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 August 8, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 14Oakland, CA
News in Brief


Israeli activists who oppose their country’s withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip cover their mouths with an orange ribbon, a symbol of anti-disengagement protest in Israel, in front of the defense minister’s office in Jerusalem July 25. Numerous protests in support of Jewish settlers in Gaza continue to occur throughout the country.

RNS/REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen


Palestinian security forces celebrate after the visit by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie at the Palestinian security headquarters in Gaza, July 27. An independent report released the previous day said Palestinian security forces may not be sufficiently trained to take over when Israel withdraws from Gaza.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Polish holiday proposed honoring late pope
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Polish lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to support a measure that will establish a national day to honor Polish-born Pope John Paul II every Oct. 16.

That date was chosen because he was elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to sign the measure into law. The annual holiday will be dedicated to remembering and studying the late pontiff’s teachings, but won’t be a government holiday. Banks, schools and government offices will not be closed.

Emergency contraception bill vetoed in Mass.
BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has vetoed a bill that would have expanded access to emergency contraception.

The Republican governor said the medication prevents fertilization, but can also halt a fertilized egg from developing – something anti-abortion groups oppose. The bill would require hospital emergency room doctors to offer the medication to rape victims, and would make it available without prescription from pharmacies. A provision that exempted Catholic hospitals was dropped from the legislation.

S.F. archbishop can skip abuse hearing
PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) — A federal bankruptcy judge has agreed to let San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, a former archbishop of Portland, Ore., (1986-1995) skip an August court date to answer questions under oath about the Church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.

In return, Archbishop Levada, the newly named prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, must personally guarantee that he’ll appear in January to undergo questioning by lawyers for priest sex-abuse plaintiffs in Oregon.

As part of the agreement, Archbishop Levada must agree not to claim diplomatic immunity as a high-ranking official of the Vatican.

If he does not respond by Aug. 2, his deposition in Hayward, Calif., is expected to proceed as scheduled on Aug. 12, five days before he moves to Rome.

L.A. Archdiocese must turn over clergy files
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A state appellate court has ordered Cardinal Roger Mahony to turn over to a grand jury the internal church records of two former priests accused of sexually abusing children.

The three-judge panel rejected arguments by the Los Angeles Archdiocese that it was constitutionally protected from having to disclose documents from priest personnel files. “While it is true the right to religious freedom holds a special place in our history and culture, there also must be an accommodation by religious believers and institutions to the rules of civil society, particularly when the state’s compelling interest in protecting children is in question,” wrote Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein in a 49-page opinion. Justices Walter Croskey and Patti Kitching concurred.

Catholic women unofficially ordained
TORONTO (AP) – Nine Catholic women were unofficially ordained July 25 as priests and deacons and now face possible excommunication from the Church.

The women – seven Americans, a Canadian and a German living in Red Wing, Minn. – were ordained by two women who were unofficially declared bishops in 2003. The ordinations are not valid in the Catholic Church and seven women who tried it in 2002 were excommunicated by the Vatican.

In last month’s ordinations, four of the nine women were ordained as priests and five as deacons in a hymn-filled ceremony on a tour boat near Ottawa, Canada.

Pope faces strong criticism from Israel
VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI faced the first major conflict of his three-month-old papacy when Israel summoned the Vatican envoy and expressed outrage that the pope “deliberately failed” to condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis.

The German-born Pope Benedict, who has consistently reached out to Jews since assuming the papacy, was criticized by Israel on July 25 for not mentioning terror attacks in Israel while praying for God to stop the “murderous hand” of terrorists in “abhorrent terrorist attacks” in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq.

A July 12 suicide bombing in the seaside city of Netanya had killed five Israelis. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. The Israeli statement called on the pope to condemn attacks “against Jews in the same way he condemns terror attacks against others.”

Later, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom appeared to soften the criticism, saying he hoped that failure to mention the attack in Netanya “was a mistake and not a deliberate omission.”

Bush seeks support of faith-based groups
WASHINGTON (RNS) – President Bush has announced plans to hold a conference next March that aims to foster more corporate foundation support for faith-based organizations. The president met July 25 with about 20 African-American religious and community leaders and unveiled his plans at that time.
Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said many large corporations have policies that explicitly rule out donations or grants to faith-based organizations “regardless of their effectiveness” and prevent employee matching contribution programs from including faith-based groups.

Islamic group proposes ways to combat terrorism
WASHINGTON (RNS) – An Islamic organization has launched a national campaign that proposes an expansion of Muslim youth in scouting as one way to combat terrorist ideology, violence and extremism within the American Muslim community.

The Washington-based Muslim American Society (MAS) has proposed seven “action items” that include an increase in the number of Boy and Girl Scout troops and youth centers available to Muslim youth “to inculcate in our youth the proper understanding of Islam, help them fulfill all their potential, and keep them out of range of extremism and moral vices.”

W. Oregon Catholics part of bankruptcy case
PORTLAND (RNS) – A U.S. bankruptcy judge has agreed to expand the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland’s bankruptcy case to include every Catholic parishioner and contributor in western Oregon – more than 389,000 people.

About 80,000 Catholic households will soon get the news in the mail that they are defendants in the property dispute between more than 200 sex abuse plaintiffs and the Archdiocese of Portland. None of the parishioners or contributors will be personally liable for paying claims if they lose the case. But they could see their parish assets sold or put up as collateral for loans to pay settlements.

Religious progressives launch new network
BERKELEY (RNS) – More than 1,200 spiritual progressives from around the country gathered July 20-23 to begin building an organization for the spiritual and religious left.

Dubbed the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), the new organization seeks to challenge not only religious conservatives, but America’s materialistic culture and the anti-religious bias among secular liberals, conference architect Rabbi Michael Lerner said.

Democratss new website: ‘A Word to the Faithful’
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Concerned that Democrats are seen as a party that is hostile or ambivalent toward religion, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has unveiled a new Web site with “A Word to the Faithful.”

The Web site – at http://democrats.senate.gov/faith.html– features photos of Reid meeting with mainline Protestant and Catholic leaders, as well as statements on the National Day of Prayer and Holocaust Memorial Day, among others.

Same-sex marriage now legal in Canada
OTTAWA (RNS) – Canada has become only the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.Bill C-38 received royal assent and became the law of the land late July 20.

Ottawa has assured faith groups that religious officials would not be forced to marry same-sex couples, and that religious teachings will be protected by laws guaranteeing free speech. The federal government has also stressed that its bill addresses civil marriage only in public institutions like courthouses and city halls. It says religious institutions – churches, mosques, synagogues and temples – and individuals can continue defining marriage as they see fit.

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