Vatican today — March 30, 2012

JEWS AND CATHOLICS: THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IS A CRISIS OF MORAL VALUES

“Religious perspectives on the current financial crisis: vision for a just economic order” was the theme of the eleventh meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, which was held in Rome from 27 to 29 March. The event was presided by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, and by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In an English-language joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the two sides highlight that, “while many factors contributed to the financial crisis, at its roots lies a crisis of moral values in which the importance of having, reflected in a culture of greed, eclipsed the importance of being; and where the value of truth reflected in honesty and transparency was sorely lacking in economic activity.”

“At the heart of Jewish and Catholic visions for a just economic order is the affirmation of the sovereignty and providence of the Creator of the world with Whom all wealth originates and which is given to humankind as a gift for the common good,” the text adds. Therefore “the purpose of an economic order is to serve the well being of society, affirming the human dignity of all people, each created in the divine image.” This concept “is antithetical to egocentricity. Rather, it requires the promotion of the well being of the individual in relation to community and society.” It also “posits the obligation to guarantee certain basic human needs, such as the protection of life, sustenance, clothing, housing, health, education and employment.” The commission also identifies certain particularly vulnerable categories of people, among them migrant and foreign workers “whose condition serves as a measure of the moral health of society.”

The statement recalls the obligation on countries with developed economies “to recognise their responsibilities and duties towards countries and societies in need, especially in this era of globalization.” In this context the participants in the meeting recall “the universal destination of the goods of the earth; a culture of “enough” that implies a degree of self-limitation and modesty; responsible stewardship; an ethical system of allocation of resources and priorities.” They likewise mention the “partial remission of debts on national and international levels,” highlighting the need “to extend this to families and individuals.”

The members of the bilateral commission underscore the role that faith communities must play in contributing to a responsible economic order, and the importance of their engagement by government, educational institutions, and the media. Finally they note how “the crisis has revealed the profound lack of an ethical component in economic thinking. Hence, it is imperative that institutes and academies of economic studies and policy formation include ethical training in their curricula, similar to that which has developed in recent years in the field of medical ethics.”

APPEAL FOR SOLIDARITY TOWARDS AUTISTIC PEOPLE AND THEIR FAMILIES

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has written a message for the Fifth World Autism Day, which falls on 2 April, in which he makes an appeal for sensitivity and supportive solidarity towards autistic people and their families. In the message, made public yesterday, he recalls how “autistic spectrum disorders constitute . . . a grave alteration of behaviour, of verbal and non-verbal communication, and of social integration, with a wide-ranging effect on the normal development and evolution of the personality.”

“The Church,” writes the archbishop in his English-language message, “sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people — children and young people in particular — and their families, if not to breakdown these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering.” This is particularly important because families with autistic children, “although they look after these children with loving care, experience repercussions as regards the quality of their own lives, and are often, in their turn, led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalises and wounds.” For this reason the Church and all men and women of good will “feel committed to being ‘travelling companions’ with those who live this eloquent silence, which calls upon our sensitivity towards the suffering of others.”

The president of the pontifical council highlights the efforts of health care workers, educators, professionals and volunteers, adding that “the scientific world and health care policies must also be encouraged to engage in and . . . increase diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative pathways that can address a pathology which affects more people in numerical terms than could have been imagined only a few years ago. To encourage and sustain, in the supportive action of the world of schools, voluntary work and associations, these efforts is a duty, not least to discover and bring out that dignity which even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate, and which always fills us with hope.”

Finally Archbishop Zimowski commends autistic people and their families to God. “Although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, they are never alone, inasmuch as they are passionately loved by God and, in Him, by the community of those whose faith commits them to becoming a living and transparent sign of the presence of the Resurrected Christ in the world.”

NEW FUNERAL RITES: NO TO THE SCATTERING OF THE ASHES OF THE DECEASED

The second Italian-language edition of the “Funeral Rites,” produced by the Vatican Publishing House, was presented recently at the headquarters of Vatican Radio. Among other things, the new edition contains fully revised biblical texts and prayers.

The first novelty refers to the visit to the family, which was not part of the earlier edition. Msgr. Angelo Lameri of the National Liturgical Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference, explained how “for a priest this a moment to share in the suffering, to listen to the mourning relatives, to learn about certain aspects of the deceased’s life with a view to a correct and personalised presentation during the funeral.”

Another change involves the revised and enriched ritual for the closing of the coffin; with a number of different texts for various situations: an elderly person, a young person, or someone who has died unexpectedly. Other changes involve the pronouncement of words recalling of the deceased at the moment of the committal, and the introduction of a broad range of possibilities for the prayer of the faithful.

However the most significant new departure, contained in the appendix of the book, concerns cremation. Msgr. Lameri explained that the issue of cremation had been placed in an appendix to highlight the fact that the Church, “although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done ‘in odium fidei,’ continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful and favours the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends.”

In exceptional cases the rites normally celebrated at the cemetery chapel or the tomb may be celebrated at the cremation site, and it is recommended that the coffin be accompanied to that site. One particularity important aspect is that “cremation is considered as concluded when the urn is deposited in the cemetery.” This is because, although the law does allow ashes to be scattered in the open or conserved in places other than a cemetery, “such practices . . . raise considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith, especially when they conceal pantheist or naturalistic beliefs.”

The new “Funeral Rites” also focuses on the search for the meaning of death. Concluding the presentation, Bishop Alceste Catella, president of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, explained that “the book is testament to the faith of believers and to the importance of respect and ‘pietas’ towards the deceased, respect for the human body even when dead. It is testament to the pressing need to cultivate memory and to have a specific place in which to place the body or the ashes, in the profound certainty that this is authentic faith and authentic humanism.”

BENEDICT XVI’S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR APRIL

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for April is: “That many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow Him in the priesthood and religious life.”

His mission intention is: “That the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent.”

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

The Holy Father appointed Bishop Luis Artemio Flores Calzada of Valle de Chalco, Mexico as bishop of Tepic (area 22,777, population 1,139,584, Catholics 1,107,800, priests 215, religious 2215), Mexico.

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