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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-20-2007

By Catholic News Service


Immigrants aren't the enemy, priests say at Chicago press conference

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Responding to what they called the increasingly harsh political rhetoric directed at undocumented immigrants, Priests for Justice for Immigrants held a Dec. 18 press conference to mark International Migrants' Day with a pastoral "invitation and challenge" to the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago. "Society has taught us that we need an enemy," said Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Parish on Chicago's West Side, "and that enemy has come more and more to be the undocumented." Crowded around the altar in a small chapel at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, the priests, along with members of Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, said the church has a duty to stand up for the dignity of all people. They also emphasized how Americans benefit from the presence of immigrants -- with documents or not -- while at the same time putting them in danger of being torn from their families. The Dec. 18 press conference was timed to coincide with similar efforts in Los Angeles; San Antonio; Newark and Trenton, N.J.; Lexington, Ky.; San Jose, Calif.; and other dioceses.

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Despite hard choices, Catholics must vote, New Hampshire bishop says

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CNS) -- Catholics must not seek to avoid difficult decisions about political candidates by choosing not to vote, Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester said in a new document on "Conscience and Your Vote." The bishop's diocese covers the entire state of New Hampshire, where the first primary in the 2008 presidential campaign is to take place Jan. 8. The Iowa caucuses are to take place five days earlier. "Some candidates advance proposals that fail to mirror the commitment of the church to the protection of all human life," he wrote. "In many cases, these same candidates advance other policies and proposals that can be supported in light of church teaching. "This frequent mixture of laudable and unacceptable positions causes great perplexity," Bishop McCormack said. But "in order to sustain a healthy democracy, all citizens have a moral obligation to vote," he added. "Deciding not to vote therefore is an unacceptable solution, even to this difficult situation." The bishop's five-page document is based largely on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November.

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Jesuit university honors Buddhist monks of Myanmar for their courage

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Stephen A. Privett, president of the University of San Francisco, presented an honorary degree to Buddhist monks from Myanmar Dec. 14, saying the honor would keep their "struggle for democracy in the minds and hearts of those of us who enjoy the freedoms they are struggling to achieve." In mid-August, Buddhist monks began leading peaceful demonstrations against spiraling inflation, corruption and the continued suppression of democracy by Myanmar's ruling military regime. They were joined by tens of thousands of other people in Yangon and other towns. It was the largest anti-government display since the military violently suppressed a 1988 pro-democracy uprising. In September, the military reacted with a violent crackdown on the protesters. Thousands of people, including monks, were beaten and arrested; some demonstrators were killed. The government's official death toll was 10, but a U.N. investigator said 31 died. As many as 700 of the protesters reportedly remain jailed. "These are extraordinary, modern-day heroes and persons of faith committed to building a better world, even at the risk of arrest, beatings and death," Father Privett said.

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Oklahomans say electric power a great blessing after ice storm

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) -- When a businessman donated a generator to the Church of the Madalene Dec. 15, grateful parishioners responded in kind, preparing a big spaghetti dinner and going door to door in their power-starved midtown Tulsa neighborhood to invite people to come for a hot meal. "Since we had been so blessed, we decided the least we could do was try and help our neighbors who were still without electricity," said Father Jack Gleason, the pastor. "All in all, about 80 people were treated to a nice meal. We had planned to have games available; however, most people preferred to sit around and talk -- some lamenting the difficulties of the week, others sharing stories of the many acts of kindness given them," he said. The Church of the Madalene initially lost power the morning of Dec. 9 when an ice storm snapped huge trees like kindling and triggered a massive power outage across Oklahoma. Father Gleason celebrated Mass that day "by candlelight and flashlight, with my yelling the homily, I suppose like in the 'good old days' before sound systems."

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Catholic council urges Australia to oppose death penalty in Asia

BRISBANE, Australia (CNS) -- The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council urged the federal government to show leadership in opposing the death penalty in Asia and Oceania. "Our opposition to capital punishment cannot end at our national borders," said Bishop Christopher Saunders of Broome, chairman of the council, at the Dec. 20 launch in Brisbane of the publication "Confronting the Death Penalty: People, Politics and Principle." "Every person, whatever their citizenship, shares the fundamental right to life," said Bishop Saunders. The new publication, he said, urges the government "to work energetically with our neighbors for the abolition of the death penalty in our region." In the audience at Corinda Graceville Catholic Parish for the launch were parishioners Lee and Christine Rush, whose 22-year-old son, Scott, is currently on death row in Indonesia for heroin trafficking.

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Vatican Museums to extend hours to accommodate visitors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican Museums said it was extending its hours to deal with an increasing number of visitors. Because of the additional personnel cost, the entrance price will go up by 1 euro. That means visitors will pay the equivalent of $20 to get inside the museum complex. As of January, the museums will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the entire year. Until now, the complex was opened on a staggered schedule that ranged from five to seven hours a day. The Vatican said in a statement that the extended hours represented "a great opportunity for the international world of culture" and would make for an easier visit to the museums. Last year, 4.3 million people, a record number, came to the Vatican Museums. The entrance line outside often stretched more than half a mile; inside, the most popular rooms -- like the Sistine Chapel -- were usually filled to capacity.

