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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Sep-1-2006

By Catholic News Service


Security challenge: Protecting workers who aid those in need

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Michael O'Neill's education in the security needs of international aid organizations came, literally, at the point of a gun. "Well, guns," elaborated the security director for Save the Children. "Many guns." As an employee of a Red Cross affiliate in Sierra Leone in 1993, O'Neill learned when he was kidnapped by rebel soldiers that there was no protocol in the local organization for protecting employees or dealing with a security crisis. Since then, he's made a career of helping aid groups working in the world's most troubled regions keep their own employees safe, whether from traffic accidents or missile attacks. The question of how well prepared the world's nongovernmental aid organizations are for handling their own security came to the headlines in early August when 17 employees of Paris-based Action Against Hunger were kidnapped and killed in Muttur, Sri Lanka. The government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group each blamed the other for the attack. Since 2000, more than 50 aid workers in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Sudan have been killed in attacks on their vehicles or offices.

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New order, primarily of deaf men, will minister to deaf Catholics

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Father Thomas Coughlin's lifelong dream to start a religious community where sign language is the primary means of expression at both the eucharistic table and the dinner table is finally becoming a reality. Deaf since birth, Father Coughlin has founded the new order, the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate. The priest of the Diocese of Honolulu was one of five men who made their first profession of vows as Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate Aug. 27 at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, Calif. "Necessity is the mother of invention," he told the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Honolulu Diocese, in an interview by e-mail. "I saw how badly we need a religious community of deaf priests and brothers dedicated to a deeper spiritual life and the deaf apostolate in the language of signs and the deaf culture milieu." The five men pronounced their vows before Oakland's Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, who formally recognized the new community in 2004. Father Coughlin will remain a diocesan priest until he make his final vows in a few years. The other four men are in various stages of preparation for the priesthood, and the religious community also has two novices.

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Cardinal says 'patriarchal society' not cause of all-male priesthood

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The church's prohibition against women priests is not culturally conditioned by the "patriarchal society" in which Jesus lived and taught, said Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali. "Jesus treated women in a manner highly unusual for his culture," he said, noting that Christ "forgave the woman caught in adultery." The cardinal described as an "unfortunate incident" the July 31 riverboat ceremony near Pittsburgh at which eight women said they were ordained to the Catholic priesthood. But the event provides an opportunity to discuss Catholic teaching, he said. Some critics of the all-male priesthood "have attempted to dismiss this teaching by stating that Jesus lived in a patriarchal society and that, because he was limited by the culture of his time, he chose only men to be priests," the cardinal said in his weekly column appearing in the Aug. 17 archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times. Christ "could hardly be limited by culture," he said.

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Two cases of alleged miracles claim intercession of Archbishop Sheen

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Documentation of two alleged miracles attributed to the intercession of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen were sent to Rome this summer as part of the promotion of his sainthood cause. The cases claiming the archbishop's intercession involve a woman from Champaign and a baby in Pittsburgh. The cases were investigated and documented and, following ceremonies in Peoria and Pittsburgh, documentation was sealed and prepared for delivery to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes for further study. The ceremony in Peoria was witnessed by several members of the Sheen family and officials promoting the sainthood cause. During the ceremony, folders containing more than 500 pages of witness testimony and medical data regarding the Champaign case were packaged and sealed. Archbishop Sheen, a native of El Paso in the Diocese of Peoria, gained worldwide fame as a radio and television host and author. He died Dec. 9, 1979. The Diocese of Peoria officially launched his cause for canonization in September 2003.

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Pope urges priests to take heart in church's history of survival

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said parish priests discouraged by a decline in religious practice should take heart in the fact that the church has survived centuries of persecutions and trials. Not even the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler could destroy Catholicism, although he wanted to, the pope said. The pope made the comments in a question-and-answer session Aug. 31 with priests of the Diocese of Albano. The encounter took place at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, which is part of the Albano Diocese. Most of the questions touched on pastoral problems common across Italy, including the challenge of getting Catholics to Mass on Sunday and attracting young people to church activities. The pope said it was important for pastors to draw encouragement from the church's long history. The church's early flowering in North Africa and Asia Minor, for example, has long disappeared, but Catholicism has gained new strength and vigor in the rest of Africa and other parts of the world, he said. "The faith is stronger than all the currents that come and go," he said.

