U.S. Catholics invited to 2008 eucharistic congress in Canada
BALTIMORE (CNS) — Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said U.S. Catholics are invited to participate in the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Quebec City June 15-22, 2008. Cardinal Rigali, who is the U.S. national delegate for the congress, extended the invitation Nov. 14 in a brief talk at the fall meeting in Baltimore of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Earlier that day Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, a Baltimore native who is now a high Vatican official, spoke to the bishops about indulgences and renewal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Cardinal Rigali said Pope Benedict XVI has expressed a strong desire to “have a true international assembly” for the eucharistic congress, involving “people from all over the world.” “The church in Canada sees the eucharistic congress as a real opportunity for renewal of eucharistic devotion, and hence renewal of Catholic life,” he said.
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Archbishop says dioceses have given $3.9 million for Katrina victims
BALTIMORE (CNS) — Slightly more than a quarter of all U.S. dioceses have contributed about $3.9 million from a special collection for victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., according to a report to the U.S. bishops by retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston. The national collection Aug. 26-27 was approved unanimously by the bishops at their June meeting in Los Angeles. Archbishop Fiorenza said about 50 of the 194 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the United States have sent in the money they collected. “I am writing to thank all of you who have already transmitted funds in support of this special collection, and to encourage strongly those of you who have not yet transmitted the funds collected to do so as soon as possible so assistance can get to those most in need as quickly as possible,” the archbishop said in a memo to his fellow bishops. The memo was read Nov. 14 at the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore by Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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Last Catholic women’s college in Massachusetts to admit men
WESTON, Mass. (CNS) — Regis College is currently the only Catholic women’s college in Massachusetts, but that is going to change. In a move that some are calling regrettable but necessary, the Regis College board of trustees has voted to admit men to the undergraduate program beginning in the fall of 2007. The decision comes after years of declining enrollment and financial troubles. According to Mary Jane England, president of Regis College, the goal is to expand enrollment of the undergraduate program to 1,000 students by the year 2010. Currently only 640 undergraduate women attend Regis. “We want to grow,” she said. “We want to get to over 1,000 undergraduate students.” But many young women today are just not interested in attending an all-women’s school, England told The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese. She cited a study conducted by the American Council on Education, which concluded that although more females attend college than males less than 3 percent of females are interested in attending a single-gender school.
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Secularism in Turkey means government controls all religions
ROME (CNS) — Turkey’s unique brand of secularism is not separation of religion and state, but rather government control of religion, impacting both the Muslim majority and religious minorities. The government builds and funds mosques, employs Muslim prayer leaders, controls religious education and bans Muslim women and men from wearing certain head coverings in public offices and universities. The Turkish Constitution guarantees the religious freedom of all the country’s residents, and a 1923 treaty guarantees that religious minorities will be allowed to found and operate religious and charitable institutions. Secularists in Turkey see control of religion as the only way to guarantee Islam will not overpower the secularism of the state and its institutions. However, the fact that the constitution and Turkish law do not recognize minority religious communities as legal entities has severely limited their ability to own property, and laws restricting private religious higher education have made it almost impossible for them to operate seminaries and schools of theology. Pope Benedict XVI is expected to address the issue of religious freedom guarantees during his Nov. 28-Dec. 1 visit to Turkey.
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British Catholic, Anglican bishops express enthusiasm for dialogue
LONDON (CNS) — Catholic and Anglican leaders in Britain have expressed their continuing “enthusiasm for dialogue” at a historic meeting of bishops from the two churches. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England House of Bishops met together for the first time Nov. 14-15 in Leeds, England. The 30 Catholic and 40 Anglican bishops met to pray together and hold discussions on a variety of topics, said a Nov. 14 press statement. The event was chaired by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference. “This meeting is a significant sign of our mutual commitment to dialogue and joint witness based on our common faith,” they said in a statement Nov. 14. “It underlines our responsibility to work together as partners in mission and service to the people of our country.”
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Pope, curial officials reaffirm value of priestly celibacy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials, meeting to review the status of married priests, reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy and said its importance should be highlighted among priests and seminarians. At the same time, the participants examined the possibility of the return to active ministry of some priests who may have left the priesthood to marry but who now meet certain conditions, a Vatican statement said. The pope presided over the three-hour meeting of more than 20 heads of Vatican congregations and councils Nov. 16. “The value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to the Catholic tradition was reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian formation was underlined, both for seminarians and for those already ordained,” a brief Vatican statement said. The Vatican encounter was triggered by the case of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who recently was excommunicated after he ordained four married men as bishops without papal permission.
