A Look at Today (02.19.07)

No diocesan-wide events today.

Today’s Reading

First Reading: Sirach 1:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 93:1, 1-2, 5
Gospel: Mark 9:14-29

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

Catholic Church’s social teaching backs up advocacy on climate change

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Climate change is an issue that not only has appeal to Catholics, but is one for which Catholics have a lot to back them up when they make their pitches to Congress, regulatory agencies or their counterparts at the state level for action on the issue. Dan Misleh, head of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, said there are several “Catholic assets” Catholics can call upon when pushing lawmakers or regulators for effective climate-change containment policies. Among them are the church’s size and scope. In the United States, there are 19,000 parishes, 195 dioceses and 63 million members, and organizations such as Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Relief Services. And there is the universal church with its emphasis on serving those in need. Misleh, speaking Feb. 13 at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, also cited a “Gospel tradition” of discipleship and stewardship, and more than a century of social teaching, including the U.S. bishops’ 2001 statement, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good.”

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Church worker says millions more Afghans educated today than in 2001

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Around 4 million more Afghan children are formally educated today than in 2001, said a church worker. Afghan children — including girls — go to school in a home, where they sit on the floor and are taught by a teacher, said Sara Bowers, head of the education program for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. The girls and boys “love to draw” so the makeshift classrooms are “colorful places,” Bowers told Catholic News Service. “They are attentive, eager,” she said. “You don’t find the kind of goofing-off that you find” in the United States. Bibi Qamer, a 23-year-old Muslim from Afghanistan who has been working for CRS since 2002, said girls and women want to go to school. “The Taliban didn’t allow girls to go to school,” Qamer said, but now “they are very happy building for their future.” Qamer and Bowers spoke to CNS Feb. 15 in a telephone interview from CRS headquarters in Baltimore. Based in Afghanistan, they were in the United States to talk to diocesan groups about CRS and its programs in Afghanistan.

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Immigrants in San Francisco, Oakland areas living in fear after raids

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (CNS) — Many immigrant families in the San Francisco Archdiocese and the Oakland Diocese say they are living in fear in the wake of recent raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. In Redwood City, which is in the San Francisco Archdiocese, ICE raids were conducted near a school and at an area where day laborers gather in hope someone will pick them up for a job. Several local civic and advocacy organizations called an emergency meeting Feb.8 to inform people of their rights when they encounter ICE agents. The groups also asked public officials’ support in seeking an end to such raids. In Richmond in the Oakland Diocese, the City Council passed a resolution rejecting ICE raids there, and calling upon the federal government to pass fair immigration reform. The Feb. 6 resolution asks ICE to put a moratorium on raids until the U.S. Congress comes to an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform.

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Sponsorship change likely for Boston archdiocesan health care system

BOSTON (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Boston announced Feb. 6 that it is in discussions with Ascension Health, a national Catholic health care system, about a change in sponsorship of the Caritas Christi Health Care system, which is sponsored by the archdiocese but is a separately incorporated entity. The archdiocese and Ascension Health have a nonbinding agreement to discuss the transfer of sponsorship. “All parties hope to move rapidly through the due diligence process, reaching a definite agreement and then closing an agreed transaction in July 2007,” said the archdiocese and Ascension in a joint announcement. Caritas Christi announced last August that a strategic review committee would conduct a comprehensive analysis of the health system’s position in the New England health care market. A committee was formed and worked with Chicago-based Navigant Consulting Inc., an independent firm. Despite poor financial performance in recent years, Caritas Christi turned a $26 million profit in fiscal year 2005.

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Emergency contraception bill not ideal but acceptable, bishops say

DENVER (CNS) — Although it is not ideal, a bill that would require information about emergency contraception to be made available to rape victims in Colorado is something that “Catholics can accept and work with in good conscience,” according to the state’s Catholic bishops. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver and Bishops Arthur N. Tafoya of Pueblo and Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs said in a joint statement that the legislation “gives some flexibility to institutions in meeting the requirements of the law, thereby allowing Catholic medical facilities to cooperate without violating their Catholic character.” The bill passed the House Feb. 14 by a 56-9 vote. It had been approved in the Senate two weeks earlier by a 25-10 vote, but the Senate now needs to consider a House amendment that would allow pharmacists to post a sign stating that they do not stock emergency contraception. A conscience clause in the legislation allows other medical professionals to exclude themselves individually from providing emergency contraception, but the bishops had urged “including a similar conscience clause for institutions as a matter of justice.”

