Today — April 20, 2007

After entirely too long a time away, we return today with a living and breathing computer which will allow us to continue to provide daily updates. Until another hacker plants another virus of course. Which is probably only a matter of time of course.

Today in the Diocese

No major diocesan-wide events today

Daily Readings

Acts 3:11-26
Psalm 8:2, 5-9
Luke 24:35-48

Today’s News from Catholic News Service

Latest sex abuse report finds drop in reported victims

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The number of people who said they are victims of clergy child sex abuse has dropped 34 percent since 2004, according to a national survey of dioceses and religious orders. The survey was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in conjunction with the 2006 audit on U.S. church compliance with child protection policies. The annual report on the survey and audit showed the same drop since 2004 in the number of credible allegations made and a 40 percent drop in the number of reported offenders. The report collected data on credible allegations and costs related to child sex abuse in 2006 and compared them to the figures gathered in 2004 and 2005. Lawyers’ fees continued to skyrocket in 2006 but the amount of money paid out in settlements dropped by nearly $122 million from 2005, it said. Lawyers’ fees totaled $75.1 million in 2006, an 82 percent rise from the 2005 figure of $41.2 million, the report said. Also on a major upswing was the amount of money paid for living expenses, therapy and other support of offenders, it said.

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Limited child protection audits find most dioceses in compliance

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Twenty-seven of 29 Catholic dioceses and eparchies audited in 2006 complied with the church’s national standards for child protection programs and the prevention of and response to sexual abuse, says a report released April 11. However, four dioceses that were not found in compliance in 2005 refused to participate in the 2006 audit. “The overall results of the 2006 audit are encouraging,” said Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, chairwoman of the bishops’ all-lay National Review Board. But she described the refusal of four dioceses to participate as “discouraging news.” Two — the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass. — had refused to participate in the 2005 audits as well and were supposed to undergo full audits. The Diocese of Baker, Ore., and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark (N.J.) for Syriacs refused partial audits that would have focused on those areas where they did not meet compliance standards in 2005. “It is most unfortunate,” Ewers said, “that the bishops and eparchs of these dioceses/eparchies are unwilling to participate in the one measure of public scrutiny that assures the Catholic lay faithful that the church is taking every means possible to reach out to those who have been harmed by individuals in the service of the church and to promote the safety and well-being of the children entrusted to its care.”

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Fire that destroyed Indiana church is ruled arson

NEW CASTLE, Ind. (CNS) — Law enforcement officials said April 10 that an early morning fire that destroyed historic St. Anne Church in New Castle three days earlier was arson. Firefighters battled the blaze for five hours on Holy Saturday in windy and unseasonably cold weather. Parishioners who had planned to celebrate the Easter Vigil there that evening traveled instead to nearby Cambridge City, where they were part of a standing-room-only congregation at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson and officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives immediately began a criminal investigation after the fire was put out, restricting access to the parish property and cordoning the area off with yellow crime-scene tape. The fire, which began in the basement, gutted the interior of the 83-year-old brick church, burned through the roof and melted stained-glass windows. The criminal investigation was suspended on Easter but resumed the next day. In a joint statement April 10 investigators of the federal and state agencies and of the New Castle police and fire departments said the fire was arson. They did not discuss any possible motives or suspects.

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At South Carolina school, chaplains learn to bring God to battlefield

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (CNS) — As dusk fell on a crisp night in late March, soldiers gathered in a pine clearing at Fort Jackson near Columbia. They stood around a “sand table,” a map of combat zones drawn out in the dirt, and received briefings on a fictional anti-insurgent mission in Iraq. Some of the details had a distinctly biblical tone. The mission’s name? “Operation Preacher.” Terrorist command bases were “Jezebel” and “Beelzebub.” A main supply line was “Hezekiah.” Welcome to combat training at the U.S. Army Chaplain School and Center, where men and women who want to bring the comfort of God to soldiers around the world learn how to be chaplains. The chaplain school has been at Fort Jackson since 1995, when it moved from Fort Monmouth, N.J. At any given time, the chaplain school serves more than 100 students studying to become chaplains or completing more extensive officer training. The school also trains chaplain assistants, nonordained soldiers who serve with chaplains on Unit Ministry Teams in combat and in peacetime.