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Rights group urges Blair to press Pakistan to repeal blasphemy laws
LONDON (CNS) — A human rights group has urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to press for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws amid claims that accusations against Pakistan’s Christian minority are at an “all-time high.” The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement wrote to Blair, asking him to raise the issue of the laws when he meets with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Nov. 19 during his trip to Pakistan. The center, based in London and Lahore, Pakistan, helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan. The number of Christians accused of blasphemy hit a record high in September, the month when Pope Benedict XVI quoted from a medieval text referring to Islam and violence, according to the group. Nasir Saeed, the group’s coordinator, told Blair in his Nov. 13 letter that Christians were “living with a constant threat to their lives.”
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Congolese Catholic rights worker arrested, detained without charges
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (CNS) — A Congolese Catholic human rights worker was arrested and detained without charges in Brazzaville. Christian Mounzeo, president of a Congolese peace and human rights organization working for accountability in the oil industry, was arrested Nov. 13 and accused of defaming the president. He was released Nov. 14. A statement from Publish What You Pay, a coalition of international nongovernmental organizations that promote transparency in oil production, said it feared Mounzeo’s arrest would result in charges of defaming the head of state, a crime in the Republic of Congo. Mounzeo was denied access to his attorney, which is against Congolese law, the coalition said. Mounzeo’s organization is affiliated with Publish What You Pay.
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Mexican bishops elect new officers for conference
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Mexican bishops elected their former secretary, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco, as head of the 120-member bishops’ conference for the next three years. In Nov. 15 elections at their plenary assembly, Archbishop Alberti Suarez Inda of Morelia was elected vice president, and Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez of Guadalajara was elected secretary. The bishops, who began meeting Nov. 13 in Cuautitlan Izcalli, just north of Mexico City, discussed several topics, including the downsizing of the conference, but no details were available immediately. In a Nov. 15 press conference, the bishops of northern Mexico expressed their concern about the continuous violence connected with migration and drug trafficking. They urged the government to implement more measures for national security and to fight drug-related crimes.
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New chairmen take office in bishops’ conference
BALTIMORE (CNS) — At the end of the Nov. 13-16 Baltimore meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, seven bishops took office as chairmen of USCCB committees. They were elected to those posts in November 2005, since the bishops have adopted a practice of choosing chairmen-elect a year beforehand to give the prospective new chairmen time to familiarize themselves with the responsibilities and activities of the committees they will head. Assuming offices as committee chairmen Nov. 16 were: Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange, Calif., the Committee on the Church in Latin America; Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, the Committee on Communications; Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis, Tenn., the Committee on Consecrated Life; Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., the Committee on Doctrine; Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Juneau, Alaska, the Committee on the Home Missions; Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw, Mich., the Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry; and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
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Actor who is Joseph in ‘Nativity’ film may not stay unknown for long
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Not too many people are likely to recognize Oscar Isaac, the actor who plays Joseph in the new movie “The Nativity Story.” Apart from a couple of TV guest roles and a minor part in a four-year-old movie, he hasn’t been seen on either the big or the small screen. That could change after the Dec. 1 U.S. release date of “The Nativity Story.” Mary is portrayed by Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at age 12 was the youngest person to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress for her role in “Whale Rider,” and Elizabeth is portrayed by Shohreh Aghdashloo, likewise Oscar-nominated for her role in “House of Sand and Fog.” But aside from them the rest of the cast is virtually unknown. “I think it was a smart move to not have people who are very recognizable in the film — which was helpful for me,” Isaac said with a laugh.
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Church music background paid off for ‘The Nativity Story’ composer
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Mychael Danna’s background as a church music director put him in good stead when it came to scoring the new movie “The Nativity Story.” Danna, a Canadian by birth, worked as the choir director and organist at an Anglican church in Dundas, Ontario, outside Toronto. “We sang Latin and did a lot of things that probably did disappear from the rituals in the Roman Catholic Church,” he said, adding he was attracted to “the freedom to sing Gregorian chant in Latin and to sing Mass movements” as “something I certainly treasured. We did Maundy (Holy) Thursday, we did a Tenebrae service that was entirely Gregorian chant.” In fact, Danna said, “I did apply quite a bit of that experience to this film.” “The Nativity Story,” which premieres in theaters nationwide Dec. 1, is a cinematic retelling of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth.
U.S. Catholics invited to 2008 eucharistic congress in Canada