Today (08.29.07)

No diocesan-wide events today

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 1:17-19
Psalm 71:1-6, 15, 17
Mark 6:17-29 

Today’s Headlines from CNS

U.S.

U.S. poverty down slightly, but Americans with no health insurance up

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The number of Americans living in poverty went down slightly last year, according to the Census Bureau’s annual report, but the number of uninsured Americans rose a bit. The dip in the poverty rate — the first this decade — brought the percentage of Americans living in poverty from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent in 2006. The number of people in poverty — 36.5 million — was “not statistically different” from 2005 levels, the Census Bureau said in an announcement. The child poverty rate stayed the same, at 17.4 percent, while the poverty rates for adults and senior citizens declined. Both the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance rose from year-before levels — from 44.8 million to 47 million, and from 15.3 percent uninsured to 15.8 percent. The number of uninsured children increased from 8 million, or 10.9 percent in 2005, to 8.7 million, or 11.7 percent, last year. “Catholic Charities USA is extremely troubled that the number of uninsured, including children, continues to increase,” said Father Larry Snyder, the organization’s president, in a statement issued shortly after the numbers were released Aug. 28. “We firmly believe that there is no excuse for any child in our nation to go without access to health care, which is critically important to the well-being and development of all children.” The increase in the number of uninsured Americans coincided with a dip in the percentage of people who have private health insurance. In 2005, 65.8 percent had private health insurance; in 2006, 64.8 percent did. Texas led with 24.1 percent of its residents uninsured. Minnesota was lowest with 8.3 percent of its residents uninsured. As of 2006, more than one-third of all Hispanics, and one-fifth of all African-Americans, lacked health insurance.

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Missouri Catholics join in efforts for real ban on human cloning

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) — Missouri voters will get another crack at a true ban on human cloning if a grass-roots petition campaign, led by physicians and backed by Catholic leaders, is successful. Dr. Lori Buffa, a pediatrician in St. Peters, has filed with Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan a proposed 300-word constitutional amendment that a coalition called Cures Without Cloning hopes to place before Missouri voters next year. Carnahan has 30 days to act on the amendment language and write the language that will appear on a ballot. Cures Without Cloning will then have until May 4, 2008, to collect between 140,000 and 150,000 signatures to place the issue on the Nov. 4, 2008, general election ballot statewide. Buffa said the Cures Without Cloning amendment would “clarify the confusing definition” of human cloning that was placed into the Missouri Constitution last November with the passage of Amendment 2. The 2,100-word Amendment 2 purported to “ban human cloning and attempts to clone” a human being, but redefined “cloning” only as “to implant or attempt to implant in a uterus” a cloned embryo. Buffa said this language allows research laboratories to create cloned embryos as long as those embryos are not implanted in a mother’s womb.

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CHA president chosen most powerful figure in U.S. health care

WASHINGTON (CNS) — More powerful than bodybuilder-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger? It’s true if you’re Sister Carol Keehan. The issue isn’t about who can lift the greatest weight in the gym. It’s about who’s got more muscle in the health care arena. Sister Carol, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, the trade group for Catholic hospitals, finished first in the sixth annual reader poll conducted by Modern Healthcare magazine of the 100 most powerful people in health care. Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, finished third. Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, was second. Sister Carol topped all comers, including presidents, presidential candidates, congressional movers and shakers, federal officials, hospital executives, educators and public policy vanguards in the survey, which was published Aug. 27. She was ranked 26th in the 2006 survey. Sister Carol had just assumed the CHA presidency the previous November. In profiling Sister Carol, the magazine said she “has somehow managed to connect with all the disparate interest groups without alienating any of them.”

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Katrina’s havoc leads to new collaboration to serve New Orleans poor

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Presentation Sister Vera Butler knows all about Christianity in the trenches. With the help of colleagues and friends many years ago, she established a “Feed Jesus” program for the homeless and working poor out of a basement food pantry at St. Joseph Church in New Orleans. The lunch program developed just a few steps from the city’s sprawling medical complex, the New Orleans business district and the Superdome, but in reality the pantry was the other side of the world. Then came Hurricane Katrina, which while hurting everyone in some way wreaked special devastation on the poor people Sister Vera loved and cared for. Katrina’s destruction two years ago became the catalyst that made Sister Vera’s longtime dream a reality. The Rebuild Center, a collaborative effort of the Presentation Sisters, the Vincentians, St. Joseph Church, the Jesuits, Immaculate Conception Church and the Hispanic Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, was dedicated Aug. 26. The new center will provide lunch, health screenings, showers, bathrooms, a laundry room, a large meeting room and 10 offices where clients can meet with staff and volunteers.

