CNS Headlines (12.22.06)

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Seton Hall starts law and management center for nonprofits

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) — The law school of Seton Hall University has launched a new research and teaching center to help church-related nonprofit organizations address the legal, accreditation and management challenges they face today. The new center has been named the Seton Center for Church-Related Nonprofit Corporations. Its mission is to provide independent, scholarly legal research on issues of strategic importance if religiously related nonprofits are to thrive in a changing, complex environment. The center’s research and services will be available to religious nonprofits of any denomination, but Catholic-related nonprofits form by far the largest single group of such organizations in the United States. Seton Hall’s law school is in Newark. The university’s main campus is in South Orange. Nationwide there are about 230 Catholic colleges and universities, 580 Catholic hospitals and 370 Catholic health care centers. Also related to the church are 1,540 specialized homes, 270 children’s residential care facilities, 1,240 child care centers and nearly 3,000 social service organizations.

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‘Spiral of death continues’ in Sudan’s Darfur region, bishop says

HAMMOND, Ind. (CNS) — The situation in Darfur is a “test of our humanity,” Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary said at a Dec. 18 Catholic-Jewish program on the crisis in this region of Sudan. Speaking at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Bishop Melczek said that despite all the humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “the spiral of death continues” in Darfur. More than 100 people of various faiths came together at the university’s Alumni Hall to hear from representatives of Catholic Relief Services and American Jewish World Service, two agencies providing emergency humanitarian relief to Darfur. At least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and more than 2 million people have been displaced since 2003 when fighting escalated between rebel groups and government troops and Arab militias known as Janjaweed. Despite a May peace agreement meant to end the conflict, the fighting has continued and threatens to spread to neighboring Chad, where many displaced people from Darfur are taking shelter.

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‘Voz Latina’ caters to Spanish radio listeners

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (CNS) — The power of radio is bringing together the talents of several of Hollywood’s Hispanic stars, including Lupe Ontiveros and Mike Gomez of “Desperate Housewives,” Adam Rodriguez of “CSI: Miami,” Maria Canals from “The George Lopez Show,” and the durable Ricardo Montalban, still remembered for his star turn on “Fantasy Island.” These and many more stars are among the actors who have brought their skills to “Voz Latina: Radio for the Latin Explosion,” a Spanish-language radio series assembled by Hollywood-based Family Theater Productions. To date, about 300 programs have been produced, encompassing a variety of formats: the dramatic series known to Hispanics as the “radionovela,” drama anthology, talk show and documentary, as well as 160 public service announcements. Since its inception in 1997, “Voz Latina” has won 25 industry awards, including 11 Gabriel Awards from the Catholic Academy of Communication Arts Professionals.

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Maryknoll’s Keller Award goes to Mexican bishops’ conference

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. (CNS) — Maryknoll has given its 2006 Keller Award to the Mexican bishops’ conference for its efforts to spread the faith to other lands. Maryknoll — the U.S. based missionary movement of priests, brothers, sisters, lay missionaries and lay affiliates — was founded by Father James G. Keller, who also started the worldwide Christopher movement. The Keller Award, established in 2000, the centenary of Father Keller’s birth, honors an individual or group that exemplifies Father Keller’s spirit of witnessing the Gospel, serving the poor and building up the church. The 2006 award was the first given to someone outside the United States. In announcing it, Maryknoll cited the Mexican bishops’ conference’s support for establishing a foreign missionary seminary in Mexico and creating a foreign mission society. Maryknoll presented the 2006 Keller Award to Bishop Florencio Olvera Ochoa of Cuernavaca, president of the Mexican bishops’ commission on missions, in ceremonies Dec. 5 at Maryknoll headquarters.

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In TV, radio spots, Knights urge help for needy children at Christmas

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — In television ads and public service announcements broadcast across the country, the Knights of Columbus called on Americans and Canadians to keep the spirit of Christmas alive by helping children in need. “In the midst of an increasingly materialistic and secular society, it is all too easy to lose sight of what Christmas really means,” said Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the New Haven-based international Catholic fraternal organization, in a statement. “We give gifts to each other because it is the day on which we celebrate the ultimate gift: the Christ Child, the savior of mankind,” he added. “Even those who do not share the Christian faith can and do appreciate the message of peace and hope that this Christian holiday — holy day — brings to the world. It is a message that the world needs now more than ever.” A 60-second television message, featuring a rendition of “Away in a Manager” by country singer Patty Loveless, is a photo sequence of sleeping children with the words “Jesus slept in a manger for one simple reason: no one made room for him.”

