A Look at Today (02.21.07)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season. Easter is April 8 this year.

 Today in the Diocese

Bishop Pfeifer at St. Mary’s San Angelo, for Soup and Sermon, Noon.

Necrology

Rev. Thomas Kelley (2005)

Today’s Reading

First Reading: Joel 2:12-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Second Reading: Second Corinthians 5:20–6:2
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

San Diego bishop says sex abuse cases may lead to bankruptcy filing

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — If more than 140 pending lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse in the San Diego Diocese cannot be settled, “the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court,” according to Bishop Robert H. Brom. The statement was part of a “pastoral statement on sexual abuse cases” dated Feb. 21 and read at all Masses in the San Diego Diocese Feb. 17-18. If the diocese were to file for bankruptcy, it would become the fifth U.S. church jurisdiction to do so since the middle of 2004. The first was the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., followed by the dioceses of Tucson, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; and Davenport, Iowa. Bishop Brom said that while sex abuse cases involving 43 people have been resolved, with 18 of them receiving counseling and 30 getting financial compensation, negotiations with 143 other people “have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful.”

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Nashville bishop supports mayor’s veto of ‘English-first’ legislation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — Saying that “we don’t need a law to tell us what language we are already speaking,” Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed a bill that would have required city agencies and officials to communicate in English “except when required by federal law or when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare.” Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, who stood with Purcell as he made the veto announcement Feb. 12, said the city is “noted for its friendliness and its willingness to welcome those who are new to the area.” The bishop said, “The characteristics of kindness, for which this city has developed a national recognition, can also be called Christian charity.” “This ordinance does not reflect who we are,” Purcell said, noting the long tradition of immigration in middle Tennessee. A primary reason for the veto, he said, was that exceptions to the ordinance would be so broad that unnecessary lawsuits would surely arise, potentially costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Cardinal Stafford urges building reconciliation networks in church

BOSTON (CNS) — Catholics should build networks of reconciliation to nurture and support one another, U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, said during a visit to Boston. The cardinal spoke about penance and reconciliation at St. John’s Seminary, addressing lay people Feb. 3 and priests Feb. 5. The Apostolic Penitentiary is a Vatican court that deals with indulgences, matters of conscience and the lifting of certain excommunications and other censures that are reserved to the Holy See. In his remarks to the laity, Cardinal Stafford said they must step up to form a nurturing society within the church that takes the spirit of reconciliation beyond the physical rite. Because of his position in the church, Cardinal Stafford said it was important for him to come to Boston in the wake of the scandal of sexual abuse by priests. He said he was struck by a homily he heard the previous day in which a priest told his parishioners, regarding life after the scandal: “If forgiveness is not part of the process, I don’t want anything to do with it.” The priest was right, he said. There has to be forgiveness, but first there must be tears.

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Jesuits’ Oregon province celebrates 75th anniversary

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — In February 1932, the Pacific Northwest’s largest religious order also had the largest debts. True to their bent for adventure, the Jesuits chose that moment of national financial strife to establish autonomous leadership for the region. The Oregon province of Jesuits began $1.7 million in the hole. But the men were richer in vision and hope. At a Feb. 2 commemorative Mass at Jesuit High School in Portland, the current head of the Oregon province told a congregation of visiting Jesuits, students and lay collaborators that the anniversary is not really about how great the Jesuits are. “What we celebrate is, isn’t God amazing that God made something so small blossom and grow, and produce fruit that feeds us now and prepares us for the future?” said Jesuit Father John Whitney. “We celebrate how God has been faithful to God’s promise.” Jesuit missionaries had pioneered Catholic missions and ministry in the Northwest since the 1840s. But the work had been overseen from other places — St. Louis and then California.

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WORLD

Church condemns bomb blasts on Indian train bound for Pakistan

NEW DELHI (CNS) — Catholic Church officials in India condemned the bomb blasts that killed 68 people on a train from India bound for Pakistan. “We strongly condemn the incident, which aims to derail the peace process between the two nations,” Father Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said in a statement. The violence should not deter the two countries from going ahead with peace talks in the region, Father Joseph told UCA News, an Asian church news agency. The church hopes the respective leaders will continue to create “more confidence” among their people about the importance of bringing India and Pakistan together, he said. Two cars of the Samjhauta Express, a rail service between the two countries, caught fire in the Feb. 19 incident. Fire broke out as the train from New Delhi neared Dewana village, 50 miles north of its starting point. Two suitcases filled with explosives were found at the blast site. The day after the blast, police released sketches of two men who jumped off the train 15 minutes before the bombs exploded.

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Vatican official says Christians need correct, certain consciences

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians will not invoke conscientious objection to defend human life if they have no idea what the conscience is, said speakers at a Vatican press conference. “Believers need consciences that are true, certain and correct,” which happens not “through improvisation, but with reflection, dialogue and, sometimes, a tiring search,” said Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The bishop and others spoke about the conscience at a Feb. 20 Vatican press conference to introduce the academy’s Feb. 23-24 congress on “The Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life.” Bishop Sgreccia said the conference would look at the right and obligation of physicians, nurses, pharmacists and researchers to declare themselves conscientious objectors when faced with procedures such as abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos.

