First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1-2, 3, 10, 11-12, 13
Gospel: Matthew 18:12-14
Today’s Events, Appearances Around the Diocese
SAN ANGELO, St. Mary – Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass at 7:00 p.m.
CHRIST THE KING RETREAT CENTER, San Angelo — Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Today’s News from Catholic News Service
By Catholic News Service
Trade bill for Haiti hailed as trigger for turning around its economy
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A trade preference bill included in one of the last bits of legislation passed before the end of the 109th congressional session Dec. 9 is being hailed as having the potential to help start a turnaround in the bedraggled economy of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. In a late-night vote the Senate passed a bill that will give Haiti duty-free access to U.S. markets for products that include materials made from beyond the U.S. or the Caribbean. Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, said the break on tariffs “will go a long way toward helping Haiti in its present crisis.” Haiti had been left out of recent free trade pacts that opened up markets in the Western Hemisphere, Bishop Wenski explained in a Dec. 11 telephone interview with Catholic News Service. By allowing Haiti duty-free access to sell goods that are made with fabric manufactured outside the United States or the Caribbean, the bill is expected to immediately trigger the reopening of factories that have closed over the last 20 years, he said.
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Embryos and abortion: Pro-life agenda has a year of highs and lows
WASHINGTON (CNS) — It was a year when President George W. Bush used the first veto of his nearly six-year presidency to strike down legislation that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. But it was also a year when Missouri voters “lost a significant battle for the protection of human life,” as the state’s Catholic bishops put it, by approving a ballot question that would permit any stem-cell research allowed under federal law — to the point of allowing human cloning, its opponents said. It was a year when the South Dakota Legislature passed the nation’s first state law to ban nearly all abortions since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion virtually on demand. But voters in the state overturned the law later in the year. It was a year that offered hope that the partial-birth abortion procedure might one day be permanently banned in the United States, as the Supreme Court considered arguments against it. But it was also a year when abortifacient drugs such as the French abortion pill RU-486 and the Plan B “morning-after pill” gained wider usage, despite concerns about their risks to women’s health.
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Recovery efforts a constant challenge in year after major hurricanes
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The swath of destruction left by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 put dioceses from Texas to Alabama in the throes of ongoing recovery efforts this past year. The Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss., both hit hard by Hurricane Katrina at the end of August 2005, took major steps toward rebuilding, but full-scale restoration was not even remotely attainable as thousands of residents no longer had homes, churches and schools remained damaged, and community service programs were no longer operational. Along the coastal area of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala., residents of the small fishing village of Bayou La Batre spent the year trying to salvage what they could from destroyed homes and fishing livelihoods. Farther west, at the Texas-Louisiana border — slammed by Hurricane Rita in late September 2005 — rebuilding efforts were well under way except in the devastated area of the Diocese of Lake Charles, La., where repairs were only just beginning a year after the storm.
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Debate, rallies, rhetoric, but little lawmaking on immigration
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In some ways, 2006 ended as it began for the prospect of immigration reform legislation, with one highly unpopular bill that emphasized enforcement waiting on a shelf, and backers of a more comprehensive approach crossing their fingers that cooler heads would prevail in the new year. But between the December 2005 House passage of a strict enforcement bill and the end of the 109th congressional session in mid-December 2006, the topic of immigration was one of the liveliest — and at times most contentious — subjects getting attention around the nation. Millions of people participated in rallies and marches across the country in the spring, calling for the defeat of the House bill and its provisions that would have criminalized the act of being in the country illegally, allowed felony prosecution of anyone who offered assistance to illegal immigrants and penalized local and state governments not actively prosecuting illegal immigrants, which is currently only a federal responsibility.
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Catholics’ approval rating for bishops highest since scandal broke
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CNS) — The percentage of Catholics who think the U.S. bishops are doing a “good job” is the highest it has been since the clergy sex abuse scandal broke in early 2002, according to results of the Contemporary Catholic Trends poll conducted by LeMoyne College in Syracuse and Zogby International. In the fall 2006 Contemporary Catholic Trends survey, 71 percent of Catholics said they strongly agreed (29 percent) or somewhat agreed (42 percent) that “the U.S. bishops are doing a good job leading the Catholic Church.” That percentage had been 83 percent in the fall of 2001; the U.S. clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted in Boston in January 2002. Later that year the percentage dropped to 68 percent and was as low as 58 percent in 2004. In late 2005, 64 percent of Catholics said the bishops were doing a good job. The latest survey results, made public Nov. 30, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. Zogby conducted telephone interviews of 1,505 self-identified Catholics chosen nationwide.
