Today (06.14.07)

In the Diocese

   COLORADO CITY — St. Ann Confirmation, 6:30 p.m.

Today’s Readings

2 Corinthians 3:15-184:1, 3-6
Psalm 85:9-14
Matthew 5:20-26

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Faith leaders urge quick action to expand children’s health insurance

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic representatives joined with Jewish and Christian faith leaders in calling for quick action by Congress to fund health insurance coverage for the nation’s 9 million uninsured children. “We speak from a broad range of religious traditions representing many millions of families in urging you to craft SCHIP legislation that will help our nation see a day when no child goes without treatment or relies on an emergency room for his or her primary health care,” the leaders said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. SCHIP is the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The committee was expected to take up in June the budget resolution that calls for spending $50 billion over five years to expand the program. “The faith community worked extraordinarily hard to see that the Senate and House included $50 billion in new funding in the budget resolution,” said the June 7 letter to Baucus and Reid, made public June 12. “We want to see these funds used to support a strong SCHIP reauthorization.”

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Vatican official says Amnesty International ‘betrayed its mission’

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — With its new stance supporting the legalization of abortion around the world, Amnesty International “has betrayed its mission,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in an e-mail interview with the National Catholic Register. The Register, based in North Haven, also quoted Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan, an iconic figure in pacifist and human rights circles, repudiating the new Amnesty position. “One cannot support an organization financially or even individually that is contravening something very serious in our ethic,” the priest said. Cardinal Martino said, “I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.” Amnesty International, a widely respected human rights organization, had been officially neutral on abortion until this April, when its Executive Committee adopted a new position calling for the decriminalization of abortion around the world.

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National hot line to offer listening ear to priests in crisis

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CNS) — Franciscan Sister Mary Frances Seeley, a counselor and certified suicidologist, is heading up a plan to establish a crisis hot line specifically to address the needs of priests and religious brothers in the grips of depression, thoughts of suicide or the everyday stresses of life. Called the Upper Room Crisis Hotline, the program is endorsed by the National Federation of Priests’ Councils and is slated to begin in late summer or early fall. As a national hot line, it is intended to alleviate the emotional toll that Sister Seeley said is being paid by a majority of clergy in the post-scandal era. Citing the demonization of priests by a growing number of the faithful in the aftermath of revelations concerning the sexual abuse of minors in the church, the Chicago-based NFPC asked her to fashion an easily accessible, interventional buoy for clergymen seeking safe haven and a place to vent frustration without fear of reprisal. A member of the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, Sister Seeley helped found the Crisis Line of Will County, which has operated continuously since 1976.

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Community prays for Medjugorje pilgrims injured in Bosnian bus crash

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (CNS) — Members of the Trinity Academy family began keeping vigil in the school’s chapel on the afternoon of June 11 when they received word of a bus accident in Bosnia-Herzegovina involving nine members of their school community. Trinity Academy is an independent Catholic school located in Pewaukee, 20 miles west of Milwaukee. The bus, carrying 34 Americans, 27 of them from the Milwaukee Archdiocese, collided with a truck in Tarcin, a city about 12 miles south of Sarajevo. The bus tumbled about 40 feet down an embankment and ended up in a river. The crash injured 27 Americans and the Bosnian driver. Frank “Andy” Meier, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Milwaukee, who was traveling with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Sammy, Madeline and Frankie, was the most seriously injured, according to Liz Noack, a Trinity Academy parent. Meier sustained back and head injuries but pulled through an initial surgery. The school community is receiving regular telephone updates from Bosnia from Elizabeth Meier. The group left Wisconsin June 10 for an 11-day pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a tour group.

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South African bishop urges Catholics to partner with church in Africa

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Church in Africa has much potential for increasing its social service work but needs help from members of the international community, said Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa. The church needs advocates in Washington, international workers with management skills to help oversee its programs in Africa and other members of the international community to offer financial support, he said. In remarks at a June 8 luncheon hosted by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, and in an interview later with Catholic News Service, Bishop Dowling said the church takes an active role in bringing an end to violence and atrocities in conflict regions and promoting reconciliation in Africa. The church also is involved in training the unemployed and providing care for those affected by HIV/AIDS, he said. Bishop Dowling told those at the luncheon he believes there are opportunities for members of the international community, agencies and donors to build partnerships with the church in conflict areas to empower the local organizations to work for peace.

