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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-21-2006

By Catholic News Service


Archbishop Marcinkus, longtime head of Vatican bank, dies

SUN CITY, Ariz. (CNS) -- Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, often regarded as the most powerful American in the Vatican during his 18 years as president of the Vatican bank, died Feb. 20 at his home in Sun City, apparently of natural causes. He was 84 years old. Arrangements for a memorial service in the Phoenix Diocese and for funeral services, expected to take place in his home Archdiocese of Chicago, were not immediately available. The U.S.-born archbishop, who spent 38 years in Vatican service before his retirement in 1990, headed the Vatican bank from 1971 to 1989 and was head of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State from 1981 to 1990. Under his watch the bank was involved -- unwittingly, he and the Vatican always maintained -- in a major 1980s Italian banking scandal. He also served as advance man for the global travels of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II from 1964 to 1982 and paid special attention to security arrangements at all papal visit sites.

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California leaders look to lessons from Oregon on assisted suicide

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Catholic leaders in California, facing an energized drive to legalize assisted suicide, are reviewing lessons learned in Oregon. In 1997, advocates of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act used anti-Catholic rhetoric to combat a repeal bid. One group paying for radio ads called itself the "Don't Let 'Em Shove Their Religion Down Your Throat Committee." "We're well aware of what happened in Oregon and how the church became a target and how that made a difference," said Carol Hogan, communications director of the California Catholic Conference, which represents the state's Catholic bishops on public policy issues. California's Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to hold hearings soon on a bill to legalize assisted suicide. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he would rather see assisted suicide addressed in a voter initiative than in the Legislature.

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Czech Republic donates $100,000 to Catholic-run pharmacy in Biloxi

BILOXI, Miss. (CNS) -- A gift of $100,000 from the Czech Republic will enable a Catholic-run pharmacy destroyed by Hurricane Katrina to resume its ministry of supplying medication to the uninsured of south Mississippi. In a ceremony in front of a double-wide trailer that will now house the St. Vincent de Paul Free Pharmacy, Petr Kolar, Czech ambassador to the United States, presented a $100,000 check to Fabin Ladnier, president of the pharmacy's board of directors. According to Kolar, the government of the Czech Republic assigned special funds to help citizens of areas of the United States devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The donation is designated for revitalization of the pharmacy and for medication and medical supplies.

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Court to consider constitutionality of partial-birth abortion ban

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said Feb. 21 that it will consider the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The court agreed to hear a Bush administration appeal of a U.S. appeals court ruling that the 2003 law is unconstitutional because it does not include an exception for the health of a pregnant woman. The appeal is the first abortion case the high court has agreed to hear since Justice Samuel Alito Jr. replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired. O'Connor was often a swing vote on abortion cases and many observers regard Alito as more likely than her to favor legal restrictions on abortion. Three federal appeals courts have found the 2003 law unconstitutional. The first such ruling came last July from the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that "a health exception is constitutionally required" in any law restricting abortion.

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New Orleans priests rethink future ministry in post-Katrina plan

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Priests who have served under trying conditions since Hurricane Katrina are being asked to rethink the ways in which they will conduct future ministry, and that will require them to remain open to change, said several pastors whose parishes will not be reopened immediately under the New Orleans archdiocesan pastoral plan announced Feb. 9. In announcing the archdiocese's plan for the next 18 months at a priests' convocation, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes called for the closing of seven parishes and for postponing the reopening of 23 other parishes until the population returns sufficiently to warrant such a move. There are 107 parishes now open in the archdiocese. That means more than two dozen priests who currently serve as pastors may receive new assignments in the archdiocese by the time the plan takes effect March 15.

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Priests keep watch with families at Mexican mine entrance

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- As rescue workers slowly advanced through a collapsed mine in an effort to save 65 men trapped hundreds of meters below the surface, Father Juan Renovato was aboveground, trying to keep hope alive. "People are getting desperate and hysterical," Father Renovato said Feb. 20, talking on his cellular phone from near the entrance to the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, near the town of San Juan de Sabinas in Mexico's Coahuila state. Father Renovato and other priests were praying with and counseling the hundreds of family members and friends of the miners, who were trapped before dawn Feb. 19 when a gas explosion collapsed part of the mine. Bishop Alonso Garza Trevino of Piedras Negras instructed the 12 priests in the area to take turns being at the entrance to the mine so that one of them would be always be present for family members of the miners gathered there.

