Bishop Pfeifer in MIDLAND, Our Lady of San Juan, Confirmation at 6:30 p.m.
Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Judge approves $48 million sex abuse settlement in Spokane
SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) — U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams April 24 confirmed a reorganization plan under which the Spokane Diocese will pay childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse and their lawyers $48 million. “Today’s decision by Judge Williams marks the end of a tragic chapter in our history,” Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane said at an afternoon press conference announcing the decision. He used the occasion to apologize again to the abuse victims. “Individuals used their positions of authority and trust to damage the least among us. It was shameful, and it was wrong,” he said. All parties to the diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings had agreed to the reorganization plan before Williams confirmed it. Of the $48 million, $40 million is to be used to compensate victims, $7 million is for the professional fees of attorneys and accountants, and up to $1 million is for expenses incurred in determining the claims. Of the $40 million, $39 million is to go to victims who made claims before or during the bankruptcy proceedings; $1 million will be set aside for possible future claims.
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Court hears arguments over campaign-season issue ads
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A campaign finance reform law that limits certain types of “issue” advertising shortly before elections should not preclude ads that specifically mention a politician facing a tight election, the Supreme Court was told April 25 by the attorney representing Wisconsin Right to Life. In oral arguments on the court’s last day to hear new cases this term, attorneys for the federal government countered that ads placed by Wisconsin Right to Life about Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., were intended to persuade voters to vote against him, not simply to pressure the senator to end a filibuster against judicial nominees. That violates the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, said Solicitor General Paul Clement. The ads in question ran on radio and television beginning in the summer of 2004. They called on Feingold and Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., to oppose a Senate filibuster of nominees for the judiciary. The ads did not refer to Feingold’s re-election campaign — Kohl was not up for re-election at the time — but they also did not include information about how to contact the senators. The ads did refer to a Web site for Wisconsin Right to Life that had material critical of Feingold.
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Religious groups band together to call for farm bill reforms
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, are joining more than a dozen other religious groups in advocating reforms in federal farm policy that could be implemented through the farm bill now working its way through Congress. The organizations have coalesced into a body called the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill to propose changes in the legislation that they say would benefit farmers, rural communities and Americans’ nutritional needs. “Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said an April 20 statement by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y. chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy. “We join together to support policies that promote economic justice, strengthen rural communities at home and around the world, care for the land as God’s creation, foster right relations among nations and achieve an end to hunger,” said the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill statement, also issued April 20.
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North Dakota moves closer to ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade reversed
FARGO, N.D. (CNS) — Passage of a bill that would make abortion illegal in North Dakota if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court is a “positive affirmation of the right to life,” said Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo. “This ban is a positive step toward protecting all human life from conception to natural death, but there is much work left to be done in North Dakota and throughout the nation and world,” Bishop Aquila said in a statement posted late April 24 on his diocesan Web site. North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven was expected to sign the bill, which would make abortion a felony except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. Called a “trigger bill,” the legislation would only take effect if the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. Mississippi passed similar legislation earlier this year; it was signed into law by Gov. Haley Barbour April 19. Anyone performing an illegal abortion under the North Dakota legislation would be subject to a $5,000 fine and/or up to five years in jail. The bill passed the House April 23 by a 68-24 vote and was approved later the same day in the Senate 29-16.
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Arlington bishop leads prayer service for Virginia Tech victims
ANNANDALE, Va. (CNS) — Hundreds of parishioners gathered with Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale April 22 for an evening prayer service for the Virginia Tech victims and their families. Many of those in attendance sported the Blacksburg university’s familiar colors of maroon and orange as a sign of solidarity with the community in the neighboring Diocese of Richmond. A university banner hung in the church vestibule and to the side of the altar. The parish originally planned a quiet evening of meditation, music, prayer and healing featuring Irish tenor Mark Forrest. But when the tragedy unfolded on the Blacksburg campus April 16, the parish quickly shifted its focus to the memory of the victims. “The church of Arlington is a family of faith, brothers and sisters united through and with and in Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Loverde in his opening reflection. “As family members we share joy and sorrow.”
