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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-13-2007

By Catholic News Service


Bishops finalize reorganization, approve $147.7 million USCCB budget

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops took the final steps to formalize the new structure of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 13 and approved a $147.7 million budget for 2008 and a 16 percent reduction in the diocesan assessment to fund the USCCB. In a series of votes on the second day of their fall general meeting in Baltimore, the bishops accepted recommendations of the USCCB Committee on Priorities and Plans for the interim plans of conference offices and committees, the mandates of 15 permanent subcommittees and the establishment of a permanent subcommittee on Hispanic liturgy and a temporary subcommittee on Africa. They also agreed, with little discussion, on new bylaws and a new USCCB committee handbook drawn up by their Committee on Canonical Affairs. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., who was to end a three-year term as USCCB president at the close of the Nov. 12-15 meeting, called the bishops' actions "a watershed moment" that "sets us on a new course as we move into the future."

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Bishops finalize Iraq statement, urge new directions in war, policy

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Some U.S. policymakers "seem to fail to recognize sufficiently the reality and failures in Iraq and the imperative for new directions," warned the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a new statement on transition in Iraq. The statement issued Nov. 13 by the conference president, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., reiterates the bishops' insistence that the transition of U.S. forces out of Iraq should take into account moral issues, such as minimizing the loss of human life, addressing the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the situation of refugees and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom. The bishops agreed a day earlier to have Bishop Skylstad issue a statement on their behalf. The statement bemoans the "political and partisan stalemate in Washington" that it described as a parallel to the "dangerous political stalemate" that blocks reconciliation in Iraq. It also includes a question-and-answer supplement that describes in greater detail the USCCB positions on action in Iraq, on withdrawal of troops, on fighting terrorism and on the treatment of religious minorities in Iraq, refugees and U.S. military personnel and their families.

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Abuse study expected to reveal insights about societal effects

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- An ongoing study of the "causes and contexts" of the sexual abuse crisis in the church will touch on societal influences, the role of various aspects of seminary life and how church leaders' response was a factor, according to the staff of the New York-based John Jay College of Criminal Justice in a report to the U.S. bishops Nov. 12. In a briefing during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall general meeting in Baltimore, researchers Karen Terry and Margaret Smith outlined the types of information being gathered since the bishops agreed at the same meeting a year ago to spend $335,000 to cover the first phases of the detailed study. Research falls into six categories, Terry explained: a historical overview of social and political events since 1950; recruitment and seminary training; leadership; victimization; a clinical analysis using data from three treatment centers; and a discussion of prevention and education tactics. Terry said early research seems to indicate that the patterns of sexual abuse within the church are consistent with the experience of society as a whole.

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Bishops elect Cardinal George as new president

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops Nov. 13 elected Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago as their president and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., as their vice president. Using an electronic voting system, the bishops voted on the second day of their Nov. 12-15 fall general meeting in Baltimore. Cardinal George won on the first ballot with 188 votes, or 85 percent. He is completing his three-year term as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the first cardinal to be elected president or vice president of the conference since 1971. He succeeds Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., whose three-year term comes to an end at the close of the meeting. After a president was chosen from among 10 candidates, the remaining nine became the slate of candidates for vice president. There were three rounds of voting for vice president. Two votes included all nine remaining candidates and the third vote was between the top two: Bishop Kicanas and Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee. Bishop Kicanas won with 128 votes; the archbishop received 106.

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Ad hoc committee recommends annual audits for all parishes

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A report by the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Diocesan Audits recommends annual reporting by every parish as well as exercising a degree of caution about the tradition of presuming church employees view their work as ministry and do not need oversight. Such a "trusting environment" can be exploited by a dishonest worker, it said. "While the vast majority of our pastors, parish finance councils and staff does excellent work in managing very limited resources to the maximum advantage, we have all seen reports of occasional financial mismanagement in parishes," said Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa, Calif., chairman of the committee. Bishop Walsh reported on the work of the ad hoc committee on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall general meeting Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore.

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Green Bay Diocese, Catholic parish step in to shelter homeless people

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- With cold weather fast approaching, the Catholic Church stepped in to help shelter the chronically homeless of the Green Bay area when a popular overnight haven for them could not meet city zoning requirements to open. The Diocese of Green Bay announced it would back an effort to establish a shelter at St. John the Evangelist Parish. It opened Nov. 6 and two days later received preliminary approval for a zoning permit. Final zoning approval was needed by Nov. 15. "We feel very good about the opportunity to be where we are, especially with what the temperature is predicted to be," said Deacon Tim Reilly, Green Bay diocesan director of administration. The decision on the shelter came with the authorization of Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who was named administrator of the Green Bay Diocese after Bishop David A. Zubik was installed as Pittsburgh's new bishop Sept. 28.

