A Look at Today (03.19.07)

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Today’s Readings

First Reading: Second Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Second Reading: Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Gospel: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24, or Luke 2:41-51

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Boston cardinal says U.S. needs ‘more humane’ policy on immigration

BOSTON (CNS) — After federal immigration officials spirited away to Texas nearly half of the 327 people arrested in a March 6 raid on a New Bedford handbag and backpack factory, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston called for “some kind of comprehensive immigration reform.” “While immigration reform is urgent, the needs of the women and children in New Bedford are desperate,” Cardinal O’Malley said in the March 15 Boston Globe in an opinion piece titled “A more humane immigration policy.” According to news reports, Massachusetts officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick, were angered that before caseworkers from the state Department of Social Services were allowed to speak to detainees to determine whether any of those arrested had left children behind at home or school, almost half of the detainees were flown to Texas March 8. Federal officials refused to share with the state a list of those detained, and have refused requests by the state to halt additional flights. “I hope our first priority is the families who were impacted, not a search for the villains,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

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Human rights leader sees slow, steady progress in Northern Ireland

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Progress for human rights and equality under the law is moving at a slow but steady pace in Northern Ireland, said a leading human rights activist. “You have to keep your patience going,” said Maggie Beirne, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, at a Washington briefing March 15 for officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While it is hard to get people in Northern Ireland to agree on major political issues, there is growing cooperation on the neighborhood and local levels to achieve common goals, she said. Beirne’s committee is an independent body that monitors human rights and promotes equality in administering criminal justice in Northern Ireland, where political issues have been marred by decades of conflict between Catholics and Protestants. There has been less conflict in recent years. The key issue is whether Northern Ireland should remain under British rule as part of the United Kingdom or whether it should join Ireland. The Protestant majority generally favors remaining under British rule while the minority Catholics mostly favor union with Ireland.

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Ecumenical pressure: Churches seek to stop repression in Philippines

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The stories of harassment, violent attacks and murders of missionaries, indigenous leaders, farmers and human rights activists in the Philippines reminded Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., of another place and time. Paired with information that the U.S. recently increased aid to the Philippine military, alleged to be behind many of the incidents, Boxer questioned a State Department representative about whether the situation has parallels to the U.S. role in Central America’s civil wars of decades past. “As with El Salvador, are we going to be attacked for training a military that goes out and does these things? Should we be attaching strings to the money we give them?” Boxer asked Eric G. John, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs. She questioned John during a March 14 hearing of the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, which she chairs. The hearing came on the final day of an International Ecumenical Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines. Filipino religious and human rights activists, including a Catholic bishop, asked the U.S. government to pressure the Philippine president to better address human rights abuses in the former U.S. territory.

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Christopher Awards honor the best in films, TV/cable, books

NEW YORK (CNS) — Seven films, five television/cable shows and 11 books were honored March 15 with Christopher Awards in New York. The Christophers, sponsor of the awards, estimated that 114 writers, directors, producers and illustrators in all were honored. The organization recognizes works that affirm the highest values of the human spirit. Films receiving awards were “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Miss Potter,” “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” “The Nativity Story,” “World Trade Center” and “Water.” The TV/cable programs honored were HBO’s “Baghdad ER,” “A Simple Twist of Fate” from ABC’s “20/20,” TNT’s “The Ron Clark Story,” Cinemax’s “Cinemax Reel Life: Favela Rising,” and “Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History” from PBS’ “Nature.” Six books for adults and five books for young people also were honored.

