Fr Avery Dulles SJ views Pope John Paul II's decision to make him a cardinal as an expression of the pope's desire to emphasize the importance of theology, recognize North American theology, and honor the Society of Jesus and its theological apostolate.
"The pope is reminding the Society of Jesus that the church depends on it to pursue theological excellence as a service to the church and the Holy See," he said January 21, the day the Vatican announced that he and 36 others would be made cardinals February 21.
This "incredible" honor was the greatest he would ever receive but presents the challenge of adapting his informal style and of learning "how to look and act cardinalatial," he remarked.
Dulles was a professor at the Jesuit Woodstock College in Maryland and at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Since 1988 he has been a professor of religion and society at Fordham University.
Author of many theological books and articles and a consultor to the US bishops' Committee on Doctrine, the Jesuit scholar has long been regarded by many as the most eminent Catholic theologian in the United States.
Some European theologians who were not bishops have been made cardinals, but the 82-year-old Jesuit will be the first American in that category. Because he is over 80, he would not be eligible to vote in any papal election, and he said he considers his selection "mostly honorary."
Cardinal-designate Dulles, the son of John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under President Eisenhower, said that although he was reared in a Presbyterian household, he "never was much of a Protestant" and came to the Christian faith largely under Catholic auspices as a student at Harvard University. "It was the best decision I ever made." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
On January 24 John Paul II sent a telegram to George W Bush to congratulate him on his inauguration as president of the United States. The text of that telegram follows.
"On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-third president of the United States of America I send warm greetings and good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength of purpose in the exercise of your high office. As the world faces the challenges of the new millennium I pray that under your leadership the American people will discover in their rich religious and political heritage the spiritual values which will provide clear direction and a sound ethical foundation for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, with unfailing respect for the dignity and rights of each individual, especially the poor, the defenseless and those who have no voice. I likewise ask God, the Father of the nations, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, cooperation, and peace among the peoples of the world. Upon you and your family, and upon the beloved American people I cordially invoke the Lord's abundant blessings." Ioannes Paulus PP II [Source: Zenith News Service]
None of the Jesuit houses in Gujarat report any damage or casualties following the January 26 earthquake in India. There are no Jesuit houses in the Saurashtra region, where the quake hit hardest.
The figure of those who have died has reached 20,000, and this may still be growing. Several villages had only just been reached on January 28, and without heavy equipment to dig under the rubble, there is no way of knowing how many are buried there.
The Jesuits have opened their houses to those who have been rendered homeless, and they are now organizing relief measures. [Source: www.jesuits-europe.org]
The following remarks are from Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ of St Xavier's College, Bombay.
It has been the most serious [earthquake]in many years and already 11,000 are reported to have died, with many more still under rubble. The most damage has been in the state of Gujarat, where we have many Jesuit houses. The Jesuits in Ahmedabad, the capital of the state (where about 500 have died in house collapses), are safe, but the real damage has been done in another part of the state, where most of the casualties are. Communications with this part have broken down, and hence we do not yet have much news. The saddest news is that about 400 children died in one school because the buildings around them collapsed while they were on parade.
Gujarat has been having a very hard time for the last few years. It was hit by a killer cyclone a couple of years ago, and it has seen very serious communal violence against Christians and Muslims for the last two years. The local government is run by a fundamentalist Hindu party, which has been using religion to appeal to Hindu voters. They have been alleging conversions on a large scale through fraud and force -- something unbelievable for such a tiny minority group like the Christians. Violence has been a constant feature of the lives of the Christians, especially the indigenous or tribal converts in the region. This earthquake has taken misfortune to new heights. It was so strong that the effects were felt all over India and Pakistan and even in Nepal. [Source: Frazer Mascarenhas SJ]
Prompted by the assassination of Congolese President Laurent Kabila, Fr Oskar Wermter SJ, social communications officer of the bishops' conference in Zimbabwe, one of five foreign countries involved in Congo's civil war, called for Zimbabwean troops to withdraw immediately. He said he was concerned that it could take years before a peace agreement was drawn up and followed.
"Zimbabwe's involvement in the war has been a disaster for our country," said Fr Wermter. "We can't afford this when our own health and education systems are collapsing."
