A Look at Today (02.27.07)

Today in the Diocese

Bishop Pfeifer at St. Margaret’s, Big Lake, for confirmation Mass, 6:30 p.m.

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15

Today’s News from the Catholic News Service

U.S.

Pax Christi official: U.S. needs diplomats who know religion, Iran

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Diplomats who understand the religious sensibilities of Iran are needed to act as translators between Iranian and American officials to resolve peacefully the dispute over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, said the executive director of Pax Christi USA. “We have seen no evidence in this (U.S.) administration to practice any skilled” diplomacy, Dave Robinson told Catholic News Service after a Feb. 26 press conference by U.S. Christian leaders who had returned that morning from a weeklong trip to Iran. Pax Christi USA is affiliated with Pax Christi International, a Vatican-recognized Catholic peace movement. Iranian society is “a deeply devoted society and culture” of Muslims, and the administration of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “particularly pious,” he said. U.S. President George W. Bush “doesn’t understand this language” of a country where religion and society are one, and diplomatic solutions can be lost in translation, Robinson said.

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Bishop tours West Virginia’s largest coal mine with governor

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) — To see firsthand the latest advances in coal mine safety and the daily operations of a mine, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston joined West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and others on a tour of the McElroy Mine, near Moundsville, the largest coal mine in West Virginia. In a news conference at Wheeling Jesuit University Feb. 19 following the tour, J. Davitt McAteer, vice president for sponsored programs at the university and special mine safety adviser to Manchin, said the purpose of the visit was to look at the emergency communication systems between its mines, the telephone communication systems being developed and tested there and at other facilities, and the steps being taken to introduce new technology into U.S. mines. Bishop Bransfield said the tour has given him greater knowledge of mining in the state. “It was just astounding to see how deep and how extensive the mine is and the kind of technology that is used today, but to also understand the miners and how difficult it must be to work down there all day long — 10 hours a day, six days a week,” he said. “It just gives you a great admiration of them and a respect for them.”

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Los Angeles parish’s food pantry helps build community

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A young Hispanic woman edged her shopping cart through the food pantry line at St. Margaret Mary Alacocque Church, pausing at the pastry table. Volunteer Jill Lotta smiled. “You can choose three items.” “Tres?” “Yes. Tres.” The woman’s eyes grew moist and she smiled. “God bless you!” Lotta has been volunteering at the Wednesday food pantry for 12 years. “I’ve learned some Spanish,” she said. “But the volunteers and clients here speak the language of love.” St. Margaret Mary is a largely middle-class, ethnically diverse parish amid neighborhoods of tidy homes in the Los Angeles suburb of Lomita. Over its 70 years, it has developed a reputation for aggressively serving the poor. A typical Wednesday morning finds poor people from the area, some of them homeless, in the parish hall. They sip coffee, munch pastries and talk as they wait for the grocery line to open. Chatting with the clients is parish Christian service director Laura Nieto. “We set up this social area with round tables for clients to linger, talk with (other) clients and volunteers and briefly escape their difficult lives,” she explained. “We’re building a feeling of ‘we’ rather than ‘them and us.'”

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TV executive, NBC awareness campaign to get top Christopher Awards

NEW YORK (CNS) — Longtime television executive William F. Baker will become only the fourth individual in the 58-year history of the Christopher Awards to receive the Christopher Leadership Award. The award will be presented to him March 15 at the annual Christopher Awards gala in New York. Also slated to win the 2007 Special Christopher Award is “The More You Know,” the long-running public service campaign on NBC. The Christophers announced the special awards Feb. 22. Baker has won six Emmy Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Awards, and a Gabriel Award. As head of the Educational Broadcasting Corp. for 20 years, he was executive producer of 2001’s public-TV special “The Face: Jesus in Art,” and last year’s companion documentary, “Picturing Mary.”

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Lenten messages stress ties with God, combating social problems

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Using imagery such as “spring training” and “hunger for justice,” U.S. bishops are promoting Lent as a way of strengthening personal ties with God and grappling with social problems harming human dignity. In separate messages, many bishops listed social issues for Lenten action. These included immigration reform, an end to the death penalty and helping children in need ranging from victims of sex abuse to orphans of war. Messages also emphasized the link between Lent and the sacrament of reconciliation. Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl accompanied a Lenten pastoral letter with a major campaign encouraging Catholics to receive the sacrament. Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., issued a similar pastoral letter and called on pastors in all parishes to set up an extra hour each week during Lent for confessions. Detroit Cardinal Adam J. Maida likened Lent to “spring training” when baseball players limber up their bodies before the regular season.

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WORLD

Pope says Christ on cross helps Christians recognize sin, God’s love

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Contemplating Christ on the cross, Christians recognize the seriousness of their sins and the power of God’s love, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Only by turning our gaze to Jesus, dying on the cross for us, can this basic truth be known and contemplated: God is love,” he said Feb. 25 before praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square. The midday appearance was Pope Benedict’s last public engagement before he and top Vatican officials began their weeklong Lenten retreat in the evening. The pope asked the people in the square to accompany him with their prayers, and he promised to pray for them as well. Pope Benedict asked Catholics during Lent to keep their hearts and minds focused on Christ’s crucifixion, because it is the best way “to understand fully what sin is, how tragic its seriousness is, and at the same time how incomparable the Lord’s power and mercy are.”

