A Look at Today: 12.04.06

Today’s Readings
First Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 8-9 or 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Matthew 8:5-11
Today’s Events, Appearances Around the Diocese
No events, appearances planned

Today’s Headlines from the Catholics News Service

Hunger: By any other name, it still gnaws at Americans’ well-being

WASHINGTON (CNS) — It may be irony — or it may serve a more useful purpose — that just before the feasting season that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day, reports are issued that detail the prevalence of hunger in the United States and around the world. “Hunger” is an easy, six-letter word. But this year in its annual report on Americans’ access to food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to use the term “very low food security,” which brought scoffs from some and rebuke from others. The Rev. David Beckmann, head of the Christian citizens’ anti-hunger lobby Bread for the World, told Catholic News Service he got no flak for his comments about it in The Washington Post Nov. 16. He was quoted as saying that “the proposal to remove the word ‘hunger’ from our official reports is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families.” The USDA study, released Nov. 15, showed that in 2005 35 million people — about 12 percent of all Americans — could not put food on the table at least part of the year, and that 11 million reported going hungry on occasion.

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Bishops of Georgia, Carolinas press Congress on immigration reform

ATLANTA (CNS) — Five bishops from the three states that make up the U.S. Catholic Church’s Atlanta province have written to members of Congress asking them to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. The letter dated Nov. 20 said immigration is “a moral concern impacting the human dignity and human rights of every person.” The bishops said they are “particularly distressed by the recent tragedies of our brothers and sisters who are faced with the escalation in deportation enforcement in our states. The drumbeat of dehumanizing rhetoric constantly threatens the peace and well-being of our communities, causing an increase in suffering and fear among some of the most vulnerable ones.” Signing the letter were Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Bishops Robert J. Baker of Charleston, S.C., J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., and Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, N.C.

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Bishop Loverde’s new pastoral focuses on ‘evil of pornography’

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — The “evil of pornography” has spread like a plague throughout the culture thanks to mainstream entertainment and threatens the fabric of society far beyond the boundaries of church and school, said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde in a new pastoral letter. “This plague stalks the souls of men, women and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us,” the bishop said. “It obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated. “Today, perhaps more so than at any time previously, man finds his gift of sight and therefore his vision of God distorted by the evil of pornography,” he said. Bishop Loverde’s pastoral letter is titled “Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God.” The full text can be found online at http://www.arlingtondiocese.org.

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Court to hear case over federal backing of faith-based group funding

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Supreme Court Dec. 1 agreed to review a case challenging the Bush administration’s support for federal funding for faith-based institutions. A group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit against assorted federal agencies saying they violated the constitutional prohibition on state-supported religions by singling out faith-based organizations as “particularly worthy of federal funding because of their religious orientation.” The organization also argued that “the belief in God is extolled as distinguishing the claimed effectiveness of faith-based social services.” The government said the lawsuit should be dismissed because the foundation had no legal standing from which to challenge the way the government operates. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the organization’s members could sue, as taxpayers with an interest in programs funded by Congress. The Freedom from Religion Foundation describes itself as “an educational group working for the separation of church and state.” In its Web site section “what does the foundation do,” the first item on the list is “files lawsuits.”

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Court lets ruling stand barring vouchers in Maine religious 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. 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. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court in April ruled the restrictions are constitutionally valid because they stem from the Legislature’s desire to comply with the Constitution, not from religious hostility.

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Catholic television programming steps up

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the weeks and months ahead, Catholics looking for quality television programming that suits their moral and social sensibilities need look no further than programming supplied by the Catholic Communication Campaign. “Our motto is ‘How the Good News Gets Around,'” said CCC executive producer Ellen McCloskey. The first CCC project is “Picturing Mary,” which is being offered to public TV stations nationwide in December. The hourlong documentary looks at how artists depicted Mary from centuries ago to more modern times. “It’s a very good companion to ‘The Face: Jesus in Art,’ which continues to air on public TV stations at Christmas and Easter,” McCloskey said. In January, those same public TV stations will be offered “Lives for Sale,” produced by Maryknoll Productions. The documentary looks at the immigration issue but pays close attention to human trafficking. In February, another public-TV documentary that got partial funding from the CCC will air on selected PBS stations in time for Black History Month. “Sisters of Selma” examines the role nuns played in the civil rights struggles of 40 and more years ago in Selma, Ala.

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It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas greetings again

WASHINGTON (CNS) — “Merry Christmas” greetings have recently fallen into the category of gifts people don’t know what to do with as they debate if the standard expression should be used, defended, returned or just steered clear of completely. Retailers shy away from it for fear of offending non-Christians. But many see the absence of the familiar greeting as a symbol of a society that refuses to acknowledge the religious nature of Christmas in favor of a politically correct route. They want to be able to say “Merry Christmas” and hear it during the month of December and they’re determined to make it happen. Their efforts seem to be paying off. This year some retail chains have announced their willingness to call the holiday Christmas instead of hiding it behind a winter holiday euphemism.

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Christmas traditions get mixed reviews

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is teaming up with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal for Christmas Watch 2006, a campaign to point out the schools, home associations, towns and municipalities that do not allow traditional Christmas decorations or celebrations. The campaign singles out these groups as “Christmas killjoys.” Recent additions to the list include the cancellation of a Santa breakfast at a public school in Warwick, N.Y., after a complaint the event promoted religious discrimination. Also making the list were the University of Colorado for banning university-sponsored Christmas parties and several city and town officials for not allowing public Nativity scenes. Liberty Counsel, a religious rights law firm, has similarly put together a Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign by publishing a “naughty and nice” checklist.

