11.30.06 Update

Today’s Readings
First Reading: Revelation 5:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9
Gospel: Luke 9:41-44

Today’s Events, Appearances

ABILENE — Bishop Pfeifer at Sacred Heart, Presentation to RCIA at 6:30 p.m.

Today’s News from Catholic News Service

New York court asked to rehear case on contraceptive mandate

ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) — Claiming that New York’s highest state court erred on several counts in upholding a state mandate that would require religious organizations to provide contraceptive prescription coverage for their employees, eight Catholic and two Protestant groups have asked the New York Court of Appeals to rehear the case. The court’s Oct. 19 decision also failed to consider that the “practical impact” of the legislation could be the opposite of the law’s intended effect, by providing an incentive for religious employers to cancel prescription coverage altogether, the groups said in a motion filed Nov. 20. “Mandating contraceptive coverage by church entities like plaintiffs if and only if those entities choose to provide their employees with prescription drug coverage at all actually undermines the objective of the law, while exempting such entities would without question advance that objective,” the motion said.

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Court lets rulings stand on vouchers, religious displays in schools

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A ruling upholding a school voucher program’s exclusion of religious schools was allowed to stand Nov. 27 by the Supreme Court. A second case the court declined to take left standing a ruling that allows a menorah, a star and crescent or a Christmas tree as holiday displays in New York City schools, but not a Nativity scene. By declining to review Maine’s voucher law, the court let stand a bar on vouchers being used at religious schools. Prior to 1980, students in small Maine towns with no high schools could use tuition vouchers to attend the secondary school of their choice, including religious ones. In 1980 the state attorney general said the policy violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause separating church and state, and in 1983 the state Legislature codified the decision, eliminating religious schools from the program. Currently about 17,000 Maine students in 145 small towns use vouchers to attend public and private high schools in the state and out of state.

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Panelists say ’98 religious freedom law having an effect on diplomacy

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Though it has plenty of weaknesses and flaws, the system put in place by a 1998 law to monitor and protect religious freedom internationally has begun to change how the United States and other countries approach religious rights, said panelists at a Washington forum. Among the problems of trying to protect religious rights abroad, according to speakers at the Nov. 20 forum, are too little emphasis on advocacy as opposed to sanctions in the current diplomacy system, and a risk of other countries misunderstanding the goals of the U.S. policy. The law that created the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also set a formal approach for evaluating how various countries treat religious rights and established an office within the State Department to oversee how diplomats deal with the issue. The State Department now prepares an annual report on the state of religious freedom in each country, while the commission issues its own reports focusing on select countries about which its members are particularly concerned.

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Regis Philbin’s ‘Jeopardy’ win brings Bronx Catholic school $50,000

NEW YORK (CNS) — Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx has an extra $50,000 to put into its current capital campaign, thanks to the man who is probably its best-known alumnus — and thanks to his success on the television quiz program “Jeopardy,” where information about him might appear like this: Answer: He’s a television star and talk-show host, but he’s never forgotten his alma mater. Question: Who is Regis Philbin? Philbin was a guest on “Celebrity Jeopardy,” in which famous contestants compete to win cash for their favorite charities. Philbin chose Hayes, which he has supported in many ways over the years. He also got 10 tickets for a group from Hayes to attend the taping of the Nov. 8 show. It was a nail-biter, too. Going into the “Final Jeopardy” round, when the game’s winner is determined, another player had more cash than Philbin. But Philbin’s correct answer, and the amount of his wager, put him in first place — by $1. “Who is Billie Jean King?” was the winning question to the answer: In 2006 the National Tennis Center in New York was named in her honor.

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Aides breathe sigh of relief after pope’s first day in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey (CNS) — At the end of a long first day in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI’s aides seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. The local protests had fizzled. The prime minister had shown up to greet the pontiff after all. And the dialogue with Muslims had been honest and cordial — at some moments, even friendly. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, was smiling as he strolled into the Ankara press center late Nov. 28 for a briefing. The pope’s trip, described by many as a difficult and perhaps dangerous mission, had gotten off to a fine start, he said. “It seemed to us that in recent days the climate for the visit was rapidly improving. Today we had the sensation that the pope was a welcome guest,” Father Lombardi said. Turkish newspaper headlines the next morning confirmed Father Lombardi’s impressions. “A beautiful beginning,” was the main headline across Hurriyet, one of the country’s leading dailies. “The pope calls Islam a religion of peace.”

