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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-12-2009

By Catholic News Service


Missouri pastor named bishop of Knoxville, Tenn.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has named Msgr. Richard F. Stika, pastor of the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue, Mo., as bishop of Knoxville, Tenn. The appointment was announced in Washington Jan. 12 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-designate Stika, 51, succeeds Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who headed the Knoxville Diocese from 1999 to 2007. He will be ordained to the episcopacy March 19 at the Knoxville Convention Center by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. Among the many assignments Bishop-designate Stika has handled since his Dec. 14, 1985, ordination as a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis were secretary to then-St. Louis Archbishop Rigali, 1994-97; coordinator of the papal visit to the archdiocese, 1998-1999; and episcopal vicar for child and youth protection, 2004-09. "From the first moments of my ministry as a priest in St. Louis, I have always been grateful for the tremendous experiences I have witnessed of the goodness of God's people," he said in a statement on the Web site of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

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Milwaukee social worker to chair bishops' National Review Board

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The former director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been appointed to chair the bishops' National Review Board by Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Diane Knight, a social worker from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, will succeed Judge Michael Merz as head of the USCCB's National Review Board at the conclusion of his term, following the bishops' spring meeting in June. Cardinal George made the announcement Jan. 8 and said Knight's dedication to the mission of the Catholic Church and her experience in the protection of children and young people made her a prime candidate for the post. The USCCB established the National Review Board in 2002 as a consultative body that reviews the annual report of the Office of Child and Youth Protection on the implementation of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and the recommendations that emerge from it. The National Review Board then offers its assessment to the president of the USCCB.

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Chicago Archdiocese pays $2.6 million to settle two more abuse cases

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed in December to pay out $2.6 million to settle two cases of clergy sexual abuse. The sum was in addition to a $12.6 million settlement announced in August with 16 victims of clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese. A $1.2 million settlement involved a teenage boy who said he was abused by Father Daniel McCormack, the former pastor of St. Agatha Parish in Chicago who is serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2007 to abusing five boys. Father McCormack, who has been suspended from all priestly functions, did not plead guilty to abusing the boy in this settlement, but the archdiocese decided on the settlement after conducting its own review of the case. A second payment of $1.38 million went to a man who accused Father Chester Przybylo, now the pastor of an independent church in Winfield, Ill., of having abused him from 1987 to 1992. The settlements will be funded by insurance and proceeds from the sale or lease of undeveloped property, the archdiocese said.

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Collection for Latin America helping the church grow in Cuba, beyond

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After nearly 50 years when religious practice was discouraged by the communist government, Catholic bishops in Cuba these days are looking for support from U.S. Catholics to "try to bring back peoples' religious memory," as one bishop put it. In one diocese, that means enlisting grandparents who grew up at a time when they were taught about the church to help educate their grandchildren about the faith. In another, it means paying for Cuban families to attend the World Meeting of Families in Mexico. Other dioceses are working to expand their use of contemporary media including the Internet, access to which is still tightly controlled by the government. Cuban projects get the largest single-country share of funds from U.S. parishes raised in the annual collection for the church in Latin America, held in most dioceses Jan. 24-25. The collection also supports work done in Latin America by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2008, 80 projects in Cuba received a total of $850,000 from the collection, which raised more than $8 million. Across Latin America, 535 projects were funded last year.

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Latest 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' series is written for Catholics

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series can now add Catholics to the more than 200 groups in its targeted audience. In mid-December, Simon & Schuster published "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith," making it the most recent addition to a series that has sold more than 112 million copies in 40 languages over the past 16 years. The "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books are filled with personal stories (always 101) and each volume is aimed toward a specific audience: moms, dads, grandparents, teens, kids, sports enthusiasts, pet lovers, coffee lovers, people with a variety of ailments, scrapbookers and even fans of the "American Idol" television show. There are books specifically directed to members of the Jewish faith, Latter-day Saints, Christians and Christian women. LeAnn Thieman, a Catholic who co-authored "Living Catholic Faith," is no stranger to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" phenomenon. She has co-authored nine other books in the series and is currently working on a new "Chicken Soup" book about miracles.

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American Catholic Historical Association honors two books

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The American Catholic Historical Association selected "Vatican Secret Diplomacy: Joseph P. Hurley and Pope Pius XII" by Charles R. Gallagher as the best book on the history of the Catholic Church in the 12 months that ended June 30. The book, published by Yale University Press in New Haven, Conn., won the association's John Gilmary Shea Prize and a $750 award. Gallagher, who is a Jesuit scholastic currently living in Wimbledon, England, has taught at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and worked as archivist-historian of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla. "Passion and Order: Restraint of Grief in the Medieval Italian Communes" by Carol Leroy Lansing was chosen for the Howard R. Marraro Prize, awarded each year to the author of a distinguished scholarly work dealing with Italian history or Italo-American history or relations. It also includes a $750 prize. Lansing is a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The awards were presented Jan. 4 during the association's annual meeting in New York.

