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 March 20, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 6Oakland, CA
News in Brief

A call for peace
Israeli Arab children hold a sign during a March 4 demonstration in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel. The previous day, three Israelis set off firecrackers behind the basilica’s Grotto of the Annunciation, prompting unrest and protests.


Post-Katrina classrooms
Students make their way back to class following a bathroom break at St. Clare School in Waveland, Miss. The school and parish have been operating in heavy plastic tents since their buildings were destroyed last year by Hurricane Katrina.

CNS PHOTO/Nancy Wiechec

USCCB head denies claim of sexual abuse
SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) -- Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has denied a woman’s claim that he sexually abused her more than 40 years ago when she was a minor.

Diocesan attorney Greg Arpin said in a March 8 statement, “Bishop Skylstad categorically denies the accusation.”

“I have kept the promise of celibacy that I made when I was ordained a deacon 47 years ago,” Bishop Skylstad said in the statement. “I hope that the Spokane community will join me in praying for all those who have come forward to report sexual abuse. Please pray for me as well.”

The statement said that the diocesan sexual abuse review board and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, have been advised of the accusation.

Bishop urges French to eat chicken for Lent
DAX, France (CNS) -- A French bishop has urged citizens to eat as much chicken as possible during Lent as a “sign of solidarity” with local farmers during the current avian influenza scare. “The government and the experts never stop insisting the consumption of poultry carries no risk ... to the population -- despite this, consumption is noticeably falling,” said Bishop Philippe Breton of Aire and Dax.

In a statement read at Masses March 4-5, the bishop said the livelihood of local farmers was “at great risk,” while many faced “serious financial problems” and the loss of jobs “at very short notice.” Once the virus is discovered, birds often are slaughtered to prevent its spread. “As bishop, I ask Catholics to use sense, maintain their traditional eating habits and carry on consuming poultry normally,” said the bishop, who has headed the southwestern diocese since 2002.

Bishops seek priority for poor in U.S. budget
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Congress should “give priority attention to the needs of poor and vulnerable people” in shaping the next U.S. budget, said Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He sharply challenged ongoing tax cuts that he said rob the federal government of the revenues needed to meet “our moral obligations to respond to human needs.”

“Budget decisions reflect not only economic policies, but moral choices as well,” Bishop Skylstad wrote in a March 3 letter to U.S. senators and representatives. “Providing an adequate safety net for poor and vulnerable families and promoting human development in poor countries are both fundamental moral obligations of a responsible society,” he wrote. He added that homeland security and national defense “can only be enhanced by wise investments to protect human life and dignity at home and abroad.”

Christians called to forgive after Nazareth incident
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Franciscan priest in charge of Christian sites in the Holy Land said Christians must forgive the Israeli family that set off firecrackers inside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel. “Nothing can justify what they did ... they are unfortunate individuals ... but what we need (is) to look forward, and we as Christians have to forgive,” Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said.

The priest met with Haim and Violet Habibi and their 20-year-old daughter, Odelia, who were remanded into police custody March 3 while charges were brought against them.
The Habibis hugged and kissed Father Pizzaballa and asked for his help -- and that of the pope -- in getting their three minor children back; their youngest was removed from their home the week of the basilica incident. The Habibis’ lawyer said they had not expected things to end as they had.

Guatemalan bishop calls off mining talks
GUATEMALA CITY (CNS) -- Guatemalan Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of San Marcos has called off talks with the Guatemalan government about the country’s mining policy. The bishop, who heads a commission formed last year to negotiate mining reform, said the government has not fulfilled key commitments made to the commission, including placing a temporary, legal moratorium on all mining permits for metals and drafting a new mining bill based on guidelines agreed upon by the commission and the government.

Bishop Ramazzini said that a new mining bill recently presented by the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines did not reflect the results of months of talks held between the government and the commission. “The months and weeks of dialogue apparently were for nothing,” he said.

Boston Catholic Charities stops adoption services
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese will stop providing adoption services rather than continue to comply with a state law requiring no discrimination against gay and lesbian couples who seek to adopt.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called it “a mistake for our laws to put the rights of adults over the needs of children” and said he would seek legislation allowing religious agencies to perform adoptions without violating their religious tenets.

Father J. Bryan Hehir, Boston Catholic Charities president, and Jeffrey Kaneb, chairman of the board of trustees, said the agency “cannot reconcile the teaching of the church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the commonwealth.” Archdiocesan adoptive services had placed 13 children with same-sex couples over the past 20 years.

A 2003 Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document says it would be “gravely immoral” to let same-sex couples adopt children.

No parish funds for abuse claims
PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Portland has indicated she will not permit sex abuse plaintiffs to be paid from parish property before the issue of parish ownership has been resolved in the courts.

Judge Elizabeth Perris, who is hearing the Archdiocese of Portland bankruptcy case, also opened the door for capping the estimated amount the archdiocese will need to pay all claims.
The committee for those claiming sex abuse had proposed a plan that would have trials proceed, with judgments paid as the trials are concluded on a case-by-case basis, tapping into parish and school property when needed.

Perris, acknowledging that many unresolved issues remain regarding the parish and school property, was skeptical of the ability of the Tort Claimants’ Committee, a group representing abuse victims, to implement such a plan.

‘Jesus Decoded’ counters claims in ‘Da Vinci Code’
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new Web site sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign has been established to provide accurate information about the life of Jesus, the origins of Christianity and Catholic teaching to counter claims made in the best-selling novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown.

The Web site, www.jesusdecoded.com, was launched March 9. A film version of the book is slated for nationwide release May 19.

The site contains information that refutes claims made in the book about the nature of Jesus; his relationship with Mary Magdalene; the first four ecumenical councils of the early church and how they shaped today’s teaching about Jesus; contemporaneous accounts of Jesus’ life that were not selected for the New Testament; the role of women in the church throughout history; and the “Last Supper” paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and other artists of his era.

The site also has production information on the CCC’s “Jesus Decoded” TV special, including information on air dates and times in cities around the United States.


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