4 — Sacred Heart Cathedral, Mass, 9 a.m.
5 — Meet with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of San Angelo
4 — Rev. Msgr. Charles Dvorak (1963)
5 — Rev. Ray Wilhelm, OMI (2004)
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Bishops urge Amnesty International to reverse abortion policy
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic bishops have joined those calling for Amnesty International to rescind its recent policy change supporting women’s access to abortion. The International Executive Committee of Amnesty International has declared that a woman should have full, legal access to abortion in cases of rape or incest or if her life or health is at grave risk. The new policy calls for eliminating criminal penalties for anyone who provides an abortion or obtains one. The bishops’ call came in a July 2 statement from Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Skylstad urged Amnesty to “reconsider and rescind this new policy,” saying it “undermines Amnesty’s long-standing moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members — many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children — and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religions.”
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Family life ministers consider challenges families are facing today
DENVER (CNS) — More than 200 Catholic family life ministers from across the country came to Denver in late June to learn how to help families face such challenges as military life, mental illness and suicide, and domestic violence. The annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers was held at the Adams Mark Hotel in conjunction with the 2007 Smart Marriage Conference, sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, a nondenominational organization. The theme of the family life ministers’ June 26-28 gathering was “Taking Our Ministry to a New Altitude.” The agenda included a Mass celebrated by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, presentations on the making of a healthy married life, panel discussions on ministering to families facing unique challenges, an awards banquet, the election of officers and the kickoff of a campaign called “For Your Marriage,” an initiative of the U.S. bishops to strengthen marriage.
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Syro-Malabar Catholics celebrate their traditions at Miami conference
MIAMI (CNS) — As part of the opening ceremony of the biennial Indian Catholic Syro-Malabar convention of North America June 28-July 1 in Miami, an actor dressed as St. Thomas the Apostle landed on the shores of Biscayne Bay. He replicated the saint’s landing in A.D. 52 on the shores of India’s southwest Malabar coast, where the state of Kerala is. Kerala is the base of the Syro-Malabar church. “I’m excited about the convention,” said Father John Melepuram, pastor of Our Lady of Health Indian Catholic Church in Coral Springs, the host for the convention. “St. Thomas evangelized Kerala and we carry on the tradition today.” About 450 families convened at the Hotel Intercontinental in downtown Miami under the convention theme of “To Live and To Light Our Faith Forever.” Participants came from the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, which encompasses the United States and Canada.
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Don’t be afraid of charismatics, leaders tell their fellow Catholics
SECAUCUS, N.J. (CNS) — Mention that you’re attending a charismatic renewal event to most American Catholics and they may take a cautious step backward, as if they expect you to lay a hand on their foreheads and pray over them, unbidden. In a world where being Catholic can seem countercultural, being a charismatic Catholic often adds one more layer of popular misunderstanding. Terminology like “slain in the Spirit” and “speaking in tongues,” hand-waving, dancing and enthusiastically expressed joy are images of charismatics that make other Catholics more than a little uncomfortable. But by one estimate, 14 percent of North American Catholics — nearly 10 million people — fall under the broad umbrella of the charismatic renewal. The fastest growing portion of the U.S. church, Latinos, are five times more likely than their Anglo counterparts to be a part of charismatic activities. The U.S. church is becoming more charismatic, whether or not other American Catholics feel awkward around charismatic practices.
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Knights of Columbus breaks its record for charitable giving
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — The Knights of Columbus, the largest lay Catholic organization in the world, has announced that it set new records for charitable giving and volunteer service in 2006. Data from the order’s annual survey of fraternal activity showed that total contributions to charities reached close to $144 million. The amount exceeded the previous year’s donations by more than $4 million. Of this total, the supreme council donated about $35 million, and donations from state and local councils, fourth-degree assemblies and squire circles gave more than $108 million. The number of volunteer hours performed by Knights for charitable causes surpassed the 2005 figure by more than 4 million hours, amounting to more than 68 million. Many volunteer hours were spent serving the Gulf region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused devastation in the area in 2005. Soon after the hurricanes, the Knights donated more than $10 million to relief efforts and continued to make donations of time and money to those affected by the hurricanes through 2006.
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2006 Vatican budget closes with surplus; Peter’s Pence up $42 million
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s 2006 budget closed with a surplus of more than $3.2 million, but the biggest surprise in the year’s financial report was a huge jump in donations to Peter’s Pence, the collection given directly to the pope for charitable and other activities of his choice. The international Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See met July 2 at the Vatican. A July 3 statement on the cardinals’ meeting said the 2006 donations to Peter’s Pence totaled almost $102 million, an increase of more than $42.4 million over 2005. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the figure was correct and would be explained July 6 when the Vatican presented a fuller version of its budget figures to the press. The July 3 statement contained only the bottom-line figures for the budgets of the Holy See and of Vatican City State as well as for donations to Peter’s Pence and from dioceses to offset Vatican operational costs.
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Scottish bishop says he’s saddened by airport terrorist attack
LONDON (CNS) — A Scottish bishop said he was “deeply saddened” by the terrorist attack at Glasgow International Airport in his diocese. “I commend the swift action of the police and security staff on the scene and welcome the fact that injury to passengers and airport employees was avoided,” said Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley, Scotland, in a statement July 1. The previous day, two men drove a blazing jeep packed with gas cylinders into the entrance of the airport’s main terminal. “My prayers are with all the staff as they return to work over the next few days and with the passengers who will use the terminal as the building reopens,” said Bishop Tartaglia, who was on a pilgrimage in Lourdes, France, when the attack occurred. He added that “the Diocese of Paisley will be glad to assist the airport operator in any way possible in the weeks and months ahead.” British authorities said the airport attack was carried out by an al-Qaida cell linked to two car bombs that failed to detonate outside a nightclub in the heart of London June 29.
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Some Chinese welcome papal letter; others need time to digest it
HONG KONG (CNS) — Some church leaders in China who have read Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to mainland Catholics say they feel positive about it and are willing to heed the pontiff’s call for unity. Many Catholics contacted by the Asian church news agency UCA News said they needed time to digest the lengthy and theological letter and to consider its impact. Nuns and members of the Catholic hierarchy in China shared with UCA News their initial reactions to the papal document, made public June 30. The letter urged cooperation between clandestine Catholic communities and those officially registered with the government. It criticized Chinese government limits on church activities, but on several key issues — including the appointment of bishops — it invited civil authorities to a fresh and serious dialogue. By July 3, some Chinese Catholics said they had read the 50-page Chinese version of the papal letter several times already. In some places in Hebei province, thousands of copies had been printed.
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Christian leaders in Gaza say life calm after Hamas takeover
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Though Christian officials in the Gaza Strip said things have calmed down since the militant forces of Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June, at least one Catholic expressed fear about the future. “There is no panic. The condition has settled. There is a change from fighting to calmness, though we don’t know what will happen,” said Constantine Dabbagh, executive director of the Gaza office of the Middle East Council of Churches. He said that, while the security situation had improved within Gaza in the weeks after fighting between the Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah, Israel continues to attack Gaza, targeting what it says are Palestinian terrorists shooting Qassam missiles at Israeli towns. Dabbagh said approximately 6,000 people from Gaza were stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been closed since the Hamas takeover. Among those stranded are Christians like his cousin, who took his 8-year-old son on vacation to Egypt and found himself separated from his family in Gaza. Many sick people who went to Egypt for treatment also were waiting to be allowed back into Gaza, Dabbagh said.
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Pope condemns killing of 11 Colombian lawmakers by guerrilla forces
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned the killing of 11 Colombian lawmakers by guerrilla forces and urged the release of all those held hostage in the country. The deputies were shot and killed after being held for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym, FARC. The rebels said the victims were killed in crossfire during an attack on a rebel camp. The pope, speaking at his noon blessing in St. Peter’s Square July 1, called the slayings a “barbaric” act in a country torn by “fratricidal hatred.” He said he shared in the deep sorrow of the relatives of the victims. “I renew my heartfelt appeal that all kidnappings cease immediately and that all the victims of this inadmissible form of violence be returned to their loved ones,” he said. Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Va., offered prayers for the family of Jairo Hoyos Salcedo, one of the 11 killed and the brother of the director of the Arlington Diocese’s Spanish Apostolate. Father Jose Eugenio Hoyos, the director, said: “It is a very sad moment. If they had not killed them in more than five years, no one was expecting that they would do it at all.”
