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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-6-2006

By Catholic News Service


Church officials urge U.S. aid for critical human needs abroad

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Senate began considering a supplemental appropriations bill in early April, representatives of the U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services asked it to add essential funding in the current fiscal year to meet urgent human needs abroad. In a joint letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, CRS President Ken Hackett and Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy, urged that the bill include more funding for emergency humanitarian aid in Sudan, for food aid, for migration and refugee assistance and for Iraqi reconstruction. They called for immediate aid increases to help Liberia and Haiti move toward stable, peaceful democracies and continuing aid to Palestinians through nongovernmental organizations while requiring the new leaders of the Palestinian Authority "to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism." Their letter was dated March 29 and released April 3.

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Institute aims to build evangelical movement within Catholic Church

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) -- To be truly evangelical, Catholics have to "know and love the church," Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee told a gathering of college students, priests, seminarians and parish leaders from around the country. "It ain't always easy to love the church," he said, mentioning the clergy sexual abuse scandal. "But we embrace the church in its messiness." Archbishop Dolan gave the opening keynote talk March 31 at the Evangelical Catholic Institute, aimed at building the evangelical movement within the Catholic Church. The two-day institute was held at St. Paul's University Catholic Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. "We gotta face it: The world hates our guts," Archbishop Dolan said. "The world will hate us because they hated Jesus Christ first." But he called on Catholics to return that hate with love. "Love is the essence of evangelical Catholicism," he said. "We celebrate the love that God has for us and the love that we return to one another."

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Church data shows 5,000 clergymen accused of child sex abuse

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Based on U.S. church figures, the clergymen accused of sexually abusing minors between 1950 and 2005 number at least 5,000 and the number of people registering as victims could easily reach 13,000. No accurate count is possible as no statistics were gathered in 2003, and not all dioceses, Eastern-rite eparchies and religious communities reported figures for the other years surveyed. Almost all of the accused clergymen were priests. Regarding accused clergymen, a mammoth study on the nature and scope of the clergy sex abuse crisis by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York reported that 4,392 clergymen were accused of sexually abusing minors in the 53-year period starting with 1950 and ending with 2002. Compliance audits in 2004 and 2005 turned up a further 572 clergymen accused for the first time. The audits plus the John Jay figure total 4,964. The annual average of priests accused for the first time in the 55 years surveyed is 90. If this figure is used for 2003, the total is 5,054.

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Catholic universities across nation grappling with identity questions

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- The University of St. Thomas has been embroiled for several months in a dispute over whether unmarried partners on its faculty should be allowed to travel together and share a room when they lead student trips. On campus and on editorial pages, the well-publicized debate has revolved around what's more important: St. Thomas' right to uphold moral policies based on its identity as a Catholic institution, or its efforts to treat all people with tolerance and without discrimination. It's a shake-up the St. Paul institution hasn't faced with such intensity until now. But St. Thomas is not alone. Around the country, spurred by a variety of challenges, Catholic universities are grappling with just what it means to have a Catholic identity in the 21st century. At Boston College, for example, a newly formed abortion-rights group recently clashed with university officials who tried to cancel a panel discussion featuring abortion-rights supporters, whose views are in opposition to Catholic doctrine. At the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, a production of "The Vagina Monologues" was moved from a theater to a classroom so as to frame the play as a teaching moment rather than a blanket endorsement of an event that includes episodes supportive of sexual activities condemned in Catholic moral teaching. Other U.S. Catholic universities have canceled performances altogether.

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Pope Benedict drops tradition of Holy Thursday letter to priests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Dropping a tradition of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI is not issuing a letter to the world's priests on Holy Thursday, a Vatican spokesman said. Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said April 6 that no papal letter would be released this year. He did not say why the pope had decided to discontinue the practice. In 1979, a few months after his election, Pope John Paul II began writing the Holy Thursday letter as a sign of his special concern for the priesthood and the burdens of pastoral ministry. Over the years, the letters covered such topics as priestly vocations, morale among the clergy, spirituality and priestly celibacy. The pope's last letter to priests focused on the importance of the Eucharist; he signed it three weeks before his death in April 2005.

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Israel's Peres says pope would like to visit Holy Land in 2007

ROME (CNS) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Pope Benedict XVI told him he would like to visit the Holy Land in the first half of 2007. Peres, who held a press conference in Rome April 6 after his 40-minute meeting with the pope, said he renewed the Israeli government's standing invitation for a papal visit and expressed his hope that it would take place "as soon as possible." "The pope has indicated that he may do it in the first part of next year," Peres said. In an official statement published after the meeting, the Vatican acknowledged the invitation, but gave no indication that the pope accepted it or had discussed the timing of the visit. Peres told reporters, "I do believe his visit could have a positive impact on the peace process." Asked whether Pope Benedict might postpone the trip while the radical Hamas organization leads the Palestinian government, Peres said that he doubted that Hamas would be in power next year.

