The untimely death of Joe Feuerherd is much regretted. Just a few weeks ago I had the benefit of Joe's writing in an April 8 column entitled "Kmiec takes friendly fire." The column presented Joe's analysis of an event that should otherwise not have been newsworthy: namely, a routine Office of Inspector General report that found my then-Embassy in Valletta, Malta to be accomplishing, even exceeding, its mission goals.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- If President Michel Martelly’s vows of change for Haiti are to come true, they’re going to have to be felt by young people like Mikency Jean.
Jean, 22, a native of the city of Cap Haitien, came to the capital of Port-au-Prince at age 11 to work as a domestic servant (or restavek) for her aunt. Jean does not like to dwell much on that work -- there is little to say about 12-hour days cleaning and cooking without pay.
JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Barack Obama's call for Israeli and Palestinian states based on Israel's 1967 borders met with a largely wary response from Palestinian Christians.
While the Palestinians welcomed Obama's proposal -- which includes mutually agreed-upon land swaps -- in May 19 and 22 speeches, they doubted that Israel would easily back away from Palestinian territory it has occupied for nearly 44 years.
Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a promoter of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, called Obama's proposal "symbolic."
"It was like every other president, he pushes the envelope a bit more than the previous president. That's not enough," he said.
Awad added that the plight of Palestinian refugees must be recognized and solved.
As an activist, Awad also expressed disappointment that Obama failed to acknowledge what he believes to be a growing Palestinian nonviolence movement that seeks to challenge Israeli policy.
Not for nothing has the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome been known as the “Suprema.” It does not specialize in consultation with other bodies, whether within the Vatican or elsewhere. This mindset was spectacularly exhibited with the abrupt unveiling of a new supra-territorial Roman Catholic church structure titled a “Personal Ordinariate,” with its doors open to groups of disaffected Anglicans throughout the world who were invited to move collectively to Rome, bringing their Anglican patrimony with them. This explosive device had been secretly laid below the surface of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations by a small party of doctrinal congregation sappers, encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI. In press conferences on Oct. 20, 2009, it was detonated.
WASHINGTON -- Although African vocations are flourishing, the continent needs people to form those vocations, and African bishops visited Washington looking for such help.
Tanzanian Cardinal Polycarp Pengo said the major regional seminary in his city, Dar es Salaam, has 192 students and only 10 formators.
"Of course, the formation cannot be that good," the cardinal told Catholic News Service in an early May interview. "For me, this (formation) is the greatest need we have."
Cardinal Pengo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, said he would like to see U.S. seminary professors spend time teaching in Africa. He said he would like to send seminarians to the United States, where some could remain for a while after graduation while others would return to Africa to teach.
LONDON -- Catholics in England and Wales will be obliged to abstain from meat every Friday under a new rule brought by the bishops.
The "act of common witness" will take effect Sept. 16, the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain.
The rule, announced at a news conference in London in mid-May, reverses a relaxation of the Friday penance regulations introduced in England and Wales in 1984. This allowed Catholics to choose their own form of Friday penance -- such as offering additional prayers, attending Mass or abstaining from alcohol.
But critics have said that the end of a tradition in which Catholics ate fish or eggs instead of meat on Fridays led to a loss of common identity, with many Catholics today abstaining from meat only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The return to an obligation to abstain from meat was a key resolution of the bishops' May plenary meeting held in Leeds, England, May 9-16.
"Every Friday is set aside by the church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of Our Lord," said the bishops' resolution.
DUBLIN -- The head of the Irish church's child protection watchdog said he considered resigning over his irritation at a lack of church cooperation.
Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, told Catholic News Service May 11 that he had asked himself "on several occasions" if he should quit, but decided to stay because he believes he is "making a difference for children."
Elliott has worked in the field of child safeguarding for almost 40 years, but he said his current role with the church is "the most challenging situation I have ever been in."
At a news conference to release his board's third annual report, he also said that he has repeatedly expressed his frustration to the pope's apostolic visitors, who are currently undertaking an inquiry into the crisis in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
"I am hopeful that when the report of the apostolic visitation is made available later this year, our discussions will have had a major impact," he said.
Elliott said each Irish parish now has a trained child safeguarding representative, "the essential backbone" of the church's efforts in the sphere.
VATICAN CITY -- Two months after a strong earthquake created havoc in Japan, setting off a tsunami and crippling a nuclear power plant, Pope Benedict XVI sent an envoy to the disaster area to express the pope's concern for all affected, the Vatican said.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, was visiting Japan May 13-16 to convey the pope's "closeness, his prayers and his assistance," said a Vatican communique May 12.
The magnitude 9 earthquake struck March 11. According to a report May 6 from the Japanese Red Cross Society, 14,704 people have been confirmed death and almost 11,000 were still missing. The Red Cross also said that more than 125,000 of the people displaced by the quake were still in temporary housing two months after the earthquake.
Cardinal Sarah was to convey the pope's support to "all the families of the victims, the displaced and all the volunteers who tirelessly are working on reconstruction," the Vatican said.
ROME -- Because the Roman Catholic Church was a driving force behind the development of a common English translation of basic prayers used by many Christian churches for 40 years, more recent Vatican rules for translating Mass prayers "came as a bombshell," said an Anglican liturgist.
"I do not contest for a moment the prerogative of churches to change their liturgical texts," said the Rev. David Holeton, a professor at Charles University in Prague.
But he said other Christians were "both stunned and dismayed" when the Vatican abandoned the English texts of prayers Catholics had developed with them since the Second Vatican Council and when the Vatican discouraged Catholics from consulting ecumenically on the new translations.
The Anglican liturgist spoke May 5 at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Rome's Pontifical Liturgical Institute.
MEXICO CITY -- A Catholic priest was found murdered in his Mexico City parish, a victim to what local authorities said was an early morning robbery attempt.
The body of Father Jose Francisco Sanchez Duran was found April 26 by a sacristan in St. Joseph Parish in the Coyoacan borough of Mexico City, where police sources told the newspaper Reforma that the priest had been sleeping.
The newspaper reported Father Sanchez, 63, suffered head injuries inflicted with a chair.
Armando Martinez Gomez, president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, confirmed the death, telling Catholic News Service, "It was a homicide." He was unable to provide additional details.
Attempts to reach a local public security secretariat spokesman April 26 were unsuccessful. The Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, Father Hugo Valdemar, called for churches and priests to be provided more protection.
"Unfortunately, in Mexico City, we've had, unlike any other city in the country, a series of priests killed. This is one more," Father Valdemar told Reforma.