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More than 120 U.S. parishes receive grants through Oregon publisher
PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — More than 120 U.S. parishes received a total of nearly $170,000 of assistance through the OCP parish grants program, now in its seventh year. This year, approximately 80 churches received a total of $120,000 through the standard grant process, while a total of nearly $50,000 in special disaster grants and materials went to more than 40 other parishes to aid in recovery from Hurricane Katrina and other catastrophic events. The grants were awarded in March. Since the inception of the program in 2001, nearly $700,000 has been awarded to a total of 350 churches. Parishes in every diocese in the country have received benefits. Based in Portland, OCP is a not-for-profit publisher of liturgical music and worship resources. It has been in operation for more than 80 years. Applications for 2008 grants can be submitted between April 30 and June 30 at http://www.ocp.org/grants. All U.S. Catholic parishes are eligible to apply, even if they do not currently use an OCP worship program. The purpose of the grant must be linked to liturgy and/or music.
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Catholic Library Association honors Origins for scholarly excellence
BALTIMORE (CNS) — The Catholic Library Association honored Origins, a Catholic documentary service, with its Jerome Award for “outstanding contribution and commitment to excellence in scholarship.” David Gibson, founding editor, accepted the award April 12 at the Jerome Award luncheon during the association’s annual convention in Baltimore. Origins, established in 1971, is a publication of Catholic News Service in Washington. It publishes major official documents of the pope, the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other church entities as well as a variety of other religious documentation, from ecumenical and interreligious statements to papers by church officials, theologians and other thinkers on current church issues and trends. It is published 47 times a year and often carries important new texts the same week they are issued. Origins is also available online back to the 1970s at http://www.originsonline.com.
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Pope says his new book highlights different levels of reading Bible
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI said that in his new book he tried to highlight what the Bible says about Jesus, what the moral implications of his teachings are and how reading the Scriptures can lead to a real relationship with Jesus. At his April 25 weekly general audience, the pope said his three-pronged approach to the Bible’s words were inspired by Origen of Alexandria, a third-century theologian. The pope’s book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” went on sale April 16 in Italian, German and Polish; the English edition is set for release May 15. During his general audience, Pope Benedict called Origen “one of the greatest” teachers of the Christian faith, particularly because of the way he combined scholarship, preaching and teaching with the example of “exemplary moral conduct.” The pope said one of Origen’s most important contributions to Christianity was the way he combined theological and biblical studies.
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Vatican: Peace education could help Buddhist-Christian conflicts
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Conflicts between Buddhists and Christians can be resolved through peace education, said the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The “sad reality” of continued prejudice and misunderstanding can be overcome by educating people about other faiths and by helping families and schools reinforce the value of peaceful coexistence, the council said in a message to Buddhists preparing for the feast of Vesakh. The feast, which commemorates the principal events in the life of Siddhartha Gautama, Buddhism’s founder, is celebrated April 8 in Japan and Taiwan and between May 2 and 31 in other countries. The Vatican released the message, signed by the council’s president, Cardinal Paul Poupard, and secretary, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, April 25. “Even in places where people experience daily the ravages of war, fueled by sentiments of hatred and vengeance, trust can be restored,” the message said.
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Despite Catholic opposition, Mexico City passes abortion bill
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Despite an intense opposition campaign by the Catholic Church, the Mexico City Assembly has approved an initiative legalizing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Following a heated session April 24, the legislature voted in favor of the new law, which will allow hospitals run by the city government to provide abortions. The bill, passed 46-19 with one abstention, will become law when it is signed by the mayor. Outside the Assembly, on the streets of Mexico City’s colonial center, supporters and opponents of the measure faced off, separated only by a thin row of riot police. Waving banners and chanting over the sound of booming drums, opponents of abortion vowed to find new ways to defeat the bill, which has put Mexico City, the nation’s capital, on the short list of places in Latin America where abortions are allowed — along with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guyana. “We will continue fighting to prevent this,” said Ivan Manjarez, a former Mexico City legislator with the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, which opposes abortion.