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WORLD

Move over sports stars: Collectible Swiss Guard stickers hit market

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Move over baseball players and soccer stars — an Italian publisher is hoping to hook young collectors on the Swiss Guards. To honor the guards in their 500th year of service to the popes, the publisher has released a deluxe collector’s album with 250 different stickers. “The Guardian Angels of the Pope” is heavy on images and light on text, but the brief explanations of each sticker are provided in both Italian and English. The images used were chosen and the explanations written by Giovanni Morelli, the retired Vatican Library employee who served as researcher and curator of the 2006 Vatican exhibition on the history of the Swiss Guards. Claudio Ventrella, editorial director of Pubblicazioni Collezionare Cultura, said the sticker collection fits perfectly with the company’s commitment to using sticker mania to promote appreciation of Italy’s culture, including its religious history and heritage.

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New Warsaw prelate wasn’t a spy, Vatican and Polish bishops say

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican and the Polish bishops are convinced Warsaw’s new Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus was not a spy for the secret police under Poland’s former communist regime, the Vatican said. “In deciding to nominate the new metropolitan archbishop of Warsaw, the Holy See took into consideration all the circumstances of his life, including those regarding his past,” said a statement issued Dec. 21 by the Vatican press office. “This means that the Holy Father has full trust in His Excellency Msgr. Stanislaw Wielgus and, with full awareness, entrusted to him the mission of pastor of the Archdiocese of Warsaw,” the statement said. The Polish Catholic Church has been rocked for months by revelations that some members of the clergy cooperated with the secret services of the country’s old communist regimes. Rumors had been circulating for weeks that Archbishop Wielgus, formerly bishop of Plock, had been among the collaborators. After his appointment as archbishop of Warsaw was announced Dec. 6, the rumors were published more widely.

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Argentine official: Priest should stand trial for ‘dirty war’ crimes

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) — An Argentine state prosecutor has recommended that a priest who served as a police chaplain stand trial for his alleged role in disappearances, torture and other human rights violations during the country’s “dirty war.” Father Cristian von Wernich will be the first priest to face trial for human rights violations committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship, in which an estimated 30,000 people died or disappeared. Marta Vedio, secretary-general of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights in the city of La Plata, said the case against Father von Wernich related to the period 1976-77 and was based on a great volume of testimony from witnesses. “I think we have a very good chance of getting him convicted,” she told Catholic News Service. A spokesman for the Argentine bishops’ conference said the church did not plan to comment on the case. Witnesses accuse Father von Wernich of being involved in the organization of kidnappings and death squads.

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Vatican soccer bug revealed: Staff tourneys, clerical cups, avid fans

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A disease few talk about lies within the Vatican’s walls: soccer fever. Several cardinals have been afflicted, and a many of the tiny city-state’s lay, Italian staff automatically were born with the soccer-mania bug. So it wasn’t surprising when one high-ranking cardinal who is a well-known soccer fan was taken seriously when he joked that the Vatican should form its own team. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and an ardent supporter of Turin’s Juventus team, told reporters during a Dec. 17 soccer match: “I cannot cross out (the possibility) that in the future the Vatican could set up its own soccer team” on a par with Italy’s top soccer leagues. Media outlets ran with the news, even splashing speculation across their pages on who the future Vatican coach might be. But in a Dec. 18 interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal either assured or disappointed when he said his comments had been in jest and turning cleat-clad Vatican soccer players into national competitors was “unfeasible.”

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Former Dutch Catholic monastery to become large Orthodox complex

OXFORD, England (CNS) — The Russian Orthodox Church has begun work to make a former Capuchin monastery and church in the Netherlands the largest Orthodox complex outside Russia. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Dec. 18 the complex would include schoolrooms, a bookstore, and a library for East Europeans belonging to Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Parish, which bought the Tichelkerk, as it is known. Residents of Amsterdam’s Jordaan district already had “become accustomed to the sounds of Orthodox singing,” reported Interfax. The former Capuchin owners of the Amsterdam monastery in the Diocese of Haarlem sold the property and moved to another location because of decreasing vocations, said Pieter Kohnen, spokesman for the Dutch bishops’ conference. “Finding uses for churches when they have to close is a common problem in the Netherlands, so they were very happy they’d found a good ecclesiastical use for this one,” he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview in mid-December.

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Patriarch: Holy Land faces death but Christmas still brings joy

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Once again Christmas in the Holy Land is faced with “circumstances of death and frustration,” but the holiday still brings joy and announces salvation to all, said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem in his traditional Christmas message. “Christmas is coming to Bethlehem … with the wall and the checkpoints on the ground,” he said in the message read to journalists at a press conference Dec. 20. “The occupation and deprivation of freedom on one side and fear and insecurity on the other continue as before,” he said. “Gaza remains a big prison, a place of death and of internal Palestinian dissension.” Though the West Bank city of Bethlehem should be a city of peace it is a place of “conflict and death,” Patriarch Sabbah said. Peace could be reached if those responsible were “sincerely determined,” he said. Life in Bethlehem has become “very difficult to endure” despite the numerous solidarity initiatives, for which Palestinians are grateful, the patriarch said. Palestinians’ “fundamental need” is for “peace, justice, freedom and an end to the occupation,” he said.