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U.S. woman answers call to help people in war-torn Uganda

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Uganda seems to emit a siren call to visitors, prompting them to stay or to return home and become activists for the people of that war-torn nation. Katie Bradel heard the call on a visit to Uganda in March 2005, during a planned three-month trip. Today, almost two years later, she remains in Uganda, helping train volunteers with an organization called Invisible Children. “People there have so little, but they have so much joy,” she told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the San Diego Diocese. “They are the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. They live each day relying on God to provide.” In March 2005, Bradel took a semester off during her senior year at San Diego State University, where she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English and teaching in secondary education. Three of her good friends had been in Uganda the year before to film a documentary, “Invisible Children.” They invited Bradel to return with them to shoot more footage for the film. It tells the story of the thousands of Ugandan children who, during the past 25 years, have been kidnapped by the rebel army, brainwashed and pressed into service in the rebels’ war against the Ugandan government. More information on the film and on the nonprofit Invisible Children organization and its programs is available online at: http://www.invisiblechildren.com.

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WORLD

New head of clergy congregation issues defense of priestly celibacy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Two months after taking over as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes has issued a strong and lengthy defense of priestly celibacy. “Priestly celibacy is a precious gift of Christ to his church, a gift that must continually be meditated upon and strengthened, especially in the deeply secularized modern world,” Cardinal Hummes said. The cardinal made the comments in a full-page article he wrote for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. It was published Feb. 14, under the headline “The importance of priestly celibacy,” to mark the 40th anniversary of “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,” Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on priestly celibacy. Cardinal Hummes, formerly the archbishop of Sao Paolo, arrived at his new Vatican post last December, shortly after telling a Brazilian newspaper that priestly celibacy was a disciplinary norm and not a church dogma and was therefore open to change. Vatican officials were concerned, and within hours of arriving in Rome Cardinal Hummes issued a statement emphasizing that priestly celibacy was a long and valuable tradition in the Latin-rite church.

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London Catholic churches see boost in illegal immigrants, report says

LONDON (CNS) — The size of the Catholic Church in the British capital is being boosted by waves of illegal immigrants, according to a new report. Undocumented or irregular migrants now make up more than three-quarters of the congregations of at least three London parishes, said “The Ground of Justice: The Report of a Pastoral Research Inquiry Into the Needs of Migrants in London’s Catholic Community,” published Feb. 14. Many migrants live in abject poverty and fear of deportation, said the report by the Von Hugel Institute of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge. The report, commissioned last year by the London dioceses of Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood, said that about one in six Catholic migrants in the capital — about 25,000 out of an estimated total of 150,000 — was there illegally. It said they often were exploited cruelly because of their irregular status. The report said that more than a third of the migrants earn less than the minimum wage of 5.35 pounds (US$10.40) an hour, and more than half share cramped rooms at high rents.

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Christian movements plan meeting to show European churches have life

ROME (CNS) — Europe may not be as obviously Christian as it once was, but vibrant new movements and communities have been born among Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches, said members of those movements. Representatives from several of the larger movements met in Rome in mid-February to finalize preparations for “Together for Europe,” a May 10-11 meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, of at least 3,000 leaders from more than 170 groups representing a wide range of Christian denominations. “We want to send a strong signal that Christianity remains alive in Europe and that diversity is valued, including among Christians,” said Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Catholic-founded Community of Sant’Egidio. Gerhard Pross, head of a coordinating council for 130 new Lutheran movements and communities in Germany, told a Feb. 16 press conference, “We live at a time when the Spirit of God is bringing about new things all over Europe, in all churches,” he said.

