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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-5-2007

By Catholic News Service


Spokane sex abuse bankruptcy case settled for $48 million

RENO, Nev. (CNS) -- Judge Gregg W. Zive said Jan. 4 that the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., and those with sexual abuse claims against the diocese have reached a $48 million settlement. Zive, chief bankruptcy judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada, had been mediating the case since last July under mandate from the federal bankruptcy court in Spokane. He said the agreement reached Jan. 4 must still be confirmed by the court in Spokane and by creditors in accord with provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. "The economic portion of the global settlement totals at least $48 million and provides a mechanism for the payment of future claims," he said. He said parishes of the diocese will have to raise $10 million to contribute to the settlement. The Spokane Diocese has nearly 100,000 Catholics served by 82 parishes, so the cost to the parishes, who depend on contributions for their income, works out to an average of about $100 per Catholic.

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Catholic officials back N.J. panel's advice to end death penalty

TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) -- Catholic officials have praised the recommendation by a New Jersey panel that the state abolish the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment without parole. The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission, created in 2005, submitted its findings Jan. 2 to Gov. Jon S. Corzine. In their report commission members said they did not find compelling evidence in support of capital punishment and also found that it costs taxpayers more than it does to incarcerate prisoners for life. The commission voted 12-1 in opposition of the death penalty and said capital punishment is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency, serves no legitimate penological purpose such as deterrence or retribution and is not worth the risk of making an irreversible mistake." Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, urged the Legislature to act quickly on the report and pass laws to implement the panel's recommendation.

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Madame Speaker: Anticipating how Pelosi will run the House

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi's ascent to the post of speaker of the House of Representatives puts her in the spotlight for a variety of "firsts." She's the first woman, the first Italian-American and the first Californian to hold the post. At a Jan. 3 Mass at Trinity University in Washington, Pelosi's alma mater, focusing on the children of Darfur and Hurricane Katrina victims, Jesuit Father Robert Drinan, a former member of Congress, noted that she's the first mother in the seat. Beyond the firsts, Pelosi is a well-known player with a reputation for effective leadership and for listening to people on all sides of issues. Her selection as House speaker is considered a good sign for the chance to pass some legislation on the church's agenda. But Pelosi, a Catholic, also is eyed cautiously because of her record of support for legal abortion. George Wesolek, director of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has worked with Pelosi and her staff for 21 years. Her congressional district encompasses most of San Francisco. "She's been very, very helpful on many issues and we disagree strongly on others," Wesolek said. "And I talk with her very frankly about those."

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New Ukrainian Catholic church is former synagogue

LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CNS) -- Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church celebrated the feast of the Holy Family Dec. 31 by opening a new church and parish center in a former synagogue in Lindenhurst. Ukrainian Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford, Conn., and his predecessor, retired Bishop Basil H. Losten, joined parish administrator Father Olvian Popovici and the parishioners in blessing the church and celebrating their first Divine Liturgy in their new home. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of several Eastern Catholic churches that maintain their own traditions, forms of worship and hierarchy while remaining in full union with the Roman Catholic Church. The Stamford Diocese is responsible for Ukrainian Catholics throughout New England and New York. Thirty-six of its 51 parishes are in New York state, including several on Long Island.

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Vatican newspaper: Bush's remarks on Saddam's death unlikely to help

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's public comments on the hanging of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are unlikely to calm the tensions created by his execution, the Vatican newspaper said. L'Osservatore Romano said Jan. 5 that, in the wake of the circulation of images showing Saddam being taunted just before he was hanged Dec. 30, Bush reiterated his belief that Saddam's trial was fair and "limited himself to observing that, nevertheless, the final procedure could have been 'more dignified.'" Responding to reporters' questions Jan. 4, Bush said, "I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had been done in a more dignified way. But, nevertheless, he was given justice; the thousands of people he killed were not." The Vatican newspaper, in a front-page article, said Bush's remarks "are words that do not seem useful for overcoming the hatred and bitterness that is still mangling Iraq, and they certainly are not an invitation to reconciliation."

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Hard rock in hell: Monsignor makes 'The Divine Comedy' a musical

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Rome monsignor has composed an extravagant musical version of "The Divine Comedy," featuring symphonic music in heaven, Gregorian chant in purgatory and hard rock in hell. That's not a value judgment on rock music -- it just seemed to fit the spirit of rebellion in Dante's description of the inferno, Msgr. Marco Frisina told Vatican Radio Jan. 4. Msgr. Frisina, a liturgy official for the Diocese of Rome and a well-known composer of religious music, said the new work, "The Divine Comedy: The Opera," will use a 100-piece orchestra, 50 dancers and singers, and more than 250 costumes. According to the opera's production company, Nova Ars, the set will be one of the biggest ever used for an operatic work and will be designed to allow audience interaction in some of the scenes. The priest has dedicated the opera's musical score to Pope Benedict XVI and said he hopes the pontiff will attend the premiere in Rome next fall. Dante Alighieri's medieval poem, considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, imagines a journey through the three realms of the dead.