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Italian bishops order self-stick strips to correct Lectionary errors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When the Italian bishops announced the Vatican-approved publication of a new translation of Scripture readings for use at Mass, they said they had made more than 100,000 changes to the text. But, it turns out, some of the changes were not intentional. The three volumes of readings for Sundays went on sale in late November and, by early December, the bishops had ordered thousands of copies of self-adhesive strips to paste over the dozen unintentional errors. The most obvious mistake was the New Testament heading, "The First Letter of St. Paul to the Romans." There is no second letter to the Romans, so the word "first" is never used. Father Mimmo Falco, director of the Italian bishops' national liturgy office, said the other errors mainly involve punctuation and "lead one to think they are 'cut and paste' errors."

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Pope, French president discuss wide range of topics

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI welcomed French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Vatican for talks focused on Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the role of religions in society. At the beginning of a 25-minute private meeting, held without interpreters, Sarkozy asked the pope where he had learned his "impressive" French. The German pope replied that he had studied French in high school in Bavaria. A Vatican statement released after Sarkozy's meeting with the pope and a separate meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said the discussions included the French situation, "evoking the good relations existing between the Catholic Church and the French republic, as well as the role of religions, especially of the Catholic Church, in the world." The statement said, "Particular attention was given to the international situation with reference to the future of Europe, the conflicts in the Middle East, the social and political problems of some African countries and the drama of hostages."

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Australian cardinal announces award for adult-stem-cell researchers

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell of Sydney has announced that his archdiocese will be awarding $100,000 (US$86,000) to support adult-stem-cell research by an Adelaide-based research team. The grant was won by Stan Gronthos, an associate professor with the Mesenchymal Stem Cell Group at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide, and Dr. Simon Koblar, whose team at the University of Adelaide is investigating the capacity of stem cells derived from human dental tissue to change into neuronal cells. Cardinal Pell said the research had the potential to be used in treating people who have suffered a stroke. "This is exactly the sort of ethical, innovative and life-enhancing research that the grant was established to promote," said Cardinal Pell, noting that 10 "highly competitive" applications from stem-cell researchers across Australia were received for this year's grant judging.

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Nun, described as Poland's best cook, releases DVD with culinary tips

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A Polish nun who thought up her best cake recipe in a dream has released a special DVD with tips on her culinary masterpieces. "When I first joined my order, I asked to work in the kitchen," said Sister Anastazja Pustelnik, a member of the Daughters of Divine Love. "I spent years cooking for the Jesuit fathers in Krakow, and they liked my recipes so much they proposed publishing them. I thought they meant some kind of brochure. I never suspected it would lead to several books," she said at a specially convened press conference at the Polish bishops' conference headquarters in mid-December. The nun, whose four recipe books already have sold 850,000 copies, spoke at the release of "Sister Anastazja's Cookery School," which shows her preparing some of her tastiest delights. She said she had inherited some recipes from her parents and others from older nuns, but had thought up most herself, including the very best, "A Nun's Secret," which came to her in a dream. The Polish-language DVD is available online at: http://www.wydawnictwowam.pl/.

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John Norton named editor of Our Sunday Visitor weekly newspaper

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (CNS) -- John Norton, a former reporter for the Rome bureau of Catholic News Service and international news anchor for Vatican Radio, has been named editor of Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper based in Huntington. Greg Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, said in a statement that Norton "brings to the position a knowledge of the international church, solid reporting instincts and an ambitious desire to elevate OSV as a premier source for information and analysis of Catholic issues." Erlandson added, "We are excited about having him as a member of our publishing team, and we look forward to the contribution he will make to Catholic journalism." Norton said he was "excited to be joining the editorial team of a newsweekly that has played such an important role in the history of the church in the United States."

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Friends of detained Catholic Cameroonian fight his deportation

WORCESTER, Mass. (CNS) -- Friends of a Cameroonian Catholic who has been detained in a Massachusetts county jail and faces deportation fear he will be tortured or beaten if he is returned to his homeland. Legal options have run out for Richard Sitcha, 45, a former member of St. Anne-Immaculate Conception Parish in Hartford, Conn., who says he fled his homeland and came to the United States to escape political persecution. "We are afraid that if he gets turned over to the Cameroonian authorities, he will be imprisoned, tortured or will just disappear," said Lorena Dutelle, a member of the Hartford parish who befriended Sitcha several years ago. On Dec. 11, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Sitcha a stay of deportation and he could be returned to his country any day now, according to a communique from the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency. His passport has expired and that could briefly forestall his deportation. He has spent the past four years in Connecticut and Massachusetts jails, fighting the deportation order. Federal authorities granted then rescinded Sitcha's political asylum in 2003.


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