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Pope celebrates Mass for Turkey’s ‘little flock’ of Catholics

EPHESUS, Turkey (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Turkey’s tiny Catholic community to live their faith with courage, hope and optimism. The pope celebrated the first public Mass of his four-day trip to Turkey Nov. 29 under the shade of pine and olive-laden trees next to the House of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus. When he addressed the “little flock” of Catholics in Turkey, he was not referring literally to the fewer than 200 people present for the Mass high on a hill over Ephesus, but it felt that way to the congregation. The Mass in honor of Mary was a brief aside dedicated to Catholics in a trip dominated by outreach to the country’s Muslim majority and by celebrations at the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Pope Benedict told those present that he wanted “to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily.”

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Pope, Orthodox patriarch pray together, renew commitment to unity

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNS) — In a meeting of East and West, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and renewed the church’s commitment to the search for Christian unity. The pope expressed his great joy at the encounter and said he would treasure the Orthodox welcome forever. “I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic good will and ecclesial significance,” he said. “May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the churches,” he said. The evening prayer service in Istanbul Nov. 29 opened two days of richly symbolic events and brought an ecumenical focus to the pope’s four-day visit to Turkey. Patriarch Bartholomew, who is honored as the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, greeted the pope at the Istanbul airport and met him again shortly afterward on the steps of the patriarchate’s headquarters, where dozens of Orthodox prelates were waiting in the Church of St. George.

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Papal spokesman says alleged al-Qaida threat causes ‘no worry’

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNS) — Accusations about Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Turkey and a vague threat posted on the Internet by a group claiming to be part of the al-Qaida terrorist network have not led to alarm, the Vatican spokesman said. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, traveling with the pope Nov. 29, told reporters: “There is no worry on the part of the pope (or) of his entourage.” According to the British news agency Reuters, the Islamic State in Iraq, a group led by al-Qaida, accused the pope of going to Turkey in an attempt to undermine the Islamic faith of Turkey’s majority. “We have a date with victory and martyrdom and an (Islamic) state that rules under the commands of God the almighty, and then we shall break the cross and spill the wine,” the group’s statement said. Father Lombardi said the statement simply demonstrated the importance of joint efforts to stop violence.

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Patriarch urges Lebanese Christians to remain united amid crisis

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church has urged Christians to remain united in the face of the country’s mounting political crisis. “We are going through miserable days, but we hope they will be followed by happy days in which the Lebanese will reunite,” said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch, Nov. 26. “We mean by that the Christians who are divided.” Cardinal Sfeir spoke days after presiding over the funeral of murdered Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The scion of Lebanon’s most prominent Maronite family was the sixth anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated in the past two years. Cardinal Sfeir said Lebanon’s Christians should unite since Lebanon’s “leaders are being killed one after the other.” He acknowledged that might be difficult amid the current tensions over street protests and strikes led by the militant Islamic group Hezbollah.

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Asian Muslim leaders to form task force promoting moderate teaching

MAKATI CITY, Philippines (CNS) — Participants in the second international conference of Southeast Asian Muslim leaders have agreed to form a task force to promote “the moderate teachings of Islam.” Taha Basman, president of the Philippine branch of the Center for Moderate Muslims, said the task force would include 10 key figures representing major Muslim organizations. The new task force was provisionally named the International Islamic Da’wah Task Force. Moderate means “having the value of patience, tolerance and respect for other people,” Basman told UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand. A person who easily gets angry and engages in acts of hatred and violence is not moderate but an extremist, said Basman, who is also a commissioner of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Center for Moderate Muslims hosted the Nov. 22-24 meeting in Makati City, southeast of Manila. Some 150 delegates attended the conference.

