Today in the Diocese
ODESSA — Bishop Pfeifer presides over Mass for students at St. Mary’s, 2 p.m.
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Task force distributes $10 million to Katrina-stricken dioceses
WASHINGTON (CNS) — More than $10 million was distributed by the U.S. bishops’ Hurricane Recovery Task Force to the two dioceses hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. The “Rebuild Church, Rebuild Hope” collection approved in June 2006 by the bishops distributed $6,175,103.41 to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and $4,116,735.60 to the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss., according to Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, retired archbishop of Galveston-Houston and task force chairman. The bishops of the two dioceses had previously agreed on a 60-40 division of the funds raised through the collection, Archbishop Fiorenza said in a letter dated Aug. 8; the letter, addressed to the U.S. bishops, was released Aug. 31. The first national collection to support hurricane relief and recovery efforts generated more than $130 million, Archbishop Fiorenza said. The $10 million in funds was raised in a collection in U.S. parishes last year on the weekend closest to the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
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Oregon parish revives Assisi pledge against violence, war
PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Discouraged by developments in Iraq, a committee at one Portland Catholic parish is about to launch a faith-based initiative toward peaceful resolutions. At St. Juan Diego Parish in September, parishioners will be able to take the Assisi pledge, a statement made by 200 religious leaders at a 2002 meeting in Italy convened by Pope John Paul II. The meeting took place in Assisi, Italy, the home of St. Francis, who is often evoked because of his life of nonviolence and efforts for peace. The pledge says, in part, “We commit ourselves to proclaiming that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion.” The organizer of the St. Juan Diego project says a desire for moving past warfare in Iraq is becoming more and more mainstream and a great many parishioners would be ready to take the pledge. He plans to have a Spanish translation and hopes the idea of the pledge will spread to other parishes.
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Two ‘freshmen’ from France hope to touch hearts at N.J. university
MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CNS) — They’ve traveled a great distance to open doors and touch hearts, one person at a time. Sister Faustine of Jesus and Sister Jeanne Marie, from the Community of the Apostolic Sisters of St. John in Burgundy, France, recently arrived in Montclair to serve as Catholic campus ministers at Montclair State University’s Newman Center. Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, the archdiocese in which the university is located, invited the sisters to serve in the archdiocese several months ago. Though still adjusting to their new environment, they were clear regarding their mission and ministry: to reach out and establish personal relationships that celebrate the spirituality of Montclair State students. “We are here mainly for the Catholic students of Montclair State, but we are open to speak with students of all faiths, to help open the door to their hearts and satisfy their thirst for the truth,” Sister Faustine said in a lilting French accent. Sister Jeanne Marie said that, as Catholic campus ministers, their duties will include Bible studies and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programs, as well as serving as a “praying presence” on the campus.
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Pope urges megagathering of youths to ‘go against the current’
LORETO, Italy (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI urged a megagathering of Italian young people to embrace Christ and “go against the current” of a culture marked by violence, arrogance and selfishness. The pope also struck a strong ecological theme, saying young people need to press for courageous changes to save the planet “before it’s too late.” An estimated 500,000 youths applauded the pope’s words at a prayer vigil Sept. 1 and at a Mass the following day, on a hillside next to the Marian shrine of Loreto. The weekend assembly also featured music and skits, but the highlight was clearly the pope’s presence. “The (Christian) message is this: Do not follow the way of pride but the way of humility,” the pope said at the Mass. “Go against the current: Don’t listen to the persuasive and self-seeking voices that today promote lifestyles marked by arrogance and violence, by self-importance and success at any cost, by appearances and possession to the detriment of being,” he said.
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New Vatican official wants cultural duel to become duet of dialogue
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The new head of the Pontifical Council for Culture said he wants to help turn the duel between different cultures and religions into a harmonious duet of dialogue and understanding. Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, a noted biblical scholar and former prefect of the Milan Archdiocese’s Ambrosian Library, was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 3 to replace the long-serving council president, French Cardinal Paul Poupard. Msgr. Ravasi will be ordained an archbishop in late September. The pope accepted the resignation of the 77-year-old cardinal, who was a leader of the council since its creation by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Pope Benedict also appointed Archbishop-designate Ravasi, 64, president of the pontifical commissions for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and for Sacred Archeology. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, who was appointed secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in the spring, had headed both commissions.
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Bishop: U.S. should play role in restarting Israeli-Palestinian talks
JERUSALEM (CNS) — The United States has a responsibility to play a vital role in restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee. “We have a certain responsibility. By not being engaged at this level it will certainly involve us in ways we do not want to be involved in (later),” said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla. “There needs to be a negotiated solution. “The status quo is not tenable,” he said. “The two partners are not on equal strength … and the USA has to prevail on Israel to negotiate in good faith and not take advantage of the Palestinian weakness.” He said the U.S. bishops’ conference needs to encourage both sides to negotiate and to reach a workable solution in which East Jerusalem still has a role in Palestinian society. East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians say the city should be the capital of a future Palestine. Bishop Wenski’s five-day visit, which began Aug. 29, was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services.
