National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Pope calls for guaranteed health care for all people


VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.

Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the "inalienable rights" of man.

The pope's message was read by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, to participants at the 25th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry at the Vatican Nov. 18-19.

The theme of this year's meeting was "Caritas in Veritate - toward an equitable and human health care."

The pope lamented the great inequalities in health care around the globe. While people in many parts of the world aren't able to receive essential medications or even the most basic care, in industrialized countries there is a risk of "pharmacological, medical and surgical consumerism" that leads to "a cult of the body," the pope said.

"The care of man, his transcendent dignity and his inalienable rights" are issues that should concern Christians, the pope said.

1,200 Jesuit students converge on nation's capital


WASHINGTON -- "If we do not demand the best of our church, universities and our government, we've already abandoned a sincere search for justice," Ursuline Sr. Dianna Ortiz told attendees of this year's Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, an annual reunion of Jesuit social justice activists from universities, colleges, high schools, parishes and ministries across the nation.

After years of holding the Teach-In at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., the event's organizers, the Ignatian Solidarity Network took advantage of this year's location at Georgetown University to have participants engage in direct advocacy with Congress and other policymakers.

About 1,200 people joined the Nov. 13-15 event. Two days of speeches and breakout groups on key issues culminated in a Monday morning send-off rally and public witness on Capitol Hill. In meetings with their local congressional representatives, students focused particularly on passage of the Dream Act and immigration reform, climate change legislation, and the closure of the School of Americas.

Bishops play defense on anti-poverty initiative


As the nation's 200 or so Roman Catholic bishops prepare for their annual meeting in Baltimore next week (Nov. 15-18), the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has become yet another battlefield in what some Catholics lament is an increasingly polarized church.

For four decades, the U.S. Catholic bishops have maintained a nationwide program designed to help the poor lift themselves out of poverty. And for just as long, fierce critics have tried to kill it.

Bishops' campaign sets path for reform, renewal


WASHINGTON -- A renewed Catholic Campaign for Human Development -- never again linked to funding of any organizations that advocate positions contradicting basic Catholic social and moral teachings -- is the goal of a report released Oct. 26.

The campaign has come under repeated attack by critics, some of whom oppose its work and have sought to kill it. In many cases, the accusations from conservative quarters were about organizations that received no direct funding but had become allied over time, often loosely, with campaign-funded organizations.

Death penalty abolitionists gathering in Atlanta


For the first time in more than decade, faith-based anti-death penalty activists will gather for a national conference in the heart of the South. The conference is sponsored by the North Carolina-based abolition group, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

"The Kairos Conference: Discerning Justice & Taking Action on America’s Death Penalty" runs Nov. 16-17 at Atlanta's Emory University, in the region of the country where the death penalty has always garnered the most popular support.

The southern states, if you include Texas, account for more than 90 percent of the 1,233 US executions carried out since 1977. In May, Georgia carried out the state's 998 execution since records have been maintained.

Reports of torture in Iraq dismay human rights and peace activists


Peace and human rights activists have expressed anger and dismay in the wake of the leak of a new set of classified Iraq war documents indicating the continued abuse of detainees by both U.S. and Iraqi coalition forces.

The documents -- together known as the “Iraq War Logs,” comprising some 400,000 pages of classified military logs covering coalition forces’ actions during nearly the entire length of the Iraq war -- are the latest to be leaked by the international organization WikiLeaks, which released 90,000 documents on the Afghan war July 25.

Billed by that organization as “the largest classified military leak in history,” the documents in the new leak were given to several international publications, with the first published Oct. 22 and others published since.

While the documents paint a grim picture of life on the ground in Iraq, covering a wide range of events, some of the most chilling reports contained within them concern abuse of detainees.

Obstacles to evangelization


An NCR Editorial

From the earliest days of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his ardent desire to re-Christianize the West. To this end, earlier this month he unveiled a new Vatican agency, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Headed by Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the council is to present the Catholic faith anew to the world.

India's 'untouchables' ask Obama for a visit


NEW DELHI -- Comparing their struggle with America's civil rights movement, India's low-caste Dalits are urging President Obama to take note of their suffering during his state visit next week.

Obama's three-day visit beginning Nov. 6 is meant to deepen economic ties with India, but Dalit activists say he "symbolizes the hope of freedom for oppressed people across the world."

Florida farmworker coalition hails new agreement with tomato growers


IMMOKALEE, Fla. -- Silvia Perez, who has survived the worst during her 17 years of working in the tomato fields, said she was overjoyed with recent landmark events aimed at increasing wages and improving working conditions.

"It is the message of my church (Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish) and my faith that has kept me going," she said. "My belief is that if I worked hard for change -- things would change and these images of hope would become reality."

On Oct. 12, Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the country's oldest and largest tomato growers, signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers joining its Campaign for Fair Food. On Oct 21, Six L's Packing Co., Florida's largest tomato grower, followed its lead. Perez has worked for both.

"Underneath the agreements, there are assurances that the workers will be able to speak up regarding both abuses and the conditions," she said. "For example, if there's physical abuse, like the teenage boy who was beaten bloody because he was thirsty and went for a drink of water, or the lack of facilities to use.



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