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US bishop in West Bank expresses solidarity with Catholics

RAFIDIA, West Bank (CNS) -- During a pastoral visit to the Holy Land, the vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed solidarity with Palestinian Catholics in the West Bank and focused on the situation in Gaza. "We have come here at a troubled time with the escalation of violence in Gaza so clearly on the minds of people resurrecting the history of hurts and struggles of Palestinian and Israeli existence," said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., who was in the Holy Land as part of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land. The bishop said he saw how "deeply ingrained" the historical wounds are and sensed the people's discouragement that things can change and peace can emerge in the region. Bishop Kicanas had hoped to visit Gaza as part of his planned itinerary, but the ongoing Israeli military attacks on Gaza made that impossible. The delegation, in the Holy Land Jan. 9-15, also was to meet with Archbishop Antonio Franco, Vatican nuncio to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

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Pope baptizes infants, emphasizes parents' formation role

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an annual liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI baptized 13 infants and emphasized the duty of parents and godparents to educate them in the faith. The pope strongly defended the practice of infant baptism, saying it acts as a "bridge" between human beings and God, and helps lead children along the path of grace. The Mass Jan. 11 marked the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The pontiff celebrated the liturgy in the Sistine Chapel, where the crying of babies reverberated off the frescoed walls and ceiling. The pope poured water from a shell-shaped dipper onto the head of each of the 13 infants -- nine boys and four girls, the children of Vatican employees. In his sermon, the pope said parents should consider children not as their personal property to be shaped according to their own ideas and desires, but as free children of God who need to be educated in order to make the right choices in life.

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Pope thanks movement for service, urges greater unity with dioceses

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI thanked members of the Neocatechumenal Way for their generous service to the church and called for greater efforts toward unity with local bishops and parishes. Unity with the church and among Christians is indispensable for helping the church's evangelical efforts "be fruitful and credible," he told thousands of members of the movement during a special audience in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 10. The audience marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Neocatechumenal Way in the Diocese of Rome. The movement's founders, Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, were present along with thousands of members of Rome's 500 Neocatechumenal communities. The pope praised the Way's courageous testimony of the Gospel and "meek compliance to the guidelines of priests and communion with" other Catholics.

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Spain's atheists continue other countries' ad campaigns on buses

MADRID, Spain (CNS) -- Catholic and religious leaders have denounced slogans questioning the existence of God planned for buses in Barcelona and other Spanish cities. The message, "Probably, God does not exist. Stop worrying and enjoy life," were to be placed on buses in Barcelona by Jan. 12. The advertisement campaign, organized by the Madrid Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and Atheists of Catalonia, will arrive in the capital city of Madrid by Jan. 26, Madrid Vice Mayor Manuel Cobo announced Jan. 8. Ads in Valencia, Bilbao, Zaragoza and Seville are set to follow, organizers said. In a Jan. 2 statement, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona said that "faith is not a reason for worry, nor an obstacle to enjoy life honestly, but a solid foundation to live life with an attitude of solidarity, peace and a sense of transcendence." There have been similar ad campaigns in Great Britain and the United States.

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Guatemalan Catholics march against increasing crime rate, fear

GUATEMALA CITY (CNS) -- With unified chants of "we want peace," an estimated 10,000 Guatemalans gathered before the city cathedral in a Catholic-organized peace march to call attention to the country's escalating crime rate. "We're here to condemn the violence," Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno of Guatemala City told the crowd packing the city's central square and waving signs calling for peace Jan. 10. "Without social justice, there is no peace," he said. The march was the most visible sign yet of the church's growing concern that gang violence and drug trafficking threaten to undermine the progress the country has made since the end of its civil war in 1996. "This march represents the necessity of absolute security in the ... the country," Cardinal Quezada said. "The year 2008 ended with the sad and lamentable memory of our dear mother country in a tragic blood bath. Without exaggerating, it was one of the most violent of recent history."

