Over 10,000 people from all over the Americas gathered at the gates of Ft Benning for the November 19 protest demanding the closure of the Army's School of the Americas (SOA). This included students and staff from all 28 US Jesuit colleges and universities and representatives from many of the Jesuit high schools as well.
The civil disobedience began Sunday morning as over 3,600 people "crossed the line" onto the base in a funeral procession, carrying thousands of crosses and other symbols inscribed with the names of victims of SOA violence in Latin America. They were led by a group dressed in black shrouds and white death masks who carried coffins to commemorate the assassination of six Jesuit priests and their two co-workers in El Salvador in 1989 by SOA graduates.
Of the 3,600 who risked arrest by crossing onto the base, more than 1,700 were arrested and processed, compared to 65 who were processed at last year's demonstration. They were given letters banning and barring them from entering the base for five years.
The growing opposition to the SOA includes more than 150 US bishops, including 15 Archbishops, and over 140 Latin American bishops who have called for its closure. [Source: soaw.org]
Police raids in a tribal village in eastern India in search of Fr Lourdu Irudayaraj Susia SJ, who was alleged to have destroyed 23 government-funded houses in order to get bricks to build a church in the village, have unsettled missionaries in the country. A Bihar state minister, Furkan Ansari, admitted that the raids were "a witch hunt."
Jesuit provincial Fr Mathew Thadathikuzhi said that the raids were carried out to demoralize missionaries empowering the Paharia, a vanishing tribe.
Local leader Vaidehi Sharan Mishra said Fr Lourdu was innocent: it was the villagers who demolished the government houses and used the bricks to build their own homes. Mahesh Paharia, who teaches in the government school, said the priest had unwittingly been dragged into a land dispute, and that the story about the priest demolishing houses had been "cooked up." Fr Naber Bilung SJ said that the police "behaved as though a massacre of Paharias had taken place, not the demolition of some old buildings." [Source: The Tablet]
About 100 protesters called for the reinstatement of Sr Jeanette Normandin to the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston, from where she and Fr George Winchester SJ were dismissed after each baptized a child, violating church liturgy laws.
Representatives from groups including Woman Church, Call to Action of Massachusetts, and the AIDS Action Committee protested what they called Sr Normandin's "unjust treatment" and "lack of due process."
The groups demanded that the Jesuit authorities allow Sr Normandin to remain at the center, "her home of 11 years." They also demanded that the offices of Ruah, a residence for women with AIDS, "not be evicted from the Jesuit Urban Center."
Fr Thomas J Carroll SJ, the center's director, said that Ruah is run by Sr Normandin and is a significant part of her full-time ministry. Since she cannot continue working at the center, he said it would be appropriate for the program to move its offices; Ruah has been invited to move to the Victory Program and the AIDS Action Committee offices.
Sr Normandin's supporters indicated that Jesuit officials did not meet with her before her dismissal.
Fr Carroll said he had met individually with Fr Winchester and Sr Normandin before his decision. He said their answers concerning the baptisms "didn't explain their actions or provide any serious defense."
Protesters argued that the firing ran contrary to the commitment to the advancement of women made by the 34th General Congregation. That gathering of Jesuit leaders in 1995 called on Jesuits to "listen carefully and courageously to the experience of women." It also called for "the appropriate presence of women in Jesuit ministries and institutions."
A press release from the New England Province said Fr Carroll had consulted beforehand with officials of the Boston Archdiocese and the Jesuit province, and both fully supported his decision to remove the priest and nun. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
Fr Peter Gumpel SJ, a defender of Pope Pius XII and relator for his sainthood cause, criticized a Catholic-Jewish commission's report about the Vatican's role during World War II, saying it posed "leading and loaded questions" while overlooking obvious answers.
Fr Gumpel said the commission's request for wider access to Vatican archives was a pointless exercise stemming from "patent ignorance" of already published materials.
The preliminary report prepared by three Catholic and three Jewish scholars was based on a study of 11 volumes of Vatican documents. It said the Holy See had received detailed accounts of Nazi atrocities against Jews as early as 1942, but that it was unclear how this information was received. It asked for further documentation on 47 specific points related to the Holocaust so that its work could continue.
Because of Fr Gumpel's knowledge of the period, the commission consulted with him and other Church experts before issuing its report, but he said his encounter left him with the impression that the Vatican documnets had not been adequately studied by commission members. He said some of the material was misquoted, some neglected, and some given undue weight.
Several commission members said they were surprised that the Vatican documents contained very little to support the argument that the pope and the Vatican made direct efforts to help Jews during the war.
Fr Gumpel called this an "outrageous" misreading. Because the volumes were a collection of official Vatican documents, he said, they omitted most personal requests or thank-yous, which he said can be found elsewhere to document Pope Pius' actions on behalf of Jews.