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WORLD

Pope: Confession helps growing number of those with ‘guilt complexes’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Many people today seem to have a difficult time recognizing sin, but at the same time the number of people suffering from “guilt complexes” seems to be growing, Pope Benedict XVI said. “We see a humanity that wants to be self-sufficient, where not a few maintain they can do without God and still live well, and yet so many seem sadly condemned to face dramatic situations” of emptiness, violence and solitude, the pope said March 16. “Today it seems that a ‘sense of sin’ has been lost, but in return ‘guilt complexes’ have increased,” he told priests and seminarians participating in a Vatican-sponsored course on the sacrament of confession. Only Jesus, who died “to defeat forever the power of evil with the omnipotence of divine love,” can free people from “the yoke of death” that oppresses them, the pope said. The sacrament of confession, he said, makes the love and mercy of God visible and gives people the grace they need to continue fighting sin.

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Polish archbishop says no need to tighten anti-abortion laws

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — A Polish archbishop has said there is no need to tighten anti-abortion laws by amending the Polish Constitution. “I’m convinced our constitution protects life decisively enough at this moment,” said Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski of Gdansk. “The stable situation now created should prompt us not to take actions which could dramatize or complicate things even more.” The archbishop told Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, March 11 that people have the “right to life from conception to natural death — if we want to be Christians, we should never abandon this.” However, he said that Poland “must be guided by realism, and not let loose some yearning for good which causes a drama.” In an interview with Poland’s Radio Zet he said Poland already had “one of the best laws” in Europe restricting abortions and would risk “unleashing a (political) war” if further changes were attempted.

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Pope says church, Peru’s government together can protect moral values

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Working together, the Catholic Church and the Peruvian government can protect the traditional moral values that Peru needs as it consolidates social peace and works for the prosperity of all its citizens, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Only with respect for the moral law that defends and protects the human person can one build peace, favoring stable social progress,” the pope said March 16 in a speech welcoming Alfonso Rivero Monsalve as Peru’s new ambassador to the Vatican. The pope said he is pleased that the Peruvian government and the country’s Catholic community have worked together to promote health and education, and to combat poverty and corruption. As Peru undergoes the “profound changes” brought by its increasing participation in the globalized economy, the pope said, people must be aware of the stress those changes are placing “directly on persons and their values.”

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Academy: Catholics must refuse medical procedures that destroy life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic health care professionals, including hospital administrators, have an obligation to refuse to participate “in any medical intervention or research that foresees the destruction of human life,” said the Pontifical Academy for Life. The academy, in a statement dated March 15, defended the right of both individuals and hospitals to declare their status as conscientious objectors to procedures that destroy human life. The statement followed the academy’s Feb. 23-24 assembly, which was devoted to discussions about educating Christian consciences and exercising conscientious objection in defending the right to life. In addition to refusing to participate in abortions, the statement said, doctors, pharmacists and nurses also must be aware of their “moral responsibility” when asked to provide so-called “emergency contraception,” clarifying the difference between treatment designed to prevent conception, for instance in the case of rape, and treatment designed to destroy a human embryo before it can be implanted in the uterus.

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Vox Clara advisers urge quick completion of English Mass translation

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and a committee of congregation advisers have urged the quick completion of the new English translation of the Mass. The Vox Clara Committee, a group of English-speaking bishops who advise the Vatican on English translations, met March 12-15 at the Vatican. A press release about the meeting repeatedly referred to hopes that the translation of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2002, would be completed quickly. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL, is preparing the translation in several sections. When individual bishops’ conferences approve the texts translated into English from Latin, they request Vatican permission to use them. The new translation of the Order of the Mass, which contains the main prayers used at every Mass, has been approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences.

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Church groups express concern with police violence in Zimbabwe

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — Recent police violence and the arrest and torture in jail of anti-government protesters have been the cause for serious concern, said the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. “The actions of the law enforcement agents were provocative, insulting and dehumanizing,” the commission said in a March 13 statement. The police “exhibited highhandedness and overzealousness in dealing with the situation,” it said. The commission said the Zimbabwean Constitution “guarantees the freedom of association and assembly, and yet the law enforcement agents brutalized with impunity people who wanted to enjoy their right to association and assembly.” The commission called for the immediate release of all imprisoned activists and for a return to the rule of law. It called for a “thorough investigation into the shootings so that those involved are brought to book.” An activist was shot dead by police, and several people were arrested March 11 while protesting in the capital Harare. Protesters were demonstrating against the government, which banned a prayer rally shortly before it was scheduled to occur.

