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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-20-2008

By Catholic News Service


Bishops discuss integrating doctrine, Scripture and preaching

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (CNS) -- Continuing a discussion begun at the Second Vatican Council, about 40 U.S. bishops gathered at the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka for a Feb. 11-13 seminar exploring the relationship between doctrine and Scripture in Catholic teaching, especially in homilies. In his keynote presentation, U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada noted that the trend to eliminate catechetical homilies after Vatican II was not really in the spirit of "Dei Verbum," the council document on divine revelation. He said the Scripture commentary aspect of the homily was emphasized because it had been so lacking prior to the council. The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the church should now seek to integrate these two aspects. Titled "Eloquence of Teaching: Doctrine, Scripture and Preaching in the Life of the Church," the seminar was a follow-up to a 2005 conference at the University of Notre Dame marking the 40th anniversary of "Dei Verbum."

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Voters urged to understand what their faith teaches on issues

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CNS) -- A Methodist minister urged an audience at Jesuit-run Fairfield University to be informed about their own faith in this election year, as well as "the faiths of others and the ethical and civic imperatives for the democratic experiment we cherish." "We sometimes focus on hot button issues and neglect teaching less publicized ones," said the Rev. Brian Schofield-Bodt, president and CEO of the Greater Bridgeport Council of Churches. He made the comments to people from the world of politics, religion, academia and community nonprofit organizations who came together Feb. 7 to talk about how issues, values and the media affect elections. The gathering was held the morning after the Super Tuesday primaries. Other speakers included Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, director of the university's Center for Faith and Public Life, and James Smith, editor of the Connecticut Post daily newspaper. Father Ryscavage said the role of the Catholic Church "is to teach, following Christ's dictate to teach," while the Catholic laity's role "is to get involved in politics."

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$1 million in grants distributed by group supporting aging religious

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Religious orders will share $1 million in grants approved Feb. 4 by the board of Support Our Aging Religious. Awards range from $5,500 to $25,000 and will go to 58 orders in 23 states. They were announced in a Feb. 15 news release. SOAR has distributed nearly 800 grants totaling $9 million to orders in 43 states and Puerto Rico since its founding in 1986. To date SOAR has received requests for three times as much money as it has been able to distribute. SOAR raises money through newsletters, videos, direct mailings, the sale of the CD "Sisters in Song" and gala dinners in Washington, New York and Southern California. Based in Washington, SOAR was formed to help ensure the financial stability of religious orders in the care of their elderly and infirm members. More information about SOAR is available on the organization's Web site, www.soar-usa.org.

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St. Patrick's Day not observed liturgically in most of U.S. in '08

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- This year St. Patrick's Day falls on the Monday of Holy Week and as a result "will not be commemorated liturgically" in most U.S. dioceses, according to the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Divine Worship. Last year the Irish bishops' conference requested and received permission from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to move the solemnity of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, to the nearest Saturday, March 15, the day before Palm Sunday. But an earlier decision by the Vatican congregation to transfer the feast of St. Joseph this year from March 19, the Wednesday of Holy Week, to March 15 "impedes the transfer of the solemnity of St. Patrick to March 15" in the United States, according to an April 2007 article in the liturgy secretariat's newsletter. The feast day may be moved to Friday, March 14, in dioceses "where St. Patrick is the principal patron of a particular church" and where "it is customarily commemorated as a solemnity," it said. The U.S. bishops have not requested such a transfer as a conference, however.

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Pope says Lent is time to live as witnesses of charity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said Lent was a time for Christians to live as "witnesses of charity," demonstrating that love is a defining characteristic of their faith. "Lent is a privileged time for all Christians to recommit themselves to conversion and spiritual renewal. In this way, we rekindle a genuine faith in Christ, a life-giving relationship with God and a more fervent dedication to the Gospel," the pope said at his general audience Feb. 20. "Strengthened by the conviction that love is the distinguishing mark of Christian believers, I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to charity in your daily lives," he said. The pope continued his series of audience talks on St. Augustine, citing numerous works that have influenced the life of the church and helped form Western culture.

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Cardinal says he hopes for new level of church relations with Cuba

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of his visit to Cuba, a leading Vatican official said he hoped to establish a new level of church-state relations in the Caribbean nation. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, made the remarks to reporters Feb. 19, the same day Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba. Cardinal Bertone said he was taking a special blessing from Pope Benedict XVI to all Cubans, including Castro. The cardinal was to visit several cities in Cuba and meet with government officials Feb. 20-26. He said church-state relations in Cuba were complex but had a promising future. "Relations are generally good," he said. "There are problems. We hope to establish a working dialogue that gives positive results and that is maintained."

