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 April 11, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 7Oakland, CA
News in Brief

New tomb for possible saint
A Salvadoran woman touches the new tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero at the metropolitan cathedral in San Salvador. The tomb was donated by the community of San Egidio of Roma in Italy and sculpted by Italian artist Paolo Borghi. Archbishop Romero’s canonization process is moving forward. The Church has determined he was murdered for religious, not political, causes. He was killed by a sniper of the ultra-right-wing death squad while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980, in San Salvador.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Luis Galdamez

Prayers in Iraq
An Iraqi woman prays in front of a Virgin Mary statue at al-Najat Syrian Catholic Church in central Baghdad. Despite high security threats, Iraqi Catholics crowded into the church on Easter. After the U.S.-led invasion of the country, insurgents began targeting Iraq’s Christian minority, accusing them of cooperating with American “infidels” by working as translators, house cleaners and merchants.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Ali Jasim

Diocese to sell properties to settle abuse claims
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a plan by the Catholic Diocese of Tucson to sell about 85 of its real estate holdings to settle claims filed by people who say they were molested by priests.

The diocese is considering a public auction of the properties, mostly vacant land in parcels ranging from less than an acre to 30 acres. Most of the land was donated to the diocese. The diocese hopes to raise at least $3.2 million to put into a fund for plaintiffs, along with insurance money and parish contributions. A court-appointed special master will determine the validity of the plaintiffs’ claims.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. At the time, it was facing 22 lawsuits filed by 34 plaintiffs. In 2002, the diocese agreed to pay $14 million to 10 men who claimed they were molested by priests.

The Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., and the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., also have sought bankruptcy court reorganization because of a crush of abuse claims.

Bishop apologizes for denying funeral Mass
SAN DIEGO (RNS) – Gay rights groups thanked San Diego Bishop Robert Brown for his apology to the family of a gay man who was barred from having a Catholic funeral because he owned two gay nightclubs.

Bishop Brom said he made the wrong decision in denying a church funeral for John McCusker, 31, and offered to preside at a Mass in his memory, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I deeply regret that denying a Catholic funeral for John McCusker ...has resulted in his unjust condemnation, and I apologize to the family for the anguish this has caused them,” he said in a statement, according to the family.

Bishop Brom had said the Church would not provide burial rites for McCusker because of his “business activities” which were “contrary to Sacred Scripture and the moral teaching of the church.” McCusker’s standing-room-only funeral March 18 was held at an Episcopal church instead.

‘Catholics for Kerry’ refocuses its mission
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A grass-roots Catholic group that supported former presidential candidate John Kerry says it now seeks to hold both Democrats and Republicans accountable to the Catholic Church’s social policy teaching.

Catholics for Faithful Citizenship began last year as Catholics for Kerry ‘04. Its president, Eric McFadden, said the group hopes to apply pressure on both parties to take seriously the U.S. bishops public policy positions on a spectrum of issues from the death penalty to the Iraq war.

‘Passion’ images, tones available for cell phones
LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Los Angeles-based AG Interactive is making three snippets of the Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” soundtrack available to download as ringtones for cell phones, as well as 12 “premium images” from the film. The images include several of Jim Caviezel playing Jesus and Maia Morgenstern playing Mary. One scene features Jesus carrying his cross, but none of them shows the brutal flogging or crucifixion scenes.

Bryan Biniak, senior vice president of AG Interactive, said his firm worked closely with Gibson’s Icon Productions to select images from the film that would be the “most appropriate.”

Plans made for India’s first Catholic university
CALCUTTA (RNS) – India will have its first Catholic university in June 2005, according to the indigenous Catholic religious order behind the university plan. The Carmelite of Mary Immaculate (CMI) order is expected to spend more than $100 million to establish Dharmadeepti University at Jagdalpur, a town in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Catholic school enrollment drops
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Enrollment at Catholic schools has fallen 2.6 percent from last year, with 173 schools closed or consolidated and 37 new schools opened, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. Enrollment at the 7,799 elementary and secondary schools stood at 2.4 million for the 2004-2005 school year, a drop of 200,000 from five years ago. About three-quarters of the students are elementary-age.

Group asks more drugs for children with AIDS
NEW YORK (RNS) – A coalition of faith-based organizations is urging pharmaceutical companies to acknowledge their moral responsibilities and make pediatric AIDS drugs more accessible.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a New York City-based coalition of 275 religious institutional investors, is urging its members to file shareholder resolutions asking for more AIDS medications for children.

New community with pro-life focus announced
AMARILLO, Texas – A new Society of Apostolic Life, dedicated to pro-life ministry, is being established in the Diocese of Amarillo by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, and Bishop John W. Yanta.

“It has been a dream of mine for over a decade to form a community that can accept seminarians who want to devote their entire ministry to the defense of the unborn,” said Father Pavone, who will continue as national director of Priests for Life. The proposed Society will be known as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. Priests for Life will continue to exist as an association of the Catholic faithful.

Sacramento bishop has liver transplant surgery
SAN FRANCISCO – Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento received a second chance at life on April 1 when he received a liver transplant at the University of California Medical Center here.

Doctors said that the procedure was successful for both Bishop Weigand, 67, and Dan Haverty, 50, an assistant chief for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, who donated part of his liver to the bishop. Doctors removed two-thirds of Haverty’s liver and transferred it to Bishop Weigand during six hours of surgery. Over a four-to-six week period, the liver is expected to regenerate in both men.
Bishop Weigand was suffering from a condition that causes scarring near the liver and is life-threatening.

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