Today in the Diocese
MIDLAND — Bishop Pfeifer at St Stephen’s confirmation, 6:30 p.m.
Rev. Russell Schultz (2004)
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Speakers explore impact of toxins on children in womb
WASHINGTON (CNS) — America is using “children as our test rodents” for thousands of new chemicals that have never been tested for toxicity to human life in the womb, said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. At a daylong conference April 30 at the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, Landrigan and other experts highlighted the scientific, ethical and moral links between effective clean environment policies and the life and health of the nation’s children. As an example of the impact of a tested toxin in the environment, Landrigan said an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 children born in the United States each year suffer a loss of 0.2 to 24.4 IQ points because of methylmercury that passed through the placenta when they were in the womb. That does not include more than 1,500 American children born each year who are clinically classified as mentally retarded because of methylmercury exposure in the womb, he said. Coal-burning electrical plants, waste incinerators and plants producing chlorine gas are responsible for most of the methylmercury found in the food chain worldwide.
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Shareholder resolution seeks cleaner, greener mining practices
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Shareholders of Newmont Mining Corp., one of the world’s leading gold producers, overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that the corporation produce a report addressing community-based opposition to its operations in the United States and around the world. The resolution — supported by a half-dozen Catholic institutional stockholders and by Newmont itself — was approved at Newmont’s April 24 annual meeting in Denver by 91.6 percent of the shareholders. “This was the first time a mining company in the United States had ever supported a social resolution,” said Julie Tanner, corporate advocacy coordinator for one of the resolution’s sponsors, Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages an asset portfolio of more than $4 billion. The report will look at water pollution, waste disposal practices, development on sacred sites and community resettlement. “A pattern of community resistance to the company’s operations, especially in Peru, Indonesia, and Ghana, raises concerns,” the resolution said.
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Healing process after a tragedy sometimes public, sometimes quiet
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The communities of Jonesboro, Ark., and Littleton, Colo., have been down the painful road that lies ahead for Virginia Tech’s students, faculty, parents and the town of Blacksburg, Va. The April 16 attack that left 32 students and faculty members plus the gunman dead at Virginia Tech brought back difficult memories. For a priest who worked in Jonesboro, where five people were killed on a middle-school playground in 1998, and for the Colorado father of one of the 15 people who died at Columbine High School in 1999, the latest school shooting put them once more into the position of using their experiences dealing with grief to try to help another community do the same. Father Jack Harris, a priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark., spent a great deal of time after Jonesboro simply “being present” at Westside Middle School, as he described it. He wasn’t there to be a counselor — there were plenty of professionals on hand for that — and most of the kids he dealt with probably had no idea he was a priest, he said. Tom Mauser took a much more public path to dealing with the death of his son, Daniel, who was a 15-year-old sophomore at Columbine when two students went on a shooting rampage April 20, 1999. Without really setting out to do so, Mauser soon found himself in front of microphones speaking in favor of gun control.
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FCC stakes out position on TV violence
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Federal Communications Commission has joined the battle against violent content on television. In late April it issued a 39-page report outlining its concerns about violence in TV programming. The report said the TV Parental Guidelines ratings system and technology intended to help parents block offensive programs — like the V-chip — had failed to protect children from being regularly exposed to violence. It said less than half of U.S. families used the ratings, and less than 10 percent the V-chip. The FCC recommended that Congress act to limit violence on entertainment programs by giving the FCC the authority to define violence and to be able to restrict it to late-evening hours. The report suggested that Congress also pass a law to give consumers the option to buy cable channels individually so they can reject paying for channels they do not want, regardless of their content.
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Papal trip to Brazil turns spotlight on Latin America
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI is making his first trip to the Western Hemisphere in mid-May, traveling to Brazil to open a strategizing session with Latin American bishops. The May 9-13 visit begins with a string of pastoral events in Sao Paulo, where the pope will meet with young people and canonize the first Brazilian-born saint. Then he moves to the basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida, where he will inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, celebrating Mass and delivering a major speech to participants of the May 13-31 meeting. The trip turns a spotlight on Latin America, a geographical area that has had little attention from this pope to date, but where 43 percent of the world’s Catholics live. It also broadens the horizons of the pope’s two-year pontificate, taking him outside Europe, where four of his previous five trips have occurred.
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Bishops urge European leaders to augment efforts to combat poverty
LONDON (CNS) — Catholic bishops from four continents are appealing to leaders of the world’s richest countries to honor their commitments to combat extreme poverty. The eight church leaders met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair April 30 and were scheduled to meet with government leaders in Germany and Italy before meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, told Blair that Great Britain could “set an example” to the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting in Germany June 6-8 by honoring the pledges to more than double development aid to Africa by 2010. G-8 nations made those pledges in Gleneagles, Scotland, two years ago. Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh told the prime minister about the massive gap between “the proportions of expenditure on weaponry compared to the proportion on the poor.” After the meeting, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, said it was significant that Blair had met and listened to the Catholic Church leaders.
