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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-8-2009

By Catholic News Service


Baltimore pastors, leaders come together to seek peace in city

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- From the archbishop to parish priests and the people in the neighborhoods, Ronald Jackson's death evoked horror, outrage and pleas for peace on the streets of Baltimore. Jackson had just stepped out the front door of his West Baltimore house to deliver grapefruits to an elderly neighbor when he was fatally shot Dec. 7. His death came near the end of another year of bloodletting in a city that, despite a drop in homicides in 2008, remains among the most violent in America. Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien has consistently listed quelling violence among his top priorities -- and has enlisted Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden and a group of 11 urban pastors to help carry out that mission. The Working Group on Peace in the City grew out of a daylong meeting last May of all the city's pastors, along with city leaders, including Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, health commissioner. "This is a time when the people of God have to come together collectively," said group member Father Donald A. Sterling, pastor of New All Saints Parish in the Liberty Heights section of Baltimore.

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Catholic newspaper to offer free ads for jobless and employers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) -- With Rhode Island's unemployment rate one of the highest in the nation, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence has announced a new weekly feature to connect unemployed Rhode Islanders with companies offering jobs. Beginning in late January, Rhode Island Catholic, the second-largest newspaper in the state, will publish help-wanted advertisements free of charge to help unemployed Rhode Islanders find a new job. The newspaper will also publish, free of charge, information from those who are seeking employment. The diocese will launch an outreach effort to area employers, chambers of commerce, human resources professionals and other agencies informing them of this cost-efficient opportunity. Each Thursday, the weekly newspaper will publish help-wanted advertisements free of charge from local companies with open positions alongside information from Rhode Islanders seeking employment. The newspaper will also post the listings on its Web site, www.thericatholic.com, each Saturday morning.

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Pope says world's future depends on ethical solutions to poverty, war

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saying the future of the world was at stake, Pope Benedict XVI called for major new efforts to reduce global poverty, end regional conflicts and restore ethics to global financial systems. In an annual address to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican Jan. 8, the pope also appealed on behalf of Christian minorities in places like Iraq and India, urging governments to respond firmly to a recent increase in anti-Christian violence and discrimination. After delivering his speech in the ornate Sala Regia, the 81-year-old pontiff greeted the diplomats one by one and posed for group photos. Among the representatives was the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, who was leaving her post Jan. 19. The pope's speech, sometimes called his "state of the world" address, reviewed developments on several continents, from the refugee crisis in central Africa to the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The pope decried terrorist attacks that have "sown death and destruction" in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Algeria, but also found hopeful signs in places like the Philippines, where the government and rebels have opened new negotiations.

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Gaza Strip resembles a concentration camp, says top Vatican official

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Gaza Strip increasingly is looking like "a big concentration camp" while egoism, hatred, poverty and injustice are fueling the continual slaughter in the Holy Land, said a top Vatican official. "We are seeing a continual massacre in the Holy Land where the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with the conflict but it is paying for the hatred of a few with their lives," said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in a Jan. 7 interview in the Italian online newspaper IlSussidiario. Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, criticized Cardinal Martino's comments, saying they "seem to have come directly from Hamas propaganda" and did nothing "to help bring people closer to the truth and peace." By saying the Gaza Strip resembled a concentration camp, the cardinal was ignoring "the unspeakable crimes" committed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, he said in a Jan. 7 interview with Agence France-Presse. Palmor said Hamas "has derailed the peace process and has turned the Gaza Strip into a giant human shield."

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Jaffna bishop urges Sri Lankan president to end attacks on civilians

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) -- As the Sri Lankan military offensive against Tamil rebels in the North intensified, the bishop of Jaffna called on the country's president to end attacks on civilians in his diocese. Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa just before government troops captured Kilinochchi Jan. 2, the Asian church news agency UCA News reported Jan. 8. The rebels had used Kilinochchi as their administrative center. "Our earnest appeal to Your Excellency is to save the poor civilians from further slaughter by aerial bombings and mortar shelling," the bishop wrote in a Dec. 31 letter obtained by UCA News Jan. 7. Government troops were moving toward Mullaittivu, the last rebel stronghold. Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi are in the territory of the Jaffna Diocese. Bishop Savundaranayagam said the northern area is densely populated, with 250,000 people -- including large numbers of children -- recently displaced. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched an armed struggle in 1983 to create an independent state for minority Tamils.

