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 March 6 , 2006VOL. 44, NO. 5Oakland, CA
News in Brief


Gesture for peace
An Iraqi woman prays in front of a newly planted olive tree near the grave of her son in Falluja, west of Baghdad, Feb. 19. Residents of Falluja, the Iraqi city devastated by a U.S. offensive in 2004, have begun planting thousands of olive trees in a bid to promote peace.



Grief in Mexico
Relatives of 65 missing miners cry outside a mine complex near San Juan de Sabinas, Mexico, Feb. 25, after Mexican officials declared all the miners dead after six days of rescue efforts failed to reach the them. Mexican bishops are urging officials to investigate the Feb. 19 blast in the mine that trapped and killed the men.



Landslide victims
During a mass burial at St. Bernard cemetery in southern Leyte, a Filipino priest blesses the bodies of 50 victims of a landslide that wiped out a village of 1,800 on Feb. 17.


William Levada

Sean O'Malley


New cardinals

Former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada and Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley are two of the 15 cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, Feb. 22. Also appointed were archbishops from Venezuela, the Philippines, France, Spain, Korea, Poland, Italy and China


Could remains be St. Joan of Arc’s?

PARIS (RNS)-- Nearly 700 years after the death of Joan of Arc, a French forensic team hopes a series of tests will prove whether charred fragments of skin and bones might be those of the 15th-century heroine.

Experts at the Raymond-Poincare hospital outside Paris have said they will test tissue, including a blackened rib, that has been preserved through the centuries.

“How to prove that this piece of rib belonged to Joan of Arc? From a scientific point of view it seems extremely difficult if not impossible,” said Bertrand Vincent, spokesman for the Tours archdiocese. “We need to be 100 percent certain (that the fragments belong to the saint) for the Church to engage in an effort to get them considered a relic,” he added.

Iowa archdiocese to pay $5 million in abuse cases

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) -- The Archdiocese of Dubuque has agreed to pay $5 million to settle 20 cases of sexual abuse involving nine priests over the past five decades.

The archdiocese also agreed to publish the names of the nine accused priests, give each victim the chance to meet privately with Archbishop Jerome Hanus and the opportunity to speak about their ordeal in their home parishes.

In a written apology, Archbishop Jerome Hanus said the crimes were heinous and that the victims deserve praise for having the courage to come forward.

All but one of the accused priests are deceased.

China warns new cardinal to avoid politics

BEIJING (AP) _ China’s government warned Hong Kong’s newly appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen to avoid interfering in politics. Zen , the sixth Chinese cardinal, is one of the 15 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict on Feb. 22.

Zen, a vocal critic of Beijing, said he hopes to help establish ties between the Chinese government and the Vatican.

Anti-Semitism suspected in murder outside Paris

PARIS (RNS) The murder of a cell phone salesman outside Paris has gripped the country’s Jewish community, amid mounting evidence he was tortured and killed partly because of his faith.

Several top French ministers have suggested that anti-Semitism could have played a role in the death of salesman Ilan Halimi and vowed to shed full light on the affair.

France is home to Western Europe’s largest Jewish community.

U.S. church leaders decry war in Iraq

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL (RNS) -- U.S. Protestant and Orthodox church leaders attending a World Council of Churches Assembly here issued a written lament for not preventing a U.S war in Iraq that has brought “terror” to the vulnerable while enlisting God in a way that is “nothing short of idolatrous.”

The critique of U.S. foreign and domestic policy that went beyond the war, said U.S. churches had “failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough” to deter war. The letter said the U.S. spurned invitations after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to come “into a deeper solidarity with those who suffer daily from violence around the world.”

Pope condemns violence over prophet cartoons

VATICAN CITY (RNS) -- In the aftermath of dozens of deaths over cartoons lampooning the Islamic prophet, Pope Benedict XVI has condemned the killings of Christians in the Muslim world while calling for more respect of religions and their symbols.

Benedict said, “Intolerance and violence are never justifiable responses to offenses because they are not responses that are compatible with the sacred principles of religion.”

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Father Michael Gajere was killed in Nigeria, “the latest victim of this climate of intolerance,” following the killing of the Rev. Andrea Santoro in Turkey two weeks earlier.

Baptist Church named national landmark

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) -- Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four girls, has become a national historic landmark.

The church, founded in 1873 as the First Colored Baptist Church, moved into its current building in 1911 and served as a key gathering place for civil rights rallies in the 1960s. A bomb planted on Sept. 15, 1963, exploded at the church, killing four girls in a basement lounge preparing for a Sunday youth program.

National status protects the church from being destroyed for any federal project and could make it easier to raise money to maintain and restore the building. Fewer than 2,500 historic places have the distinction.

Protestant-Catholic unity addressed at WCC

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL(RNS) Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church told those attending the World Council of Churches assembly here that the WCC risks becoming too “self-contained” and “self-centered” if it does not do more on behalf of unity, particularly closer relations with the Roman Catholic Church.

“I consider the ecumenical collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches as being of decisive importance for the future of the ecumenical movement,” said Aram.
A Vatican official said the issue of homosexuality had become one barrier to church unity, as there is no longer a single Christian position on homosexuality.

“In the past, all Christian churches had the same position on this question,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.”But now there are not only divisions between our church and other churches, there are also divisions within churches.”

Jewish leader rips divestment strategy

LONDON (RNS) -- Britain’s most senior Jewish leader has blasted the Church of England’s general synod for its “ill-judged” vote last month to withdraw its investments in companies profiting from what the church considers Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said the synod’s action, which appeared to target the church’s $3.9 million holdings in the U.S. machine giant Caterpillar Inc., could strike a major blow to relations between Jews and Christians in Britain.


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