First Reading: Isaiah 40:25-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10
Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30
Today’s Events, Appearances in the Diocese
SAN ANGELO, First United Methodist Church, Advent Prayer Service, Noon;
SAN ANGELO, Diocesan Pastoral Center – Presbyteral Council Meeting, 2-5 p.m., Christ the King Retreat Center, Christmas Party for Priests, Sisters, Deacons and Wives at 5:30 p.m.
13-14 — International Clergy Orientation Program (at CKRC Retreat Center)
Today’s Headlines from the Catholic News Service
Oregon judge announces mediated settlement to pay sex abuse claims
EUGENE, Ore. (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Portland will not need to sell off parish or school property under terms of a settlement between the archdiocese and almost 150 sex abuse claimants. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan stood with church officials and victims’ lawyers Dec. 11 in a federal courthouse in Eugene to say the claims were settled after more than three months of arduous private negotiations. Among the resolved cases is the $135 million suit that in 2004 pushed the archdiocese to become the first Catholic archdiocese or diocese in the nation to file for bankruptcy. About 20 claims remain, but Hogan said he expected those to be settled in the coming days. “We do not anticipate any parish property or school property to be liquidated or contributed or collateralized to fund the joint plan,” said the judge, calling that result “the good news” of the day. Hogan gave no cumulative dollar amount for the settlement. At one point last year, abuse suits against the Archdiocese of Portland added up to more than $500 million. Agreements reached with the archdiocese’s insurers will bring more than $50 million to the settlement. Nonparish and nonschool real estate is likely to be sold to help pay the rest, Hogan said.
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Ohio board says nonprofit Catholic foundation must pay property taxes
CINCINNATI (CNS) — A Cincinnati-based foundation created by Catholic motivational speaker and author Matthew Kelly will have to pay real-estate taxes on its commercial property and office building, according to a ruling by the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals in Columbus. Representatives for the Matthew Kelly Foundation, which organizes and supports his speaking engagements and tours and distributes or sells his books, had argued in 2005 that the foundation should be exempt from paying property taxes because it operated exclusively for charitable purposes. The foundation was established as a 501(c)(3), or nonprofit, organization. “We were disappointed with the ruling,” Kelly told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. “We are exploring our appeal options.” In recent years, Kelly’s foundation has had a program, called Schools Project, to give the Australian writer’s books to students attending his seminars. He spoke to an estimated 60,000 students in 2006. The cost is underwritten by a percentage of Kelly’s book sale profits and donations taken at his speaking engagements. The foundation buys all its books, CDs and merchandise from Beacon Publishing, Kelly’s for-profit sole proprietorship that manages the licensing for all of Kelly’s merchandise. In October, the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals notified the foundation that it supported the Ohio tax commissioner’s 2005 ruling that denied Kelly’s application for exemption of “real property from taxation for tax year 2004, and remission of taxes, penalties and interest for 2002 and 2003.”
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Mercy nun charged with sexually abusing two boys in ’60s
MILWAUKEE (CNS) — A 78-year-old Mercy nun was charged Dec. 5 with two felony counts of indecent behavior with a child for having repeated sexual contact with two boys in the 1960s when she was principal at St. Patrick Parish School on Milwaukee’s south side. Mercy Sister Norma Giannini was St. Patrick’s principal from 1964 to 1969. She left Milwaukee for Illinois in 1969 and she continued to work in schools there until the abuse allegations surfaced in 1992. Each felony count could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Milwaukee archdiocesan records indicate that in 1996, Sister Norma was questioned by a panel of the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Services Office. According to records, she reportedly told the panel, “I thought I was in love with both of them.” She also stated that she never molested anyone after leaving Milwaukee. In a statement issued by the order, the Sisters of Mercy stated: “It is important that the people we serve know that as soon as the Sisters of Mercy learned of this situation in the 1990s, Sister Norma was immediately removed from a position of direct contact with minors. In the years that followed Sister received extensive counseling at a St. Louis treatment facility.”
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Advent prayers offered for abuse victims, peace in Iraq
WASHINGTON (CNS) — This Advent Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., asked the parishes in his diocese to keep the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families in their prayers and at Masses. Elsewhere, Bishop Joseph L. Charron of Des Moines, Iowa, joined with other religious leaders to hold three ecumenical prayer services in Advent to pray for peace in Iraq. “This season of hope and expectation is an ideal time for us to intensify our prayers together for the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse and victims of sexual abuse in general,” Bishop Saltarelli said in his statement. “We also pray for parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, extended family and friends of victims who have carried a variety of painful crosses that are connected to their loved one’s experience of sexual abuse,” he said. At a recent press conference at the diocesan pastoral center in Des Moines, Bishop Charron and other religious leaders announced a series of ecumenical prayer services for Tuesdays in December at the center. Each 15- to 30-minute service was planned for noon, so that people working or visiting the downtown area could attend during the lunch hour. “Personally I have really struggled with how to deal with this issue with my faithful,” Bishop Charron said. “It is frustrating to remember that, before the war, the pope and our bishops’ conference repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about making war in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasions and occupation. These concerns have clearly come true.”