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Head of ex-Legionaries group offers court computer files

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The head of a network of former members of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi has offered to hand over computer files to a Virginia circuit court after being sued by the religious order. Paul Lennon, president of the nonprofit organization ReGAIN, appeared before the Circuit Court of Alexandria Aug. 22 during a seizure hearing. Glenn Favreau, a former member of the Legionaries and a member of ReGAIN, told Catholic News Service Aug. 28 that the court accepted Lennon’s offer. No further steps have been taken in the case against Lennon and ReGAIN, Favreau said. The Legionaries are suing Lennon and ReGAIN to recover what the order claims is private property and to deter what it said is improper use of stolen materials. The complaint said ReGAIN, “along with other co-conspirators, have intentionally taken out of context excerpts from … stolen materials and posted them on the Internet as part of a concerted effort to wage a malicious disinformation campaign against the Legion.” The complaint, dated Aug. 2, was posted on the Web site of ReGAIN, which offers information about alleged problems associated with the Legionaries and Regnum Christi, an apostolic Catholic movement associated with the Legionaries. ReGAIN stands for Religious Groups Awareness International Network.

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WORLD

Nuns mark Mother Teresa’s birth, pray for victims of twin blasts

CALCUTTA, India (CNS) — The head of the Missionaries of Charity prayed for victims of the Aug. 25 bomb explosions in Hyderabad, India, during this year’s commemoration of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “We need to pray that those responsible realize their wrongs. We should also ask pardon from God for those involved and pray for their repentance,” Mother Teresa’s successor, Sister Nirmala Joshi, told reporters Aug. 26, the 97th anniversary of the birth of the Missionaries of Charity founder. “We need to pray for the families lost, and we need to pray that God gives them comfort and courage.” Twin blasts the previous day killed at least 42 people in Hyderabad. Some officials said they suspect Islamic terrorists were to blame, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency. The explosions went off almost simultaneously in a restaurant and at an outdoor laser-show arena. Police reportedly defused 19 more bombs hidden in plastic bags at bus stops, cinemas, road junctions and pedestrian bridges across the city.

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Scottish cardinal resigns from Amnesty to protest its abortion policy

LONDON (CNS) — A Scottish cardinal has announced his resignation from Amnesty International to protest the group’s new policy to fight for the decriminalization of abortion around the world. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh said it was with “great sadness” that he quit an organization he joined as a student more than 40 years ago. He said he was no longer able to support the human rights group in good conscience after it voted at a mid-August meeting in Mexico to fight for abortion rights. “That basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life, is recognized by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document upon which Amnesty International was founded,” Cardinal O’Brien said in an Aug. 28 letter to John Watson, program director of Amnesty in Scotland. “Sadly, now Amnesty International seems to be placing itself at the forefront of a campaign for a universal right to abortion in contravention to that basic right to human life.” He added: “For me it is a matter of conscience that I have decided to resign from Amnesty International. Others must follow their own consciences.”

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Parish life goes on amid loss after earthquake in southern Peru

INDEPENDENCIA, Peru (CNS) — Although Rosana Lujan’s house was damaged by the mid-August earthquake that struck the southern coast of Peru, she was more worried about the children in a neighboring village where she teaches preschool. “People are asking for tents, especially for the kids,” she said Aug. 26 as she gathered with other catechists in this Peruvian desert town. Edgar Sanchez, 21, wondered aloud how they would continue first Communion and confirmation preparation since the earthquake cracked the walls of the parish center and the church building, which had already lost its roof in a milder temblor in 2001. “The young people and the catechists still have a lot of energy, and people are coming, but with the buildings in this state, how are we going to have classes?” he asked. In a tent, someone said. Or in the plaza. Classes were suspended that day, but the group hoped to resume the following week. The magnitude 8 earthquake hit St. Clement Parish in the city of Pisco hard. The roof of the cathedral on the main plaza collapsed, killing more than 100 people, including two Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and injuring one of the Vincentian priests on the parish staff. But parish life goes on amid loss.

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In Peruvian city of Pisco, two minutes changed the lives of everyone

PISCO, Peru (CNS) — Where the colonial St. Clement Church once loomed over the main plaza of this fishing port, there is now just a blank space blanketed by an ankle-deep layer of dust. But before 7 a.m. one morning in late August, the parish office was open for business in a tent around the corner. A rescue worker starting his shift knelt beside a crucifix outside the tent to pray silently for a moment before crossing himself and continuing on his way. A small boy offered to sell Vincentian Father Javier Gamero Torres a candy bar, but settled for a bottle of water, then broke into a smile when the priest gave him a plastic toy from a bag just dropped off by a young woman. Another woman stopped to tell her story again — the terror, the loss, the fear that remains after a magnitude 8 earthquake turned her house into a jumble of bricks. As tears rolled down her cheeks, Father Gamero embraced her. Minutes later, he brushed tears from his own eyes. “Sometimes all you can do is listen,” he later said. The quake, he said, was “two minutes that changed our lives completely.”