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Chinese lay leader criticizes Hong Kong cardinal for protest march
HONG KONG (CNS) — A Catholic lay leader from Beijing criticized Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun for joining more than 65,000 Hong Kong residents marching for universal suffrage. Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which acts as a liaison between the Chinese government and Catholic churches that have registered with the government, said the Vatican would not win China’s trust if it supported bishops like Cardinal Zen. “If all Catholics in Hong Kong followed suit (by demonstrating), how can Hong Kong achieve stability?” Liu was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong daily, July 3. “If the Vatican supports someone like him (Cardinal Zen), how can it win China’s trust?” Liu’s comments came just days after Pope Benedict XVI made public his letter to Catholics in mainland China. In the letter, the pope urged cooperation between clandestine Catholic communities and those officially registered with the government and criticized Chinese government limits on church activities. The pope also invited dialogue with the Chinese government over the issue of who can appoint Catholic bishops in China.
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U.S. nun who started Holocaust seminars gets award from Yad Vashem
JERUSALEM (CNS) — A Catholic nun from Pennsylvania is the first non-Jew and non-Israeli to receive Yad Vashem’s Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education. Sister Gemma del Duca, a Sister of Charity and former chair of the history department at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., has been leading seminars for Holocaust education with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial for two decades. The seminars, started on her initiative, are intended for groups of Catholic educators and clergy, primarily from the United States. According to Yad Vashem, hundreds of educators have taken part in the seminars. A native of Greensburg, Pa., Sister Gemma has been living in Israel since 1975, and she approached Yad Vashem with her idea in 1987 in response to Pope John Paul II’s call to recognize the significance of the Holocaust. “(Sister) Gemma is the person who opened the door here to bringing Catholic educators to Yad Vashem,” said Ephraim Kaye, who works with international educators at Yad Vashem.
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Identical twins ordained to priesthood in Green Bay Diocese
GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) — In a first in its nearly 140-year history, the Diocese of Green Bay has ordained twins to the priesthood. Fathers Joel and Ben Sember, 27, were ordained June 30 by Bishop David A. Zubik at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. Father Andrew Kysely was ordained with them. To mark the occasion, Bishop Zubik used artifacts from previous bishops of Green Bay, including the crosier of Bishop Joseph Melcher, Green Bay’s first bishop, who served from the founding of the diocese on Dec. 3, 1868, to his death in 1873. The two oldest sons of James and Marion Sember of Burlington, who are identical twins, recently completed three years of training at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Father Ben will return there this fall for studies in canon law. For the summer, he will serve at the diocesan marriage tribunal and help at three local parishes. Father Joel will immediately begin parish work, serving as associate pastor at two parishes. He also will work in campus ministry at the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
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Polish church commission: One in seven bishops was police informer
WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — One in seven of Poland’s 132 Catholic bishops was registered as a secret police informer under communist rule, but the scope of the issue has not been fully established, said a Polish church commission. “Up to 20 were registered by communist Poland’s security organs as secret collaborators, operational contacts or information sources, and one as an intelligence agent, while several were registered as potential recruits,” the commission said in a June 27 statement. “The secret police archive material presented to our commission on clergy who became bishops is incomplete and chaotic,” the commission said. “It does not allow us to establish properly the scope, intensity and ultimate harmfulness of their real and conscious collaboration.” The commission, which includes four priests and two lay professors, was set up by the Polish bishops’ conference in October. It presented its report to the bishops June 21. Archbishop Slawoj Glodz of Warsaw-Praga, liaison to the commission, said at a June 27 press conference in Warsaw that a final report would be handed to church leaders in the fall and passed on to the Vatican.
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Priest pleads guilty to molestation, gets five years in prison
CHICAGO (CNS) — A Chicago priest was sentenced to five years in prison immediately after he pleaded guilty July 2 to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from charges that he molested five boys between the ages of 8 and 12 at a parish and a grade school between 2001 and 2005. Father Daniel McCormack was removed from active ministry in January 2006 when he was arrested on charges of molesting two boys; subsequent charges were added as more victims came forward. Following his sentencing, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced in a statement that it will now institute proceedings under church law to “seek Father McCormack’s separation from the ordained priesthood.” “The sexual abuse of children is a sin and a crime. When the abuser is a priest, the whole church is affected,” Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said about the July 2 court proceeding. “Such misconduct by a priest or anyone else associated with the archdiocese cannot be tolerated.”