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Rockets from Lebanon hit Israel after bishops warn war could spread

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- One day after Lebanon's Maronite Catholic bishops warned that Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip could spread to Lebanon, several rockets were launched from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. In a Jan. 7 statement at the end of their monthly meeting, the bishops said one of the dangers of the Gaza war "is that it spreads to other areas and countries, including Lebanon." The bishops said, "The massacres committed in Gaza," clearly visible in media coverage, "stir up anger in the souls for the cruelty they show. This requires the condemnation of this war. An immediate end should be put to it by the U.N. Security Council." On Jan. 8 at least three rockets were launched from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Israel responded by firing five shells into southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government condemned the strikes against Israel, and a Lebanese Cabinet member belonging to Hezbollah, an Islamic political and paramilitary organization, said it was not behind the rocket attacks.

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Thai Christian leaders urge followers to stay out of political crisis

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNS) -- Catholic and Protestant leaders said they have urged Christians to stay neutral and pray for peace in the country, which remains deeply divided in a protracted political crisis. Father Anucha Chaiyadej, managing editor of the Bangkok Archdiocese's weekly newspaper, Udomsarn, said Catholics must strictly abide by Jesus' teachings during the crisis and avoid siding with any political group that uses violence. He spoke to the Asian church news agency UCA News. The priest said Cardinal Michael Kitbunchu of Bangkok has emphasized that in the current situation Catholics should avoid taking sides. He added that archdiocesan policy forbids priests from making any arrangements with any political party during the crisis. Father Joseph Trebaol, superior of the Paris Foreign Mission Society in Thailand, said he also has advised his members not to take sides. "I have lived in Thailand for 36 years and seen many political upheavals and violence ... but the political crisis this time is very critical. I still do not see a solution in the near future. What we can do now is pray and encourage our people to live in the peaceful way," he said.

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Funeral for surgeon killed in Iraq fills Philadelphia cathedral

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul was filled Jan. 5 for the funeral Mass of Dr. John P. Pryor, 42, a U.S. Army Reserve major and the trauma program director for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Pryor was in his second tour of duty as a trauma surgeon near Mosul, Iraq, when he was killed by a mortar round on Christmas Day. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Carmela Calvo, and their three young children: Danielle, Francis Xavier and John Jr. He was born in New York and resided in Moorestown, N.J.; his funeral was held in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia because of the great number of extended family, friends, uniformed members of the military and medical colleagues who wished to attend. Father Damian McElroy, pastor of Pryor's home parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Moorestown, and the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass, spoke eloquently of Pryor's spirit of sacrifice. He told how, after Sept. 11, 2001, he dropped everything and rushed to ground zero to assist the injured. He said Pryor joined the Army Reserve four years ago because he knew his surgical skills in treating victims of violence were needed there.

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Archdiocese: Mexico's Fox didn't get special treatment for annulment

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Leon has denied that former Mexican President Vicente Fox was given preferential treatment over the annulment of his first marriage. The archdiocese reported in early January that it was told Dec. 22 that Fox was free to remarry in a Catholic ceremony because the Tribunal of the Roman Rota at the Vatican had granted his petition that his first marriage be annulled. "The process was followed normally," Archbishop Jose Martin Rabago of Leon told reporters Jan. 4. "Talk that dispensations are only granted to the rich and only in exceptional forms ... that's a lack of knowledge of what happens in ecclesiastical tribunals." The archbishop, whose archdiocese includes the Fox family ranch, added that the entire process took roughly nine years and the process cost the former president less than $350. Fox married his former campaign spokeswoman, Marta Sahagun de Fox, in a civil ceremony in 2001 and the couple have stated that they wish to be married in a religious ceremony.

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First Things founder Father Richard John Neuhaus dies from cancer

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran minister who became a Catholic priest and a staunch defender of church teaching on abortion and other life issues, died Jan. 8. He was 72. Funeral plans were incomplete. The founder and editor in chief of the journal First Things, Father Neuhaus was hospitalized in New York after becoming ill Dec. 26 with a systemic infection, according to a message sent to e-mail contacts and posted on the magazine's Web site. He had been diagnosed with cancer in late November. Father Neuhaus, a native of Pembroke, Ontario, often was invited to lecture and participate in panel discussions on religion in the contemporary world. His views on abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and social issues contributed greatly to Catholic and other religious discourse on politics and society. He also regularly consulted with President George W. Bush on bioethical issues. In 2005 Time magazine named the priest one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. The magazine described him as having "a fair amount of under-the-radar influence" within the Bush administration.


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