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YEAREND-MONTHS Dec-13-2006 (2,900 words) With logo posted Dec. 11. xxxn

Month-by-month review of 2006

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Here is a month-by-month review of some of the religious news highlights of 2006:


Explosion traps 13 coal miners in West Virginia mine; 12 die. New Zealand study shows higher mental health risk for women after abortion. Vatican report says child labor rising with more than 200 million children under 14 forced to work. Vatican agency reports 26 missionaries were murdered in 2005. New Jersey enacts moratorium on use of death penalty.

Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of international policy committee of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urges "responsible transition" to full Iraqi self-rule. Pope Benedict XVI urges Italian officials not to legalize abortion pill or same-sex unions. New York appellate court upholds state law mandating contraceptive coverage in prescription insurance plans. U.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon's assisted suicide law and New Hampshire law requiring parental consent for a minor's abortion.

Pope calls restoring Christian unity a "holy cause." Swiss Guard marks 500th anniversary of founding. Pope issues his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"). Hamas victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections further clouds peace prospects. Militants in Iraq make coordinated bomb attacks near Vatican embassy and several Christian churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

U.S. Senate confirms Samuel Alito Jr., making him fifth Catholic on Supreme Court. Kentucky judge approves $85 million settlement of Covington Diocese with 382 sex abuse victims. Federal courts in New York and California declare federal ban on partial-birth abortions unconstitutional.


In post-hurricane plan, New Orleans Archdiocese announces closing of seven parishes, will delay opening 23 others until enough people return. Pope says truths of faith, science cannot conflict because God is source of both. World Council of Churches holds Ninth General Assembly in Brazil. WCC head calls on young people to take up ecumenical task.

Representatives of indigenous people around world ask help of churches to sustain their languages, cultures. U.S. Catholic social action leaders, gathered in Washington, seek humane immigration reform, discuss effect of budget cuts on poor. Vatican official says religious orders must lead spiritual reform in church. American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, 84, longtime head of Vatican bank, dies. U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider constitutionality of federal partial-birth abortion ban. Explosion in Mexican mine traps and kills 65 miners. Pope names 15 new cardinals including American Archbishops William J. Levada and Sean P. O'Malley.

South Dakota poses direct challenge to 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions by passing law that would ban virtually all abortions. WCC assembly ends with call to churches to renew commitment to dialogue and unity. Supreme Court, reviewing 20-year-old case for third time, unanimously and definitively rules out use of extortion and anti-racketeering laws to prevent abortion clinic protests.


Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, other religious leaders defend national interfaith immigration reform campaign following political attack on it. Letter to Canadian bishops from representatives of more than 200 religious orders, calling church too rigid and clerical, is leaked to media. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president, is accused of sexual abuse of a minor; he denies claim.

Catholic aid agencies warn repeated droughts have put 3.5 million Kenyans in danger of starvation. Boston Catholic Charities halts adoption programs because state law makes it offer adoptive services to same-sex couples. Chicago immigration rally draws 100,000. Fire destroys $10 million student housing complex under construction at Gonzaga University. California Franciscans reach $28 million settlement with 25 sex abuse victims.

Bishops' Administrative Committee reiterates opposition to legal recognition for same-sex marriages. Vatican shifts to emphasis on cultural exchange as basis for interreligious dialogue. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is published in English and Spanish by U.S. bishops. Arlington (Va.) Diocese allows female altar servers, leaving Lincoln, Neb., as only U.S. diocese still banning female altar servers.

Dialogue with Islam is among topics of papal meeting with world's cardinals. Pope bestows red hat on 15 new cardinals. John Deedy, noted Catholic journalist and author, dies. New clergy sex abuse audits of U.S. dioceses are released; National Review Board says higher performance standards are needed in future audits. Analysis of new audits shows clergy sex abuse cost to church has topped $1.5 billion in last 50 years, almost all of it since 2002. Burundi's bishops say honesty about AIDS is needed, marriages won't be allowed without proof of HIV test.

