A Look at Today, This Weekend (12.8-10.06)

Friday Readings

First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

Saturday Readings

First Reading: Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 9:35–10:1, 6-8

Sunday Readings

First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

Diocesan Events, Appearances

   Friday — SAN ANGELO, Sacred Heart Cathedral – Feast of the Immaculate Conception  Mass at 12:00 noon
   Friday — SAN ANGELO, St. Margaret – Living Rosary at 7:00 p.m.
   Saturday — SANDERSON, St. James – 100th Anniversary Mass at 3:00 p.m.
   Sunday — SAN ANGELO, St. Joseph – Mass at 11:15 a.m.

News from the Catholic News Service

U.S.

Bill requiring notice about fetal pain in abortions fails in House

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. House of Representatives failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed Dec. 6 for passage of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act. The legislation, which would have required that women undergoing an abortion at least 20 weeks into their pregnancy be informed that an abortion causes pain to the fetus, had been backed by President George W. Bush. The U.S. Catholic bishops had not taken a stand on the bill. The vote in the House was 250-162 in favor of a move to suspend the rules and pass the legislation. A two-thirds majority was needed for such a procedural move. During floor debate on the bill, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., its chief sponsor, cited expert testimony showing that unborn children have “a developed system of pain perception and response” by 20 to 22 weeks into the pregnancy.

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Iraqi leader: Islam is religion of freedom with responsibility

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Islam rejects oppression and is a religion of freedom with responsibility for society’s common interest, said the head of the largest political coalition in the Iraqi government. “Oppression is not acceptable, but nor is chaos,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, president of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and leader of the United Iraqi Alliance. Islam teaches “peaceful cohabitation” with many religions and races, he said. Al-Hakim spoke through a translator Dec. 5 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington about freedom in the Shiite branch of Islam. He briefly answered questions from journalists who filled the center’s auditorium. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican nuncio to the United States, and Rabbi Ephraim Isaac, a professor of Semitic studies at Princeton University in New Jersey, attended the speech, sponsored by The Catholic University of America in Washington.

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Bishop Wenski urges more aggressive efforts for peace in Somalia

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, has urged the U.S. government to take a more aggressive diplomatic stance to ensure peace in war-torn Somalia. “The Somali people deserve international support in their search for a resolution to a worsening crisis that has already taken a devastating human toll in the last 15 years,” Bishop Wenski said in a Dec. 5 letter to Stephen J. Hadley, U.S. national security adviser. “But an aggressive military strategy will not resolve the current situation.” Rather, Bishop Wenski suggested the U.S. government “expand high-level diplomatic attention” to the Somali situation. “The United States should engage more closely with key actors — especially Somalia’s neighbors and other African governments — in order to help avert a full-scale conflict and work toward a viable long-term solution,” he said.

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Arson blamed for fire in Spokane cathedral

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Dec. 5 fire that did about $80,000 in damage to the vestibule of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Spokane has been determined to be the work of an arsonist. An automatic alarm activated at midmorning that day alerted firefighters, who found flames sweeping through the foyer and smoke billowing from the bell tower of the 103-year-old cathedral. The fire was brought under control within a half-hour. The noon Mass that day was canceled, but “by 6:30 the next morning we started having our regular Mass schedule,” said Father Steve Dublinski, cathedral rector and diocesan vicar general. The cathedral is the home parish of Bishop Williams S. Skylstad of Spokane, president of the U.S. bishops. The diocese, facing millions of dollars in claims from childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse, has been in bankruptcy proceedings for two years. “We’ve had no threats of any sort,” Father Dublinski told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 7 telephone interview, adding that police have not told him of any developments in the case.

