Today (08.27.07)

In the Diocese

SAN ANGELO — Summit of Social Agencies of the Concho Valley, sponsored by San Angelo Mayor J.W. Brown and Bishop Michael Pfeifer, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Today’s Readings

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8-10
Psalm 149:1-6, 9
Matthew 23:13-22

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.Immigration issues the focus of USCCB Labor Day statementWASHINGTON (CNS) — Immigration issues, including the “failed immigration debate” that preceded Congress’ unsuccessful vote to change U.S. immigration policy, were highlighted in the U.S. bishops’ annual Labor Day statement. “This vital national immigration discussion polarized our people, paralyzed the Congress and failed our nation,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, in the statement. “After this debate, we are a society more divided, a people more confused and a nation unable to move forward on one of the most serious and complicated issues we face as a nation.” Although members of Congress could not work together on immigration policy, some low-wage workers were able to work together to carve out a better life for themselves, one of the “signs of hope” pointed to by Bishop DiMarzio in his statement. Dated Sept. 3, the statement, “Labor Day 2007: A Time to Remember; A Time to Recommit,” was released Aug. 24.– – –

U.S. bishops denounce Amnesty’s policy to fight for legal abortions

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Amnesty International’s recent adoption of a policy to fight for the decriminalization of abortion around the world. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the conference, said in an Aug. 23 statement that the U.S. bishops urge Amnesty to “reconsider its error and reverse its policy on¬†abortion.” “This basic policy change undermines Amnesty’s long-standing moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission,” Bishop Skylstad said. “In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members … and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights.” The human rights organization’s International Council — more than 400 delegates from 75 countries — approved the proposals at a meeting of Amnesty leaders in Cocoyoc, Mexico, Aug. 11-17 as part of Amnesty’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

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Bishop requests prayers, assistance for victims of Ohio flooding

TOLEDO, Ohio (CNS) — Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo asked Catholics to join him in prayer for the victims of recent flooding that devastated communities across the diocese. “All throughout the 19 counties of the Diocese of Toledo, the people of God have been affected,” he said in a statement. “Some have had their homes damaged, their personal property destroyed, their farm fields seriously spoiled and their hearts broken.” Heavy rainfall particularly inundated southern parts of the diocese Aug. 19-21, causing rivers and creeks to swell and overflow their banks. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland declared states of emergency in eight counties. Dozens of parish properties around the diocese experienced water backing up into basements, but Joe Spenthoff, director of the diocesan Protective Self Insurance program, said none suffered severe structural damage.

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Seven new Cristo Rey schools opening this fall; brings total to 19

WASHINGTON (CNS) — While many Catholic schools in the nation’s inner cities have been struggling to stay open due to declining enrollments and skyrocketing expenses, innovative efforts to revive Catholic high schools in these same neighborhoods are quietly gaining momentum. Just this fall, seven new Cristo Rey schools are opening, bringing the national total to 19. The Catholic schools, which mean “Christ the King” in Spanish, serve low-income high school students from Los Angeles to New York. They model Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which opened in 1996 in a predominantly Hispanic Chicago neighborhood. Before it opened, the school’s president, Jesuit Father John Foley, sought the advice of a management consultant on ways to make the school affordable. Acting on this advice, school officials developed a work-study program where students could offset tuition costs and gain practical business experience by working entry-level jobs five days a month and attending school for extended days and school year. The Chicago school opened with 80 sophomores and juniors in an old gym; today it has more than 525 students in two buildings.

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Catholic groups sign on to call for U.S. leadership for safe water

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A dozen Catholic organizations have joined other religious groups in calling for U.S. leadership to increase access to safe water for the world’s people. “Water is a gift from God to be preserved and shared for the benefit of all people and the wider creation,” said the Religious Working Group on Water’s statement, “Water for All.” Still, “around 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe water and 2.5 billion do not have access to improved sanitation,” it added. “Two million children die each year from infections spread by dirty water and lack of access to decent sanitation.” On average women in developing countries walk nearly four miles each day to fetch water. “Clean water is key to every other aspect of development — from children’s education to economic growth and environmental sustainability,” it said. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon in September 2000 by nearly 200 heads of state, include reducing by half the number of people worldwide without clean water and adequate sanitation by the year 2015.

