By Catholic News Service
USCCB forum examines broadcasters’ obligation to serve all audiences
NEW YORK (CNS) — Religious groups have to harness the unity in their diversity and work together to ensure that broadcasters respect their obligation to serve the needs of all viewers and listeners — and not only those who are shareholders. This was a conclusion at a historic round-table forum on religion and broadcasting held January 9 at the WNET television studio in New York. Representatives from two dozen Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic groups met with two commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission for a spirited discussion organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in cooperation with the National Council of Churches and the United Church of Christ. The effect of media consolidation, in which large companies own a variety of media outlets in a single market, according to Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Camden, N.J., a former chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, is “we get fed a steady diet of ‘reality’ programs and dreck. We have so dumbed-down our culture that we have a deadening of spirit.”
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Rev. King’s legacy ‘alive and well,’ says leadership conference head
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CNS) — “I have a dream,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said more than four decades ago from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. This simple phrase still has the compelling strength to evoke the slain civil rights leader’s likeness and message in the minds of countless people throughout the world. “His legacy is alive and well,” said Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaking about his institution’s founder in a telephone interview with the Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Diocese of Joliet. This year the federal holiday commemorating Rev. King’s birthday is Jan. 15; he was born Jan. 15, 1929. Launched by Rev. King in 1957, the conference is an Atlanta-based advocacy organization committed to achieving social, political and economic justice through nonviolent actions, said Steele. Staff counselors and other employees advocate “Kingian nonviolence,” a philosophy designed by Rev. King that underlines peaceful problem-solving strategies and techniques, he explained.
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Bush’s new plan for Iraq draws support, criticism
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Catholic Army chaplain who was stationed in Iraq and a Christian Iraqi-American military adviser said they stand behind U.S. President George W. Bush’s most recent plan to send more troops to Iraq. But three international policy experts contacted by Catholic News Service sharply criticized the plan and questioned whether it can succeed. “If this is what the leaders are asking for, then that’s what they need,” said Father Brian Kane, who served as an Army chaplain for the 67th Area Support Group at Al Asad Airfield, in the Iraqi Al Anbar region. Pauline Jasim, a military bilingual and bicultural adviser in Baghdad, Iraq, said it was “about time Washington realized the (number of) troops were never enough, and more troops are needed in Baghdad.” Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor of the national Catholic magazine America and director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace 1991-98, said the plan “seems to me too light on the troops” to achieve the goal of sufficient security for a transition to Iraqi control. More importantly, “it ignores the diplomatic elements altogether,” he said. Maryann Cusimano Love, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America, Washington, and an expert on terrorism, said Jan. 11: “This is primarily a political battle about winning hearts and minds. And the military measures that he presented last night don’t do anything to address the underlying problems in Iraq and, I’m afraid, are unlikely to succeed.” Gerard F. Powers, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace and head of the bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace 1998-2004, said there “are some positive proposals” in the Bush plan and “the stated goal is the right one — a united, stable, nonsectarian government.” But he said the “modest increase in troops” announced by Bush is another case of “willing the ends but not the means.”
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Flag reminds Catholic school students of heroic actions of Sept. 11
YORK, Pa. (CNS) — Students and faculty members at York Catholic High School now have a vivid reminder of the heroism of firefighters who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City through an American flag with an image of the New York City skyline displayed at the entrance to their school auditorium. The flag was obtained through a connection established by the school’s religion teacher, Father William Cawley. Five years ago the priest scrolled through a memorial Web site of New York firefighters who died in the attacks and came across someone with the same last name as his, although he was no relation. The priest found out that firefighter Michael Cawley had graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, N.Y. Around Christmas 2001, Father Cawley contributed in Michael Cawley’s name to Archbishop Molloy High School and sent a letter to his family. The family was so touched that they made a donation in their son’s memory to York Catholic High School. The Cawleys helped restore the chalices used for school Masses and provide a projection system for liturgies. This past fall the family donated to the school auction a special memorial flag they had received for the fifth anniversary of the attacks. The flag was purchased for $1,600 by longtime supporters and graduates of York Catholic High School who specified that the flag should initially be displayed at the school.
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Local officials should promote family-friendly policies, says pope
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — If they really want to improve the quality of life of their citizens, city and regional officials must promote policies to strengthen families, Pope Benedict XVI said. “The intrinsic value” of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman must be better understood and supported, the pope said Jan. 11 in a speech to officials from the city and province of Rome and from the Lazio region. While the church is doing its part to educate and assist families, he said, a government policy on family life and for families also is necessary. The pope called for “initiatives that would make it less difficult and burdensome for young couples to form a family and then generate and educate their children, promote employment for young adults, contain as far as possible the cost of housing and increase the number of preschools and nurseries.”