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In Bolivia, villagers work leads to clean-water systems

LACA LACA, Bolivia (CNS) — In the dry season the dusty, rocky hill above Laca Laca, a community of about 50 families, looks like a moonscape dotted with tiny cactus plants and scrubby grass. But when village elders insisted that water could be found there, the residents climbed the hill, asked an orphan boy they considered especially protected by God to pray over the site, and went to work with picks and shovels. Two days later, their efforts were rewarded with a trickle of water from the rock about five feet below the surface. The find made Braulio Rojas and Jason Gehrig change their plans for the village’s water system. Along with the two wells they had planned, they are now including the spring in the system’s design. “The people made us do it because of their faith,” Rojas said. Gehrig, a civil engineer working in Bolivia as a Maryknoll lay missioner, and Rojas, who directs a nonprofit organization called Suma Jayna — “good communal labor” in the local Aymara language — are devoted to bringing safe water for drinking, cooking and washing to households in remote rural villages.

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Retired Bishop Dudley of Sioux Falls dies at age 79

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Retired Bishop Paul V. Dudley of Sioux Falls, S.D., died Nov. 20 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. He was 79. A funeral Mass was celebrated for him Nov. 29 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, with interment at Calvary Cemetery in Northfield. A memorial Mass was scheduled for Nov. 30 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls. Funeral director Andy Langehough said about 500 people attended a Nov. 27 visitation and prayer service for Bishop Dudley at St. Dominic Church in Northfield, the town where he grew up and where he lived during his retirement. During the service a steady stream of visitors slowly made their way through photo and video memorials in the church narthex and down the church’s center aisle to view the deceased bishop and offer condolences to family members.

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Knights, Ladies of Peter Claver elect new leaders

HOUSTON (CNS) — Gene A. Phillips Sr. of Tomball, Texas, and Geralyn C. Shelvin of Lafayette, La., are the new supreme knight and supreme lady of the Knights of Peter Claver and its ladies auxiliary, the Ladies of Peter Claver. The two were elected at the organization’s 91st national convention this summer in Houston. Phillips attends St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Houston, and Shelvin belongs to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Lafayette. Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago was reappointed national chaplain and spiritual adviser of the Knights of Peter Claver. Earlier this year, the Knights’ national board of directors selected H. Bronco Henderson Jr. as its executive director. A member of Resurrection Catholic Church in Montgomery, Ala., Henderson has a master’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and extensive management and information technology experience with the U.S. government, Fortune 500 companies and the military.

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Tradition of Mary’s house in Turkey stems from nun’s vision

EPHESUS, Turkey (CNS) — Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims began making pilgrimages to the House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus only after a bedridden, almost illiterate German nun had a vision of the house’s location. In an account attributed to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who never left Germany, the house could be found high on a rocky hill above Ephesus, partially hidden in a grove of trees. Pope Benedict XVI briefly went into the tiny house Nov. 29 before celebrating an outdoor Mass in honor of Mary. Blessed Emmerich’s description of her vision was published in “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary” by the poet Clemens Brentano after the nun’s death in 1824. While Brentano claimed to have acted as a secretary, simply writing down what Blessed Emmerich described, the Vatican said the style raised enough questions over authorship that it did not consider the book on Mary or two other Brentano accounts of Blessed Emmerich’s visions in the process that led to her beatification in 2004. However, the book led a French priest to Turkey in 1881 in a search for the house.

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Canadian priest wins seat in Canada’s House of Commons

OTTAWA (CNS) — Father Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest, won a seat in Canada’s House of Commons Nov. 27 with more than 60 percent of the vote. Father Gravel, who ran for the separatist Bloc Quebecois, will fill the seat for Repentigny, Quebec, which was vacated by Benoit Sauvageau, who died in a car crash in August. Father Gravel’s candidacy had created controversy when news reports said he had his bishop’s permission to run and also a green light from the Vatican. However, Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette, Quebec, issued a statement Oct. 31 contradicting those reports, saying “no green light had been given by the Vatican. The position of the church is clear: All priests must abstain from all militant engagement of politics,” he said. Bishop Lussier said that in exceptional circumstances priests can run for political office, but those conditions do not exist in Canada.


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