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Cristo Rey school opens in Washington, described as ‘new hybrid’

SILVER SPRING, Md. (CNS) — Starting a new job as a school administrator is no easy feat, even under normal circumstances. But the role becomes even more complex when the school lacks students, faculty, staff and board members, the facility itself needs a complete overhaul and incoming students will be paying very minimal tuition. That’s where Salesian Father Steve Shafran stepped in last year when he accepted the job as project manager of the new Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in suburban Washington. Father Shafran, now the school’s president, welcomed the first class of 127 freshman this August to the school’s temporary quarters in Silver Spring. Like 18 other schools around the country, Don Bosco Cristo Rey follows a work-study model where students pay a significant portion of their tuition by working entry-level jobs five days a month. The school is starting with a freshman class and will add one grade each year. The current class is 60 percent Latino and 40 percent African-American. About 60 percent of the students are Catholic.

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African clergy, religious celebrate unity, diversity of work in U.S.

CLARK, N.J. (CNS) — Calling for unity among African missionaries and religious in the United States, a New Jersey pastor welcomed “those worthy ambassadors from the African soil” at the eighth annual convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States. “Our work is truly extensive and scattered,” said Father Anselm I. Nwaorgu, pastor of Blessed Sacrament/St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Newark and president of the organization known as ACCCRUS. “This conference is our trumpet blasting for people to join us in New Jersey,” he added. “This conference demonstrates our care, faith and commitment to our work. It is an expression of our own vision and an expression of our expansive and fruitful missions.” Held Aug. 2-5 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clark, the national gathering of African missionaries and religious, which celebrated a welcoming spirit of openness, unity and diversity, featured keynote presentations by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, episcopal liaison to the African apostolate, and Bishop Martin Munyanyi of Gweru, Zimbabwe.

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Caribbean Catholics stress need for solidarity with all in region

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — “God is good,” Caribbean speaker Gerard Granado called out Aug. 17 during the second national convention of Caribbean Catholics of North America. “All the time,” participants answered in unison. The responses emanated from nearly every seat in a ballroom at Rochester’s Crowne Plaza Hotel and illustrated the “Call and Response” theme of the convention, which took place Aug. 17-19 and was attended by about 125 people. Granado, general secretary for the Caribbean Conference of Churches, highlighted the underlying spiritual meaning of the expression he had uttered, a phrase that those gathered were very clearly used to saying and answering. “There’s a deep sense in the Caribbean of the faithfulness and providence of God,” he said. Granado urged the group to feel solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean. Many did, based on prayers said throughout the event.

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Questions about God’s role in tragedies follow bridge collapse

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) — Weeks after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Minnesotans continued to cope with the disaster’s aftermath. There was the search for victims, the clearing of the rubble, the loss of a well-traveled Twin Cities route. And there were questions about why this happened — questions that go deeper than explaining how the steel truss gave way. “Where is God?” asked Paulist Father Robert O’Donnell at noon Mass the day after the Aug. 1 collapse. He was preaching at St. Lawrence-Newman, the closest Catholic parish to the bridge. At the same time in St. Paul, Coadjutor Archbishop John C. Nienstedt led a prayer service at the cathedral. St. Olaf in Minneapolis likewise remembered victims during a special Mass. God was not at fault for the disaster, Archbishop Nienstedt told those gathered. The collapse was the result of human causes. “Yes, this has been a catastrophe of historic proportions,” he said. “But out of such a tragedy, there is something for all of us. We are humble enough to admit to our own limitations and surrender our lives unto God, who has loved us from the beginning.”

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At Cristo Rey dedication students pledge to pursue their dreams

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — Providence Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp asked a crowd of students, parents and school supporters Aug. 15 how she could ever thank them “for being the hearts and hands and voice of Providence” during the past two years as Providence Cristo Rey High School was preparing to open. Sister Jeanne, president of the Indianapolis school sponsored by the Sisters of Providence, told supporters at the school’s opening Mass and dedication that because of their response “100 young men and women have an incredible future waiting for them.” The school is one of seven new Cristo Rey schools opening this fall that provide an affordable education to students from low-income families through its work-study program. At the dedication service in the school gymnasium, participants heard some statistics about the current Cristo Rey schools: that 96 percent of last year’s graduates went to college and that the four-year dropout rate for the class of 2006 was 2.6 percent compared to 30 percent nationally.