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Aid workers say situation in Darfur not yet resolved

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) -- Despite a May peace agreement meant to end the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur, refugees who fled into neighboring Chad are not returning to Sudan, said aid workers. Small groups of refugees are still staggering into Chad, and huge numbers may be preparing to leave if a threatened Sudanese government offensive starts, said a Catholic Relief Services representative in eastern Chad. "The number of refugees is increasing," said Fortune Agboton, the team leader for CRS' emergency team in Abeche, in eastern Chad. "The situation in Darfur is not solved." In an Aug. 31 telephone interview, Agboton said that at the moment refugees are crossing the border in groups of 10 or 20. Fighting among rebel groups, some of which did not sign the May 5 Darfur Peace Accord, and increased banditry by militias and armed gangs have increased since the peace deal was signed. The United Nations says the number of areas in Darfur inaccessible to aid workers is rising steadily because of the upsurge in violence as well as a lack of funds.

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Vatican to discontinue annual Christmas concert

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After a 13-year run, the annual Christmas concert at the Vatican will not be continued. The Vatican did not say who made the decision, which was reported by Italian media Aug. 31. In recent years some church officials have viewed the concert as a distraction because of minor controversies involving performers. Last year, church officials dropped Brazilian pop singer Daniela Mercury because they feared she would use the concert to promote the use of condoms as an anti-AIDS measure. Those who did perform were disappointed that Pope Benedict XVI did not make time for the traditional papal audience with the artists. The annual event was taped in the Vatican audience hall in early December and rebroadcast on Christmas Eve. It always drew a sellout crowd of about 6,000 people, including many cardinals, bishops and Vatican officials. The concert was an initiative of the Diocese of Rome, which used proceeds to help build new churches in the city. Pope John Paul II made it a point to greet the artists, lending publicity to the event.

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Christ can be seen in faces of all people, pope says at sanctuary

MANOPPELLO, Italy (CNS) -- All Christians should be on a never-ending search for Christ, who can be seen in the faces of all people, especially the poor and needy, Pope Benedict XVI said. To be drawn and transformed by the splendor of Jesus' face is to live in God's presence on earth, the pope said during a brief visit Sept. 1 to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in this small city some 120 miles east of Rome. Some scholars believe the sanctuary houses "Veronica's Veil," the cloth used by Veronica to wipe Christ's face prior to his crucifixion and which, according to tradition, now contains the image of Christ's face. "We will be filled with the presence of God" by imitating the lives of the saints who lovingly recognized the face of Jesus in their brothers and sisters, "especially the poorest and those most in need," Pope Benedict said. The pope flew by helicopter early in the morning from his summer home at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo to visit the church that houses the 7-inch-by-9.5-inch transparent veil that portrays the image of a male face with long hair and a beard. Studies have found no pigments or paints were used to create the image.

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Pope's visit draws attention to veil said to portray Christ's face

MANOPPELLO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's Sept. 1 visit to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face drew attention to a veil some scholars say contains a true image of Christ. The man on the veil has a beard and long hair, his eyes are open, and his lips are parted as if he were ready to say something. Some scholars say this could be "Veronica's Veil," venerated for centuries in St. Peter's Basilica. Legend says Veronica, who wiped Christ's face along the road to Calvary, later went to Rome to leave the relic with St. Clement. The 7-inch-by-9.5-inch veil is transparent like a color slide. The viewer can see the same image from the front and the back as well as see any objects placed behind the veil. How the brown image appeared on the veil is still considered a mystery. The origins of the veil are riddled in mystery, too, though there are written accounts.

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Neighbor plans papal homecoming down to the honey on the table

PENTLING, Germany (CNS) -- The neighbor who cares for Pope Benedict XVI's home in Pentling has planned the pontiff's Sept. 13 homecoming in great detail. "Waiting for him on the dining table in his house will be a very special surprise from me," said the neighbor, Rupert Hofbauer. "There will be several jars of honey from his own bees, from his own garden, and I am sure he is going to love this." For many years Hofbauer, a part-time beekeeper, has been keeping his bees in Pope Benedict's garden -- with the approval of the pope. "I know he misses his house dearly, and he told me so when I visited him in Rome" last year, Hofbauer told CNS Aug. 31. "He asked after his garden, the flowers, even the bees, and after our two animals: Chico, the cat, and Igor, the golden retriever."

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German banker, friend of pope, surprised at invitation to visit

MUNICH, Germany (CNS) -- A German banker who used to chauffeur Pope Benedict XVI said he has been invited to spend the night in the Regensburg seminary with the pontiff during his Sept. 9-14 trip to Germany. "I was very surprised and honored when I received a letter stating that I am to stay overnight at Regensburg," Thaddaeus Kuehnel, director of the Hauck and Aufhauser private bank in Munich, told Catholic News Service. "The request came from the Regensburg seminary, by letter." Kuehnel said he did not know why he received an invitation when so many of the pope's other friends remain uncertain if they will have a chance to meet with him. "It may have something to do with the fact that our friendship goes back some 30-odd years," Kuehnel said. "Long before he became pope, when he faced controversy at home and abroad, I always spoke out for him, and I think he never forgot this."

