Today in the Diocese
Bishop at Mass, St. Joseph and St. Anthony, ODESSA, 6:30 p.m.
CHRIST THE KING RETREAT CENTER, SAN ANGELO — Heart of Mercy Prayer Group meets.
First Reading: Hebrews 3:7-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 95:6-7, 8-9, 10-11
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Catholic Charities aims to cut poverty in America in half by 2020
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic Charities USA Jan. 10 launched an ambitious campaign to cut poverty in America in half by 2020. “The poor do belong to us. … They are our brothers and sisters,” Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA president, told an overflow crowd at a Capitol Hill briefing announcing the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America. Noting that 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — currently live below the poverty line, he said Catholic Charities USA and its affiliates, working in partnership with government, the private sector and other nonprofits, will launch “a concentrated, systematic effort to cut poverty in half by 2020.” Briefing participants received the newly released Catholic Charities USA policy paper, “Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good.” It sets the moral and analytic framework for the campaign and spells out specific policy proposals for a sustained drive to reverse the growth of poverty in the United States. The briefing was held as the U.S. House was debating a bill to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour by 2009.
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U.S. bishops urge House to reject embryonic stem-cell research bill
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops have urged the House of Representatives to reject an embryonic stem-cell bill that would fund research that involves the destruction of human embryos. Instead, they said, Congress should support research that would use available stem cells from adult tissues, cord blood, amniotic fluid and placentas. In a letter dated Jan. 9 and released Jan. 10, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged House members to “consider the fundamental moral line” they would cross if they approved legislation on embryonic stem-cell research scheduled for a vote Jan. 11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has included embryonic stem-cell research among the priorities for the first 100 hours of business in the 110th Congress. President George W. Bush vetoed a similar measure in July, and the 109th Congress failed to override the veto. H.R. 3, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, would lift Bush’s restrictions and expand federal funding for embryonic-stem cell research.
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Boston cardinal calls abuse ‘dark truth’ in church
BOSTON (CNS) — In a column marking the fifth anniversary of the crisis over clergy sexual abuse of children, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said that scandal was a “dark and unremitting truth” that had to be confronted. Cardinal O’Malley’s comments appeared Jan. 7 as an opinion piece in the Boston Globe, the daily newspaper whose unrelenting expose of child sex abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese turned the secret of such abuse into a national crisis five years ago. Cardinal O’Malley noted that on Jan. 6 Catholics celebrate the Epiphany, “the manifestation of God’s love for all humanity.” “Five years ago, as we marked the feast on Jan. 6, 2002, the devastating revelations that Catholic clergy had sexually abused children shook the Archdiocese of Boston and the wider community,” he said. “The contrast between the feast, which celebrates the light of Christ, and the dark and unremitting truth of clergy sexual abuse seemed, at first, impossible to accept.” He added, “But the truth of the abuse had to be confronted.”
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Pope says Christians should embrace persecution as source of blessing
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Christian community and its members always will face persecution and suffering, but they should embrace it as a source of blessing, Pope Benedict XVI said. Speaking at his Jan. 10 general audience about the ministry and death of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, the pope said the persecution of the early Christian community is what pushed the disciples to leave Jerusalem and bring the Gospel to the world. “Even in our lives the cross, which is never lacking, becomes a blessing,” the pope said. And by accepting suffering in the knowledge that it will lead to growth and blessings, “we learn the joy of Christianity even in moments of difficulty,” Pope Benedict said. St. Stephen, he said, “teaches us to love the cross because the cross is the path Christ always uses to arrive in our midst.”
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World Youth Day to base fees on wealth of pilgrim’s country
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With the approval of the Vatican, organizers of the 2008 World Youth Day events in Australia will charge registration fees based on the wealth of each pilgrim’s home country. “The pricing structure ensures that pilgrims from more affluent nations, including Australian pilgrims, share in a reasonable part of the costs of WYD08 and support pilgrims from less-affluent nations,” said an announcement on the event’s official Web site. Organizers said the four-tiered registration fee system was based on national income classifications developed by the World Bank. Pilgrims from Australia, the United States, Canada and Western Europe, but also Poland, Mexico and several Caribbean countries will be asked to pay higher registration fees than pilgrims coming from middle- and low-income countries. Pilgrims from countries in the South Pacific that have been classified either as “lower middle” or “low income” — such as Fiji, East Timor and Papua New Guinea — will be offered the steepest discount. The price list is published on the World Youth Day Web site, http://www.wyd2008.org.