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PEOPLE

‘Little Bit’ of help yields big results in coats for St. Louis needy

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Every little bit helps. With that motto, two Catholic soccer moms in the St. Louis area have built a charity that has provided more than 20,000 coats to needy people over the past 10 years. The Little Bit Foundation supplies coats and outerwear to the homeless and low-income clients of St. Patrick Center in downtown St. Louis and to students at 11 St. Louis inner-city schools. The charity’s founders consider it a mission that “reflects the spiritual works of Christ.” Elise Tierney, a member of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, and Rosemary Hanley of Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights became friends while watching their grade-school-age sons play soccer. Tierney and Hanley collected coats for charity through drives held by their sons’ soccer team. “I started doing the coat drive in 1996 and Rosemary in 1999,” Tierney told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

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Armenian church leader given Benedictine university’s highest award

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (CNS) — St. John’s Abbey and University has given the Pax Christi Award, its highest honor, to Catholicos Aram I Keshishian, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Catholicate of Cilicia. Benedictine Brother Dietrich Reinhart, president of the university, called Catholicos Aram an important international spiritual and religious figure, noted especially for his ecumenical leadership. Head of the Lebanon-based Catholicate of Cilicia since 1995, for 23 years before that Catholicos Aram had served as the catholicate’s representative for ecumenical relations. From 1979 to 1995 he was also primate of the Armenian Orthodox community of Lebanon. The testimonial accompanying the award said, “Your skills at mediation, your deep respect for human rights, your recognition that Christians, whatever their tradition, must witness to peace, led you to ecumenical work early in your career.” The Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the Oriental Orthodox churches, dates back to the conversion of Armenia to Christianity around 300.

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Canadian elder recalls childhood Christmases: cold nights, dog sleds

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) — The northern lights danced through the sky in Fort Murray, Alberta, as the ring of dog-sled bells filled the air. Out into the cold a little Alvena Laboucane, her six brothers and sisters and her mother hurried through the snow to Christmas Eve Mass at St. John the Baptist Church. The older children hauled the little ones on toboggans. It was so cold — 40 below zero — that the trees cracked and split. Father Patrick Mercredi greeted them as they came through the church door. The fragrance of incense, burning candles and freshly cut Christmas trees filled the young girl’s lungs. The church was packed with the faithful who traveled by dog sled from Anzak, Fort Chipewyan and Fort MacKay. “All the friendly faces, and the Christ Child was there to greet us,” said Alvena Strasbourg, now an 85-year-old metis (of mixed parentage) elder with 23 grandchildren. Her face softened as she recalled her childhood Christmases and said, “Without faith and love, there is no life.”

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For Catholic teen, raising Seeing Eye pups a way to serve others

SOMERSET, N.J. (CNS) — It is not often that one sees a dog in church. But Karmen isn’t just any dog. Escorted to St. Matthias Church in Somerset by Meredith Kollmer, Karmen is in training to become a Seeing Eye dog. And Kollmer, 18, isn’t just any Seeing Eye puppy-raiser. She has raised eight Seeing Eye puppies since she was 10 years old. “Church provides another form of experience for the puppies,” Kollmer told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Metuchen Diocese. “As a puppy-raiser, we’re supposed to give them the opportunity to experience many different environments.” In church, the puppies get used to all kinds of people, noises, activities and sounds. When the gospel choir sings, “there’s the music and clapping,” she explained, and “the sitting and standing” throughout the Mass “teaches them patience.”

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Chinese Catholics mourn death of Bishop Li of Xinjiang

HONG KONG (CNS) — For the second time in six months, Catholics of Xinjiang Diocese in China’s Shanxi province mourned the death of their bishop. A funeral for Bishop Joseph Li Hongguang of Xinjiang, recognized by both the Chinese government and the Vatican, was celebrated Dec. 20 at St. Anthony Cathedral in Xinjiang, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Bishop Li, 80, died of heart disease Dec. 13. He had succeeded Bishop Augustine Zheng Shouduo, who died of natural causes July 16 at age 90. Bishop Silvester Li Jiantang of the neighboring Taiyuan Diocese was the main celebrant at the funeral, which included as concelebrants three other bishops from Shanxi and 50 priests. One of the priests told UCA News that several government officials attended a mourning service held right after the funeral Mass.

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