A Look at Today (03.13.07)

No diocesan-wide events today.

Bishop Pfeifer on private Lenten retreat.

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

Ecumenical advocacy agenda looks at how world’s ills affect children

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — How national debt, trade policy, AIDS, human rights abuses, gang violence, war and migration affect children worldwide provided a lens for a program of education and advocacy March 9-12. Ecumenical Advocacy Days, co-sponsored by dozens of faith-based organizations including 10 Catholic religious orders, brought together about 1,000 participants for two days of background briefings in Arlington before spending another day or two lobbying members of Congress. In two of more than 20 issue briefing sessions March 10, presenters defined the conference’s theme “And How Are the Children?” from the perspectives of immigrant families and child soldiers. Xaverian Father Rocco Puopolo, executive director of the Africa Faith and Justice Network, worked for 12 years in Sierra Leone, which is notorious for using children, even preteens, as soldiers. Father Puopolo read excerpts from “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solder” by Ishmael Beah, who was pressed into service in the Sierra Leone army at the age of 13. Father Puopolo himself was shot in the leg, almost accidentally, by a drunken child solder who was among a group of 40 who came to his mission center to loot the property, he explained. The next day the boy, along with about 100 other young soldiers, was killed just outside the priest’s community.

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Egg harvesting damages women’s health, congressional briefing shows

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The damage caused by embryonic stem-cell research goes far beyond the embryos destroyed by treating “a great many women as egg factories, at great risk to their health and safety,” according to the U.S. bishops’ pro-life spokeswoman. Deirdre A. McQuade, director of planning and information for the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, was commenting on a congressional briefing at which scientists, ethicists and a grieving mother presented evidence about the dangers to women posed by egg harvesting. McQuade applauded Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, for co-sponsoring the briefing on “Trading on the Female Body” March 8, International Women’s Day. “The embryonic stem-cell agenda is a threat not only to embryonic humans but to young women as well,” McQuade said in a statement. “The drugs used in in vitro fertilization clinics to stimulate women’s ovaries for attempted reproduction have done great harm to some women,” she said. “But the problem pales in comparison with the threat posed by attempts to clone humans for embryonic stem-cell research.” In South Korea, for example, where a scientist falsely claimed to have perfected the method for cloning a human, more than 2,200 eggs were used in the experiments, some of them obtained through coercion from women working in the research laboratory. At least two women — one in London and one in Dublin, Ireland — are believed to have died from the effects of the drugs used to hyperstimulate egg production for in vitro fertilization, known as IVF.

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Texas diocese plans review of parish financial, personnel practices

EL PASO, Texas (CNS) — El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said his diocese has begun a periodic review of parish financial and personnel practices. Charles Casiano, director of the diocesan finance office, and Pat Fierro, director of the diocesan human resources department, will be conducting the review, which is expected to cover all the parishes of the diocese in the course of two years. As pastor of the whole diocese, Bishop Ochoa said, he must ensure that parish affairs comply with the true spirit of stewardship and are conducted in accord with the requirements of canon law and also fulfill the obligations imposed by state and federal law. A letter to pastors whose parishes are about to be reviewed said, “The church is making a significant effort at regaining the trust and confidence of people that is essential for our ministry and mission.” As examples of that effort, the letter cites the U.S. bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which contains church policies to stem child sex abuse, along with safe environment programs and other measures enacted throughout the country. The letter also notes that “a second area that has come under significant scrutiny is the handling of church finances, and the church is similarly trying to become more transparent and accountable in the handling of parish and diocesan funds.”

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New facility will meet growing Hispanic needs in Hartford Archdiocese

HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) — Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford plans to construct a $6.5 million building so it can consolidate under one roof all of the services and programs it offers to the city’s Latino population through its Institute for the Hispanic Family. The institute offers such social services as mental health treatment, day care and literacy and parenting classes. Its four main programs are a day-care center, family center, senior center and a mental health behavioral center for children and adults. With the new building it also plans to expand its programs. The largest social services ministry for the Latino population in Hartford, it serves more than 5,000 clients each year. Over the past decade, the Hispanic population in the Hartford metro area has grown to more than 40 percent of the current population, based on the 2000 U.S. census, reports the Mauricio Gaston Institute of the University of Massachusetts. Located in the heart of the Latino community, the institute has existed for more than 30 years. Currently, it leases approximately 11,000 square feet of space, which it shares with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The new structure will have 22,000 square feet. Rose Alma Senatore, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, said that because so many of its clients live in the neighborhood, the objective was to stay within a one-mile radius of the current site.