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Last fresco fragments restored in Assisi basilica

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Restorers have replaced the last fresco fragments in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, more than eight years after an earthquake sent parts of the ceiling crashing to the floor. With the aid of computer technology, experts were able to recompose most of the damaged images -- including an archway with Sts. Francis and Clare, and a rib vault decorated with a depiction of St. Jerome at his desk. St. Matthew did not fare as well: His image today, high above the main altar, is a series of chromatic stains against a white background. "We preserved a relic of this major work by (Giovanni) Cimabue, but not the work itself," Giuseppe Basile, who oversaw the restoration project, told a press conference in Assisi April 5. When the vault section fell in September 1997, four people below were killed. Cimabue's fresco of St. Matthew exploded into more than 120,000 pieces, many of them smaller than a fingernail.

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Vatican official urges Catholics to be reverent during Mass

LONDON (CNS) -- The head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments urged Catholics to be reverent during Mass and to venerate the Eucharist properly. During a talk in Westminster Cathedral April 1, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze called on priests to restore tabernacles to central positions in churches and for Catholics to rediscover the tradition of reverent genuflection in the presence of the Eucharist. He also called for an end to adding details to and subtracting them from the approved rites of the Mass and for an end to soft background music during Mass and other times when people were trying to pray in church. "This is doubtless well intentioned, but it is a mistake," said the cardinal. "People enter churches to pray, not to be entertained." The cardinal told about 400 audience members that Mass was the "supreme act of adoration, praise and thanksgiving which humanity can offer God."

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Brooklyn priest named director of pilgrimages at national shrine

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Joseph T. Holcomb, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been named director of pilgrimages at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The former pastor of St. Finbar Parish in Brooklyn succeeds Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, who was appointed rector of the shrine last May. "Since 1997, I have had the distinct privilege of organizing and transporting thousands of pilgrims of the national shrine from the Diocese of Brooklyn," Father Holcomb said in a statement. "Now as the director of pilgrimages for the national shrine, I have the opportunity to promote and welcome pilgrims from all over the country." Ordained in 1980, Father Holcomb also has worked with youths and college students at a diocesan retreat house. He has served on the diocese's College of Consultors, its Presbyteral Council and its music commission.

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Through his ordination, wife shares husband with the church

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) -- When Leonard Klein placed his clasped hands between Wilmington Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli's as a sign of fidelity April 1, Christa Klein realized her relationship with her husband had changed. "I knew indeed that the sacrament of marriage had been connected with the sacrament of ordination, and that I would share him with the church," she told The Dialog, the newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, after her husband was ordained a Catholic priest. Christa Klein had shared him before, but in a different way; Father Klein formerly was an ordained Lutheran minister. He became the diocese's only married priest and Father Salvador Magana became the first native of Mexico to become a priest for this diocese during the Mass and ordination rite at the Cathedral of St. Peter. Bishop Saltarelli downplayed the firsts. "There are those who say this ordination is unique," he said, "but every ordination is unique."

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Pope Paul VI's personal secretary dies at 82 in Milan, Italy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Paul VI's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, died April 5 at the age of 82 in Milan, Italy, after being hospitalized for kidney failure. Pope Benedict XVI recalled "the deep spirituality and generous episcopal dedication" that marked the life of the prelate. The pope lamented the loss of this "good, faithful servant" of God in a telegram to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan. The Vatican released a copy of the telegram April 6. Cardinal Tettamanzi, who was to preside over the April 8 funeral Mass, said he would always remember Archbishop Macchi's great sense of friendship and generosity. He was an extremely loyal secretary to Pope Paul and spent years preserving the memory and image of the late pope, the cardinal said in an interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire April 6.

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German Jesuit teaches Christian values in Muslim Kosovo

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- To teach Christian values in predominantly Muslim Kosovo, Jesuit Father Walter Happel uses a secular facade. The German priest is executive director of a Prizren, Kosovo, private school. In its brochure for the public, it is portrayed as a school that teaches "in the European sense"; it does not mention Christian values. Language and science classes are emphasized; the school does not offer religion classes. But the school is called Loyola-Gymnasium Prizren, named after St. Ignatius of Loyola. Its donors include Renovabis, a German Catholic movement; the German dioceses of Cologne and Limburg; and the Italian bishops' conference. And, he even had a Christmas tree in the school this year, Father Happel told Catholic News Service in an April 4 interview during a visit to Washington. The facade is necessary because only seven years ago the ethnic and religious fighting in the region pitted majority separatist Albanian Muslims against minority Christian Serbs. And teaching religious education in a school opens a debate Father Happel chooses to avoid.


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