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First Reading: First John 2:29–3:6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:1, 3-4, 5-6
Gospel: John 1:29-34
Today’s Headlines from CNS
Up to 25 U.S. bishops could retire for age reasons in 2007
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Up to 25 U.S. bishops, including five cardinals, could retire because of age this year. There are 14 still-active U.S. bishops, including three cardinals, who have already turned 75. Eleven more, including two cardinals, will celebrate their 75th birthday in 2007. At age 75 bishops are requested to submit their resignation to the pope. Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit turned 75 March 18, 2005. He was bishop of Green Bay, Wis., before he was made archbishop of Detroit in 1990. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore turned 75 last March 4. Formerly bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., he has been archbishop of Baltimore since 1989. Cardinal Bernard F. Law, archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, turned 75 Nov. 4. A former bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., he was archbishop of Boston from 1984 until his resignation in 2002 in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal there. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York, whose 75th birthday is coming up April 2, will celebrate 50 years as a priest later this year. He was made a New York auxiliary bishop in 1985, bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., in 1988, and archbishop of New York in 2000. Cardinal F. James Stafford, a Baltimore native who will mark his 75th birthday July 26, has been the Vatican’s major penitentiary since 2003. He was made a Baltimore auxiliary in 1976 and bishop of Memphis, Tenn., in 1982. He became archbishop of Denver in 1986, and president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, 1996-2003.
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In new book, Nigerian priest decries racism he finds in America
ST. LOUIS (CNS) — It is time for U.S. churches to combat racial injustice in their country and among their congregations, says a Catholic priest from Nigeria who has studied the problem. Holy Ghost Father Cajetan Ngozika Ihewulezi resides at Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish in North St. Louis and serves as a hospital chaplain while doing graduate studies. He is the author of a new book, “Beyond the Color of Skin: Encounters With Religions and Racial Injustice in America.” In his book, which came out in November, he looks at the issue as an outsider. Father Ihewulezi came to St. Louis four years ago as a graduate student, first at St. Louis University, where he earned a master’s degree in historical theology, and then at Aquinas Institute of Theology, where he is earning a doctorate. He said some hospital patients don’t want a black priest anointing them. “I see the churches, not just the Catholic Church but American churches, as having neglected the issue of civil rights and racial justice. It is as if they feel everything is OK. But in actuality negative things are still happening, and the continued silence calls for a renewed evaluation,” Father Ihewulezi said.
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Businessman’s generosity reflects past kindness from strangers
OAK CREEK, Wis. (CNS) — The humiliation of using green lunch tickets — identifying the user as being on welfare — still brings tears to Jim Best’s eyes. Growing up in Milwaukee’s central city in the 1960s, going without was a way of life for young Best and his four siblings, the 54-year-old businessman told the Catholic Herald, Milwaukee archdiocesan newspaper. A member of Lumen Christi Parish in Mequon, he was interviewed at the Oak Creek offices of his multimillion-dollar franchise, Pilot Air Freight. Best also remembers one Thanksgiving when strangers — members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society — brought a turkey and the fixings to the Best family’s door for their holiday dinner. “I recall how amazed I was at the fact that total strangers would care about my family and our basic needs in life,” he said. Now Best and his wife, Anne, try to repay the past generosity of other strangers by being “strangers” themselves, anonymously reaching out to others to provide a helping hand. The Bests recently sent two parish priests and a Milwaukee principal each 20 $50 gift cards for a local grocery chain. In a cover letter he explained his own background and asked them to distribute the cards as they saw fit.
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Pope welcomes new year, urges respect for dignity, human rights
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Welcoming in the new year at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said a world suffering from wars and terrorism can find peace only through respect for human dignity and human rights. The pope celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 1, which the church marks as World Peace Day, and quoted from his peace day message that was sent to governments around the globe. The theme of the message this year was “The Human Person, the Heart of Peace.” In order for peace agreements to last, the pope said, they must be based on respect for the dignity of the human being created by God. This dignity is the foundation of peace and cannot be viewed as something subject to popular opinion or negotiations between parties, he said. He urged the international community to make greater efforts to ensure that “in the name of God a world is built in which essential human rights are respected by all.” Every Christian has a special vocation as a peacemaker, he said.
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After Saddam hangs, Vatican says execution not way to justice
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Executing someone guilty of a crime “is not the way to restore justice and reconcile society,” the Vatican spokesman said after Saddam Hussein was hanged Dec. 30. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said, “A capital execution is always tragic news, a motive for sadness, even when it involves a person found guilty of serious crimes.” In a formal statement issued shortly after Saddam’s death was announced, Father Lombardi said, “The position of the Catholic Church against the death penalty has been reaffirmed many times.” The death penalty not only will not restore justice in Iraq, but also can “increase the spirit of vengeance and sow new violence,” he said. “In this dark time in the life of the Iraqi people one can only hope that all leaders will make every effort so that in such a dramatic situation spaces will open for reconciliation and peace,” he said.
