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 March 24, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

First Catholic church in Qatar
People stand outside St. Mary’s Church, the first Catholic church built in predominantly Muslim Qatar, before the inaugural Mass March 14. For decades, Christians, who make up less than 10 percent of the population in Qatar, practiced their faith in cramped garages, private homes and, most recently, in foreign schools and prefabricated halls. In April 2003 the Qatar government overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that guaranteed freedom of expression, religion, assembly and association.

Pilgrimage halted
Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit tries to persuade Israeli border police to let Palestinians and international visitors pass through the gate to Jerusalem during a Palm Sunday procession from Lazarus’ Tomb in Bethany to the Bethany Gate at the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank. The participants in the procession called for freedom of worship for Palestinians who are blocked from reaching the traditional Palm Sunday path on the Mount of Olives because of the Israeli wall.

Anti-abortion campaign
A priest holds a model of a fetus manufactured by the Brazilian bishops’ conference for their campaign against abortion. The mock fetuses will be distributed at churches in Rio de Janeiro and will be carried to the altar during Mass as anti-abortion videos are show on a screen.

Pope appeals for end to bloodbath in Iraq
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI stepped up appeals for an end to the bloodbath and hatred tearing apart Iraq. Mentioning the recent tragic death of an Iraqi archbishop and the fifth anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq, the pope issued “a loud and concerned outcry.”

“Enough with the bloodshed, enough with the violence, enough with the hatred in Iraq,” he said immediately before reciting his noonday Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square March 16. He launched an appeal to all Iraqis, “who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that has caused the upheaval of civil and social life.” He said, “Beloved Iraqi people: Lift up your heads and let it be you yourselves who, in the first place, rebuild” the life of the nation.

Polish priest-cosmologist wins Templeton Prize
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Michal Heller, 72, a Polish priest-cosmologist and a onetime associate of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, is this year’s winner of the Templeton Prize. The prize, the world’s largest annual monetary award given to an individual, is worth 820,000 pounds sterling (US$1.65 million).

The award is given for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities. Father Heller, a philosophy professor at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland, was honored for 40-plus years of work developing “sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the universe,” according to the announcement on the prize. The priest, who for much of his life worked under the strictures of communism, has written more than 30 books and nearly 400 papers.

Sainthood advances for Knights’ founder
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The sainthood cause of the founder of the Knights of Columbus took a major step forward, March 15, when Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree of “heroic virtues” for Father Michael McGivney, a U.S. priest who, after establishing the Knights of Columbus, worked as a pastor until his death at age 38.

Father McGivney can be beatified if a miracle is attributed to his intercession. Canonization — a declaration of sainthood — requires an additional miracle. Supporters of Father McGivney’s cause are hoping he will be the first U.S.-born priest to be canonized.

Pope asks for global aid for people of Haiti
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI appealed to the world community to “continue and increase its support of the Haitian people” and help them build a better future for themselves. He also asked that leaders of the Caribbean island-nation be given “the courage to promote change and reconciliation” so that citizens can live in more “dignified conditions” and benefit from “the riches of the earth.”

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 80 percent of its population living below the poverty line, and a per-capita annual income of about $440. An estimated 70 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

Social effects of sin greater than ever

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In today’s globalized culture, the social effects of sin are greater than ever before and deserve the Church’s urgent attention, a Vatican official said.

New forms of sin have arisen in the area of biotechnology, economics and ecology, and many involve questions of individual rights and wider social effects, said Bishop Gianfranco Girotti.

He said the sense of sin in today’s world should be even more acute than before, since the effects of sin are often widespread.

Among the “new sins” that have emerged in recent times, he pointed to genetic experiments and manipulation that violate fundamental human rights and produce effects difficult to foresee and control.

Pakistan blast damages several Catholic buildings
LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) — A massive suicide bomb targeting a government building killed 23 people and badly damaged Catholic buildings in Lahore.

The bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. March 11 outside the Federal Investigation Agency office, causing serious damage to nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, St. Anthony’s College, St. Paul Communication Center, the Caritas Pakistan building, a Catholic press building, a convent and catechists’ house.

Initial reports said the blast killed two students at the church schools — one at Sacred Heart and one at St. Anthony’s — and injured more than 100. Four members of the Caritas Pakistan staff were hospitalized for their injuries.

Thai Catholic senator to focus on women’s rights

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNS) — Thailand’s first Catholic senator hopes to be able to reflect her faith community’s views as well as promote the rights of women and children, her area of expertise. Teresa Yuwadee Nimsomboon, 62, president of the Catholic Association of Thailand, was among 74 senators whose appointments recently were endorsed by the national election commission.

Priest seeks better transport for pilgrims to Lourdes
OXFORD, England (CNS) — The head of an Italian pilgrimage organization has appealed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy to tackle the growing problems faced by pilgrims traveling by train to Lourdes in southwestern France.

In an open letter to Sarkozy, Father Luciano Mainini, secretary-general of the Italian Pilgrimages Secretariat, said the SNCF, the French national railway company, provides the “sole means of transport” to Lourdes for most sick pilgrims and needs urgent improvement.

He said pilgrimage organizers had faced “more and more major obstacles,” including sudden timetable changes and long delays, as well as annual 10 percent to 15 percent tax hikes.


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