Today (06.05.07)

Bishop Pfeifer at Pastoral Center, Presbyteral Council Meeting, 2 p.m., and Dinner with priests of the San Angelo, Lubbock dioceses, 5:30 p.m., Christ the King Retreat Center.

Today’s Readings

Tobit 2:9-14
Psalm 112:1-2, 7-9
Mark 12:13-17 

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service


Conference focuses on best management practices for parishes

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A consistent theme at a two-day conference of church leaders June 1-2 was the need to institute regular practices of performance management and evaluation in all parish ministries. Speakers said instituting such practices requires overcoming many levels of church culture that resist performance evaluation, but they also spoke of progress in many areas over the years. “Almost every organization of any size employs some sort of more or less structured system for regular assessment or evaluation of the performance of its personnel. A conspicuous exception to this trend is the Roman Catholic Church,” said Father John P. Beal, a canon law professor at The Catholic University of America. Franciscan Sister Katarina Schuth, a professor of social scientific study of religion at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn., suggested that performance evaluation in the church is spotty at best. “Some individuals during certain phases of their involvement in church ministry are intensely evaluated and other individuals at other times are virtually outside the scope of any meaningful evaluation,” she said. In a keynote talk Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said, “For the bishop or pastor, accountability understood as transparency of the exercise of authority does not mean giving up decision-making authority. It does, however, mean that such apostolic authority is exercised in the context of an informed and consulted local church.” He said accountability requires “three distinct but related activities: communication, consultation and collaboration.”

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Boston Archdiocese sells more property

BRIGHTON, Mass. (CNS) — Agreements to sell the Boston Archdiocese’s chancery buildings and Bishop Peterson Hall to Boston College and relocate the central administration to Braintree are part of a strategic, long-term plan to strengthen the archdiocese, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said in a May 31 letter to priests. “We must have a strong foundation, including our finances and operations, in order to provide the many good works that are essential to our mission,” he said. “The financial and administrative factors necessitating these decisions are well known; the response to them requires an understanding of the pastoral, educational and social obligations the church in Boston must fulfill in the short and long term,” he said. In the letter, the cardinal also reiterated his commitment to St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and the formation of priests there. In disagreement with the archdiocese’s plans to sell the adjacent Bishop Peterson Hall, Dominican Father John Farren resigned as rector of the seminary May 29, a month before his scheduled departure. “We do not believe that the sale of additional property from our Brighton campus will harm or hinder the essential work of St. John’s,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in response. “The independence of the seminary, its ability to prepare candidates for the priesthood, and to be the source of the formation and training for lay ministries will be preserved.”

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Tucson Diocese exploring how to develop a ministry to homosexuals

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) — The Diocese of Tucson will develop a ministry to homosexuals, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said in a column in his diocesan newspaper, “The New Vision.” In the May edition of the paper, Bishop Kicanas said he thinks the church should be doing more to minister to people with a same-sex orientation than the approach he and his priests’ council settled upon several years ago. The consensus of those discussions was that ministry to homosexuals was best accomplished at the parish level, through spiritual direction and the sacrament of reconciliation. “I thought then that was a sound approach to ministry,” he wrote. “I still think that but I also now believe we should be doing more.” At recent meetings with pastoral leaders and parishioners, he said he heard “that in whatever ministry we ultimately may develop we must challenge any attitudes, language or actions in the church and in society that demean people of same-sex orientation.” He said he also heard “that we need to be clear about the church’s moral teaching on homosexuality” and that “it is important that we articulate a positive vision of how a person of same-sex orientation can live in communion with the church and remain faithful in living as a Catholic.”

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Pope to proclaim year dedicated to St. Paul

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI plans to proclaim a year dedicated to St. Paul, in preparation for the 2,000th anniversary of the apostle’s birth, the Vatican said. The pope was scheduled to announce the commemorative year at a vespers service June 28 in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The Pauline Year will run from June 29, 2008, to June 29, 2009, according to information published in a Vatican Radio calendar. No details were immediately available about possible events during the year. St. Paul was born in Tarsus, in what is now Turkey, at the start of the Christian era, about 10 A.D., according to church historians. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became one of the church’s foremost evangelizers, first among Jews, then among Gentiles. St. Paul’s letters are a primary source of information about the life of the early church and have strongly influenced church thinking through the centuries. In his first official visit outside the Vatican in April 2005, Pope Benedict went to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to pray at the tomb of the apostle and pay homage to his legacy of spreading the Gospel.

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Pope hopes murder of Iraqi priest, others helps people reject hatred

VATICAN CITY (CNS)– Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped the killings of a Chaldean Catholic priest and three subdeacons in northern Iraqi city of Mosul would inspire people to reject hatred and violence and to bring about justice and peace in Iraq. Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid were killed June 3 while leaving the Church of the Holy Spirit after having celebrated Sunday Mass. A telegram sent in the pope’s name to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul said Pope Benedict “prays that their costly sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence, to conquer evil with good and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice and peace in Iraq.” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, sent the telegram June 4. The pope “joins the Christian community in Mosul in commending their souls to the infinite mercy of God and in giving thanks for their selfless witness to the Gospel,” said Cardinal Bertone.