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Vatican agency says 24 church workers died violently in 2006
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic Church personnel continue to be killed as they work in mission lands or among society’s most disadvantaged groups, although they are more often the victims of violent crimes than of persecution for their faith. Fides, the news agency of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said that over the course of 2006 it had registered the deaths of 24 priests, religious and lay workers “who lost their lives in a violent way.” The murdered church workers, it said, are often “the victims — at least apparently — of aggression, robbery or theft perpetrated in social contexts marked by particular violence, human degradation and poverty, which these peacemakers tried to alleviate with their presence and their work.” The total of 24 murdered church workers was just one less than that reported in 2005, it said. While Fides said it was not declaring the deceased to be martyrs in the formal sense of those recognized by the church for being killed out of hatred of the faith, it hoped people would remember and pray for them.
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‘Love your local ecosystem,’ Christian Brother tells others
COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (CNS) — Everywhere he goes, Australian Christian Brother Moy Hitchen urges people to get out into nature and listen to the earth. “I’m trying to say ‘Love your local ecosystem,'” he said. “Get out there and find the rocks, the soil, the trees, the bushes, the birds that belong to (your) part of the world, and then think, what does the earth want us to do?” As the Christian Brothers’ international promoter of environmental justice, Brother Moy’s travels have taken him from rural villages in Melanesia, where he learned about ancestral farming and hunting practices, to a school in India where 3,000 elementary and high school students share the grounds with hawks, mongooses, squirrels and parrots. In a sprawling slum in Nairobi, Kenya, he was struck by the contrast between environmental disaster — a “filthy black river (of) industrial waste, human sewage and plastic bags full of household garbage” — and vestiges of the natural world that were struggling to survive. Part of Brother Moy’s job is to visit Christian Brothers around the world and encourage them to understand that ecology is an issue rooted in both spirituality and justice.
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President of Jesuit college in New Jersey dies after fall at home
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CNS) — Jesuit Father James N. Loughran, 66, president of St. Peter’s College in Jersey City since 1995, died at his home on campus from a fall down a staircase. His body was found Dec. 24 at the foot of the stairs and the cause of death was diagnosed as blunt force trauma from the fall. His funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 30 at St. Aedan’s Church in Jersey City, with burial afterward in Auriesville, N.Y., where the Jesuits have a retreat house and the National Shrine of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. From 1984 to 1991 Father Loughran was president of Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles. During his tenure there he raised the university’s endowment from about $21 million to $106 million. He briefly headed two non-Jesuit colleges as well. In 1992 he served as acting president of Brooklyn College, a public college in the City University of New York system, and in 1993-94 he was interim president of Mount St. Mary’s College (now University) in Emmitsburg, Md.
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Rights workers in Republic of Congo get fines, suspended sentences
POINTE-NOIRE, Republic of Congo (CNS) — Two Catholic human rights workers in the Republic of Congo received suspended sentences and fines on charges of forgery and misusing funds, but said they would appeal the sentences. Christian Mounzeo, president of a Congolese human rights organization working to promote transparency in the country’s oil industry, and Brice Mackosso, secretary of the Pointe-Noire diocesan justice and peace commission, were given nine-month suspended sentences and fines totaling around $600 each for forgery and misappropriating funds by a court in Pointe-Noire, Congo’s second-largest city, Dec. 27. The two also were ordered to repay money they were convicted of stealing. Both men deny the original charge of stealing up to $4,000 and a laptop computer. Mounzeo’s organization is a member of the Publish What You Pay coalition, which works to promote transparency in oil production and mining worldwide; several international Catholic organizations are members.
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In Bolivian adventures, St. Louis priest sees the hand of God
LA PAZ, Bolivia (CNS) — Shortly after Msgr. David Ratermann arrived in Bolivia 50 years ago as a new missionary, he found himself stranded at the highest point of the Andes. Three days later, when a train finally came through and gave Msgr. Ratermann and his companions a lift to La Paz, “we went to the nunciature looking like bums, with three days’ growth of beard,” recalled the tall, white-haired priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. That was the first of a series of missionary challenges for Msgr. Ratermann, who has worked in the shantytowns that cling to the canyon wall above this Andean city; in a rural village on the barren, windswept plain above La Paz; and in Cochabamba, in the country’s central valley. For the first missionaries to Bolivia from the Archdiocese of St. Louis — Msgr. Ratermann, Father Andre Schierhoff and Msgr. Andrew Kennedy — the sea journey to Bolivia from New York laid the foundation for a close-knit community. Crammed for two weeks into “a stateroom that wasn’t very stately,” Msgr. Ratermann said, “right from the beginning we developed a sense of community. It was thrust upon us by a good and loving God.”