A Look at Today (01.23.07)

No events in diocese.

Bishop Pfeifer in San Antonio for MACC Breakfast and meeting with business leaders (thru Thursday).

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Hebrews 10:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 10, 11
Gospel: Mark 3:31-35

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Culture of life means changing hearts, president tells March for Life

WASHINGTON (CNS) — “A true culture of life cannot be built by changing laws alone. We’ve all got to work to change hearts,” President George W. Bush told tens of thousands of participants in the 34th annual March for Life Jan. 22. Bush spoke by phone at the beginning of a two-hour rally on the National Mall preceding the marchers’ slow, peaceful trek around the Capitol to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. With temperatures hovering right around freezing, the marchers packing several square blocks of the Mall and overflowing onto side streets turned the previous day’s snowfall into acres of muddy slush. Among featured speakers was U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican whose appearance at the microphone sparked huge cheers from a large Kansas delegation just in front of the stage. Hundreds of people in all parts of the crowd waved blue “Brownback for president” signs, reflecting support for his decision to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination next year. “We need a culture of life that respects all life … from conception to natural death,” said Brownback, a Catholic. “The unborn person is unique, is sacred, is beautiful” and “deserves protection,” he added.

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Cardinal: ‘Reasons for rejoicing’ exist despite legalized abortion

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Despite the fact abortion has been legal throughout the United States for 34 years, there are “reasons for rejoicing,” primarily because of lower abortion rates and increased public opposition to abortion, said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was principal celebrant and homilist at a Jan. 21 Mass on the eve of the annual March for Life. It was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. “The rate and number of abortions in the United States continue to decline, most notably among teens,” he said to applause during the homily. He said many teens “are wisely choosing to abstain from sexual activity” because of religious and moral values and also to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. “To be free of disease, to be free of the fear of an ill-timed pregnancy, to be free of a broken heart — this is the freedom that we want for our young people, and we rejoice that it is unfolding,” he added to further applause.

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Budget choices must reflect needs of poor, vulnerable, senators told

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Reminding U.S. senators that their budgetary decisions are “not only policy choices but moral ones,” two leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged that the continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2007 pay greater attention to “the essential needs of the poor and vulnerable.” Bishops Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., and Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a Jan. 17 joint letter to senators that “the fundamental moral measure of our nation’s spending policy is whether it enhances or undermines those most in need.” The two bishops chair the USCCB international policy and domestic policy committees, respectively. A copy of their letter was released by the USCCB Jan. 18. “Providing an adequate safety net for poor and vulnerable families at home and abroad and promoting human development in poor countries are both fundamental obligations of a responsible society,” the bishops said.

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Prayer, new societal vision needed to fight abortion, archbishop says

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Calling silence and ignorance the “twin allies of atrocities,” Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington urged participants in a Mass preceding the March for Life Jan. 22 to “repudiate all forms of violence” and pray for an end to abortion. “If the spiral of violence and death that haunts our streets, schools, families and communities is to be broken, we need a new vision,” he said. “We must realize and proclaim that there is something wrong with our society if all we can offer a woman caught up in the drama of an unexpected pregnancy is abortion.” The archbishop was chief celebrant and delivered the homily at an early morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The 7:30 a.m. Mass closed an all-night vigil — sponsored by the basilica, the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and The Catholic University of America — that also included a rosary for life, night prayer, Holy Hours, morning prayer and the opportunity for confession.

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Dioceses urged to make parishes improve accounting

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A national advisory Accounting Practices Committee has urged the U.S. bishops to institute tighter internal controls over finances in the nation’s 19,000 parishes. Its recommendations included establishing clear diocesan policies about conflict of interest, protection of whistle-blowers and a fraud policy that would include prosecution in all cases. It also called for each diocese to require every parish to submit an annual report to the bishop on the names and professional titles of the members of the parish finance council, dates the council met, when it approved the parish budget and what budget information was given to parishioners and when. The report should include a copy of the parish’s published financial statement, it said. The committee, a lay group of certified public accountants convened to advise the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met in Washington Jan. 11-12. Its recommendations were released by the USCCB the following week.

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Faith groups said to have role to play in media reform efforts

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) — Faith groups have a stake in efforts to reform the nation’s media, according to representatives of several faiths assembled for a Jan. 13 panel in Memphis as part of the National Conference for Media Reform. “We’re constantly explaining who we are” because of the media reinforcing stereotypes and ignoring religious communities’ perspectives, said panelist Katherine Grincewich, associate general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. When asked why the Catholic Church would care about such big issues as media justice and smaller issues such as the “fairness doctrine” — giving time to those with opposing points of view — Grincewich noted how Pope Benedict XVI, as well as his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, has talked about access to media as “a basic, fundamental human right.” Both popes left open the door to government intervention in media matters, she added. “If the marketplace detours the ability to communicate, then something needs to be done,” Grincewich said.

