A Look at Today (02.22.07)

Today in the Diocese

Bishop Pfeifer will be in Austin to give the opening prayer for the Texas Legislative session.

NECROLOGY — Rev. Francisco Lopez (1994) 

Today’s Readings

First Reading: First Peter 5:1-4
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

Anglican primates ask U.S. Episcopal Church to restore unity

WASHINGTON (CNS) — At the end of a Feb. 15-19 meeting in Tanzania, the primates of the world Anglican Communion warned of “fracture” in the U.S. Episcopal Church and urged it to abide by a 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that defines marriage as heterosexual and rejects the blessing of same-sex unions. They asked the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to “make an unequivocal common covenant” that they will not authorize blessings of same-sex unions in their dioceses. They also asked the bishops to affirm that any candidate for bishop who is living in a same-sex relationship “shall not receive the necessary consent (for ordination) unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the communion.” The primates are the presiding bishops of the Anglican Communion’s 38 self-governing provinces around the world. The controversy they were addressing stems chiefly from the 2003 decision by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. member of the Anglican Communion, to ordain Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire even though he was living in an openly gay relationship.

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California bishops join in fight against assisted suicide proposal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) — The California Catholic bishops are joining with a coalition of medical, ethical and disability rights groups to fight a new effort to legalize assisted suicide in the state. The Web site of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the state’s bishops, includes a link to Californians Against Assisted Suicide, formed to work for the defeat of AB 374, called the Compassionate Choices Act, in the California Legislature. Catholics were urged to call or fax their representatives in the Legislature, asking them to “oppose assisted suicide and to support laws that will continue to protect the medically dependent and the emotionally vulnerable.” Introduced Feb. 15, AB 374 contains language identical to legislation that died in a Senate committee last June. It would allow a physician to prescribe a self-administered, life-ending drug for an adult who requested it and had been found by two doctors to be mentally competent and within six months of death.

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Bishop says trip to Cuba sparked optimism about future of church

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy said that a February trip to Cuba made him optimistic about the future of the church in the communist-ruled nation. “The good news is that the church in Cuba is alive. Many people, who are recent converts in the past 10 to 15 years, have found in the church answers to their deepest aspirations and hopes,” said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando. “In spite of the difficulties, they are trying to practice that faith coherently in Cuba. That’s a sign of great hope for the future,” the bishop said. Bishop Wenski was in Cuba Feb. 1-4 to attend an annual meeting of Caritas Cuba, the Cuban bishops’ version of Catholic Charities. The group is involved in humanitarian work, such as providing food for the elderly and helping children with Down syndrome. The bishop spoke about his trip at a Feb. 12 news conference in Orlando.

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Archbishop tells Pelosi budget must fully fund children’s health care

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — “If we do what is right, we can take care of all our children and raise the healthiest generation in American history,” Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. He urged her to “include adequate funding in the federal budget to sustain and expand the highly successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program.” He made the comments in a personal letter to Pelosi that was delivered to her Washington office Feb. 12 by George Wesolek, director of the archdiocese’s Public Policy and Social Concerns Office. Archbishop Niederauer advocated “access to affordable health insurance for every child through proven, successful federal-state partnerships” as the “right place to start in tackling the health care challenges facing our country.” The archbishop was to join other religious, civic and health care leaders at a public rally Feb. 22 on the plaza of St. Mary’s Cathedral at which a “Report on Children’s Health” was to be released. The report, organizers said, would be presented to Pelosi at both her district and Washington offices.

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Vatican rejects Call to Action appeal; bishop urges return to church

LINCOLN, Neb. (CNS) — The Vatican’s highest court said it has no jurisdiction over a decision by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln that Catholics in his diocese who are members of Call to Action, Call to Action Nebraska and 10 other organizations were automatically excommunicated. In the wake of the ruling, Bishop Bruskewitz renewed his invitation to Call to Action Nebraska members to leave that organization and return to full communion with the church. Rachel Pokora and Gordon P. Peterson of Call to Action Nebraska had asked the Apostolic Signature, the church’s supreme court, to overturn Bishop Bruskewitz’s 1996 decision and its affirmation last year by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. In a Jan. 27 letter to Pokora and Peterson, which was copied to Bishop Bruskewitz, the court said it had “no competence,” or jurisdiction, in the matter. Call to Action Nebraska was the only group to ask the bishop to reverse his decision.

