A Look at Today (12.18.06)

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Jeremiah 23:5-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 72:1, 12-13, 18-19
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

Today’s Events, Appearances

   EDEN — Detention Center, Mass, 1:30 p.m.
   SAN ANGELO — St. Joseph, Advent Night of Prayer, 7 p.m., for Priests, Sisters, Deacons and their wives, of the Abilene Deanery

   At CHRIST THE KING RETREAT CENTER — Heart of Mercy Prayer Group.

Today’s News From Catholic News Service

U.S. church faced more financial troubles in 2006

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Last April Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston called his archdiocese’s financial condition “dire.” In October the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, filed for bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. In November the nation’s bishops, concerned about rising costs in their own dioceses, voted to cut their diocesan assessments for their national conference by 16 percent. In December the Los Angeles Archdiocese reached a $60 million settlement with 45 clergy sex abuse victims and a federal judge in Oregon mediated a settlement between the Portland Archdiocese and 150 victims that was expected to be well in excess of $50 million. For the U.S. Catholic Church 2006 has been, at best, a mixed year financially. The stock market regained strength during the year, with most indexes up 11 to 15 percent since December 2005. But poor market performance in previous years, coupled with burgeoning health insurance costs and other expenses, had caused many dioceses to cut into their investment reserves even as they trimmed back diocesan staff, parish subsidies and other expenses.

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Do the children go or stay behind? Deportation orders split families

LIBERAL, Kan. (CNS) — Thirteen-year-old Jonatan Delgado, a native of Los Angeles, might soon find himself learning Spanish to survive in a country he has never even visited. From his mother’s mobile home in the western Kansas community of Liberal, a few miles from the Oklahoma border, Jonatan explained that next year he wants to play soccer, if he can maintain his high grades and balance it with his job in the school library and his activities at St. Anthony Church. His mother, Veronica Delgado, wiped away tears as she listened. It’s likely that by early 2007 the life that her boys — Jonatan, Saul, 12, Alexis, 8, and Alan, 5 — have known since birth will come to a crashing end. Veronica and her husband, Saul, are among hundreds of Kansas immigrants whose encounters with unscrupulous attorneys may mean an end to the lives they’ve built in the United States. The attorneys convinced the Delgados and others that to stay in the country they could apply for political asylum — they didn’t qualify for it but they didn’t know that. The lawyers charged hundreds of dollars to file the paperwork. Now Saul Delgado has been deported to Mexico and his wife could be next.

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Baltimore cardinal condemns ‘revisionist history’ of Holocaust

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore condemned “revisionist history” of the Holocaust, the systematic efforts by Nazis during World War II to do away with Jews also known as the Shoah, a Hebrew word meaning devastation or catastrophe. The cardinal took particular exception to a Dec. 11-12 conference in Iran during which speakers “sought to diminish the scope of the Holocaust.” 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. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past denied the Holocaust ever happened. “The Catholic bishops of the United States stand in solidarity with the universal church in condemning ‘revisionist history’ that seeks to minimize the horror of the Holocaust,” said the cardinal in a Dec. 14 statement, “We Must Remember the Shoah.” He is episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations for the U.S. bishops. The statement was released in Washington.

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Federal report sees shift in volunteerism as seniors, couples sign up

WASHINGTON (CNS) — They are young and old, recent college graduates and retirees, married and single. They serve for as little as a few days or for more than two years. They are in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and in 108 foreign countries. Most, but not all of them, are Catholics. They are the more than 10,000 volunteers who work full time — even if only for a short period — with the 200 organizations belonging to the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service, a clearinghouse for Catholic-related volunteer opportunities based in the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Md. “And that doesn’t include all the people volunteering locally a few days a week, or what parishes or dioceses are doing,” noted Jim Lindsay, executive director. The network’s 2005-2006 membership survey, released in November, confirms a trend toward increased volunteerism in the United States that was also found in a recent study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that runs the AmeriCorps program.

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Speaker says New Jersey close to abolishing death penalty

KENDALL PARK, N.J. (CNS) — All eyes are on New Jersey as it may become the first state “in the modern era” to abolish the death penalty, according to Celeste Fitzgerald, founder and director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Fitzgerald spoke to attendees at a recent program about the death penalty sponsored in Kendall Park by the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities. Last January, New Jersey became the first jurisdiction to enact a moratorium on executions through legislation and Gov. Richard Cody signed it into law. The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission was established to review the fairness of the death penalty and the accuracy with which it is imposed. The moratorium is in place until January 2007. The commission, which held five public hearings in July and October, was to report its findings to Gov. Jon S. Corzine Nov. 15, but the report was postponed. Fitzgerald said she hopes it will be released before the moratorium expires.

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Relations with Islam, Pope Benedict named top story, person of 2006

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic editors voted Islam’s relations with church and society as the top religious news story of 2006, followed closely by continuing debate over immigration reform in second place and the Iraq War in third. Pope Benedict XVI, in the first full year of his papacy, was far and away the editors’ choice as newsmaker of the year. President George W. Bush was second and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., was third. The poll was the 45th annual survey of Catholic News Service client newspapers. This year’s ballots were distributed Dec. 6 and the deadline for returns was Dec. 15. When the editors’ poll was first conducted in 1962, the overwhelming choice for top story was the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Last year, editors chose the death of Pope John Paul II as the top religious story of the year and Pope John Paul as the top newsmaker.

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WORLD

Convert shame over sex abuse to repentance, papal preacher advises

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church’s tears of shame for the fact that some of its priests sexually abused children should be transformed into tears of repentance, the preacher of the papal household told Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials. Offering an Advent meditation Dec. 15, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said the church “has paid a very high price” for the sins of some of its priests, is making reparations to the victims, and is adopting “ironclad rules to ensure the abuses are not repeated.” The preacher said, “The moment has come to do the most important thing: cry before God.” The church, Father Cantalamessa said, must mourn “for the offense given to the body of Christ and the scandal given to the smallest of its members, rather than for the damage and dishonor it has caused us.”

