A Look at Today (12.26.06)

No events in the diocese today

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 31:3-4, 6, 7, 8, 17, 21
Gospel: Matthew 10:17-22

Today’s Headlines from Cathollic News Service

U.S.

Holy See’s U.N. observer mission to get diplomatic privileges

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the final hours of the 109th Congress, the House and Senate passed a bill that would let President George W. Bush grant diplomatic privileges and immunities to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. The Holy See is not a member of the United Nations, but its permanent observer status, held since 1964, entitles it to participate in General Assembly debates, have its communications issued and circulated as official documents of the assembly, and co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions that refer to the Holy See. The bill authorizes the president to give the observer mission and its members “the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the diplomatic missions of member states to the United Nations, and their members.” The provision was passed the evening of Dec. 9 as part of H.R. 6060, the “Department of State Authorities Act of 2006,” one of the final acts of the 109th Congress before it adjourned. President Bush was expected to sign the bill but had not yet done so as of Dec. 22.

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Collection of texts, artifacts from Holy Land to tour through 2008

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The North American tour of a collection of sacred texts and artifacts from the Holy Land was to complete a stop in Nashville, Tenn., on New Year’s Eve and head for Tulsa, Okla. “From Abraham to Jesus,” a collection of more than 340 texts and artifacts, including one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, opened in Atlanta in September and is to visit 27 cities in the U.S. and Canada before ending Dec. 21, 2008, at the Meadowlands in Secaucus, N.J. The traveling exhibit uses photomurals, thematic sets, digital surround sound, and state-of-the-art lighting, music and narration to help visitors see, hear and feel 2,500 years of biblical history. “So few people actually get to go to the Holy Land,” said Cary Summers, president of the Way Makers, which sponsors the exhibit along with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology, Integrity Music and Zondervan. More information and tickets are available on the exhibit’s Web site, http://www.fromabrahamtojesus.com.

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Group sends soldiers in Iraq holiday items, care packages year-round

JOLIET, Ill. (CNS) — Holding up a colorfully decorated scrapbook filled with thank-you messages from men and women serving in the military, one homemade Christmas card in particular captured Debbie Smothers’ attention. She paused for a moment, considering the pain of having a family member overseas, especially during the holidays. “If I can make a difference in a few lives, then what I’m doing will have mattered,” she said in a Dec. 18 interview with the Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Joliet Diocese. Four years ago Smothers founded Operation Care Package, a nonprofit organization that sends care packages to soldiers stationed overseas. According to Smothers, the idea for the program came from her brother, David, an officer in the U.S. Army Special Operations division stationed in Iraq at the start of the war. “He was telling me all about some of his buddies who never got any mail, and I decided to do something about it,” she added. She said most of the soldiers hear about the care package program through the organization’s Web site, http://www.operationcarepackages.org.

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Even nonreligious people buy some religious goods, study finds

WASHINGTON (CNS) — It’s no surprise that Protestants and Catholics make the bulk of religious purchases in the U.S. But what some might find surprising in results released Dec. 18 from a survey conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion is that one-sixth of those who claim no religious affiliation — what the survey calls the “religious nones” — say they spent money on religious goods in the past month and nearly a quarter said they had done so in the past year. The Baylor study divided religious spending into 13 genres — jewelry, fiction, nonfiction, devotional books, sacred texts, music, art, movies, educational products for children, Bible study materials, clothing, bumper stickers and greeting cards. Religious greeting cards were the most popular item among those groups, with 37 percent of respondents saying they had purchased them in the past year. Car bumper stickers were the least popular, bought by only 8 percent. Only 3 percent of respondents said they had made a purchase from all 13 genres in the past year.

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Catholic-Baptist conversation held on Scripture, tradition

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CNS) — An international Catholic-Baptist conversation on “The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia” was held Dec. 10-15 at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham. Co-sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the meeting was the first since 1988, when representatives of the two faiths completed five years of conversations about the call to witness the faith. That series led to a 1990 report titled “Summons to Witness to Christ in Today’s World.” Co-chairing the new round of meetings are Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., on the Catholic side and the Rev. Paul Fiddes, principal of Regent’s Park College at Oxford University in England, on the Baptist side. The group is to meet annually through 2010 and expects to issue a joint report on its findings.

