Key section of queen’s speech to pope

EDINBURG, Scotland — Here is a key section of Queen Elizabeth II’s speech to Pope Benedict XVI this morning at Holyroodhouse Palace:

Your Holiness, your presence here today reminds us of our common Christian heritage, and of the Christian contribution to the encouragement of world peace, and to the economic and social development of the less prosperous countries of the world. We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools.

Religion has always been a crucial element in national identity and historical self-consciousness. This has made the relationship between the different faiths a fundamental factor in the necessary cooperation within and between nation states. It is, therefore, vital to encourage a greater mutual, and respectful understanding. We know from experience that through committed dialogue, old suspicions can be transcended and a greater mutual trust established.

I know that reconciliation was a central theme in the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman, for whom you will be holding a Mass of Beatification on Sunday. A man who struggled with doubt and uncertainty, his contribution to the understanding of Christianity continues to influence many.

Some quotes from pope’s speech to Queen Elizabeth II

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Here are some highlights from Pope Benedict XVI’s speech this morning to Queen Elizabeth II at Holyroodhouse Palace:

The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.

And, Pope Benedict said:

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.

The pope’s remarks enroute to Scotland

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO SCOTLAND — Flying to Great Britain this morning, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters on his plane that the church was not vigilant enough or fast enough in responding to the problem of clerical sex abuse.

“These revelations were for me a shock, and a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible,” he said.

Asked about sex abuse cases that have come to light in Europe and elsewhere in recent years, the pope said it was inexplicable to him how a priest who has promised at his ordination to act in the person of Christ, as a good shepherd, could “fall into this perversion.”

“It is a great sadness. It is a sadness, also, that the authority of the church was not vigilant enough, was not sufficiently fast and decisive in taking the necessary measures,” he said.

The 83-year-old pope, responding to questions the journalists submitted in advance, also said he looked forward to a fair hearing in Britain, saying the country had a long tradition of tolerance along with historical moments of anti-Catholicism.

Asked about criticism of his visit from some quarters in British society, including secular and atheistic voices, he said that he would try to make it clear that the church was not preaching a message about its own power, but about the saving message of the Gospel and the need to help the weak.

On the front lines in fighting poverty, Catholic Charities agencies struggle to meet growing need for services

Growing numbers of people from among the working poor, families and the middle class are turning to Catholic Charities agencies for assistance as the U.S. economy continues to stagnate.

The latest quarterly survey of Catholic Charities agencies, covering the second quarter of 2010 and released today, found that America’s working class continues to become the working poor.

The 41 responding agencies reported that one- and two-income households were increasingly seeking assistance to pay their bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and keep the lights on.

The pressure to provide services to growing numbers of clients, including homeless people, children and senior citizens, has grown throughout 2010 as the economic crisis continued. The responding agencies reported that they are struggling to meet the growing request for services, especially as additional cuts in government funding are likely.

“Harsh financial outlooks hamper the ability to provide services,” Catholic Charities reported. “With even more state budget cuts looming and individual donations decreasing, agencies find themselves largely treading water, doing whatever is necessary to maintain operations and serve the growing number of people in despair.”

The agencies also found that more people were facing difficulties in finding jobs, especially those providing a livable wage, and getting training to develop job skills. The need for transportation and child care also posed road blocks for people looking for work.

The full survey is available here.

Trial opens for ‘Creech 14′

Participants in the Nevada Desert Experience gathered at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in April 2009. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

The trial of 14 faith-based peace activists charged with criminal trespass for entering the grounds of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in April 2009 to voice their concerns over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles –- UAVs — in Pakistan and Afghanistan opens today in Las Vegas.

Several individuals in the group, which calls itself the Creech 14, are longtime Catholic peace activists who have been involved in a variety of actions and prayer vigils over the years calling for peace.

Those arrested during the annual Nevada Desert Experience vigil at the base were Kathy Kelly of  Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Jesuit Fathers John Dear and Steve Kelly; Franciscan Fathers Louis Vitale and Jerry Zawada; Holy Child of Jesus Sister Megan Rice; Catholic Workers Mariah Klusmire of Albuquerque, N.M., Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, and Renee Espeland of Des Moines, Iowa. Others in the group are Dennis DuVall, Judy Homanich, Brad Lyttle, Libby Pappalardo and Eve Tetaz.

Kelly told Catholic News Service after the incident that the group entered the base through an open gate and wanted to ask the pilots who operate the unmanned vehicles via a long-range communication network at Creech why attacks on innocent people were being carried out.

Jim Haber of the Nevada Desert Experience told CNS the activists’ defense is built around international law, which they say requires them to actively oppose what they consider the illegal use of the UAVs, or drones, and the First Amendment right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.

The group plans to ask the court to include as expert witnesses former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, attorney Bill Quiqley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who has opposed the war in Iraq, he said.

Prior to the trial a series of events, prayer vigils and rallies in Las Vegas called attention to the use of drones and the role of the air force base in military activities in Pakistan.

Incidentally, the Nevada Desert Experience conducts annual retreats and activities to support personal renewal in the desert tradition through prayer, education, dialogue and nonviolent direct action in an effort to stop nuclear weapons testing and other acts of war.

Remembering the tragedy of 9/11 and a special priest

“You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us,” Franciscan Father Mychal F. Judge said in a homily he delivered Sept. 10, 2001, during the re-dedication of a firehouse in the Bronx.

Father Judge (CNS photo)

It was his last homily, according to Mychal’s Message, an organization named for the beloved New York City fire chaplain. The next day he lost his life in the terrorist attacks that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. He died ministering to victims in the rubble.