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Pope encourages Turkish Christians to live in harmony with Muslims

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNS) — Closing out a four-day pilgrimage of dialogue in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass with the tiny Christian community in Istanbul and encouraged it to live in harmony with the Muslim majority. “Brothers and sisters, your communities walk the humble path of daily companionship with those who do not share our faith, yet profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God,” the pope said in a sermon. “You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom, in order to reveal the one whom she cannot hide, Christ Jesus,” he said. About 300 people packed into the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit for the Dec. 1 Mass. Several hundred more stood in the cathedral’s inner plaza and in the courtyard of a nearby church, following the liturgy on a TV screen. Turkey has only 32,000 Catholics in a population of 72 million.

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Pope Benedict, master of words, shows mastery of gestures in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNS) — During his four-day trip to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI, known for his precise and incisive words, showed he was also a master of the spontaneous gesture. While his scholarly words in a September lecture in Germany offended millions of Muslims, his prayer in an Istanbul mosque surprised and delighted many of them. For papal watchers the contrast between the tones of his reference to Muslims and violence in Germany and his silent prayer in the Blue Mosque was not the only surprise. Pope Benedict was supposed to be the pope of strong words in contrast to Pope John Paul II, the pope of strong gestures. The silent prayer facing Mecca, the site of Islam’s holiest shrine, also seemed to be in contrast to the predictions of pundits who assured the world that Pope Benedict would be more challenging than conciliatory with the world’s Muslim believers. Retired French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a close aide to Pope John Paul and a member of Pope Benedict’s entourage in Turkey, told reporters Dec. 1: “I would compare the visit of the pope to the mosque to the gesture of John Paul II at the Western Wall,” the Jewish holy site in Jerusalem where Pope John Paul in 2000 deposited a prayer asking God’s forgiveness for the ways Christians had mistreated the Jews.

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Cardinal: Crime increase is effect of Mexican transition to democracy

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — An increase in crime is one of the side effects of Mexico’s transition to democracy, said Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara. “Politicians are only looking for votes and avoid alienating voters at all cost,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service in Mexico City in late November. “For that reason, we have a weak and impotent democracy in which nobody wants to enforce the law with a hard hand. Politicians don’t want to be seen as dictators. “This is the price we pay for the transition to democracy,” the cardinal said. He said there were groups in Mexico for which “life has no value.” “These are the drug cartels that kill each other in turf wars,” he said. “There are guerrillas, terrorists and even protesters who are willing to kill to further their agendas. This is the result of the total collapse of the Mexican criminal justice system. There is an atmosphere of lawlessness in Mexico that allows people to commit crimes with impunity, and this has led to an alarming increase in crime, especially in the last 10 to 15 years.”

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Police officer says faith helped him though Sept. 11 ordeal

SPARTA, N.J. (CNS) — Recalling his fight for life underneath the rubble of the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, New York Port Authority police officer Will Jimeno said he called on God in his darkest, most desperate hour of need. “I started saying a prayer,” Jimeno told more than 100 people recently at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta. “I was at peace with God. I thanked him for a good life and for my wife and my family.” The Colombian-born Jimeno spoke on “Blessings From Tragedies”; his talk was sponsored by the Paterson diocesan Catholic Charities’ Partnership for Social Services Family Center in Franklin. The retired police officer urged people everywhere to learn from the lessons of the Sept. 11 tragedy and “make the world a better place.” Jimeno’s Nov. 10 talk came a month before the Dec. 12 release of the DVD of the movie “World Trade Center,” directed by Oliver Stone. The film — critically lauded for its emotional bite and reverence for the Sept. 11 terror attacks — details the ordeal and eventual rescue of Jimeno and his commanding officer, Sgt. John McLoughlin, who were trapped for 12 hours in a small cave of space formed by the rubble.

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New auxiliary bishop, youngest in U.S., ordained for Detroit

DETROIT (CNS) — Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Detroit professed “praise and thanks to almighty God” in his first remarks as a newly ordained bishop Nov. 29. “All gifts I have received in life, including the gift of this day, are contained in the primordial gift of Christ to the world,” he said at the end of the ordination Mass. Bishop Flores is the 25th active Hispanic bishop in the country, the first Hispanic bishop to be ordained for any Michigan diocese and, at 45, is the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States. After the ceremony, the new bishop’s mother, Lydia Flores, expressed her pride in and happiness for her son. “But, at the same time, I have mixed emotions, because I know that when I leave here tomorrow (for her home in Corpus Christi, Texas), he will be staying behind,” she said. More importantly, however, her son will be serving God, and “he can’t go wrong serving God,” she said.

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After their own preview, U.S. bishops praise ‘The Nativity Story’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — These days, it seems, everyone’s a critic. Rarely do critics agree — and favorably so. But two U.S. Catholic bishops joined with their Vatican brethren in their praise of the new movie “The Nativity Story.” About 30 U.S. bishops saw a preview screening Nov. 14 in Baltimore in conjunction with their fall general meeting; the Vatican prelates took in a Nov. 26 screening at the Paul IV audience hall at the Vatican. The film opened Dec. 1. “Oh, it was a fantastic experience,” said Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz of Buffalo, N.Y., who saw the movie through the lens of his Mariology studies. “I saw the beauty of the relationship between Mary and Christ and the mystery of salvation, which is one of the elements emphasized by the Second Vatican Council (Dogmatic) Constitution on the Church,” Bishop Grosz told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., also gave “The Nativity Story” an ecclesial thumbs up. “I was very much impressed by the movie,” he told CNS in a telephone interview. “I thought the film (was) realistic and reflective. It was also graphic in its representation of the terror” of Roman rule among the Israelites.


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