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Church must defend marriage against societal onslaught, speaker says

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Despite clear evidence that traditional marriage benefits couples, children and society, legal and other challenges against it continue to mount, a law professor said March 11. Helen M. Alvare, an associate professor at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, spoke about “The Current Showdown on Marriage: What Can and Should the Church Offer?” in the annual Catholic Daughters of the Americas lecture on campus. Alvare said she deliberately chose the word “showdown” because marriage as it has been traditionally understood is being “directly and very boldly challenged today.” But her comments did not focus, as she said some might have expected, on efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. Instead she highlighted the gradual erosion of respect and societal support for the institution. She told her audience, which included all but one member of the national board of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, that she hoped “to attract your energy, your commitment to the cause of marriage” by the end of the talk. Among the “fundamental qualities of marriage” — all under challenge today — are that it is between a man and a woman and that it is permanent, exclusive and open to child-bearing and child-rearing, Alvare said.

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Ecumenical memorial service held for murdered Armenian journalist

NEW YORK (CNS) — “Hrant Dink’s assassin failed. The truth can never be vanquished,” Father Francis V. Tiso said March 4 at an ecumenical memorial service in New York for the Armenian-Turkish journalist who was murdered Jan. 19 outside his newspaper office in Istanbul, Turkey. Father Tiso, associate director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, was homilist at the service. Organized jointly by the Armenian Catholic Exarchate of America, representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church and an umbrella organization of Armenian Protestants, the service drew more than 900 people to St. Vartan Cathedral. Dink, 52, was founder and editor in chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos and a prominent figure in Turkey’s minority Armenian community. He challenged Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915. At the time of his death he had appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn his conviction in a Turkish court for violating a law against “denigrating Turkishness,” a conviction that led to numerous death threats against him. The decision was widely interpreted in the international human rights community as a politically motivated act that was really aimed at silencing him on the issue of Turkish responsibility in the 1915 deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians.

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Anti-terrorism bill said to hinder thousands of refugee applicants

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A coalition of religious groups and refugee advocates is calling on Congress to back off from provisions of the Patriot Act and Real ID Act that they argue have blocked thousands of vulnerable people from being admitted to the United States. The two laws include sections barring anyone who has provided “material support” to “terrorist organizations” from entering the United States. By criminalizing broadly defined “material support,” the laws prohibit the admission of people who have, even under coercion, provided any kind of financial, physical and material aid to members of a wide range of organizations involved in armed resistance to any national government. A March 8 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, notes that asylum, refugee protection and legal immigration status are being denied even to people who have provided assistance to people under threat of death. “No exception is provided for victims who have been forced under extreme duress to provide a meal to warlords, pay ransom to guerrillas to secure their freedom, or offer other coerced forms of support,” said the statement. “Ironically, the law defines ‘terrorist activity’ so broadly as to include the actions of groups who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq.” A briefing paper prepared by the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services said in some situations, people have been excluded from refugee protection for the very reasons they were forced to flee from their homelands, including women and children who have been raped and tortured.

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New Loyola Marymount institute to advance Catholic-Orthodox relations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — With a $5 million pledge by philanthropist Michael Huffington, Loyola Marymount University has established the Huffington Ecumenical Institute to promote Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and understanding. “I feel very passionate about this project,” said Huffington, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, “because my dream is that someday I’ll get to see members of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church be able to take Communion in each other’s churches.” Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit institution with about 5,000 undergraduates and 3,000 graduate students, said it plans to identify another $5 million in matching funds for the institute. The institute will sponsor ecumenical dialogues and other constructive encounters among Catholic and Orthodox theologians, religious leaders and church members. It also will develop a collection of library and Internet resources to be housed in the university’s theology department under the leadership of the department chairman, Jeffrey Siker, and Jesuit Father Michael E. Engh, dean of the liberal arts college. An institute director will be hired to work with Father Engh and Siker and develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that will explore Orthodox theology, history and culture through courses and lectures.

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WORLD

Vatican to take action against liberation theologian, sources say

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican was expected to take disciplinary action against Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino, a leading proponent of liberation theology, sources in Rome said. Spanish media reported that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would ban Father Sobrino from teaching or publishing books. Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador, where Father Sobrino resides and teaches, was quoted as saying March 11 that the Vatican would announce that Father Sobrino’s views were not wholly in line with church doctrine, and that he would be forbidden to teach theology in any Catholic institution until he revised his conclusions. A Jesuit spokesman in Rome, Father Jose M. de Vera, would not confirm those reports, but said the Vatican was expected to issue a declaration on Father Sobrino in mid-March. Father de Vera said the doctrinal review of Father Sobrino’s work began several years ago, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — was prefect of the congregation.