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Three Canadian dioceses to stress aboriginal culture in lay formation
SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (CNS) — Beginning in the fall, three Canadian dioceses will offer a lay formation program that focuses on the Catholic faith as lived out within aboriginal traditions and culture. A joint project of the Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Keewatin/Le Pas dioceses, the program will be offered in conjunction with an existing two-year program at Queen’s House of Retreats. The program already includes courses of study that focus on lay ministry to Ukrainian- and Latin-rite Catholics. The unique program will fill a great need for aboriginal people to deepen their Catholic faith within their own cultural framework, said Verna Vandale, parish life director at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon. “It is going to give our people a stronger sense of belonging,” said Vandale, a member of the planning committee and a graduate of the diocesan lay formation program. “I think it will really empower the people to nurture their spirituality, both in the context of their aboriginal culture but also as Catholics.” Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner Gayle Weenie said the program is not radical or controversial, but explores the Catholic faith as it is lived out in aboriginal culture.
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Pope says love, respect for life must lead to greater justice for all
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Love for neighbor and respect for human life must lead to protection of the environment, promotion of social justice and greater access to education for all, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice,” the pope said in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy held its annual plenary session April 27-May 1, discussing charity and justice on an international level as part of its long-term investigation into globalization. In his message, the pope said building a just society is first of all a responsibility for those involved in political leadership, but it also requires the use of reason and resolve on the part of all people to promote the common good and the dignity of each individual.
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So far, U.S. has most groups for World Youth Day, organizers say
SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) — The United States had the largest number of groups registered for World Youth Day 2008 in the first 50 days of online group bookings. Organizers said they were delighted with the response, which indicates that 65,000 pilgrims — including 23,000 from the U.S. — are already planning to attend the event July 15-20, 2008. Registrations for individuals open in July. Danny Casey, chief operating officer for World Youth Day, called the early registrations “very encouraging.” He said that the largest number of registrations after the United States came from Australia, followed by previous host countries: Canada, Germany and the Philippines. Casey said 77 percent of the pilgrim groups had named English as their preferred language, with other large groups preferring Spanish and German. Meanwhile, horse trainers at Royal Randwick Racecourse have asked for compensation for when the venue is used for the vigil and papal Mass. Approximately 200,000 pilgrims will camp overnight at the track, which will have to have all railings removed before the event. Horse trainers expect that the trampling of the grass will also mean they have to replace the turf.
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Doing physical work, making a living are tough for aging Benedictines
BRANFORD, Conn. (CNS) — The Benedictine nuns at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross arise each morning by 6:15 to devote the day to prayer, work and silence, just as they always have done. They’re nowhere near as able to do it as they used to be, though. They are getting old, and physical work is harder. For the 18 Benedictines of Jesus Crucified at the monastery, all 65 to 85 years old, the Benedictine motto “ora et labora” (“pray and work”) is now more like “ora et ora.” “With the increasing age and diminishing strength of a lot of the sisters here, prayer is the one thing that all can do — at least try to do,” said Sister M. Zita Wenker. Age is not the only problem. The nuns are members of a religious community that, since its beginning, has welcomed women with disabilities. Failing eyesight, arthritis and other age-related conditions only compound problems some already had, such as heart conditions or painful impairments.
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Berry named to lead Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
NEW YORK (CNS) — Laura Berry, senior vice president for philanthropic service for the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in Connecticut, has been appointed the new executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. She starts June 4. The New York center, established in 1971, is a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors — denominations, religious communities, pension funds, health care corporations, foundations and dioceses — with combined portfolios worth an estimated $110 billion. It seeks to integrate social values into corporate and investor decisions so as to build a more just and sustainable society. “As a Catholic who has always been inspired by the deep faith and commitment to action expressed in interfaith work, this opportunity is a privilege,” Berry said in a statement.
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Pope, Italian leaders condemn threats against Genoa archbishop
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI and Italy’s president and prime minister condemned threats made against Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. The pope relayed his support in an April 30 telephone call to the archbishop after an envelope containing a bullet was delivered to him. The archbishop has had an Italian police escort since mid-April, when threatening graffiti appeared on buildings near his residence. The threats began after Archbishop Bagnasco took the lead in opposing a proposed law that would extend legal recognition to cohabiting couples, including gays.
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Indonesian Catholics welcome return of bishop’s body from U.S.
ATAMBUA, Indonesia (CNS) — Thousands of Indonesian Catholics welcomed the body of the first Timorese missionary and bishop, exhumed in the United States and returned to Indonesia. The body of Archbishop Gabriel Manek, former head of the Archdiocese of Ende, arrived in Atambua in mid-April. The archbishop died and was buried in the United States in 1989. His body was returned at the request of the Daughters of the Rosary Queen, the congregation he founded in 1958. On April 25, the 56th anniversary of Bishop Manek’s episcopal ordination, his body was reburied at the headquarters of the order. Sister Maria Gromang, superior general of the order, attended the April 13 exhumation at Divine Word Cemetery in Chicago. “Our original plan was to bring back his bones, but we found his body undamaged; as if he just died,” she said. Before its reburial, the archbishop’s body was taken to several Indonesian cities and villages where he had served.