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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-7-2008

By Catholic News Service


Annual abuse audit and survey find soaring costs, fewer allegations

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The costs to the Catholic Church for legal settlements in abuse cases, therapy for victims of sexual abuse, support for offenders and legal fees soared to more than $600 million in 2007, the fourth year of reporting on the handling of abuse cases by U.S. dioceses and religious orders. The 2007 Survey of Allegations and Costs released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops March 7 also reported a continued decrease in the number of new credible allegations of abuse: 599 new allegations were made in 2007, compared with 635 in 2006, 695 in 2005 and 898 in 2004, the first year of the survey. According to the survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, dioceses and religious institutes paid $615 million for legal settlements, therapy, support for offenders, attorneys' fees and other costs. In the four previous years of the survey, the highest amount paid out was $466 million in 2005. Of the $615 million, dioceses spent $499 million and religious orders paid $116 million. Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the annual costs may continue to be high in coming years, as dioceses pay off settlements to victims of abuse.

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Maryland couple hopes son's medical case will help Toussaint's cause

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Pierre Toussaint was born into slavery in 1766 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, which is modern-day Haiti. He died a free, rich, pious and respected man in New York City June 30, 1853. And one day he might very well be a saint. His cause was officially opened by Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York in 1989, and Toussaint was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1997. But he needs a miracle to move to the second step of the canonization process -- beatification. And John and Lisa Peacock of Silver Spring, Md., hope their son's case might provide that miracle. On October 28, 1999, Maryland pediatrician Dr. My-Huong Nguyen examined one of her little patients, a 5-year-old named Joey Peacock. She noticed the boy's spine and shoulders were slightly uneven. X-rays revealed Joey had scoliosis and would likely have to be fitted for a brace before the curves got worse. In February 2000 Joey's parents become aware of Toussaint's cause after reading a newspaper article about him. They decided to pray for his intervention to help their son. On Feb. 15 of that year, Joey had more X-rays taken and they showed the condition had disappeared.

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Local content, local ownership seen as critical for radio, TV

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just how local are your local radio and TV stations? The answer might depend on the amount of local programming they air. Today fewer owners live in the communities their stations serve, and with less local ownership comes less local programming. It wasn't always that way. Michael Copps, a Catholic and one of two Democrats on the five-member Federal Communications Commission, said the United States, recognizing the regional differences in a vast country, chose many years ago -- before TV was a fixture in American homes -- to license broadcast stations on a local basis. Copps spoke at the National Press Club in Washington March 3 during a discussion about the public interest obligations of broadcasters in the 21st century. A sponsor of the event was the Public Interest, Public Airwaves Coalition. Among its members are the Benton Foundation, the Media Access Project, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Office of Communications of the United Church of Christ. Copps talked about the latest boom to be lowered on local programming. On Feb. 29, Citadel Communications, the third-largest U.S. radio station owner, made sweeping changes at two of its biggest stations, WLS-AM in Chicago and WMAL-AM in Washington.

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Former Franciscan seminary head calls attack on yeshiva 'monstrous'

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- A Palestinian gunman's attack on a Jewish seminary was a "monstrous" atrocity, said a former director of Jerusalem's Franciscan seminary. Father Artemio Vitores, vicar of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, told Catholic News Service he has lived through five wars and two Palestinian uprisings in the Holy Land, but the attack on the seminary, or yeshiva, affected him on a more personal level. "Seminaries have another atmosphere, whether they are Jewish or Christian students. They are young students dedicated to their religious studies," he said March 7, the day after the attack. "We have to avoid hate. That is not taking us anywhere." A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a crowded library and study hall of the Mercaz Harav Seminary, killing eight people, ages 15-26, and wounding 11 others. The seminary is home to several hundred students and is the flagship seminary for the religious Zionist movement, which advocates placing Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the Galilee Freedom Brigades -- an Israeli-Arab group -- has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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French newspaper says pope is planning September trip to France

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI is planning a September trip to France, traveling to Paris and the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes, a French newspaper reported. The pope's Sept. 12-15 trip will begin in Paris, according to the newspaper Le Figaro. He will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy shortly after his arrival, it said. On Sept. 13, the pope is expected to celebrate Mass in Paris in the morning and have an evening encounter with cultural leaders. He will fly to Lourdes later in the day. In Lourdes, the pope will take part in jubilee year celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there. The commemorative year ends Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The pope is expected to celebrate an open-air Mass Sept. 14 at the Marian shrine and later meet with French bishops, the newspaper said. The Vatican had no immediate comment on the report, but Vatican trip planners were said to be traveling to France in mid-March to prepare the details of the visit.

