Seven Leaders to Address Debt Relief at Annual Conference
The annual G-7 Summit is June 19-20 in Cologne, Germany. The leaders of the world's most powerful nations will meet to discuss issues of common concern. This year, debt relief for the world's poorest countries is on the top of their agenda. "International debt is crushing the lives of the most vulnerable people living in fifty sub-Saharan African, Latin American, and Asian countries," says Barbara Kohnen, U.S. Bishops' policy adviser on international economic and human rights issues. "These impoverished nations spend four times more on repaying their debts than on investing in health, education, sanitation, and other basic needs." Around the world, Catholics are protesting the plight of the world's poor through the Jubilee 2000 movement for debt forgiveness. Many are going to Germany during the Summit to urge the world's wealthiest creditor nations to provide more debt relief for more countries in a shorter amount of time. Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay (WI), Treasurer of the United States Catholic Conference, will represent the U.S. Catholic Bishops at a meeting with Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. Together with six bishops from G-7 nations and six from indebted nations, they hope to make the Pope's call for ". . . a substantial reduction, if not outright cancellation of the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations a reality."
Barbara Kohnen can be reached at 202-541-3153.
Give the Gift of Time this Father's Day
Looking for a Fathers Day gift? Forget the tools, ties, and toys. Yes, guys love them and sometimes even need them. But how about giving the gift of time? Nobody ever seems to have enough of it, especially for the important things. Men need time with God and with other men. "This can happen through weekend retreats or through newer forms of religious gathering," says Richard McCord, the U.S. Bishops' adviser on marriage and family issues, "such as one-day conferences, in which men hear witness talks and pray and worship together." As part of the new movement promoting the spiritual growth of men, Catholic dioceses and groups are offering more of these programs. According to McCord, "They're all about helping men to live more virtuous lives, especially as fathers and husbands." Think about making it possible for the men in your life to take time for spiritual growth during the coming year. It could be time well spent.
Richard McCord can be reached at 202-541-3043.
Flag Day Honors Citizenship While Many Applicants Continue to Wait
Flag Day, June 14, is a time to honor America and the rights and privileges of citizenship. It is unfortunate to know that those who apply for U.S. citizenship must wait up to two years to have their applications processed because of the severe backlog in citizenship approvals. "Currently, about 1.6 million citizenship applications are awaiting adjudication in our country," says Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration and Refugee Policy for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The largest backlogs are in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York/Newark." Normally, naturalization processing is paid for by fees immigrants pay when they apply. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) recently raised the naturalization fee from $95 to $225, claiming it was not enough to pay for the service. The increase in fees have not decreased the processing time for applications.
Kevin Appleby can be reached at 202-541-3260.
Brides and Grooms Prepare for Wedded Bliss
The countdown to June spring and summer weddings has begun. A marriage preparation program is usually on the "list of things to do" for couples marrying in the Catholic Church. "Interest in marriage education as a way to produce stronger, happier unions and as a means of preventing divorce is gaining momentum all over the country," says Richard McCord, adviser to the U.S. Catholic Bishops for marriage and family issues. Marriage preparation courses are part of this positive trend. However, don't be lulled into thinking that preparation ends with the wedding day. As the old song reminds us: "we've only just begun." More divorces occur within the first five years of marriage than at any other period. This fact only reinforces the need for immediate follow-up with newly-married couples. One way that churches can reach out to this group is by pairing up more mature married couples as "mentors" to those just starting out. This helps younger couples know they are supported by a community.
Richard McCord can be reached at 202-541-3040.