Today (06.12.07)

TODAY

This morning — Funeral Mass, Rev. Felix Cubelos, Stanton’s St. Joseph Church.
6 p.m. — Mass of Thanksgiving, Blessing, Lake Ivie Dam.

Today’s Readings

2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Psalm 119:129-133, 135
Matthew 5:13-16

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Immigration bill stalled, not dead, backers say

WASHINGTON — With the June 7 failure of a procedural vote intended to bring the bill to a vote, the Senate’s attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform went back behind the scenes, though the bill’s backers in both parties vowed to bring it to the floor again. After the failure of a second cloture vote to cut off debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would take the bill off the floor to allow other legislation to move along, though he did so without closing the door to reviving its consideration. By the June 9-10 weekend, Reid and Republican leaders were saying the bill was not dead and debate would reopen, possibly before the Independence Day recess that begins July 2. Analysts on all sides have said that if immigration reform legislation is not passed before the end of 2007 it is unlikely to get a serious shot at passage again until after the 2008 general election. Immigrant advocates including Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony quickly took the Senate to task for not moving the bill forward. “Congress must not abdicate its responsibility now,” said Father Snyder in a statement. “It is crucial that members of the Senate work out their differences.” Cardinal Mahony’s statement said the country has a moral obligation to create an immigration system built on principles of fairness, opportunity and compassion.

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Subcommittee moves to downgrade abstinence in anti-HIV/AIDS program

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A requirement to participate in a program that promotes abstinence as a way of reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS should not have been removed from an appropriations bill marked up by a House subcommittee, said a statement from Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett and Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy. In marking up the appropriations bill for the 2008 fiscal year, the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee June 5 eliminated a requirement that a portion of HIV/AIDS prevention funding be used to promote abstinence and “partner reduction,” or fidelity. “This change could cost lives,” said Bishop Wenski in the June 7 statement. He said it “rejects tried-and-true methods that have proven to actually reduce HIV infections.” Hackett said that in the experience of CRS, which runs programs in the developing world to help millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS, “only an approach to HIV prevention that has sufficient funding for groups to conduct abstinence and faithfulness education has yielded meaningful advances in stopping the spread of HIV.”

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In ‘leap of faith,’ Catholic parish builds Protestant church

FRANKLIN PARK, Pa. (CNS) — A funny thing happened to SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park, north of Pittsburgh, on its way to erecting a church — it built a Protestant church first. SS. John and Paul and its immediate neighbor, the New Heights Church of God, shared the same problem; they each needed to build a church. But the Catholic parish didn’t have enough usable land on its 12-acre property to construct a big enough structure to accommodate its 7,000 members. And New Heights, much smaller with 100 members, couldn’t raise enough funds to build on its 12 acres, instead holding worship services in a nearby community building. The problem seemed insurmountable until representatives of both congregations took what all involved call a “leap of faith.” And it worked. With SS. John and Paul parishioners contributing expertise in real estate, construction, development and legal matters, the two church communities agreed to a land swap that involved SS. John and Paul locating a new property for its neighbor, buying the land and constructing a church. In return, the Protestant community signed over its property adjacent to the Catholic parish.

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Illinois conference examines problems fathers are facing today

JOLIET, Ill. (CNS) — A convicted drug dealer, 28-year-old Exulam Holman knows his actions have caused pain to those closest to him. The father of three young children, former gang member and ex-addict was released three months ago from prison. Today, he is desperately trying to put his life in order. Holman’s painstaking quest to reclaim his life spurred him to take part in a fatherhood conference sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet. “I want to make things right for my kids,” he told the Catholic Explorer, Joliet diocesan newspaper, during the June 2 event. “I’ve messed up,” he said. “But I’ve asked God to help me. I have to get myself right with God.” About 100 people attended the third annual conference, aimed at getting fathers more involved in the lives of their children, said Ronald Roseboro, site supervisor of early childhood services for Catholic Charities and coordinator of the event. Fathers of children in the agency’s early childhood programs were encouraged to attend the gathering, said Roseboro.