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U.S. nun to be among Germans greeting pope in Pentling

PENTLING, Germany (CNS) -- A U.S. nun will be among Germans greeting Pope Benedict XVI when he returns to his home in Pentling. Carmelite Sister Emmanuel Hofbauer of St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery in Shoreline, Wash., north of Seattle, has a special bond with Pope Benedict that spans decades and began when she was praying for him. Now Rupert Hofbauer, Pope Benedict's neighbor who cares for the house the pontiff still owns in Pentling, has invited Sister Emmanuel -- no relation -- to stay with him for two weeks, including Sept. 9-14, when Pope Benedict returns to his native Bavaria. "When he visits his house in Pentling," said Hofbauer, "everything will be shut off. Only neighbors will be allowed in the area, with a special permit. Since she will be staying with us, I have obtained such a permit for Sister Emmanuel also. I understand that Pope Benedict XVI will be greeting all the neighbors in person, and Sister Emmanuel will also be present to welcome him." Sister Emmanuel told Catholic News Service Sept. 1 that she carries many items that have been entrusted to her to give to the pope, including a letter from Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle.

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U.S. diplomat says Hezbollah arms, Iran's aims key to stable Mideast

ROME (CNS) -- Stopping the weapons flow to Hezbollah in Lebanon and responding to the nuclear ambitions of Iran are essential for a stable Middle East, said the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The ambassador, Francis Rooney, said the international community needs to make sure that as Lebanon moves toward peace and security countries like Syria and Iran are prevented from transferring arms to "terrorist groups such as Hezbollah." Rooney made the comments Sept. 1 in written responses to questions submitted by Catholic News Service. The ambassador said the international community, including the Vatican, should not be fooled by Iran's equivocations on its nuclear program. "The United States shares with the Holy See and the international community a desire for a stable Middle East, and none of us want to see nuclear proliferation in the region," he said. "The danger for the whole international community, including the Holy See, is to be taken in by Iran's stalling tactics and half-truths about its nuclear ambitions. The stakes are just too high," he said.

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Tennessee man elected to head international vocations group next year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Lloyd Crockett, a parishioner at St. Philip Church in Franklin, dedicates much of his time to supporting the church and helping people answer God's call to religious life. Next June he will assume the top spot in Serra International, an organization with chapters around the world, dedicated to the same thing. "Our job as Serrans is to help plant the seed in a young man or a young woman to consider a call from God to be a priest or religious," said Crockett, who was elected president-elect of Serra International in June. "Really, then the rest is up to God and, of course, that individual." Before his election as president-elect, Crockett was a member of the board for Serra International and vice president for membership. He is to be installed as president at the 2007 convention to be held June 21-24 in Atlanta. As president-elect, "I'll serve more or less as the assistant to the current president," Robert Wright of the Serra Club of Reading, Pa., Crockett said.

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Canadian couple tracks saints at churches, museums worldwide

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- St. George is an easy one. He's almost always portrayed as the gallant figure mounted on a white steed driving a lance through the heart of a writhing dragon. And that bearded man preaching to the birds? It must be St. Francis of Assisi, the noted peacemaker and animal lover. But what of the elderly man with two doves perched on an open book? Or how about the pilgrim who points to an open wound on his leg while a dog sits at his feet carrying a loaf of bread in its jaws? Those were some of the questions that came to the minds of Edward and Lorna Mornin as the Canadian couple toured churches and art galleries throughout the world over the last three decades. With few books to explain why these iconic figures in stone, plaster and glass were portrayed as they were, the Mornins decided to research it themselves. The fruit of their three-year effort, "Saints: A Visual Guide," was recently published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Michigan.

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New beginnings: Italian cardinal to take over as secretary of state

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's papacy opens a new chapter Sept. 15, when Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone takes over as secretary of state. It's arguably the pope's biggest appointment to date, and it reunites him with a man who for many years was his No. 2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Does that mean the Vatican is about to turn into one great big doctrinal congregation? An Italian journalist dared to pose that question to Cardinal Bertone in August. The cardinal didn't really answer, but he suggested the doctrinal experience wouldn't hurt in the great task of announcing the Gospel "in its entirety" in every country of the world. Cardinal Bertone, 71, is at the center of what might be the longest and most scrutinized transition in Vatican history. The pope offered him the position last December, he mulled it over and accepted earlier this year, and the pope announced the appointment in June -- three months before it took effect.


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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