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 January 9, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 1Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Waiting for asylum
Asylum seekers look for shoes during a clothing distribution in a church near the harbour of Calais in northern France. Three years after the closure of the Sangatte Red Cross refugee camp, Sudanese, Somalis, Afghans and Kurds wait for nightfall and the chance to stow away on a lorry bound for Britain.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Transforming guns
Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane, president of Mozambique’s Christian Council, shows a cross made with recycled gun parts. The pistols, rifles, machineguns and mines that spread terror across Mozambique during years of civil war have been transformed from agents of death and destruction into art. People have been encouraged to hand over weapons in exchange for sewing machines, agricultural tools, construction materials or bicycles.


Tsunami remembrance
A Catholic nun cries during a memorial service in Sri Lanka, Dec. 26, for victims of last year’s devastating tsunami that ravaged Indian Ocean coastlines and killed up to 200,000. Mourners from across the world wept, prayed and observed moments of silence to remember the victims of one of nature’s deadliest disasters.


Argentine priest arraigned for human rights abuses
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – A former chaplain for the Buenos Aires provincial police force has been arraigned on human rights charges in a federal judge’s probe of the alleged detention and torture of 12 dissidents during Argentina’s "Dirty War."

Father Cristian Von Wernich, a Catholic priest, was ordered held by Federal Judge Arnaldo Corazza for prosecution. The judge said he had gathered testimony from some 30 survivors of clandestine torture centers during the 1976-83 dictatorship. Court documents state that witnesses saw Father Von Wernich at three of the clandestine centers in the Buenos Aires province where leftists and other dissidents had been allegedly tortured to confess.

The priest has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying he had visited some detention centers but never saw detainees with signs of torture. Now 67, he has been jailed since 2003.

Pope: God sees embryo as 'full' human being
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – The embryo is a “full and complete” human being even though it is “shapeless,” Pope Benedict XVI said on Dec. 28, underscoring Catholic teaching that regards abortion and the destruction of embryos for stem cell research as immoral.

Pope Benedict made his comments during a general audience on the feast day of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the thousands of male infants slaughtered by Herod around the time of the birth of Christ. “The loving eyes of God turn towards the human being, considered full and complete in its beginning,” he said.

Latin Patriarch calls for end to violence
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) – Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the top Catholic official in the Holy Land, called on Israel and the Palestinians to halt years of violence and begin a new era of peacemaking.

The patriarch said the two sides should put ``the past on hold to make room for a new future to begin.’’ He spoke while celebrating Christmas Mass at St. Catherine’s Church, adjacent to the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The patriarch also called for an end to Israel’s killing of Palestinian militants, saying the practice has failed to improve security or halt the cycle of violence.

Pope calls for ‘unity’ with Church of England
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope Benedict XVI has accredited the first Catholic in centuries to serve as Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See and called for Rome and the Church of England to work toward “full visible unity.”

“The wounds resulting from more than four centuries of separation cannot be healed without determined efforts, perseverance and above all, prayer,” Pope Benedict told Francis Campbell, the first Catholic British ambassador to the Vatican since Henry VIII broke with Rome in the 16th century to found the Church of England.

Henry VIII’s schism generated centuries of violence and hostility between Anglicans and Catholics.

N.J. bans religion as sole profiling factor
TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) – New Jersey authorities cannot use “ethnicity, religious affiliation, or religious practice” as the sole factor in determining whether to investigate someone for possible terrorist activity, according to an order by state Attorney General Peter Harvey.

The written order is a response to allegations raised this fall that New Jersey’s Office of Counter-Terrorism targeted suspects in terrorism investigations solely because of their Muslim faith or Arab heritage.

“The citizens of New Jersey rightfully expect that all lawful and appropriate means will be used to thwart terrorists,” Harvey noted. “The impermissible use of such stereotypes would ultimately undermine our counter-terrorism efforts by alienating significant segments of our society.”
The directive applies to all 51,500 police officers in the state, including counter-terrorism agents.

Guidelines presented to retailers of video games
NEW YORK (RNS) – Religious advocates of corporate responsibility have developed guidelines to help major retailers steer children away from video games containing violence, racist content and sexual themes.

Working with companies such as Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and Circuit City, the New York-based Christian Brothers Investment Services, which promotes socially responsible and ethical investing, condensed the most effective practices of each corporation into a set of guidelines.
The group released its guidelines Dec. 13 in conjunction with other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

In an effort to keep minors away from video games rated “Mature” (M), the coalition is, among other things: urging retailers to post video game sales policies prominently in stores and online; training employees on the video games sales policy; asking retailers to separate M-rated from youth-oriented games.

The groups say that while parents play a key role in the process, retailers must recognize their unique responsibility to prevent minors from accessing violent products.

Judge rules against Church on abuse suits
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A federal judge has rejected the Catholic Church’s effort to strike down a state law that allows lawsuits by people who claim they were abused by priests long ago.

The San Diego Diocese had argued that the 2002 law illegally interfered with its religious practices. “The failure to supervise or negligent hiring of a person that commits sexual assault does not implicate or affect any religious belief, opinion or practice,” U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes wrote in a ruling made public Dec. 22.

Attorney J. Michael Hennigan, who represents the San Diego Diocese and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, said the Church is “strongly considering an appeal.”

The law in question lifted for one year the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse that may have taken place decades ago. It has resulted in hundreds of priest abuse lawsuits throughout California.

Pope Benedict names new ambassador to the U.S.
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Pope Benedict XVI has named a veteran diplomat and the Church’s chief ambassador to Israel as his new liaison with Washington and the U.S. Church.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, a 67-year-old Italian, will succeed Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo as the papal nuncio, or ambassador of the Holy See.

Archbishop Montalvo has held the post since 1998 and retired when he reached age 75.

Redwood City pastor named bishop of Reno
VATICAN -- Father Randolph Calvo, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Redwood City, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI as bishop of the Diocese of Reno. He replaces Bishop Emeritus Philip Straling, who retired in July.

Born in Agana, Guam, and of Spanish and Filipino descent, Father Calvo, 54, has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since he was six.

He was ordained in 1977, served two parishes as parochial vicar and for 10 years headed the canon law dept. of the San Francisco Archdiocese after receiving a doctorate in canon law from the University of St. Thomas in Rome.

He has been a pastor since 1997.

His ordination as bishop is scheduled for Feb. 17.

CRS builds hospital in Banda Aceh
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Catholic Relief Services has opened the first of four hospital buildings it is constructing in this tsunami-ravaged area. When complete, the Banda Aceh Mother and Children’s Hospital will include an intensive care unit, radiology, surgery and a 50-bed overnight care facility.

CRS has also rehabilitated the Blang Padang Health Clinic adjacent to the hospital and supplied the clinic with medicines, scales and other equipment.

Both projects are valued at more than $4 million. Other CRS projects include rebuilding roads, bridges, piers and schools.

CRS has been providing services in Indonesia since 1957 and opened an office in Aceh within five days of the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami.

Bankruptcy judge ruling deals blow to archdiocese
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A bankruptcy judge has ruled that the Archdiocese of Portland, not its parishes, owns church assets. This ruling deals a major blow to archdiocesan efforts to protect church property from lawsuits filed by alleged victims of priest sex abuse.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris ruled that church property and real estate is under the control of the archdiocese, not its individual parishes.

However, she left open the question of whether the sale of that property could pose an unfair burden on the practice of religion under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993.


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