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Cardinal: Avoid use of Christian airport chapels for Muslim prayer
ROME (CNS) — Airports are obvious places for interreligious dialogue, but to avoid confusion it would be better if Christians did not offer use of their airport chapels for Muslim prayers, said the cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s dialogue with other religions. French Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, encouraged Catholic airport chapels to support the establishment of “meditation rooms” that can be used by any religious group, but he cautioned against opening dedicated Christian chapels to other religions. In predominantly Christian countries, it is important that Christian chapels “maintain their character as a place for Christian worship,” he told Catholic airport chaplains meeting in Rome April 23-27. Cardinal Poupard said that working in the world’s airports, places where the fear of terrorism is high, the chaplains have an important role to play, “to encourage dialogue and prevent fear and pessimism from damaging relations with persons of other faiths.”
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Family, friends say farewell to New Jersey shooting victim
FLEMINGTON, N.J. (CNS) — Hundreds of friends, classmates and family members filled St. Magdalen de Pazzi Church in Flemington for the April 24 funeral Mass for Michael Steven Pohle Jr., one of 32 victims of a student gunman who went on a shooting rampage April 16 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. The Mass was celebrated by Father Timothy Christy, pastor of St. Magdalen and Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen. Acting New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey attended the Mass. In his homily, Father Christy said that in the wake of such a tragedy it is difficult to find the words to express how one is feeling, but that the Gospel can provide guidance. “The word of God is the only sensible and cohesive and logical way to be able to turn to some kind of understanding,” Father Christy said. “The word of God speaks to us when our words fail.”
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Pope prays that drivers show more prudence
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI prayed that drivers, especially young drivers, would exercise more prudence behind the wheel and would show greater respect for the “rules of the road.” Marking the U.N.’s Global Road Safety Week April 25, the pope offered prayers for those killed or injured in traffic accidents and for their families. At the end of his weekly general audience, the pope asked governments to ensure their roads are safe and to promote traffic safety to protect human life.
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Church leaders remember Russia’s first popularly elected president
MOSCOW (CNS) — Russian church leaders remembered the life of Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president and first popularly elected leader in the country’s history. “Russian Catholics received news of the first president’s death with deep sympathy for his family and relatives,” said Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow. “For Catholics, his period in government was a time for rebuilding a hierarchy, regaining places of worship, creating communities and reviving the church. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz noted that the availability of religious services nationwide was “living witness to the benign rule” of Yeltsin, regardless of how his actions might be viewed by “politicians of various parties and coalitions, economists, commentators and other experts.” Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow acknowledged the late president as a “bright politician and political leader” who had favored close church-state ties. Yeltsin died April 23 at the age of 76 from organ failure. He was buried April 25 in Moscow’s Novodevichye cemetery and was the first Russian leader buried with Christian rites since Czar Alexander III in 1894.
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Deacon sees human side of prisoners labeled as ‘monsters’
MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CNS) — After nearly seven years in prison ministry, Deacon Malcolm Lunsford has not “seen any monsters” on death row but “just a lot of guys who’ve gone wrong somewhere.” That includes David Leon Woods, an inmate scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 4 at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Deacon Lunsford describes Woods as the most remorseful inmate he has ever met. Woods, now 42, was 19 when he stabbed a neighbor 21 times during an attempt to steal a television. He was sentenced to death March 28, 1985. Deacon Lunsford said that while Woods has been on “the row” he has “learned to forgive himself. He’s never denied his guilt. He’s never created a problem,” the deacon added. Woods serves as a porter to his fellow inmates, bringing them meals and water. Deacon Lunsford has been ministering to prison inmates since he was ordained to the diaconate for the Diocese of Gary in 2000.