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South Carolina to get religious training center in base realignment

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (CNS) — In less than three years, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson will be adding new dimensions to its work. By 2010, Fort Jackson will be the location of the new Joint Center of Excellence for Religious Training and Education, a facility that will train chaplains not only for the U.S. Army, but also for the U.S. Navy and Air Force. The new center is a result of the latest round of cuts and realignments being implemented as recommended by the Base Realignment and Closure commission in 2005. Chaplain schools at the Naval Station in Newport, R.I., and the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Miss., are closing, along with a training center for chaplains at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, according to government realignment documents. The facilities will relocate to Fort Jackson in two new buildings adjacent to the current chaplain school. Groundbreaking for the new facility will be held in 2008, and the new facility is tentatively scheduled to open in 2010, said Father David A. Kenehan, an Army colonel who is deputy commandant of the chaplain school.

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Catholic press board urges new stress on diocesan newspapers

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Diocesan newspapers deserve new emphasis as a means of spreading the Gospel and connecting Catholics to one another and their church, said the board of directors of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. “Diocesan publications can light the fire of faith that warms hearts to action for the good of all,” the CPA board said in a statement released April 10. “Recently the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies announced a bold initiative, the opening of 76 new diocesan newspapers. The goal … was that each of Italy’s 226 dioceses would have at least one publication to serve its members,” the board said. “That same type of emphasis is needed in the United States and Canada,” it said. CPA members include a wide range of national and international Catholic newspapers, magazines and newsletters, but the 173 diocesan newspapers of the United States and Canada that belong to the association form nearly half of its member publications. Helen Osman, CPA president, told Catholic News Service April 10 that the board statement was sparked by the strong support Pope Benedict XVI expressed for the diocesan press at a meeting with the Italian federation last November.

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Ghanaian describes to CRS how climate change affects local farmers

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — When Hippolyt Pul was a young boy, farmers in his home country of Ghana often referred to the feast of the Ascension as “the feast of the bean leaf.” Rain came like clockwork each year right after Easter, so farmers planted their first seeds no more than two weeks after the holy day. “The black bean was one of the first crops to be planted, as its leaves served as an important stopgap food for the many households whose granaries would have run empty by this time of the year,” Pul recently wrote in an e-mail to Dennis Fisher, education program officer for the Northeast regional office of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. The rainfall was so consistent that “by the time Ascension was celebrated, the hungry would be fed with the bean leaves. By the third week of June, the bean crop itself was taken in to boost household food security,” wrote Pul, director of CRS’ West Africa regional office. But farmers in Ghana no longer refer to the “feast of the bean leaf,” said Pul. The rains have become erratic in recent years, affecting the traditional planting season, and he believes the disruption is caused by global climate change.

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Pope says Christians should announce Christ’s death, resurrection

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI said modern Christians should imitate the early disciples by announcing Christ’s death and resurrection wherever they live and work. “We, too, like Mary Magdalene and St. Thomas and the other apostles, are called to be witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can’t keep this great news to ourselves. We need to announce it to the whole world,” the pope said at his general audience April 11. The disciples had the gift of encountering the risen Christ in their homes, offering them a tangible confirmation of the resurrection, he said. But as St. Augustine said, Christians should know that “to have Christ in one’s own heart is greater than having him in one’s home,” the pope said. “We, too, if we seek the Lord with a simple and sincere spirit, will meet him. In fact, he himself will come to meet us. He will make himself known, he will call us by name, he will lead us to the closeness of his love,” the pope said. More than 35,000 people filled the seats in St. Peter’s Square to see and hear the pope at his first general audience following Holy Week liturgies.

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Pope to meet Brazilian youths and politicians, open major assembly

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will meet with young people, recovering drug addicts and political leaders before opening a major assembly of Latin American bishops in Brazil in May. The pope will also canonize a Brazilian Franciscan, Blessed Antonio Galvao, during his May 9-13 visit. The Vatican released the complete schedule for the papal trip April 11. It will be his first papal trip to the Western Hemisphere, and the main purpose is to inaugurate the fifth general conference of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean. The pope celebrates an opening Mass May 13 and presides over the first session of the conference later in the day.

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South Korean farmers lament eviction to allow for U.S. military base

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea (CNS) — Seventy-year-old Susan Kim Soon-deuk has toiled for 50 years to transform a tidal mud flat into farmland, but the South Korean government has taken it from her. “I feel victimized by the government’s plan to convert our village to a U.S. military base. I suffered a lot in reclaiming fertile farmland from the tidal flats,” a tearful Kim told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, April 7. Kim and 58 families protested the eviction order with a 935-day candlelight vigil that ended March 24. On April 7, Kim and about 200 other villagers, along with social activists, organized a farewell ceremony to their homes. “My protest ended in vain and I was kicked out,” Kim said. The families have been moved to an area about 20 minutes from their old homes, but the government has yet to complete living arrangements there.