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WORLD

Peruvians begin to put tragedy behind them with aid from church

ICA, Peru (CNS) — The evening before his 12th birthday, Denis Sulca stood near the end of a line of more than 100 children, hoping for a ration of milk. Eight days earlier, Aug. 15, a magnitude 8 earthquake destroyed the adobe house where his family lived in a shantytown in this city of about 300,000 people on Peru’s southern coast. “We’re sleeping in a tent in the street,” said Denis, the oldest of six children. “My little brothers are sick.” Three minutes of violent tremors shattered the dreams of tens of thousands of families who have migrated from the Andes Mountains to Ica and the neighboring towns of Pisco and Chincha over the past two decades in search of jobs and an education for their children. Some lost family members in the earthquake, which killed at least 530 people. Those who escaped harm as the adobe walls and ceilings of their homes crumbled must now start over. “People are putting a lot of hope in the aid promised by the government,” said Father Victor Cupe, whose parish spans Parcona, a district of 40,000 people that includes a shantytown and scattered rural communities.

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Castel Sant’Angelo: Dank dungeon for common criminals

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For the first time in a decade, summer tourists could make their way down steep stone steps deep into the dark, dank interior of a papal fortress and crawl into prison cells that housed countless common criminals as well as Rome’s errant elite. The 1,900-year-old Castel Sant’Angelo, which stands near the Tiber River, was built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, then was converted into a fortress by medieval popes. At times, the turreted castle served as a refuge for beleaguered and besieged pontiffs and as a high-security prison. While not wanting to justify the church’s past practice of imprisonment, torture and sometimes executions, one Vatican expert said it was important to remember that at the time “the papal state was a territorial state, so you had to take care of thieves and murderers who are put into prisons like in every state.”

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Chinese officials arrest bishop in Hebei, pressure others

HONG KONG (CNS) — Chinese officials have arrested a bishop who is not registered with the government and have been pressuring other unregistered bishops and priests, sources told the Asian church news agency UCA News. Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding in China’s Hebei province was arrested by the Chinese Public Security and Religious Bureau the morning of Aug. 23. His arrest was reported by the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation and confirmed by UCA News. A statement from the Kung foundation said it did not know the reason for the bishop’s arrest, but added that “in the last five days there was a marked increase in the number of security police for putting Bishop Jia under strict surveillance 24 hours a day, and there were police vehicles parking outside the bishop’s residence.” A priest and a layperson also were arrested and interrogated for eight hours before being released, the foundation reported.

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Priest accuses Colombian archdiocese of sexual, financial misconduct

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) — The former head of the Archdiocese of Cali’s ecclesiastical tribunal has made charges of widespread sexual and financial misconduct in the archdiocese. Father German Robledo, a 67-year-old priest and head of the tribunal until 2004, went public Aug. 21 with accusations against priests and other church officials in Cali. He said he was doing so because he had not been satisfied with reaction from archdiocesan officials. Father Robledo said that before first making the allegations last December he met with other Cali priests to discuss the problems. Father Robledo said he was acting as their spokesman when he went public. “We have criticized and have denounced all of these things without success,” he said. In late August, Archbishop Juan Sarasti Jaramillo of Cali acknowledged that some priests had violated their oaths of celibacy but said that it was unfair to make general accusations. He said Father Robledo’s accusations would be investigated.

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Booming oil industry spurs Catholic Church’s growth in Kazakhstan

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Church in the western Asian nation of Kazakhstan is facing unprecedented growth spurred by the country’s burgeoning economy and an influx of foreigners working in the oil industry. But as the economy booms, Catholic leaders face challenges in making sure the country’s small Catholic population continues to prioritize spiritual values over financial gains. “In Kazakhstan so many people have one goal: to have lots of money,” said Bishop Janusz Kaleta of Atyrau, Kazakhstan. He spoke to Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Aug. 21. Years of communist rule in the aftermath of World War II stifled religious freedom in the country, which was part of the Soviet Union. “It was one big prison for all religions,” Bishop Kaleta said. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Kazakhstan has been undergoing change. Bishop Kaleta said that in the last 20 years the number of parishes has grown from 50 to 70. Two more parishes will open by the end of this year, with hopes of two more being built in the coming years, he said.