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Koreans Christians reflect on work abroad after hostage crisis
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) — As 19 South Korean hostages returned safely to their country, Catholic and Protestant church leaders said it was time to reflect on overseas missions and service. “I welcome the release of all hostages and thank all who made great effort(s) to save their lives in and outside Korea. But I cannot restrain my grief toward the two men killed there,” said the Rev. Kwon Oh-sung, secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea. He spoke to UCA News, an Asian church news agency. The 19 Korean hostages, who were kidnapped July 19 in Afghanistan, arrived home Sept. 2 and were reunited with their families. The Koreans, all members of Saemmul Community Church in Seongnam, near Seoul, arrived in Afghanistan July 13 to provide free medical and educational services and were supposed to leave July 23. Their kidnappers were members of the Taliban, which controlled most of Afghanistan until a U.S.-led coalition ousted them in 2001. The captors killed two of the men in late July and released two women in early August. In exchange for the prisoners’ release, the South Korean government promised to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and said it would stop missionaries from traveling there.
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Chinese-elected bishop to be ordained Sept. 8 with Vatican approval
HONG KONG (CNS) — Bishop-designate Paul Xiao Zejiang was to be ordained coadjutor bishop of Guizhou Sept. 8, the feast of Mary’s birth, several church sources told the Asian church news agency UCA News. Bishop-designate Xiao has received papal approval for his ordination and will be ordained in the cathedral in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province. He was elected by priests and other representatives of the diocese last October. The bishop-designate, 40, is a vicar general in the diocese. As coadjutor, he would automatically succeed 89-year-old Bishop Anicetus Wang Chongyi of Guizhou upon the bishop’s death or retirement. Bishop Wang is expected to preside at the ordination. Father Long Chengzhong, the other vicar general, told UCA News that Bishop Wang has asked Bishop Louis Yu Runchen of Hanzhong and Auxiliary Bishop Paul He Zeqing of Wanxian to serve as the co-ordaining prelates.
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Boise bishop urges support for resigning U.S. senator and his family
BOISE, Idaho (CNS) — Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise urged Idahoans to pray and support Sen. Larry Craig and his family Sept. 1, hours after the senator announced that he was resigning his post. “Seeing his family and friends behind him, I could not help but feel compassion for this man who has served the state well for 27 years in Congress and six years in the state Legislature. This must have been the most difficult decision of his professional career and I can’t imagine the impact it must have on his family,” said Bishop Driscoll. Craig’s resignation ended a week marked by escalating pressure that followed published reports of a guilty plea resulting from an arrest in a Minneapolis airport months ago. At a press conference at the historic Boise Depot, Craig, surrounded by family and friends, announced that he would resign his Senate seat effective Sept. 30.
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Marquette law school gets $30 million as part of Milwaukee initiative
MILWAUKEE (CNS) — Marquette University’s law school will get $30 million in the next few months from Joseph Zilber, a Milwaukee real estate magnate who graduated from the law school in 1941. Zilber, 89, said he would contribute another $20 million to other Milwaukee organizations yet to be identified as part of his “New Potential for Milwaukee” initiative. “The city of Milwaukee has been very good to me, my company and my employees,” Zilber said at an Aug. 21 press conference on the site of the planned new law school building. “These commitments are my attempt to return to the community of my birth the investment that it made in me.” Of the $30 million gift, $5 million will be for a new law school building and $25 million is earmarked for scholarships. Zilber established a scholarship program in 1984 to provide financial aid for Marquette law students. Joseph Kearney, the law school dean, said the $25 million represents a “massive expansion” of the program.
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Vatican police cadet dies in apparent suicide
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A 25-year-old Vatican police cadet died from a gunshot wound to the head, the victim of an apparent suicide, the Vatican said. Alessandro Benedetti, who joined the elite Vatican gendarme corps in April, was discovered in grave condition in the bathroom of his Vatican barracks early Sept. 3. Rushed to a nearby hospital by fellow cadets, he died shortly afterward. The Vatican said Benedetti had left a note and that “the initial evidence indicates he wanted to kill himself.” Vatican judicial authorities were conducting an investigation into the case. Pope Benedict XVI, who was not at the Vatican at the time of the shooting, was deeply saddened by the news, a Vatican statement said. “The Holy Father entrusts the young Alessandro to God’s mercy. He is spiritually close to the Benedetti family and the members of the gendarme corps,” the statement said.
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Architect discovers Passionists’ tombstones while building home
PITTSBURGH (CNS) — When a neighborhood girl playing near his property in Pittsburgh’s Overbrook neighborhood asked Mark Trimbur whether you would die if you touched a tombstone, the architect admits to being less than tactful. “I answered that we all die whether you touch a tombstone or not,” he said. Trimbur is an associate with Hayes Large Architects in downtown Pittsburgh. The day after the conversation with the girl, he was opening second-floor windows when he saw that one side of the house was dotted with tombstones.”I had assumed the kids were pretending there were tombstones,” he said. “Looking at the inscriptions, I also quickly realized that all the tombstones belonged to priests.” Further investigation revealed 15 tombstones, with dates of death from the late 1930s to the early ’50s. Each bore the initials “C.P.,” indicating the deceased were members of the Passionist order. After conversations with Father Gerald Laba, rector of the St. Paul of the Cross monastery on Pittsburgh’s South Side, Trimbur said, “We established that indeed the priests were buried at the monastery and currently had markers on their graves.” Eventually Father Laba “arranged to take the stones back and bury them on monastery grounds,” Trimbur said. Father Laba speculated that the community might have had new stones made because the older ones were deteriorating.