A Look at Today (02.14.07)

No diocesan-wide events

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
Gospel: Mark 8:22-26

Today’s News from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Church official calls for prayer in wake of Utah mall shooting spree

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) — Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, administrator of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, called on Catholics Feb. 13 to unite in prayer for victims of a shooting spree at a shopping mall and their families and for the gunman and his family. Five people were killed and at least four more were wounded in a shooting spree at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City Feb. 12. The gunman was fatally shot by police. Authorities were trying to figure out what sparked the rampage. “We pray for everyone who has been traumatized by this violent event, including the police officers involved, the rescue workers, Trolley Square employees, and all of the people who were in the mall at the time of the shootings,” said Msgr. Fitzgerald. “We do not know yet the identity of any of the victims or of the person who perpetrated this violence upon our city. I pray that we will draw strength from our faith and the faith of those around us as we reach out as a community of compassion and caring,” said the priest, whose statement was issued before police released the identities of the victims or the gunman.

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Speakers debate U.S. bishops’ role in addressing U.S. social policy

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A discussion of the U.S. bishops’ 1986 economic pastoral at The Catholic University of America Feb. 9 led to a debate over the role of the bishops in addressing U.S. social policy. Father J. Bryan Hehir, who headed the bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace when the bishops adopted the economic pastoral and, three years earlier, their landmark peace pastoral, defended both documents as legitimate efforts to bring the principles of Catholic social teaching to bear on important public policy issues. He noted that the bishops themselves acknowledged in both letters that the moral authority of what they said was weaker and less binding as they got further into specifics about economic or defense policy. Joseph Capizzi, a theology professor at Catholic University, said that when he introduces the economic pastoral in moral theology classes, it is the one document seminarians uniformly dislike. He said the pastoral’s biblical perspectives are its strength, but it is “enervated” by its focus on concrete proposals, which work to the detriment of the moral framework the bishops set out.

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Social ministry speakers describe local, global effects of poverty

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the United States, 38.2 million people live in households where the family income falls below the federal poverty line of $15,600 for a family of three and just under $20,000 for a family of four. Meanwhile, “a majority of the HIV-positive people in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to Charity Musamba, a Zambian woman who has lost two siblings to AIDS-related diseases. Musamba, a member of Jubilee Zambia, and Rebecca Blank, dean of the Gerald R. Ford Public Policy School at the University of Michigan, spoke on the effects of national and international poverty — and poverty reduction — during the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, held Feb. 11-14 in Washington. It was sponsored by six agencies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 10 other national Catholic organizations. In assessing the impact of the 1996 law that overhauled how welfare funds are paid to the U.S. poor, Blank noted that “a great irony” is that “more women have left welfare due to sanctions than have left welfare due to time limits.”

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Disabled Catholics draw on own suffering to minister to others

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Men and women across the country who are members of a little-known community that is open to people with disabilities — as well as those without — are imitating the crucified Christ by drawing on their own suffering to minister to others. “Handicapped people are not worthless,” said Maria Burke, 53, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena in Horsham who has multiple sclerosis. “We have something to give to the world. We can still contribute.” Burke is one of 24 women and six men who have become Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus Crucified, a secular institute for laypeople, many of whom have disabilities. Members consecrate themselves to God by professing perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the spirit of St. Francis. They are called to live exemplary Christian lives in the ordinary circumstances of their family, parish, work, civic and social environments. For Burke, the institute is an answer to a lifelong prayer. “Long before I was diagnosed with MS, I just felt this need inside of me for religious life,” said Burke.

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WORLD

Crucified Christ is reminder to protect human dignity, says pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Contemplating Christ nailed to the cross should stimulate people to protect human dignity and “to fight every form of contempt for life,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 message for Lent. “May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must ‘regive’ to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need,” said the message. The message was released at the Vatican Feb. 13. The theme of the message is “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.” Lent begins Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 21. Easter is April 8. Using the Greek words “agape” and “eros,” the papal message said that love has two fundamental forms. Agape “indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other,” it said. Eros “denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and (eros) yearns for union with the beloved,” it said. While agape better describes God’s love for humanity “God’s love is also eros,” the papal message said.

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Cardinal welcomes North Korea’s agreement to disarm nuclear program

ROME (CNS) — South Korea’s leading Catholic churchman welcomed the news that North Korea had agreed to wind down its nuclear program in exchange for fuel assistance from outside countries. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk of Seoul said the agreement, announced in Beijing Feb. 13, had “averted a catastrophe of unimaginable consequences.” The cardinal told AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary agency, “If things had gone differently, we would have seen a nuclear conflict that would have destroyed us.” The agreement followed three years of talks among six countries, including the United States. North Korea promised to shut down its main nuclear facilities within 60 days and to begin the process of nuclear disarmament, with international inspections. In exchange, the country would receive 1 million tons of fuel oil. The agreement also set in motion talks on a wide range of related issues, including normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations.

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Vatican official: Pope’s Lenten message focuses on relations with God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While calling Catholics to perform concrete acts of charity during Lent, Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Lenten message focuses not on social problems, but on an individual’s relationship with God, said Archbishop Paul Cordes. Presenting the Lenten message at a Feb. 13 press conference, Archbishop Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said the pope departed from the customary social focus of papal Lenten messages in order to emphasize that Christian charity must have a religious motivation. The 2007 message, a meditation on the crucified Christ as the fullest sign of God’s love, called on Christians to contemplate Christ’s suffering and then work to alleviate situations in which human life and dignity are threatened by poverty, oppression, exploitation, loneliness and abandonment. Archbishop Cordes said Christians must be pleased that “the biblical commandment of love for one’s neighbor” is being followed by a variety of foundations and philanthropic agencies that have no religious motivation. But at the same time, he said, they must ensure their own acts of charity flow from and witness to the love of God.

