- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

The outgoing president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urged his fellow prelates yesterday to help Americans regain their faith after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas, said clergy must respond to the "destructive power of hate" with the love of Christ; otherwise the spirituality that emerged in this country after the suicide hijackings will dissipate.
"If people don't find in the leaders of the church reasons for hope the world needs, we will have failed them in their time of great need," Bishop Fiorenza said on the first day of the group's four-day meeting.
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops began reviewing their position on the war on terrorism, acknowledging a moral right to a military defense but warning that force alone is not the answer.
The authors of a draft proclamation took pains to say that nothing justifies terrorism. Still, they argued that poverty, violence and human rights abuses, if not addressed, generate resentment that terrorists can exploit.
The draft proposal urges U.S. leaders to redefine foreign policy to make alleviating global suffering a priority, and it recommends lifting sanctions against Iraq and helping end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It also asks national leaders to develop criteria for when the air strikes on Afghanistan should end.
"The actions of our nation and other nations must ensure a just war now and a just peace later," the statement reads.
Overseeing the draft process was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who presented the document. Later in the gathering, the group will vote on whether to approve the proclamation.
The conference serves as the church's national voice on social, political and religious issues. They have previously urged U.S. leaders to avoid punishing innocent civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"Our military response must be guided by the traditional moral limits on the use of force," Bishop Fiorenza said in a statement after the U.S. air strikes began Oct. 7. "Military action is always regrettable, but it may be necessary to protect the innocent or to defend the common good."
Diversity will be a focus of much of the meeting.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is 78 percent white, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, and black Catholics have long sought recognition from church leaders.
The bishops are also concerned about serving the growing number of Asian Catholic immigrants. Bishop Fiorenza estimates 2.6 percent of U.S. Catholics are Asian or Pacific Islanders. The conference leaders are expected to issue a statement urging Catholics to welcome their Asian brethren and be attentive to their spiritual needs.
The bishops will urge Catholics nationwide to continue lobbying public officials to oppose abortion, human embryo research and physician-assisted suicide.
Bishop Fiorenza applauded last week's directive from Attorney General John Ashcroft that doctors who use federally controlled drugs to help terminally ill patients die will face suspension or revocation of their licenses. A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order barring the directive.
Also, the bishops will be asked to approve amendments to canon law to allow laymen to preach in church under certain circumstances. The changes were first proposed two years ago, in part to address the priest shortage and needs of non-English speaking parishioners. The Vatican still must approve any revisions.
Conference leaders additionally plan to discuss new instructions from Pope John Paul II on translating liturgy from the Latin.

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