This Weekend in the Diocese
MIDLAND — Baptism, St. Ann’s, 11 a.m. Bishop Pfeifer celebrant.
SAN ANTONIO — Bishop Pfeifer attended meeting of Texas Bishops’ Conference.
SATURDAY — Rev. Peter Vergauwen (2003)
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
USCCB urges greater U.S. resettlement assistance for Iraqi refugees
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. government should provide resettlement aid for 25,000 Iraqi refugees in the next fiscal year, 10 times the number expected to arrive by the end of the year, said one recommendation of a new report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Iraqi refugee crisis in the Middle East. “Iraqi refugees with relatives in the United States should be considered for U.S. resettlement on the basis of family reunification, dropping the requirement that they enter as refugees or migrants,” said the report, “Escaping Mayhem and Murder: Iraqi Refugees in the Middle East.” The report, issued Sept. 10 in Washington, was based on a seven-member USCCB fact-finding mission undertaken July 2-13. Among the seven participants were Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee. The delegation visited Istanbul, Turkey; Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Damascus, Syria. These countries currently host an estimated 2 million Iraqi refugees.
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Eight Washington Catholic schools could become charter schools
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Because of growing deficits and declining enrollments faced by its center-city Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of Washington announced a proposal Sept. 7 to reconfigure a consortium made up of the 12 schools. According to the proposal, four of the 12 Catholic schools currently in the Center City Consortium would make up a new consortium and the other eight schools would form a values-based charter school group by the next school year. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. Under the proposed plan, the parishes would lease their buildings to the charter operator. The proposal was announced following a consultation that began this spring. The plan is expected to undergo further consultation with diocesan officials, pastors, parents, school staffs and school and parish advisory councils of the affected schools. Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl is expected to make a decision on the proposal by late October after the consultation is completed.
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Oakland Diocese unveils new plan to save Catholic schools
OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) — In an effort to keep struggling Catholic schools open in the Oakland Diocese, diocesan officials have developed a plan inviting eight schools to function as part of a consortium enabling schools to lower expenses by sharing resources. Rick Kruska, school superintendent, said the new Oakland Catholic Schools Consortium will function as a “one stop” administrative umbrella to take the pressure off principals so that they can concentrate on academic performance. Consortium staff will manage finances and facilities, development and marketing, curriculum standardization, purchasing consolidation and personnel. The consortium will cost $200,000 per year to operate and will be financed through national and local foundation grants as well as fundraisers, said Kruska, who plans to hire the consortium’s executive director by October. Three additional directors in charge of finances, development and academics will be in place by January 2008, he said. Their first joint assignment will be to increase enrollment for the 2008-09 school year.
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Vatican excommunicates some members of Canadian sect
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has announced the excommunication of certain members of the Army of Mary, a sect in Canada whose teachings have been deemed dangerous and erroneous by church authorities. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, acting with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, declared the excommunication after the Army of Mary performed ordinations without church permission, the Canadian bishops’ conference said in a statement Sept. 12. The Army of Mary was founded in Quebec in 1971 by Marie-Paul Giguere, who said she was receiving visions from God. The organization’s publications suggested that Giguere was the reincarnation of Mary, a claim that led church leaders in 1987 to warn the faithful that the group could not be considered Catholic. The Army of Mary defied church authorities earlier this year when it ordained several new priests. Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec declared that the priest who conducted the ordination had no authority to do so, and the cardinal issued a public warning against the group. The doctrinal congregation said it was announcing the excommunications because there was no hope of another solution to what had become a “very grave situation,” the Canadian bishops’ statement said.
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Pope says Catholic schools help develop responsible citizens
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Catholic schools and faith-based education benefit civil society by helping young people grow into responsible citizens, Pope Benedict XVI said. “It is important that states continue to guarantee the church the freedom to establish and administer Catholic schools, affording parents the opportunity to choose a means of education that fosters the Christian formation of their children,” he said in a private audience with Slovakia’s new ambassador to the Vatican. When Jozef Dravecky presented his letters of credential to the pope Sept. 13, Pope Benedict underlined the importance of offering young people “a solid education that nourishes all the dimensions of the human person, including the religious and spiritual,” saying such education was “in the interest of both church and state.” Christian teachings and values help young people “appreciate their personal dignity” and give them “a purpose and direction for their lives,” he said, acknowledging that Slovakia had such a system.