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Pope stresses solidarity with poor in talks to diplomats

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Addressing ambassadors from wealthy and developing nations, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized international solidarity with the poor and the “moral character” of all economic activity. The pope also spoke about the AIDS crisis in Africa, pledging the church’s continuing support for those affected by the disease and endorsing a prevention policy based on sexual responsibility. The pope spoke separately Dec. 14 to ambassadors from six countries, as he accepted their credentials. In a group talk, he said that economic and social injustices around the globe cannot help but provoke disorders and “an escalation of violence.” In a speech to Lesotho’s new ambassador to the Vatican, the pope noted that the southern African country was facing the challenges of poverty and food shortages. “Economic activity has a moral character, and to the degree that every person is responsible for everyone else, the wealthier nations have a duty in solidarity and justice to promote the development of all,” the pope said.

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Reproductive health wording keeps Vatican from signing U.N. document

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — The Vatican said it could not sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities because of language it contains on reproductive health. The Vatican “understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms,” said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations. But, he added, “in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being,” which the document affirms. Archbishop Migliore outlined his concerns in a Dec. 13 statement. “It is surely tragic that, wherever fetal defect is a precondition for offering or employing abortion, the same convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons,” the archbishop said. The convention was adopted by U.N. members Dec. 13 by consensus.

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In jungle town, church program helps Bolivians with disabilities

RIBERALTA, Bolivia (CNS) — On Nov. 19, Edgar Baca Tonorez and Edil Caya Manu became the first blind students ever to graduate from high school in this remote jungle town in northern Bolivia. The achievement is testimony to their perseverance and the assistance provided by a community-based rehabilitation program partly sponsored by the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando. “It hasn’t been very easy,” said Caya, who was turned away from another high school before being accepted at Riberalta II School. Elizabeth Zabala de Roca, school principal, said: “The two men came to register, challenging our capacity a bit. “Having them here has taught us solidarity,” she added. The students did not arrive alone. They were accompanied by Margoth Hinojosa, now 32, who had been working with them since 1995, when the first special education teachers were assigned to the Riberalta school system. The assignments were the result of lobbying by the community rehabilitation program, started by Teresa Glass, a Maryknoll lay missioner from St. Paul, Minn.

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Irish bishops urge government to protect women forced into sex trade

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — The Irish Bishops’ Conference urged the government to immediately pass legislation to protect female victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In a statement released in early December, the bishops said the legislation should offer assistance to female victims and “not be used to deport them back to their countries of origin.” The bishops said, “The legislation must ensure that trafficked women are offered permits for temporary residency after they escape or are persuaded to flee from their traffickers, and this will give the women time to recover to some degree from the trauma.” Since Ireland’s economic boom more than a decade ago, there has been an increasing number of women working in the sex trade against their will. Ireland has not signed on to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Ireland is one of three countries that does not protect victims of human trafficking with residence permits.

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PEOPLE

Polish cardinal’s retirement ends sometimes controversial leadership

OXFORD, England (CNS) — When Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp retired as archbishop of Warsaw in early December, he ended a quarter-century of sometimes controversial church leadership. He urged Catholics not to resist martial law, yet allowed priests to speak out against the nation’s communist regime. He offended Jews, yet encouraged Catholic-Jewish dialogue. His time as archbishop of Warsaw spanned communism, its downfall under pressure from Poland’s strong labor movement, and the reorganization and growth of the church after communism. Until he turns 80 in three years, the cardinal will retain his title as Polish primate, which traditionally places him second in prestige after the country’s president. Born into a worker family Dec. 18, 1929, in the western town of Inowroclaw, Jozef Glemp enrolled at the seminary in Gniezno in 1950 and was ordained a priest six years later.

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Polish archbishop tells dissident nuns to leave convent

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — A Polish archbishop told a group of nuns to leave their convent after the Vatican expelled them from their order for refusing to accept a new mother superior. “There are no private religious orders in the Catholic Church where everyone can set their own rules,” Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin told Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, in early December. “We should pray for these lacerated, lost and highly strung sisters.” Father Mieczyslaw Puzewicz, a spokesman for the Lublin Archdiocese, told KAI tensions had surfaced after Sister Jadwiga Ligocka, the former mother superior of the Sisters of the Family of Bethany, claimed to have “private inspirations from the Holy Spirit.” A Vatican delegate dismissed the mother superior from her position at the Kazimierz convent in 2005, but Sister Jadwiga continued to occupy the convent with 10 nuns and an unknown number of novices. The Polish Press Agency reported Dec. 1 that the nuns refused to accept the Vatican’s October ruling and had hired bodyguards.

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U.S. bishop finds multiple challenges in remote Bolivian vicariate

RIBERALTA, Bolivia (CNS) — For Bishop Morgan Casey, pastoral visits can mean long hours bouncing over rutted dirt roads or chugging along a muddy river on a motorboat to one of more than 300 tiny communities scattered throughout the lush rain forest. “We’re an alive church. We’re a church that’s trying to address social problems,” Bishop Casey said of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando, whose six parishes serve about 160,000 people in an area of Bolivia nearly the size of Oregon. Bishop Casey came to Bolivia in 1968 as a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Social problems are acute in this hot, humid corner of the poorest country in South America. Nearly three-quarters of the people in the vicariate live below the poverty line, and about one-third of town residents and half of those in rural areas live in extreme poverty, with an income of $1 or less a day. The vicariate is a tropical frontier area on the border between Bolivia and Brazil.

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