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PEOPLE

Visiting Peru, Vatican official urges quake victims not to lose hope

ICA, Peru (CNS) — Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, urged Peru’s earthquake victims not to lose hope and assured them that the Lord is accompanying them. More than 5,000 worshippers gathered outside the shattered Shrine of the Lord of Luren, the most popular religious site in this southern Peruvian coastal town, to pray for those killed and injured in the magnitude 8 earthquake that struck Aug. 15. Cardinal Bertone conveyed a greeting from Pope Benedict XVI, “especially to the children,” and presented Bishop Guido Brena Lopez of Ica with a check for $200,000 for emergency and reconstruction efforts. The cardinal said that the fact that the image of the Lord of Luren, a dark-skinned crucified Jesus, was undamaged when the tower of the shrine and part of the roof collapsed was a reminder that “the lord has not abandoned us. He is here among you. The lord wants to remain with you and accompany you.”

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Vatican confirms pope will meet with Israeli president

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, a Vatican official confirmed to Catholic News Service Aug. 24. The Sept. 6 meeting will come just three days after Israeli and Vatican representatives meet in Jerusalem to discuss financial issues related to Catholic institutions in Israel. Peres, who met with Pope Benedict in April, was elected in June as Israel’s president, a largely symbolic role. Peres has served as prime minister of Israel twice, as well as in a number of high-ranking government posts. In 1994 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Oslo accords, which affirmed the Palestinian right of self-governance. Peres’ visit with the pope will be part of an official visit to Italy in which he will also meet with Italian political leaders.

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Bishops’ inside man on Capitol Hill offers glimpses of inner workings

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After decades of being the behind-the-scenes — and consistently off-the-record — point man for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in lobbying on Capitol Hill, Frank Monahan seemed simultaneously tantalized by and wary at the prospect of talking openly with a reporter about the work he did for 36 years. Just before Monahan, 69, retired as director of the Office of Government Liaison at the USCCB at the end of June, he agreed to talk with Catholic News Service. He also touched on what might lie ahead as the bishops’ conference goes through a reorganization that will affect how the church’s public policy arm functions in Washington. He was one of more than 30 longtime USCCB employees who took a voluntary retirement buyout as part of that reorganization. What Monahan knows about what went into passing legislation ranging from the Carter-era creation of the U.S. Education Department to this year’s law raising the minimum wage could fill more than a few newspapers.

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Students at Cristo Rey schools get training in business world

SILVER SPRING, Md. (CNS) — Visitors to a Cristo Rey school in August would immediately know they were not in a typical high school. During three weeks of “business boot camp,” students learned the ropes of the corporate world: how to shake hands and make eye contact, use computers, fax machines and copiers and how to file and answer telephones. The business training is required of all freshmen at the 19 Cristo Rey Catholic high schools across the country since their education is interwoven with real work experience. The schools model Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which opened in 1996 in Chicago using a work-study program enabling students from low-income families to offset tuition costs and gain practical business experience by working entry-level jobs five days a month. During the final day of the training program at Washington’s Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, students were brushing up on phone skills in the school’s temporary quarters in Silver Spring. The school’s permanent location is in Takoma Park, just outside Washington, in a closed Catholic elementary school.

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Author studied Mother Teresa’s writings while promoting her sainthood

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A new book about Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s writings on feeling abandoned by God has created a flurry of interest and media speculation. Missionaries of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, author of “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,” the book that has caused the recent buzz, told Catholic News Service in 2002 about her writings and her concerns about “interior darkness” and spiritual emptiness. He said he was surprised about how much Mother Teresa accomplished despite feeling for years that God had abandoned her. Father Kolodiejchuk examined the writings on which his book is based because he is the promoter of Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood. The Indian nun, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was beatified in 2003. The 416-page book published by Doubleday will be released Sept. 4, to mark the 10th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death Sept. 5, 1997.

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