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Daughters of Charity superior general makes quick stop in Arkansas
GOULD, Ark. (CNS) — The Daughters of Charity in Arkansas got a rare opportunity to meet their order’s superior general from Paris and give her a tour of their ministries in Little Rock and southeast Arkansas. Sister Evelyne Franc, the superior general, and Sister Margaret Barrett, a native of Scotland who is the order’s English-speaking representative in France, stopped in Arkansas for the first time during a 10-day visit in November to New York, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. The Daughters of Charity were founded in Paris in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. Today 22,000 sisters serve worldwide. The fast-paced, 18-hour visit included Mass and breakfast with the three sisters who work in Little Rock including Sister Joan Pytlik, director of Catholic Charities’ Hurricane Recovery Office. On their way to Gould to tour St. Elizabeth Health Center, Sister Evelyne and Sister Margaret visited St. Peter School in Pine Bluff, where Sister Denise Duplessis is a teacher, and drove by the state prison in Varner, where Sister Virginia Dunker is a tutor.
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Caritas Internationalis chief details agency’s efforts in Darfur
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Despite the efforts of Caritas Internationalis and other agencies in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan, a large percentage of the people who need aid do not get the aid, according to Caritas Internationalis president Denis Vienot. The Paris-born Vienot, 60, estimated that about 40 percent of the people who ought to get aid cannot get it. “It’s impossible to reach all the IDPs (internally displaced persons),” Vienot told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 8 telephone interview from New York, shortly after meeting with U.N. officials to discuss relief efforts. “Most of the (charitable) activities that are supported by the U.N. and Caritas … are congregated around the city. In many, many remote areas we are not able to be in touch with the people.” Vienot put the figure of those without access to aid at half of what he called the “African” population. The fighting in Darfur has pitted the Arab-led Sudanese government and Janjaweed militias suspected of receiving government assistance against black Africans, the indigenous residents of Darfur.
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Pope consecrates new church in fast-growing Rome suburb
ROME (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI consecrated a new church in a Rome suburb, where Catholics had been worshipping for years in an oversized garage. “Your parish should be a beacon in a largely secularized social context, radiating the light of faith,” the pope told parishioners Dec. 10 at the Church of Santa Maria Stella della Evangelizzazione. It was the pope’s third parish visit in Rome since his election in 2005 and the first time he had dedicated a new church. As part of the special liturgy, he anointed the marble altar with oil before celebrating Mass. The parish was founded in 1989 in one of Rome’s fastest-growing suburban areas. Today, it has the youngest population and the highest number of baptisms of any Rome parish. In his sermon, the pope underlined the fact that the church was dedicated to Mary as the “star of evangelization.” He said Mary, by accepting her role as the mother of Christ, teaches all Christians the true meaning of Advent as a meeting with the Lord.
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Pope denounces ‘false secularism’ that bans religious symbols, input
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI denounced what he called a “false secularism” that bans religious symbols from public places and excludes religious input on crucial moral questions. While the church does not seek to interfere with the freedom of every people to organize its political life, it cannot be mute in front of threats to human life and human dignity, the pope said. He made the remarks in a talk Dec. 9 to the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, which was meeting in Rome to discuss the theme of secularism in modern society. In his speech, the pope synthesized a theme that has become a cornerstone of his pontificate: that modern societies are drifting toward an ideological form of secularism that excludes God and moral law and relegates religion to the realm of the individual conscience. In this narrow vision, he said, the separation between church and state is understood as prohibiting the church from making its views known on moral issues.
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Pope asks political leaders to work for solution to Lebanese crisis
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI called on political leaders to urgently work for a peaceful and just solution to the situation in Lebanon. He said that while there appeared to be “glimmers of a solution to the crises that plague” the Middle East resurging “tensions and difficulties … make us fear new violence.” The pope expressed his “great worry” over the situation in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, during his Dec. 10 Angelus address to thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied in central Beirut Dec. 10, demanding an end to Lebanon’s Western-backed government and the formation of a national unity government. The pro-Syrian opposition was pressuring Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to give a bigger role to the Shiite militant Islamic group Hezbollah in a new government. Pope Benedict said he shared “the strong fears” expressed by the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, and the Maronite bishops concerning the rising political unrest that has split the country.