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Vatican says pope saddened about violence against Nigerian Christians

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged security officers to restore peace and the rule of law in Nigeria after violence against Christians left up to 50 people dead, including a Catholic priest. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, said in a telegram sent to church and government officials in Nigeria that the pope was "saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of the recent violent protests in northern Nigeria." A Muslim protest against a series of European cartoons offensive to Islam, originally published in Denmark, proceeded peacefully Feb. 18 in the city of Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria's Borno state. But after the demonstration, armed men took to the streets, setting afire churches, homes and businesses owned by Christians. Some 50 people, reportedly all Christians, were killed in the blazes or by their attackers, said Bishop Matthew Ndagoso of Maiduguri.

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In Uganda, church works to ensure clean presidential election

KAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) -- As Ugandan elections approached, the Catholic Church and Christian groups took a leading role in trying to ensure that the presidential candidate chosen by the people is the candidate who actually wins. Church officials said independent monitoring will be key to ensuring that the Feb. 23 presidential and parliamentary elections are viewed as legitimate. Patrick Okumu, a Catholic volunteer for the Ugandan Joint Christian Council and a graduate student in human rights at Kampala's Makerere University, was at the Christian council's offices Feb. 20 as workers prepared to send white bibs with the words "Election Monitor" to nearly 20,000 people, one for every polling station in the country. Dozens of plaid plastic bags lay on the floor as other volunteers cut up information sheets for monitors. The Ugandan Joint Christian Council -- which includes Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches -- hoped to ensure that ballot boxes were not stuffed with extra votes and "ghost voters" did not take their turn at the polls.

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Activists, victims' families in Peru pressure for reparations

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Human rights activists and relatives of victims have called on the Peruvian government and candidates for the April 9 presidential election to stay true to a government commitment to provide reparations for human rights violations committed during the political violence that racked the country between 1980 and 2000. The demands came as accusations surfaced that Ollanta Humala Tasso, a retired army colonel who is running second in the pre-election polls, was involved in human rights abuses when he was commander of a military base in 1992. On Feb. 16, the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee, an umbrella group of more than 30 human rights organizations throughout the country, asked the Tocache district attorney's office in the Peruvian department of San Martin to investigate three cases of forced disappearance and one of torture in which Humala is accused of being involved. A day earlier, the head of the Peruvian bishops' conference, Archbishop Hector Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, said he supported such a probe.

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Couple endows University of Kentucky chair in Catholic studies

LEXINGTON, Ky. (CNS) -- A Lexington Catholic physician and her husband have endowed a University of Kentucky chair in Catholic studies. The half-million dollar gift of Newman Center parishioners Dr. Carol Cottrill and her husband, Tom Rolfes, a retired religion teacher, provided the foundation for the Cotrill-Rolfes chair in Catholic studies in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Their gift will be matched by the Kentucky Research Challenge Trust. The Cottrill-Rolfes chair joins programs in Judaic and Islamic studies at the university, all of which are potential building blocks toward a future degree program in religious studies, according to Steven Hoch, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Metuchen Diocese's vocation drive uses posters, humorous comic strip

METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) -- Spreading the word about vocations to the priesthood has become increasingly difficult in this fast-paced, high-tech world. To better reach young men and educate them about God's call, the Office of Vocations in the Metuchen Diocese is taking a new approach to deliver its recruitment message. Humor and appeals to parents have been added to traditional messages addressing the theme of answering the call to a vocation. "We want to get across that God has a plan for everyone," said Father Randall J. Vashon, vocations director. "If that plan is the priesthood, then we stand ready to assist anybody in whatever their vocation is, in particular the priesthood and religious life."

