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 May 9, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 9Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Life in refugee camp
Internally displaced Sudanese children from Mahli village in southern Darfur region collect rainwater for drinking and cooking in an improvised refugee camp in southern Sudan. The U.N. Security Council has authorized 10,000 troops for southern Sudan to implement a wide-ranging peace agreement between the Khartoum government and southern rebels.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Moses Muiruri

Environmental prize
Father Jose Andres Tamayo Cortez, 47, beams after receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize for leading the struggle for environmental justice in Honduras. He directs a coalition of subsistence farmers and community and religious leaders who are defending their lands against uncontrolled commercial logging.

RNS PHOTO’REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Honored for advocacy
Sister Emmanuelle, a French nun who is well known for fighting against global poverty, smiles after being honoured with the Grand Officier de l’ Ordre de la Couronne medal in Brussels, April 27. The award is delivered in the name of Belgian King Albert II.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Yves Herman

 

Catholic leaders urge E. Timor leader to resign
DILI, East Timor (AP) – Catholic Church leaders, who had led a week of protests in predominantly Catholic East Timor, broke off negotiations April 26 with the government and demanded the country’s Muslim prime minister step down.

Thousands of people had taken part in peaceful rallies here, initially demanding that religion be mandatory in public schools. Then they expanded their efforts to a general attack on the secular government and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

“Mari Alkatiri is a person who is very arrogant. He must resign or the people of East Timor will force him to step down,” said Father Apolinario Antonio Guterres, a Church spokesman. “East Timor’s Catholic Church will use whatever sources it has to force him to step down,” he said. A government spokesman dismissed the protesters’ demands and called on people to express their discontent through the ballot box.

Diocese seeks to cap payout for abuse claims
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – The Diocese of Tucson has filed an amended bankruptcy organization plan, seeking to cap its payout for sex-abuse claims at $20 million. A plaintiffs’ lawyer said the amount wasn’t enough and vowed to challenge the proposal.

Initial payments to alleged abuse victims would range from $100,000 to $600,000, depending on the severity of the abuse, according to the amended plan filed April 25.

The bankruptcy court has logged 103 abuse claims against the diocese, which in September became the second in the country to file for Chapter 11 reorganization protection in the face of litigation stemming from alleged sexual abuse by priests.

Critics said the cap falls short of compensating victims whose claims are substantiated. The plan would allow the diocese to keep any amount over $20 million that is raised to pay abuse claims, including contributions from parishes and money recovered from insurers under liability insurance policies or settlements.

Vatican Priest accused as secret police informer
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The priest in charge of caring for Polish pilgrims at the Vatican has been accused of collaborating with the communist secret police in the 1980s during the reign of Polish native Pope John Paul II.

An investigation into communist-era persecution of the Church in Poland turned up documents showing that Dominican Father Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo “was a secret collaborator of the Polish secret services under the names of Hejnal and Dominik,” said Leon Kieres, head of the state-run National Remembrance Institute that investigated Nazi and communist crimes in Poland.

Church officials warned against passing a hasty judgment. “We are still not sure of the type of cooperation, whether he was simply talking about the Holy Father with the secret services or was actually providing secret information on him,” Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek told The Associated Press. “If he was providing information, than this would be a very sad truth.”

Priest sentenced for embezzlement
PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) – A Catholic priest who admitted stealing more than $240,000 from two Van Buren County churches that he served has been sentenced to 300 days in the county jail.

Father Bogdon Werra was sentenced after pleading guilty to a felony count of embezzlement. He faced a maximum possible prison sentence of 10 years. The priest also was ordered to serve five years of probation, undergo counseling and pay restitution.

Moscow Patriarch says papal visit not possible
MOSCOW (AP) – The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Russia would be possible only after the two churches resolve their longtime differences.
“There cannot be a visit for the sake of a visit. There cannot be a meeting purely for television cameras,” the Interfax new agency quoted Patriarch Alexy II as saying.

Relations between the world’s two largest Christian communities have been tense amid Russian allegations of Catholic proselytizing. The tensions prevented the late Pope John Paul II from visiting Russia – a trip he had dreamed of making as part of his efforts to reconcile the two churches.

Panel named to probe allegations at hostel
NEW YORK (RNS) – A three-member panel has been appointed by the United Methodist Church to probe decades-old allegations of child abuse at a hostel for missionary children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The panel is a follow-up to a 2002 report by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that documented serial abuse at a separate Presbyterian school in Congo between 1945 and 1968. Presbyterian officials told the Methodists that abuse was also alleged at the Kinshasa hostel, which was administered by both churches, and said Methodist children or personnel may have been involved.
Both facilities are now closed. Church officials are urging anyone who was abused to contact the panel.

Academy to teach religious tolerance class
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (RNS) – The U.S. Air Force Academy has begun a mandatory class in religious tolerance for cadets and staff. Over the past four years, the 4,300-student school near Colorado Springs has received 55 complaints of religious discrimination. The grievances included use of religious slurs against non-Christian cadets, proselytizing by evangelical Christian students and special treatment given to Christian students and staff.

Holy Communion wafer removed from eBay
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A second Holy Communion wafer posted on eBay after supposedly being blessed by the late Pope John Paul II has been removed from the site by the seller.
Less than a week after a similar wafer supposedly blessed by the late pontiff was sold on eBay, another wafer hit the online marketplace April 17, with a starting bid of 100 British pounds ($196). Bidding on the wafer was scheduled to end April 27, but it was removed from the site soon after being posted.

The earlier eBay auction last month for a Communion wafer supposedly blessed by Pope John Paul II closed at $2,000, prompting outrage from Catholics.

Christians detained for praying in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia recently detained and later released 40 Pakistani Christians for participating in a prayer service in a house here in the capital city, according to reports in local newspapers.
Police reportedly raided the house where a group of men, women and children had gathered for prayer.

Authorities also found religious books and tapes at the site.
Islam is the official religion of the country and the law requires all citizens to be Muslim. In a 2003 report the U.S. State Department said that while the Saudi government allows non-Muslims to practice their religion privately that this policy is not consistently enforced. As a result the freedom of worship of some non-Muslims has been violated causing other non-Muslims to “worship in fear of harassment and in such a manner to avoid discovery.”

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