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Catholic youths at national conference in Ohio keep their faith alive

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) -- During the National Catholic Youth Conference in Columbus Nov. 8-10, about 20,000 youths had the chance to sing, pray, ask questions about their faith, meet new people and even play dodge ball. Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, N.Y., told participants during the closing ceremony that he hoped the experience was a "profoundly confirming time for you and an expression of the deep love of the church for you." He added, "And I hope that when you return, you share your experience and tell how your being together in these wonderful days in Columbus has spoken to your heart. The folks back home are very anxious to hear what you have learned and shared about Christ." Bishop Clark served as celebrant for the closing ceremony in place of Columbus Bishop Frederick F. Campbell who was recovering from foot surgery. The Washington-based National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry was the conference's sponsor, and the Columbus Diocese was the conference host. The Rochester bishop also addressed the sadness that overshadowed the conference because of the death of conference participant Veronica Gantt, 16, of Las Vegas, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Columbus Nov. 8.

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Bishops OK proposed documents on stem cells, high-tech reproduction

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly approved a proposal by their Committee on Pro-Life Activities to draft new documents on embryonic stem-cell research and on reproductive technologies. As outlined Nov. 13 by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the pro-life committee, the stem-cell document would be "a brief policy statement" explaining why the church opposes research involving the destruction of human embryos and would be presented to the bishops for debate and vote in June. Cardinal Rigali said there is "no authoritative USCCB document on the underlying reasons" for Catholic opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, although there have been many letters by conference leaders and statements from popes and Vatican officials. "The committee did not want the conference to speak out for the first time" on embryonic stem-cell research in a pastoral document directed at couples dealing with infertility, he said. The statement on reproductive technologies would be written in collaboration with the bishops' Committee on Doctrine and their Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Cardinal Rigali said, and would have "an appealing and pastoral tone."

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Italians to hear more than 100,000 changes to Mass Scriptures

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italians listening to the Scriptures at Mass will no longer hear that it is impossible to serve "God and mammon," but rather that no one can serve both "God and wealth." On the feast of the Annunciation, the Gospel reading no longer will have the angel Gabriel greeting Mary with the words "Hail, full of grace," but rather with "Rejoice, full of grace." After five years of work and 15 drafts, the first volumes of Scripture readings for Masses in Italian have been approved by the Vatican and may be used in parishes beginning in December. The new lectionaries for Sundays and holy days -- one for each year of the three-year cycle of readings -- were presented Nov. 12 at a Vatican press conference. The bishops expect to complete the collection of readings for other Masses by the end of 2008 and use of the new translations will be obligatory beginning with Advent 2010.

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Officials confirm papal visit to Lourdes to mark Marian apparitions

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Officials confirmed Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France to mark the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there, but said the exact time period of the papal visit was not yet known. Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes, who is in charge of the preparations for the jubilee celebrations, said the papal journey was "a sure thing." The bishop and others spoke to journalists during a Nov. 13 Vatican press conference, unveiling details of the yearlong jubilee celebrations. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, said the papal trip "most probably" would have Lourdes as its sole destination and for now would not include stops in other cities. Bishop Perrier said he is often asked if the pope will arrive at Lourdes for one of the "significant moments" for the church, such as Feb. 11, the day the apparitions began and also the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, or Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. Bishop Perrier said whatever date the pope decides for his visit would be a significant moment for them.

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Pakistani bishop expresses hope for return to democracy

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- A Pakistani bishop expressed hope for a return to democracy and said the country's bishops will discuss the crisis at their upcoming meeting. Bishop Max Rodrigues of Hyderabad told the Asian church news agency UCA News Nov. 12, "We hope that the prevailing setback is short-lived and that democracy returns." The bishop said the members of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference plan to review the ongoing crisis at their Nov. 23 meeting. "Meanwhile, the churches have been directed to pray for the country and its solidarity," he said. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, declared a state of emergency Nov. 3, arresting protesters and opponents and banning large gatherings. The crisis deepened Nov. 11 when Musharraf announced that to reinforce Pakistan's fight against terrorism the state of emergency would continue beyond the planned general election that he promised would be held before Jan. 9.

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Jewish scholar writes about Palestinian refugees in Vatican newspaper

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican newspaper had one of Italy's most prominent Jewish scholars, Anna Foa, write an article about historical memory, focusing on a new book about the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem. Giovanni Maria Vian, the new editor of L'Osservatore Romano, said that since the Vatican newspaper is almost 150 years old he could not say for sure if the paper had ever published a Jewish author. "But it probably is the first time that a Jewish voice has been asked to make a cultural contribution," he told reporters. Foa told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she was pleased to have been asked to contribute to the Vatican newspaper and seeing her name in the Nov. 9 issue "was moving." Vian told reporters he asked Foa to write as part of an effort "to open the newspaper to a lively and broad cultural discussion with an international scope. For that reason, authoritative voices from various areas will be included." Foa's article focused on the recent publication in Italian of "Bad Memories: The Debate in Israel Over the Expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-1949" by Anita Shapira.