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Venezuelan cardinal asks government to reverse decision on TV station

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) — Caracas Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino has asked Venezuelan officials to reverse their decision to shut down a television station critical of the government. The cardinal said in late March that the “very delicate” issue should be viewed in the context of Venezuelans’ right to “freedom of expression and the right to information.” Government officials have decided not to renew the operational license of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, when it expires May 28. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accuses the 54-year-old station of having backed a 2002 coup that toppled him from power for 48 hours. Opponents of Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 and was re-elected in a landslide last year, say that much of the nation’s private media has been intimidated into muting its criticism of government policies. A political newspaper recently was fined for allegedly violating the privacy of the president’s daughter when it mentioned her in a satirical commentary.

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Church rehab center inspires drug addicts to start similar centers

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) — A Catholic rehabilitation center in Bangladesh has inspired more than 50 former drug addicts to start similar centers throughout the country. Bangladesh Rehabilitation and Assistance Center for Addicts, or BARACA, has helped more than 1,800 drug addicts since it was begun in 1988 by Caritas Bangladesh. Caritas Bangladesh is the local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an international network of Catholic relief, development and social service agencies. “Many of the de-addiction centers in Bangladesh have been inspired by BARACA,” said Tarun Gayen, psychologist and founder of the Society for Community Health, Rehabilitation, Education and Awareness center in Dhaka. “It is our role model.” Gayen told Catholic News Service that he joined BARACA as a counselor in 1992 upon the recommendation of a friend, who underwent its four-month residential rehabilitation program. After seven years of service at the center, Gayen left BARACA and founded his own center.

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‘Commando crawl’ and all, priests train to be military chaplains

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (CNS) — As the soldier leaned out over a length of rope stretched 20 feet in the air over a net, he began the “commando crawl,” a careful, hand-over-hand movement across the rope to a wooden platform on the other side. The other men and women in his platoon waited on the ground below and cheered him as he slowly made progress. The casual observer would never guess the man on the rope, a first lieutenant, was also a Catholic priest, Father Mario Rosario, studying to become a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He and eight other Catholic priests were among approximately 130 students in late March at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, near Columbia. Father Rosario, a native of the Philippines, and three other priests were enrolled in the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, the initial three-month course to become a chaplain. They graduated April 5. Five other priests, already chaplains, are taking the Chaplain Captain Career Course, or C-4.

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Canadian couple organizes yearly pilgrimage to Rome for families

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As 35,000 people streamed out of St. Peter’s Square after the pope’s general audience in search of shade and water, one couple sat peacefully in the shade of a marble pillar looking completely undisturbed by the crowd. After seven Easter pilgrimages to Rome, Canadians Peter and Muriel Brown are unflappable. “Our life is nonstop adventures,” Muriel Brown said April 11 while fanning herself with a piece of paper. The Browns made their first Easter pilgrimage to Rome in 2000. The family of five wanted to celebrate the jubilee year by walking through the Holy Door, the bronze door normally sealed by bricks, except during a holy year. Since then they have been working with the St. Joseph Family Center in St. Nicholas, Prince Edward Island, to organize a yearly pilgrimage to Rome for families. This year, the Browns came to Rome with two sets of pilgrims. One group, made up of mothers and daughters, included 28 people. The second group, made up of fathers and sons, had 60 people.

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Extension Magazine announces student winners of short-story contest

CHICAGO (CNS) — Extension Magazine, the monthly publication of the Chicago-based Catholic Church Extension Society, has announced six winners in its short-story contest for Catholic high school students. Established in 1906, the magazine reports on the activities and issues of U.S. home missions. Ryan Burch, a 10th-grader from St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Ky., is the winner of the grand prize. He will receive the $1,000 first prize and his winning story, “Finding Faith,” will be published in the April issue of Extension Magazine and on the Web site of Catholic Extension, Mary Chavez, a student at Central Catholic High School in Modesto, Calif., is the second prize winner. She will receive $500 and her story, “The Scent,” also will be published on the Catholic Extension Web site. Four other students are sharing third-place honors; each will receive a $250 prize, and their stories will be posted on the Catholic Extension Web site. The students are: Elizabeth Yazgi of Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, N.J., for “Irish Dancing”; Mary K. Mangan of John Paul II Catholic High School in Tallahassee, Fla., for “A Hidden Flower”; Kelly Conroy, also of John Paul II Catholic High School in Tallahassee, for “Championship Faith”; and Madeline Reynolds of Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr, Pa., for “A Simple Walk.”

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