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 September 8, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Funeral in Tbilisi
A priest at a cemetery in Tbilisi, Georgia, uses incense at the coffins of soldiers killed in the recent South Ossetia conflict. Georgians flocked to church Aug. 28 to pray for their country, and their Orthodox patriarch asked God to give them back two breakaway provinces backed by Russia.

Prayers against violence
Nuns listen to a speech by a Christian leader during a rally in Calcutta, India, Aug. 29, in reaction to recent anti-Christian violence in the Indian state of Orissa.

Indian PM urged to end attack on Christians
BANGALORE, India (CNS) — A delegation of Catholic and Protestant leaders met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and asked him to send federal forces to help end the violence and assist victims in Orissa state.

During the meeting Aug. 28 in New Delhi, Singh called the anti-Christian violence in Orissa a “national shame” and announced the government will offer compensation to the families of those killed. By Aug. 28, at least 14 people had died in the Hindu attacks against Christians. The prime minister also promised to make available federal funds to assist the thousands of Christians, most of them women and children, who have fled the violence and become refugees in the forest.

Solar panels installed in Vatican assembly hall
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican will begin installing some 2,400 solar panels in late September, the first of several projects aimed at exploiting renewable energy resources in the tiny city-state. The solar modules, which are being donated by a German company, will be fitted atop the roof of the Paul VI audience hall and will produce some 300,000 kilowatt-hours of power each year.

Another solar-panel system will be installed this fall above the Vatican’s employee cafeteria, providing 60 percent to 70 percent of the power needed to heat and cool the building.

Supreme Court upholds Mexico City abortion law
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican Supreme Court upheld a Mexico City abortion law when eight of the 11 justices refused to consider a constitutional challenge on the issue. Catholic officials across Mexico expressed sadness at the decision, but also promised to focus their attention on better serving pregnant women who might be considering abortion.

The Supreme Court “can make a crime legal, but it can never make moral . . . the abominable murder of innocent children in the womb,” Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said in a statement posted on the Archdiocese of Mexico City web site.

Bishops concerned about the arming of citizens
MAKATI CITY, Philippines (CNS) — A human rights commission and several Catholic bishops have expressed concern over a Philippine government plan to arm civilian auxiliaries for protection. Leila de Lima, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, said Aug. 27 the commission opposes the government’s plan to give guns to residents in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, the site of recent violence involving factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamic separatist group. “

Kenyan Christian leaders ask for forgiveness

NAKURU, Kenya (CNS) — Christian leaders in Kenya pledged to work for reconciliation and asked God for forgiveness for their role in widening divisions in the country. In a statement signed by 1,300 Christian pastors, the church leaders said they owned up to their sins of “taking partisan positions on national issues; elevating our ethnic identities above our Christian identity; direct involvement in party politics; and participation in the postelection violence, (actions) which are made more ominous by the deteriorating national values, sinful political strategies and failure to faithfully stand for biblical values and principles.”

Concerns rise about Vietnam religious freedom
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A U.S. watchdog group released a report expressing concern over persistent religious freedom violations in Vietnam. Religious freedom “in Vietnam continues to be mixed, with improvements for some religious communities but not for others, progress in some provinces but not in others, reforms of laws at the national level that are not fully implemented or are ignored at the local level, and still too many abuses of and restrictions on religious freedom affecting most of Vietnam’s diverse religious communities,” said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in a 32-page report released Aug. 25.

The commission is an independent, bipartisan federal agency mandated by Congress to review international religious freedom and recommend to the U.S. secretary of state which countries should be designated as “countries of particular concern.”

New rules proposed for conscience protection
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The rights of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who do not want to be involved in abortion and sterilization procedures for religious or moral reasons would get a boost under new rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Announced Aug. 21, the regulations are designed to increase awareness of three laws already on the books, the first dating to 1973, regarding conscience protection for health care workers. Hospitals and other health care institutions that receive federal funds would be covered by the regulations as well.

The rules would cover a wide range of activities, from full-scale participation in a procedure to the cleaning of instruments afterward, McQuade explained.

University rescinds Ruether appointment
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The University of San Diego is standing by its decision to revoke the appointment of a nationally known Catholic feminist theologian to its faculty even though a petition blasting the Catholic university’s action has been delivered to the school. University officials said there was a procedural error in offering the theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether, the Msgr. John R. Portman chair in Roman Catholic theology for the fall 2009 semester and said her seat on the board of directors of an organization that supports legal abortion makes her an inappropriate choice for the position.

The mid-July withdrawal of the invitation has set off a national debate over academic freedom versus Church doctrine at Catholic institutions of higher education. Ruether told Catholic News Service Aug. 21 she fears this decision will hinder the discussion of controversial issues at Catholic universities. “It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Pamela Gray Payton, assistant vice president for public affairs at the university.

“By no means are we demeaning Dr. Ruether’s very respected career in theology, but in the case of this chair, she was not an appropriate selection. It should not have come to this.”

Hospital criticizes union’s method of organizing
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Kevin Murphy, vice president for theology and ethics at the St. Joseph Health System, dismissed the notion that his organization was anti-union and responded to criticism coming from some Catholic leaders about the system’s conflict with United Healthcare Workers West, a unit of the Service Employees International Union.

“This has less to do with social justice teaching and more to do with context and mechanism,” he told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The hospital system, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, opposes the union’s push for “pre-election agreements” and believes that secret-ballot elections under federal law better respect the dignity of each participant.

If a hospital official signed such an agreement, Murphy said, that would be unfair to employees who might not want to belong to a union and who would not have been given a chance to vote.

Maryknoll priest receives canonical warning
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois has received a canonical warning from his order’s leadership council because of his involvement in a reported ordination ceremony sponsored by Roman Catholic Womenpriests. A canonical warning informs a person of a violation of Church law. Any future violation of canon law could lead to additional penalties such as the opening of dismissal procedures or excommunication. “I have no intention of participating in a similar ceremony in the future,” Father Bourgeois told Catholic News Service Aug. 19.

Kidnapping of Iraqi Christians denounced
LONDON (CNS) — Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad, Iraq, has denounced the continuing kidnapping of Christians in his country and urged the government to take more action to end such crimes. He said he personally had received “countless” reports of kidnappings, most generally for large ransoms. “The media ignores this matter,” he said in an Aug. 22 interview with the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need.

“It is not only Christians who are targeted but other groups. And yet the Christians feel the injustice of the situation very keenly because they have never played any part in the conflict within the country,” he said.

Editorial calls for women to dress modestly
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — An editorial in an online publication from the Archdiocese of Mexico City urging women to don more conservative attire has generated headlines across the country as Catholic leaders defended their call for modesty as a method of promoting dignity and reducing incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

In a statement clarifying the editorial, Church leaders said women should “make sure that their dress is not a pretext for being intimidated, victimized by violence and sexually assaulted in a city where gender-based violence is a part of everyday life.”

Pope urges drivers to examine consciences
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI, lamenting the high number of traffic accidents over the summer holiday period, called on Christians to make “a personal examination of conscience” about the way they drive. Driving is both a moral and civil responsibility, the pope said. Most accidents that cause fatalities or serious injuries can be avoided, he said. “There needs to be a greater sense of responsibility, above all on the part of drivers, because the accidents are often caused by excessive speed and imprudent behavior,” he said.


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