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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-10-2008

By Catholic News Service


Aid church gives abuse victims includes counseling, support groups

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Counseling, retreats, support groups and spiritual direction are among the types of assistance U.S. dioceses have offered to victims of sexual abuse, notes a new audit report. Such services were offered to more than 3,200 victims of abuse and their families, including 951 people who came forward since the last report, said the "2007 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" released March 7 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The audit by the Gavin Group analyzed how 190 dioceses stacked up against the standards of the 17 articles of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." The 2007 audit covered a period as long as 22 months for some dioceses, as the audit program shifted to a standard fiscal year. It was released the same day as the 2007 Survey of Allegations and Costs. The charter and a set of norms to implement it were adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 amid a wave of revelations of sexual abuse by church personnel over the previous half-century and backlash over how church authorities handled those cases. The charter and the norms were updated in 2005 and 2006, respectively; they have Vatican approval.

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Chicago cathedral closed for ceiling, roof structure repairs

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Chicago Archdiocese announced March 7 that Holy Name Cathedral will remain closed until early May so the building's ceiling and roof structure can be repaired. The cathedral has been closed since Feb. 26 when forensic engineers determined that structural weakness caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to fall from the ceiling during the night Feb. 12. The cathedral was unoccupied at the time. Once the cathedral was closed, workers began securing the decorative 19th-century wooden ceiling from a canopy atop massive scaffolding, and parish Masses and other services were moved to the parish center. Engineers had hoped to have the repairs completed in time for the cathedral to reopen for Easter services. According to Father Dan Mayall, the cathedral's pastor, most regular parish liturgies will remain scheduled on the cathedral campus and at various nearby locations.

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Diocese rescinds statement on involvement in Komen fundraising events

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) -- Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert, administrator of the Diocese of Little Rock, has rescinded a February statement that discouraged parishes and schools in the diocese from supporting fundraising activities for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The international organization, which is based in Dallas, raises millions annually for the detection, treatment and research of breast cancer. One of its signature events is the annual Race for the Cure held in communities around the country. After meeting with Komen officials, Msgr. Hebert said March 6 that the earlier position statement, prepared by the diocesan Respect Life Office and endorsed by him, "was based upon what were believed to be 'facts,' which upon further study have turned out not to be true." He said one of the erroneous "facts" he was given was that the national Komen foundation provides grants to Planned Parenthood, a major provider of abortions, raising concern that money donated to Komen in Arkansas could indirectly fund abortions. "However, the reality is that the national Komen foundation does not give grants to Planned Parenthood -- and, therefore, money given to Komen in Arkansas does not, even indirectly, fund abortion," he said in his March 6 statement.

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New Paulist film looks at how people react to tragedy

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Imagine losing a loved one suddenly to death. In a murder. Maybe a mass murder. A bombing, perhaps. Could you find it in you to forgive the killer, even if the killer hasn't sought forgiveness? That's the big question. It also happens to be the title of a new film that asks that big question. Paulist Father Frank Desiderio, the head of Paulist Productions and executive producer of the 63-minute documentary "The Big Question," said he had been wanting to make a film about forgiveness for some time. Then he was invited to a Templeton Foundation retreat on the correlation between religion and science; people from several disciplines, including scientists and spiritual leaders, were invited. That retreat proved to be the genesis of "The Big Question." "It's been a spiritual journey for me," Father Desiderio said during a March 7 interview with Catholic News Service in Washington, where "The Big Question" was to be screened during the Washington Independent Film Festival.

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New York has produced three saints, others whose causes are under way

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Saintliness isn't what people might normally associate with gritty New York City. Regardless, the Big Apple has produced three saints and a number of others whose causes are at various stages in the canonization process. And there are still other New Yorkers for whom a sainthood cause might one day be promoted. "A saint is anyone who is in heaven," according to Paulist Father Paul G. Robichaud, postulator for the cause of Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers. "A canonized saint is someone who the church determines to actually be in God's presence." He should know: Father Robichaud graduated from what he called the Vatican's "saint school," a four-month crash course on "how to make a saint." "To become a saint, a candidate's life must be thoroughly investigated," he explained in an interview. "Once the cause has been introduced and approved by the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the candidate may be referred to as 'servant of God.'"