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Seoul Archdiocese warns against meetings with Archbishop Milingo
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) — The Seoul Archdiocese has cautioned Catholics against meeting or consulting with an excommunicated African archbishop residing in South Korea. Lay Catholics are to consult with their parish priests if they are invited to any meeting with Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, the Sept. 9 archdiocesan bulletin advised. The Asian church news agency UCA News reported the bulletin told Catholics, “Former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who married a member of the Unification Church and caused a scandal, was excommunicated by the Vatican.” The bulletin pointed out that the excommunicated archbishop is promoting his U.S.-based Married Priests Now! movement in South Korea. The movement that he founded in July 2006 advocates that the Roman Catholic Church allow married priests in active ministry. Under church law, Latin-rite Catholic priests must remain unmarried and are bound to celibacy.
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CRS worker: Need drives fasting Indonesians to help quake victims
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Though Indonesian Muslims may be hungry, thirsty and tired from Ramadan fasting, the “overwhelming need” to respond to victims of mid-September earthquakes is driving Indonesians to help, said a church aid worker. Muslims already are sacrificing during the monthlong fast, and now they will be helping people who have suffered from the damage caused by the two earthquakes that hit the island of Sumatra within 24 hours, said Rich Balmadier, Catholic Relief Services’ Indonesia country director based in Jakarta. Though Muslims may be physically less comfortable during Ramadan because they fast each day until sundown, from an organizational standpoint Ramadan will not affect emergency response, Balmadier told Catholic News Service in telephone interviews Sept. 12 and 13. Balmadier said Sept. 13 he was still acquiring and assessing information and the full extent of damage caused by the quakes was not yet known.
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Years later, Thai Catholic team still helps tsunami survivors
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNS) — Mental and physical health are the focus of a church-run volunteer medical team that has been helping survivors of the December 2004 tsunami. The Bangkok-based St. Louis Foundation and St. Agnes Church in Krabi, more than 400 miles southwest of the capital, Bangkok, are in the last year of a mobile medical service project for the survivors. Two days a month, a medical team provides free health care in the tsunami-damaged areas of Krabi province. Normally, two doctors and six nurses, accompanied by a priest and a nun, are assigned to the service. Father Chatchaval Suphalak, president of the foundation and vice president of the Bangkok Archdiocese’s St. Louis Hospital, said the foundation helps people regardless of race or religion. “St. Louis Hospital is a church hospital that helps those who are sick, and we are glad to help our brothers and sisters without anything in return,” he told the Asian church news agency UCA News in early September.
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Jesuit journal: Strong spiritual life helps keep priests from burnout
ROME (CNS) — A strong spiritual life supported by reading and reflecting on sacred Scripture can help protect priests from the emotional exhaustion of burnout, said an influential Jesuit journal. In a Sept. 15 article released to journalists Sept. 13, La Civilta Cattolica summarized the results of a recent survey on the presence and causes of burnout among diocesan priests in Padua, in northern Italy. The Rome-based biweekly journal, reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication, said the researchers were unable to elaborate on their brief suggestion that “a steady spiritual life” could have a positive effect on an overburdened clergy. The Jesuit journal said in its opinion spiritual reading or “lectio divina” is a “tried and true protection” against spiritual and emotional depletion. The survey was published last year by the University of Padua. Of the diocese’s 450 priests, 321 responded to the survey.
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Chilean court indicts priest for covering up 1973 military executions
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) — A Chilean appeals court indicted Father Luis Jorquera Molina, a former army chaplain, for covering up the execution and secret burial of 28 political prisoners in September 1973. The court ordered his arrest. This is the first time a tribunal has prosecuted a priest for human rights violations committed during the 17-year military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The 72-year-old priest faces a five-year prison sentence. On Aug. 30 the Antofagasta Court of Appeals indicted the priest, along with 10 officers and an army doctor, for their alleged roles in covering up the murder of political opponents near Calama, about 930 miles north of the capital, Santiago. The crimes were part of a broader military campaign known as the “Death Caravan” in which military envoys appointed by Pinochet traveled to towns and cities in the North and eliminated more than 70 political prisoners. On Oct. 19, 1973, the military envoys ordered 28 of the prisoners taken from the Calama jail, where they were being held, and sent to the city outskirts to be executed. Father Jorquera, then chaplain of the Calama Regiment, allegedly helped the military locate a burial site that would go unnoticed and participated in the clandestine mass burial. A few years later, upon orders from Pinochet, the victims’ remains were exhumed and dumped over the Pacific Ocean; they have never been found.