He said it was unlikely that the fighting in Congo would end soon. The government of Congo chose Kabila's son, Maj Gen Joseph Kabila, as president after his father was shot dead by a bodyguard January 16. "If Joseph Kabila is anything like his father, then the prospects for peace are not very good," Fr Wermter said.
The current war in Congo has been one of the most destructive in Africa's recent history. In 1997 Kabila toppled Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator of what was then Zaire. Kabila reneged on promises to hold democratic elections and work to bring peace to the region.
His leadership style alienated his former allies, who formed a rebel army. Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola took Kabila's side in the conflict, while Rwanda and Uganda backed the rebels.
Zimbabwe has strong economic interests in mineral-rich Congo, said Fr Wermter. "Our government does not seem prepared to pull out unless there is a full peace agreement, which means that our presence in the country will drag on and on."
The bishops would like to see an end to the war in Congo and a negotiated settlement, Fr Wermter said, noting that "Zimbabweans are very unhappy about our soldiers dying for a cause we don't understand." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
On January 25, presiding over an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word, John Paul II said that Christians this year must strive decisively to promote unity among separated brethren. The ceremony, which took place in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, gave the finishing touch to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Among the ecumenical moments John Paul II will promote this year is the celebration of Christ's resurrection, which coincides in the calendars of Christian churches, a coincidence that "should encourage us to come to an agreement to celebrate this feast on a common date," the pope said.
The Pontiff also confirmed that this year he will visit at least two countries with important non-Catholic Christian communities: Ukraine and Syria. With these pilgrimages, he said he hopes to contribute "to reconciliation and peace among Christians."
There were representatives from virtually all the Orthodox Churches of the world attending the ceremony, including delegates from Constantinople, Moscow, and Greece; from the Oriental Apostolic Churches, as well as the Anglican Communion, the World Lutheran Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World Methodist Council, and the World Baptist Alliance. The World Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical institution, which embraces all the Christian churches and denominations of the world -- more than 330, with the exception of the Catholic Church -- was also represented at the celebration.
"True ecumenical commitment does not look for compromises and makes no concessions as regards truth," John Paul II said to the Christian leaders during the homily. "It knows that the separations among Christians are contrary to the will of Christ: It knows that it is a scandal, that it weakens the voice of the Gospel. It must make an effort not to ignore them, but to overcome them. At the same time, awareness of what is lacking for full communion makes us appreciate to a greater extent what we already share." [Source: Zenith News Service]
First convened by Francisco Oliva SJ in 1999, the Youth Parliament in Paraguay is heading for its third sitting. Each April, more than a thousand young people from all over the country begin a year-long course of formation at the Center for National Studies and at the National University.
Everyone who attends at least 80 percent of the sessions, writes a thesis, and does volunteer work, goes on to collect the signatures of a hundred people to represent and then works for two years as a legislator. After the first six months in regional government, the young parliamentarians proceed to the capital Asunción and take their seats in the National House of Representatives.
"If now while they're young they don't influence society, later as adults they will do so," according to Fr Oliva. "We hope that this Youth Parliament will have a Latin American dimension, and already dream of an intercontinental one as well." [Source: Headlines, Francisco de Paula Oliva SJ]
Fifteen Catholics in the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis are changing their lives by joining more than 35 Midwesterners who are Ignatian Associates.
These women and men take part in a two-year process that includes prayer, study of the life and writings of Ignatius, faith sharing, and following the Spiritual Exercises. Each meeting is led by a Jesuit priest.
This year Fr Dick Rice SJ leads the Twin Cities group, which gathers for retreats and reflection days, sometimes with associates from Milwaukee and Omaha, the other cities where Ignatian Associates gather.
Stephanie Russell, lay formation assistant for the Wisconsin Province, says that group members support one another's faith development, whether it is talking about experiencing God's presence through the love between mother and child or trying to find God's plan when confronted with a serious illness.
Ministry is key to the associates' formation process. After they have completed that process, they can make a promise to be open to discerning mission with the Society of Jesus and to be sent for service. Mission opportunities, which include tutoring, assisting immigrants, helping with Jesuit school programs, and adult and child catechesis, focus on ministry to the poor and marginalized.
Fidelity to the mission of the Gospel, to Jesuit companions, and to other associates is a second promise associates can make after they complete formation. The third promise is to adhere to simplicity in life. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
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