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Former Massachusetts Catholic church sold, slated to become a mosque

INDIAN ORCHARD, Mass. (CNS) — It will still be a house of worship. That’s something that was important to Lokman Yanbul and Catholic parishioners regarding the former St. Matthew Church in Indian Orchard. The 142-year-old colonial church and the rectory next door were sold for $150,000 in October to the Turkish-American Islamic Society Inc., which plans to convert the church into a mosque. “We did this for the children,” said Yanbul, referring to why the local Turkish-American community felt the need to have its own mosque. “We want them to (be able to) continue their cultural and religious heritage.” Yanbul is married and has three children. He has lived in the United States for 29 years, immigrating to Brooklyn, N.Y., with his family as a teenager. He has been a resident of Ludlow, near Indian Orchard, for the last seven years. Aside from worshipping in the Turkish language, Yanbul said their community’s liturgy is culturally different from those offered in other area mosques. He said the Turkish-American society is currently made up of about 80 families.

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Daily Mass readings now available for download as podcasts

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Audio recordings of the daily Mass readings from the New American Bible are now available for download as podcasts through links on the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign Web site — http://www.usccb.org/ccc/. “The Internet is now a part of our lives and a medium which can help provide for spiritual enrichment,” said Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications. “This service complements the text versions of the readings already popular on the USCCB Web site and responds to the many requests for podcasts of the readings,” he added. Podcasts are recordings that are prepared with actual radio broadcast material for individual listening on computers or the iPod personal music storage system. The term podcasting is derived from the iPod name.

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WORLD

Church officials: South Africa’s proposal to combat AIDS shows hope

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — South Africa’s five-year proposal to combat HIV/AIDS marks a dramatic shift in the attitude of the government and a sign of hope in a country where more than 18 percent of adults are HIV positive, church officials said. “Although it is early … things look more hopeful now than they have for years,” said Dominican Sister Alison Munro, head of the AIDS office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The government’s plan, announced Dec. 1, calls for South Africa to cut in half by 2011 the annual number of new HIV infections and to treat 80 percent of HIV-positive South Africans and their families. The plan will be finalized by March, Sister Munro told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 4 telephone interview from Pretoria. Sister Munro, the representative of the bishops’ conference on the national AIDS council, said, “The deputy president is calling for collaboration, and we have been asked for our input in drawing up the plan.”

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‘Christmas rush’ takes on new meaning at Irish parish

RUSH, Ireland (CNS) — The Christmas rush has taken on a whole new meaning at St. Maur Parish, where tickets were issued to control crowd numbers at its annual Christmas Eve children’s Mass. Last year the children’s Mass in Rush, in northern Dublin County, was so crowded that one girl fainted from the heat. Many were concerned about elderly people and young children forced to stand in the aisles. The introduction of tickets for the Mass made national headlines at the end of November after some parishioners contacted RTE radio to complain that access to the Christmas Eve Mass was being limited to regular Mass attendees. They argued that Mass should always be open to all, whether they regularly attended church or only at Christmas and Easter. Under the ticket distribution scheme devised by the parish council, tickets were available only from the sacristy after Saturday vigil and Sunday morning Masses the first weekend in December.

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Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch warns protests could lead to violence

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church has warned that the escalating war of words between rival political factions could result in more violence and that negotiations were the only way to solve the political impasse. “If things keep rising in this manner, they will definitely lead to a clash that should be avoided,” said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch. “We believe a return to a calm and mature dialogue, regardless of how disappointing … remains safer than strikes and demonstrations and paralyzing the market and terrorizing the people.” The patriarch, who spoke at Mass Dec. 3 in Bkerke, the Lebanese headquarters of the Maronite church, expressed concern that Christians were divided between supporting the anti-Syrian, Western-backed government and supporting Syria and a new unity government.

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In Bolivia, Maryknoll center tries to model new vision of mission

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (CNS) — When Tania Avila Meneses decided to major in theology and missiology at Bolivia’s Catholic University in Cochabamba, the head of the school tried to talk her out of it. He said a woman could not be a theologian and that she would never be able to earn a living. Avila, however, was undeterred. She finished her degree and in 2003 became director of research and documentation at the city’s Maryknoll Mission Center. On her first day of work, she recalled, she was ushered into a room piled high with books and papers. She went to work cataloguing and organizing, and today she oversees a library of resources used by the center’s team and missionaries from around Latin America. Avila shares her enthusiasm for her faith and the church’s mission in the world with young adults and their parents, giving workshops around the country on Christian leadership. When she is not teaching, she works on research related to leadership transformation and intercultural communication. “This isn’t a job — it’s my life,” she said.