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As media influence expands, number of broadcast outlet owners shrinks

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Media consolidation is the issue that won’t go away. As a shrinking number of owners controls an ever-greater share of the pie, even the federal government sits up and takes notice. The Catholic Church in the United States — its access to the public airwaves first limited 20 years ago with the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine and its attendant public service requirements — has had an interest in the issue because federally licensed commercial broadcasters have even further restricted access to the earliest time slots on Sunday morning, when Masses are usually televised. Even then the church must pay for the airtime in some instances. The concerns, though, are not limited to television. Radio, newspapers and other media are now the subject of complaints not only from those who consume the products made for those outlets, but from those making the products. Congress tried to pass a new telecommunications bill in 2006. It would have been the first reworking of federal law in the field since the 1996 act that permitted greater ownership concentration. But lawmakers could not agree on a bill before the election, and when Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in the November election, the appetite to pass a new bill waned severely.

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Our Sunday Visitor, Sadlier publishers announce new collaboration

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (CNS) — Two of the leading Catholic publishing companies in the United States will collaborate to develop, produce and distribute Catholic materials for parish and school use. The two are William H. Sadlier Inc., which produces catechetical materials for school and parish religious education programs, and Our Sunday Visitor, which has six national publications; produces more than 500 books, pamphlets and programs; and is the nation’s largest producer of Catholic offering envelopes. “This is an unprecedented collaboration of shared vision, complementary skill sets and understanding the needs of the Catholic marketplace,” said Gregory R. Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, in a statement. William Sadlier Dinger, president of William H. Sadlier Inc., said the new relationship “provides an opportunity to develop superior new products and to distribute complementary products which will meet the needs of Catholic parishes and schools.”

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WORLD

Vatican papal preacher denounces campaign against Christmas symbols

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s in-house preacher denounced a recent European campaign against the public display of Christmas symbols, saying it was an attempt by a secular culture to marginalize religion. Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, made the comments in the last of the Advent sermons he delivered to Pope Benedict and other Vatican officials Dec. 22. The Vatican newspaper recently complained of anti-Christmas trends throughout Europe, including the dropping of religious Christmas symbols from postage stamps and the disappearance of Nativity scenes from public places. Father Cantalamessa said the attempt to curb Christmas symbols was part of a cultural mockery of religious beliefs. “Often the reason given is the desire not to offend people of other religions who live among us, especially Muslims. But this is a pretext, an excuse,” he said.

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French parishes count on foreign priests to preserve the faith

LAUZERTE, France (CNS) — On a cobbled back street of this hilltop town in France’s rural Quercy region, a 45-year-old priest tidies the papers on his desk at the rectory and prepares for Mass at the nearby medieval basilica. When Father Joseph Longo arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he planned to stay a few months to complete his studies. Three years later, he is one of a growing number of resident foreign priests who are helping preserve the church’s life in this traditionally Catholic country. “As an African, I’m surprised at the indifference toward religion here,” Father Longo told Catholic News Service. “But there’s plenty of good will and a lot of lay participation. I’ve had no problems being accepted.” Born at Kasay in what was then Zaire, Father Longo studied philosophy in the capital, Kinshasa, and was ordained in 1991 in the Luebo Diocese, working 12 years in a local parish. He came to France in 2003 to finish a doctorate on German philosopher Immanuel Kant, but was quickly asked by Bishop Bernard Housset of Montauban to help out in his diocese in southwestern France, which had only two priestly ordinations in 2005 and just one in 2004.