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Archdiocese criticizes new Mexican law against abuse of women

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexico City Archdiocese criticized a new law designed to curb violence against women, saying it is unclear and promotes confrontation between the sexes. An editorial column published Feb. 18 in the archdiocese’s weekly bulletin lauded efforts to reduce abuse, but said the law, which went into effect Feb. 1, contains “omissions and exaggerations.” The law, approved by Mexico’s Senate in December, classifies different types of violence against women — ranging from physical to economic and emotional. It also requires Mexican states to prosecute these offenses and provide support, such as shelters, for victims. “A law that seeks to eradicate violence against women is a good initiative … but we should not fall into the game of feminism, which tries to pit genders against each other rather than find equality in human relations,” the column said. It also questioned the law’s inclusion of certain terms — such as “coldness,” “indifference” and “negligence” — that are used to define “psychological violence.” The column asked, “How should a judge interpret these terms?”

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South Korean Catholic farmers discuss working with farmers in North

SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) — South Korean Catholic farmers visited North Korea and discussed the possibility of a cross-border farming project. Members of the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement met on North Korea’s Mount Kumgang for the group’s annual general assembly. More than 140 members from 15 South Korean dioceses attended the early February meeting. Pius Cheong Jae-don, president of the farmers’ movement, said North Korean officials managing Mount Kumgang’s special tourism zone had suggested a project in which the North provides farmland and workers while the farmers’ movement provides technology, equipment and seeds. Cheong told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, that the members visited a site the North suggested for the project as well as several other state-run farms around the mountain.

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Bosnian hopes European soccer for priests sparks interest in church

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Bosnian priest who organized a European soccer championship for Catholic clergy has said he hopes the contest will grow and encourage interest in the Catholic Church. “We already (had) teams from 10 countries, and we’re hoping for more next time,” said Father Ivo Tomasevic, secretary-general of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who organized the tournament in the capital, Sarajevo. “Sarajevo was a great sporting city before the war, so it’s a great place for an event like this, which can really bring people together.” In a shootout before a capacity crowd Feb. 14, priests from Poland defeated the previous champion, Croatia, in the final of the Priests’ European Cup. In a telephone interview afterward with Catholic News Service, Father Tomasevic said he had been surprised by the enthusiasm shown for the tournament by other church leaders, including Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic, as well as by the tournament’s extensive coverage on state TV.

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PEOPLE

Al-Azhar’s grand sheik agrees to meet for talks with pope in Rome

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — One of Sunni Islam’s leading clerics has accepted Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to meet for talks in Rome, the Vatican said. Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, a world-renowned center of Islamic scholarship, agreed to the encounter “with satisfaction,” the Vatican said Feb. 20. No date was announced for the meeting. It would be the pope’s highest-profile encounter with an Islamic leader since his September speech in Regensburg, Germany, that sparked controversy and criticism throughout the Muslim world. Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Vatican agency that coordinates interreligious dialogue, met Sheik Tantawi Feb. 20 in Cairo in what the Vatican described as “a climate of great cordiality” and conveyed the pope’s greetings to the cleric. Cardinal Poupard also planned to meet with Egypt’s religious affairs minister, Hamdi Zaqzuq.

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Father Joseph Hacala, former CCHD and Jesuit university head, dies

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Jesuit Father Joseph R. Hacala, former head of the (Catholic) Campaign for Human Development and of Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit University, died Feb. 19 of complications from amyloidosis, a rare protein disease that attacks the organs. He would have turned 62 the following week. He died at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn., where since September he had been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic. His funeral was to be held Feb. 24 at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in downtown Washington, where he assisted in pastoral ministry during the 15 years he held national posts in Washington. “As his illness progressed, Father Hacala accepted his condition with great faith, always being more concerned about the well-being of others, with little focus on his own grave condition,” said James F. Birge, Wheeling Jesuit University’s interim president. “He had an extraordinary concern and commitment for the well-being of the people of his beloved and native state of West Virginia.”

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‘Bridge to Terabithia’ author brings book alive for Chicago students

CHICAGO (CNS) — Seated in front of a display of “Bridgeport’s Terabithia” at a Chicago Catholic academy, author Katherine Paterson read from “Bridge to Terabithia,” winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal and released as a Disney film Feb. 16. Paterson gave each of the three main characters, whiny Maybelle, desperate but stoic Jess and imaginative Leslie, a distinctive voice, despite suffering from a cold. Her audience of fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders at Bridgeport Catholic Academy listened raptly, before launching a series of questions about how Paterson became a writer and what made her write this particular book. “When I wrote it, I didn’t even think it should be published,” Paterson said, after explaining that she wrote it after her young son’s best friend died unexpectedly. “I didn’t think anyone not named Paterson would understand it.” But millions of readers around the world have recognized themselves in her characters, and have written to tell her so.

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