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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-21-2007

By Catholic News Service


President of U.S. bishops calls for prayers for peace talks

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics were urged to pray for peace in the Middle East as preparations kicked into high gear for an international peace conference in Annapolis, Md., beginning Nov. 27. Leaders from more than 40 countries, groups of nations such as the European Union, and financial and other institutions were invited to the Annapolis talks. The White House listed the Vatican as being among the invitees. In a Nov. 21 letter to the U.S. bishops, Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged them to call parishes and individuals to pray for peace, especially Nov. 25, the Sunday before the peace conference. During the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12-15, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had raised the possibility of calling for a day of prayer for peace. In his letter, released in Washington, Cardinal George said the call to prayer "has a special timeliness this week, but the path to a just peace will be long and will stretch beyond the peace conference itself."

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Senate Finance Committee launches probe of Protestant televangelists

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In November, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, announced a probe involving six prominent Protestant televangelists: Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Paula White and Bishop Eddie Long. Grassley sent letters to each, asking detailed questions about purchases, gifts and "love offerings," demanding answers by Dec. 6 for an investigation into possible financial misconduct by these tax-exempt ministries. Grassley told the Des Moines Register, a daily newspaper in Iowa, that religion isn't the issue behind the probe. "Churches aren't any different from any other nonprofit organization, and they have to abide by the same tax laws," he said. The six televangelists, all of whom have been accused of maintaining extravagant lifestyles, preach the "prosperity gospel." This theology is based on an interpretation of biblical passages that suggests God will provide believers with financial wealth. One such passage is Chapter 8, Verse 18 of the Book of Deuteronomy, which says in part, "Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth."

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Atlanta archbishop recuperating at home after prostate surgery

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta was recuperating at home following a Nov. 5 surgical procedure for early-stage prostate cancer at Emory University Hospital, and he was expected to resume a limited work schedule in December. "From my heart, I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of love through prayers and good wishes for my healing," the 59-year-old archbishop said in a Nov. 9 statement. "Please be assured of my prayers for you." Dr. Fray Marshall, chairman of the urology department at Emory, said Archbishop Gregory "tolerated the procedure well, and there were no unforeseen problems." He received a "favorable pathology report" Nov. 9, Marshall added. The physician said caring for Archbishop Gregory was "a pleasure" because "he is good to all the people around him." Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Writing in the Oct. 30 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Georgia Bulletin, Archbishop Gregory urged priests and other men to undergo regular medical screenings.

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Church responds to crisis of urban violence in Chicago

CHICAGO (CNS) -- On Oct. 30, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in a Chicago neighborhood known as "Back of the Yards," Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of Chicago celebrated a Mass for victims of violence. He read dozens of victims' names and met with their family members and loved ones. But the next day, another victim was added to the roll: Leticia Barrera, shot in gang crossfire as she returned home from trick-or-treating with her three children on Halloween. She was four months pregnant, and it was her 32nd birthday. Bishop Garcia-Siller led her wake service Nov. 6 at St. Michael the Archangel Church. Providing support and comfort through the rituals of funerals and wakes is one of the ways in which the church is obligated to respond to violence, according to Bishop Garcia-Siller and several priests who serve in communities where such violence has happened all too often.

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Jesuit who works with gang members named one of most caring Americans

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A priest known to former gang members in East Los Angeles as "G-Dog" was among five adults and six young people honored by the Washington-based Caring Institute as the most caring people in America for 2007. Jesuit Father Gregory Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries in 1988 to provide "hope, not jail" for former gang members who want to turn their lives around, received one of the 2007 National Caring Awards at a Nov. 16 ceremony in Washington. As chairman of the institute's board of trustees, former U.S. Sen. Robert J. Dole of Kansas, who was a Republican presidential candidate in 1996, described the 2007 winners as "wonderful role models and the very personification of caring." Father Boyle's programs help an estimated 1,000 young people from nearly 600 different gangs each month. Beginning with a jobs program and a bakery, Homeboy Industries now includes a cafe as well as businesses that offer silk-screening and home maintenance services and sell merchandise with the Homeboy logo.

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Imitating Christ's humility essential for Christians, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Imitating Christ in his humility is essential for Christian living, Pope Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience. It is by staying humble that "the Christian can enter into a relationship with the Lord," he said. During his Nov. 21 general audience in St. Peter's Square, the pope focused his catechesis on Aphraates, "an outstanding figure of fourth-century Syriac Christianity." This early Christian theologian said "Christian life is centered on imitating Christ, taking up his yoke and following him on the path of the Gospel," the pope said. The most essential virtue for a disciple of Christ is the virtue of humility, he said. He said Aphraates wrote that "if a person's roots are planted in the earth, his fruits rise up before the Lord." While the humble person remains grounded, his heart soars toward heaven, he said.

