offer our most sincere apologies to the Jesuit community and want to assure them that the Department of State had no intention of impugning the Society of Jesus or their pastoral work throughout the world."
The original report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999," released May 1, said that the guerrilla group, known by its Spanish acronym, ELN, was "formed in 1965 by Jesuit priests inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara."
Fr Jose de Vera SJ, the Rome-based spokesman for the Jesuits, said that the report caught the Jesuits by surprise. The order's provincial in Colombia, Fr Oracio Arango, immediately sent a letter of protest to the country's US ambassador, he said.
Fr de Vera said that the mistaken information also potentially put Colombian Jesuits in physical danger, given the country's ongoing civil war. "To point to the Jesuits as the inspiration or foundation of a terrorist group was really a blow in the present situation and could be very dangerous indeed," he added.
In addition to issuing the statement, the State Department corrected its Internet version of the report to read instead that the ELN was "established in 1964 nominally as [a] military wing of [the] Colombian Communist Party." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
After maintaining silence on the subject, Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops have expressed veiled criticism of the occupation of white-owned farms by black activists.
In response to the deepening crisis, in which President Robert Mugabe has supported the occupations, and under pressure from Zimbabwe's Catholics, the bishops' conference and other church leaders issued a message in April urging citizens of Zimbabwe to respect human rights and reject violence as a means of solving the country's problems.
Referring to the land question the message said: "There is a price to be paid for reconciliation--sharing the land and its resources more equitably. While land is being shared out, care must be taken that the redistribution is not distorted by corruption. There must be a place for everybody to earn a living for their families. The country needs the talents and skills of all."
A Jesuit source in Zimbabwe characterized some reports as exaggeration that suggested the Jesuits might be well placed to mediate, owing to President Mugabe's connections with the Society when at school.
Recently, however, Fr Fidelis Mukonori SJ was responsible for a meeting between the syndicate of white owners and the President Mugabe. The meeting was an attempt to settle the ongoing national dispute that has resulted in the death of a number of persons. [Source: The Tablet; SJ Electronic Information Service]
Fr Charles L Currie SJ, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), was among a number of higher education representatives to visit Cuba in April.
Currie was invited to be part of a delegation of Massachusetts educators by Congressmen Joe Moakley (D-MA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) to explore possibilities for educational and cultural exchange in Cuba.
The group met with government ministers, University of Havana administrators and faculty, artists and writers, medical educators and researchers, elementary school teachers and students, and representatives from the Martin Luther King Center and Caritas Cubana, two of the few nongovernmental organizations in Cuba.
As a result of the visit the College of the Holy Cross, Boston College, and a number of other colleges and universities in the state have agreed to work together to bring Cuban scholars, artists, and writers to the United States.
"This is an excellent opportunity for our schools to participate in this exciting phase in Cuba's history," said Currie. "We look forward to exploring the possibilities of cultural and student exchanges with Cuba for as many of our 28 colleges and universities as possible." [Source: AJCU]
According to data collected by the Jesuit-run University of Central American (UCA) in San Salvador, 55 percent of Salvadorans profess the Catholic faith, 20 percent say they belong to evangelical churches, and 22 percent say they do not have any religion at all.
"There has been a growth in the Protestant churches; it's slower than it previously was, but there is definitely a disenchantment with the Catholic Church," said Miguel Cruz, a social investigator and head of the university's public opinion institute.
By knocking on doors and interviewing people in the streets, the evangelicals appear to have built up a powerful following, especially among the poorer sectors of society. Jehovah's Witnesses, the most familiar sight visiting homes in residential neighborhoods on Sundays, claim to bring together more than 50,000 people at their services across the country each weekend.
Fr Dean Brackley SJ, a US lecturer in theology at UCA, said, "The Catholic Church is confronting a pluralistic situation where people have other options and can make other choices. The collapse of the quasi-feudal society that previously existed in Latin America, the Catholic Church, which fitted easily into that model, has been slow to change," he added.
But according to church observers, the appearance in El Salvador of groups such as the Charismatic Renewal movement or the catechumenate movement from Spain has signaled that sectors within the Catholic Church have begun to take action.
Imitating the successful recruitment methods used by the evangelicals, these Catholic groups have set out to bring people back. Church officials estimate these groups are growing in numbers in many of the largest Catholic parishes in the capital and the provinces.
Fr Brackley said this is part of the opening up of religions across the continent. "These apostolic groups are serving as an ecumenical channel for bridging the gap between Protestant and Catholic expressions of the faith," he said. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
The archbishop of Belgrade expressed his appreciation for the activities of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Serbia. In a recent visit to Belgrade, JRS Southeast Europe director, Stjepan Kusan SJ, met Archbishop Franc Perko who said, "I am very happy to see that the Jesuits are not only intellectually but also socially engaged with the people. It is an expression of their faith."
JRS set up an office in Belgrade in September to reach out to refugees and displaced people in camps and urban areas. JRS and HOCS (Humanitarian Organization of Orthodox Christians in Switzerland) are set to open an office in Belgrade this sprint that will focus on networking humanitarian efforts, collaboration, and the facilitation of entry visas to Yugoslavia. [Source: JRS Dispatches]
The Church in Peru has turned down a request to mediate in the presidential elections following a disagreement between the Archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani, and the Jesuit president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, Luis Bambarén.
The leading opposition candidate, Alejandro Toledo, had sought the bishops' involvement to ensure free and fair electoral conditions in the election's second round, scheduled for May 28.
The first electoral round in early April was marked by ballot fraud, intimidation of candidates, and government manipulation of the media and has been broadly condemned by international electoral observers. The criticism appears to have been instrumental in preventing a fraudulent Fujimori victory; the President failed by just one percentage point to reach the 50 percent needed to win the ballot. But the climate in Lima remains tense, with international observers calling on the government to clean up its act and Toledo threatening to withdraw his candidacy unless the fraud and intimidation cease.
A series of letters from Archbishop Cipriani were published in the Lima daily, La República, in which Cipriani, a member of Opus Dei who is an admirer of President Fujimori, criticizes Bishop Bambarén for appearing to accept the invitation to mediate without consultation. "What do we think we are doing, getting entangled in the elections?" he asks at one point.
Another senior churchman and Jesuit, the former Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, has disagreed with Archbishop Cipriani's view that the Toledo proposal would "politicize" the Church. "I believe he has not grasped the point that the Church is beyond party interests but not those of principle," he said. In an electoral climate of suspicion and cynicism, the Church had a right and a duty to help ensure a fair electoral process, he argued.
The Archbishop of Lima is known in Peru for his criticisms of human rights organizations and international election observers. The Peruvian press has been quick to seize on the irony that in 1997, when Cipriani was Archbishop of Ayacucho, he was handpicked by President Fujimori over the heads of more senior bishops to act as mediator between the government and rebels during the seven-month siege of the Japanese ambassador's residence. [Source: The Tablet]
Georgetown Prep: Fr William L George SJ will begin service as president on July 1, 2000. He succeeds Fr Thomas E Roach SJ, who has been president for the past eleven years.
Saint Ignatius High in Cleveland: Fr Timothy P Kesicki SJ will become the 24th president there on August 1, 2000. He succeeds Fr Robert J Welsh SJ, who has been president since 1979. [Source: Georgetown Prep & Saint Ignatius High]
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