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Vatican: Vietnam working on full diplomatic relations with Holy See

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The government of Vietnam is working on a concrete plan to establish full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, a delegation of Vatican officials was told. Msgr. Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary of state, led the three-member delegation to Vietnam March 5-11 for meetings with officials of the central government, local governments, bishops’ conference and the dioceses of Quy Nhon, Kontum and Hai Phong. The Vatican press office release a statement about the visit March 12. While the delegation brought the prayers and blessing of Pope Benedict XVI, Vietnamese Catholics demonstrated their “deep affection, filial attachment and fidelity” to the pope along with their hopes “that the pope himself could one day make a pastoral visit to the country,” the Vatican statement said. The delegation’s visit to Vietnam came two months after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican. Pope Benedict raised the problem of continued restrictions on Catholic life in the country, but the two leaders also discussed the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations.

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Nigerian bishops urge politicians to ensure free, fair elections

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has urged political leaders to ensure that the general elections are conducted under free and fair conditions. The April elections are “matters of grave concern for us and for most Nigerians. Past experiences make Nigerians enter this season of elections with heightened trepidation,” said the bishops in a statement. Many Nigerians claimed that the re-election of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 was rigged. They warned that the world was watching to see how Nigerians would conduct the elections, which the bishops said could provide Nigeria respect as a democracy. The elections will be the first transition of power of democratically elected presidents in the country. “These elections will either increase or diminish the respect that the international community has for Nigeria,” they said in the statement released after the bishops’ meeting, which concluded in early March. The meeting focused on “Good Governance, Democracy and Christian Responsibility.” “To our politicians, we ask: ‘What does it profit a politician if he steals the mandate to rule and loses the trust of the people?’ We cannot afford to fail, and there must be no rigging,” they said. Nigerians, they said, deserve and demand free and fair elections from the ruling and opposition parties. The bishops also urged Nigerians to vote according to their consciences.

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Lebanese bishops say crisis would deepen if Hariri tribunal formed

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic bishops said the country’s political crisis would deepen if a U.N. tribunal is formed to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Allowing the U.N. to form the tribunal under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, rather than Lebanon approving the tribunal, “will prove that our small country is divided and unable to handle its affairs on its own,” said the bishops in a March 7 statement. “It will paralyze Lebanon more than it is already paralyzed.” The bishops’ statement was published March 8 in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. Many government supporters claim the ongoing Hezbollah-led campaign to topple the country’s Cabinet is a coup attempt, which has been instigated by Hezbollah’s backers in Syria and is aimed at thwarting the tribunal’s creation. Syrian senior officials have been implicated in the killing of Hariri and 22 others in a massive bomb blast in downtown Beirut on Valentine’s Day in 2005. Pro-government leaders have argued that if Lebanon’s paralyzed legislature is unable to ratify plans for the tribunal, the United Nations should do so under Chapter VII.

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Diocesan part of Pope John Paul II’s sainthood cause to close April 2

ROME (CNS) — The diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and holiness of Pope John Paul II will close officially April 2, the second anniversary of the pope’s death. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome, announced March 10 the end of the diocesan phase of the process for the late pope’s beatification and canonization. The April 2 ceremony will take place in the context of a brief prayer service; Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate a memorial Mass later that evening in St. Peter’s Basilica. The end of the diocesan phase of a sainthood cause means that the cause’s promoter has interviewed all of the eyewitnesses he felt needed to be heard and has examined all of the candidate’s writings. In addition, a panel of historians has written a report on the candidate’s actions and writings in the historical context in which he lived. While the documentation will be handed over to the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes after the April 2 ceremony, the promoter and his assistants still must prepare the official “positio,” or position paper, arguing that Pope John Paul heroically lived the Christian virtues. Normally in order for a beatification to take place, a separate report must be prepared and accepted recognizing a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intervention.

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Pope says only in Christ’s cross can people make sense of life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Only in the light of Christ’s cross, the clearest expression of God’s love, can people make sense of life and its suffering, Pope Benedict XVI said. Meeting university students at the Vatican and connected by a satellite link with students in seven European cities and four cities in Asia, the pope March 10 spoke about “intellectual charity,” a sharing of knowledge across borders. A greater exercise of intellectual charity, he told the students, would allow young people and scholars around the world not only to share their research and discoveries, but also to share the wisdom they have gained from searching for the meaning behind the facts. “Intellectual charity can unite the existential journey of young people who, while living far from one another, are able to feel joined on the level of interior searching and witness,” the pope said. “The mystery of the cross is not disconnected from the theme of intellectual charity,” he said, but rather enlightens it. “Christian wisdom is the wisdom of the cross,” Pope Benedict said. It teaches Christians to “interpret every reality in the light of the mystery of God’s love, which finds its highest and most complete revelation in the cross.”