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Faith in God bonds two U.S. bobsled teammates

TURIN, Italy (CNS) -- What has eight legs, is more than 12 feet long, weighs more than 1,300 pounds and reaches speeds of 80 miles per hour as it careens down a twisting tunnel of ice? It's the four-man bobsled at the Olympic Winter Games. This year in Turin, the U.S. team's fiberglass beasts will include a Catholic acolyte from Nebraska and a Christian chaplain from Ohio. Curt Tomasevicz, of Shelby, Neb., and Brock Kreitzburg, of Akron, Ohio, told Catholic News Service that sharing a strong faith in God has acted as a special bond between them as they prepare to go for medals with their Olympic teammates Feb. 24-25. "There aren't too many Christians, especially, who are authentically living out (their faith), in the world of athletics," Kreitzburg said Feb. 13 over a cup of green tea in a Turin cafe. "I think it's because athletics is very self-centered, a self-motivated world" where little emphasis is placed on the work of the divine, he said.

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More than just weather drives people into Anchorage shelters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- A recent cold snap in Anchorage brought with it a rush on the city's homeless shelters. Why? The obvious answer -- people were coming in from the cold -- is only part of the story. The fuller answer includes cabin fever, city zoning rules and decisions made months ago in the sticky heat of Washington. It's true that a certain percentage of Anchorage's homeless people attempt to live outdoors all year long, and when the temperature dips below zero, as it did each night for about two weeks beginning in late January, they abandon tents and cars for warmer shelter. These folks are part of the reason the church's Brother Francis Shelter and others like it in Anchorage have been near capacity, or in some cases, over capacity, for the past several weeks.

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Pope to visit Vatican Radio as it celebrates 75 years

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to visit the Vatican's own radio station as it celebrated its 75th anniversary. Since Feb. 12, 1931, when Pope Pius XI officially inaugurated Vatican Radio, every pope except Pope John Paul I -- who was pope for 34 days -- has paid at least one official visit to the station or its broadcasting centers. On March 3, Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit the radio's headquarters at the Palazzo Pio building that sits at the opposite end of the wide boulevard in front of St. Peter's Basilica, just across from Castel Sant'Angelo. The pope was to wrap up his visit by delivering an address to the radio's staff in the building's Marconi Hall.

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Reunion of St. Louis Jesuits group 'like magic,' member says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dan Schutte, Tim Manion and Jesuit Fathers Bob Dufford, John Foley and Roc O'Connor were St. Louis Jesuits before they were "the" St. Louis Jesuits who created a new kind of Scripture-based contemporary music for use at Mass. Manion left the Jesuits before ordination, and ultimately quit composing music. Schutte left the Society of Jesus, and the ordained priesthood, in 1986 -- the year after their sixth, and presumably last, music collection, "The Steadfast Love," had been released. But a series of e-mail conversations among the men starting in 2003 resulted in a reunion in a recording studio in Portland, Ore., last year. Even Manion came for a few days to add guitar and vocals to a new collection, "Morning Light." "It was an amazing experience. ... It was like magic," Schutte said as he and his Jesuit-priest colleagues were jointly interviewed in Washington by Catholic News Service. "It's like we were whole again." Their Feb. 18 concert in Washington was one of five reunion appearances the group planned for 2006. Manion was scheduled to join them for a late-February concert in St. Louis.

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Delaware priest goes 'on the wired side' to spread God's word

DOVER, Del. (CNS) -- "Greetings, everybody, this is Father Stanislao, and I welcome you to another issue of 'The Daily Walk Heavenwards.'" That's how the soothing, Italian-accented voice of Father Stanislao Esposito welcomed listeners to one recent episode of his spiritual "podcast." The associate pastor of Holy Cross Church in Dover, Father Esposito -- who goes by "Father Stanislao" on the podcast -- uses the Internet medium to preach God's message of love. That has been the priest's mission since young Stanislao -- inspired by a book given to him by the pastor of his parish near Naples, Italy -- would read parables from the Gospels to his fourth-grade classmates during recess. Father Esposito, 37, entered the digital world in 1994, developing a Web site to expand on a Bible study group he had formed. Last summer a seminarian friend suggested he try a podcast.


Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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