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WORLD

Pope, Bush discuss wide range of issues, including Christians in Iraq

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting for the first time, Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. President George W. Bush spoke about the precarious situation of Christians in Iraq and a wide range of other foreign policy and moral issues. The pope and president looked relaxed as they greeted each other and spoke briefly in front of reporters before their 35-minute private encounter June 9. Bush later held a separate 40-minute meeting with the Vatican’s top foreign policy officials. A Vatican statement described the meetings as “cordial” and said they had focused in part on “the worrisome situation in Iraq and the critical conditions in which the Christian community finds itself.” Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq over the last four years to escape violence and discrimination. The talks also touched on the overall situation in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and developments in Lebanon. “The Holy See again expressed the hope for a ‘regional’ and ‘negotiated’ solution to the conflicts and crises that are tormenting the region,” the Vatican statement said.

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Pope appeals for Catholics’ rights in Middle East, North Africa

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholics in the Middle East and North Africa have a right to worship freely and to live in peace and security, Pope Benedict XVI said during a visit to the office of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. “From my lips there rises a heartfelt invocation of peace for the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon … as well as for other regions involved in an apparently unstoppable spiral of violence,” the pope said during the June 9 visit. Pope Benedict surprised the press corps covering the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush by leaving the Apostolic Palace to go to the Eastern churches’ office while Bush was still inside the palace meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. During his meeting with congregation officials, Pope Benedict announced he had accepted the resignation of 76-year-old Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, the former Syrian Catholic patriarch, who was named head of the congregation in 2000. Pope Benedict has named 63-year-old Argentine Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, currently an assistant secretary of state, to succeed Cardinal Daoud.

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Pope condemns kidnappings, pleads for victims’ release

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned kidnapping as a “despicable” practice and pleaded for the release of all victims, including an Italian missionary kidnapped in the Philippines. Speaking June 10 at his midday Angelus prayer, the pope said he repeatedly is asked to pray and make appeals for “persons, including Catholic priests, kidnapped for various reasons and in various parts of the world. I carry all of them in my heart, and I keep them all in my prayers,” he said. “I make a heartfelt appeal to the authors of these despicable acts to become aware of the evil they have done and to return as soon as possible those they have taken prisoner.” The papal appeal came the same day that 57-year-old Father Giancarlo Bossi, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, was kidnapped en route to the Philippine coastal village of Bulawan in the Southern Mindanao region as he was on his way to celebrate Mass.

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Pope hopes scientists increase global teamwork, see God in their work

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hopes that scientists would increase their global cooperation and that they would learn to see the hand of God in the objects they study. His hopes were addressed to two dozen young, but very serious, astronomers and astrophysicists who had just turned the papal summer villa into a summer school. The students visited the Vatican June 11. The Vatican Observatory, which is housed at the villa in Castel Gandolfo, organizes a summer school every other year for students in the final years of undergraduate or early years of graduate studies in astronomy or astrophysics. The Jesuits on the observatory staff choose the students based on interest and achievement, but always ensuring that at least one-third of the students come from developing countries and that there are no more than three students from any one nation. Pope Benedict told the students that in addition to spending June 9-July 16 studying extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs, “you will have a precious opportunity to learn together with students from 22 different countries.”

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Bush, Catholic community discuss poverty, war, Iraqi Christians

ROME (CNS) — U.S. President George W. Bush praised the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio for being part of an “international army of compassion” that helps the poor. Bush met with what he called “one of the great faith-based organizations in the world” to flesh out ways the U.S. government and Sant’Egidio could further their “common commitment to help the poor, feed the hungry and help eradicate disease.” The round-table discussion June 9 had been requested by the White House and was held in the U.S. Embassy to Italy rather than the Sant’Egidio headquarters in the center of Rome due to security concerns. Present for the hourlong, closed-door meeting were eight representatives from Sant’Egidio, including its founder, Andrea Riccardi. Among the U.S. delegates attending were U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. The president of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, told reporters after the meeting that it was “like a fairy tale” getting a call saying Bush wanted to meet with the community, which has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times for its work in conflict resolution.