The victims of the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., are being remembered on the ninth anniversary of the attacks – as are the survivors, all the families affected by the tragedy, and firefighters and other first-responders, many of whom died helping victims.

Father Judge’s last homily is being made available on a DVD by Mychal’s Message. “Father Mychal had a practical, down-to-earth approach to life,” said Franciscan Father Cassian A. Miles, who knew the late chaplain most of his life.

“His last homily goes to the heart of the Christian message about our dependence on God and how we must rely on his love and care to guide us,” Father Miles said an announcement about the DVD’s release.

Father Judge had an impact on countless people. One of those is Shannon Hickey from Lancaster, Pa. In 2002 she founded Mychal’s Message, because the priest as a longtime family friend helped her and her family members when she was struggling with liver disease. Born with a defective liver, she received part of her mom’s liver in 1991 when she was just 7 months old.

The organization collects and distributes items for the homeless. The ministry “began with a simple pair of socks,” said Hickey, who has received numerous awards for her work. Her mom, Kelly Ann Lynch, is the co-founder.

On 9/11 the organization planned to distribute “Blessed Bloomer” bundles to 300 to 400  homeless people in New York City. The bundles include an undershirt, underwear, socks and a card with a prayer by Father Judge.

USAID assessment finds vegetable seeds are plentiful in Haiti

Haitian farmers have plenty of seed for traditional crops and new types of seed should not be brought into the country unless thoroughly tested under local conditions, says a recent study by relief and development agencies funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Back in June, Haitian peasants threatened to burn any vegetable seeds showing up in seed stores that were donated by the Monsanto Co. Peasant leaders said the hybrid seed, not bred for local conditions, would upset agricultural environments and make farmers more dependent on unwanted seed varieties from outside of the country.

Monsanto defended its contribution, which included varieties of corn, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, spinach, tomato and watermelon, saying it came to help Haitian farmers who may have been unable to purchase seed because of shortages in the months after January’s devastating earthquake.

While the controversy has died down with no major altercations, a recently completed assessment of seed availability found that plenty of seed for traditional crops exists. The report recommended that seed from outside of the country not be introduced unless thorough testing is conducted and that local markets be allowed to function normally.

The assessment, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, involved 10 relief and development agencies, including Catholic Relief Services. The 124-page final report offered 44 recommendations to help Haitian farmers, including ways to invest in small farmer-driven variety, seed and agricultural marketing systems.

A key finding is that plenty of seed is available as farmers finish planting traditional crops such as corn, beans, squash and melons this month. The major challenge facing farmers, however, is household finances and the ability to afford the cost of seed.

The cash shortage among farmers is fueled by the relocation of people who fled earthquake-ravaged regions and moved in with family or friends in rural communities.

Any seed donations should be adapted to local conditions, fit farmer preferences and be “at least as good” as what farmers normally use, the report recommended.

The assessment also suggested that investing to assist women’s groups in agricultural enterprise efforts will help build the rural economy.

A USAID spokeswoman said the full report is expected to be posted soon.

Catholic colleges rate as workplace jewels

Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education issued its annual Great Colleges to Work For, 2010 issue, and a number of Catholic colleges and universities made the cut. The Chronicle surveys schools every year, and scores them as great workplaces based on the responses of faculty, professional staff and administrators. The results drew on responses from 43,000 people in 275 institutions.

Three Catholic schools made the 2010 honor roll: College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, and University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Other Catholic schools that made the top 100 are Boston College; Canisius College, Buffalo, N.Y.; Georgetown University, Washington; Marywood University, Scranton, Pa.; Niagara University, Niagara, N.Y.; and University of San Francisco.

Among the things respondents liked about their academic workplaces are knowing their voices matter, challenging and fulfilling work, and a place that just feels like home. For Catholic colleges and universities, a dash of faith goes without saying.

North and south of the Thames, preparing for the pope

The Archdiocese of Westminster, one of two Catholic archdioceses in London, has launched a blog for Pope Benedict XVI’s mid-September visit. The colorful blog includes information about preparations for the papal visit as well as interesting facts such as how fast the popemobile can go. Visit the blog here.

The Archdiocese of Southwark, which covers London south of the Thames River, also is preparing for the pope’s brief stay in the city. The archdiocese notes that although the pope’s public events are in Westminster Archdiocese, there will be plenty of opportunities to see the pontiff in Southwark Archdiocese. For instance, the apostolic nunciature, where Pope Benedict will stay, is in the Southwark Archdiocese.

Miss any of these? Most-viewed CNS stories for August.

Quite a variety of August stories made our Top 10 list for last month. Let’s get right to it:

A story on the Islamic center near ground zero was the CNS most-viewed story for August. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

1. New York mosque controversy echoes anti-Catholicism of another era (Aug. 20)

2. Use of new Roman Missal to begin in US at Advent 2011 (Aug. 20)

3. Papal Masses in Britain will use some new English texts (Aug. 19)

4. Conversion: Ancient prison went from pagan to sacred Christian site (July 30)

5. Pope will not accept resignation of Dublin auxiliary bishops (Aug. 11)

6. Impact of Mother Teresa’s work, prayer still felt 13 years after death (Aug. 26)

7. Vatican welcomes US plaintiffs’ decision to end abuse lawsuit (Aug. 10)

8. Benedictines sue in federal court for right to sell caskets they make (Aug. 16)

9. Papal visit to Great Britain to include much more than beatification (Aug. 18 — the full trip schedule)

10. ‘God Squad’ logo may change, but priest’s mission remains the same (Aug. 19)

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