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PEOPLE

Sainthood cause opened for Russian prince turned pioneer priest

LORETTO, Pa. (CNS) — The sainthood cause for the second priest ordained in the United States, a Russian prince who became known as the “apostle of the Alleghenies,” has been initiated by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Bishop Joseph V. Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown held the opening session of the diocesan inquiry for the canonization cause of Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin March 11 at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Loretto. The son of Prince Demetrius Alexeivich Gallitzin, the ambassador of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia to the Netherlands, Prince Demetrius Augustine was born at The Hague Dec. 22, 1770. Baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church with Empress Catherine as his godmother, Prince Demetrius became a Catholic at the age of 17 when his German-born mother, Countess Amalia von Schmettau, returned to the practice of the faith of her birth. Because of his conversion to Catholicism, Demetrius was denied a place at the imperial Russian court. In 1792 he sailed from Rotterdam to the New World, and within eight days of his arrival in Baltimore, Prince Demetrius entered St. Mary’s Seminary there.

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Two inside views of late pope’s life don’t make for redundant reading

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Pope John Paul II’s sainthood cause rolled forward, two people close to him have offered quite different insider accounts of his life and times. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the late pope’s personal secretary for 39 years, has produced a conversational memoir called “A Life with Karol.” In anecdotal fashion, it sketches many of their major and minor experiences together. Pope Benedict XVI has meanwhile released “John Paul II: My Beloved Predecessor,” a more analytical look at the philosophical and theological impact of his pontificate. Although the books focus on the same subject, they don’t make for redundant reading. That says something about the breadth of Pope John Paul’s 26-year pontificate. The volumes arrived in European bookstores just as church officials announced that the diocesan phase of Pope John Paul’s sainthood cause would end April 2, the second anniversary of his death. The cause now goes to the Vatican. Vatican sources cautioned that it could still be a long time before Pope John Paul is declared a saint.

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Doctrinal congregation head finds his work mostly behind the scenes

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2005, U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada has found that most of his work is behind the scenes. The recent action against Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino was an exception: He was the first theologian to be publicly censured during Cardinal Levada’s tenure, and the case immediately brought the doctrinal congregation into the media spotlight. Although some critics described the Vatican’s action against Father Sobrino as authoritarian, for Cardinal Levada it was an example of how carefully and cooperatively the doctrinal congregation operates. “I think we work in a more collegial fashion than in most instances in the church,” Cardinal Levada told Catholic News Service in a wide-ranging interview in mid-March. “We take into account all the relevant data before articulating our position,” he said. That means thorough reflection and discussion by groups of theological peers before decisions, reprimands or decrees are handed down, he said. Cardinal Levada, 70, is the first U.S. prelate to head the doctrinal congregation, which is the oldest of the Vatican’s nine congregations and considered primary in responsibility and influence.

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Former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn dies at age 80

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CNS) — Former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who died in a Jacksonville hospital March 15 at age 80 from respiratory failure following a bout with pneumonia, once said he wanted to be remembered simply “as a good Catholic man.” In a 1999 interview with The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Kuhn said his faith was his anchor throughout his life. “My church taught me the importance of right and wrong,” he said, explaining that the church gave him the tools to stay on that path, as well as the sacraments. “The church is my bulwark,” he added. “Not a moment goes by where I don’t realize that I’m a man of faith, and there are certain obligations that go along with that.” As commissioner of Major League Baseball, Kuhn oversaw baseball during a stormy time in both the sport and in society. Labor unrest in the game was rife during Kuhn’s 1969-84 tenure, with five work stoppages — including two season-shortening strikes — challenges to the reserve clause that bound a player to one team for life, and free agency for players.

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