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Ambassadors to Vatican have diverse backgrounds

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At first glance, the ambassadors accredited to the Vatican seem to be a group of elegant, older men gracefully ending their diplomatic careers in a posting filled with pomp and circumstance. The suits with tails, the swords, the plumed hats, sashes and medals highlight the formality of public occasions and the long tradition of nations sending envoys to the Vatican, said Giovanni Galassi, dean of the Vatican diplomatic corps and San Marino's ambassador to the Holy See. "But we also must have something real to say; we must serve the world in some way," Galassi said Jan. 3, the 20th anniversary of the day he presented his credentials as ambassador to Pope John Paul II. Galassi was not thinking about his anniversary -- "Frankly, I forgot" -- but was busy writing the speeches he was to give Jan. 8 on behalf of the diplomatic corps to Pope Benedict XVI and to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. The early January date for the pope's speech to the diplomatic corps and the formal dinner for the secretary of state that evening mark the one time of year when almost all of the 175 ambassadors and four special representatives gather together.

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Catholic agencies distribute holiday aid packages in Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Three Catholic aid agencies distributed blankets and food to several thousand families in the Gaza Strip as the new year began. The aid packages included 12 food items plus two blankets, said Omar Shaban, Gaza field manager for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international aid and relief agency. "The winter is colder than normal this year, and the people felt we were really thinking about them," Shaban said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. The women especially expressed gratitude for the extra blankets for their children, he added. "Coming at the time of the holiday and during the cold winter, people received these packages like a gift," said Shaban. CRS partnered with two other Catholic organizations -- Trocaire, the overseas development agency of the Irish bishops, and Caritas France, part of the international Catholic aid network of Caritas Internationalis -- to implement the holiday-season distribution to the neediest areas of the Gaza Strip.

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Msgr. Lenz to end 30 years directing black and Indian mission work

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Msgr. Paul A. Lenz is stepping down as executive director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions in April, a little less than 31 years after he took up that post. He will remain the official vice postulator (a church advocate) for the canonization cause of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who in 1980 became the first North American Indian to be beatified. Father Wayne C. Paysse, spiritual director of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, has been named to succeed Msgr. Lenz April 1. He began working in the bureau Jan. 1. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, president of the National Black and Indian Mission Collection, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the Catholic Negro-American Mission Board, announced the appointment in a press release Dec. 27. The director of the bureau is also executive secretary of the collection and the mission board. Msgr. Lenz, 81, is a priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa.

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Priest says Scouting helps youths discern vocations

IRVING, Texas (CNS) -- Participating in Boy Scouts is a great way for youths to meet people in all walks of life and help them discern their own vocations, says Msgr. John B. Brady, a 65-year veteran of Scouting. In an interview with Scouting, a family magazine published by the Boy Scouts of America, Msgr. Brady said jamborees -- nine-day national or international gatherings of Scouts and their leaders -- provide opportunities for vocational discernment "not equaled in any other environment." He said the "excitement, enlightenment, reverence and camaraderie" of a jamboree combine to increase youths' openness to thinking about what direction their life should take. Scouting interviewed Msgr. Brady after he received the National Catholic Committee on Scouting's 2006 Silver St. George award, given to Catholic Scouting leaders for "especially significant" accomplishments and service at the national level. A priest of the Washington Archdiocese, Msgr. Brady, 77, was archdiocesan chaplain for Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and Camp Fire Boys and Girls from 1960 to 1984.

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Warsaw archbishop takes over despite findings he helped communists

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus has become the new head of the Warsaw Archdiocese, despite findings by a church commission that he collaborated with Poland's former communist secret police. "From the material presented, it seems various bad intentions and attitudes about the church are being attributed to me," Archbishop Wielgus said in a Jan. 5 statement. "This is a falsification. There is absolutely no documentation to prove it, beyond the words of functionaries who viewed my person and the whole issue in their own way. I never betrayed Christ and his church in deeds, words or intentions. I never inflicted any harm on anyone," the bishop said. The statement was released three hours before Archbishop Wielgus formally assumed office in the archbishop's residence of the Polish capital, Warsaw. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, retired archbishop of Warsaw, welcomed his successor. An installation Mass was planned for Jan. 7.

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Faith in God splits the uprights for Catholic college place-kicker

MILWAUKEE (CNS) -- Like many place-kickers, the University of Notre Dame's Carl Gioia contends his craft is 98 percent mental and 2 percent physical. But he qualifies that larger percentage. "I include the spiritual with that," he said in a telephone interview with the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. "Faith gives you strength and confidence in what you do." Gioia credits his parents for rooting him in his Catholic faith. "I didn't go to a Catholic school, but our environment was Catholic," he said of life in Valparaiso, Ind., where he belongs to St. Paul Parish. Terming Catholicism "a big part of our family's life," he noted that they "celebrated (Easter and Christmas) with more than candy, eggs and turkey." That same environment also led Gioia to choose Notre Dame, in Indiana, where he was a "preferred" walk-on who did not receive a scholarship until his sophomore year, over the other 20 schools that recruited him. "A nice thing about Notre Dame is that they are very accepting of people, and of integrating faith into everyday life," he said.

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Students chide TV host Leno for not eating veggies, appear on show

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- One moment Michael Sorenson quietly colored a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The next, he impersonated Elvis for millions of television viewers. That's show biz when you're a second-grader in a Catholic school. When Michael and the rest of his classmates at St. Ignatius School in Portland learned that Jay Leno, host of NBC-TV's late-night "The Tonight Show," claimed he had gone more than 30 years with no vegetables, they were appalled. They had learned in health class that such dietary behavior is wildly irresponsible. They sent letters of appeal to the host in California. "Do you know you will be fat from so much junk food?" wrote Alex Smith. "I won't be surprised if people start calling you Mr. Junk Food." Samira Farah recommended that he close his eyes when eating vegetables. That's what she does. Leno was touched by the notes and knew they would touch the funny bones of his audience, so he invited the class to appear on his show.


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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