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Pope drops ‘patriarchal’ from Rome’s four major basilicas
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has dropped the name “patriarchal” from Rome’s four major basilicas, which will be called “papal basilicas” instead, a church official said. The decision affects all four basilicas traditionally called “patriarchal” — St. Peter, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major. Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls, announced the change at a Vatican press conference Dec. 11. He said the pope decided recently that the term “patriarchal basilica” was no longer appropriate. The cardinal said one reason for the change was potential confusion over why the basilicas were called patriarchal. Some might have thought it referred to the pope’s former title of “patriarch of the West,” he said. Traditionally, the major Rome basilicas were referred to as patriarchal because they represented the great patriarchal churches in early Christian history.
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Haitian bishops condemn increase in violence, kidnappings
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) — The Catholic bishops’ conference of Haiti condemned the increasing violence and kidnappings in the country. In an Advent pastoral letter, the bishops told those behind the increasingly organized kidnappings to “grasp at the faint glimmer of lucidity that remains in your conscience and turn away from this path of death.” They asked Haitian President Rene Preval’s government what it has done to decrease the violence. Many had hoped that the replacement of the transitional government by the legitimacy of an elected government would bring a respite in the crime that has plagued the capital, Port-au-Prince, since the ouster of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. A local human rights organization recorded 150 cases of kidnappings between January and November 2006 and said there had been as many as 728 homicides. The bishops said the kidnapping phenomenon is trivializing human life.
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Kidnappers release two Chaldean Catholic priests in Iraq
ROME (CNS) — The kidnapped rector of the Chaldean Catholic seminary and a kidnapped parish priest in Baghdad, Iraq, have been released. Father Samy Al Raiys, the rector, was released after being held for six days. Father Al Raiys had been abducted near his home at the Church of St. George the morning of Dec. 4. The Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad announced the priest’s Dec. 10 release on its Web site. The Rome-based AsiaNews agency reported Dec. 11 the reasons for the priest’s abduction and release were still unknown, but it said the rector’s health “was fine.” Father Doglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean Catholic parish priest of St. Elias Church in Baghdad, was released Nov. 28 after being held for nine days, AsiaNews reported Nov. 29. Meanwhile, Iraqi Redemptorist Father Bashar Warda said church officials paid a ransom of $170,000 for the priests’ release. It was unclear if the two were kidnapped by the same people.
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Catholics in Belarus stop hunger strike after getting OK for church
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Parishioners and their priest in Grodno, Belarus, stopped a hunger strike after local officials tentatively agreed to build a church following nearly 10 years of dispute over a building permit. Officials said the final decision to allow the construction depends on a surveyor’s report, said Father Antoni Gremza, spokesman for the Grodno Diocese. Father Gremza told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that the parish had been asked to pay for the survey, although the parish presented its own survey earlier this year. Bishop Aleksander Kaszkiewicz of Grodno received a signed “initial accord” Dec. 7 from the city’s deputy mayor to allow church construction. The district’s governor also signed a note supporting the building site. Sixteen women launched the protest with Father Aleksander Szemiet of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Grodno Dec. 1 in a heated wooden shelter that has been used for Mass since the parish was registered in 1997.
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Pope encourages scholarly reflections on Mary, awards special prize
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Encouraging scholarly reflections and publications on Mary, Pope Benedict XVI awarded a special prize to an African organization promoting the work of young scholars. During the Dec. 7 joint meeting of the pontifical academies — including those for science, social sciences and life — the prize was presented to the African Section for Mariological Congresses. Pope Benedict also awarded a pontifical medal to Father Fidel Stockl of the Philippines for his work, “Mary: Model and Mother of Consecrated Life. A Marian Synthesis of Theology of Consecrated Life Based on the Teachings of John Paul II.” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, told the joint meeting that studies on Mary are important for the church as a whole because in focusing attention on Mary the Catholic Church “increasingly discovers and understands its own identity as mother, disciple and teacher.”
