This week saw some extraordinary engagement from the Catholic church on the crisis in Lebanon. The Holy See joined a 15-nation summit in Rome and the spokesman for the U.S. bishops on international policy, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, was outspoken on the crisis in an exclusive interview with NCR.
All Things Catholic
The Vatican took part as an observer in the International Conference for Lebanon held in Rome on Wednesday, sending a three-member delegation led by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Secretary for Relations with States. Two officials from the Secretariat of State accompanied him, Monsignors Franco Coppola and Alberto Ortega Martin.
Apparently unfazed by criticism that his comments “deploring” the Israeli incursion into Lebanon amounted to a form of moral equivalence between terrorism and legitimate self-defense, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano continued to speak out this week.
Faced with violence such as that in Lebanon, in which religious differences play a significant role, one temptation for believers is to retreat into a kind of vague humanitarian language, soft-pedaling any confessional approach for fear of making things worse. Some believers worry that striking spiritual notes while the world burns flirts with naiveté; as Woody Allen once put it, if there really is a God, the best that can be said of him is that he’s an under-achiever.
As a sidebar to the humanitarian mobilization for Lebanon, the German-based Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, released a statement on July 25 saying the number of families affected by the ongoing military clashes to be more than 100,000. The charity said many of these families are taking refuge in Catholic convents and other church buildings.
Embryonic stem cell research is shaping up as a critical “wedge issue” in American politics this November, and it’s no less volatile in Europe, where the European Parliament recently approved a measure theoretically liberalizing such research, but with enough unanswered questions to make its impact as yet unclear.
On the margins of Benedict XVI’s Angelus address on Sunday, outgoing director of the Vatican Press Office Joaquin Navarro-Valls gave a live interview to the main Italian television news broadcast Tg1, speaking about the pope’s new Secretary of State, Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa.
Even when leaders aren’t looking to make news, sometimes the news finds them. Such was the case this week for Benedict XVI, whose plan to spend a quiet few days of vacation in Valle d’Aosta was thrown a curve when he found himself drawn in on the margins of the expanding conflict in Lebanon.
On July 17, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, issued a statement faulting Hamas and Hezbollah for triggering the present crisis, criticizing Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure, expressing solidarity with the Lebanese, and asking the United States to exercise greater leadership to bring a halt to the violence.
Nowhere else on earth does a local church invest the time and treasure fine-tuning the art of pastoral ministry on a local level as in the United States. The sheer volume of conferences, in-services, studies, academic programs and publications devoted to “best practices” and on-the-job training is staggering, making it one reason that parish ministry in America is the envy of the Catholic world.