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 November 21, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 20Oakland, CA
News in Brief

AIDS in Papua New Guinea
Franciscan Father Jude walks among the graves of HIV-AIDS victims he has buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. The South Pacific nation is on the verge of exploding into an AIDS epidemic. Sorcery, shame and an ailing health system are hindering the fight against the deadly disease. Infected people in remote villages are sometimes thrown into rivers to drown or dumped in graves to die while in the capital they are abandoned at the hospital or left on the street.

RNS PHOTO/ REUTERS/David Gray

Remembering terror victims
A father and his child light candles outside Amman's Grand Hyatt hotel, Nov. 10, following terrorist attacks on three hotels in Jordan's capital that killed 56 people and injured many others.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 

New U.S. ambassador
Francis Rooney, the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, presents his credentials during an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Nov. 12. Rooney, a graduate of Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center, is the former CEO of Rooney Holding, Inc., an investment and holding company in Naples, Florida.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

   


Chinese police detain elderly Catholic bishop

BEIJING (AP) - Security forces in China have detained an elderly bishop in the country's non-government controlled Catholic Church for the eighth time in two years, a U.S.-based monitoring group reported.

Government agents took Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 70, from his home in Zhengding on Nov. 9. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, the agents said they were taking the bishop to a “study session.”

Religious groups say Bishop Jia has been repeatedly detained over his refusal to affiliate himself with the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, which rejects Vatican authority over issues such as the naming of bishops.

A day earlier, police also detained two other priests from Bishop Jia's diocese, Father Li Suchuan and Father Yang Ermeng.

President Bush urged to condemn torture
NEW YORK (RNS) - A broad coalition of religious, legal and human rights organizations has urged President Bush to condemn acts of torture.

“For more than a century United States policy prohibited torture,” reads the coalition's letter to the president. “The prohibition served us well and must be restored in U.S. policy and practice. U.S. engagement and complicity in torture and inhumane treatment are grave legal and moral wrongs.”

Religious signatories include organizations representing Muslims, Quakers, Catholics and Unitarian Universalists. They joined groups ranging from the American Humanist Association to Amnesty International USA to the National Immigrant Solidarity Network.

State Dept. cites 'concern' for religious freedom
WASHINGTON (RNS)- The U.S. State Department has issued its annual international religious freedom report, citing Saudi Arabia as among the list of nations designated as “a country of particular concern” regarding religious freedom.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also redesignated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Vietnam as countries where “particularly severe violations” continue to occur.

Actor given Catholic award for help in Iraq
BEVERLY HILLS (RNS) - Actor Gary Sinise has been honored by Catholics In Media Associates (CIMA) for his extensive but quiet work visiting U.S. troops and aiding Iraqi schoolchildren.
Sinise stars in the CBS crime drama “CSI: NY” and is known for playing Lt. Dan in 1994's Tom Hanks hit movie “Forrest Gump.”

But what prompted CIMA to give Sinise its first humanitarian award was how, for the past 20 months, he has raised more than $500,000 as co-founder of Operation Iraqi Children, which buys school supply kits for students who had been sharing one pencil per Iraqi classroom.

When he accepted his award, Sinise said that when a U.S. military convoy recently drove by one school, the children appreciated their new pencils and other items and warned the troops that the road ahead had been mined by insurgents.

Calif. church to fight IRS probe of sermon
PASADENA, Calif. (RNS) - An Episcopal Church says it will fight to keep its tax-exempt status in light of an Internal Revenue Service investigation into a politically charged sermon.

The Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Church, said the church learned of the investigation in June, and he made it public in early November because the IRS appears to be close to a decision on the matter.

The investigation was triggered by an Oct. 31, 2004 sermon of Rector Emeritus George Regas, entitled “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.”

While many churches deal with politics in general from the pulpit, they are enjoined from making endorsements if they wish to stay tax-free. Church leaders say they have done nothing wrong.

“There's much more at stake than All Saints in this” investigation, said Bacon. “I think it's a defining moment about religious freedom in the United States.”

