A Look at Today (02.06.07)

No diocesan-wide events today

Today’s Readings 

First Reading: Genesis 1:20–2:4
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Mark 7:1-13

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service


Study finds alumni value Catholic college experience

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Alumni of Catholic colleges and universities rank their education and the values they learned in those institutions far more highly than alumni of major public universities do, education researcher Jim Day told a national gathering of Catholic college and university presidents Feb. 4. The alumni of Catholic schools were considerably more likely than their public university counterparts to say they benefited from opportunities for spiritual development in their college years, experienced an integration of values and ethics in classroom discussions and were helped to develop moral principles that can guide actions, he reported. Day presented findings of his study, based on extensive telephone surveys over the past several years of more than 2,000 alumni of Catholic colleges and universities, flagship public universities, and church-affiliated and not-church-affiliated private institutions of higher learning, at the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

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U.S. Catholic colleges urged to partner with those in poor countries

WASHINGTON (CNS) — One of the Vatican’s top education officials Feb. 4 urged U.S. Catholic college and university presidents to examine how they can provide “creative and effective support” to Catholic academic institutions in the developing world that are struggling with inadequate resources. “The inequality in resources available to Catholic higher education institutions worldwide is a matter of grave concern,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education. The archbishop gave the keynote address at the Feb. 3-5 annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington. More than 200 presidents and other top officials of the nation’s Catholic institutions of higher learning attended. Canadian-born Archbishop Miller, a Basilian priest who was president of St. Thomas University in Houston before he was called into Vatican service, cited “globalization, information technology and the commodification of education” as three megatrends that are affecting Catholic higher education around the world.

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Lack of funds forces Catholic AIDS ministry network to shut doors

CHICAGO (CNS) — The National Catholic AIDS Network, which recently formed a partnership with Loyola University Chicago, has announced that it will close following its 20th annual AIDS ministry conference this summer. The decision comes at a time when more and more people in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS, as the numbers of new infections are holding steady or rising and the death rate has gone down. The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States is now estimated to be more than a million. The network, which provides resources and support to those affected by HIV/AIDS, has fallen victim to a lack of funding, said Dan Lunney, its executive director. “Funding has been an issue for the network for the last several years,” said Lunney. “We’ve been very creative at reducing expenses, but the revenues were not there to support the network.” In part, the network has fallen victim to cuts at dioceses across the United States, Lunney said.

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Combined years of service total 915 for retiring USCCB employees

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Thirty-one employees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops whose combined years of service total 915 will retire by July 1 as part of the USCCB restructuring. Those who are leaving include the executive directors of the USCCB departments of Hispanic Affairs, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Migration and Refugee Services, Management Information Systems and Government Liaison. Also retiring are the interim head of the Department of Communications, the conference’s specialist in Catholic-Jewish relations, the associate directors of Government Liaison and the Office of General Counsel, the director of development for the Catholic Communication Campaign and two longtime policy advisers in the USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace. Late last year, the USCCB offered retirement incentives to 48 employees who were at least 55 years old and had worked for the conference at least five years. The combination of the employee’s age and years of service had to be at least 80.

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Pope urges young people to express love in unselfish ways

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI urged young people to express love in unselfish ways, looking past social goals of competition and productivity in order to become “witnesses of charity” in the world. He held out Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta as an example of a Christian who translated love into concrete action to help the poorest of the poor. The pope made the comments in a message marking World Youth Day, which was being celebrated in most dioceses April 1, Palm Sunday. The text was released at the Vatican Feb. 5. The theme of the papal message was love, and he began by telling young people that despite emotional disappointments and lack of affection in their own lives, they should know that “love is possible.” He said, “The purpose of my message is to help reawaken in each one of you — you who are the future and hope of humanity — trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another.”

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Pope condemns soccer-fan violence after Italian policeman killed

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned violence among soccer fans and urged soccer clubs to find effective ways to foster healthy expressions of team loyalty. The pope offered his condolences to the wife and children of a 38-year-old Italian police officer who died of injuries suffered Feb. 2 during a riot after the professional Catania-Palermo soccer match in Sicily. The telegram was read at the Feb. 5 funeral of the officer, Filippo Raciti, whom doctors said died as a result of a blow with a blunt instrument to his liver. After offering his condolences to Raciti’s family, his fellow police officers and the estimated 70 people injured in the post-match riot, the pope expressed his “firm condemnation of every gesture of violence that stains the world of soccer.”

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Pope calls life ‘mysterious gift’ to be defended until natural death

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Human life is “a great and mysterious gift” that must be welcomed with love and defended until the moment of natural death, Pope Benedict XVI said. As the Italian Catholic Church marked Pro-Life Day Feb. 4 in the midst of heated political debates about granting legal recognition to cohabiting couples and over euthanasia, the pope used his Sunday Angelus address to call for “a constant effort in favor of life and the family.” He said, “Life, which is the work of God, must not be denied anyone.” In addition to condemning abortion, even when a fetus has been diagnosed with serious disabilities, the pope told people “not to fall into the trap” of thinking it is legitimate to help a suffering person die with euthanasia, “masquerading it under the veil of human pity.” Pope Benedict said defending, assisting, safeguarding and recognizing the value of the family founded on marriage is an important part of pro-life work since it is in the family that children are welcomed and educated and the family that cares for the sick and the aged.

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Pope highlights special vocation of consecrated men, women

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Whether praying behind cloister walls or quietly witnessing to the Gospel in a factory, consecrated men and women have been called by God to dedicate their lives totally to him, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope highlighted the special vocation of consecrated people Feb. 2 in St. Peter’s Basilica with religious men and women celebrating the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and Feb. 3 with participants in an international symposium for members of secular institutes. The members of the secular institutes include laypeople and diocesan priests who take special vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in order to live “with evangelical radicalism” while holding regular jobs or fulfilling their pastoral ministry, the pope said. By living completely in the world, he said Feb. 3, the members demonstrate that “the work of salvation is fulfilled not in opposition to, but in and through human history.” They are called to show their co-workers, neighbors and friends that living a life totally devoted to God leads to a concrete commitment to justice, peace and joy, Pope Benedict said.

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Vatican says Catholics can get indulgence for sick-day activities

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholics who participate in events connected with the Feb. 11 celebration of the World Day of the Sick can receive a special indulgence, the Vatican announced. Pope Benedict XVI authorized the indulgences in order “to enrich” the World Day of the Sick and to highlight Christian teaching on “the value and function of suffering” accepted as a way to express sorrow for one’s sins and trust in the fact that Christ’s suffering is a source of salvation, said the Vatican statement released Feb. 5. The statement was signed by U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, head of the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences and with matters related to the sacrament of penance. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins he or she has committed. A plenary, or full, indulgence is being offered to those who join the official celebrations of the World Day of the Sick in Seoul, South Korea, or in their own dioceses or parishes.

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Vietnam says it will guarantee freedom of belief, religion

HANOI, Vietnam (CNS) — In a white paper on its religious policies, the Vietnamese government said it will guarantee its citizens’ right to freedom of belief and religion. Nguyen The Doanh, deputy head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, released the paper, “Religion and Policies Regarding Religion in Vietnam,” at a Feb. 1 press conference in the capital, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Doanh said the government consistently has implemented a policy of national unity “without any discrimination on the basis of belief or religion.” Followers of religions and faiths make up an integral part of the entire nation, and the government has worked out relevant policies to meet their spiritual needs, he said. However, he said the government’s religious policies had not been observed fully in the past because of a lack of uniformity, and local authorities have had an improper understanding of religious activities.