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Tulsa Catholic school students test tablet computers in pilot program

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) — Paper and pens may soon be a thing of the past for students at Benedictine-run Monte Cassino School, a Catholic elementary school in Tulsa that is conducting a pilot project incorporating tablet computers in classrooms. In July 2006, the school’s third-grade teacher, Vikki Calvert, attended a National Educators Computing Convention, where she learned about tablet computers and how they can enhance classroom learning. The convention drew more than 17,000 other participants and was the largest gathering in the country for educational technology. She shared her findings with Benedictine Sister Mary Clare Buthod, the school’s director, who immediately got on board. “I saw such promise in the program and how it could help organizationally challenged students to succeed,” Sister Mary Clare said. A tablet computer is a notebook or slate-shaped portable computer. The user can operate it by touching the screen with a stylus or a fingertip, instead of using a keyboard or mouse.

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Catholic schools in Delaware use TVs for learning, building community

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) — Television, long regarded by teachers and parents as an enemy of homework and imagination, is now welcomed in classrooms as a learning tool. Thanks to electronic miniaturization and affordability of equipment, students in several elementary schools in the Diocese of Wilmington are learning public speaking, language and leadership skills by participating in closed-circuit telecasts that spread school news and build community. The Wilmington area schools each go about their work a bit differently. St. Ann’s, for example, has a periodic magazine-style show. Immaculate Heart of Mary’s program, in its first year, is produced daily by a faculty member. St. Matthew’s and Holy Rosary both offer daily, student-produced telecasts; St. Matthew’s is taped a half-hour before broadcast while Holy Rosary goes live.

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WORLD

Vatican says Chinese church growing; pope to write Chinese Catholics

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the end of a two-day meeting to discuss the status of the Catholic community in mainland China and the problems it faces, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI would write a letter to the country’s Catholics. Despite continuing instances of persecution and pressure, the number of Catholics in China is growing and the vast majority of bishops and priests have recognized the authority of the pope, said the statement issued at the end of the Jan. 19-20 meeting chaired by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. “In the light of the troubled history of the church in China and the main events of the past few years, there was an examination of the most serious and urgent church problems, which need adequate solutions related to the basic principles of the divine constitution of the church and of religious liberty,” the statement said. The Vatican did not say when Pope Benedict’s letter to the Catholics of China would be written or released.

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Pope says ecumenism should find increasing expression at parish level

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI said ecumenism should find increasing expression at the parish level through prayer and works of charity. The pope made the remarks at his Sunday blessing Jan. 21 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Jan. 25 he was scheduled to join other Christian leaders to close out the week with a prayer service in Rome. Addressing pilgrims from his apartment window, the pope said ecumenism must be understood as a “profound dialogue, listening to each other and speaking with each other, getting to know one another better.” He said, “This is a task everyone can carry out, especially when it comes to ‘spiritual ecumenism.'” He said, “I hope the yearning for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal cooperation to alleviate human suffering, can spread even more at the level of parishes, church movements and religious institutes.” The pope expressed his gratitude for all those around the world who are praying and working for Christian unity.

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Rome’s mayor backs off plans to rename train station after late pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican newspaper criticized Rome’s mayor for backing off plans to rename the city’s main train station after Pope John Paul II. In late December, Mayor Walter Veltroni joined Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the papal vicar of Rome, for the unveiling of two stone markers dedicating Termini Station to Pope John Paul. But after complaints from leftist political parties and a threatened sit-in, Veltroni issued a clarification, saying the station would not change its name. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, cried foul. In an article Jan. 21, it quoted Veltroni’s words the day after the pope’s death in April 2005. The mayor had proposed to “name Termini Station for John Paul II,” it said, as a gesture recognizing the late pontiff as a world traveler. The Vatican newspaper said Veltroni was now, in effect, “de-naming” the station after complaints that the change would offend some passengers.

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Pope asks Romanian diplomat to help save threatened cathedral

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Romania’s new ambassador to the Vatican for his help in stopping construction of a skyscraper next to Bucharest’s St. Joseph Cathedral. Welcoming Marius Gabriel Lazurca to the Vatican Jan. 20, the pope said smooth relations between the government and church communities present in the country would contribute to “social peace.” “In this regard, I can only express my concern over the matter of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest,” the pope told the ambassador. In a Dec. 4 statement, the Vatican said the physical stability of the cathedral, built in the late 1800s, is threatened by work on the 18-story office building just 30 feet away from the northeast wall of the church. The pope, speaking Jan. 20, asked the ambassador’s assistance in preserving the building and the values it represents for the Catholic community and for all Romanians.