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Lithuanian cardinal says active bishops unlikely to have KGB ties
VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) — Lithuanian church leaders said a situation similar to the recent resignation of a Polish archbishop who admitted collaborating with former communist secret police is highly unlikely in Lithuania. “After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, the ecclesial hierarchy has undergone major reorganizations, so at least on the hierarchical level such problems should not arise,” Cardinal Audrys Backis of Vilnius said in a Jan. 8 statement. During the 1990s, all active bishops who were appointed under communism were replaced. Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1989. Three of the seven current heads of Lithuanian dioceses — including Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius of Kaunas, the current head of the bishops’ conference who was imprisoned in the 1980s — were members of the anti-Soviet movement. Cardinal Backis issued his statement after the Jan. 7 resignation of Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, who admitted he was an informer for Poland’s former communist secret police and that his cooperation harmed the church.
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Australian bishop defends covering crucifixes in Catholic hospital
PERTH, Australia (CNS) — An Australian bishop has defended a Catholic hospital’s decision to cover hospital room crucifixes if patients request it. Bishop Justin Bianchini of Geraldton said the move by the town’s St. John of God Hospital did not reflect a drift toward secularism or political correctness. “The fact that we are Catholic means we do respect people now, we are more open, not narrow-minded,” Bishop Bianchini said. “It’s not denying our beliefs. “It’s not political correctness, it’s accommodating a need occasionally on request in a room; even if it’s someone that believes nothing and they see this tortured body on the cross, the visual image can be distressing if they don’t understand it,” the bishop said. “If they’re in a room and they were stressed, are you helping or hindering them? That’s part of good health care — you tend to them,” said the bishop. The hospital is part of the St. John of God Health Care System, Australia’s third-largest private hospital operator with 11 hospitals in two states.
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Polish cardinal says archbishop who resigned should take legal action
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Poland’s leading cardinal defended the newly resigned archbishop of Warsaw and urged legal action to clear his name, as local newspapers made further claims about clergy collaboration under communist rule. “I don’t think this case is over — he deserves a defamation trial and should demand this. If he doesn’t, some other body will,” Cardinal Jozef Glemp, retired archbishop of Warsaw, said about Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, who resigned after just two days as Warsaw archbishop. “The real need isn’t for change in church structures but for change in structures of our state, which needs to liberate itself from media pressure.” The cardinal spoke in a prime-time Polish TV interview Jan. 9, two days after Archbishop Wielgus resigned. Archbishop Wielgus initially denied media charges that for 22 years he had been a “trusted collaborator” of Poland’s secret police, the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, or SB. Later, he admitted collaborating, but denied hurting anyone or spying and said, “through the fact of this entanglement, I harmed the church.”
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Ohio parishioners raise money for school by creating children’s books
LIMA, Ohio (CNS) — Parishioners at St. Gerard Parish in Lima might say they are writing the book on fundraising. That’s because a parish literary group called the Gerardian Inkspot and Paint Society is in the process of creating and selling children’s books to raise money for the parish school. The group’s first effort was unveiled to the parish community last fall as families ate popcorn and watched a PowerPoint presentation of “The Fox & the Hunter: A Retelling of an Olde Irish Tale for Today’s Children.” The two writers behind the story know the literary tastes of young children from everyday experience as teachers at St. Gerard School. Preschool teacher Ann Mulcahy and art teacher Sheila Silone, along with about a dozen others, were asked by Redemptorist Father George Blasick, associate pastor, to be a part of the parish literary group in December 2004. The group’s first work is based on a story Father Blasick saw in a book of Irish stories about a mischievous fox that gets into the home of an Irish hunter. It sells for $13.95 and can be ordered by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Missouri blacksmith turns task into tribute to Mary
ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Even with his experience, Robert Ruwwe, who has done blacksmithing since he was a teen, didn’t think he was good enough to make an intricate design for the Legion of Mary. The legion — the largest apostolic organization of laypeople in the Catholic Church — asked him to make a vexillum, or standard, that is used for its annual Acies ceremony. After some hesitation, Ruwwe, a member of St. Stephen Parish in Richwoods, took on the project and surprised himself with how well it turned out. “Acies” is a Latin word that means an army ranged in battle array; the vexillum resembles a standard or flag that soldiers carry into battle. Held annually near the feast of the Annunciation, the ceremony is when members renew their consecration to Mary. In an interview with the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese, Mary Budde, vice president of the St. Louis Regional Senatus of the Legion of Mary, called the vexillum “just gorgeous, a beautiful thing.” Budde said Mary was Ruwwe’s guide in doing the work, and the project brought him closer to her.