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Top cardinal says documents on China, Tridentine Mass, coming soon

ROME (CNS) — A leading Vatican official said two important documents from Pope Benedict XVI — a letter to Chinese Catholics and a decree liberalizing use of the Tridentine Mass — were coming soon. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire June 3 that the pope had “definitively approved” the text of his letter to the church in China. “Now the various translations are being carried out, along with the technical aspects of its publication,” Cardinal Bertone said. Vatican sources have said that, as a courtesy, the letter would be sent to the Chinese government before it was released publicly. The letter follows a meeting at the Vatican in January on the state of Catholics in China. As for the document granting wider latitude for celebration of the Tridentine rite, Cardinal Bertone said that “one shouldn’t have to wait long to see it published.” The cardinal said the pope was “personally interested in making this happen” and that the pontiff had prepared an accompanying letter explaining the move and expressing the hope for a serene reception by the church.

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Pope canonizes four new saints, God’s ‘masterpieces’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI canonized four new saints from Malta, Poland, the Netherlands and France and said they exemplified the many and varied forms of holiness in the church. “God’s wisdom is manifested in the cosmos, in the variety and beauty of its elements, but his masterpieces are the saints,” the pope said during a rain-soaked liturgy June 3. Some 40,000 pilgrims who huddled under umbrellas applauded as the pope read decrees proclaiming sainthood. Tapestry portraits of the newly canonized hung from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and relics of the saints were carried to the altar, where the pope celebrated Mass beneath a white canopy. The new saints were: — St. George Preca (1880-1962), the first native saint of Malta and founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, a group of celibate laypeople devoted to prayer, studying church teaching and instructing the young; St. Simon of Lipnica (about 1435-1482), a Polish Franciscan who ministered to plague victims in Krakow before succumbing to the disease; St. Charles of St. Andrew Houben (1821-1893), a native of the Netherlands who, after joining the Passionist order, spent most of his life ministering in England and Ireland; and St. Marie Eugenie de Jesus Milleret (1817-1898), who founded the Religious of the Assumption order when she was just 22 years old. Born to a nonbelieving and affluent family, she was inspired by a series of Lenten talks in Paris at age 19 and experienced a conversion.

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Bishops’ worker says South Africa’s child-support grants not misused

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — The parliamentary liaison office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has disputed claims that South Africa’s child-support grants create dependency and are misused. In a country where “many people have no other source of income, the grant gives families the means to survive,” Chance Chagunda, a researcher in the Cape Town-based office, told Catholic News Service June 1. According to a report by Chagunda published in late May in the Cape Town Catholic newspaper, The Southern Cross, the grant “is not just a support grant for children as it is intended to be but has become a family support grant” that meets urgent needs. “The grant enables households to afford basic food, allows children to attend school, promotes small business and encourages entrepreneurship, and in some cases permits parents to afford to use public transport to look for work,” the report said. This is not a misuse of the grant, as claimed by people who “argue that the grant creates dependency, that beneficiaries misuse it and that some women become pregnant simply in order to access the grant,” the report said. Contrary to the argument that the child and other welfare grants “are bad for the economy in the long term,” South Africa’s economy is growing “at an impressive pace,” it added.

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Nobel peace laureate says church can do more to protect environment

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church can do more to protect the environment and put pressure on industrialized countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions, said Africa’s first female Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the 2004 peace prize, urged hundreds of Caritas Internationalis delegates meeting in the Vatican to make environmental sustainability a priority. She said she hoped her appeal would be “a turning point for Caritas Internationalis and indeed the church to decide to lead the faithful in being the custodians of God’s creation.” “Planting trees, protecting and conserving forests, slowing down desertification processes are some of the activities Caritas could (do to) greatly enhance our capacity to reduce misery,” she said. “Taking care of the environment can eventually address many of the other” Millennium Development Goals, which include cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015, she said. Maathai was one of the keynote speakers addressing Vatican officials and hundreds of Caritas delegates gathered June 3-9 for the 18th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis.

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Pope discusses human rights, democracy with Philippine president

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The defense of human rights and the safeguarding of democracy throughout Southeast Asia were on the agenda as Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary of state met Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The pope and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, met separately with the president June 4 at the Vatican. The meetings focused on church-state cooperation in the Philippines and “on the respect and promotion of human rights and democratic institutions” in the country and throughout Southeast Asia, the Vatican said in a statement. Marciano Paynor, the president’s chief of protocol, told reporters before the meeting that Arroyo intended to outline for Pope Benedict her efforts to put a halt to the wave of extrajudicial executions and election-related violence in the country. Paynor, traveling with the Philippine president, also said she wanted to invite Pope Benedict to visit the Philippines in July 2008 on his way to or from the celebration of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. At the end of her audience with the pope, Macapagal-Arroyo asked him to bless two large piles of rosaries, crucifixes and religious medals placed on silver trays for the occasion.

