Today (10.01.07)

Today in the Diocese

   No events in the diocese today

Today’s Readings

Zechariah 8:1-8
Psalm 102:16-21, 29, 22-23
Luke 9:46-50

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service


Church official calls current immigration reform debate inflammatory

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The current tone in the immigration reform debate has “inflamed fears and misunderstanding among some portions of the American public, leading to a polarized and vitriolic atmosphere,” said a U.S. church official. Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, noted that while “voices of division and fear are loud” the “truth about immigration and migrants in this country ultimately will prevail.” The bishop, in a Sept. 27 statement issued in Washington, said migrant workers, including the undocumented, make important contributions to the nation’s economy through their work in agriculture, construction and service industries. He faulted the United Stated for refusing “to acknowledge these contributions” and relegating migrants to “a permanent underclass of workers, without full rights.” The failure of the U.S. Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this summer has set back, but not ended, attempts to repair the immigration system, according to the bishop.

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Spokane Diocese moves toward bankruptcy end with $5 million payment

SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) — In what Bishop William S. Skylstad called “just one small step toward healing for the victims,” the Diocese of Spokane was to wire $5 million Oct. 1 to a trust account set up to pay the claims of those sexually abused by clergy in the diocese. The payment to the Plan Trustee Trust Account, as stipulated by the bankruptcy reorganization plan approved in April, brings the diocese “one step closer to fulfilling the requirements of the plan and concluding the Chapter 11 reorganization,” Bishop Skylstad said in a Sept. 27 statement. A payment of $1 million remains and must be made by Oct. 1, 2009, he said. Bishop Skylstad said the diocese “has incurred approximately $3.4 million in debt to date, which includes payment for trade creditors by January 2008.” He said he would “continue fundraising to reduce the level of debt, so that ministry support in eastern Washington can continue.” Under the terms of the settlement plan, the 176 childhood victims of abuse by priests or other church personnel in the diocese will receive compensation ranging from $15,000 to $1.5 million, depending on several factors, including the severity of the abuse and whether or not the statute of limitations had run out before the claim was made.

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U.S. religious leaders meet with Iran’s president, stress diplomacy

NEW YORK (CNS) — U.S. religious leaders are “deeply concerned about the prospect of war with Iran,” said a professor from a Catholic college who was part of an interfaith delegation that met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sept. 26 in New York. But Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in Riverdale, said he left the meeting feeling hopeful because of statements Ahmadinejad made about the “renunciation of war and the quest for peace.” “This meeting was an attempt to build bridges with Iran despite the generally hostile reception President Ahmadinejad received here in New York City,” Fahey said in a statement issued after the meeting. “We strongly believe that only through formal and informal diplomacy and respect for international law can there be peace between Iran and the U.S.” Protests greeted Ahmadinejad while he was in New York to address the U.N. Security Council Sept. 25. He spoke to an audience at Columbia University the same day.

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Crookston, Minn., bishop retires; Minnesota priest named successor

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Victor H. Balke of Crookston, Minn., and appointed as his successor Msgr. Michael J. Hoeppner, vicar general of the Diocese of Winona, Minn. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the changes in Washington Sept. 28. The announcement came one day shy of Bishop Balke’s 76th birthday. He submitted his resignation when he turned 75 last September. Canon law requires all bishops to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. Bishop-designate Hoeppner, 58, will be ordained and installed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Crookston Nov. 30. Winona Bishop Bernard J. Harrington applauded the appointment, describing Bishop-designate Hoeppner as “well prepared and well qualified.” “I know the people and the clergy of the Diocese of Crookston will welcome him with open arms and work with him to build up the church of Crookston,” he said.

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Hill hearing looks at SEC proposals to limit stockholder resolutions

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Religious groups and other investment consortiums whose portfolios include many of the corporations whose stock is traded on Wall Street found a sympathetic ear Sept. 27 in the House Committee on Financial Services at a hearing it held on Capitol Hill. The investment groups have been gathering support against a couple of Securities and Exchange Commission proposals that would, among other things, restrict the ability of shareholders to offer resolutions at annual stockholders meetings. The resolutions have covered such diverse ground as South Africa, pollution and climate change and urge corporate action on issues advocates want to see addressed. Few resolutions actually garner a majority of the votes, but companies often bargain with the shareholder groups to avoid an embarrassing vote. At the hearing Timothy Smith, chairman of the board of the Social Investment Forum and senior vice president of Walden Asset Management Co., testified: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says this all the time about advocates who raise questions about corporate governance: We are special interest groups who have no interest in shareholder value. It’s a transparent myth used to marginalize opponents (that means) ‘I don’t like the issue you’re raising, therefore you’re a special interest group,'” he said.

