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Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Chaplain head says troops respected amid policy divisions
WASHINGTON (CNS) — However people feel about U.S. policies abroad, the troops on the ground carrying out those policies have “our respect and admiration,” Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said in a Christmas letter to Catholic military chaplains. “We know that on this Christmas Americans are divided, at times radically, as to the proper course of our present military engagements,” he wrote. “While our military members can feel caught up in the middle of these divisions and confusions at home, they must not doubt our respect and admiration as they seek to bring about peace and harmony to lands and people torn by violence.” He said, “Our love and prayers go out to them, fervently hoping for an end to civil unrest in areas where we have invested so much of our precious treasure — lives lost, bodies and spirits sorely, permanently wounded, and families who must cope with the often destructive results of extended separations.”
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Troops in Iraq get live Christmas trees thanks to national project
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — When Army Spc. Geoffrey Brannen-Davies received a package from home in late November, he certainly didn’t expect it to contain a live Christmas tree. But a live evergreen was exactly what he found when he opened the box. “He was just flabbergasted when he got the tree,” said Mary Ellen Darling, who with her husband, Dick, owns a Christmas-tree farm in Clifton Springs. The Darlings spearheaded a local effort to put real Christmas trees into the hands of military families and servicemen and women such as Brannen-Davies through a national program called Trees for Troops. A 2004 graduate of Midlakes High School in Phelps, Brannen-Davies has been stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, with the 501st Parachute Infantry since October. The Darlings said Brannen-Davies called them Nov. 26 to thank them for the Christmas tree. The Darlings, members of the St. Felix/St. Francis Parish Cluster in Clifton Springs and Phelps, decided to participate in Trees for Troops this year because they wanted to do something for the individuals serving their country during the holidays.
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Students at public Illinois university to get Catholic housing option
DEKALB, Ill. (CNS) — Beginning next fall, students at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb will be able to choose a Catholic housing option. The privately owned University Plaza dormitory in DeKalb will include a floor created especially to house Catholic students that is founded and run by the Diocese of Rockford. Msgr. Glenn Nelson, pastor at Christ the Teacher University Parish in DeKalb, lived in his university’s residence halls in the 1980s without a Catholic roommate. “It would have been great not to have been the only person on the floor that believed in Catholic values,” he said. “I always thought it would have been nice to live with people who shared my values.” Now he is helping provide that option for this generation of students. Parishioners at Christ the Teacher, which is also the Newman Catholic Student Center, approached Msgr. Nelson last August with the idea of trying to arrange a “Newman Hall” at the university. “It just seems to be the right time,” he said.
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Catholic newspaper editors set Internet ad standards
BALTIMORE (CNS) — Editors of 27 Catholic publications agreed on standard sizing and pricing for national and regional advertising on Internet sites at a December meeting in Baltimore. “We must have one foot in print, one in pixels,” said Daniel Medinger, co-host of the meeting. Medinger is associate publisher of the Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocesan newspaper, and president of Advertising Media Plus — AMPs — a national advertising agency that specializes in ad placement in Catholic publications. Also hosting the meeting was Catholic Online, a leading Web site of Catholic news in the U.S. Tom Conway, new executive director of the Catholic Press Association, attended the meeting, along with representatives of 25 other diocesan newspapers and a national Catholic publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press. “This was a historic meeting,” Medinger said. “For the first time, we have a plan for standard sizes and prices for (advertising on) Catholic media on the Internet. We now have the opportunity to solicit major national advertisers who will help ‘monetize’ our Web sites.”
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World needs a savior despite modern advances, pope says at Christmas
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Celebrating Christmas at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said the world still needs a savior, despite technological advances that make humanity consider itself the “self-sufficient master of its own destiny.” At midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said the birth of Christ should focus attention on all the suffering and abused children in contemporary society. Later, in a Christmas Day blessing “urbi et orbi” — to the city of Rome and the world — he said recent developments like space travel, genetic engineering and the Internet only accentuate man’s need for spiritual salvation. “In this postmodern age, perhaps he needs a savior all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious,” the pope said. The Mass and blessing, broadcast around the world, were the public highlights of the pope’s Christmas, but the 79-year-old pontiff also marked the festivities in quieter gatherings with friends and colleagues.
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Pope to Mideast Christians: Stay and work for peace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a long Christmas message to Christians in the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that despite their enormous suffering they would stay in the region and work for peace. Pope Benedict also told the region’s Christian communities, “I deeply hope that providence will ensure that circumstances allow me to make a pilgrimage to the land made holy by the events of salvation history.” While awaiting his visit to the Holy Land, the pope asked Christians to make “gestures of friendship and good will” which will contribute to peace. Pope Benedict said that at Christmas his thoughts and prayers naturally turned toward the Middle East, “especially those countries marked by strong tensions and frequently subjected to manifestations of brutal violence that, in addition to causing great destruction, strike unarmed and innocent people without pity.”
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Holy Land prelate says every day is Christmas in a believer’s life
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — In a believer’s life every day is Christmas, when the goodness of God is born and he or she can accept his grace, said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem. “With this grace, (every believer) can face all anxieties,” said Patriarch Sabbah in his Christmas Eve homily in St. Catherine’s Church which adjoins the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The patriarch welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and prayed God would give the president “the wisdom and courage” to carry out his duties amid the “difficult internal tensions” Palestinian society is experiencing. Faced with a growing number of difficulties stemming from the Israeli occupation and separation wall and from recent internal Palestinian dissension, the patriarch urged his flock to heed St. Paul the Apostle and “dismiss all anxieties from your mind.” He added, “That means stay strong, and do not weaken under the burden.”
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Sri Lankan village dedication remembers tsunami victims
GALLE, Sri Lanka (CNS) — Hundreds of Buddhist and Muslim tsunami victims braved incessant rain and joined church workers in Galle to mark the second anniversary of the tsunami and to dedicate a new Caritas-built village. After Vatican and Sri Lankan flags were hoisted, Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka, handed over the 76-house village, built by Caritas Sri Lanka’s Galle diocesan center, to Buddhist and Muslim tsunami victims. Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Duncan MacLaren, Sri Lankan Trade Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Caritas Sri Lanka officials were on hand for the Dec. 20 dedication and memorial service. Caritas Sri Lanka is the local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an international network of Catholic relief, development and social service agencies. The dedication’s joyous atmosphere turned somber when the participants stood and remembered in silence the more than 31,000 people killed in Sri Lanka by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. Galle, a port city south of Colombo, lost more than 5,000 lives from the devastating waves.
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Priest helps kids stay out of gangs in Salvadoran suburb
MEJICANOS, El Salvador (CNS) — As the door opened at the Rafael Palacios Center of Formation and Orientation, a herd of young boys and girls rushed out into the tough San Salvador suburb of Mejicanos. Although the kids are on vacation from school, they were painting and learning information technology and electrical repairs at the center named after a Mejicanos priest. But when the center closes for the day, Mejicanos becomes dangerous for many of the kids. Gangs have taken over and turned it into one of the most violent areas in this crime-plagued Central American country. Father Antonio Rodriguez Lopez-Tercero, who works with the center and is the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mejicanos, wants to make sure the kids keep out of danger by keeping them busy and off the streets while teaching them skills to help them succeed. Young people in Mejicanos face intense pressure from gangs and police, said Father Rodriguez.
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Gaza’s only priest says his people need peace
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNS) — Of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, through which the Holy Family probably traveled on its escape to Egypt, nearly all are Muslim. There are about 3,000 Christians, including 200 Catholics served by one priest. His name is Msgr. Manuel Musallam, though he jokes that he’s also called the “pope of Gaza.” “To come to Gaza is to be a hero,” he says of his assignment. It was a position for which there were no other contenders. After Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem asked him if he’d be willing to take the post, the patriarch took the priest into Gaza three times before actually giving him the assignment. “When I said ‘yes,’ he was very perplexed,” Msgr. Musallam, 68, recalls. The narrow 25-mile-long Gaza Strip is fortified on three sides by a double prison fence reinforced by guard towers. The fourth border is the Mediterranean Sea.
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Main Rome train station dedicated to Pope John Paul II
ROME (CNS) — Honoring the late Pope John Paul II as a man of dialogue and encounter, the city of Rome and the Italian state railway system have dedicated Rome’s Termini train station to his memory. The newly refurbished “Termini-John Paul II Station” was formally inaugurated Dec. 23. According to Termini statistics, some 480,000 people a day — 150 million each year — pass through the station. At the dedication ceremony, Rome’s Mayor Walter Veltroni said Pope John Paul was “a man who bound to himself the idea of dialogue and of understanding values continually listening to a society in transformation.” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the papal vicar of Rome, told the crowd gathered for the ceremony that it made perfect sense to dedicate a train station to the memory of a pope who traveled so much.