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Papal peace message stresses human rights even when terrorism strikes
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Even when faced with a potential terrorist attack or in the midst of war, basic human rights must be respected, Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for World Peace Day 2007. “Peace is based on respect for the rights of all,” the pope said in his message for the Jan. 1 commemoration. The message, “The Human Person, the Heart of Peace,” was sent to heads of state around the world and was released Dec. 12 at a Vatican press conference. The pope’s message included prayers for peace in war-torn countries, such as Lebanon; special concern for child victims of violence; a condemnation of continued nuclear proliferation; and concern over the potential for violent conflicts over energy resources. The basis of any hope for peace, the pope said, is a recognition that each human person is created in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, endowed with a dignity and with rights that cannot be usurped by anyone.
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Vatican says world must never forget Holocaust
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As the Iranian government hosted a conference questioning the truth of Holocaust, the Vatican said the Nazis’ Jewish victims must be remembered and the world must make a commitment to ensuring such a tragedy could never happen again. The Dec. 11-12 Iranian conference, “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision,” was called by the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said the Holocaust was a myth. Speakers at the conference in Tehran included David Duke, former U.S. leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and several authors who have been sued or arrested in Europe for denying the Nazis’ mass murder of European Jews. The Vatican issued a statement Dec. 12 saying, “The past century witnessed the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people with the consequent killing of millions of Jews of all ages and social categories simply for the fact that they belonged to that people. “The Shoah (the Holocaust) was an enormous tragedy, before which one cannot remain indifferent,” the Vatican statement said.
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Catholic aid agency urges jewelers to adopt clean gold policies
LONDON (CNS) — A Catholic aid agency urged the jewelry industry in Great Britain to adopt clean gold policies after a survey revealed many Christmas shoppers want ethically produced gold. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, or CAFOD, the development agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, commissioned a YouGov survey which revealed Dec. 8 that about one in every three shoppers would choose to buy gold from stores concerned about how their gold was produced. “Companies need to show they are serious about change,” said Sonya Maldar, CAFOD’s extractives analyst, in a Dec. 8 statement. “We hope that the UK’s leading jewelry retailers will … work actively with their suppliers and mining companies to set new and robust standards for the gold industry. Growing understanding of these issues means it’s in their best interests to take action now.” CAFOD also encouraged jewelers to urge suppliers to respect human rights by adopting the Golden Rules of the No Dirty Gold initiative from the Oxfam aid agency and the Earthworks environmental advocacy group. The Signet Group, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels have signed on to the initiative. The survey found that more than one in four consumers would buy “Fairtrade” gold even if it meant paying higher prices. Fairtrade, which CAFOD and other Catholic agencies support, is a program promoting the fair trade of Third World goods such as gold.
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English priest replaces Nativity scene with replica of Israeli wall
LONDON (CNS) — A priest from the Diocese of East Anglia, England, has decided to replace a live Nativity scene for a replica of the wall encircling Bethlehem in protest of the Israeli separation barrier. Each year hundreds of people come to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in St. Ives in Cambridgeshire to see the live sheep, a cow and donkey, and actors who occasionally have brought their newborn babies to play the role of Jesus for the Nativity scene. But this year visitors will be staring up at an imposing gray replica of a portion of the wall built by the Israeli government in 2002 to keep Palestinian suicide bombers at bay. Father Paul Maddison, the parish priest, made the decision to cancel because he wants to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people suffering as a result of the wall. In place of the manger crib will be a grim assemblage, 24 feet high and 7 feet wide, of painted polystyrene stuffed with floor insulation materials. The wall will be flanked by protest banners and “stark photographs” to show how “desperate and ugly the situation is in the Holy Land,” said a Dec. 11 statement by the priest. The aim is to make the replica almost identical in appearance to the nearly 27-foot-high section of wall encompassing Bethlehem. The wall will eventually will become a 400-mile-long barrier of concrete slabs and barbed wire fences separating Israel from the West Bank. The wall was to be built Dec. 15 in the church where the crib would have been.
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Belarusian bishop says government is infringing on religious freedom
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — The head of the Belarusian bishops’ conference said government officials in the former Soviet republic are infringing on religious freedom after refusing to renew the visas of a dozen Polish priests and nuns. “Outside interference in the competence of a diocesan bishop is a violation of the law and an infringement on church freedom,” said Bishop Aleksander Kaszkiewicz of Grodno in a Dec. 10 pastoral letter. Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, published the letter Dec. 11. Bishop Kaszkiewicz said Belarusian law allows a bishop “free decision in inviting citizens of foreign countries to work” in Belarus. However, a government document Dec. 2 upheld an earlier decision in September not to renew the visas of seven Catholic priests and five nuns from neighboring Poland. Bishop Kaszkiewicz said Catholics from Grodno’s 117 parishes would recite daily prayers in protest of the ruling Dec. 11-17 in the city’s cathedral. Catholics also would be asked to sign a book in protest of the ruling. Polish priests make up about half of the 354 Catholic clergy working in Belarus, parts of which were Polish-ruled before World War II.