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Quake made life more difficult for rural Peruvians

DOS PALOS, Peru (CNS) — The massive earthquake that struck the southern coast of Peru has made life in the parched countryside even more difficult for people accustomed to scraping by on barely $1 a day. Most houses in rural Peru are built of adobe bricks made by hand and dried in the sun. The magnitude 8 quake, which lasted more than two minutes Aug. 15, shattered walls and collapsed roofs of houses in rural parts of the department of Ica, the southern district of the department of Lima and part of mountainous Huancavelica. While government and international aid mainly has been focused on the cities of Pisco, which was nearest to the epicenter and hardest hit, and Ica, about 42 miles south, Catholic Church workers are fanning out to reach distant rural zones. On Aug. 26, Rosana Lujan, Luz Perez and Maria Suyo, catechists from the town of Independencia — part of St. Clement Parish in Pisco — walked up and down the dusty streets of Dos Palos village. About 400 families live in this village along the road that links the south coast with the central highlands. At first glance, the houses seemed to have withstood the quake, but behind the pastel-colored facades that image was shattered. Residents greeted the three women and invited them inside to inspect the damage — cracks in adobe walls, sagging ceilings, or places where roofs had collapsed. “We’re afraid to stay inside,” said one woman. So like most of her neighbors, she has rigged up a shelter of poles and plastic in front of her house, which will be home for her family until they can repair their house. Aurora Ancaya, who helps with parish ministry in the village of Humay, just up the road from Dos Palos, said, “It will take a long time to rebuild homes and rebuild lives.”

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PEOPLE

Group bikes to Rome to raise funds for Canterbury cathedral

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — An unusual group of pilgrims was given special treatment when they arrived dusty and sweaty in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 26. Escorted along Rome’s streets by Italian firefighters, 27 men and women were greeted in the square by representatives from the Vatican and the Italian and British governments after cycling 1,110 miles from Canterbury Cathedral in England to Rome. Dirty, perspiring and “still dressed in our (fancy) bike clothes, they still put us in the front” seats in St. Peter’s Basilica for Sunday vespers, the Rev. Edward Condry, an Anglican canon, cyclist and pilgrimage organizer, told Catholic News Service Aug. 27. As canon treasurer of Canterbury Cathedral, Rev. Condry is responsible for the infrastructure and finance of the cathedral which, he said, is in need of repair and restoration. He said the fundraising pilgrimage so far raised more than $218,200. The bulk of the money — $150,000 — will go to the Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal to renovate the 600-year-old cathedral, he said, and the rest is earmarked for individual charities.

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Body of first bishop of Mississippi exhumed in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The first bishop of Mississippi recently made his final trip from Baltimore to Natchez, Miss. — 155 years after he died in Maryland. Born in Baltimore Oct. 4, 1795, to refugees from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Bishop John J. Chanche was ordained a Sulpician priest in Baltimore in 1819, became the president of the old St. Mary’s College there in 1834, and was named the first bishop of the Diocese of Natchez by Pope Gregory XVI in 1841. He died in Frederick, Md., July 22, 1852 — presumably of cholera — while en route to Natchez after participating in the First Plenary Council in Baltimore. Though he was the bishop of Natchez, the native Baltimorean was buried at the original Cathedral Cemetery in West Baltimore and reinterred at the New Cathedral Cemetery on Old Frederick Road Feb. 11, 1878, but the bishop wanted his remains moved to St. Mary Basilica in Natchez, the church he helped establish. “Bishop Chanche had the vision of building what was then our cathedral,” said Father David O’Connor, pastor of the former cathedral, which was named a basilica in 1999. “About a year ago we decided that we should try to bring his remains back here.”

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Dutch priest faces fine for waking neighbors with church bells

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Catholic priest in the Netherlands has been fined for disturbing local residents by ringing bells at his church. In a telephone interview, Father Harm Schilder, rector of St. Margaret Mary Parish in the center of Tilburg, told Catholic News Service Aug. 28 that after he returned from vacation the previous day he had received an official notice of more than $27,300 in fines. He said he was awaiting a final city council ruling before deciding whether to take the matter to court. “These bells were already very small, so it’s foolish to claim the noise is disturbing public order,” said the priest, who has been tolling the bells daily at 7:15 a.m. for the first morning Mass. “We have a right to ring them — and if we muffle them any more, no one will hear them and they’ll cease to serve any purpose.” Michiel Savelsbergh, spokesman for ‘s-Hertogenbosch Diocese, where the parish is located, said the incident “isn’t an anti-Catholic protest, just a case of unacceptable noise levels.” He denied that it indicated “social pressure” against the church. “We’ve advised him to find quieter bells,” Savelsbergh said.

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