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April 23, 2007VOL. 45, NO. 8Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Birthday concert
Pope Benedict XVI speaks at the end of a special concert performed by Germany’s Stuttgart Radio Symphonic Orchestra in honor of his 80th birthday in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, April 16.

Pope Benedict laments ‘continual slaughter’
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his Easter message, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the countless wars, disasters and horrors ravaging the world, including “the continual slaughter” in Iraq and the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. The pope highlighted his concern for all those suffering from exploitation, hunger, disease, terrorism, kidnappings and the “violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion.”

Bush touts Catholic schools, cites closings
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President George W. Bush praised Catholic schools and pressed for immigration reform in remarks delivered April 13 at the fourth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. “America’s Catholic schools play a vital role in our nation.... I appreciate the tremendous sacrifices that many dioceses are making to keep their inner(-city) schools going. I am worried that too many of these schools are closing -- and our nation needs to do something about it,” the president said.
On the subject of immigration, Bush said to the 1,600 gathered for the breakfast that “we must have” a national policy “that enforces our laws and upholds the dignity of every single person in the United States. And now is the time for the United States Congress to get a bill to my desk that I can sign.”

Diocese ordered to disclose parish accounts
SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- At a federal bankruptcy hearing April 11, Judge Louise DeCarl Adler ordered the San Diego Diocese to refile its financial disclosure statements and to include this time the balances in the 770 bank accounts held by the 98 parishes of the diocese. She also indicated, in response to a request from the diocese, that she will appoint an outside expert to analyze the accounting system in the diocese and its parishes.

Lawyers for the diocese said each parish is a separate entity that needs its own bank accounts because it functions separately in its financial operations. When dealing with money that is dedicated to one purpose and cannot be commingled with other funds, a parish may place that money in a separate account. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Feb. 27.

Bishops’ official laments stem-cell research funding
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized the U.S. Senate’s “fixation on destructive research” after the Senate passed a bill that would provide federal funding for stem-cell research involving the destruction of human embryos. On April 11, the Senate approved S. 5, permitting destruction of human embryos in federally funded stem-cell research, by a 63-34 margin.

Should the bill become law, “millions of taxpayers would be forced to promote attacks on innocent human life in the name of scientific progress,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, deputy director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said. President George W. Bush has promised to veto the legislation. On Jan. 11 the House passed a similar measure, H.R. 3, by a vote of 253-174.

McDonald’s in accord with tomato pickers
ATLANTA (CNS) -- McDonald’s Corp. has reached an agreement with a Florida farmworker organization to pay a penny per pound more for tomatoes to increase wages and to improve working conditions for the workers who pick them. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and McDonald’s April 9 announced that they also would work together to develop a new code of conduct for tomato growers and increase farmworkers’ participation in monitoring compliance.

Signed in Atlanta, the agreement puts an end to a two-year campaign by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pressure McDonald’s to pay more for the 15 million tomatoes it uses annually in U.S. restaurants. McDonald’s reportedly buys fewer than 1.5 percent of Florida’s tomatoes.

Protest in Rome against capital punishment
ROME (CNS) -- More than 2,000 people protesting capital punishment marched through Rome to St. Peter’s Square on Easter morning. The march was designed to put pressure on the Italian government to propose a moratorium on capital punishment at the U.N. General Assembly April 23.

The Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic lay community, and Hands Off Cain, an international nonprofit organization that works to end capital punishment, organized the march. Various Italian political figures -- including Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni and Marco Pannella, a member of the European Parliament – participated.

Colombian coast threats hinder human rights work
BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Recent threats against Catholic institutions and indigenous and human rights organizations along Colombia’s Pacific coast have formed a pattern of intimidation that has increasingly interfered with the Church’s human rights work, said the Colombian bishops’ conference. The bishops said there has been a “considerable increase in selective killings, disappearances, massacres, displacements, threats and generalized fear in the civilian population in many parts of the region.”

They also said that “nothing has been done” about the problems and called on the military and government agencies to address the region’s crisis.

South Korean Catholics protest trade agreement
ANDONG, South Korea (CNS) -- Catholics in a rural South Korean diocese have protested their government’s “unpardonable” free-trade agreement with the United States and warned that an influx of U.S. imports would destroy local farming communities. “The government is sacrificing farmers at the cost of selling more industrial products,” said Isidore Kwoun Oh-su, chairman of the Andong Diocese’s unit of the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement. He said the free-trade agreement would “take away any hope left for farmers and kill farming communities.”

Under the agreement, South Korea will receive wider access to the U.S. textile and automobile markets, and South Korea will allow market access for U.S. exports and agricultural products. For the pact to become law, the U.S. Congress and South Korea’s legislature must approve it.

Episcopal bishop returns to Catholic Church
ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- Bishop Daniel W. Herzog, recently retired Episcopal bishop of Albany, and his wife, Carol, have left the Episcopal Church and re-entered full communion with the Catholic Church. Both were raised as Catholics and joined the Episcopal Church as adults.
In a letter to his successor, Bishop William H. Love, Bishop Herzog said his decision was a result of the decision of the 2003 General Convention of the U.S. Episcopal Church to affirm the election and ordination of an openly gay man, Bishop Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

In his view, he said, the power the convention claimed in taking its action “negated any previous authority on which I had relied. It caused me to engage in a fresh examination of apostolic teaching and authority.”

Illinois Catholic leaders criticize HPV mandate
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CNS) -- Catholic leaders in Illinois are speaking out against proposed legislation that would require all girls entering sixth grade in the state to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, saying the mandate could have an adverse moral impact on minors. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2006, the vaccine protects against four HPV strains that are responsible for 70 percent of fatal cervical cancers and 90 percent of contagious sexually transmitted diseases.

“There is nothing wrong with the vaccine itself,” said Zach Wichmann, associate director of the Illinois Catholic Conference. But mandating that young girls must receive this vaccine might send the message that teenage sexual relationships and encounters are acceptable, he said. “Parents should be able to decide” about allowing their minor children to undergo the vaccination process.

Virginia legislators expand reasons for death penalty
RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- Despite a warning by Virginia’s Catholic bishops that the state’s death penalty has spiraled “out of control,” legislators voted overwhelmingly April 4 to override a gubernatorial veto and make it a capital crime to murder a judge or a subpoenaed witness. The legislators narrowly failed, however, to override Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s veto of legislation that would make it a capital offense to direct a killing even if one does not personally participate in the murder.

Vatican likely to seek clemency for priest
ROME (CNS) -- Vatican officials said they will likely try to ask for clemency for a Vietnamese priest who was sentenced to eight years in prison for crimes against the state. In late February, Father Ly was placed under house arrest and charged with acts of incitement against the state after his home was raided. The priest also was accused of being a part of a pro-democracy activist group. His trial lasted one day; he was sentenced March 30.


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