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October 22, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

New bishop in Sacramento
Bishop Jaime Soto stands outside the cathedral in Sacramento after being named coadjutor bishop of that diocese, Oct. 11. Bishop Soto, 51, has been auxiliary bishop of Orange for the past eight years. As coadjutor, he will automatically succeed Sacramento Bishop William K. Weigand upon his retirement or death. Bishop Soto is one of 25 active Hispanic bishops in the U.S.


New church in Fatima
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, walks in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the opening of the new Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima, Portugal, Oct. 12. An estimated 300,000 pilgrims converged in Fatima to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition and to dedicate the new church.


Awaiting release in Iraq
A group of Iraqi detainees wait in a crowded tent for an Iraqi judge to sign their release papers from a U.S. military base in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 10. The U.S. military released about 1,400 Iraqi detainees to mark the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A visit to Bethlehem
Standing outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity (above left), Palestinians hold pictures of their relatives in Israeli jails while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the church, Oct. 17. She lit a candle at the church and voiced hope that religion could be a force for reconciliation in the Middle East. Above right, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stands with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilos III of Jerusalem during her visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Prior to the visit, her first to the West Bank city, she said she anticipated a prayerful experience.


S.F. archbishop apologizes for Communion mistake
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — When he gave Communion to “two strangely dressed persons” Oct. 7 at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco, Archbishop George H. Niederauer said he did not realize they were members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that has “long made a practice of mocking the Catholic Church.” In a column for the Oct. 19 issue of Catholic San Francisco, the archbishop said he had never met members of the group and “did not recognize who these people were when they approached me.”

“After the event, I realized that they were members of this particular organization and that giving them holy Communion had been a mistake,” said the archbishop. “I apologize to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and to Catholics at large for doing so.” The archbishop said there had been “no protest, no demonstration, no disruption” during the Mass. “The congregation was devout and the liturgy was celebrated with reverence.”

Church in Mexico to review excommunicated heroes
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Mexico City has formed a special commission to review the cases of two independence heroes and former priests who were excommunicated for taking up arms against the Spanish empire in the 19th century.

The re-evaluation of Fathers Miguel Hidalgo Costilla, considered the father of the Mexican nation, and Jose Maria Morelos, who waged a guerrilla war against the Spanish, could help mend old rifts between the Catholic Church and Mexican nationalists, said Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the archdiocese.

“These are icons for the Mexican people, and it is important that we clarify the Church’s position toward them,” Father Valdemar said. The commission will look at evidence that could prove the excommunication of both priests by the Spanish Inquisition was invalidated before their deaths, Father Valdemar said.

Priests asked to give a salary for lawsuit payoff
SAN DIEGO (CNS) — San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom has asked his priests to give up a month’s salary to help pay the diocese’s multimillion dollar settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse. Bishop Brom also asked parish priests to request donations from their parishioners. Fundraising letters are to be sent out by the end of October.

On Sept. 7 the San Diego Diocese and the San Bernardino Diocese, which was split off from its southern neighbor in 1978, announced an agreement to pay $198.1 million to settle lawsuits with 144 people for abuse suffered between 1938 and 1993.

Priest suspended after hidden camera shows sexual advances

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican suspended an official from his job and opened an investigation after the priest was secretly filmed making advances to a young man. The official, Msgr. Tommaso Stenico, insisted that he was not gay, but was pretending to be homosexual in order to research a suspected gay campaign against priests. Msgr. Stenico, 60, is one of three section chiefs at the Congregation for Clergy. He is the host of a catechetical TV program, has written many religious books and has his own Web site.

The scandal erupted in early October when the Italian network La7 broadcast a program on gay priests. One segment, filmed through a hidden camera, showed an appointment between a Vatican monsignor and a young man, in which the priest leads the young man to his Vatican office and implies that he doesn’t think homosexual acts are sinful.

Pope appeals for two priests kidnapped in Iraq
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the release of two Catholic priests kidnapped in Iraq. The priests, both members of the Syrian rite, were abducted in Mosul by unidentified gunmen Oct. 13. Reports from Iraq said a ransom was being demanded for their release. The pope, speaking to pilgrims at a noon blessing Oct. 14, said the latest kidnappings were part of a daily stream of bad news from Iraq, where attacks and violence “are shaking the conscience of those who care for the good of this country and peace in the region.” The priests, Father Pius Affas, 60, and Father Mazen Ishoa, 35, are being threatened with death, he said.

Prominent Christian killed, Gaza Christians uneasy
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Christians in the Gaza Strip expressed unease after a prominent Christian businessman who headed the Palestinian Holy Bible Society was killed by what many believe to be an extremist Islamic group. Costa Dabbagh, executive director of the Middle East Council of Churches, said the killing had “a bit of a psychological effect” on the Christian community, but details of the murder have yet to be determined. “It could have been a normal crime, but because he is Christian it has taken on a different meaning,” Dabbagh said.

South most charitable; Northeast is the least
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Americans in the South contributed a far greater portion of their incomes to charity than those in the Northeast in 2005, according to a new book on church giving. And when the calculations of charitable giving are limited to those made to churches and religious organizations, the average annual expenditures by Southern households in 2005 was nearly twice that of households in the Northeast. Looking at charitable contributions as a percentage of after-tax income, the researchers found that Southerners gave 2.1 percent of their available income to charity, those in the Midwest 2 percent, those in the West 1.5 percent and those in the Northeast 1.2 percent.

Priest gets life sentence for crimes in ‘dirty war’
LA PLATA, Argentina (CNS) — The first Catholic priest in Argentina to face charges of human rights violations committed during the country’s military dictatorship was given a life sentence. The historic ruling is expected to set a legal precedent and push the Church into the spotlight for its alleged role in the country’s 1976-1983 “dirty war.”

Father Christian von Wernich, 67, was found guilty of collaborating in seven murders, 31 cases of torture and 42 kidnappings during his time as police chaplain in clandestine detention centers in Buenos Aires during the dictatorship. He also was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

French bishops denounce immigration reforms
PARIS (CNS) — France’s Catholic bishops have denounced proposed immigration amendments that would allow the collection of ethnic data and introduce DNA testing for migrants seeking to join family members in the country. “Christians should refuse in principle to choose” between those migrants living illegally, or in secret, and those in the open, “or between citizens who carry papers and those without,” the bishops said in a statement. “Whoever they are, they are our brothers and sisters in humanity.”

Two Nobel laureates join Pontifical Academy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI named as members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences two Nobel laureates. They areYuan Tseh Lee, 70, a native of Taiwan who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1986 while he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Klaus von Klitzing, 64, a professor of physics at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Germany.

Bishops sever ties with Amnesty International

PERTH, Australia (CNS) — The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has severed all ties between Amnesty International and the Catholic Church in Australia because the human rights organization changed its neutral stance on abortion. A statement from the bishops’ conference said that by imposing a new policy in favor of abortion, Amnesty effectively had created a human rights organization that excluded Catholic members.

More men in seminaries

The number of Catholic seminarians in undergraduate college programs rose for the 2006-2007 school year to 1,365, according to Mary L. Gautier, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington. But it is barely 10 percent of the number reported by CARA’s first survey in 1967-68: 13,401.

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