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Milwaukee priest named rector of American seminary in Belgium
LEUVEN, Belgium (CNS) — Father Ross A. Shecterle, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, has been named the 16th rector of the American College, the U.S. national seminary of the Catholic University of Louvain. The American College, which is in Leuven, is a seminary and graduate residence owned and directed by the U.S. bishops. It provides the human, spiritual and pastoral formation for seminarians and priests in graduate studies, while they pursue their academic studies at the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain. Effective July 15, Father Shecterle will succeed Father Kevin A. Codd, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., who will be completing a six-year term as rector and who before that was vice rector for two years. Father Shecterle, who holds a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Loyola College in Baltimore, currently serves as director of counseling services at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
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Italian Cardinal Pappalardo, outspoken against Mafia, dies at age 88
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Italian Catholic Church’s strongest voice against the Mafia for 26 years, retired Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo of Palermo, died Dec. 10 at the age of 88. In a Dec. 11 telegram to the archdiocese, Pope Benedict XVI praised the cardinal as a “zealous and generous pastor” who tried to promote the “moral and cultural growth of Palermo’s society.” The pope sent a separate telegram of condolence the same day to Cardinal Pappalardo’s sister, Maria, and said her brother “knew how to generously and wisely serve the church” with “intense and patient pastoral work.” Named archbishop of Palermo in 1970, when the Mafia appeared to rule significant segments of life in Sicily, Cardinal Pappalardo often was called on to preside over the funerals of the innocent victims of Mafia violence. The funerals as well as interviews, pastoral letters and public appearances became occasions for the cardinal not only to condemn Mafia involvement, but also to urge Sicilians to reclaim control over their social, political and economic lives.
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Vatican officials say they found St. Paul’s tomb in Roman basilica
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After years of archaeological work, Vatican officials announced they have identified the tomb of St. Paul beneath the Rome basilica dedicated to the apostle. Authorities said Dec. 11 that a roughly cut marble sarcophagus was found beneath a historic inscription that reads: “Paul Apostle Martyr.” The tomb lies several feet below the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Only one end of the sarcophagus has been opened to view, and the rest is buried beneath building material. If Pope Benedict XVI gives permission, the experts may attempt to open the sarcophagus and find out whether the saint’s relics are inside. “We can be certain that this is the tomb of St. Paul,” Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica, told a Vatican press conference. “No one ever had any doubt that the basilica was built on the site of the tomb. Now we can see it, through a small window we have created,” the cardinal said.
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Vice postulator says St. Juan Diego a saint for all people, all times
EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (CNS) — For Father Jose Luis Guerrero, the 2002 canonization of St. Juan Diego is the “fulfillment of my life.” The vice postulator for Juan Diego’s sainthood cause, Father Guerrero said the late Pope John Paul II’s canonization of the Guadalupe visionary is “the most God could have ever given me in this life.” Father Guerrero, who studied Juan Diego’s life for 23 of his 45 years as a priest, spoke on the saint and Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 2-4 at St. Mary Parish in East Chicago. Following either a prayer service or a Mass, Father Guerrero, who resides in Mexico City at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, spoke about Juan Diego, the image of Our Lady on the tilma (cloak), and the impact of Mary on the spread of Catholicism throughout the world. Father Guerrero, who spent 1982-86 in Rome working for Juan Diego’s sainthood cause and putting it before the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Pope John Paul considered the first Indian saint “an example for all of us — the whole world.”
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Archbishop Myers ordains married former Episcopal priest
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (CNS) — Joining approximately 80 other married former Episcopal priests who have become Catholic priests in the country in the past 26 years, Father Alvin Kimel Jr. was ordained Dec. 3 to serve the Archdiocese of Newark. Father Kimel was the first former Episcopalian to be ordained by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who was named in 2005 as ecclesiastical delegate for the pastoral provision that allows married men to become Catholic priests in the U.S. Latin Church in certain circumstances. Among those witnessing the ordination at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange were Father Kimel’s wife, Christine; his mother, Ninon; and several other members of his family, which includes three sons and a daughter — all adults. An Episcopal clergyman for 25 years, Father Kimel, 54, said his decision to leave the Episcopal Church, which he entered as an adult, was not an easy one.
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Chilean cardinal prays God will disregard Pinochet’s wrongdoings
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) — A Chilean cardinal prayed that God would “not consider the wrongdoings” of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean general and dictator who died Dec. 10 at age 91. “May the Lord value everything good he did in life and (may he) rest in peace,” Santiago Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa said at a Dec. 11 Mass at the Santiago Military Academy, where Pinochet was to be cremated Dec. 12. The death of Pinochet, a Catholic who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, brought mixed reactions in Chile, where for years he had been a controversial figure. While supporters cried, others toasted his death with champagne. Chilean human rights organizations say that under Pinochet’s regime at least 2,100 people were executed for political reasons, more than 1,100 prisoners disappeared, and an estimated 10,000 prisoners were tortured in the country’s clandestine jails.