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Arkansas ecumenical group bears witness to toll of war

FORT SMITH, Ark. (CNS) — Each Sunday, Benedictine sisters from St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith join other area residents at the corner of a local park to bear witness to the toll of war. In their weekly witness at what has been dubbed the Peace Corner, they hold up a banner showing how many American soldiers and Iraqi citizens have died since the invasion of Iraq began March 20, 2003. “We meet between noon and 12:30, holding our banner near Rogers Avenue so that people coming home from church can see it,” Benedictine Sister Rosalie Ruesewald told the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Little Rock Diocese. An ecumenical organization called Justpeace sponsors the weekly witness. The group is an outgrowth of the Benedictine order’s commitment to peace and social justice that began in 1970, when St. Scholastica Monastery established a social awareness committee. Because of its consistent work in these areas, the committee — made up of Benedictine Sisters Madeline Clifton, Catherine Markey, Ann Michele Raley, Magdalen Stanton and Consuela Bauer, in addition to Sister Rosalie — received the 2006 Peace Heroes Award from the Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology in Fayetteville.

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WORLD

Lent is time for the baptized to ‘become Christian again,’ pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Lent is a time when some people complete their preparation to be baptized at Easter and a time when the baptized “learn to become Christian again,” Pope Benedict XVI said. Although following Christ requires daily prayer and effort, Lent is a time for intensive training for living the Christian life, the pope said during his weekly general audience Feb. 21, Ash Wednesday. Jesus called people to “convert and believe in the Gospel,” he said. “Conversion, what is it really? To convert means to seek God, to go to him, to follow docilely the teaching of his Son, Jesus Christ,” the pope said. “Conversion is not an effort for self-realization because the human being is not the architect of his own eternal destiny,” he said. “We are not our own makers, and so self-realization is a contradiction.”

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Pope says Brazilian Catholics called to support Amazon’s poor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In focusing on the poor in Brazil’s Amazon region, the country’s Catholics are called to provide material assistance, spiritual aid and support for efforts to protect the environment, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope’s message to Brazilian Catholics, encouraging their participation in the church’s annual Lenten solidarity campaign, was released Feb. 21 at the Vatican. The Brazilian bishops chose to focus the 2007 campaign on the needs of the poor in the Amazon region. Pope Benedict said defending the life and livelihood of the region’s people includes “the defense of the environment, because this vast territory constitutes a common patrimony that — because of its human, sociopolitical, economic and ecological reality — requires special attention on the part of the church and Brazilian society.”

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Pope urges Catholics to rediscover prayer, fasting, works of charity

ROME (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to rediscover the traditional “penitential weapons” of prayer, fasting and works of charity in order to make Lent a time of inner renewal. He made the comments during an Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 21 at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in central Rome. The liturgy began with a procession from the nearby Church of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill. The pope, dressed in the purple vestments of the Lenten season, said the 40 days leading up to Easter should be a time to revive the “friendship with God that was lost through sin.” The church, he said, offers the same ascetic instruments that have proven effective through the centuries. “Jesus indicates the useful instruments needed for authentic interior and community renewal: the works of charity or almsgiving, prayer, and penitence or fasting,” the pope said. He said these practices should be performed to please God and not to gain people’s approval.

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Church agency works to stop British deportation of Irish prisoners

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — Irish nationals held in British jails will be exempt from deportation upon completion of their prison sentence following a campaign by the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas, an agency of the Irish bishops’ conference. The exemption, announced in the British House of Commons by British Home Secretary John Reid Feb. 19, was welcomed by the Catholic commission and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs applied diplomatic pressure on the British government for the change after the Catholic commission provided the department with a file detailing the cases of more than 30 Irish people, many with strong family connections in Britain, who were being held for months in immigration centers after completing their prison sentences. Father Gerry McFlynn, director of the London office of the Catholic commission, said in a statement that by clarifying how future deportation proceedings can be initiated the exemption removes a great deal of confusion and uncertainty for those nearing the end of their sentences.

