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 February 21, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 1Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Anniversary of Black Nazarene
A girl wipes a replica of the Black Nazarene during an outdoor procession Jan. 9 in Manila, Philippines. The event marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the ebony statue of Christ, brought to the Pacific islands by Spanish priests.

New post for S.F. bishop
Auxiliary Bishop John C. Wester of San Francisco has been named the new head of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The 56-year-old bishop will be installed on March 14.

Abuse lawsuit against Vatican gets go ahead
WASHINGTON. (CNS) -- A federal judge in Louisville, Ky., has denied a Vatican request to dismiss a sex abuse lawsuit seeking damages from the Holy See. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled Jan. 11 that U.S. bishops and priests are employees of the Vatican within the terms of the Federal Sovereign Immunity Act.

The act generally exempts other sovereign states from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, but it allows U.S. courts to adjudicate lawsuits seeking monetary damages from a foreign country for personal injury caused in the United States by an employee of that country “while acting within the scope of his office or employment.”

Catholics join efforts to close military prison
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pax Christi members were among several hundred demonstrators at a federal courthouse in Washington Jan. 11 calling for the shutdown of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Among the dozens of groups endorsing the demonstration were the Justice and Peace Office of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Red Bud, Ill.; various Catholic Worker houses; the Catholic Peace Ministry; the Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh; the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio; and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scranton, Pa.

Pro-life official decries passage of stem-cell bill
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A pro-life official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized House passage Jan. 11 of a bill that would expand federal funding of stem-cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos, but expressed confidence that an expected presidential veto of the “misguided and unethical legislation” would stand.

Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said both houses of Congress should turn their attention “to stem-cell research that poses no moral problem,” including research using stem cells from adult tissue, umbilical-cord blood, amniotic fluid.

Irish churches seek info on murdered Catholics
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- Catholic churches in Ireland are appealing for information about the location of nine Catholics murdered between 1972 and 1985 and whose bodies were buried in secret. The appeal is in response to a request from the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, established in 1999 under terms of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

Secretly ordained bishop dies at age 103
HONG KONG (CNS) -- Clandestinely ordained Bishop Joseph Meng Ziwen of Nanning, China’s oldest prelate, died Jan. 7 at the age of 103. He was ordained a bishop in 1984, but the Chinese government recognized him only as a priest. He used to celebrate three Masses on Sundays at three different churches. Even after turning 100, he maintained this practice until his health began deteriorating in August 2005.

World Youth Day fees based on country’s wealth
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the approval of the Vatican, organizers of the 2008 World Youth Day events in Australia will charge registration fees based on the wealth of each pilgrim’s home country.

Organizers said the four-tiered registration fee system is based on national income classifications developed by the World Bank. Pilgrims from Australia, the United States, Canada and Western Europe, but also Poland, Mexico and several Caribbean countries will be asked to pay higher registration fees than pilgrims coming from middle- and low-income countries. The price list is published on the World Youth Day Web site, www.wyd2008.org.

Cardinal says bishops unlikely to have KGB ties
VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Lithuanian church leaders said a situation similar to the recent resignation of a Polish archbishop who admitted collaborating with former communist secret police is highly unlikely in Lithuania. “After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, the ecclesial hierarchy has undergone major reorganizations, so at least on the hierarchical level such problems should not arise,” Cardinal Audrys Backis of Vilnius said.

During the 1990s, all active bishops who were appointed under communism were replaced. Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1989.

Retired bishop continues to seek presidency
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Fernando Lugo Mendez of San Pedro, Paraguay, who resigned from active ministry to run for president, said he hopes to foster a “great social pact” to achieve national reconciliation in a country with deep divisions. “I believe in collective leadership. ... I’m no messiah,”

Bishop Lugo, who is leading in opinion polls, said Paraguay was “a champion in corruption,” but added, “there are very healthy people who are not tainted by it” and said he would like his running mate to be a female politician.

Nearly 40 percent of Paraguay’s 6.5 million people live in poverty -- and half of those poor struggle on $1 a day. Paraguay is one of most corrupt nations in the world. The Colorado Party has been in power for six decades.

Spokane bankruptcy case settled for $48 mil.
RENO, Nev. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Spokane, Wash., and those with sexual abuse claims against the diocese have reached a $48 million settlement. The agreement reached Jan. 4 must still be confirmed by the court in Spokane and by creditors in accord with provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Parishes of the diocese will have to raise $10 million to contribute to the settlement. The Spokane Diocese has nearly 100,000 Catholics served by 82 parishes, so the cost to the parishes, who depend on contributions for their income, works out to an average of about $100 per Catholic.

Denver settles 15 abuse cases for close to $1.6 mil.
DENVER (CNS) -- The Judicial Arbiter Group said Jan. 4 that the Denver Archdiocese has reached a mediated settlement with 15 of 19 victims of childhood clergy sex abuse who participated in the mediation process. The settlements ranged from $30,000 to $150,000 and totaled $1,585,000.
Archbishop Chaput said in addition that “we have settled claims of three other individuals who approached us directly and who did not file a lawsuit to have their claims considered.” He did not reveal the amount of those settlements.

Hope expressed for new stem-cell research
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican’s top health care official expressed hope that U.S. researchers would be proven correct in asserting they could obtain medically useful stem cells from amniotic fluid.

Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said there would be no ethical problem with using cells from amniotic fluid as long as the procedure did not place the pregnant woman or her baby in danger. In a study reported Jan. 7, scientists at two U.S. institutions said the amniotic fluid surrounding a child in the womb can be the source of medically useful stem cells.

Strikes on Somalia could make things worse
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While he has said for years that terrorists were hiding out in Somalia, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu said more U.S. airstrikes would only make things worse.

Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti, who also oversees the Church in Somalia’s chaotic and violent capital, spoke the day after a U.S. Air Force gunship fired on suspected al-Qaida terrorists in southern Somalia. “This act risks throwing more fuel on an already explosive situation,” he said.

Catholic Scots urged to oppose renewing nukes
LONDON (CNS) -- A Scottish bishop has urged Catholics to oppose plans to renew Great Britain’s nuclear arsenal. Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen, Scotland, called on Catholics to tell legislators about the Catholic Church’s opposition to the proposals before the British Parliament’s debate on plans to upgrade the submarine-based Trident nuclear weapons system. Legislators were to debate the issue and vote on it in March.

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