Abdul Rahman, Afghan who faced death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity, is released from prison and allowed to take asylum in Italy. Official founding takes place for Christian Churches Together in the USA -- the broadest, most inclusive ecumenical movement in U.S. history.


National Geographic magazine unveils publications about gnostic "Gospel of Judas." Half-million attend immigration protest in Washington. Hundreds of thousands attend similar rallies nationwide.

The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., leading civil rights and peace activist, dies. Federal grant of up to $6 million given to bishops' migration and refugee office to aid immigrant victims of human trafficking. Boston Archdiocese calls financial straits "dire" with $46 million deficit in 18 months. Vatican marks 500th anniversary of laying of cornerstone for St. Peter's Basilica. Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali calls constitutional amendment "only practical way" to protect traditional definition of marriage.

Cardinals, in Washington for Catholic University of America fund-raising dinner, converge on White House and Capitol Hill to lobby for humane immigration reform. Bishops urge end to genocide in Darfur region of Sudan, as "Save Darfur" rallies are held in cities across United States. Religious leaders in Europe oppose restrictive immigration proposals. Portland (Ore.) Archdiocese, facing bankruptcy proceedings over clergy sex abuse, announces $1 million cut in budget for central offices.


May 1 immigration rallies draw large crowds across United States. Argentina declares three days of mourning for death of Cardinal Raul F. Primatesta. Vatican says Pope Benedict was "profoundly displeased" by ordination of two Chinese Catholic bishops without Vatican approval. Dominican Sister Rose Thering, Catholic-Jewish relations pioneer, dies. Darfur peace agreement offers hope but fails to stop genocidal violence. Father Gerald Robertson of Toledo, Ohio, is sentenced to life in prison for 1980 murder of Mercy Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

Catholic Church campaign is credited for defeat of assisted suicide measure in British House of Lords. Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., head of USCCB Committee on Communications, urges Congress to adopt legislation assuring "net neutrality" so that religious content on Internet is not priced out of existence. After Vatican investigation of sex abuse allegations, pope bars Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of Legionaries of Christ, from public ministry. "The Da Vinci Code" opens in theaters.

Pope makes four-day trip to Poland, calls his visit to Auschwitz death camp a "duty before God." Indonesian earthquake kills more than 5,400 people, destroys 45,000 buildings. Canadian section of Amnesty International votes to treat abortion as a human right.


Top-level U.N. conference on HIV/AIDS finds world still behind on target goals to combat the disease. International peace and justice conference at Vatican calls on church to do more to fight corruption, bolster governments that foster common good. Federal marriage amendment fails on cloture vote in Senate.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, Vatican's chief ecumenist, warns Church of England bishops that if they ordain women bishops it will destroy possibility of full unity with Catholics and Orthodox. U.S. study finds young adults give little to philanthropy, but most of what they give goes to churches. Philippine legislators pass bills to abolish death penalty. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, recently retired as Washington's archbishop, is among 27 faith leaders signing New York Times ad urging clear U.S. policy against torture or degrading treatment of detainees.

Head of Guatemalan bishops' conference warns that free trade under current economic rules will widen rich-poor gap in Americas. U.S. fines for broadcast indecency go up tenfold, to $325,000. At spring meeting in Los Angeles, bishops approve new translation of key Mass prayers. They also study restructuring of USCCB and approve a 10-year extension of collection for retired religious. They endorse a statement by Bishop Skylstad, USCCB president, calling current U.S. immigration system "morally unacceptable."

U.S. Episcopal Church elects Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as its first female presiding bishop. Cardinal Paul Poupard, a top Vatican official, says even former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should not get death penalty. Vatican conference says greater intermingling of Christians and Muslims around world makes dialogue urgent. Vatican delegation visits China for "informal talks" on church-state tensions.


