A Look at the Day (01.17.07)

No events in diocese today.

Bishop Pfeifer will be in Oklahoma City at the Southwest Liturgical Conference through Friday.

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Gospel: Mark 3:1-6 or Matthew 19:16-26

Today’s Headlines from CNS

U.S.

Congress more religiously diverse; Catholics still well represented

WASHINGTON (CNS) — With one Muslim and two Buddhist members, the 110th Congress is the most religiously diverse ever. Catholics remain the largest denominational group in Congress, with 155 members — 25 in the Senate and 130 in the House. But there are fewer Catholic Republicans in both houses since the 109th Congress and many more Catholic Democrats. In the last Senate, Catholic members were nearly evenly split between the parties, with 11 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Now there are 9 Catholic Republicans and 16 Catholic Democrats in the Senate. In the House at the start of the 109th Congress, there were 129 Catholics — 57 Republicans and 72 Democrats. Although the total number of House Catholics in the 110th Congress is nearly the same at 130, the current group includes 42 Republicans and 88 Democrats. Even Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Muslim who was sworn in as a member of Congress using a Quran once owned by President Thomas Jefferson, was raised a Catholic. He became a Muslim while in college at Wayne State University in Detroit.

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

WASHINGTON (CNS) — President George W. Bush signed a law Jan. 11 that lets him 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 new law, the “Department of State Authorities Act of 2006,” 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.” Congress passed the act Dec. 9, 2006. It was one of the final acts of the 109th Congress before it adjourned. Diplomatic immunity ensures safe passage for diplomats outside their home country. They are not subject to lawsuits or prosecution under the laws of the host country.

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Unity week highlights what religions have in common, priest says

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — The commonality that religious faiths share goes back thousands of years, and Jesus’ intent was for the different faiths to work together, said a San Francisco priest. The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed Jan. 18-25, offers an opportunity for religions to celebrate what they have in common and to promote dialogue among them. The weeklong observance was started in 1908 by Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Atonement Friars, said Father Gerard O’Rourke, who recently retired as director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “Dialogue between and among the different faiths has been the focus of the friars and the week of prayer gives fuel to the effort each year,” he told Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the archdiocese. Ecumenism means getting along even with differences of opinion, Father O’Rourke said. “The unity Jesus talked about didn’t mean conformity and lock stepping and marching down through life. The spirit of ecumenism includes that we are able and committed to work together. That was Jesus’ intent when he says, ‘That all may be one,’ in John’s Gospel.”

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Musicians, people in pews differ on what encourages singing in church

WASHINGTON (CNS) — People in Catholic music ministry and Catholics in the pews hold slightly different opinions on what helps congregations sing, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. Participants included 1,541 people who said they were involved in church music ministry, and 808 people who said they were not involved in music ministry. All respondents were asked to choose from up to 14 different factors that help them sing in church, and only two were cited by a majority of Catholics in the pews: a familiar melody and “easy to sing.” In contrast, more than half of Catholics in music ministry voted for five choices. “Leadership of organ or instruments” and “meaningful text” garnered the votes of close to two-thirds of these respondents, while “leadership of cantor or director,” “linked to liturgy of the day or season” and “enthusiasm of the congregation” got smaller majorities. “Familiar melody” and “easy to sing” placed seventh and eighth, respectively. The survey was conducted online through the organization’s Web site, http://www.npm.org. Results were announced Jan. 10.

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Rural leader says with local radio gone Christian radio has moved in

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) — After out-of-town interests bought local commercial radio stations in rural America, evangelical Christian interests obtained broadcast licenses on that part of the FM dial reserved for noncommercial use, according to Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Ky. As a result, there are now 2,000 evangelical radio stations in the United States, up 85 percent from 1996, when federal laws were changed to permit greater media concentration, Davis said. “The only format that’s larger is country” music, he added. Davis made his comments as a panelist during a workshop on media justice as part of the third National Conference for Media Reform, held Jan. 12-14 in Memphis. “The story of mass media in rural America has been one of abandonment,” Davis said. He cited an instance of a weather emergency in North Dakota. Calls were placed to radio stations in Minot, N.D., but nobody answered the phones. Nobody was inside the radio station buildings; the on-air material was being beamed to the stations for broadcast by satellite.