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Palestinian beer on tap during West Bank village’s Oktoberfest
TAYBEH, West Bank (CNS) — Beer flowed freely, the smell of grilled meat wafted in the air and the beat of the traditional “darbuka” drum resounded through the hillside as this all-Christian Palestinian village celebrated its version of the German Oktoberfest. Later, when evening fell over the village and people had their fill of sticky Arabic sweets and custard-filled doughnuts, the drum beats were replaced by the pounding sounds of Palestinian hip-hop groups while young, fashionably dressed Palestinians danced to the hypnotic rhythms. The Taybeh Oktoberfest has been celebrated in September for the past two years out of deference to Muslims who have marked at least part of their monthlong Ramadan fast in October. Some 5,500 people — including members of the international community — attended this year’s festival Sept. 8-9 in Taybeh.
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Work starts on new Kosovo cathedral dedicated to Mother Teresa
OXFORD, England (CNS) — Work has started on a new cathedral in Kosovo dedicated to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “This is a good project, and it has our government’s full backing,” said Xhavit Beqiri, spokesman for the Kosovo presidency. “Mother Teresa is a great authority worldwide and a positive symbol for Kosovo. So I think the cathedral will have support from everyone living here.” A groundbreaking ceremony in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, was held Sept. 5 at the 32-acre site, which will also include a Catholic cultural and educational center. Two days after a 2005 groundbreaking ceremony, the site was damaged by a grenade explosion. Bishop Dode Gjergji of Sape, Albania, who is the apostolic administrator of Prizren, Kosovo, said donations for the cathedral were being collected throughout Kosovo, which forms part of Serbia and has been under U.N. administration since 1999. Catholics make up only 3 percent of the 2.1 million inhabitants of Kosovo.
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Church officials examine writings of theologian Father Peter Phan
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Church officials are examining the writings of a Vietnamese-American theologian, Father Peter Phan, who has written numerous books, including “Being Religious Interreligiously” in 2004. “There has been correspondence and dialogue” between Father Phan and the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, according to Father Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan who is executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices. Father Weinandy told Catholic News Service Sept. 13 he could not comment on the private dialogue in order to “respect the privacy of Father Phan and the work of the committee.” A story published Sept. 12 by the National Catholic Reporter said the Vatican had concerns about Father Phan’s 2004 book, saying it is “notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities.” An official at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the congregation had no comment on the report. Father Phan could not be reached for comment by CNS Sept. 13. The priest of the Dallas Diocese came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975. He holds the Ellacuria chair of Catholic social thought in the theology department at Georgetown University in Washington.
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Glenmary priest receives Pax Christi’s Teacher of Peace Award
STANTON, Ky. (CNS) — To some, he is the coordinator of the Commission for Justice and Peace for the Diocese of Lexington. Others know him as the director of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia. Still others call him a gourmet cook, a thought-provoking homilist or a caring visitor to those in prison. Now, everyone will know Glenmary Father John Rausch as a “teacher of peace.” Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, awarded Father Rausch its 2007 Teacher of Peace Award Sept. 12 in Washington. Father Rausch dismisses the idea that he already is a teacher of peace, saying, “I’m going to grow into a teacher of peace. I see this as a great moniker. I see this as a great goal.” In his nomination of Father Rausch, Lexington Bishop Ronald W. Gainer wrote: “Father John is a man who is truly concerned for the welfare and justice of others, especially the people of Appalachia.” Father Rausch’s years of work demonstrate that. The Philadelphia native joined the Glenmary Home Missioners when he was just out of high school.
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Priest admits embezzling parish funds; diocese vows transparency
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CNS) — After a diocesan priest pleaded guilty to taking funds obtained by fraud across state lines in a case involving an estimated $1.4 million in parish funds, the Diocese of Bridgeport told Catholics that they will see “total financial accountability and transparency” in the future. In a Sept. 12 statement, the diocese said it hoped the guilty plea that day by Father M. Jude Fay would help the Catholic community at St. John Parish in Darien “put a sad chapter of its history behind it and finalize the healing process.” The diocese said Father Fay, who was suspended from performing any priestly duties more than a year ago, “remains unauthorized to function as a priest.” Father Fay, 56, was forced to resign as pastor of the Darien parish in May 2006 after evidence emerged that he had been embezzling parish funds to live a lavish lifestyle. Auditors concluded Father Fay had stolen about $1.4 million from the parish since 2000.