Fr Gumpel said he thinks it was a mistake to put so many North Americans on the Catholic-Jewish commission; four of the six commission members, as well as the three project coordinators, live in Canada or the United States. A more European perspective was needed, he said.
"These Americans, they have never lived in a police state. ... Therefore, they simply haven't got the feeling about what could be done, what was feasible, what was opportune. They just have to see this from dry documents, but they haven't lived in it," he said.
Fr Gumpel has been an outspoken defender of Pope Pius against accusations that he did not do enough to help stop the Holocaust or aid its victims. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
Fr Peter Gumpel SJ, who criticized the work of the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission, failed to understand the task it was assigned, said Eugene Fisher, a Vatican-appointed coordinator of the commission.
"I think Fr Gumpel misconstrued what the mandate to the group was," Fisher said. "So for Fr Gumpel to try to discredit the quality of the scholarship I think is not helpful," he added.
The joint historical commission was formed in November 1999 to give a critical assessment of an 11-volume historical study, "Actes et Documents du Saint Siege Relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondial" ("Acts and documents of the Holy See Relative to the Second World War").
The scholars, all recognized historians, "are perfectly familiar with other archives and where that might lead, but that's essentially irrelevant to their task," Fisher said. "They were asked to look at the 11 volumes and see what came out of that."
In late October the commission had a three-day visit to Rome in conjunction with the issuance of its first report, which reviewed the 11-volume study and asked questions about additional Vatican archival resources that might shed further light on the documents reported in the study.
In a number of cases, the historians asked for access to the unpublished documents referred to within the published documents or mentioned in the footnotes by the four Jesuit scholars who compiled the earlier study. In other cases they simply asked if the Vatican Secret Archives have additional letters, memos, diary entries, meeting notes, or other materials pertinent to one issue or another.
"These six scholars are doing something that the Holy See requested they do," he said. "This isn't an outside group that's banging at the door. This group is not self-selected. The three Catholics were appointed by the Holy See and the three Jews by International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations."
He said the spirit of the commission's work is "that of essential dialogue between the church and the Jewish people, trying in as measured a way as possible to seek the truth together. . . . It's a complex history and it needs to be done, I would say, by Christians and Jews working together." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
It was probably not noticed by most of us, but in October John Paul II's pontificate became the seventh longest in history, on par with Pope Alexander III. October 16 was the 22d anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's election to the papacy. This year he surpassed in length the pontificates of two saints: Sylvester I and Leo I.
To put this into perspective, here are the durations of popes with the longest reigns:
St Peter (30-64 or 67): 34 (or 37) years of which, according to tradition, he spent 25 in Rome.
The Jesuit priests of the Sant'Andrea al Quirinale Association in collaboration with Italian Islamic groups have organized a new exhibit on Islamic pilgrimages at Rome's Gregorian University, which they hope will further interreligious dialogue.
The display offers a look at Islam's holy cities of Mecca and Medina through photographs and personal pilgrimage accounts.
While the exhibit is not intended to resolve problems in interreligious relations, Fr Franco Imoda, university rector, said that "it represents a sign that we are interested in this dimension of commonality."
This year, a handful of Muslim students are studying at Gregorian University, which also has enrolled Jewish students for several years. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law has opened an Immigration Clinic, which according to Andrew Moore SJ, coordinator for the new clinic, will further the educational objectives of the school while creating a new avenue for law students to directly serve the poor and marginalized.
At the clinic, students will provide services to clients who probably cannot afford to hire their own legal representation. This presents a problem for both the immigrants and the court system as a whole. "Having people in court without representation doesn't allow the system to function properly," says Moore.
To address both of these issues, students will guide clients through their rights in the United States and represent them in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Services court.
Moore says the clinic will breathe life into the students' coursework: "It's hard to understand a system that is so heavily codified like immigration law until you actually see it working." [Source: University of Detroit Mercy]
Recently a discovery was made at the Jesuits' St Francis Xavier Church, also known as "De Krijtberg," in Amsterdam; a collection of 75 original copperplates with religious images from the sixteenth century was found. They were made by members of the Wierix family, famous engravers from Belgium, and several of the plates have a direct connection with the Society, including images of Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Robert Bellarmine.
About 10 percent of the total production of the Wierix family (2333 prints altogether) have a Jesuit connection. Their most famous contributions are the 153 engravings for the illustrated meditation book by Jer�nimo Nadal SJ, "Evangelicae Historiae Imagines," posthumously published in 1593 in Antwerp. How the collection ended up in Amsterdam is not clear, but the copperplates were probably transferred from Antwerp to Amsterdam some time after the Suppression of the Society in 1773. [Source: www.jesuits-europe.org]
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