Tackling the issue: Lifting Haitians from extreme poverty

A woman walks in Cite Soleil, a poor neighborhood of Port au Prince, Haiti. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Determining how best to begin lifting Haitians out of the extreme poverty has vexed the world for years.

This weekend, representatives of some of the largest Catholic agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere will meet with Haitian church officials to better understand the challenges the Caribbean nation faces and begin to set a path for concrete action.

Father Juan Molina director of the Church in Latin America program at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNS the “One Table, Many Partners” conference hosted by The Catholic University of America June 1-3 will bring together more than 350 people from the U.S., Haiti, Canada and France.

Billed as a conference on solidarity, the gathering will focus on discussing partnership efforts and the intense cooperation needed to improve access to clean water, health care, education and adequate housing — and more — as needed steps to overturn the two-century-long cycle of poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Even though Haiti has fallen out of the daily headlines, the country has received increased attention from church agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere especially given the slow progress of recovery since the January 2010 earthquake claimed an estimated 300,000 lives. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, living in squalid tent camps with little privacy, limited access to water and food and under threat of illness and disease.

Conference presenters include Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti, president of the Haitian bishops’ conference; Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who has an active ministry serving Haitians in Florida; Jesuit Father Allen Deck, who is on the faculty of Loyola Marymount University; and Carolyn Woo, CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services.

CNS will have a full report on the conference Monday.

‘Continually evangelized by the poor’

Family and friends carry the body of Carlos Martinez, a 23-year old farmworker who was shot to death Oct. 2, 2011, on the La Lempira Cooperative outside Tocoa, Honduras. CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

You’ve seen his stories from Gaza, Libya, Honduras and Sudan. Paul Jeffrey has been writing and taking photographs of the world’s hot spots for Catholic News Service for years. But what many do not know is that he is also a United Methodist minister.

United Methodist TV has produced a stunning multimedia presentation with Jeffrey talking about how he is affected by his work. “The poor don’t have the luxury of giving up,” he says. Take a few moments to watch and listen here.

A historic Catholic-Jewish debate resonates today

There is an old French saying, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” This might be said for the tough divisions that the Catholic community is feeling these days with other Christians, with non-Christians, and even among themselves over such issues of religious liberty, same-sex marriage, voting for a particular political party, and even the state of being a nun.

Sometimes it helps to take a moment to look back at history and realize that there are battles that American society keeps fighting time and again, just with different players.

Ben Sales, in a May 24 analysis piece “Obamas’s same-sex marriage nod echoes historic Catholic-Jewish debate,” for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, looked back at a time in the early 1960s during the very hot debate on prayer in public schools. The Jewish community was divided among itself, and it was very divided with the Catholic and Protestant communities on this issue. Fascinatingly enough, it was a Catholic publication, Commonweal, that provided the tipping point for reconciliation — though that also took the Second Vatican Council and years of hard dialogue — with Christians and even with each other.

“Ever since, Jewish and Christian groups have periodically disagreed but maintained an open dialogue. But the dispute in 1962 marked a shift in Jewish communal priorities, and Jewish organizations emerged from it newly confident,” Sales wrote.

Take a look at his thoughful piece that has some good implications for our own contentious times.

Vatican confirms the butler was part of VatiLeaks

VATICAN CITY — Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi today confirmed what had already been splashed across the press yesterday: that Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s private assistant, has been arrested after private documents were found in his possession.


The pope’s personal assistant, Paolo Gabriele, can be seen in the front seat next to the driver in the popemobile during an April 25 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

The dark-haired assistant can often be seen with the pope sitting in the front seat of the popemobile, next to the driver during the general audiences.

In today’s statement, Father Lombardi said Gabriele was arrested Wednesday evening by Vatican police after they found the illegally obtained documents in his home, which is on Vatican territory. He was still under arrest as of this morning.

The spokesman said Vatican judge Nicola Picardi has completed “the first phase” of a preliminary investigation and Vatican judge Piero Antonio Bonnet has begun the next step of the inquiry.

Gabriele has named two lawyers to represent him during the Vatican investigation and he has already had a chance to meet with them, Father Lombardi said.

The investigation will continue until enough evidence has been collected and then Judge Bonnet will either call Gabriele to stand trial or be acquitted.

To get more background on the story, see more CNS coverage here and here.

Jerusalem welcomes Vatican official who works with Jews

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM — Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, was warmly welcomed by a largely Jewish audience to an intimate gathering focusing on Jewish-Catholic relations.

Sharing the stage with him were two rabbis: Austrian-born Rabbi Mordechai Piron, who was Israel’s second chief military rabbi and today serves as the chairman for the Israeli Jewish Council on Interreligious Relations, and Rabbi David Bollag, a fellow Swiss and a lecturer and senior research fellow at the Institute of Jewish-Christian Research in Lucerne.

Pope Benedict XVI rekindles the eternal flame at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem May 11, 2009. The flame commemorates the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

During the May 24 event at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Cardinal Koch’s message reiterated his statements to journalists a week ago emphasizing the binding nature of the Second Vatican Council and “Nostra Aetate.”

Rabbi Piron, a nonagenarian, reminded the audience of times when any encounter between Jews and the Catholic Church had been “a tragic and difficult moment; a reality of blood and tears and persecution.”

“But now all this has changed, totally and radically,” said Rabbi Piron.

While denying any direct connection to the Nazi Holocaust in which some 6 million Jews were murdered, Cardinal Koch said that Christians did not display the “vigor and vitality” one would expect from them in opposing Hitler’s regime, which Cardinal Koch said was also anti-Christian.

“So we Christians have every reason to remember our complicity,” he said.

Rabbi Bollag said he felt there was a direct connection between the long history of Christian anti-Semitism and the Nazi killing machine. He said he felt troubled by the Vatican’s return to limited use of the Tridentine Mass and Pope Benedict XVI’s rewriting of a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews.

“I have no intention as a Jew of suggesting to the Vatican that or even how it should change this prayer,” he said. “It is our duty to respond and to express how we hear this prayer. We hear it as a regression … to a very painful episode of relations between Christians and Jews. I admit we are oversensitive a bit, but we are traumatized,” said Rabbi Bollag.

A young Israeli woman, Hana Bendcowsky, program director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian relations, noted that as an Israeli Jew she no longer felt traumatized and wondered what were the steps specifically Israeli Jews needed to take so that young people could learn about Christianity.

“In our 2,000-year history in reality we are still strangers to each other,” she said.

Video: Rome’s Marian street shrines

Check out this video, posted this month by our Rome bureau, on the street shrines dedicated to Mary that are all over the city.

Video: Traditionalist leader talks about his movement, Rome

(Update on Wednesday, May 16: CNS STORY: Vatican says reconciliation talks with SSPX still ongoing)

Watch parts of our exclusive interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, at the society’s headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland. Bishop Fellay has been at the heart of a drama within the Catholic Church since he was ordained illicitly by the group’s founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in 1988, protesting the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Since 2009, he has been involved in private doctrinal talks with Rome in an effort to overcome the division between his traditionalist society and the Vatican. An announcement is expected by the end of May regarding the outcome of those talks.

More from our interview: