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 April 3, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 7Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Tension in New Orleans
Edmundite Father Michael Jacques, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in New Orleans, is surrounded by protesters during a March 26 Mass at neighboring St. Augustine Church. Because of tensions inside the church, he stopped the Mass after his homily and the next day the archdiocese announced the church, where one Mass was to be celebrated each Sunday, will be closed “for the foreseeable future.” Protesters want the parish to remain open rather than to be merged with St. Peter Claver.


Lent in Guatemala
People walk in a Lenten procession through the city of Antigua, Guatemala. Such processions, which date to the 16th century, feature elaborate “carpets” made of colored sawdust, sand and flowers, which are created on the streets just before the events.

CNS PHOTO/Mike Johnson, OFM

Diverse group urges Bush on immigration reform
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A panel of 15 religious, business, political and agricultural leaders urged President George W. Bush to push for comprehensive immigration legislation in a March 23 White House meeting.

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, one of three religious leaders at the session, said the president voiced support for policies that reflect the goals of the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign and their concerns about pending legislation.
“If Congress handled things the way that meeting was handled,” with its spirit of cooperation and respect for a wide range of immigration-related concerns, “we’d be in good shape,” Archbishop Chaput said.

Bush has intermittently pushed for comprehensive immigration reform since his first year in office, but the White House has until recently kept some distance from the ongoing debate in Congress. A bill that passed in the House in December deals only with enforcement, including some provisions that the Catholic Church and others strongly oppose, such as criminalizing the act of aiding illegal immigrants.

California Franciscans reach abuse settlement
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The St. Barbara Province of Franciscans has reached a tentative settlement of about $28 million with 25 victims of sexual abuse by Franciscan priests or Brothers.

Most of the alleged abuse occurred at St. Anthony’s High School Seminary in Santa Barbara, a Franciscan institution that closed in 1987. Some also occurred elsewhere in California, including at Old Mission Santa Barbara, a historic mission church run by the Franciscans.
Because the mission is part of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the archdiocese was also a defendant in some of the cases and is to pay a portion of the settlement.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the archdiocesan liability in the settlement was less the $2 million, but Father Melvin Jurisich declined to break down the figures. He said only that the order is paying most of the settlement.

The St. Barbara Province is based in Oakland and has friars in five Western states and has several missionaries in Latin America and Russia.

Pope drops 'patriarch' title as obsolete
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has dropped “patriarch of the West” from his official titles because it was theologically imprecise and historically obsolete.

“The renunciation of this title is meant to express a historical and theological reality and, at the same time, to be the renunciation of a claim, which should benefit ecumenical dialogue,” said a March 22 statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The Vatican’s 2006 yearbook describes the pope as “bishop of Rome, vicar of Jesus Christ, successor of the prince of the apostles, supreme pontiff of the universal church, primate of Italy, archbishop and metropolitan of the province of Rome, sovereign of Vatican City State and servant of the servants of God.”

Environmentalists use Christ statue for protest
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNS) -- Greenpeace activists chose Rio de Janeiro’s most famous monument, Christ the Redeemer, to protest against the global commerce of living modified organisms.

Six members of the environmental group climbed nearly to the top of the 98-foot statue March 16 to drape a sign along the sculpture’s arm that read, “The future of the planet is in your hands.” Protesters were only able to keep the sign visible for a few minutes before park security arrested them.

Retired church workers get extra pension check
LANSING, Mich. (CNS) -- In an economy where large companies routinely cut pension benefits, scrimp on bonuses and scale back their workforces, the Catholic church in Michigan gave its 6,000 retirees a big surprise in December -- a bonus, 13th-month pension check.

When the Lay Employees’ Retirement Plan experienced a solid financial year, the conference’s board of directors made sure the surplus was spread to those who had worked for the church and are now retired.

Nurse who killed priest, 28 others, gets life sentences
SOMERVILLE, N.J. (CNS) -- A nurse who pleaded guilty to murdering 29 patients, including Father Florian J. Gall, received 11 consecutive life sentences from Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong in Somerville, March 2. Father Gall, who had served nearly 20 years at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Whitehouse Station, died June 28, 2003, at Somerset Medical Center. Cullen, a native of West Orange, admitted that he intentionally administered lethal doses of the heart medication digoxin to the 68-year-old priest.

Chicago issues reports critical of abuse process
CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago released two reports highly critical of its handling of clerical sex abuse. One report focuses on the handling of the cases of two priests who were monitored but not immediately removed from ministry after abuse allegations arose against them.
The second one examines the system of monitoring of priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against them. Jimmy Lago, the point person overseeing all abuse allegations, reaffirmed the commitment of the church of Chicago to protect children, but acknowledged that many have questioned that commitment in recent months.

Eight Boston clerics laicized after sex abuse
BOSTON (CNS) -- Seven priests and one deacon of the Boston Archdiocese accused of sexually abusing minors have been laicized by the Vatican. Among the priests removed from the clerical state was Msgr. Frederick Ryan, a former archdiocesan vice chancellor and regional vicar. The Vatican decision means that all eight men will no longer receive financial support from the archdiocese and they may no longer perform public ministry, with the exception that those who are priests may offer absolution to the dying.

Priest murdered in southwestern India
PUNE, India (CNS) -- The murder of Father Eusebio Ferrao, a parish priest in India, has shocked Catholics in the southwestern Indian state of Goa. Father Ferrao, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in the village of Macasana, was found dead by parishioners who arrived at the church for the 6:30 a.m. Mass, March 18. According to forensic reports, the 61-year-old priest’s body bore 27 knife stab wounds on the back and chest, inflicted after his death from asphyxiation as a result of strangulation and smothering.

Pro-life official urges suspension of RU-486
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops’ pro-life secretariat, responding to a report that two more women have died after taking RU-486, called on Congress to pass legislation that aims to suspend the Food and Drug Administratio n’s approval of the drug used for chemical abortions.

Ten women are believed to have died after using the regimen.


Majority want religious history in school books
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CNS) -- Religious history and traditions should not be kept out of public school classrooms or textbooks, according to a national poll conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute.

More than 79 percent of respondents said religious traditions should be included in public school textbooks and the same percentage also said it was important to teach religious history in public schools.

But some respondents indicated they were not always happy with the way their religious traditions are portrayed in textbooks. Among Catholics, 34 percent believe textbooks misrepresent their religion, while 35 percent of Protestants believe their faith is misrepresented.

More than half of all respondents, 57 percent, suggested publishers allow religious groups to review, but not edit, public school textbooks for accuracy prior to their release. Another 27 percent did not agree and 14 percent were unsure.

Among Catholics and Protestants, support for such textbook reviews was 63 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Time ripe to improve Vatican-China relations
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The time is ripe for improvement in Vatican-China relations, said a top Vatican official.

In interviews with a Hong Kong television station and local newspaper, the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said there was hope for an eventual normalization of relations between the two states.

“The fact itself of (China) entering into unofficial contacts is an attitude not of closure but of openness,” the archbishop said.

While official diplomatic ties have been severed since 1951, some sort of improvement may be on the horizon, he added.

“We hope for an opening on the part of the Chinese authorities, who cannot ignore the expectations of their people or the signs of the times.”

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