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Portuguese archbishop criticizes nonbinding vote on abortion

LISBON, Portugal (CNS) — A Portuguese archbishop criticized nonbinding referendum results on abortion and encouraged pro-life movements to continue to fight for life. Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga of Braga, president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, said, “Whatever the result, I’m cheered by the efforts made in this campaign and convinced the church can count on various movements for the permanent defense of life.” Nearly 60 percent of those who voted Feb. 11 supported a government-backed referendum that would have legalized abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, only 43 percent of voting-age citizens turned out for the referendum, so the results were not legally binding. Currently, abortions in Portugal are legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy only if a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of rape, incest or fetal impairment. “What is lawful is not necessarily moral,” the archbishop said in a Feb. 11 statement on the bishops’ conference Web site. “There are situations in which lawful acts can be immoral.”

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Paris archbishop, in Israel, says world must fight anti-Semitism

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNS) — Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois said the world must work against anti-Semitism, which is rooted in human culture. “Anti-Semitism cannot exist without roots well-grounded in the past,” the archbishop told a predominantly Catholic audience of about 800 people at Tel Aviv University Feb. 12. The archbishop was part of a 580-member tour group that included other Catholic bishops, clergy and reporters from French TV networks on a four-day visit to the Holy Land that included stops in Israel and the West Bank. In his university address and during a two-hour public forum that followed, the archbishop avoided talking about the ongoing conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians or between Muslims and Christians in the region, and focused largely on the topic of anti-Semitism. France has had a series of anti-Semitic attacks since shortly after the turn of the century. “Anti-Semitism is very dangerous. There is always a struggle that we have to conduct with the Jew — it is much more than just about the state of Israel,” he said.

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Chinese Catholics express hope cathedral will boost evangelization

GUANGZHOU, China (CNS) — Local and foreign Catholics expressed hope that a newly renovated Gothic cathedral in southern China would boost evangelization. Local media coverage of the cathedral’s official reopening should make more people aware of the cathedral’s existence and boost evangelization, Guangzhou resident Han Weizhou told UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Han, who attended the Feb. 9 Mass celebrating the formal opening of Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Guangzhou Diocese, said he feels the cathedral is a more comfortable place to worship now that it has been renovated. He said he was amazed each time he looked around at the new altar, furniture, stained-glass windows and other changes. More than 1,000 Catholics attended the Mass to mark the occasion. Bishop-designate Joseph Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou celebrated the Mass, and Bishop Joseph Liao Hongqing of Meizhou as well as 11 priests from Guangzhou and neighboring dioceses concelebrated.

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Blasts in Christian area outside Beirut leave three dead, 30 wounded

EIN ALAK, Lebanon (CNS) — Commuters became the latest victims in Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis as two bus blasts in the strongly Christian mountain area outside Beirut killed at least three and wounded 30. The first blast struck a bus traveling through the mountain village of Ein Alak, 15 miles north of Beirut, in the morning hours Feb. 13. Minutes later, as locals rushed to help the injured, a stronger explosion tore the roof off a minibus about 55 yards away, littering the rain-soaked road with bloody debris. Injured commuters were rushed to nearby hospitals, where rain-soaked relatives stood in numb silence waiting for updates. “My sister-in-law was sitting above the back wheel on one of the buses,” said red-eyed Maroun Gemayel, 38, in one of the hospitals. “Her legs were seriously burned, she is in shock and her hearing is badly affected, but it’s a miracle she survived,” he told Catholic News Service. The international community and Lebanon’s rival leaders united in their condemnation of the attacks.

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PEOPLE

Shea church history prize goes to Canadian historians

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two Canadian historians earned the John Gilmary Shea Prize this year for their study of six centuries of reforms in the French church. The winners were Michael Hayden, professor emeritus of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and Malcolm Greenshields, history professor at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, co-authors of “600 Years of Reform: Bishops and the French Church, 1190-1789.” The Shea prize, named after a leading 19th-century American Catholic historian, is given annually by the American Catholic Historical Association for a book judged by experts to have made the most original and distinguished contribution to knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church. The judging committee, which reviewed more than 40 books for this year’s prize, called “600 Years of Reform” a “nuanced and comprehensive” study of four waves of institutional reform in the French church from the time of Pope Innocent III to the French Revolution. The prize was announced in January at the association’s annual meeting.

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Jack McBride, leader in adult religious education, dies at age 53

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) — A funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 10 for Jack J. McBride, associate director of the Madison Diocese’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis since 1986 and a national leader in adult religious education. He died Feb. 1 at age 53 after a long battle with cancer. “Jack was a very faithful co-worker of the truth,” said Madison Bishop Robert C. Morlino, who presided at the funeral Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Madison. McBride was interred at Resurrection Cemetery. “Even when he was quite sick, Jack was determined to work hard so that people could receive the truth of Christ. His fidelity to the truth was a sign that he drew his strength from the truth,” the bishop told The Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Madison Diocese. In June 2006 McBride was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership in recognition of his dedicated and selfless service to the catechetical mission of the church.

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