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Church-state showdown: Italian bill proposes rights for unwed couples

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — An Italian legislative proposal that would grant some legal rights to unwed couples — including same-sex partners — has set the stage for a major church-state showdown. On one side is a wide spectrum of Italian social and political forces, including many lay Catholics, who say the bill would end discrimination against unwed couples in areas of health care, pensions, housing and employment. On the other side is the Italian bishops’ conference, which has argued that the law would undermine marriage and the traditional family. Some bishops have warned Catholic legislators that they are duty-bound to vote against the proposal. Supporters point out that the bill is a compromise proposal that recognizes the rights of cohabiting couples, but without legally recognizing the unions themselves. In other words, they say, this is not a “gay marriage” bill. Opponents agree, but say the effect would be the same: creating a second-class form of marriage and deconstructing a society built on the traditional family. The conflict was front-page news in early February and continued to escalate.

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Canadian archdiocese drafts guidelines to prepare for bird flu

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) — The Edmonton Archdiocese’s draft guidelines in preparation for an influenza pandemic include strict measures concerning the distribution of Communion. If a pandemic hits, local Catholics will not receive Communion under the species of wine and will not be able to receive the Eucharist on their tongues, according to a draft of the Archdiocesan Influenza Pandemic Planning Guidelines. The world is currently in a pandemic alert phase for the avian flu H5N1 virus. The draft guidelines said people who handle hosts prior to Mass will be required to wear disposable gloves and masks, and eucharistic ministers will have to clean their hands with a hand sanitizer immediately before and after distributing Communion. If the eucharistic minister accidentally touches a communicant, he or she will have to stop distributing Communion and sanitize again before resuming, the guidelines said. No blessings will be given to people not receiving Communion, said the guidelines, many of which were based on similar guidelines in the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

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Sudanese bishop blames politics for delay in implementing peace

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — A Sudanese bishop has blamed politics and political maneuvering for the delay in implementation of a peace agreement between the government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. The delay in implementing the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement between the southern rebels and the government “should be blamed on the politicians themselves, people who were entrusted with its … implementation,” Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum, Sudan, said at a Feb. 15 press conference in Nairobi. At the same press conference, Archbishop John Odama of Gulu, Uganda, criticized rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army for wanting to change the site of peace talks from Juba, Sudan. Both men spoke following the weeklong meeting of justice and peace commission coordinators from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa.

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PEOPLE

Church stance on technology affirms human dignity, cardinal says

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishops must give lay Catholics the tools they need to be convinced and to convince others about why the church takes the ethical stands it does on some scientific and technological advances, the Vatican’s top doctrinal official said. “The attitude is widespread, even sadly among many Catholics who believe and practice their faith, that the magisterium of the church is overly negative, that ‘the old men in the Vatican’ are against progress even when it is designed to help people who are sick, or infertile, or the like,” said Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a Feb. 7 talk in Dallas. “It should be emphasized that the church’s ‘no’ to certain practices is not a negative reaction to modernity, but rather is a positive ‘yes’ to the dignity of every single human being,” he said. Cardinal Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, spoke on “The Role of the Magisterium in Bioethics” at the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s 21st workshop for bishops, funded by the Knights of Columbus. More than 150 bishops from the U.S., Canada, Latin America and elsewhere attended the Feb. 5-7 workshop.

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Vidmar named general manager of New World Publications in Chicago

CHICAGO (CNS) — Dawn Vidmar, advertising and marketing manager of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s New World Publications for the past 16 years, has been named general manager. New World Publications publishes the archdiocese’s English-, Spanish- and Polish-language newspapers and the annual archdiocesan directory. Vidmar succeeds Tom Sheridan, who retired as editor and general manager in September. The editor’s post remains open. Before joining the archdiocese, she worked in advertising sales for The Wall Street Journal. Vidmar is a board member of the Catholic Advertising Network, a member of the Catholic Press Association and on an advisory board to the archdiocese’s Office of European Catholics. Vidmar lives in Brookfield with her husband of 30 years, John, who is a deacon assigned to the Slovenian Catholic Mission in Lemont. She is a parishioner both at the Slovenian mission and at St. Francis Xavier Parish in LaGrange.

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