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Connecticut Catholic hospitals agree to comply with new law on Plan B

HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) — Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals will provide emergency contraception to rape victims without requiring an ovulation test, in compliance with a new state law that takes effect Oct. 1. In a joint statement Sept. 27, the Catholic bishops and leaders of Catholic hospitals in the state said that, although they continue to believe that the law is flawed and should be changed, they would revise current protocols at the hospitals that call for both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test before the “morning-after” pill marketed as Plan B is administered. “To administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape, a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient,” the statement said. “The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present.” Plan B, containing a high dose of birth control pills, usually prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

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In Latin America and Africa, following one path to economic justice

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — A developing country went deeply into debt in the 1970s and was obligated by international lenders to establish free-market policies in the 1980s. However, the country continued to borrow to service a heavy debt burden. Today, mining is one of its main economic activities, but despite high international prices for minerals much of the population lives in poverty. When Jesuit Father Peter Henriot presented that scenario to pastoral workers in Lima in late September, he was not talking about Latin America, but about Africa. Father Henriot, director of the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, Zambia, sees lessons for Latin America in the African experience, and he sees the Catholic Church’s social teaching as a path to social and economic justice for both continents. Developing countries that are rich in natural resources are a “sad paradox of wealth in the midst of poverty,” said Father Henriot. He drew comparisons between Zambia and Peru. In both nations, mining is one of the main economic activities and, with international prices high, it is feasible to drill for oil and mine metals in places where it would not have been cost-effective 10 or 15 years ago. “The biggest challenge in Africa and Latin America can be expressed in the question, ‘What is our understanding of development?'” Father Henriot said.

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Asian church leaders call for peaceful solution to crisis in Myanmar

HONG KONG (CNS) — Religious leaders in Asia have joined world leaders in calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Myanmar, where the military junta has launched a deadly crackdown on demonstrators. In a message to the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, secretary-general of the Hong Kong-based Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, expressed his “deepest concern” over the “troubling events” in Myanmar. Media reported Sept. 28 that soldiers violently dispersed demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, killing at least 10 people and occupying or barricading Buddhist monasteries. UCA News, an Asian church news agency, reported that in the federation’s message to Archbishop Paul Zinghtung Grawng of Mandalay, Myanmar, Archbishop Quevedo said Asian bishops read with great sympathy and understanding the Myanmar bishops’ statement issued two days earlier, calling on Catholics to pray during the crisis.

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In message to Muslims, cardinal touches on violence, terrorism

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a message to the Muslim world, a leading Vatican official denounced terrorism and all violence committed in the name of religion. The message also took aim at religious discrimination, saying the rights of all believers must be protected during the “troubled times we are passing through.” The text, released by the Vatican Sept. 28, marked the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of prayer and fasting that concludes in mid-October. It was written by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who took over as head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue earlier this year. Christians and Muslims, the cardinal said, need to intensify their dialogue so that younger generations “do not become cultural or religious blocs opposed to each other.” Cardinal Tauran began and ended his message by expressing the church’s “warmest greetings” to the Islamic world. But the text touched on a number of sensitive issues, especially those of religious liberty, violence and terrorism.

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Has German pope re-Italianized the Roman Curia?

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Is Pope Benedict XVI re-Italianizing the Roman Curia? The question has percolated around Rome in recent months as a string of Vatican appointments left Italian prelates in high places. The pontifical councils that deal with social communications, canon law and cultural issues — until recently headed by an American, a Spaniard and a Frenchman — are now in the hands of Italian bishops. So are the Vatican Library and Secret Archives. The Vatican City governor’s office, which had been headed by U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, reverted to an Italian for the first time in 26 years. An Italian Jesuit now directs the Vatican Press Office, taking over from a Spaniard. A number of important middle-management posts at the Vatican, particularly in diplomatic and financial areas, also have gone to Italians. Some suspect the Italian resurgence may reflect the influence of Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s energetic secretary of state, who took office a year ago.

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Canadian bishops to focus on prioritizing national activities

OTTAWA (CNS) — Canada’s bishops will focus on prioritizing their national activities during their upcoming plenary meeting in October. During the Oct. 15-19 gathering in Cornwall, Ontario, the bishops will debate reducing the number of their national commissions from six to three and the possible creation of standing committees that would include lay experts, said Msgr. Mario Paquette, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops must find a way to accomplish their mission with fewer resources, he said. “Now they will discuss how they do things together: their activities, what are the fields to be covered … as a national conference,” Msgr. Paquette said. “Do they have to do everything on the national level?” Issues such as ecumenism and concern for refugees and migrants will remain national concerns, he said.