Vatican encourages religion – science dialog
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, said Nov. 3 the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into “fundamentalism” if it ignores scientific reason. But he said science, too, should listen to religion.

Cardinal Poupard made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the “mutual prejudice” between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

“We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link,” he said. “But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism.”

Wal-Mart apologizes for denying Christmas
BENTONVILLE, AR (RNS) -- Retail giant Wal-Mart altered its website to acknowledge Christmas less than one day after the New York-based Catholic League began a national boycott against the company.

The boycott, enacted because of perceived discrimination against Christmas, but not Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, was abandoned when Wal-Mart revised its website Nov. 10. Wal-Mart also issued an apology for a customer service e-mail that claimed Christmas does not have religious roots.

'Mamma Rosa' could become patron saint
VATICAN CITY (RNS) - As the Vatican pushes for greater public appreciation of large families, it is promoting the possible sainthood of an Italian woman who raised 11 children.

Eurosia Fabris, known as “Mamma Rosa,” was beatified Nov. 6 in Vicenza, near her native village in rural northern Italy, completing the last formal step before sainthood. If she is canonized, many expect Fabris to become a patron saint for large families - a dwindling demographic to which Pope Benedict XVI has recently called attention.

Fabris, who lived between 1866 and 1932, took care of two children after their mother died and she later married their father -- a step defined as an “act of charity” by local churchmen. The couple subsequently had nine children, three of whom became Catholic priests and one of whom became a nun.

Intelligent design ruling expected in Dec. or Jan.
PITTSBURG, PA (RNS) - A six-week federal trial in Pennsylvania over a school district's policy on intelligent design has ended with both sides claiming victory on the issue of how science should be taught in public schools.

U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III plans to issue a ruling in December or January on whether the Dover Area School District's policy is constitutional, as the district has argued, or a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, as is alleged by 11 parents who filed the lawsuit to have the policy revoked.

At issue is not just whether the board's policy was adopted with religious intent, but whether intelligent design - which holds that some aspects of life are so complex they must be the work of an intelligent designer - is religious.


Vatican, Israel face issue of taxes

VATICAN CITY—Forty years ago, the Vatican issued Nostra Aetate, officially ceasing to blame Jews for the death of Christ. Since then, acts of reconciliation have come to define relations between the Holy See and Israel.
But one issue remains stalemated: the Vatican’s rights to property and tax exemption in the Holy Land.

Under current Israeli laws, the Church has no access to judicial courts when land ownership disputes occur and is not guaranteed the tax exemptions the Vatican and other religious institutions routinely receive in other countries.

Out of respect for Catholicism’s deep roots in the Holy Land, Israeli officials have generally granted tax exemptions to Catholic properties. But in recent years, local and regional governments have begun pressing for back taxes on Catholic hospitals and other non-church properties dating back to Israel’s creation in 1947.


Priests defended aftera negative ‘avalanche’

WASHINGTON (AP) – The president of U.S. Catholic bishops has defended American priests, saying a ``handful’’ of miscreants who sexually abused minors have forced the rest of the clergy ``to endure an avalanche of negative public attention.’’
Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., told a meeting of the U.S. hierarchy that despite that scandal and job pressures caused by the declining total of clerics, three recent surveys show a ``high level of morale among priests.’’


New Orleans Archdiocese reports $40 million deficit

The Archdiocese of New Orleans faces a year-end deficit of up to $40 million and is seeking private and corporate donations to forestall more layoffs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The archdiocese, which once employed 9,000 people, has already shed 2,000 jobs through layoffs or resignations of employees who did not return after Katrina struck Aug. 29
Moreover, Katrina’s property damage will certainly outstrip the church’s insurance coverage, although by how much isn’t clear yet.

Slightly more than one-third of the archdiocese’s 151 parishes and missions remain closed.
Nearly a third of the Church’s 1,244 buildings flooded; nearly 70 percent of its buildings suffered wind damage. Many suffered both.

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