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Pope expresses alarm at Holy Land violence, urges dialogue for peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI expressed alarm at a new wave of violence in the Holy Land and urged Israelis and Palestinians to set aside the logic of revenge. "In recent days, violence and horror have once again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding a spiral of destruction and death that seems to have no end," the pope said at his noon blessing March 9. On March 6, a Palestinian gunman killed eight Jewish seminarians and wounded 11 others. The attack came after an Israeli military assault on Gaza left more than 100 Palestinians dead. The pope prayed for the innocent victims of the attacks and expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and wounded. He asked everyone to pray for peace in the region. "I ask everyone, in the name of God, to leave the twisted paths of hatred and revenge and to responsibly take up the paths of dialogue and trust," he said.

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Vatican official concerned about Catholic-Orthodox document on church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said he had concerns about a recent Catholic-Orthodox document on the nature of the church. Archbishop Angelo Amato said the document of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue commission appeared to rely too heavily on Orthodox terminology and did not give enough emphasis to the Catholic position that the jurisdictional primacy of the pope is an essential part of the structure and nature of the church. "One cannot give a precise theological identity of the universal church without referring to the pope's primacy of jurisdiction," the archbishop said in an interview published March 8 in Avvenire, the Italian Catholic daily newspaper. "Primacy is not an optional addition, but is an essential element." The document, "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority," was finalized by the dialogue commission when it met in October in Ravenna, Italy.

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Social effects of sin greater than ever, says Vatican official

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In today's globalized culture, the social effects of sin are greater than ever before and deserve the church's urgent attention, a Vatican official said. New forms of sin have arisen in the area of biotechnology, economics and ecology, and many involve questions of individual rights and wider social effects, said Bishop Gianfranco Girotti. Bishop Girotti is an official of the Apostolic Penitentiary, an office that deals with questions relating to penance and indulgences. He made the comments in an interview March 8 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Bishop Girotti said the sense of sin in today's world should be even more acute than before, since the effects of sin are often widespread. "If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has an impact and resonance that is above all social, because of the great phenomenon of globalization," he said.

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Vatican official: Pope's social encyclical not expected before summer

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI is still working on his social encyclical, but it probably will not be ready before summer, a top Vatican official said. "The pope is reflecting and revising, and therefore we cannot predict. But I presume it will not be published before the summer vacation period," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said March 9. Vatican sources said the pope began work on the encyclical last year and that it would treat topics related to Catholic social teaching. His first two encyclicals examined the virtues of love and hope. Cardinal Bertone, who spoke with the Italian news agency ANSA while visiting Azerbaijan, said the pope was preparing his new text carefully. "It needs to be written well. The pope is making his reflections and annotations and is checking things rigorously," he said. "I'm not saying the pope is a true perfectionist, but in a certain sense he is," the cardinal said.

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Pope tells youths Jesus didn't promise earthly immortality

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The abundant life Jesus promised is not immortality on earth or heaps of nice things, but rather it is an eternal relationship with God, who is infinite love, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Imagine that medicine was able to come up with a prescription for immortality," the pope told young people gathered for Mass March 9 at the Church of St. Lawrence, just off St. Peter's Square. If such a pill existed, he said, biological life would go on and on; "we would find ourselves in an old world, a world full of the aged, a world that would not have space for the young, for the renewal of life." He said, "This cannot be the type of immortality to which we aspire; this is not the possibility of drinking at the fountain of life that we all desire." Pope Benedict celebrated Mass at St. Lawrence to mark the 25th anniversary of the church's dedication as an international youth center. The youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity coordinates activities at the church, international students studying in Rome gather for Mass there each Friday night, and a program to train young evangelists is operated by the French-founded Emmanuel Community.

