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 February 4, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Prayers for confiscated church
Vietnamese Catholics hold a candlelight prayer vigil in Hanoi, Jan. 26. The vigil was part of a more than month-long campaign to press the government for the return of church property seized 50 years ago. The communist government confiscated the apostolic nunciature in Hanoi in 1959..

CNS PHOTO/REUTERSy

New Jesuit leader
Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas takes the oath of office as superior general of the Society of Jesus at the order’s 35th General Congregation, Jan. 19, in Rome. Father Nicolas, 71, moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, succeeds Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

CNS PHOTO/DON DOLL, S.J.

Lebanese cardinal decries rising tensions, violence
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch, said the country’s political dilemma cannot be solved on the streets after several people were killed in riots. “Problems cannot be solved through street protests, but rather inside constitutional institutions,” said Cardinal Sfeir Jan. 28.

At least eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded in riots in Beirut Jan. 27, raising tensions in Lebanon amid a presidential crisis and recent car bombings. The violence began as a protest against electricity power cuts.

Two days earlier, Jan. 25, a massive car bomb in a Christian area of Beirut killed Lebanon’s top anti-terrorism investigator, who was involved in probes related to a string of killings in recent years of mainly anti-Syrian politicians and figures.

Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud’s term expired Nov. 23. The parliamentary session to elect a president has been postponed for the 13th time, until Feb. 11. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the presidential post is reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

Alleged Marian visionary excommunicated in Korea
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) — A South Korean archbishop said an alleged Marian visionary and her followers have been excommunicated automatically. Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju issued the decree Jan. 21, saying “for Christians’ healthy faith life and the unity and communion of the Church, I declare as such, though my heart grieves.”

Archbishop Choi said he met with Julia Youn, 60, and her husband in Naju in 2003 to warn them against promoting the alleged apparitions and later gave her a final warning in 2005, but they did not modify their actions. The excommunication was not imposed by judgment but automatically results from an action that places one outside the community of faith, Archbishop Choi said.

Rochester bishop closes 13 schools in county
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester has accepted the recommendations of a diocesan task force that he close 13 of 24 Catholic schools in Monroe County, the seat of the 12-county diocese, and cut tuition by more than 27 percent. He also accepted the recommendation he provide a financial incentive for families to re-enroll displaced children in the county’s remaining diocesan-run schools.

The moves are intended to stem “a growing financial deficit, rising costs, declining enrollment and a number of schools operating well under capacity,” the bishop’s letter to parents stated. “I firmly believe that the changes we are implementing are essential,” Bishop Clark told parents. “By acting now, we can free the system of potentially crippling financial woes and work to ensure our overall Catholic school program will not just survive but thrive in the future.”

Bishop apologizes for purchase problems

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CNS) — The bishop of Belleville, under pressure from his diocesan finance council over some expenditures, issued an apology Jan. 22 and said the costs being questioned would be covered by an anonymous donor. The statement by Bishop Edward K. Braxton briefly explained his reasoning for using certain funds to buy furniture for the pastoral center and vestments for the cathedral and apologized for anything he did to contribute to “the confusion, mistrust, misunderstanding, loss of confidence and even anger caused by these developments.”

The finance council had questioned the purchases in a letter copied to the Vatican nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. At issue were the bishop’s purchase last year of a conference table and chairs for a meeting room at the chancery at a cost of $10,100, and five sets of vestments bought for the Cathedral of St. Peter at a cost of about $8,000.

New Catholic Latino assn. to address policy issues
SAN ANTONIO (CNS) — The new Catholic Association of Latino Leaders was launched Jan. 16 with a call to U.S. Latinos to “bring to mainstream America the blessings of the integration of faith and culture” found in Latino culture. “Today, more than ever, our voices must be heard,” said San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez at the group’s inaugural national meeting.

The organization’s goal is to engage in public debate and affect the national dialogue on matters important to Latinos, who are the fastest-growing segment of the population in the United States and the Catholic Church. Seventy-one percent of all growth in the U.S. Catholic Church since 1960 has come from the Latino community.

The archbishop lamented that many Latino families are separated by unjust immigration laws, their hope is diminished by poverty and they still confront discrimination.

More countries favor cluster-bomb ban
ROME (CNS) — The tide is turning among a growing number of the world’s diplomats and government officials in favor of a ban on cluster bombs, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

While the United Nations continues to negotiate proposals on cluster munitions, a separate treaty begun with the so-called Oslo process is making major progress, he said in a telephone interview.. During the Jan. 14-18 negotiations in Geneva on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the archbishop called the use of these munitions “unacceptable” and urged nations to pay the price of peace and eliminate stockpiles of such weapons.

Phoenix parishes to become separate entities

PHOENIX (CNS) — The Phoenix Diocese is undertaking a comprehensive restructuring process so that its civil organization matches the one already in place canonically. Currently, the diocese is a corporate sole — a legal entity consisting of a single incorporated office occupied by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. Through July 1, Church leaders will be preparing each individual parish to become a separate, nonprofit corporation. Little will change in day-to-day parish operations, according to diocesan officials. Under the current civil structure, Bishop Olmsted is listed as the property owner of all parish assets in trust for the given parish. But in actual practice, as prescribed by canon law, the pastor makes almost all decisions at the parish level.

Pope to change Tridentine prayer offensive to Jews

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has decided to reformulate a Good Friday prayer in the 1962 Roman Missal that was offensive to Jews, according to an Italian newspaper. The new prayer will drop all reference to the “blindness” of the Jews in refusing Christ as savior, Il Giornale reported. The Vatican did not officially confirm the report, but sources said privately that a rewriting of the prayer was likely and could be made public soon.

The issue arose last year when the pope liberalized use of the 1962 missal, known popularly as the Tridentine rite. The missal contains a prayer for the conversion of Jews, recited on Good Friday. While the prayer would not be recited in most parishes, particular Catholic communities devoted to the old rite could use it in Good Friday liturgies.

Cloning of embryos by U.S. company condemned
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Vatican official condemned the reported cloning of human embryos and said the idea of using them to produce “personalized” therapeutic stem cells was morally illicit and pointless. Such cloning represents “the worst type of exploitation of the human being,” said Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The California biotech company Stemagen reported Jan. 17 that it had cloned the embryos from adult skin cells. The company is interested in developing clones of patients, from which stem cells could then be harvested to grow replacement tissue. Five of the embryos were said to have been grown to an advanced stage, to the point that they could have been implanted in a womb. Company officials emphasized that they were not interested in creating cloned babies.

 

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