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 February 6, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 3Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Making peace
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez greets Caracas’ Archbishop Jorge Urosa at the start of a meeting during which they agreed to smooth over relations after a cardinal lambasted Chavez for eroding democracy.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Howard Yanes

500 years of service
A tourist holds a model of a Swiss Guard in a souvenir shop in the Vatican, which has begun months of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the elite corps, which is charged with the protection of the Pope and Vatican.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Haitian priest released
Father Gerard Jean-Juste gestures from a prison window in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the day before his Jan. 29 provisional release to seek treatment for leukemia in Miami. Father Jean-Juste, a popular pastor, was originally accused of involvement in a journalist’s murder, but those charges were dropped and he now faces charges of having illegal weapons and being involved in illegal gang activity. His supporters say he was jailed to prevent him from running for president

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

Vatican charges publisher $18,000 for quoting pope

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – The Vatican has come under heavy criticism for its decision to charge publishers to reprint excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s public statements and written works dating back to his professorial days as Father Joseph Ratzinger.
According to La Stampa, a Turin newspaper, the Vatican publishing division Libreria Editrice Vaticana recently billed a Milan-based publisher 15,000 euros (about $18,000) for printing a total of 30 lines from speeches Pope Benedict delivered as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The lines were spoken to fellow cardinals immediately before the conclave to choose a new pope and during his subsequent inauguration ceremony.

A statement released by Libreria on Jan. 23 said the decision was based on a Vatican decree, in which the Holy See assumed full copyrights to all of Pope Benedict’s past, present and future writings and pronouncements.

The decree, issued by Secretary of State Angelo Sodano on May 31, was reportedly enacted in December and could also apply to news organizations that regularly quote the German pontiff. It was unclear, however, if the Vatican intended to enforce the new policy on journalists.

Governor may veto finance disclosure bill

BOSTON (AP) – Gov. Mitt Romney signaled he may veto a bill that would require religious groups to disclose their finances and is strongly opposed by religious organizations.
Romney said that while he believes government and society have a responsibility to regulate churches and charities, the measure goes too far. The bill – in part an outgrowth of the clergy sex abuse scandal that engulfed the Archdiocese of Boston – would require all religious organizations with annual revenues of more than $500,000 to file financial reports and provide a list of real estate holdings with the attorney general’s office.

Seven communities of nuns to form single union

CLEVELAND (RNS) – In response to declining and aging populations seven congregations of women religious of St. Joseph have voted to form a single union of Sisters.

The vote brings together under one roof the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio; Tipton, Ind.; LaGrange, Ill.; Baton Rouge, La; Nazareth, Mich.; Wheeling, W.Va; and Wichita, Kan.

The new order, to be called the Congregation of St. Joseph with no geographic distinctions, will have its headquarters in LaGrange, just outside of Chicago, and is expected to have about 900 members.
Mergers and plans of union are becoming more common as many religious orders experience sharp declines in membership, with fewer young nuns coming up to care for a rapidly aging population. Nationally, the number of nuns in the United States has fallen from 180,000 in 1965 to 73,000 in 2003. Only about 5 percent of nuns nationwide are under 50.

Religious protests help shut ‘The Book of Daniel’

NEW YORK (RNS) – Critics are claiming victory after NBC pulled “The Book of Daniel,” a racy primetime drama about an Episcopal priest struggling to hold his dysfunctional family together.
NBC officials in New York would not confirm or deny that the show has been cancelled, but a blog on NBC’s home page contained an entry from Jack Kenny, the show’s creator, who said the show will “no longer be aired on NBC on Friday nights” for “many reasons.”

The show, which debuted on Jan. 6, had only aired four of its eight scheduled episodes. Various groups criticized the show’s sex, drugs and alcohol and said its depiction of Jesus was disrespectful. Complaints from the Mississippi-based American Family Association – to the tune of 678,000 angry e-mails to NBC – prompted advertisers to pull out. At least 11 NBC stations in six states declined to broadcast the show.

Federal grant helps with embryo adoption

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has funded a $309,000 embryo adoption awareness grant in partnership with the National Embryo Donation Center.
The Center will work with the Knoxville-based Baptist Health System Foundation, the primary recipient of the grant, and with the Christian Medical and Dental Association to educate the public about embryo donation, in which genetic parents agree to turn over their embryos to another couple for subsequent in-vitro fertilization.

Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director for the National Embryo Donation Center, said that the grant will help reach and educate families dealing with the issue of stored embryos. At the same time these families can offer the hope of childbirth “to a couple who has experienced the anguish of infertility.”

Rwanda seeks extradition of priest

PARIS (RNS) – The French Justice Ministry is considering a request from Rwanda to extradite a Catholic priest suspected of taking part in the country’s 1994 genocide.

Rwandan officials in Kigali have issued an international arrest warrant and requested the extradition of 48-year-old Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who has been serving in a Normandy parish for almost a decade.
A one-time vicar in his native Rwanda, Munyeshyaka is accused of identifying Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had sought refuge at his Holy Family parish in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. A number of them were subsequently raped and killed, his accusers say.

Man who shot pope must go back to jail

ACRA, Turkey (RNS) – Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, was back in custody Jan. 20 after a Turkish appeals court ruled that his controversial release from prison for the murder of a journalist had “no legal basis.”

The decision to return Agca came amid a torrent of public outrage that followed his Jan. 12 release from prison for the slaying of a well-known Turkish journalist in 1979. Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving nearly 20 years in an Italian prison for repeatedly shooting Pope John Paul as he rode through St. Peter’s Square in an open-air jeep.

Upon his arrival in Turkey, Agca was initially sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for the Ipekci slaying. But a November 2004 court ruling drastically reduced Agca’s term by taking into account the time he served in Italy and a national amnesty passed in 2000. According to the Jan. 20 ruling, Agca only qualified for the amnesty. Turkish media reported that Agca was arrested after the ruling without incident in Istanbul.

Mayor Nagin regrets ‘God’s will’ comment

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) – Faced with howls of protest, Mayor Ray Nagin apologized for claiming that a vengeful God smote New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina because of heavenly disapproval of America’s involvement in Iraq and of rampant violence within urban black communities.

Nagin said he was in error on his claim that Katrina’s devastation was a result of God’s will. He acknowledged consulting with religious leaders since Katrina, and in his myriad public appearances he has commented eloquently on the important role faith must play if New Orleans is to endure.

Bishop Gumbleton retires after 38 years as bishop

VATICAN (RNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, just two weeks after the long-serving and outspoken bishop disclosed that he had been molested by a priest 60 years ago.

Bishop Gumbleton, 76, was required under Church law to submit his resignation when he turned 75 last year. At that time, he petitioned to remain in office.

In his statement Jan. 26 to parishioners at St. Leo’s Church, where he has served as pastor since 1993, Gumbleton said that when his request was refused he “decided to end the discussion.”
Bishop Gumbleton was the youngest American priest to become a bishop when he was appointed by Pope Paul VI in 1968. He is one of the longest-serving -- and most liberal -- Catholic bishops in the United States.

On Jan. 11, Bishop Gumbleton revealed that he had been abused by a priest as a teenager -- the first U.S. bishop to ever admit to abuse by a cleric. Church officials in Detroit said he had never told them about the abuse.

 

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