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Peace is not final aim of dialogue, Vatican officials tell conference
ROME (CNS) — Dialogue between religions is necessary for peace, but that is not the final aim of the Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue, two Vatican officials said. “A Christian is one who opens himself to others,” said Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, at the opening of a Jan. 11-12 conference at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University. Cardinal Dias told the conference, which focused on dialogue in societies marked by growing religious and cultural diversity, that “otherness, plurality and diversity are a richness, not a threat.” Because it knows that all people are created in the image of God, the Catholic Church engages in its mission to proclaim God’s love to all people and sees dialogue as part of that mission, he said. French Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the pontifical councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue, told conference participants, “Only on the basis of values, which basically have a common source, can people live together peacefully without giving up their own faith and culture.”
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Peruvian archbishop defends commission against official’s criticism
LIMA, PERU (CNS) — The president of the Peruvian bishops’ Social Action Commission strongly reaffirmed the church’s defense of life and human rights in response to criticism from Peruvian Vice President Luis Giampietri. Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, president of the commission known by its Spanish acronym CEAS, said, “For more than 40 years, CEAS has promoted a human rights ministry in light of the social doctrine of the church to foster justice, democracy, development and peace in Peru. “Throughout these years, the Catholic Church has condemned violent acts by armed groups that brought terror and death to our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Barreto said in a statement issued Jan. 5. “But the church has also condemned violent acts by government agents who, in violation of the law, committed crimes against the life and integrity of vulnerable persons, as in the case of the prison inmates.” The day before the bishop’s statement was released, the Lima daily newspaper Correo reported that Giampietri had accused former CEAS lawyers of defending terrorists.
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Irish churches seek info about bodies of Catholics who ‘disappeared’
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — Catholic churches in Ireland are appealing for information about the location of nine Catholics murdered between 1972 and 1985 and whose bodies were buried in secret. Priests in the Archdiocese of Armagh, Northern Ireland, issued the appeal at Masses the first weekend in January. Other Catholic churches in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland were to continue the appeal in January and planned to place posters in church lobbies and notices in parish bulletins and newsletters. The appeal is in response to a request from the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, established in 1999 under terms of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. The commission described the church’s cooperation as “very important,” saying “it represents a real opportunity to end the harrowing ordeal for the families of the disappeared.” Anyone with information is urged to write to: ICLVR, P.O. Box 10827, Dublin 2, Ireland.
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New National Advisory Council members named
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the names of 10 new members of their National Advisory Council Jan. 8. All were elected to four-year terms in the USCCB regions they represent. The council is a group of about 50 Catholics from across the country, mostly laypeople but including two bishops and several priests and men and women religious, who meet to review matters that the bishops will be discussing or acting on and to advise the bishops on such matters or other issues facing the church. Diocesan priests joining the council are Msgr. Kurt H. Kemo of Steubenville, Ohio; Father Anthony Cincinnati of Wheeling, W.Va.; Father Robert J. Schrader of Rochester, N.Y.; and Father James P. Shea of Mandan, N.D. There are 15 regions, and those that held elections in 2006 announced the names of the new council members elected. New lay representatives from Region 9 are James R. Wharton of Sioux City, Iowa, and Karen L. Tibbs of Omaha, Neb. Coming from Region 12 are Robert J. McCann of Spokane, Wash., and Ernestine Fleece of Anchorage, Alaska, and from Region 13, Christopher R. Houk and Elvira Espinoza, both of Phoenix.
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Secretly ordained Chinese Bishop Meng dies at age 103
HONG KONG (CNS) — Clandestinely ordained Bishop Joseph Meng Ziwen of Nanning, China’s oldest prelate, died Jan. 7 at the age of 103. He had suffered from liver cancer. Bishop Meng was ordained a bishop in 1984, but the Chinese government recognized him only as a priest. He died at a church in Guigang, about 80 miles east of Nanning, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Coadjutor Bishop John Baptist Tan Yanchuan of Nanning succeeded Bishop Meng and was to preside at the funeral Mass, scheduled for Jan. 13. Bishop Meng’s great-nephew, Father Joseph Meng Weicai, who had cared for the bishop since 2002, said his great-uncle had “unlimited God-given energy,” as shown in his pastoral work at the nine churches in the Guigang area. The bishop used to celebrate three Masses on Sundays at three different churches. Even after turning 100, the bishop maintained this practice until his health began deteriorating in August 2005.
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Catholic teacher, author looks to increase women’s Catholic fiction
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The message that women are worth more than their appearance, social status or monetary income is something that Catholic author Cheryl Dickow has tried to get across in her nonfiction books and now hopes also to do through fiction writing. The author of “Reclaiming Your Christian Self in a Secular World: A Woman’s Bible Study” and “Raising Christian Children in a Secular World: Christian Parenting,” has started a new publishing company, Bezalel Books, to address the dearth of women’s Catholic fiction. “It is my prayer to bring a strong female presence to Catholic fiction which is fairly nonexistent when compared to the same market for our Protestant and evangelical sisters-in-faith,” said Dickow in a phone interview from her home in Waterford, Mich., with The Tidings, archdiocesan newspaper of Los Angeles. Dickow teaches sixth and seventh grade English at Our Lady of the Lakes School in Waterford; she is the mother of three teenage boys. More information on Bezalel’s fiction books is available from Bezalel Books by phone at: (248) 917-3865, or on Dickow’s Web site: http://www.AskKnockSeek.com.