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Pope says world would be more peaceful if more people believed in God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — If more people believed in God, lived according to his law and recognized each other as his children, the world would have greater peace and hope for the future, Pope Benedict XVI said. Jesus “gives himself to us as peace, as reconciliation beyond all boundaries,” the pope said Dec. 22 in his annual pre-Christmas speech to the Roman Curia and cardinals resident in Rome. The lack of peace in the world, the declining population of Europe, doubts about priestly celibacy, and crises in marriage and family life all can be traced to an increasing sense that God may not exist or that what he asks is impossible to fulfill, the pope said. “The year that is ending remains in our memory with the deep mark of the horrors of the war” in Lebanon, “as well as of the danger of a clash between cultures and religions — a danger that still threateningly looms over our time in history,” he said. Pope Benedict said there is an “unbreakable connection between the relationship of people with God and their relationships with each other.”

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2007 promises a world of busyness for Pope Benedict

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A new Vatican calendar features photos of Pope Benedict XVI relaxing, but the pope’s own agenda for 2007 leaves little time for repose. The Vatican will be a busy place throughout the year, with hundreds of papal meetings, liturgies and other events already scheduled and several documents in the pipeline. The pope will make at least two foreign trips, including his first intercontinental journey, and sometime during the year is likely to name another batch of new cardinals. The year begins with a spate of traditional papal Masses and meetings, including a “state of the world” address to the world’s diplomatic corps in mid-January. The diplomats speech is prominently covered by the international media. That is not true of more routine papal meetings that also gear up in January, including “ad limina” visits by groups of bishops from around the globe to report on the status of their dioceses.

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Chinese official, Macau bishop discuss China-Vatican sticking points

MACAU (CNS) — A top Chinese official told the Catholic bishop of Macau that two conditions must be met for normalization of China-Vatican relations. According to Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau, the Chinese official said China is working to establish ties with the Vatican, but issues concerning Taiwan and the appointment of Chinese bishops remain obstacles. Liu Yandong, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China, and her delegation visited Bishop Lai and other Catholic leaders at the bishop’s residence, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Liu said China feels it isn’t respected if the church in China has to follow foreigners’ instructions on the appointment of bishops, Bishop Lai told UCA News Dec. 20. China has insisted repeatedly on two prerequisites for discussing the establishment of formal relations with the Vatican: The Vatican must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and must not interfere in China’s internal affairs. Bishop Lai said Liu was “sincere and frank” in sharing her views on China-Vatican relations during their Dec. 16 one-hour meeting. The bishop said he hopes China and the Vatican can establish relations soon.

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PEOPLE

Catholic legislator vows to continue fight against same-sex provision

CINCINNATI (CNS) — Despite a loss in court, Ohio state Rep. Tom Brinkman said he will continue the fight against a program at Miami University that provides same-sex couples with medical insurance benefits. Brinkman, a parishioner at Our Lord Christ the King Parish in Cincinnati, was handed a defeat in late November in a lawsuit he had filed in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas against Miami University in Oxford. He contended that the university’s insurance program — designed explicitly for the benefit of same-sex couples working at the university — violated Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Ohio Constitution. Judge Charles L. Pater wrote in his decision that while Brinkman’s argument may be correct the Mount Lookout legislator lacked the standing to sue Miami University. “As a citizen, Brinkman fails to establish public rights standing because this type of standing is available only to those seeking extraordinary writs,” Pater wrote. “Consequently, he does not have standing to sue, and judgment is rendered for Miami.”

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Stallone back in church, back in theaters as Rocky

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sylvester Stallone grew up Catholic, stopped going to church after he tasted fame and fortune, but now considers himself a churchgoing Catholic again. Stallone’s shift back to church started when his daughter Sophia was “born sick,” Stallone told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 7 telephone interview from Dallas to promote his new movie, “Rocky Balboa.” In November 1996, at age 2 months, Sophia underwent open-heart surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center. The operation went well, and Sophia, now 10, is doing “great,” Stallone said. “She’s the No. 1 athlete in her class.” Stallone tried to find the words to describe what brought about his self-imposed exile from Catholicism. “I don’t know. Life,” he said. “Your career is going, you’re not communicating with your family.” The weight of celebrity was “very heavy,” he added.

END

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