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WORLD

True believers look at life of church seeking God’s love, says pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — True believers look at the life and history of the Catholic Church seeking signs of God’s love, rather than trying to highlight the curious or being fixated by the scandalous, Pope Benedict XVI said. When Catholics take church history seriously, they are inspired to live lives that are more Christian so that they, too, may add their own evidence of God’s greatness, the pope said June 13 at his weekly general audience. As usual, the pope began by riding in an open jeep through St. Peter’s Square, blessing a crowd of about 20,000 people. Although it was just one week after a 27-year-old German man jumped a barricade and tried to get into the jeep, the security detail closest to the pope was not obviously strengthened. However, the number of Italian police patrolling the square’s perimeter appeared to have increased. At the end of the audience, the pope offered special prayers for young people who have just begun their summer vacations and, especially, for their peers who are in the middle of their final exams.

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Catholic Action-run center offers Palestinians unique workout spot

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — Palestinians now can enjoy a new, one-of-a-kind sports center where they can work out, practice on regulation-sized courts and play safely. “It’s something good to bring to Bethlehem, such a place. There is no place like this where women and also men can practice sports,” said Sylvia Ghattas, 21, as she finished her workout in the gym of the Catholic Action-run sports center. The building, financed by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, boasts the only regulation-sized and equipped basketball court in the Palestinian territories, as well as a gym and two multipurpose halls. Together with Catholic Action’s existing outdoor pool, family center, children’s hall and playground, the new sports center forms a 2.5-acre sports and recreational complex. Before Catholic Action’s sports teams practiced in a haphazard way at various venues throughout the city, said Issa Hazbon, director of the new center. “This is a dream come true, and it has come true better than we imagined it could,” said Hazbon. “Children are frustrated here. We direct them to sports to release their anger. They have nowhere else to go.”

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South Africa’s bishops express concern over civil servants’ strike

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — Bishops in southern Africa have expressed concern over the “deteriorating situation” of a national civil servants’ strike in South Africa and questioned whether bargaining was done in good faith. “Preventing children going to school and abandoning sick patients can never be condoned,” said a June 13 statement issued by Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. South African schools and hospitals have been severely affected by the strike, which began June 1, and many nurses have defied a government order that they were essential workers and must report to their jobs. Noting that the South African Constitution upholds the right to strike, the statement said a strike should be a “last resort, when all avenues of negotiation have been exhausted.” The right to strike “should not endanger lives, particularly in our hospitals, where an adequate staff must be present at all times,” said the statement. “Unions, while rightfully pressing for a just salary, cannot ignore the right of others to life,” it said.

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Kenyan inquest into death of U.S. Mill Hill priest ends

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — The nearly four-yearlong inquest into the death of a U.S. priest who died in Kenya in 2001 has ended, and presiding magistrate Maureen Odero said she would deliver her judgment July 18. The inquest, which ended June 12, had been requested by the Kenyan bishops’ conference, the family of Mill Hill Father John Kaiser and his congregation, all of whom rejected the FBI conclusion that the priest committed suicide. Mbuthi Gathenji, the lawyer representing those who asked for the inquest, ruled out the FBI suicide theory and argued that Father Kaiser was murdered by a third party. In his submission to the inquest, he said that testimony from a forensic expert and oral and physical evidence produced showed that there is no basis to prove the priest committed suicide. Gathenji said evidence pointed to a conspiracy involving Julius Sunkuli, a Cabinet member in the government of former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi. Father Kaiser had helped two girls who claimed to have been raped by Sunkuli.

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Church workers: Repressing Central American gangs fuels violence

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (CNS) — The heavy-handed repression of youth gangs has brought more violence to Central America, said church workers ministering to gang members. Gangs such as Salvatrucha and 18th Street formed in the late 1990s when the U.S. government deported young people from southern California’s street gangs back to a region still reeling from the wars of the two previous decades. Amid the high unemployment and urban decay of Central American cities, the gangs blossomed and soon were widely blamed, whether they deserved it or not, for skyrocketing homicide rates and rampant drug abuse. In response, some Central American governments sent army troops into poor neighborhoods and implemented so-called “hard-hand” laws that allowed police to jail young men simply for having a visible tattoo. Prison populations soared. Such heavy-handed policies only have made the problem worse, said Virginia Alfaro, a Vincentian lay missionary from Spain who heads the prison ministry for the Archdiocese of San Pedro Sula. “The prisons lack even basic hygiene, and there’s not even an attempt at rehabilitation,” she said.