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WORLD

Vatican paper hits new Iraq executions, says country heads off course

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican newspaper criticized continuing executions in Iraq as a “cruel manipulation” of justice and said the country is veering in the wrong direction. The comments on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano Jan. 15 followed the gruesome hanging of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, who was decapitated by the hangman’s noose when his body dropped through the gallows floor. A video showed the body of the dead man, Barzan Ibrahim, the former head of the Iraqi secret police, lying on the floor, with his severed head several feet away, still hooded. Iraqi authorities said the decapitation was accidental. Executed at the same moment was Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Saddam’s revolutionary court. His body swung from a rope in the video. Both men were convicted of responsibility in the torture and killing of 148 Shiites in 1982.

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Pope marks migration day, urges policies to benefit families

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Political policies and humanitarian assistance to help migrant and refugee families stay together or reunite will benefit host societies because they help newcomers integrate, Pope Benedict XVI said. Marking the World Day for Migrants and Refugees Jan. 14, the pope used his Sunday Angelus address to ask the international community and individual nations to adopt policies aimed at safeguarding the family bonds of migrants and refugees. In the Gospel account of Jesus, Mary and Joseph being forced to flee to Egypt, he said, people can see “the painful situation of many migrants,” especially refugees, the displaced and the persecuted. Forced to leave their homes because of poverty, war or persecution, the families of the migrants can become extremely fragile, the pope said. Pope Benedict told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the United Nations estimates there are 200 million migrants in the world who have left their homes for economic reasons, 9 million refugees forced to flee and about 2 million youths who have left their home countries in order to study.

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Polish prelate denies he failed to tell pope about police cooperation

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — The Polish archbishop who resigned after admitting he collaborated with his country’s communist secret police denied claims that he failed to inform the pope about his past. Meanwhile, another archbishop has rejected accusations that he also acted as an informer and published an explanation of his secret police contacts. Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, who resigned in early January after serving for just two days as archbishop of Warsaw, told the Polish Catholic information agency, KAI, “In connection with media accusations that I gave the apostolic nuncio in Poland a false testimony about my contacts with the special services, I submit a copy of this testimony, whose contents I fully uphold. I swear by God in the Holy Trinity that, during the meetings and talks I held with police and intelligence representatives in connection with my trips abroad in the 1970s, I never acted against the church and never did or said anything bad against members of the clergy or laity,” he told KAI in an interview published Jan. 13.

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Mexican bishops’ plea to Vatican on alleged abuser called unparalleled

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City said several bishops’ petition asking the Vatican to take action against a priest accused of sexually abusing boys was unprecedented. “Never in Mexico has a group of bishops united to call on Rome because we’ve never had a case like this and we hope we never do again,” the spokesman, Father Hugo Romero Asuncion, told Catholic News Service. He noted that Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, who has faced charges of sexually abusing children in the United States and Mexico, has been barred from celebrating Mass since 1991. In a separate interview, Father Eugenio Lira, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Puebla, confirmed that a group of bishops in the region had petitioned the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation to investigate the case because the bishops heard that the case had not been brought to the attention of the Vatican. “There is too much evidence (against Father Aguilar),” Father Lira said, adding that the bishops have asked that the priest be expelled from the priesthood.