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CELAM conference: The paradox of world’s most Catholic continent

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — When church leaders from throughout Latin America gather in Brazil in May for the fifth general conference of the Latin American bishops’ council, they will be grappling with the contradictions of life on the world’s most Catholic continent. While more than 450 million of the region’s 551 million people are considered Catholic, “the practice of the Christian faith is in profound crisis, which is reflected in the type of societies we have,” Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of San Marcos, Guatemala, president of the Guatemalan bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service. “They are societies in which there is a great deal of violence, societies that try to follow lifestyles in which consumerism and hedonism predominate, societies that lack social justice.” Economic justice, corruption, migration, education and civic participation are among the issues that bishops in the region will discuss at the conference, which is expected to draw more than 160 voting bishops and 80 other participants to Aparecida, Brazil, outside Sao Paulo, May 13-31.

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Pope denounces trend toward ‘designer embryos’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI denounced the high-tech trend that encourages parents to seek the “perfect child” through genetic selection. In a speech Feb. 24 to more than 350 Catholic medical professionals, the pope said so-called “designer embryos” represent one of many contemporary attacks on human life. The attacks have increased to the point that the Christian conscience has been lulled, and even good people sometimes seem paralyzed in the face of collective social pressure against the right to life, he said. The pope listed a number of ways in which human life is threatened in poorer nations today, including pressure to legalize abortion, new forms of chemical abortion introduced under the pretext of “reproductive health,” and the continuing politics of demographic control. In richer countries, he said, biotechnological engineering aims to establish “subtle and extensive methods of eugenics in the obsessive search for the ‘perfect child,’ through artificial procreation and various forms of diagnosis that allow selection.”

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British bishop: Troops might have been home sooner with better gear

LONDON (CNS) — The head of Britain’s military diocese said families will welcome the British government’s decision to reduce the number of soldiers serving in Iraq. However, Bishop Thomas Burns told Catholic News Service that he believed troops would have been able to return home sooner if they had been better equipped for their mission. He said the reduction of 1,600 troops from southern Iraq, announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair Feb. 21, “will be warmly welcomed by servicemen and women, and not least of all by their families.” He said in a statement, “News of roadside bombs or suicide bombers brings terror to anxious relatives and loved ones back home.” He said, “It is everyone’s longing that they should come home safe and sound, unharmed physically or psychologically. Yet these are soldiers, sailors and airmen and women doing their duty, as best they can, cherishing values of peace and justice wherever they are sent.”

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Lebanese cardinal warns rival factions against arms buildup

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — The patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church has warned that Lebanon’s rival political factions are engaged in an arms race that has become like the weapons stockpiling of the country’s 15-year civil war. “All the parties have started again to be armed as if we had gone back more than 20 years and learned nothing from the tragedies, abominations and difficulties which we went through,” said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch. Cardinal Sfeir’s comments, made during a Feb. 25 homily in Bkerke, the Lebanese headquarters of the Maronite church, came after several explosive devices were found around the country. Beirut’s L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper reported his comments Feb. 26, and a press spokesman for the patriarch confirmed the comments. With tensions running high due to Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis, the discovery sparked fears that an attack was being planned.

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PEOPLE

Rome office issues prayer cards, relics to promote sainthood for JPII

ROME (CNS) — The Rome diocesan office charged with promoting the sainthood cause of Pope John Paul II continues to distribute the official prayer cards for the cause and the only authorized relics, an office spokeswoman said. “We receive dozens of requests each day and the distribution continues,” she told Catholic News Service Feb. 26. The relic is a small piece of one of the white cassocks worn by Pope John Paul. The free cards and relics can be requested by letter, fax or e-mail, she said. The e-mail address is: Postulazione.GiovanniPaoloII@VicariatusUrbis.org; the fax number is: (39-06) 6888-6240. The mailing address is: Postulazione Giovanni Paolo II, Vicariato di Roma, Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 6A, 00184 Rome, Italy.

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U.S. church official says cardinal’s book outlines mission challenges

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A book by a retired Vatican cardinal gives insights into the Catholic Church’s missionary work in today’s changing world, said Msgr. John E. Kozar, national director of the pontifical missionary societies in the United States. It tells how the church has become a trustworthy institution for many people in poor countries, describes the greater sharing of church workers between mission countries and Western countries, and how the church relates to Islam in countries both religions regard as mission territory, he said. The book is titled “On Missionary Roads” and was written by retired Cardinal Jozef Tomko. The Slovak cardinal reflects on his travels and experiences from 1985 to 2001 when he was head of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the church agency overseeing missionary work. The book was originally published in Slovak in 2003. An English translation was published in late 2006 by Ignatius Press in San Francisco and released this February.

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Marine who died in Iraq remembered as good soldier, good father

KAILUA, Hawaii (CNS) — Before he was deployed to Iraq last August, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Trane McCloud made sure to spend a “daddy day” with each of his three children. He and son Hayden, 7, went to Hanauma Bay. He and 5-year-old Grace went bowling and had dinner at the Sizzler restaurant. And he took 2-year-old Meghan to the movies. “He was this consummate Marine but, oh Lord, was he a dad,” said his wife of more than 12 years, Maggie McCloud. “And he was ready to be a dad from the moment I met him.” The man who served his country and loved his family was killed Dec. 3, just 11 days before his 40th birthday, when the helicopter he was in crash-landed on Lake Qadisiyah in Al Anbar province in western Iraq shortly after taking off from Haditha Dam. He served with the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment. A memorial Mass was celebrated Feb. 9 at St. Anthony Church in Kailua where Hayden and Grace are enrolled in the parish school

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