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Catholic leaders say new provinces make Mexican church more efficient

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Mexican Catholic officials have said that a recently approved plan to restructure the nation’s ecclesiastical provinces will give the church greater flexibility and efficiency. The changes, enacted by Pope Benedict XVI in late November, established four new Mexican ecclesiastical provinces, which serve as administrative districts for the church’s operations. The bishops in the cities designated as metropolitan sees, or capitals, of the new provinces have been elevated to archbishop, bringing the number of Mexican archbishops from 14 to 18. The new provinces are: Baja California, administered from the new Archdiocese of Tijuana; Bajio, administered from the new Archdiocese of Leon; Hidalgo, administered from the new Archdiocese of Tulancingo; and Chiapas, administered from the new Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Carlos Villa Roiz, information director for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, told Catholic News Service the restructuring was in response to Mexico’s geographic and demographic complexity.

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Environmental activism makes Peruvian priest target of threats

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — A Peruvian priest known for his defense of the land rights of peasant farmers in the northern highlands department of Cajamarca has been the target of threats and an elaborate surveillance operation. Father Marco Arana, a diocesan priest who works with the Education and Intervention Group for Sustainable Development, said the harassment is an apparent effort to intimidate environmental activists and to seek personal information that could be used to defame him and two priests with whom he lives. Father Arana described the surveillance operation at a press conference in Lima Dec. 6. In mid-November, he and a staff member of the environmental group chased and caught a young man who was videotaping them in the street. Another man had been caught Oct. 20, but police released him without gathering evidence.

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PEOPLE

Criterion staffer writes Christmas novella about family, faith

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — It began as a Christmas gift for his wife and parents. It evolved into a story about family, faith and the way people can make a difference in others’ lives. The result of this three-year labor of love is author John Shaughnessy’s first book. “Those three things (family, faith and the way we can make a difference in people’s lives) are the legacy of my parents and my extended family,” said Shaughnessy of one of the messages in his recently released book, “One More Gift to Give.” Shaughnessy, assistant editor of The Criterion, Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper, said his first work of fiction is a Christmas novella whose foundation was a story he once wrote while on staff at The Indianapolis Star. That short fiction piece was about a Santa Claus on a Christmas morning, a story that drew on the experiences of people who have played the role. Editor’s Note: Copies of “One More Gift to Give” may be ordered by calling: (888) 232-1492 or online at: http://www.onemoregifttogive.com. The cost is $9.99 plus shipping and handling.

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Couple plans to bring wrongful death suit over destruction of embryo

CHICAGO (CNS) — A Chicago-based pro-life organization has filed a brief in support of a couple’s petition to bring a wrongful death suit over the destruction of an embryo they wanted preserved in a frozen state for future implantation. Using the in vitro fertilization procedure, Alison Miller and Todd Parrish had one of Miller’s eggs fertilized with Parrish’s sperm at a Chicago-area fertility clinic, the Center for Human Reproduction, but the clinic did not keep the embryo frozen. In February 2005, the couple won leave from Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence to sue under Illinois’ wrongful death statute. That fact has drawn pro-life attention to the case, and the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which takes on all kinds of pro-life cases, filed a brief Nov. 17 in support of the couple.

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At Bolivian center, missionary adjusts to Latin American life

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (CNS) — Although she had served as a missionary in Ghana and Cameroon, Nigerian Sister Patricia Onyeocha found her new assignment in Chile overwhelming when she arrived there in August. “In my first three months in Chile, I wanted to go home. Everything was different. I think I was in shock,” she said. “I knew I was going to embrace the differences, but I didn’t speak the language.” Realizing the importance of language skills and an orientation to the culture, her congregation, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, sent her to the Maryknoll Mission Center in Cochabamba. Besides studying Spanish, she and students from countries including the United States, England, Ireland and South Korea attend workshops about the Latin American church, the region’s history and culture, and their own transition. “I was like a case study for the workshop” on culture shock, the 42-year-old missionary said.

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