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Pope meets Mexican president, but children steal the show

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI and Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke about serious issues facing Mexico and the international community, but the president’s children seemed to steal the show at the family’s papal audience. Maria, the 10-year-old daughter of the president and his wife, Margarita Zavala, gave the pope a teddy bear, which the pontiff blessed. Her 7-year-old brother, Luis Felipe, gave him a shirt from Mexico’s national soccer team. And Juan Pablo, 4, had a soccer ball, which he showed to the pope; the ball did not appear to be on the gift table after the children left the room. The pope and the Mexican president spent more than 20 minutes speaking privately before Calderon introduced his family and his political entourage to the pope. He also met privately with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. The Vatican said Calderon’s meetings with the pope and the cardinal included a discussion of events of international importance in view of the June 6-8 summit meeting in Germany of the Group of Eight of the world’s most powerful nations; Calderon has been invited by the G-8 to participate. On themes specifically concerned with Mexico, the Vatican said, the meetings focused on “emigration, the indigenous population, the struggle against violence and drug trafficking (and) the environment.” In addition, it said, the meetings included a discussion of “the situation of the Catholic Church in its relations with the state, especially considering the significant steps forward taken already or still needed.”

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Pope tells Vatican diplomat students to promote Gospel, dialogue

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI told a dozen men about to enter the Vatican’s diplomatic service that they must demonstrate “the atypical character of pontifical diplomacy” by letting the ambassadors and government officials they meet “discover the priest that is in you.” The pope met June 2 with students and staff of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican’s school for training selected priests from around the world to become diplomats. While they are sent as Vatican representatives to a nation’s government and church, Pope Benedict told them they always must be pastors, in addition to being “promoters of dialogue and weavers of fruitful relations” with other ambassadors and with officials of their host governments. Vatican diplomacy, “far from defending material interests or partial visions of the human person, promotes values that flow from the Gospel as an expression of the high ideals proclaimed by Jesus, the one and universal savior,” the pope said. Pope Benedict told the diplomats that the closer they are to Christ and the more faithful they are to their priesthood, the more they will be able to serve others, promoting dialogue and peace.

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Holocaust survivor warns students of the danger of hatred

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (CNS) — Her idyllic childhood days were violently stolen when the Nazis marched into Hungary in 1944. Now the perpetual shadow of a harrowing experience as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps lend force to Ebi Gabor’s belief that “hate is the most destructive force in our lives.” Gabor, 80, recounted the ghastly and degrading chapter of her teenage life to a group of seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Bernadette School in Springfield in late May. Despite all the evil she endured and witnessed, Gabor said, there is no room for hate in her heart. Once angry with God, Gabor reconciled with him after her release. “He fulfilled every dream of mine,” she said, telling the students that each time she was examined by SS soldiers, she prayed to God to send her to the work camp, allowing her one more day to live. “We are very good friends now.” Gabor urged her young audience to learn about history and to live without hate. “Hate is the biggest corrupter of your spirit,” she said. Pointing to her heart, Gabor said, “I didn’t let them destroy me here.” Although they tried to kill her physically, she said, “they could not kill my spirit.”

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Priest fights for small Afro-Mexican community on Pacific coast

EL CIRUELO, Mexico (CNS) — It’s not easy to find information about Mexican blacks: The census does not classify them, the constitution makes no reference to them, and for decades they received only the briefest mention in the nation’s history books. Geography does not do Afro-Mexicans any favors either: Most live along a stretch of the Pacific coast that ranks among the nation’s poorest and most isolated regions. Today, many Mexicans are unaware that their black compatriots even exist. Despite this, it did not take long for Father Glyn Jemmott to find them after arriving in Mexico years ago. “It was some kind of homing instinct,” said the 61-year-old native of Trinidad on a recent Sunday as he maneuvered his truck over a rutted, dirt road near his adopted hometown in Oaxaca state. After 13 years in the seminary and studying in Trinidad and Rome, Father Jemmott came to Mexico in the early 1980s. He worked for a year in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Angel, with “women coming to church in chauffer-driven cars and wearing white gloves.” He quickly realized that this was not the community he had come to Mexico to serve. He transferred to an indigenous area of Oaxaca, where he heard about pockets of Afro-Mexicans, the descendents of the estimated 200,000 slaves who were brought to Mexico by the Spanish during the colonial era. Father Jemmott set out to find these communities. In the process, he also found his life’s calling.


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