Today (05.22.07)

Today

Bishop Pfeifer at St. Ann’s School Graduation, 7 p.m., Midland

Today’s Readings

Acts 20:17-27
Psalm 68:10-11, 20-21
John 17:1-11

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News ServiceU.S.

Proposed immigration bill stirs calls for prayer and justice

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishops in various parts of the country joined the chorus of reactions to the preliminary version of a comprehensive immigration bill set to be considered before the Senate takes a weeklong break for Memorial Day. Debate in the Senate opened May 21 even before the legislation designed by a bipartisan negotiating team was turned into bill form and introduced. A vote on the bill could be taken as soon as May 24, or debate could extend into June. Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, said in a May 17 statement that the important considerations for the bill include that it “is workable and includes family unity and a fair and realistic path to citizenship, a new worker program which provides participants a meaningful opportunity to obtain permanent residency, and the preservation of family unity as an integral part of the U.S. immigration system.” Leaders of Catholic Charities USA said they would also push for a bill that “sustains and reunites families, promotes the security of the nation … (and) improves the economic prospects, health, labor protections and stability of all U.S. residents, including newcomers,” among other criteria. Catholic Charities joined the USCCB in saying the compromise bill is a good starting point, albeit not the optimal approach.

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Pelosi addresses University of San Francisco’s business graduates

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — In a May 19 commencement address for the University of San Francisco’s McClaren College of Business, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the late Leo T. McCarthy key to her congressional ascent and urged young people to “know your power and follow your passion.” McCarthy was long a fixture in state and local politics including three terms as California lieutenant governor. He was posthumously awarded an honorary degree during the graduation ceremony. The university announced May 17 that Pelosi, a Catholic, would be the speaker. According to officials at the Archdiocese of San Francisco, scores of phone calls and e-mails were received protesting her appearance at the campus because of her support of unrestricted access to abortion and stem-cell research. “Words, not weapons, are the tools of a new civilization,” Pelosi told an overflow crowd of graduating students, families, supporters and faculty at St. Ignatius Church on the campus of the Jesuit-run university.

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Many young people find their college years strengthen their faith

WASHINGTON (CNS) — When college students graduate, it doesn’t necessarily mean they leave with a spiritual void, despite the widespread notion that young people take a hiatus from their religious upbringing during their college years. Some students find their faith unscathed by the college experience and others even find it significantly strengthened. Ryan Hehman, a 2006 graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, falls into the second category. Hehman, who grew up Catholic, said that when he started college he saw people living out their faith more than he had ever experienced. He got involved in campus ministry and participated in a mission trip to Guatemala after his freshman year that turned his “world upside down,” influencing the rest of his college years and even his current work. “I got so wrapped up in church and faith, that I couldn’t settle for a regular job,” he told Catholic News Service May 17 from A Simple House of Sts. Francis and Alphonsus, a lay missionary apostolate serving the poorest neighborhoods in Washington. Hehman does not think he is the exception either. “I think the tide is turning,” he said, noting that students on college campuses are living out their faith more fully and are not ashamed to do so. He attributes this shift to the influence of Pope John Paul II and a general trend of young Catholics “looking for something more.”

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Baltimore parishioners learn how expensive it is to run their church

BALTIMORE (CNS) — When Mary Fetsch read a recent church bulletin at Ss. Philip and James Parish in Baltimore, she was shocked to see a copy of her parish’s gas and electric bill inside — and even more shocked to see the amount: more than $4,600 for the church in one month, with an additional $1,373.41 for the rectory. The bill was included to impress upon parishioners the basic costs of running the church and the need for generous tithing, said Father William A. Au, pastor. “Rising utility costs and insurance costs have killed us,” Father Au told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. “We had to cut back on the heating this winter and we’ll have to cut back on the air conditioning this summer, and we will still probably spend more this year than we take in.” With decreasing parish populations and mounting expenses, several Baltimore City faith communities have incurred expenses exceeding the amount of money tossed in each week’s collection basket.

