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 January 5, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Smarter than a third grader? (Above)
Father Robert Reed sits with young contestants on the set of “Wow! The CatholicTV Challenge,” a game show in which three third-graders show off what they know about their Catholic faith. Father Reed, a Boston archdiocesan priest, devised “Wow!” and hosts it. He also stands ready to fill in the gaps in the contestants’ knowledge — and the viewers’ as well — with details on the issue at hand. Archived shows can be accessed online at: www.catholictv.org/shows/default.

Mass for Cardinal Dulles (Right)
Jesuit seminarian Dennis Baker lights the Paschal candle before a special Mass for Cardinal Avery Dulles at Fordham University Church in the Bronx section of New York Dec. 16. Cardinal Dulles, a renowned Jesuit theologian, author and lecturer, died at the age of 90 Dec. 12. The cardinal’s funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 18 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Development said to risk Holy Land religious sites
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Religious sites in the Holy Land must be protected from commercial development, said the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said that while church property would not be infringed upon by several planned Israeli projects, such as a pedestrian boardwalk around the Sea of Galilee and hotels on Mount Tabor, the projects could damage “the holiness of the site.”

“I can’t see Capernaum not connected to the sea. I can’t imagine a supermarket or commercial center just in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth,” said Father Pizzaballa, whose order maintains most of the Christian biblical sites in the Holy Land.

The Church is facing a similar issue with the Palestinian Authority, which permitted a commercial parking lot to be built at the entrance of the West Bank village of Bethany, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he said.

Bishops’ conference freezes wages, budgets for 2009

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The slowed economy has forced officials at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to freeze wages and department budgets for 2009. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, USCCB director of media relations, said the step became necessary when investment income fell as the economic situation worsened throughout 2008.

She said conference officials decided to roll back individual department budgets to 2008 levels even though the bishops approved a 2.25 percent increase in allocations to conference programs at their annual fall meeting in November. The wage freeze became necessary in large part to meet pension obligations, she said.

Vatican won’t support U.N. proposal homosexuality

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican said it condemns all forms of violence against homosexuals, but does not support a proposed U.N. declaration recognizing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as new categories that need human rights’ protections.

“Despite the declaration’s rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons, the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms,” a Vatican statement said.

However, the declaration’s wording and its introduction of new categories for human rights’ protections go “well beyond the above-mentioned and shared intent,” it said.

Abuse claims reach 288 in Fairbanks Diocese

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (CNS) — The number of people claiming to have been sexually abused by Catholic priests and other church workers in the Fairbanks Diocese over the past six decades more than doubled after the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

The diocese said 288 people have made abuse claims against more than 40 individuals, with most of the cases relating to childhood sexual abuse. Because of the bankruptcy, victims had faced a Dec. 2 deadline to be included in the group that will be compensated by the diocese for the abuse.

The most recent abuse asserted in a claim took place in the 1980s, although some cases go back to the 1950s.

The nation’s largest diocese geographically, Fairbanks covers more than 400,000 square miles.
Other dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy to resolve clergy sex abuse claims are San Diego, Spokane, Wash., Davenport, Iowa, and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. Portland, Davenport and Spokane have emerged from bankruptcy.

Indian bishops want better ‘terrorist’ definition

NEW DELHI (CNS) — The Catholic Church in India said the country is moving in “the right direction” by formulating anti-terrorism bills, but it also should define the term “terrorist” more broadly. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India noted the sectarian violence in Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa states, where several incidents of extremist Hindu violence against Christians have occurred in the past five years.

“Keeping in mind communal violence that takes place in our country through inflammatory speeches and hate campaigns against religious minorities by anti-social elements,” the bishops said, “it is imperative that the definition of terrorist is made more comprehensive.”

USF angers some over honorary degree pick

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The University of San Francisco has angered some Catholics by giving Irish President Mary McAleese an honorary degree. They contend she shouldn’t be honored because she has publicly supported gay rights and the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. A university official defended the honor, stating McAleese did not address any partisan or religious themes during her acceptance speech on campus Dec. 11, and he said the college’s Catholic identity remains strong.

Iraq one of worst violators of religious freedom

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A U.S. watchdog group monitoring international religious freedom said Iraq should be named one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. In a report released Dec. 16, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Iraq deserved the designation “in light of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom and the Iraqi government’s toleration of these abuses, particularly abuses against Iraq’s smallest vulnerable religious minorities.”

The commission said Chaldean Catholics and other Christians face dire circumstances. “Their members continue to experience targeted violence and to flee to other areas within Iraq or other countries, where the minorities represent a disproportionately high percentage among Iraqi refugees,” it said.

Vatican solicits funds for AIDS drugs for global use

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “Light a star on the tree of life” by helping the Vatican provide antiretroviral drugs to people with AIDS in the world’s poorest countries, said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. The council oversees the Vatican’s Good Samaritan Foundation and its efforts to provide AIDS drugs to Catholic health-care centers, mainly in Africa.

In 2008, the foundation sent $119,000 to Vatican nuncios in Africa to purchase the antiretroviral drugs.

More women needed at Vatican, says Cherie Blair

ROME (CNS) — The Catholic Church would benefit from having more women in senior-level positions at the Vatican, Cherie Blair said during a conference on the Church’s role in defending women’s rights. “Just as diversity between and within the sexes enriches human life and strengthens our civil society, so, too, I believe would it strengthen the Cthurch if we could see more women in leadership roles within it,” she said.

Blair — a lawyer who specializes in human rights and the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair — spoke Dec. 12 at a conference organized by Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum. Blair’s participation had been criticized by some Web sites which said the Catholic Blair was a pro-abortion public figure who did not live out Church teachings. The Angelicum refused to cancel Blair’s engagement.

After her talk, Dominican Father Bruce Williams, a professor of moral theology at the Angelicum, publicly offered an apology to Blair and said that after hearing her speech it was “crystal clear” the accusations against her were “rash and outright calumnious.”


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