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PEOPLE

Pope’s new state-of-the-art stage is handicap-accessible, portable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI now has a new state-of-the-art stage that is handicap-accessible and portable. Pier Carlo Cuscianna, head of the Vatican’s department of technical services, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that the new steel and aluminum stage took more than a year to design and was used for the first time June 3 when the pope celebrated a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square. It will be used for outdoor audiences and liturgies. The old stage required at least three days to set up and needed a crew of workers and specialized equipment. The new structure is portable and can be set up in a matter of minutes with remote-control mechanisms. Four modules slide together to create a 1,076-square-foot platform covered in teak flooring. Once the base has been positioned, two side arms guided by remote control slide up 13 feet on either side of the stage. When the arms or pillars have fully extended, two wings expand to create a covering for the stage.

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New Jersey Catholic student wins silver in national Biology Olympiad

WASHINGTON (CNS) — High school senior Julia Rogers, a member of St. Cassian Parish in Upper Montclair, N.J., joined 20 top high school students from around the country for the U.S. Biology Olympiad at George Mason University in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Va. Rogers was awarded a silver medal for her performance in the exam portion of the olympiad. She was one of 12 medal winners and one of four silver medal winners. Rogers, who participated in the olympiad last year as well, was selected from a field of approximately 9,000 high school students who took an open exam. Rogers then made it through the semifinals to become a national finalist. From June 2-12, she participated in intensive laboratory exercises and attended lectures on biology topics such as genetics, invertebrate biology and microbiology. Rogers, 18, of Glen Ridge, N.J., will graduate from Glen Ridge High School at the end of June. She plans to attend Yale University in the fall and hopes to double-major in math and biology.

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Kevin Spacey gives acting tips to New York Catholic school students

NEW YORK (CNS) — If you didn’t recognize him from his movies or theater work, you would never have known he wasn’t just another drama teacher. Kevin Spacey, the actor who has won both Oscar and Tony awards, nonchalantly walked into the theater studio in jeans, a gray button-down shirt and sneakers. The boys in the room continued to warm up with acting exercises as Spacey watched. Spacey, who is also the artistic director of the London-based Old Vic Theatre Company, is the lead male in the Broadway production of “Moon for the Misbegotten,” which the students recently saw. The students, part of the advanced-placement English class at All Hallows High School in the Bronx section of New York, met with Spacey at Theatre Row Studios in Manhattan May 22. The Christian Brothers’ school was chosen by the Theatre Development Guild, which has a partnership with the Old Vic Theatre Company.

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Maryknoll missionary sows hope in Honduran gang neighborhood

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (CNS) — Hours after his arrival in the humid shantytown of Chamelecon, Maryknoll Father Thomas Goekler was celebrating an evening Mass when a shootout between rival youth gangs broke out in the dirt street in front of the chapel. Father Goekler remembers church members taking cover under the pews and crossing themselves, but he said he was more angry than frightened. “I said, ‘I’m not going to put up with this.’ I stormed out of the church, and with my white alb and stole on I must have looked like a ghost. I walked out into the night, into the middle of the street, and I yelled, ‘Stop!’ The kids stopped shooting. And they all looked at me. Trouble was, I didn’t have another line. Once they stopped shooting, I didn’t know what to say next,” Father Goekler said. In the years since his tumultuous arrival in 1999, Father Goekler’s ministry among the hemisphere’s most violent gangs has been marked by a quest for what to say and do next. He has sought alternatives for those caught up in the maelstrom of violence that is robbing Central America’s youth of a future.

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Father shot dead after leaving Honduran gang, building new life

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (CNS) — Henri Aguilar’s entire body was marked by the tattoos he had acquired while a member of one of Honduras’ notorious street gangs, but inside he was a new man. He had left the gang that had once claimed his allegiance, come back to the church of his childhood, gotten a steady job, married and had a baby girl whom he named Genesis as a sign of his new beginnings. On May 7, Aguilar was cleaning up after working all day and planned to walk to a nearby chapel, where he was scheduled as a reader for Mass. He was taking a shower when three masked men burst into his church-built home and shot him dead. Aguilar’s killing illustrates how hard it is for young men to escape the violent gang subculture that has gripped Central America in the last decade. Once in a gang, it’s almost impossible to leave. “It’s precarious. If they see that you’ve really had a change of heart and become a Christian, you might be OK. I walk a narrow line. I don’t walk around on the street, I don’t smoke or drink, and I don’t visit my old friends,” Aguilar told Catholic News Service less than a week before his death.

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