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English bishop signs statement of regret for trans-Atlantic slavery

LONDON (CNS) — An English Catholic bishop has signed a statement of regret over the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton joined political, business, trade union and Christian leaders in signing the statement Jan. 12 in Bristol, England. The statement is one of a number of events held this year to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the first step in totally abolishing slavery. Signers said they “cannot imagine the pain and suffering inflicted upon millions of individuals and families and the significant changes forced upon thousands of communities in Africa, the West Indies and other places by slavers of whatever race or faith.” They said they “give thanks for those who struggled to initiate this change and look to a time when slavery of every kind is abolished.” The statement also was signed by Anglican Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol and the Rev. Ward Jones, chairman of the Bristol District of the Methodist Church.

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PEOPLE

World Food Program head meets pope, praises church aid for poor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The head of the World Food Program, James Morris, praised the Catholic Church’s commitment to the poor after meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The pope spoke with Morris in a private audience Jan. 15, a week after the pontiff emphasized the need to reduce hunger in a speech to diplomats accredited to the Vatican. “I wish to thank His Holiness for his continuous personal commitment, as well as that of the Catholic Church, to the poor and desperate people in the world,” Morris said in a statement released from his Rome office. Morris noted that the World Food Program works closely with a number of Catholic humanitarian organizations, including Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, the Daughters of Charity, Jesuit Refugee Service, the International Catholic Migration Commission and the Sant’Egidio Community. “The spiritual, moral and material support of Pope Benedict XVI and of the Catholic Church represents a real hope to provide a future to millions of children,” Morris said.

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Ontario Archbishop Meagher, 66, dies after public fight with cancer

TORONTO (CNS) — After a public four-year fight with cancer, Archbishop Anthony Meagher of Kingston died peacefully at his family home in Oshawa, Ontario, at the age of 66. The archbishop’s open and courageous struggle with the disease drew the admiration of people across Canada. Countless prayers had been offered for him since he revealed in 2002 that he faced the prospect of dying from cancer within 18 months. However, the months stretched into years until the fall, when all treatment was discontinued. The archbishop died Jan. 14. “Way back at the beginning of the cancer, it was suggested to me that perhaps God was allowing me to be sick at this time in order that I might be better able to relate, as chief shepherd, to all in our archdiocese who are not well,” Archbishop Meagher wrote in his column, “Lines from a Rocking Chair,” published in the November issue of Journey, the Archdiocese of Kingston newspaper. “I really believe that this is a mission that God has given me, and I am astounded to see how God has been able to use my weakness to touch the hearts of so many people in a positive way.”

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Auxiliary Bishop Kaising of U.S. military archdiocese dies at age 70

CINCINNATI (CNS) — Auxiliary Bishop John J. Kaising of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who as a priest was ordained for the Cincinnati Archdiocese, died Jan. 13 after returning from a 10-day Christmas visit to U.S. troops in South Korea. The 70-year-old bishop died at his residence in Washington, where the military archdiocese has its headquarters. He was named auxiliary bishop in 2000. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the military archdiocese, called Bishop Kaising a friend and said that his sudden death “is a real tough blow for us. We were on retreat last week and he looked fine. There was no indication of anything imminent. He was bouncy, enjoying it all,” the archbishop told The Catholic Telegraph, newspaper of the Cincinnati Archdiocese, in a telephone interview Jan. 16. The cause of death was not immediately known.

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Colorado’s Catholic governor says he’s honored to serve the state

DENVER (CNS) — At his swearing-in Colorado’s new Democratic governor, Bill Ritter Jr., thanked Colorado voters for granting him the honor of serving them, an honor he called “heavy with responsibility.” Ritter, a Catholic, succeeded Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who is also a Catholic. The transition marks the first time in state history there have been Catholic governors serving back-to-back. It is only the third time a Catholic has held the state’s highest office; the first was Stephen McNichols, who was governor from 1957 to 1963. More than 2,000 people filled the stands set up on the west steps of the state Capitol for Ritter’s inauguration as the state’s 41st governor Jan. 9. Ritter and his family had started the day with a Mass for family and friends at Holy Ghost Church. The Mass was celebrated by Oblate Father Bill Morell of Washington, D.C., a family friend.

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