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Pope urges political leaders to find peaceful solution in Somalia

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI called on political leaders to hammer out a peaceful solution to the escalating violence in Somalia that has forced 1 million people to flee their homes. The pope said he was following "with trepidation the unfolding events" in Somalia, where clashes between Islamic insurgents and allied Ethiopian-Somali government troops have recently flared. At the end of his Nov. 21 weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the pope said he had been hearing the "painful news about the precarious humanitarian situation in Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, increasingly stricken by social insecurity and poverty." He launched an appeal to international and local political leaders "to find peaceful solutions and bring relief to these dear people" while encouraging humanitarian efforts to continue.

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Sizing up Catholic schools: a partnership between religious, laity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A transformation has occurred in Catholic schools over the last 50 years, and the Vatican took its measure at a recent press conference. The occasion was the Nov. 20 release of a document, "Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful," prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education. The congregation said lay teachers now make up the overwhelming majority -- at least 80 percent, according to one official -- of the 3.5 million teachers working in the church's 250,000 schools around the world. That represents a dramatic shift, reflecting the declining numbers of men and women religious. In the United States, the percentage of lay teachers went from 14 percent in 1950 to more than 95 percent this year. Similar figures were cited for places like Australia, France, Spain and Hong Kong.

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British cardinal criticizes idea of fatherless babies in biotech bill

LONDON (CNS) -- A British cardinal has criticized proposals to allow lesbians to become joint legal parents of children created for them through in vitro fertilization. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster said Nov. 19 that provisions in the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill were "profoundly wrong." In a letter to The Times, a London newspaper, the cardinal said: "The bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child's need for a father when considering an IVF application and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF. "This radically undermines the place of the father in a child's life and makes the natural rights of the child subordinate to the desires of the couple," he said. "It is profoundly wrong." Under the proposals such children will have no legal fathers because the partner of the mother will be registered as the "second parent." Critics say it is the first time that the fathers of children will not be recognized in some way by the British government.

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Israeli geologist uses church documents to predict next earthquake

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Ancient church documents, some of them from the Vatican archives, are helping an Israeli geologist plot earthquake patterns to determine when the next big earthquake is most likely to take place in the Holy Land. According to his analysis of ancient documents, an earthquake in the region is long overdue, said Shmulik Marco, a geologist from Tel Aviv University. Marco said that based on his studies he can determine a pattern in the series of devastating earthquakes that have hit the Holy Land over the last 2,000 years. Major quakes were recorded along the Jordan Valley in the years 31 and 363 B.C. and A.D. 749 and 1033. "The region is stressed twice its usual stress. An earthquake is quite imminent," said Marco, who when renovating his home in Tel Aviv hired an engineer to strengthen the foundations of the building and make it earthquake-resistant.

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Amid celebrations, Texas prelate makes time for prayer, family

ROME (CNS) -- In the few days immediately before he was to receive his red hat, Cardinal-designate Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston tried to relax as he also made time for quiet prayer, his family and a wardrobe check. The Texas media turned out in force Nov. 21 when he went to the small but famous shop of Gammarelli, the ecclesiastical tailors. "I had a final fitting," the cardinal-designate told Catholic News Service. "It looks very fine." The tailors, who also sew for Pope Benedict XVI and most of the 22 other prelates who will be inducted into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24, will make a few adjustments to the Texan's two new outfits and will deliver them. With sartorial obligations resolved, he could breathe a sigh of relief. "This morning I've been doing some spiritual reading with God's word; I'm taking time out for that," he said. The other key moment of spiritual preparation will be an early morning Mass Nov. 23 in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica with a very small group of family and friends.

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Priest noted for work in field of formative spirituality dies at 87

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Dutch-born Father Adrian van Kaam, noted author in the field of formative spirituality and a retired professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, died Nov. 17 at age 87. A funeral Mass was to be celebrated for Father van Kaam Nov. 24 in the Duquesne University chapel, followed by burial at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Peters Township. A member of the Spiritan order, he was born in The Hague, Netherlands, professed his vows in 1940 at the seminary in Gemert, Netherlands, and was ordained there July 21, 1946. After serving in the Netherlands for eight years, he arrived in the United States and was appointed to the psychology department faculty at Duquesne University, which is run by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, or the Spiritans. He founded Duquesne's Graduate Institute of Formative Spirituality in 1963 and taught there as a professor until it closed 30 years later. He trained priests, nuns, brothers and laypeople from around the world who worked as directors of seminaries and novitiates.

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Pastor arrests pro-life protester after school parents complain

SAN MATEO, Calif. (CNS) -- The pastor of St. Matthew Parish in San Mateo arrested a longtime parishioner on a trespassing complaint Nov. 13 after parents of children at the parish school complained about graphic signs opposing abortion that were displayed on his parked vehicle. Ross Foti of Belmont was cited and released by San Mateo police, who had responded to a call that Father Anthony McGuire had placed the parishioner under citizen's arrest after the 8:15 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew. The parish authorities took Foti into custody on the grounds that he had violated their order to stay away from parish property, said Lt. Mike Brunicardi of the San Mateo police. Father McGuire told Foti in a Sept. 24 letter that his refusal to cover the signs had caused too much division and tension in the parish. The pastor said Foti was no longer welcome on church property and would be arrested for trespassing if he failed to comply.


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