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 March 10, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Renewed conflict in Middle East
Left, a Palestinian boy, a relative of a man who was killed by Israeli troops, cries during a funeral in the Gaza Strip, March 3, the same day Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after a two-day assault that killed more than 100 people. Israel had sent troops into the Gaza Strip after rockets had been fired from the area into the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Right, Israeli first-graders sit under their desks during a drill simulating a warning siren for rockets coming from Gaza into Ashkelon. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended peace talks with Israel after the Israel attacks and called on all sides to agree to a cease-fire.


Preparing for pope’s visit to U.S.
A worker applies varnish to a pew in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Workers are busy cleaning and prepping the shrine for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who will meet with U. S. bishops there April 16.


New U.S. ambassador
Pope Benedict XVI receives credentials from Mary Ann Glendon, the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, during a private meeting at the Vatican Feb. 29.

CNS PHOTO/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Conserving a saint’s body
Archbishop Domenico D’Ambrosio, left, and several Franciscan friars look at the body of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy after it was exhumed March 2. The saint’s body is to be conserved and put in a new glass coffin. It will be displayed for public viewing beginning April 24.


Security rule to keep Sikhs from papal event
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Repre-sen-tatives of the world’s fifth-largest religion, Sikhism, will not attend an interreligious meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Washington because the faith requires formally initiated members to wear at all times a miniature sword or dagger called a kirpan, and security concerns will bar kirpans from the room.

Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, confirmed the Secret Service would require Sikhs to leave behind their kirpans if they were to participate in the April 17 interfaith meeting that will be held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

Rather than compromise on religious tenets that treat wearing a kirpan as a sacred obligation for professed believers, Sikh leaders and representatives of the bishops’ conference agreed they should quietly decline the invitation to participate in the meeting.

Chavez backers invade archdiocese offices

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) — About 15 hooded supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez invaded the offices of the Archdiocese of Caracas, Venezuela, and held a news conference criticizing government opponents, including the Church. The protesters entered the offices Feb. 27, demanding that the media publish a statement of their views on the Church and other issues. They threw pamphlets out the building’s windows, made announcements with a loudspeaker and did not permit employees to leave the building,

Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate Salas of Caracas said the protesters were not armed or violent and did not threaten employees or damage property. “We just let time run, so that whatever happened, happened,” he said.

Ireland heading toward major priest shortage
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — New figures on vocations published in the 2008 Irish Catholic Directory indicate how quickly the country is headed toward a major shortage of priests. According to the directory, the country lost 160 priests last year — mostly because of death in old age — and had only nine new ordinations.

Currently there are about 4,750 priests in Ireland but, if current trends continue, by 2028 Ireland will have fewer than 1,500 priests. “It’s a trend that priests would have known about for some time,” said Father Eamonn Bourke, Dublin diocesan vocations director. “But many laypeople are only beginning to become aware of the implications and the dramatic effect that the fall in vocations will have.

“It will mean parish amalgamations, it will mean some parishes not having daily Masses and it will probably mean some parishes not having a Mass every Sunday. Couples will not be able to get married on their own — it’s more likely that they will make their wedding vows with at least another couple sharing the ceremony. The same will apply to funeral Masses.”

British cardinal fires most Catholic hospital directors

LONDON (CNS) — A British cardinal has fired almost the entire board of directors of a Catholic hospital where abortion referrals and contraceptives have been offered to patients. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster requested the resignations of 10 of the 13 directors of London’s Hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth. His decision follows the appointment of Lord Guthrie, former head of Britain’s armed forces, as the new chairman of the board.

A spokesman for the cardinal said a new board will enable the new chairman to begin his office “with the freedom to go about ensuring the future well-being of this Catholic hospital.”

Catholic official welcomes Kosovo independence
OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Catholic official in Kosovo welcomed its declaration of independence, adding that the rights of all people would be guaranteed in the new country. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17.

“We are fully behind independence — it’s a great joy that it has come so quickly,” said Msgr. Shan Zefi, chancellor of Kosovo’s Catholic apostolic administration in Prizren. “The Catholic faithful are celebrating throughout Kosovo. We are optimistic about the future, and we expect great things for the Catholic Church.”

Priest hospitalized after rectory attack in Kenya

KERICHO, Kenya (CNS) — A priest in the Diocese of Kericho has been hospitalized after four assailants beat him while he was sleeping in his parish home. Father John Mbaraka of St. Mark’s Parish said the aggressors entered the rectory at Sacred Heart Parish in Kericho in the early morning hours Feb. 18, slashed Father Beatus Kimati with a sword and kicked him several times. Father Mbaraka said Father Kimati, who was seriously injured, was attacked in total darkness so he could not identify his attackers. The assailants demanded to know the priest’s tribe. Father Kimati said he was Tanzanian, and the attackers left.

Nuns march against troops in southern Philippines
CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (CNS) — Catholic nuns led a demonstration of some 4,000 protesters through the streets of this southern Philippine city Feb. 18, denouncing the presence of U.S. soldiers in the conflict-plagued region. “The U.S. troops don’t provide any benefit to our people or our country. Their presence here is destructive, and they should go away,” said Sister Elsa Compuesto, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary.

“They are opportunistic. They’re really here to protect the economic interests of the United States, to exploit our natural resources in Mindanao. Our region is rich in natural resources, but the people are being deprived of them,” said Sister Elsa, who is also executive secretary of the Sisters Association of Mindanao, a group of some 350 women religious which coordinates work on justice and peace issues.

CRS helps Iraqi refugees gain Lebanon work status
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — Supported with funds from the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services and other groups, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center successfully has negotiated with Lebanese authorities for the release of hundreds of Iraqi refugees detained because of their illegal status. With the reprieve, Iraqis can search for work without fear of arrest. CRS, Caritas branches in France and Italy and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees have provided funding to regularize the status of the detainees and pay visa fees.

Actor Sheen to receive Notre Dame Medal

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) — Actor Martin Sheen, whose human rights activism may be as well known these days as his acting credits, has been named the 2008 recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the school’s oldest and most prestigious honor. The award was established in 1883 as an annual honor for a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” The award will be presented to Sheen during the university’s 163rd commencement exercises May 18.


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