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Middle Eastern bishops say Christians' disappearance threatens hope

ROME (CNS) -- The disappearance of Christian communities from the Middle East threatens hope for finding a way to preserve traditional Arab values while also recognizing individual human rights, said two of the region's Catholic bishops. In Iraq, "all minorities are threatened with extinction," said Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad. "The drama of Christians is the drama of Iraq. The flight of Christians is leading to a cultural and religious homogenization, which will weaken and impoverish Iraq," the archbishop said Feb. 20 at a conference in Rome. The conference, sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio, looked at the situation of Christians in the Middle East, their political status and their relations with their Muslim neighbors. Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, told the conference that while things are much better for Christians in Syria than in Iraq "many young Christians think of moving." He said, "Christians in Syria -- like people everywhere -- want to be citizens of the world with freedom, democracy, well-being and happiness."

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Nigerian bishops denounce culture that violates human dignity

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria has decried a prevailing culture that violates human dignity. "The rights of every Nigerian as human beings are violated by some policies which are ill-conceived with little or no input from the people," the bishops said. "Even some good policies are poorly implemented." In a statement released after their general meeting Feb. 11-16 in Abuja, the bishops said, "The flawed federal and state elections of 2007 and the subsequent local government elections represent a brutal reminder that there is a culture of violation of human dignity in our country." They accused many Nigerian leaders of assuming that they were "omniscient and omnipotent" because they were heading a government office. The bishops also said they regretted that Nigerians had witnessed the many "manifestations of the erroneous presumption that power is knowledge and that to be in office is to monopolize wisdom."

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Catholic official welcomes Kosovo's declaration of independence

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A Catholic official in Kosovo welcomed its declaration of independence, adding that the rights of all people would be guaranteed in the new country. "We are fully behind independence -- it's a great joy that it has come so quickly," said Msgr. Shan Zefi, chancellor of Kosovo's Catholic apostolic administration in Prizren. "The Catholic faithful are celebrating throughout Kosovo. We are optimistic about the future, and we expect great things for the Catholic Church," he said Feb. 19, two days after Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service, he said his church counted on the international community to "defend law and security" in the new state, adding that he had celebrated Mass in thanksgiving for the United States backing Kosovo's independence. However, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren urged Christians in the United States and Europe to oppose their countries' "unjustified, immoral and harmful policy" toward Kosovo and called on Serbia to prevent "attempts to complete the practice of violent ethnic cleansing and destruction of remaining monuments of our cultural legacy."

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Priest hospitalized in Kenya after rectory attack

KERICHO, Kenya (CNS) -- A priest in the Diocese of Kericho has been hospitalized after four assailants beat him while he was sleeping in his parish home. Father John Mbaraka of St. Mark's Parish told Catholic News Service that the aggressors entered the rectory at Sacred Heart Parish in Kericho in the early morning hours Feb. 18, slashed Father Beatus Kimati with a sword and kicked him several times. Father Mbaraka said Father Kimati, who was seriously injured, was attacked in total darkness so he could not identify his attackers. Father Samuel Karanja, diocesan vicar general, was in another room and heard a commotion but could not help because of the dangerous situation, Father Mbaraka said. The assailants also demanded to know the priest's tribe. Father Kimati said he was Tanzanian, and the attackers left. Doctors told CNS that the priest had been advised to rest but was out of danger.

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Slain Catholic college professor had been discerning diaconate

OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) -- Just a week before he was shot to death, John Alfred Pierre Dennis, a professor at St. Mary's College in Moraga, had attended his second class in a pastoral ministry program for the Diocese of Oakland. Dennis, 59, had enrolled in the program to discern whether he was called to become an ordained deacon, said Father Jay Matthews, Dennis' pastor at St. Benedict Parish in Oakland. "He wanted to serve the church even more than he was already doing," the priest told The Catholic Voice, diocesan newspaper of Oakland. Dennis was found shot to death in his car near a San Mateo County beach late in the evening of Feb. 9. Troy Thomas, 43, a recent parolee who had once been in a student outreach program run by Dennis, was arrested in connection with the crime when police discovered Dennis' body in the back seat of a car Thomas was driving. Oakland police said evidence at Dennis' home indicated he was shot there during a violent confrontation.

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Texas cardinal takes possession of titular church in Rome

ROME (CNS) -- In the simplest of the rites associated with becoming a "prince of the church," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston took possession of his titular church in Rome. The cardinal was met at the door of Rome's St. Eusebius Church Feb. 20 by the pastor carrying a crucifix, an altar girl carrying holy water and a priest from the Vatican's office for liturgical ceremonies. Although the ceremony was simple, it began with a bit of fluttering because the cardinal arrived early. He apologized, explaining that the driver assigned to him was just too good at dealing with Rome's traffic. After kissing the crucifix, Cardinal DiNardo entered the church, sprinkling with holy water the 150 people who completely filled the little 13th-century building. Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, students from the Rome campus of the University of Dallas and employees of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See were in attendance. Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth and several U.S. priests working or studying in Rome concelebrated the evening Mass with the cardinal.


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