Recession hits parishes

A story in the March 12 issue of The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., shows how today’s economy is impacting church life.  Some parishes in Delaware and Maryland, hit with rising costs and lower weekly offertory collections, have put off replacing worn altar server robes, cut back on mailings and required parish and school employees to take an unpaid day off.

Father William Lawler, pastor of St. Mary Refuge of Sinners in Cambridge, Md., told The Dialog: “We’re going to take a look at what we can cut, but there isn’t a lot. There’s only one full-time employee — that’s me — and we can’t cut essential programs” such as outreach, religious education and Hispanic ministry.

For U.S. Franciscans, Holy Land visit brings hope

JERUSALEM — About a month before their religious order’s 800th anniversary celebrations, some U.S. Franciscans visited the Holy Land. The weeklong peace pilgrimage proved to be a reminder their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

The order is no stranger to the Holy Land.  St. Francis visited the Holy Land after 1220, and his order has been there ever since. Today the Franciscans are in charge of caring for most of the holy sites in the Holy Land.

But this early-March peace pilgrimage wasn’t so much about churches and religious sites.

The Franciscan group from the New York-based Holy Name Province focused on encountering those who live in the Holy Land — Palestinians and Israelis.

Father Jacek Orzechowski, co-chair of the province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, said the visit gave him hope that there can be peace.

“Cynicism is a buffer against making a personal commitment to working toward justice and peace,” he said.

Noting that St. Francis was “very daring and bold in overcoming propaganda,” he said Franciscans are called to be “bold and strengthen our commitment to overcome a great deal of misinformation bordering on propaganda.”

More on condoms from the Vatican

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, briefed reporters in Cameroon today on Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms and AIDS prevention, made on the papal plane yesterday.

The spokesman didn’t add much to what the pope had said, though there seemed to be an effort to explain succinctly why the pope said so bluntly that condom distribution was not, in his opinion, the proper response.

A few minutes ago the Vatican put out a statement from Father Lombardi with the essential points of his briefing. Here’s our translation:

Regarding the reaction provoked by words of the pope on the problem of AIDS, the director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, clarifies that the Holy Father has reaffirmed the position of the Catholic Church and the essential elements of its commitment in combatting the terrible scourge of AIDS: first, with education in personal responsibility in the use of sexuality and with reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family; second, with research and implementation of effective treatment of AIDS and making it available to the greatest number of sick people through many health initiatives and institutions; third, with human and spiritual assistance for those with AIDS as for all the suffering, who have always been in the heart of the church.

These are the directions in which the church concentrates its commitment. It does not believe that focusing primarily on a wider distribution of condoms is in reality the best, most far-sighted and effective way to oppose the scourge of AIDS and protect human life.

In Cameroon, pope asks bishops to lead new evangelization efforts

Pope Benedict XVI receives a gift from a bishop during a meeting at the Church of Christ the King in Yaounde, Cameroon, March 18. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI receives a gift from a bishop during a meeting at the Church of Christ the King in Yaounde, Cameroon, March 18. (CNS/Reuters)

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI, on his first full day in Africa, encouraged Cameroon’s bishops to be strong preachers of the Gospel and vigilant shepherds on matters of priestly formation and behavior, liturgical dignity and Christian marriage.

Emphasizing the church’s missionary task, the pope said bishops must first of all be religious educators and men of prayer in order to lead the way of evangelization. He met with Cameroon’s 31 bishops March 18 in the Church of Christ the King in the Tsinga quarter of Yaounde, the capital of the country on Africa’s west coast.

(full story)