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Church in Angola teaches democracy in preparation for elections

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — The Catholic Church in Angola has been teaching democracy and the importance of elections in a country where the only elections were 15 years ago, said a church official. “We are teaching people the opportunities that elections provide so that they have a good understanding of their power to vote out a government that does not work for the people,” said Spiritan Father Belmiro Chissengueti, who heads the justice and peace department of the bishops’ conference of Angola and Sao Tome. “The elections offer a very good possibility for change,” Father Chissengueti told Catholic News Service in a mid-February telephone interview from Angola’s capital, Luanda. Voter registration started last year and will run until June. The legislative elections will be in 2008 and the presidential election the following year. Angola “needs these elections, and we will be ready in time,” Father Chissengueti said. Because of almost three decades of civil war, Angolans “are unfamiliar with the rule of law,” he said.

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Spokesman critical of Czech court ruling on historic cathedral

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Czech bishops’ spokesman criticized a Supreme Court judgment that the Catholic Church did not own a historic Prague cathedral. The spokesman, Jiri Gracka, told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 21 telephone interview that the church had been given “no warning or notification” of the latest court action in the 15-year battle. “Even if deprived of ownership, the church will still hold services in the cathedral,” he said. “But this judgment confirms there’s still a lot of negative feeling about the Catholic Church here.” He attributed the decision to political maneuvering. “It’s absurd that the definitive decision has now been withdrawn again, and that the whole process now has to restart,” he said. In a Feb. 19 ruling, the Supreme Court said it was canceling a June 2006 Prague Municipal Court decision recognizing the Catholic Church as legal owner of St. Vitus Cathedral, a Gothic hilltop church that contains the tombs of Bohemian royalty.

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PEOPLE

U.S. archbishop of military services thanks Catholics at hospital

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services thanked members of the Catholic community of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for their service helping the country and the injured men and women in the military. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, whose archdiocese includes all U.S. military personnel and their families, told the approximately 200 people in the medical center’s auditorium, which was used for Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 21, that he represented many Americans in his gratitude for their service. “We must give our lives every day for others,” he said. And when we do that in Christ’s name, we are reborn, Archbishop O’Brien said. The archbishop told a story about a group of military men and women, who after being without cold water and supplies for days during a Gulf War mission, asked the archbishop what they could sacrifice for Lent. The military has a “culture of generosity,” he said.

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Priests, seminarians to kick off exclusive soccer championship

ROME (CNS) — Students at Pontifical North American College are among those competing in the first Clericus Cup, a soccer championship exclusively for priests and seminarians in Rome. Seminaries and pontifical universities have fielded 16 teams for the championship series, with 311 players coming from approximately 50 countries. The series is to open Feb. 24 when Pontifical Gregorian University plays Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae. The championship game will be in June. North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, plays its first game March 3 against Pontifical Urbanian University, an institution for seminarians from mission countries. North American College had an informal team that occasionally played teams from other seminaries, said Jaime Gil, player and coach. When the invitation came to enter a team in the Clericus Cup, the response from players at the college was enthusiastic, Gil said.

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Coalition sets platform for Paraguayan bishop’s presidential campaign

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) — More than a year before Paraguay’s presidential election, a coalition headed by a suspended Catholic bishop has presented a platform it says will transform the country socially, politically and economically. El Movimiento Paraguay Posible (Movement for the Paraguay That Is Possible), led by retired Bishop Fernando Lugo Mendez, took the unprecedented step of presenting its 93-page platform for the April 2008 vote Feb. 20. Bishop Lugo is already topping opinion polls, with double the support of Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, according to a survey published by the Ultima Hora newspaper. “It has caused a sensation,” said Pompeyo Lugo, the bishop’s elder brother and president of the movement, which says it goes beyond being an electoral alliance and brings together all sectors of Paraguayan society. “Nobody in Paraguay reads anything — our program has 93 pages — but the press wants it and is studying it,” the elder Lugo told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Feb. 21.

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