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 July 2, 2007VOL. 45, NO. 13Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Grieving his mother
A boy sits next to an empty coffin as he waits to claim the body of his mother outside a hospital morgue in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, Iraq. The boy’s mother was killed in a suicide truck bombing that partly demolished a Shiite mosque in Baghdad June 19, killing at least 87.

Deportation lament
Elora, who only wanted to give her first name, comforts her son David, 7, after sharing her story about her husband’s deportation, during an immigration rally outside the White House, June 19. Elora’s husband, Limbano, was deported to Guatemala that day. Several groups, including a contingent with the Dreams Across America Tour, marched to the White House calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Prayers for priest
A nun bows her head in prayer as hundreds of Church leaders and students gather for a prayer rally for kidnapped Italian Father Giancarlo Bossi in Zamboanga City, Philippines, June 22. Hundreds of Philippine soldiers and Muslim rebels have resumed joint efforts to locate and free the priest, who was kidnapped June 10 in the coastal village of Bulawan in the Philippines’ Southern Mindanao region.

Cardinal praises Bush for stem-cell veto
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised President George W. Bush for his June 20 veto of a bill to expand federal funding for medical research on human embryonic stem cells. In conjunction with the veto, Bush issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to strengthen the nation’s commitment to research on adult stem cells.

Broad support shown for hike in tobacco tax
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Regardless of their age, gender, race, party affiliation or socioeconomic status, Americans support a 75-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tobacco tax to fund health care coverage for the nation’s uninsured children, according to a new poll. Even 51 percent of those who describe themselves as current or occasional smokers support the increase and use of the funds to help uninsured children, said the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in releasing the results of a nationwide survey.

The Catholic Health Association has been a strong supporter of moves to expand health insurance coverage for children and their parents through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, and Medicaid, and backs an increase in the tobacco tax to reach that goal.

Eight Christian students kidnapped in Iraq
ROME (CNS) -- Armed men kidnapped eight Christians on their way home from university exams in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, June 20. Some 50 students and professors were riding a bus heading home from exams in Mosul when “a caravan of cars” surrounded and stopped the vehicle. Only the Christians were targeted and taken away after the kidnappers looked at the passengers’ identification cards. Iraqi identification cards specify a person’s religious affiliation.

Vatican official calls for cluster-bomb ban
GENEVA (CNS) -- If an international convention that limits the use of inhumane weapons is to remain credible, it should include a total ban on cluster bombs, said a Vatican official. The world community does not need more proof to realize submunitions “should no longer exist in the arsenals of armies who are concerned with better respecting international human rights,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva. Cluster bombs and submunitions are not yet banned by any international treaty, and many governments still consider them legitimate weapons.

Papal preacher can’t lecture in Medjugorje
MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNS) -- The preacher of the papal household has withdrawn from plans to deliver a series of lectures in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, after the local bishop denied him permission to speak there. Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has been the pope’s preacher since 1980, was to be the keynote speaker at the 12th International Seminar for Priests July 3-5 in Medjugorje, the site of thousands of alleged appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Priest turns down role with Islamic rebels
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Oblate Father Eliseo Mercado Jr. said that after hearing objections from leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front he will not serve as the government’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the group. The priest, an experienced peace-builder, said his best contribution to peace in southern Mindanao -- the southern Philippine region where the Islamic front is fighting to separate from the Philippines -- would be to monitor the peace process and advise both sides.

Nuns’ compound in Gaza ransacked, looted
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Gaza compound of the Rosary Sisters was ransacked and looted and sacred objects were destroyed during Palestinian infighting that led to the Hamas faction’s takeover of the Gaza Strip. Gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to break down the doors of the compound, which is located some distance from the Holy Family Parish compound.
The attackers stole several computers, destroyed all the crosses in the compound, burned copies of the Bible and smashed a statue of Jesus. No nuns were at the compound when the attack occurred.

Norms issued for Catholic fundraising in U.S.
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With Vatican approval, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued national norms governing all church-related fundraising appeals. The norms spell out rules of transparency, accountability, procedures to be followed and oversight over fundraising campaigns by appropriate church authorities. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president, also issued a decree establishing new national norms for the leasing of church-owned properties. Both decrees take effect Aug. 15.

On pilgrimage to Assisi, pope appeals for peace
ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- On a pilgrimage to the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for peace in the Middle East and a return to “responsible and sincere dialogue” to end armed conflicts. The pope’s one-day trip June 17 marked the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis, a figure the pope described as a one-time “king of partying” who learned to make space for God. The pope made a point of praising the 1986 interreligious gathering in Assisi, an initiative of Pope John Paul II, as “a prophetic intuition and a moment of grace.” Such dialogue is an essential part of Christianity, but must be carried out without weakening the Christian duty to spread the Gospel, he said.

Council rescinds ‘pro-choice city’ designation
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Cardinal Justin Rigali thanked the Philadelphia City Council June 14 for voting to rescind a “troubling resolution” that had declared Philadelphia a “pro-choice city.”
The vote to rescind was 13-4; nine council members had supported the original nonbinding resolution June 7, while eight members had opposed it. Two of the three Catholic council members who had supported the designation reversed their votes.

Iraqi Christian murders skyrocketed since 2003
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The number of Christians murdered in Iraq since 2003 skyrocketed, compared to murders in 1995-2002, said a comprehensive report based on public accounts from Iraqi Christian sources. The report described in detail the deaths of Christian children -- including babies -- laypeople, priests and nuns who were burned, beaten or blown up in car bombs throughout the past few years.
The report, released June 12, was written by Peter BetBasoo, a founder of the Assyrian International News Agency.

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