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Pope urges priests to make confession a time for God's merciful love

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With fewer and fewer Catholics going to confession, Pope Benedict XVI urged priests and seminarians to make the sacrament of penance a time for sinners to feel God's merciful love. "Sin does not lie at the heart of the sacramental celebration, but rather God's mercy, which is infinitely greater than each of our faults," he said March 7. The pope spoke to about 700 priests and seminarians taking part in a weeklong course offered every year by the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary, which deals with matters of conscience. The head of the penitentiary, U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, told the pope the annual study session was a way to promote the importance of "the penitential ministry, above all that of confession (which) depends greatly on priests, too, and their awareness of being the bearers of a precious and irreplaceable ministry." The pope said that today, unfortunately, there is a growing lack of any sense of sin. Those who are too self-confident and confide only in themselves are blinded by their ego "and their heart hardens in sin," he said.

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Russian bishops urge new president to work with religious communities

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- Russia's Catholic bishops have urged the newly elected president, Dmitri Medvedev, to strengthen ties with religious communities and help remove bureaucratic obstacles to the work of foreign clergy in the country. "We count on the new head of state to be able to do what he promised and meet the great challenges before him," said Father Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference. "Religious communities are very important here. We hope he'll stay interested in them and see the need to develop the state's relations with the different denominations." Russia's four bishops sent Medvedev a congratulatory message during their March 4-5 meeting. They also re-elected Bishop Joseph Werth of the Novosibirsk-based Transfiguration Diocese as conference president. In a March 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, Father Kovalevsky said church leaders hoped to discuss their needs with the 42-year-old president, who chaired the Russian government's religious affairs commission before his election. Medvedev won the March 2 election with more than 70 percent of votes on a 70 percent turnout.

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Pope, prime minister of Luxembourg discuss defending human life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI met with the prime minister of Luxembourg, which became the third European Union nation to legalize euthanasia. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, a Roman Catholic whose Christian Social Party fought the euthanasia proposal, met with the pope March 7 in a private audience. It was the first time in 20 years that the head of Luxembourg's government had a papal audience in the Vatican. The pope and prime minister talked about "the defense of human life" and the legislative initiatives that legalized euthanasia, said a written statement released by the Vatican. Lawmakers in the tiny European nation narrowly passed the bill Feb. 19. The measure is expected to go into effect later this year. Euthanasia would be allowed only for a person suffering from "a grave and incurable condition" and can only be requested by the patient with the consent of two doctors and a panel of experts, according to news reports.

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Jesuits end meeting by approving decrees, confirming fidelity to pope

ROME (CNS) -- The Jesuit General Congregation concluded two months of work by approving five decrees, including one on obedience, and a separate document reaffirming the Jesuits' allegiance to the pope and fidelity to church teaching. The 225 Jesuits elected to represent their almost 20,000 confreres around the world marked the end of their meeting with a March 6 Mass of thanksgiving in Rome's Church of the Gesu, site of the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit founder. Meeting reporters March 7, Father Adolfo Nicolas, who was elected superior general of the Jesuits in January, called the meeting an experience of "the union of hearts, the union of the society" and of its "union with its head, who is the Holy Father." The congregation approved formal decrees focused on the Jesuit mission in the modern world; Jesuit identity; collaboration with those outside the Jesuits; internal governance; and obedience, to one's superior as well as to the pope. The decrees will be translated and distributed to Jesuits before they are released publicly.

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Sri Lankan navy confiscates housing built by Jesuit Refugee Service

ROME (CNS) -- The Sri Lankan navy has confiscated permanent housing that a Jesuit aid agency had built for refugees affected by the country's civil war. Families who had been living in 50 houses on the country's island of Mannar were forcibly removed recently "and the land has been taken over" by government forces, said Paul Newman, South Asia advocacy officer for Jesuit Refugee Service. "All the houses have been completely vandalized by the (Sri Lankan) navy" and stripped of everything from the sheets on people's beds to the electric wiring, he told Catholic News Service March 5. Newman was in Rome attending meetings of JRS advocacy officers from around the world. Government forces took over the land, saying the houses were too close to the sea, making them vulnerable to attack by rebels and crossfire in the event of a battle between rebels and troops based on the island, he said.

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Glendon says human rights movement must return to original principles

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, said the international human rights movement needs to return to some of its original principles -- including protection of the family. In a front-page interview March 7 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Glendon said she was helping to organize a series of four one-day conferences on human rights over the next nine months. Dec. 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Glendon, who took up her post as ambassador in late February, said the Catholic Church had a strong voice in the formulation of the 1948 declaration. But the wide agreement on basic values at that time -- including the value of maternity and the family -- has diminished in recent years, she said. "The moment has come in which it is important to remember commitments that were undertaken by all," Glendon said. In particular, she said, the role played by traditional Catholic thought in the formulation of human rights must be reconfirmed.