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Liturgical publisher OCP acquires St. Louis church publisher

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Liturgical publisher OCP has acquired Liturgical Publishers of St. Louis Inc. and renamed it Pastoral Solutions Inc. OCP, formerly known as Oregon Catholic Press, is a Portland-based nonprofit publisher of liturgical music and worship resources that was started in 1922. Its worship programs, including “Breaking Bread” and “Today’s Missal,” are used in two-thirds of U.S. Catholic parishes. Liturgical Publications of St. Louis was started in 1972 to assist churches with their communications needs. More than 1,000 churches around the country have used their weekly bulletins, annual directories, Web sites and other services. After purchasing the company in March, OCP set up the new corporation, Pastoral Services. It is based, like the original company, in Ellisville, Mo.

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WORLD

Brazilian bishop pleads for help to stop rain forest’s destruction

APARECIDA, Brazil (CNS) — Saying “it’s five minutes to midnight” for the Amazon, a bishop from Brazil made an impassioned plea for all the countries of the world to join forces to stop the destruction of the rain forest. German-born Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu, in northern Para state, said during a press conference May 19 that when he arrived in the area 42 years ago, “the Amazon was more or less intact and now it is threatened with destruction.” Clearing and burning the rain forest to plant soy and sugar cane “will be a fatal blow for the Amazon,” he said. “If things continue as they are, in another 30 years the Amazon will not exist anymore.” Destruction of the rain forest has accelerated since the 1970s with the construction of highways that have given ranchers, loggers and miners access to untouched land. Environmental issues have been high on the Brazilian Catholic Church’s agenda in recent years, and many pastoral workers, including Bishop Krautler, have received death threats for their advocacy.

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Pope makes urgent appeal for end to ‘tragic violence’ in Gaza Strip

VATICAN CITY (CNS)– Pope Benedict XVI made an urgent appeal for an end to the “tragic violence” escalating in the Gaza Strip. After praying the noonday “Regina Coeli” with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square May 20, the pope called on both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to renew efforts for dialogue and to curb the violence. He said the mid-May rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against nearby Israeli towns and subsequent air raids launched by Israel against Palestinians were “provoking a bloody deterioration of the situation and causing dismay.” “Once again in God’s name, I implore this tragic violence be put to an end,” the pope said, adding that his thoughts were with the suffering Palestinian and Israeli people.

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North American, European bishops discuss immigration, secularization

APARECIDA, Brazil (CNS) — In addresses to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, the leaders of the bishops’ conferences of the United States, Canada and Europe highlighted similarities among their regions and pledged their prayers and support. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recalled that many of the first American parishes were built with “assistance and solidarity from countries such as Mexico, Cuba and Argentina.” Bishop Skylstad discussed joint efforts between the Catholic Church in the United States and its Latin American counterparts in recent years, such as collaboration on immigration issues, a new translation of the Bible and a Latin American youth encounter. Noting that the U.S. Congress has been considering immigration reform, Bishop Skylstad asked his Latin American colleagues for their prayers “while we continue to fight for broad and just immigration reform that respects the dignity of the person” and helps keep families together. Church leaders from around the world have been meeting in Aparecida for the May 13-31 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean to set guidelines for the church for the coming years. Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, and Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, also spoke of problems shared with Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Pope: Without boost in aid, economic globalization can’t bring peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Without a marked increase in assistance to the poor and attention to the environment, economic globalization cannot bring peace and prosperity to the world, Pope Benedict XVI said. “It appears evident that only a globalization process attentive to the requirements of solidarity can assure for humanity a future of authentic well-being and stable peace for all,” the pope said in a May 19 address. Members of the “Centesimus Annus” Foundation, a group promoting the study and application of Catholic social teaching, met the pope at the end of a May 18-19 conference on the economic, social and cultural consequences of economic growth in Asia and Africa. The foundation, which also raises money for papal charities, is named after Pope John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical on Catholic social teaching. Pope Benedict said the Asian markets are “characterized by strong dynamics of economic growth, which do not always lead to a real social development.” As for Africa, he said, “economic growth and social development encounter many obstacles and challenges.”

