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 June 9, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Faith foundation launched
T\Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks during the official launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in New York May 30. The foundation’s goals are to promote respect and understanding among religions, show the relevance of faith as a force for good, and encourage interfaith initiatives to tackle global poverty and conflict.

Church offers refuge
An African immigrant, displaced by xenophobic violence, feeds her child at Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban, South Africa, May 27. Hundreds of victims of xenophobic violence in South Africa are being housed in church halls in Durban as the country’s faith communities and civil society rally to help those displaced.

Ordination of women incurs excommunication
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation has decreed formally that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated. The brief “General Decree Regarding the Delict of Attempted Sacred Ordination of a Woman” was published on the front page of the May 30 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation, who signed the decree, said it was published “in order to protect the nature and validity” of the sacrament of holy orders.

Cardinal removes priest for offensive remarks

CHICAGO (CNS) — A Chicago Catholic priest criticized for a speech in which he mocked Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York has been temporarily removed from his pastoral duties by Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago.

Cardinal George said though Father Michael Pfleger doesn’t agree that he should take a leave of absence from his post as pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church “I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the church’s regulations for all Catholic priests.”

During a June 1 “unity service” at his church, Father Pfleger said that his remarks the week before at Trinity United Church of Christ were about racism, not politics.
“All my life, I have had to deal with the reality of racism,” he said. “I have committed myself to tearing down the walls that divide us wherever they stand.”

The priest said Clinton saw Obama as “a black man stealing my show” when the senator entered the race for the Democratic nomination. “She wasn’t the only one crying,” added the priest, who is white. “There was a whole lot of white people crying.”

South Dakota pastor fights deportation order

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Cathal Gallagher, a Columban missionary and pastor of three parishes in rural South Dakota, is fighting his pending deportation to his native Ireland. After arriving in the U.S., he applied for permanent residency and was told five years ago that his “green card” was approved, only to learn much later that his application had been denied. Now, he and his parishioners are trying to persuade the Department of Homeland Security office of Citizenship and Immigration Services to reverse its denial of his application. Otherwise, Father Gallagher, 58, will have to leave the country by July 1.

Brazil bishops denounce embryonic stem-cell law

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) — The Brazilian Catholic bishops’ conference has criticized a decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court to uphold a 2005 law that permits stem-cell research with spare embryos from in vitro fertilization. The bishops said in a statement that the court’s May 29 decision “revealed a great divergence over the issue at hand,” since the final tally was six votes for and five against the law.

The split decision, they said, shows there are justices who have similar ethical positions as that of the Catholic Church and that the issue “is not a religious question, but one of the defense of human life from its conception.”

Rise in food prices threatens 1 billion lives

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Vatican representative said the recent rise in global food prices threatens the lives of the 1 billion people who spend most of their daily income in search of food. The current food crisis shines “a red light of alarm” on structural injustices in the agricultural economy worldwide, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. He said the surge in food prices threatens the stability of developing countries and calls for urgent international action.

Vatican drugstore offers cut-rate prices

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — From a simple storeroom for the pope’s pills to a bustling drugstore open to the public, the Vatican pharmacy has come a long way in 134 years. The Vatican says the pharmacy is the busiest in the world; some 2,000 customers stream through its doors daily. About 45 percent of the daily clientele come to the Vatican pharmacy for foreign, hard-to-find medicines or to fill prescriptions at cut-rate prices. Savings can range from 12 percent to 25 percent less for the same products sold in Italian drugstores.

Restraining order keeps 13-year-old out of church

BERTHA, Minn. (CNS) — An Eagle Bend mother has been cited with violating a May 9 temporary restraining order that prohibits her and her husband from bringing their autistic 13-year-old son onto the property of St. Joseph Church in Bertha. Carol Race received a citation from a Todd County sheriff’s deputy May 15, four days after she and her family were at Mass at the parish.