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Catholics on Chinese advisory body to work toward social development

BEIJING (CNS) -- Some Catholic members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top governmental advisory body, say they hope to strengthen the church's contribution toward social development. Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong, who has been a consultative conference member since 2005, told the Asian church news agency UCA News that the church and its representatives in the advisory body have to change their attitudes. "In the past, Catholics in the CPPCC focused solely on the return of church properties, but now we should be concerned about social issues and contribute our efforts to building a harmonious society," the 46-year-old bishop said. He said the political understanding of many of the 1,000 Catholic members of different levels of political consultative bodies nationwide is rather weak. The church "must encourage the clergy and lay leaders to broaden our horizons and raise our awareness of current affairs," he said.

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Christian leaders express condolences to Israelis, Palestinians

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- In two separate letters March 7, the patriarchs and heads of churches in the Holy Land expressed their condolences to the Israeli and Palestinian families of the victims of the most recent round of violence plaguing the region. In a March 7 letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Christian leaders reaffirmed their "determination to work for peace and the end of all violence," calling the shooting of eight Jewish seminary students in Jerusalem March 6 "sad and tragic." They also wrote to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the violence in the Gaza Strip. Both letters were signed by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilos III, Armenian Patriarch Torkom II and Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who heads the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, on behalf of all the heads of churches and patriarchs in the Holy Land.

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Jesuit Father Abbott dies; was involved in Vatican II, Bible projects

WESTON, Mass. (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Walter Abbott, known for his work with the Second Vatican Council, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and biblical scholarship, died March 5 at the Jesuit infirmary in Weston, near Boston. He was 84. A funeral Mass was scheduled for March 11 at the Campion Center, the Jesuit renewal center and retirement home in Weston. A member of the Jesuits' New England province, he spent his most notable years of priestly ministry at the Vatican. Among his accomplishments was editing a book with the English-language translations of the Vatican II documents that included scholarly commentary. The 1966 paperback book, "The Documents of Vatican II," with its familiar red cover bearing a coin with the likenesses of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, remains a well-thumbed-through staple in many libraries. Father Abbott also served for 10 years as the executive secretary of the Vatican Office for Common Bible Work.

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Plans being made to fly Blessed Pier Giorgio's body to World Youth Day

ROME (CNS) -- Logistical details are being finalized in an attempt to fly the body of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to Sydney, Australia, for veneration by young people at World Youth Day in July. Among Italian young people and a growing number of their peers around the world, Blessed Pier Giorgio, who died in 1925 at the age of 24, is seen as a special patron because he combined his enjoyment of life and sports with strong faith, serious charity and a commitment to social justice. In a service combining prayer and church legal procedures, Blessed Pier Giorgio's tomb in the cathedral of Turin, Italy, was opened March 3, said Father Livio Demarie, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Turin. Both the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio and the Shroud of Turin are venerated in the Turin cathedral. Father Demarie said the only thing the archdiocese had to say was that the exhumation of the body was necessary so the archdiocese could take steps to better preserve it. "Everything was done in agreement with the family," he said.

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After four centuries, Galileo to return to the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Four centuries after he was called by church officials to retract teachings deemed suspect of heresy, the 17th-century Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei will be returning to Vatican City. A statue of the great scientist will be erected in Vatican City to help commemorate next year's celebration of the International Year of Astronomy and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope to observe the cosmos. Paid for through private donations, the work of art was commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, but the statue still needs a place to call home. The science academy "is one of the most beautiful masterpieces of Italian Renaissance art and, therefore, there is a problem of precisely where the statue should go" so as not to disrupt the aesthetic beauty of the landscape, the academy's president, Nicola Cabibbo, told Catholic News Service. "The Vatican is very enthusiastic about the idea," he said, but "the problem is where. ... But something will be worked out," hopefully by next year when the jubilee kicks off.

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Former executive of Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities dies

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) -- Gerard S. Garey, who served for 33 years as executive vice president and later as president of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, died Feb. 29 at his home in Wilmington at age 90. A funeral Mass was scheduled to take place March 8 at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Wilmington, followed by interment at the parish cemetery. Garey, who had a stroke in 1997, retired from Raskob in 1999, the same year he received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross from Pope John Paul II. Garey guided the Raskob Foundation, one of the largest private Catholic foundations in the country, through three decades of growth in the group's investment portfolio and in the number of Catholic Church organizations it assisted. He served for many years as secretary and assistant to Catholic financier John Jakob Raskob, and later to Helena G. Raskob, co-founders of the Raskob Foundation.


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