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 October 17, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 18Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Protesting assisted suicide
Disabled protesters against physician-assisted suicide gather in their wheelchairs,on the first day of the Gonzales v. Oregon case, outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Oct. 5. The Supreme Court revisited the issue of physician-assisted suicide in a test of the federal government’s power to block doctors from helping terminally ill patients to end their lives.


Hunger strike ends
Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio, left, and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Political Coordination Minister Jaques Wagner leave a chapel near the town of Cabrobo, Brazil,after the bishop ended his 11-day hunger strike to protest the diversions of water from Sao Francisco River. He said the project would benefit big business and harm the poor.

RNS/REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

Increased violence
A woman mourns at the scene of a suicide bomb attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the Iraqi town of Hilla, south of Baghdad, Oct. 6, that killed at least 26 worshippers celebrating the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Violence escalated in Iraq as the Oct. 15 vote on a draft constitution neared.


New Orleans Archdiocese lays off 881 employees
NEW ORLEANS (RNS) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans says Hurricane Katrina has forced it to lay off 881 employees in its sprawling charitable, housing and other ministries.
The number does not include hundreds of teachers and parish employees already let go by pastors in dozens of parishes and schools severely damaged by the hurricane. The archdiocese, which employed 9,000 people before the storm, is still canvassing its parishes to develop the total number of jobs lost.

Of its approximately three dozen New Orleans and St. Bernard schools, all are closed but one. Dozens of the archdiocese’s approximately 70 parishes in Orleans and St. Bernard are still closed.

Priest in India wins $1 million Opus Prize
MINNEAPOLIS (RNS) – A Catholic priest fighting poverty in India is the 2005 recipient of the $1 million Opus prize, awarded by a Minneapolis-based foundation that honors humanitarianism.
Father Trevor Miranda was chosen for establishing literacy centers throughout the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Father Miranda established Reach Education Action Programme in Mumbai to empower poor residents to become self-sufficient.

In six years, the organization has opened more than 450 literacy centers that bring teachers and books to impoverished children. The priest has also established adult literacy programs to give women the education and training needed to transition into the job market.

Judge rules faith can be used as factor in hiring
NEW YORK (RNS) – Addressing a key aspect of President Bush’s faith-based initiative, a federal judge has ruled the Salvation Army has the right to hire employees according to its faith principles, even when the charity receives government funding.

“The notion that the Constitution would compel a religious organization contracting with the state to secularize its ranks is untenable in light of the Supreme Court’s recognition that the government may contract with religious organizations for the provision of social services,” said U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein in a Sept. 30 opinion issued in New York City.

Israeli president to visit Benedict XVI at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – President Moshe Katsav of Israel is due to visit Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Nov. 17, marking the first official visit by an Israeli head of state to the seat of Roman Catholicism.

Pope Benedict, who as a boy was briefly forced to enlist in the Hitler Youth movement, appears to have invited Katsav to underscore dialogue between Catholicism and Judaism on the 40th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” a document that denounced the notion that Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus Christ – a belief that fueled centuries of conflict between the faiths.

Judge finds evidence that priest killed two
HUDSON, Wis. (AP) – A judge has found enough evidence to suggest a Catholic priest killed a funeral home director and his intern more than three years ago.

Judge Eric Lundell’s finding closes the case. Father Ryan Erickson killed himself in December after police questioned him about the slayings on Feb. 5, 2002. “I conclude that Ryan Erickson probably committed the crimes in question,” Lundell said Oct. 3.

St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson said he has at least nine pieces of circumstantial evidence that point to Erickson as the killer, including testimony from a deacon who said the priest confessed to him. “If you put them all together, I think it is a pretty strong circumstantial case,” Johnson said.

Massachusetts churches push for marriage law
BOSTON (RNS) – Catholic churches in Massachusetts have begun providing copies of a petition proposing a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Besides giving parishioners an opportunity to sign the petition, pastors have been asked to distribute brochures of the marriage initiative. Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, of the Springfield diocese, said the signature drive is the first critical step towards placing the issue on the 2008 statewide ballot. “Help at the parish level is vital,” the bishop wrote to pastors.

Mexican shocked over church taking drug money
MEXICO CITY (AP) – When Mexican Bishop Ramon Godinez told reporters recently that drug traffickers often donate to the church, shock waves ran through this predominantly Catholic nation, not because the news was a surprise, but because admitting it was tantamount to confessing that nothing is sacred – not even God – when it comes to organized crime in Mexico.

Bishop Ramon Godinez, of the central state of Aguascalientes, argued that the money is “purified” once it passes through the parish doors. “Just because the origin of the money is bad doesn’t mean you have to burn it,” Bishop Godinez said. “Instead, you have to transform it. ... We live on this, on the offerings of the faithful.”

New Calif. law makes trafficking a felony
SACRAMENTO – A new law recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and supported by several communities of women religious is designed to combat human trafficking, an industry in which thousands of people are brought to the U.S. illegally each year and forced to work in slave-like conditions in sweatshops, houses of prostitution and other businesses.

Members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sister of St. Joseph of Orange, and Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary lobbied for passage of the legislation, which makes human trafficking a felony, creates a task force to better coordinate the response of law enforcement to human trafficking, and assists victims rebuild their lives.


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