Father Daniel Walz, St. Joseph’s pastor, sought the order “as a last resort out of a growing concern for the safety of parishioners and other community members due to disruptive and violent behavior” on the part of Adam Race. A parish spokeswoman said that Adam’s behavior in the church and his parents’ inability to control it, not his disability, prompted the court action.

Grants to repair Catholic landmarks in New Orleans

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two Catholic landmarks in New Orleans — St. Augustine Church and St. Alphonsus Art & Cultural Center — have been given much-needed cash to reinforce the structures and ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience spiritual mysteries that might connect them to the past. The aging structures — both threatened with extinction — are among five celebrated properties in the hurricane-ravaged Louisiana city to receive restoration grant money from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The remainder of the grant money went to St. James A.M.E. Church, Odyssey House social services center and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.

Document on gays applies to all seminaries

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a clarification approved by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican said its 2005 document prohibiting the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood applies to all types of seminaries. That includes houses of formation run by religious orders and those under the authority of the agencies dealing with missionary territories and Eastern churches.

Chaldeans against death for killer of archbishop

ROME (CNS) — Chaldean Catholic leaders in Iraq have criticized a death sentence for the man convicted of killing Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq. “Violence must not call for more violence. We are in favor of justice but not of capital punishment,” said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq.

The Iraqi government announced May 18 that an Iraqi criminal court had sentenced Ahmed Ali Ahmed to death for killing Archbishop Rahho. The date of the execution had not yet been made public. An Iraqi government spokesman said Ahmed was an al-Qaida leader who was involved in a number of “terror crimes against the people of Iraq.”

Activists jailed for protest at U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Eleven peace activists received jail sentences May 30 after being convicted of misdemeanor charges in connection with a Jan. 11 nonviolent demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court calling for the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The 11 were among 34 people convicted of unlawfully gathering on the Supreme Court grounds.. Their sentences ranged from one to 15 days, the length dependent upon the number of previous convictions stemming from other similar actions.

The remaining members of the group, including Father William Pickard, a priest from the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., received suspended jail terms of seven to 30 days, one year of probation and the order to stay away from the Supreme Court for a year. All were required to pay $50 in court fees.

President to meet with Pope during June trip

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two months after hosting Pope Benedict XVI at the White House, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will visit the Vatican during a June 9-16 European trip. The White House said the Bushes’ trip to Europe was designed “to strengthen the trans-Atlantic partnership and to celebrate the enduring friendship between our nations based on shared democratic values.”

Pope urges countries to combat causes of hunger

ROME (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI urged the international community to combat the causes of hunger, saying starvation and malnutrition were unacceptable in a world that can produce plenty to eat. Any further increase in global food production will help alleviate hunger “only if it is accompanied by the effective distribution” of the food, which needs to be “primarily channeled to satisfy essential needs,” Pope Benedict said in a message to the World Food Security Summit in Rome.

“The great challenge today is to globalize not only economic and commercial interests, but also the expectations of solidarity,” he wrote. The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, read the pope’s message during the June 3 opening ceremony of the three-day summit.

Numerous heads of state and nongovernmental organizations attended the high-level summit.

Faith-based groups praised for Gulf efforts

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Speakers at a New Orleans conference on disaster relief and preparedness lauded the efforts of faith-based organizations in leading Gulf Coast recovery efforts in the two and a half years since Hurricane Katrina.

“Katrina taught us to work together more effectively,” said Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which hosted the conference. Hein said the office’s policies and programs have become “embedded in communities” since the office’s founding seven years ago.

Shrine honors patron saint of immigrants

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) — In response to seven months of living with one of the toughest immigration laws in the nation, a predominantly Hispanic parish in Tulsa has established a diocesan shrine to St. Toribio Romo, considered by many to be the patron saint of immigrants. Aside from the original shine to St. Toribio in his hometown of Santa Ana de Guadalupe in the Mexican state of Jalisco, it is believed to be the only other shrine to him in the world.


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