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Catholic bishops denounce assassination of journalist in Sri Lanka

BANGALORE, India (CNS) -- The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka denounced the assassination of the outspoken editor of a leading newspaper in Sri Lanka. Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of The Sunday Leader, was shot dead in his car Jan. 8 on his way to work in rush-hour traffic in downtown Colombo. The murder was the latest in a series of violent attacks on the media. "We are deeply concerned about the recent attack on media institutions and media personnel, the most recent being the destruction caused to a popular TV station and the latest casualty being a well-known editor of a leading newspaper," said the bishops conference in a statement Jan. 9. "We condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms." The Asian church news agency UCA News reported that armed, masked men ransacked and set fire to the MTV and MBC TV and radio studio Jan. 5. They attacked staff and caused extensive damage, putting the broadcasters off the air. This followed an attack three days earlier, when a gasoline bomb was thrown at the building housing the TV station popularly known as Sirasa, UCA News reported.

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Cardinal Laghi, former nuncio to U.S., dies at 86

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi, a former Vatican nuncio to the United States who tried to convince President George W. Bush not to invade Iraq in 2003, died Jan. 10 at the age of 86. Cardinal Laghi had been suffering from a blood disorder, but told a conference just before Christmas that he thought the worst had passed. On that occasion, speaking by webcam from his Vatican apartment, he again expressed his deep disappointment that Bush did not heed Pope John Paul II's warnings about the possible consequences of the war in Iraq. Those possibilities, the cardinal said, have now become realities: a drawn-out war, massive casualties, new tensions among Iraqi religious and ethnic groups, and greater Muslim hostility toward Christians. In a telegram Jan. 12 offering his condolences to the cardinal's nieces and nephews, Pope Benedict XVI praised the cardinal for "long and generous service to the Holy See, particularly as papal representative in various countries and as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education." In a statement released by the White House Jan. 11, Bush offered his condolences, saying "Cardinal Laghi was a friend who, in his more than 60 years of service to the Catholic Church, worked tirelessly for peace and justice in our world."

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Notre Dame professor instrumental in Catholic-Jewish relations dies

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. Catholic leaders are mourning the loss of Rabbi Michael Alan Signer, an important figure in Jewish-Catholic relations and a professor at the University of Notre Dame who died Jan. 10 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Rabbi Signer was the Abrams professor of Jewish thought and culture and director of Notre Dame's Holocaust Project, whose research focused on various aspects of Jewish-Christian relations, Michael Garvey, a spokesman for the Indiana university, told Catholic News Service Jan. 12. "I would say his influence on Catholic-Jewish relations in the United States was of great importance," said Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. "As a scholar of ancient Christian texts and as a teacher for a generation of students at Notre Dame, Michael brought a wealth of erudition and critical insight to the Catholic Church's dialogue with Judaism."

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Drew DeCoursey, author of book on defense of life, dies at 74

CEDAR KNOLLS, N.J. (CNS) -- A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 7 at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls for Andrew "Drew" DeCoursey, who died Jan. 2. He was 74 and had been fighting prostate cancer since 1989. DeCoursey was an author, essayist, cartoonist and social activist whose work appeared in national, local and religious publications, including The Beacon, diocesan newspaper in Paterson. His book, "Lifting the Veil of Choice," is a collection of essays on the defense of human life. The foreword was written by Blessed Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity. For more than two decades, he served with the Missionaries of Charity at a soup kitchen and women's shelter in Newark and at the Gift of Love Hospice for AIDS patients in New York's Greenwich Village. He was honored by the Diocese of Paterson's Justice and Peace Commission as the recipient of its first Peace Award in 1989 for his pro-life, parish, charitable and peace activities as someone who followed the mandate of Pope Paul VI: "If you want peace, work for justice."

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Catholic school lessons retained by 'Doubt' writer-director

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The lessons learned from a Catholic school education still linger in John Patrick Shanley, playwright of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Doubt" and writer-director of the new film version, considered a strong contender during the Hollywood awards season. "I went back to St. Anthony's Church (in his childhood Bronx neighborhood in New York) right before we started shooting," Shanley told Catholic News Service, adding that he was taken back in time by the pastor's sermon, which "told the story from the Bible and the ramifications of what the story means." A similar sermon is featured in the film. "Gossip and cutting the pillow was a sermon I had heard. The Cure of Ars (St. John Vianney) used that sermon in the Middle Ages. ... But when I heard it, it was as if the priest had made up that story that morning," he said. The story in the sermon has a priest reproaching a woman for gossiping by telling her to cut open a pillow on the roof of her apartment building and shake out the feathers. When the woman tells the priest she's done so, he then tells her to pick up each feather -- a near-impossibility, like stopping the spread of gossip once started. "To me as a kid, gossip meant nothing," Shanley added. "It was (imagining) the pillow and the feathers and all that."


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