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Two leading church figures after Vatican II among 2006 deaths
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two of the church’s leading public figures during and after the Second Vatican Council, Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands and American Loretto Sister Mary Luke Tobin, were among prominent Catholics who died in 2006. Cardinal Willebrands, who died Aug. 2 at the age of 96, was a driving force behind improved Catholic relations with other Christians and with Jews. He was named the first secretary of newly created Vatican office for Christian unity in 1960, two years before Vatican II. As head of the office from 1969 to 1989, he was the central figure in the growth of Catholic ecumenism in some of its most formative years. Sister Tobin, who died Aug. 24 at the age of 98, was one of only 15 women to attend Vatican II as an auditor and was on the commission that drafted the council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. An ardent and articulate advocate of ecumenism, church renewal, peace, social justice and women’s rights, she was a pioneer in the postconciliar renewal of women’s religious orders. Among leading non-Catholic religious figures who died in 2006 were Jaroslav Pelikan, a scholar, and the Rev. William Sloan Coffin Jr., a social activist.
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Former bishop who resigned over Vietnam War, other issues dead at 88
KEYSER, W.Va. (CNS) — Bernard M. Kelly, who resigned as a bishop and priest in 1971 over what he saw as the U.S. Catholic hierarchy’s failure to adapt to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and to speak out strongly against the Vietnam War, died Dec. 5 in Keyser at the age of 88. Father Ivan M. Lebar of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis celebrated a funeral Mass for Kelly Dec. 9 at the Church of the Assumption in Keyser. He was cremated and inurned at St. Thomas Columbarium in Keyser. At the time of his resignation June 14, 1971, Kelly had been an auxiliary bishop in Providence, R.I., for seven years. He later married and worked as an attorney in Rhode Island and West Virginia. Ellen M. O’Hara, chancellor of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said Dec. 12 that Kelly was reconciled with the Catholic Church “10 to 12 years ago” and “died a faithful member” of the Church of the Assumption. As a bishop, Kelly also was active in the fledgling ecumenical movement, and was one of the first Catholic bishops to speak before a Protestant congregation when he preached at the Beneficent Congregational Church in Providence in 1965. Announcing his resignation, Kelly said his fellow bishops were “determined to preserve as far as possible the structures and forms of (the Council of) Trent” and “more concerned about Communion in the hand than they are about the war in Vietnam.” “I see no hope for any future change in their attitude,” he said in a letter to priests of the Providence Diocese. “Since discussion is impossible, I feel obligated in conscience to protest in the only way possible, by my resignation.”
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Parish rectory becomes family-friendly as deacon and family move in
CORNING, N.Y. (CNS) — It’s a safe bet that in the long history of the rectory at St. Mary Church in Corning, no previous occupants felt compelled to install a swing set. A large set now occupies the front lawn. Visitors should expect to be greeted at the front door by at least a couple of inquisitive youngsters. Toys, games and children’s books fill several of the stately building’s rooms. The rectory became kid-friendly over the summer when Deacon Dean Condon, 44, took over as pastoral administrator for All Saints Parish. He arrived in town with a sizable entourage: wife Janet, 42, and their six children: Joshua, 14; David, 13; Paul, 10; Timothy, 7; Rachel, 5; and Daniel, 10 months. All Saints consists of three worship sites: St. Mary, St. Vincent de Paul and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The parish offices are housed at St. Vincent. The two priests serving All Saints, Fathers Phil Billotte and Mark Miller, were living at St. Mary, but they were sympathetic to the family’s need for a home to accommodate them all. So they agreed to relocate to Immaculate Heart of Mary. In July the Condons moved into the rectory at St. Mary. Deacon Condon, who spent 11 years as pastoral administrator at Guardian Angels Parish in Henrietta, acknowledged that some parishioners have been slow to accept the idea of anybody other than priests occupying that space. Yet he said overall sentiment has been very positive, as evidenced by the 30 to 40 people who helped the family move in.
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Vatican official stresses important role of Catholics in media
ROME (CNS) — The Vatican’s top communications official emphasized the important role Catholics should play in the media in order to “bring about a new culture of dialogue and peace.” U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, made the comments Dec. 7 at a ceremony honoring Robert Molhant, past secretary-general of Signis, the World Catholic Association for Communication. The Salesian Pontifical University awarded an honorary doctoral degree to Molhant, a Belgian who has been active in Catholic media organizations over the last 25 years. Molhant has been part of the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual, known by its French initials as OCIC, since 1977 and served as its secretary-general. He was instrumental in having an OCIC jury delegation at various international film festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Locarno, and Oberhausen. In 1985 Molhant was named a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and had a hand in preparing the council’s documents “Ethics in Advertising,” “Ethnics in Internet,” and “The Church and the Internet.”