Top courts in Georgia and New York affirm their state bans on same-sex marriage. First international conference on Catholic ethics, in Padua, Italy, draws more than 400 moral theologians from 63 countries. Pope makes two-day visit to Spain, urges strong family life.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls retires after 22 years as Vatican spokesman. Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo moves to Washington, starts Married Priests Now! movement seeking end to mandatory celibacy for Catholic priests. Israel answers Hezbollah attacks out of Lebanon with bombing raids across Lebanon. Religious leaders criticize both sides. Pope warns of consequences of escalating violence in Middle East, criticizes Hamas and Hezbollah for fomenting violence, calls on Israel to exercise restraint.

President George W. Bush vetoes bill that would expand federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Vatican rules when a parish is suppressed its assets must go to the receiving parish. As Israeli-Hezbollah conflict mounts, pope urges immediate cease-fire. World Methodist Council adopts 1999 Catholic-Lutheran joint declaration on justification, saying it fully accords with Methodist faith. Washington Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of state law defining marriage as heterosexual.

Eight Catholic women ordained priests and four ordained deacons in riverboat ceremony have excommunicated themselves, church official says. Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro cedes power to younger brother, ending longest current dictatorship in world and prompting wide speculation on Cuba's future in international sphere.


Iraqi bishop says exodus of Iraq's Christians since 2003 has reduced their numbers from 1.2 million to 600,000. Gail Quinn, executive director of USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, retires after 40 years with conference.

Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, pioneer in ecumenism and Catholic-Jewish relations, dies. Catholic relief worker in Lebanon says hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are displaced by Israeli attacks, lack of cease-fire prevents aid getting through. San Francisco shifts adoption services focus, will no longer work in areas that would force it to participate in adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Catholic institutions around world are in forefront of assisting those with HIV/AIDS as XVI International AIDS Conference meets in Canada. New Orleans Archdiocese reports uninsured property losses from Hurricane Katrina totaled $120 million. U.S. bishops' Labor Day statement focuses on immigrants' rights, role in American society. Loretto Sister Mary Luke Tobin, pioneer in religious renewal and social causes and only U.S. woman religious to attend Vatican II as an auditor, dies at age 98.

New U.S. Program of Priestly Formation is approved, replacing program in effect since 1992. New Priests for Life religious order celebrates founding as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, breaking ground for first community residence in Texas.


More than 150 religious leaders from around world gather in Assisi, Italy, for shared prayers for peace; pope calls gathering "prophetic."

Pope makes second trip to native Germany since his election, muses whether it might be his last, visits country's most famous Marian shrine at Altotting. He searches relationship between faith and reason, delivers academic speech in Regensburg that includes a negative reference to Islam as a religion of the sword -- which becomes focal point of world controversy over Catholic understanding of Islam as a world religion. Pope subsequently says he deeply regrets any misinterpretations his remarks may have provoked. By year's end papal remarks are still seen as critical to future of Catholic-Muslim relations, but their ultimate impact remains undetermined.

At Vatican-sponsored congress on stem-cell research, pope endorses research and therapy involving adult stem-cells. Archbishop Milingo re-ordains four married bishops who are former Catholic priests, claiming rites make them Catholic bishops. Vatican says church law automatically excommunicates Archbishop Milingo and the four bishops he ordained.

Philadelphia priests in archdiocesan convocation hear stories from clergy abuse victims; priests say stories affected them profoundly. Two weeks after Regensburg speech, pope meets with more than 40 Islamic leaders and ambassadors from Islamic countries, urges dialogue and reconciliation. Congress adopts stringent immigration enforcement legislation, calling for 700-mile fence on Mexico border, despite strong opposition from U.S. bishops and other religious leaders. Two Florida priests are accused of stealing $8.6 million from their parishes in decades-long scheme.


Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, celebrating first Red Mass in nation's capital, says spheres of faith and public life are distinct but interrelated. Spokane Diocese sells diocesan headquarters for $2 million as part of bankruptcy proceeding to meet sex abuse claims.

U.S. Rep. Mark Foley resigns from Congress after revelations he sent lurid e-mails to underage congressional pages; attorney says the Florida Republican was sexually abused by a priest in his teens. First official U.S. national dialogue of Catholics and Sikhs is held. Facing more than two dozen sex abuse lawsuits, Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, files for bankruptcy protection after jury awards $1.5 million to one victim.