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Vatican commission on China holds its first meeting

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican commission on the church in China was holding its first meeting March 10-13, looking specifically at reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's June 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics. The Vatican press office issued a statement March 8 saying the members of the commission were the heads of several Vatican departments, "representatives of the Chinese episcopacy" and representatives of religious orders working in China. The first item of business, the Vatican said, was to discuss reactions to the pope's letter to Chinese Catholics and to discuss the life of the church in China in light of the papal document. A similar group of Vatican officials, Chinese bishops and China experts met at the Vatican last January. They suggested the Vatican form a commission on Chinese affairs. The Vatican said the commission's participants were top officials from departments "competent in the matter" -- presumably the Secretariat of State and the congregations responsible for missionary activity, religious orders, bishops, clergy and doctrine.

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North American College advances to Clericus Cup quarterfinals

ROME (CNS) -- Rome's Pontifical North American College made the playoffs of the Clericus Cup soccer tournament after its 5-4 win against the Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love March 8. The NAC Martyrs will face Pontifical Urbanian University in the quarterfinals April 5. Making the semifinals April 19 will "really depend on our team getting healthy" since key players have suffered injuries both on and off the pitch all year, said the team's trainer and co-captain, Daniel O'Mullane of Paterson, N.J. The Martyrs' last three games have been decided in shootouts after regular play. O'Mullane told Catholic News Service the team's goalie, Father Andy Roza of Omaha, Neb., is the team hero for his play. O'Mullane recalled the Feb. 23 shootout against St. Paul the Apostle's team in which Father Roza "saved three penalty kicks in a row; it was spectacular." Though the team "has a tendency to start out slow," the players have "a lot of fight and resiliency" and do not let falling behind in the first half get them down, he said.

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Pope says Catholics must guard against secularism in church life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Priests, women religious and the Catholic faithful must guard against superficiality and egotism infiltrating church life, Pope Benedict XVI said. The hedonist and consumerist mentality dominant in today's secular culture fosters, both in the lay faithful and men and women religious, "a tendency toward superficiality and egotism that harms ecclesial life," he said. The pope made his comments March 8 during an audience with participants attending the Pontifical Council for Culture's plenary assembly. The pope said the theme of the meeting, "The Church and the Challenge of Secularization," was "a fundamental question for the future of humanity and the church." Secularization, he explained, makes no reference to the transcendent and "invades every aspect of daily life" which then leads to a mentality that "God is in fact missing, entirely or partly, from human existence and conscience."

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Priest appeals for better transport for pilgrims traveling to Lourdes

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The head of an Italian pilgrimage organization has appealed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy to tackle the growing problems faced by pilgrims traveling by train to Lourdes in southwestern France. "For several years, we have faced many difficulties, notably in transporting sick people," said Father Luciano Mainini, secretary-general of the Italian Pilgrimages Secretariat, a group of 40 Italian pilgrimage organizations. "We can no longer accept being placed behind freight trains. Nor can we accept that this is tolerated in the country where modern civil rights originated." In an open letter to Sarkozy, the priest said the SNCF, the French national railway company, provides the "sole means of transport" to Lourdes for most sick pilgrims and needs urgent improvement. He said pilgrimage organizers had faced "more and more major obstacles," including sudden timetable changes and long delays, as well as annual 10 percent to 15 percent tax hikes.