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Pope will spend summer Alpine vacation in northeast Italy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Diocese of Treviso, Italy, announced that it would host Pope Benedict XVI’s annual mountain vacation in a newly remodeled cottage normally used as a summer home for diocesan seminarians. Pope Benedict will spend July 9-27 in Lorenzago di Cadore, where Pope John Paul II spent six summer vacations between 1987 and 1998. The Diocese of Treviso, which owns the cottage in the Dolomite section of the Alps, and the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre, where the cottage is located, announced the pope’s vacation plans March 10. The announcement also was released at the Vatican. Pope Benedict’s 2005 and 2006 Alpine vacations were spent in Les Combes, in Italy’s northwest. Lorenzago is in the northeast. Italian newspapers reported that in addition to remodeling the house in Lorenzago, the Diocese of Treviso also would be adding a piano for the pope to play.

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PEOPLE

North American College buries French in seminarians’ soccer cup

ROME (CNS) — The North American Martyrs put on a talent show in the second round of the Clericus Cup soccer tournament, burying the French seminary team 4-0. The win March 10 left the squad of the Pontifical North American College undefeated in the tournament so far. Sixteen teams made up of priests and seminarians in Rome are competing in the tourney, which ends in June. Backed by the tournament’s biggest cheering section, the Martyrs struck quickly against the Pontifical French Seminary. Three minutes into the game, Daniel O’Mullane launched a perfect pass to fellow co-captain Jaime Gil, who feinted past the goalkeeper and shot it into the net. O’Mullane later had another assist and also scored the Martyrs’ final goal. The only time the French came close to scoring was on an arching shot from near midfield that Martyrs goalie Andrew Roza managed to tip away at the last second. No fouls were called, and the game was a model of sportsmanship. The tiny grandstand was filled with Martyrs fans, who waved American flags and sang “God Bless America” at the end of the game.

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New York artist sets up easel in Rome to paint humanity of cardinals

ROME (CNS) — When New York artist Alex Melamid watched the funeral of Pope John Paul II on TV in 2005, he was struck by the way the cardinals all looked the same — as iconic dignitaries in red vestments. This year, Melamid has set up his easel in Rome. He is hoping to get below the surface image of cardinals and other church figures by painting their portraits. “Cardinals should be seen as individuals. I think they have something to communicate, and that’s what I want to capture in my art,” Melamid said. On an afternoon in late February, Melamid was working in his studio on a portrait of Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins. The cardinal sat on a wooden chair, wearing scarlet robes and a gold and ivory pectoral cross. Melamid was working on his second canvas of the cardinal. The first, although a stunningly realistic likeness, was a bit too stiff for the artist’s taste. “It was too much cardinal. Now I’m humanizing him,” Melamid said.

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Food for thought: Lenten recipes can provide lessons in faith

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The education of 5-year-old Charlie Egger is something to behold for a Catholic who grew up in a generation when Fridays in Lent were usually marked by meals of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, fish sticks from a woman named Mrs. Paul and fillet-of-fish sandwiches from the drive-in window of a fast-food restaurant. Jenni Egger wants her son to be comfortable in the kitchen, even involving him in cooking creative alternatives to traditional meatless Friday dinners — which explains why Charlie helps his mother prepare a meal called “veggie-filled frittata.” Yet she also sees those Lenten Friday cooking sessions as a meaty way to teach Charlie about his Catholic faith. “Lent is an important time to have family conversations about why we don’t eat meat on Friday, or why we carry on any of our special Lenten traditions,” said Egger, 36, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “Prep time or meal time is the perfect opportunity for those conversations. We will talk about Jesus and the sacrifices he made for us, and the things we can do during Lent,” she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

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Cardinal Rigali’s Lenten reflections a hit on YouTube Internet site

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Who’s that you’re seeing on YouTube? Yes, it is really Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. The cardinal is providing video reflections for each Sunday of Lent, as well as for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter on the free, video-sharing Web site, which allows users to upload, view and share video clips. Once on the site, http://www.youtube.com, visitors can easily find the reflections by typing “Cardinal Rigali” into the search area. “YouTube is a place where people communicate a multiplicity of things, and certainly, from the viewpoint of the church, we have a desire to communicate Christ,” Cardinal Rigali said recently. “We have the message in the Gospel — the uplifting message of Jesus, a wonderful message of hope … of love … of faith.” The cardinal said he hopes his contribution will be of help to people who are reflecting on God and Christ, and on the meaning of life and love.

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