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Lithuanian bishops say they’ll try to keep open American parishes

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) — Lithuania’s Catholic bishops said they would try to do everything within their authority to help keep open Lithuanian-American churches in the United States. “Lithuanian bishops cannot directly deal with the issues of the parishes that are in the territory of another bishops’ conference, but will seek in their own turn that those parishes are not closed,” said the statement, released after the bishops’ meeting in mid-January. “Those parishes are significant as Lithuanian Catholic centers, as religious and cultural heritage, and they also provide a possibility to evangelize the new immigrants,” the bishops said, stressing that the best way to retain such parishes is to keep Lithuanian-American parishioners active. Lithuanian officials and the Lithuanian American Community Inc. had asked the Lithuanian bishops to approach the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference “and mediate in appropriate Vatican institutions in order to protect the traditional Lithuanian parishes and objects of cultural heritage.” They expressed concern over the future of Our Lady of Vilnius Church in New York City and other Lithuanian-American churches in the Archdiocese of Boston.

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Pope to meet youths, Latin American bishops during visit to Brazil

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — During a five-day visit to Brazil in May, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with young people and visit a center for recovering drug addicts before inaugurating a major meeting of Latin American bishops, organizers said. The pope will spend time in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, before traveling to Aparecida to open the fifth general conference of the Latin American bishops. Brazilian bishops announced the final schedule of the pope’s May 9-13 visit in early February. A Vatican advance team was expected in Brazil Feb. 9 to make detailed plans for papal liturgies and other events. It will be the pope’s sixth foreign trip and his first intercontinental journey, with 13-hour flights each way.

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In Lebanon, children urge political leaders to unite for peace

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — Eleven-year-old Najib Nihna’s voice was clear and authoritative as he addressed Lebanon’s leaders in an urgent call for peace. “Put away all your private interests and your personal accounts; let forgiveness triumph over pride,” Najib said Feb. 4 on the steps of Beirut’s National Museum. “Be humble and wield your power as wise men do, that we may see the works of goodness rather than fiery speeches. Unity is our freedom,” said the Catholic schoolboy from Mkalles, outside Beirut. As he spoke, heads nodded in silent agreement amid the crowd gathered outside the museum, carefully selected as the venue for the ceremony due to its position straddling the “green line” that divided east and west Beirut during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. Najib spoke on behalf of hundreds of Sunni, Shiite, Druze and Christian schoolchildren gathered from all over Lebanon. Some stood behind Najib with head scarves, while others wore crucifixes; all wore a white T-shirt bearing the symbol of a dove and the Lebanese cedar.

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Catholic University grad brings his mom’s novel to life on the screen

WASHINGTON (CNS) — David Paterson, a graduate of The Catholic University of America, has brought his mom’s novel to life on the big screen. Paterson co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced the new movie, “Bridge to Terabithia.” He steered his promotional tour to Washington — where he was raised in the suburbs — to include a visit to the school with a free preview screening of the film. “I had actually made a promise to Catholic (University) that I would come here and meet with the students,” Paterson said in a Feb. 1 interview with Catholic News Service, but the Walt Disney Co., which is distributing the movie, had not yet confirmed a release date. Once the Feb. 16 date was set, Paterson made a Washington stop to fulfill his promise. Having participated on panels at film festivals such as Sundance, Paterson said, “I like talking to the students … and the young filmmakers.” His mother, children’s novelist Katherine Paterson, wrote “Bridge to Terabithia” 30 years ago. The book, which won the Newbery Medal in 1978, is a fantasy/adventure about friendship and the power of imagination.

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Tennessee woman spreads message of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — When Chris Wohar moved to Nashville in 1995 as a law student, little did she know that her life would take a new turn. It was here she discovered the spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and now wants to lead others to do the same. After a three-month trip last year to Italy, where she met with family members of Blessed Pier Giorgio at the Pier Giorgio Frassati Association in Rome, Wohar has been named to lead FrassatiUSA, an organization charged with the mission of promoting the spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio in the United States. “It’s an ideal opportunity and I am thrilled and ecstatic,” Wohar told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville Diocese. “It will be extremely challenging, but exciting.” Blessed Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 in 1925. Besides being an excellent and active athlete, he was dedicated to serving the poor. He was known as the “man of the beatitudes” because he demonstrated that holiness is for everyone and that charity is the foundation of Christian life.

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