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Chinese react differently to 'religion' in communist constitution

HONG KONG (CNS) -- Some church leaders praised the inclusion of the word "religion" in the Communist Party's constitution as a small step forward, but a recent commentary in a Hong Kong daily identified the Vatican as a "foreign force" meddling in the affairs of Hong Kong and Macau. The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in mid-October has been called a breakthrough for religion in China, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The latest revision to the party constitution uses the word "religion" for the first time since the constitution was drafted in 1921. The 19th paragraph of the constitution's General Program now includes this sentence: "The party strives to fully implement its basic principle for its work related to religious affairs and rallies religious believers in making contributions to economic and social development." The paragraph originally contained only calls for communists' promotion of relations with ethnic minorities based on equality, solidarity, mutual harmony, training of cadres from these groups, and empowering these groups to work for prosperity and development.

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EU criticizes Turkey for failing to protect Christian minorities

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As the European Union prepares for a summit in December, its governing commission has criticized Turkey for failing to protect its Christian minorities. "Attacks against clergy and places of worship of non-Muslim communities have been reported. Missionaries have been portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the integrity of the country," said a commission report published in early November. "To date, use of language that might incite hatred against non-Muslim minorities has been left unpunished," it said, adding that non-Muslim religious communities continue to face a lack of legal norms "and restricted property rights." Most of Turkey's more than 70 million citizens are Sunni Muslims. Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the Turkish population, often have complained of discrimination in Turkey.

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New archbishop in Taiwan says he will care for priests, evangelize

CHIAYI, Taiwan (CNS) -- The newly appointed archbishop of Taipei says his two highest priorities are to take good care of his priests and to evangelize. Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Chiayi, whom Pope Benedict XVI appointed to Taipei Nov. 9, also said he will visit retired bishops to ask for advice on managing the archdiocese. Three retired Taipei archbishops reside in the area: Archbishop Joseph Cheng Tsai-fa, 75, whom Archbishop Hung succeeds; and Archbishops Joseph Ti-kang, 79, and Matthew Kia Yen-wen, 82. The new archbishop will be installed Nov. 25 at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Taipei, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. Archbishop Hung, who turns 64 Nov. 20, told UCA News Nov. 12, "I don't have much ability to run the church alone and have to rely on my priests and laypeople." Born on Penghu Island, off the western coast of Taiwan, Archbishop Hung was ordained a Salesian priest in 1973. After obtaining a doctorate in education in the United States, he devoted himself to Catholic education in Taiwan.

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Chicago cardinal elected president of U.S. bishops' conference

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Cardinal Francis E. George, who has been the archbishop of Chicago for the past decade, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 13. He is the first cardinal to be elected president of the conference since 1971 when Philadelphia Cardinal John J. Krol held the position. Cardinal George, USCCB vice president for the past three years, received 188 votes, or 85 percent of the votes, on the first ballot during the second day of the bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore. A Chicago native, 70-year-old Cardinal George assumes the role of president a year after the bishops voted to sharply reduce the number of USCCB committees and downsize the national staff by eliminating about 70 jobs. Before the bishops' elections, opposition to the cardinal's being a presidential candidate came from the Voice of the Faithful, a group pushing for change in the church, and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. They cited his failure to immediately remove a Chicago priest from his parish in 2005 despite abuse allegations.

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Sister Janice Bader to run National Religious Retirement Office

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Precious Blood Sister Janice Bader has been named director of the National Religious Retirement Office. She had been the office's interim director since the death in July of Precious Blood Sister Andree Fries, who had been director since 2000. Sister Janice's appointment, which took effect Oct. 31, was announced Nov. 5. The National Religious Retirement Office is the coordinating body that oversees the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection, designed to reduce the unfunded retirement liability of the nation's religious orders. Taken up in most U.S. parishes the second weekend of December, it has proven by far to be the most generous special collection in U.S. Catholic history; this year's collection will be held the weekend of Dec. 8-9. The office is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

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Student from Kentucky wins CCHD's national award

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- David Golemboski, a student who is a social justice leader in Louisville, Ky., is the 2007 winner of the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award given by the U.S. bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The 10th annual award, named for Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago, honors young Catholics who demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based efforts. Golemboski received the award Nov. 12 during the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. "David has used his considerable gifts to bring diverse communities together in Louisville. His ability to express his Catholic faith through leadership and action inspires us," said John Carr, CCHD interim executive director. Carr not only congratulated the award recipient, but also his parents, who attended the award presentation, for raising him well. Golemboski, 22, is in his first year at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., pursuing a master's degree in religion, ethics and politics.


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