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Lebanese cardinal calls for calm after internal violence kills dozens

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — The patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church has appealed for calm after internal violence in northern Lebanon left dozens dead. “These clashes are threatening the country’s stability (and) are the product of enemies to the country and the truth,” said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir May 20. Raging street battles broke out May 20 between the Lebanese army and militants from the Sunni, al-Qaida-linked Fatah Islam group in the northern port city of Tripoli and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared. Thick smoke billowed from the camp as sporadic clashes continued into the next day after a brief cease-fire to allow the evacuation of wounded civilians. One of 12 refugee camps that are home to 400,000 Palestinian refugees inside Lebanon, Nahr el-Bared is controlled by armed Palestinian factions and remains off limits to the Lebanese army.

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Pope calls violence in media aimed at young people unacceptable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Portraying violence, antisocial behavior and vulgar sexual content in the media is unacceptable, especially when aimed at a young audience, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope appealed to both media magnates and workers in the field of communications to “safeguard the common good, respect truth and protect the dignity of the person and family.” The pope’s remarks May 20 commemorated World Communications Day, which is celebrated in most countries on that day. He made his comments before praying the “Regina Coeli” from the window of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. Today’s mass media have to help make programming and entertainment an educational experience that promotes “the dignity of the human person, marriage and the family, and the accomplishments and aims of civilization,” he said. The pope, who chose this year’s theme, “Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education,” said parents, teachers and parish communities “are called to collaborate to educate children and young people to be selective” in their viewing and to develop “a critical attitude” toward what is offered in the media.

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PEOPLE

Iraqi bishop: Kidnappers demand ransom for priest’s return

ROME (CNS) — A Chaldean Catholic bishop in Iraq said the church is being asked to pay a “very high” ransom for the return of a priest kidnapped May 19 in the Iraqi city of Baghdad. “We are in constant contact with the kidnappers, and we pray for his release,” Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told the Rome-based AsiaNews service. Father Nawzat Hanna, a pastor in Baghdad’s Baladiyat neighborhood, had been visiting a sick parishioner when he was seized by a group of men who apparently had been waiting for him, Bishop Warduni told the news agency May 21. Almost immediately, the kidnappers contacted the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad, letting church leaders know they had the priest and expected a ransom. “We have maintained telephone contact and have received guarantees of the good health of our priest,” the bishop said. Bishop Warduni asked “the whole world” to pray that God would enlighten the hearts of the kidnappers and that Father Hanna would be returned safely.

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Congressman calls Amnesty International’s abortion stand ‘outrageous’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Rep. Chris Smith has called Amnesty International’s new position on abortion “outrageous” and said it creates a “major credibility gap” for the widely respected human rights organization. In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service May 18, the New Jersey Republican said Amnesty’s new position makes it “just another pro-abortion organization.” Amnesty’s claim that it takes no position on whether abortion should be legalized, when it calls for complete decriminalization of abortion, is “totally contradictory.” “When you decriminalize, you legalize. … If there is no sanction, there is no law,” said the Catholic congressman, one of the leading foes of abortion in Congress and also one of Congress’ leading human rights advocates. In policy papers distributed to members only in April, Amnesty International spelled out a position calling for decriminalization of abortion in all countries. The organization’s International Executive Committee adopted the new position at its April meeting in London.

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Pope congratulates new president, expresses hope for East Timor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Congratulating Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta on his inauguration as president of East Timor, Pope Benedict XVI expressed hope for strengthened democratic institutions and an end to outbreaks of violence in the country. Pope Benedict met May 21 with Justino Aparicio Guterres, East Timor’s new ambassador to the Vatican. The ambassador presented his letters of credential one day after Ramos-Horta was sworn in as the country’s president. The pope offered his congratulations to Ramos-Horta and said the high voter turnout in early May “demonstrated a great civic maturity,” but also reflected the people’s hope for a strengthening of democracy five years after East Timor’s independence. The people of East Timor are preparing for another election; June 30 they will go to the polls to elect members of the legislature.

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