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Pope to African bishops: Help Catholics deepen relationship with God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — By helping the Catholics of North Africa deepen their relationship with Jesus, the church also will help them recognize God at work in the lives of their neighbors, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope met June 9 with the bishops of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco making their “ad limina” visits to report on the status of their small Catholic communities in predominantly Muslim countries. “I greatly encourage you to guide your faithful toward an authentic encounter with the Lord, which will lead them to recognize in their brothers and sisters he who is already mysteriously present in the heart of each person and in every human being’s search for the true and the good,” the pope said. Pope Benedict said that through prayer and, especially, in eucharistic adoration, Catholics break down “the barriers between the Lord and us as well as the barriers that separate us from one another.” Many of the Catholics in North Africa have come from sub-Saharan Africa for study or work, the pope said. The more they live their faith, the greater is their witness to Jesus and to the universality of the Catholic Church, he said.

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Interior Ministry discards sanctions against Mexico City cardinal

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Mexico’s Interior Ministry has discarded a complaint against Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City and another church official for campaigning against a city law that legalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Local lawmakers who approved the initiative April 24 had filed a complaint accusing Cardinal Rivera and the Mexico City archdiocesan spokesman, Father Hugo Romero Asencion, of violating a constitutional passage that prohibits religious figures from participating in politics. In a statement released June 9, the Interior Ministry said that “it was not appropriate to apply any sanctions” in the case. Father Romero praised the decision but said he expected similar complaints in the future. “Unfortunately the law is still there and, as we’ve said, it’s discriminatory,” Father Romero said in an interview with Catholic News Service. He added that political parties are using the Mexican Constitution to prevent the Catholic Church from voicing its views.

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PEOPLE

Pope names Italian archbishop as assistant secretary of state

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has called his ambassador back from the Philippines and has named him the assistant secretary of state in charge of daily Vatican affairs. Italian Archbishop Fernando Filoni, 61, had been in the Philippines just over a year. Before that, he had served five years as the Vatican’s nuncio in Jordan and in war-torn Iraq. His official job title, “substitute for general affairs,” is the Vatican’s description of a job often like that of a presidential chief of staff. It will be Archbishop Filoni’s job to handle many internal church affairs personally and to determine which matters need to be brought to the pope’s attention. Archbishop Filoni will take up his new position July 1. The appointment was announced June 9 by the Vatican, which also announced that Argentine Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the current office holder, had been named prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Archbishop Sandri had been in the Vatican’s diplomatic service since 1974 and worked at the apostolic nunciature in Washington in 1989-91.

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Papal patience causes chafing among some Vatican bureaucrats, media

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — More than two years into his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has proven to be a very patient decision-maker — so patient that even some of his Vatican bureaucrats are chafing a little. “There are all these decisions that you thought were already made, and then nothing happens,” one Roman Curia official said in early June. The examples abound: the pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics, announced in January, has yet to appear; the papal document widening use of the Tridentine Mass, reportedly ready since last fall, is still awaiting publication; a consistory to name new cardinals, expected in June by most Vatican officials, has apparently been put off until the fall; a slew of key appointments, including the replacement of several Roman Curia heads who are past retirement age, keeps getting deferred; and the streamlining of Vatican communications agencies, rumored to have been one of the pope’s priorities following his election in 2005, still has not happened. Why are things taking so long? The main reason, according to those inside the Curia, is that the pope believes some of these questions call for consultation and fine-tuning, rather than snap decisions.

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Heart transplant marks new beginning for New Jersey seminarian

KENDALL PARK, N.J. (CNS) — Scripture has taken on a deeper meaning for Edmund Luciano III, especially passages such as this one from Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” For Luciano, a seminarian of the Diocese of Metuchen, that passage can be taken quite literally since his May 4 heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Recovering in his Kendall Park home, he looked back with eyes of faith on the saga that began a few months ago, ending in a successful surgery that should allow him to return to his third year of studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore in the fall. When Luciano, 23, who had seldom been ill and who exercised regularly, began to feel breathless and had trouble climbing stairs, he went to see a doctor, suspecting he might have the flu. But his physicians’ surprising suggestion was a heart transplant, Luciano said in an interview with the Catholic Spirit, Metuchen diocesan newspaper. The diagnosis was idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated means enlarged or expanded. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. The condition may have been a consequence of a viral infection, but in Luciano’s case no specific virus was ever identified.

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