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British cardinal seeks exemption for adoptions by same-sex couples

LONDON (CNS) — The head of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that seven Catholic adoption agencies would close if the government forced them to place children with same-sex couples. In a Jan. 22 letter, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, appealed to Blair to grant the agencies an exemption from proposed gay rights laws called the Sexual Orientation Regulations. “This is an appeal for fair play,” the cardinal said. He said that without the exemption the Catholic agencies, which are partly funded by the government, would be forced to end a service that each year places more than 200 problem children with new families. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that closing the agencies was a “wholly avoidable” outcome. He said the bishops believed it would be “unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics” if the government insisted that they must act “against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service.”

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Mexican bishop cautions against unjust oaths in the name of Jesus

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Mexican bishop has cautioned against the reference to Jesus in the presidential oaths of office that were taken by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. “We have to be critical when people invoke God to justify terrorism, wars, the exploitation of the poor, inhumanity, totalitarianism and unheard of repression,” said Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas in a commentary published by the Mexican bishops’ conference Jan. 17. Real deeds have to be separated from lip service when controversial measures are implemented in the name of Christ,” the bishop said. Chavez was sworn in Jan. 10 for his third term as president of Venezuela. During the ceremony, he promised the country socialism and said, “I swear by Christ — the greatest socialist in history.” Ortega was sworn in the same day for his second term as president.

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PEOPLE

Youths get energized for pro-life march by joining conga lines

WASHINGTON (CNS) — For youthful demonstrators during Jan. 22 pro-life events in Washington, coming in from the cold meant joining a conga line, doing “the wave” cheers and singing at the top of their lungs. The youths gathered for a musical rally at Constitution Hall close to the White House and near the staging area for the March for Life. The rally preceded a Mass for youths, also in Constitution Hall. What does snaking through the aisles at 9 a.m. have do with stopping abortions? “It gets everyone hyped up for the day. It’s going to be cold outside today,” said Andrew Hanley, 17, of North Huntingdon, Pa., as temperatures hovered around the freezing mark outside in the hours before the March for Life protesting legalized abortion. “It gets you psyched up for the march. It gets you excited,” said Paige Kowatch, 16, of Pewamo, Mich., who was with a group of 51 people who had arrived the day before after a 12-hour bus ride.

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U.S. priest to be Vatican’s representative to international agencies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Msgr. Michael W. Banach, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., to be the Vatican’s representative to several international agencies based in Vienna, Austria. Msgr. Banach, 44, has served in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1994, most recently serving in the Vatican Secretariat of State’s section for relations with states. In Vienna, he will serve as the Vatican’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; the U.N. Organization for Industrial Development; and the local United Nations office. Born in Worcester Nov. 19, 1962, he was ordained to the priesthood July 7, 1988. After earning his degree in canon law, he entered the Vatican diplomatic corps and served at Vatican embassies in Bolivia and Nigeria before moving to the Secretariat of State.

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U.S. archbishop: Catholics need solid preaching, not feel-good fluff

ROME (CNS) — Catholics need solid preaching about Jesus, the cross and the church, and not “feel-good” spiritual advice that demands no sacrifice, said U.S. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee. Preaching well means challenging people’s complacency and, like Christ, occasionally “shaking things up,” Archbishop Dolan said in Rome Jan. 14. That cannot happen if preachers soft-pedal the cross, he said. “Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms,” he said. “Our preaching can then become cotton candyish: a lot of fluff, air and sugar, but no substance,” he said. Archbishop Dolan made the remarks at the Pontifical North American College, where he lectured on “Preaching: An Ecclesial Vocation.” While noting that preaching the Gospel is a mandate shared by all Christians, he focused on the preaching of ordained ministers.

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De Zutter, longtime Catholic editor, retires from Kansas City post

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CNS) — Albert de Zutter, 74, has retired after 16 years as editor and general manager of The Catholic Key, weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “It has been my goal to provide, through the Catholic press, the tools that the Catholic community requires to carry out its mission to the world: namely, to love God by loving our neighbor as ourselves, and to do so not only through personal charity but by working to achieve justice in our communities and throughout the world,” he said in a statement. “It is time now for me to leave that work to others,” de Zutter added. “I am proud to have gathered an outstanding staff that is still in place at The Catholic Key, and to have left that publication in sound financial condition.” Under his leadership, The Catholic Key won some 50 journalism awards from the Catholic Press Association. De Zutter was a frequent winner in the category of “best editorial” for his opinion pieces applying the teachings of the Catholic Church in the area of social justice and the common good.

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