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Priest in Moscow praises new archbishop, but editor sees concerns

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Catholic leader in Russia said the Italian missionary named archbishop of Moscow will “be well able to lead the local church and find ways through difficult situations.” Archbishop-designate Paolo Pezzi, 47, “is highly educated, with great pastoral experience,” said Father Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference. “He speaks Russian well and has a deep interest in Russian culture, as well as a strong and visible record of achievement as seminary rector in St. Petersburg.” However, Olga Karpova, editor of the church’s Sviet Yevangelia Catholic weekly, said many Catholics had written the newspaper questioning Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of the Italian to replace Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, a Russian citizen who will return to his native Belarus as archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev. The two spoke to Catholic News Service by telephone Sept. 27 and 28.

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Priest from Jesuit Refugee Service killed in Sri Lankan blast

KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka (CNS) — Father Nicholas Pillai Pakiaranjith, 40, was killed in a blast from a claymore mine while he was driving food and supplies to displaced people near Kilinochchi, in an area under the control of Tamil rebels. Father Pakiaranjith coordinated the work of Jesuit Refugee Service in Sri Lanka’s Mannar district, where control is divided between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. The priest died Sept. 26; his funeral was scheduled for Sept. 29. One of the priest’s assistants also was injured in the blast. “We call upon the international community and all men and women of good will to condemn this killing and effectively voice their strong condemnation of the ongoing senseless war,” Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar said in press release. The bishop praised Father Pakiaranjith’s deep commitment to the poor and marginalized. “It is a heinous crime to attack and kill such peace-loving and unarmed heroes of our society,” the bishop said. “Enough blood has flowed on this little island nation. This blood cries for peace and not for vengeance.”

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Pope sends condolences on death of cardinal who worked in Zambia

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI sent condolences on the death of Cardinal Adam Kozlowiecki, a Jesuit who worked more than 50 years as a missionary in Zambia. The pope praised Cardinal Kozlowiecki in a telegram to church officials in Lusaka, the Zambian capital where the cardinal died Sept. 28 at the age of 96. Cardinal Kozlowiecki was the first archbishop of Lusaka but gave up his post in 1969 because he thought an African should take his place. He headed back into the bush and resumed his missionary work. The African who took over in Lusaka was Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, whose conflicts with the Vatican — over his healing ministry, his own short-lived marriage and his ordination of married men as bishops — led to his excommunication last year. The papal telegram praised Cardinal Kozlowiecki’s zealous service as a missionary and bishop and his “unwavering commitment to the spread of the Gospel.”

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For cardinal, World Youth Day preparation means spiritual readiness

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) — As planning for the world’s largest youthfest gathers momentum, Sydney’s cardinal said his main concern was the spiritual preparation of young Australians. Logistical difficulties will be involved in hosting up to a half-million people for World Youth Day 2008, admitted Sydney Cardinal George Pell, but he said he is confident that the July 15-20 celebration will be well organized. “The most important challenge is the spiritual and religious preparation,” he said. Both young people and clergy told a group of visiting journalists in late September that they feel religion slipping away in their culture. Nineteen percent of Australians did not claim a religion in a 2006 census, up 2 percent from the previous count. “An increasing minority of young Australians and other Australians are tempted to believe that you can live a good life without God,” said Cardinal Pell. “There’s an erosion of faith and practice.”

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Catholic from Myanmar expresses agony over violence in her country

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — A Catholic woman from Myanmar living in Manila said she is agonizing over the violence erupting in her country as she watches the news reports. She said she was grateful that people were rallying in front of the Myanmar Embassy to the Philippines to protest the crackdown on monks, students and other protesters in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, because her fellow citizens are afraid to speak out or congregate, even outside their country. The woman wrote her thoughts in a commentary for the Asian church news agency UCA News, which published them Sept. 28 without releasing her name. “It seems all of us (Philippine-based people from Myanmar) are suffering very painfully and quietly,” the woman said. “We cannot move in any way because we fear our government will give us trouble here in the Philippines or give our families trouble back home.” She said Myanmar people in the Philippines “don’t like to get together here because we are very afraid of our embassy. Whatever move we make, they will report back to Burma (the former name for Myanmar), and they can revoke our passport within an hour.”


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