Orthodox priest in Iraq is kidnapped and decapitated, reportedly for not doing enough to denounce pope's negative comment on Islam. Mother Theodore Guerin, 19th-century French nun who founded the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana, is canonized Oct. 15. Former Iraqi minister tells U.S. reporters that Christians and other minorities need a separate administrative region in northern Iraq or they will disappear from the predominantly Shiite Muslim country.

Vatican order ends U.S. permission for lay ministers to cleanse sacred vessels after Communion. New Jersey Supreme Court rules same-sex couples must have same rights as married couples. Addressing representatives of world's Christian communities, pope says Christians must heal their divisions to be a sign of hope. Meeting Irish bishops, pope calls clergy sex abuse of minors a "heart-rending" tragedy needing urgent church response.


Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death by hanging; Vatican official objects, calling death penalty "killing out of vengeance." In off-year elections Democrats regain control of House and Senate and majority of state governorships. Voters in seven states pass bans on same-sex marriage while Arizona becomes first state to defeat such a ban by popular vote. South Dakotans repudiate a strict abortion law, while Missourians narrowly approve a constitutional amendment permitting any stem-cell research allowed by federal law. Voters in seven states adopt higher minimum wage.

U.S. bishops mark 200th anniversary and reopening of renovated Baltimore basilica, nation's first cathedral, with concelebrated Mass. At fall meeting in Baltimore bishops issue statements on worthiness to receive Communion, on marital love and artificial contraception, and on pastoral care of those with a homosexual tendency. They also adopt new strategic plan for USCCB involving dramatic reduction in number of bishops' committees and cutting more than 60 jobs at their national headquarters. They endorse a statement by Bishop Skylstad, their president, urging policy review aimed at responsible transition in Iraq.

Pope urges international agreements protecting rights of migrants and refugees; Vatican official calls planned 700-mile U.S. border fence "inhuman project."

French bishops say they support outreach to reconcile traditionalists with church but warn that use of Tridentine Mass should be carefully regulated. Top Roman Curia officials, convened to discuss Archbishop Milingo's call for married clergy, reaffirm value of clerical celibacy in the Latin-rite church.

Pope Benedict, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury meet at Vatican, express continuing commitment to ecumenism despite new obstacles raised by divisions over women bishops and homosexuality.

Pope, on four-day trip to Turkey to visit with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, seeks to advance Catholic-Orthodox and Catholic-Muslim relations. He celebrates Mass at Ephesus for Turkey's tiny Catholic community. In late addition to his itinerary he visits Istanbul's famed Blue Mosque, where he prays. For third time in 2006 a Chinese bishop ordains another bishop without Vatican permission.


Los Angeles Archdiocese reaches $60 million settlement with 45 clergy sex abuse victims. "The Nativity Story" opens in U.S. theaters. U.N. study on AIDS in southern Africa highlights strong role of Catholic Church in AIDS prevention and treatment. Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, urges calm and civil discourse as factional street protests mount in Lebanon.

In his 2007 World Peace Day message Pope Benedict says human rights must be respected, even in war or when facing terrorist threats. Bill granting free trade with Haiti, passed in late-night vote on final day of 109th Congress, is seen as potential economic boon to Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

Kidnappers free two Chaldean Catholic priests in Iraq. Vatican officials announce archaeologists have found St. Paul's tomb -- a rough marble sarcophagus inscribed, "Paul Apostle Martyr" -- several feet below the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. "Picturing Mary," documentary on the Blessed Virgin in art, begins airing on PBS television outlets. Oregon judge announces mediated settlement for Portland Archdiocese to pay 150 sex abuse claimants; does not give dollar figure.

As Iran hosts conference questioning the existence of World War II Holocaust of Jews, Vatican issues statement calling Holocaust an "enormous tragedy" that must be remembered and not repeated. Vatican launches Christmas appeal to fund AIDS treatment for some of world's poorest people.


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