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Sydney Archdiocese: Cost of World Youth Day increases 50 percent

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- The estimated cost of staging World Youth Day in Sydney has increased by 50 percent to $150 million (US$137.5 million), said a briefing paper circulated to local priests by the Sydney Archdiocese. However, the paper quoted a Sydney Chamber of Commerce report that World Youth Day will deliver long-term economic benefits in excess of $230 million (US$210 million). The briefing paper was released in early March. The briefing paper said that in addition to the immediate economic benefit from tourism and commerce World Youth Day -- scheduled for July 15-20 -- would showcase Sydney and Australia and contribute to tourism and industry for decades to come. "Almost all our leaders -- of whatever religious and political affiliation -- also recognize that beyond the hugely positive economic impact, there is great social value in offering young people spiritual values and ideals, hope and reason to celebrate," it said. The briefing paper said almost half the costs would be covered by pilgrim fees. The rest would be made up by federal grants, the church, donors, business partners and sponsors.

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Ghanaian cardinal, known for dedication to poor, dies at age 89

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, known for his pastoral dedication and concern for the poor, died March 6. He was 89. Pope Benedict XVI, in a condolence telegram, praised the late cardinal for his many years of generous ministry. "This devoted pastor has left behind a shining legacy of prayer, humble obedience to the will of God and love of neighbor," the pope said. He paid tribute to the cardinal for "preaching the Gospel in difficult conditions with the love of a father, great zeal and simplicity of heart, constantly attentive to the needs of the poor." In 2006, Pope Benedict named him a cardinal in recognition of his lifetime of service to the church in the West African country of Ghana. Cardinal Dery was the oldest of the cardinals inducted in the 2006 consistory. In a poignant moment, he was carried in a wheelchair up the stairs of St. Peter's Square to receive his red hat from the pope. The cardinal was known in Ghana for encouraging and supporting young people to pursue education, showing personal concern for students and their talents.

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Jerusalem patriarch sends strong message to Palestinian Christians

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- A Palestinian Christian must be prepared to witness to the faith by submitting to daily difficulties "or even by sacrificing his or her life," said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem in a pastoral letter marking the end of his patriarchal ministry. In his most strongly worded comment to date on growing Palestinian Muslim extremism, the patriarch likened such an era of Christian martyrdom to that suffered by first-century Christians under the Roman Empire and said it would "purify life in all of society." "It would strengthen the believers in their faith and would again give a new face to all society," the patriarch added in his letter, dated March 1 and released to the press March 6. On March 19, Patriarch Sabbah turns 75 and, according to canon law, must submit his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. In the 40-page letter, Patriarch Sabbah noted that while good relations exist between Muslim civil and religious authorities and there is good "secular coexistence," the situation "becomes explosive" when issues of dogma and family are involved. Mediation is needed, he said.

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Vatican spokesman calls rumors of rehabilitation of Luther groundless

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. News reports in early March alleged that Pope Benedict XVI was dedicating a planned September symposium with former doctoral students to re-evaluating Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy. The story "does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen," Father Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA March 8. Vatican officials said the topic of the pope's annual summer gathering of former students this year has not yet been decided. Of the two topics under consideration, Luther is not one of them, one official told Catholic News Service. Excesses in 16th-century preaching about indulgences and in Catholic penitential practices sparked Luther, a theologian and Augustinian monk, to seek reform in the church. His concerns started a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation. The church excommunicated Luther for preaching a philosophy doubting the pope's infallibility.

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Iraqi archbishop expresses concern about fate of kidnapped prelate

LONDON (CNS) -- An Iraqi archbishop has expressed concern that Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, who was kidnapped for ransom, is sick, injured or has been killed. No one has heard from Archbishop Rahho since he was kidnapped Feb. 29 after he finished leading the Way of the Cross in Mosul, said Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians. The interview was released by the British branch of the charity March 10. Archbishop Rahho "was able to make a call from the back of the car in which he was kidnapped but since then nothing," said Archbishop Sako. "The people in contact with the kidnappers have over several days asked to hear the archbishop's voice, but they are constantly refused." Archbishop Sako said he was worried the captors have increased the ransom for Archbishop Rahho's release from $1 million to $2 million to $3 million. "It leaves us with two possibilities," he told the charity. "Either the archbishop is sick or injured or he has been killed and the kidnappers just want to get as much money as possible."


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