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 March 30 , 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Grief in Northern Ireland (Above)
Police officers carry the coffin of Constable Stephen Carroll into St. Therese Catholic Church in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, March 13. Continuity IRA, a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army, claimed responsibility for the March 9 murder of Carroll.

Unusual gift for Pope (Right)
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi carries a woven cage containing the turtle that was given to Pope Benedict XVI by pygmies from the Baka ethnic group in Cameroon, March 20. The Vatican spokesman displayed the small turtle for journalists aboard the pope’s plane on the way to Angola. The pope visited Africa, March 17-23.

Pope regrets ‘mishap’ over Lefebvrite decision
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a letter to the world’s bishops, Pope Benedict XVI expressed regret that his lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops gave rise to a storm of protests and bitterness. The pope said the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson’s statements denying the extent of the Holocaust was “an unforeseen mishap” — one that could have been anticipated, however, by paying more attention to information easily available on the Internet.

The pope said he was particularly saddened at the reaction of some Catholics who seemed willing to believe he was changing direction on Catholic-Jewish relations and were ready to “attack me with open hostility.” He thanked “our Jewish friends” who helped clarify the matter and restore a sense of trust.

Cardinal: married priests discussion ‘legitimate’

ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) — The possibility the Catholic Church will allow married priests shouldn’t be dismissed, New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan said March 10 during a radio interview. “It’s a perfectly legitimate discussion,” he said. “I think it has to be looked at.” When asked about priestly celibacy, Cardinal Egan said he thought the subject would be coming up for discussion by the Church’s hierarchy. “I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to decide (whether priests can be married) on the basis of geography and culture, not to make an across-the-board determination,” the cardinal said. He noted that priests in the Eastern Catholic churches are allowed to be married with “no problem at all.”

Percentage of Catholics has declined in the U.S.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A new survey shows the percentage of U.S. residents who identify themselves as Catholics has declined, but Catholicism remains the largest denomination in the country. Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., released its third American Religious Identification Survey in which it found that the U.S. Catholic population has shifted away from the Northeast toward the Southwest, the percentage of Latinos in the U.S. Catholic Church has grown, and the number of U.S. residents claiming no religion has increased dramatically.

Most of the Christian population growth came from people who identify themselves only as Christian, evangelical/born again, or nondenominational Christian.

Church officials say U.S fuels drug violence

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Catholic officials in Mexico have sharply rebuked the United States for contributing to a wave of drug-related violence in Mexico that has claimed more than 1,100 lives so far this year. They also condemned “hypocrisy” on the part of U.S. officials, who have raised concerns that drug-related violence was making Mexico ungovernable. Church leaders said the U.S. offered military and intelligence assistance for fighting narcotics trafficking cartels while failing to address corruption and social vices north of the border.

Cardinal decries new stem-cell policy

WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Barack Obama’s executive order reversing the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research represents “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics,” Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said shortly after the March 9 signing of the order at the White House. The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities was among Catholic, pro-life and other leaders who criticized the reversal, which Obama had promised during his campaign.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said the stem-cell policy of former President George W. Bush, in effect since Aug. 9, 2001, had forced “a false choice between sound science and moral values.” Obama also said he would work to ensure that “our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction.”

Bishops call for support of development in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined a broad group of religious, justice, and relief and development organizations in calling upon President Barack Obama to assist and protect vulnerable Iraqis and pursue efforts that lead to long-term development in war-torn Iraq.

In a March 4 letter to the White House, 44 organizations asked the president to mandate that “civilian agencies take the lead in formulating and implementing an effective humanitarian and development strategy.”

Bishops urge protected status for Haitian refugees

WASHINGTON (CNS) — With a new administration in the White House, the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops is once again urging an American president to grant Haitians residing in the U.S. temporary protected status, an order that would keep them from being deported back to their poverty-stricken Caribbean nation.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent President Barack Obama a March 19 letter urging him to make the designation for citizens of the poorest nation in the Americas, five months after he made the same plea to then-President George W. Bush.

New Mexico governor repeals death penalty

SANTA FE, N.M. (CNS) — New Mexico repealed the death penalty March 18, after Gov. Bill Richardson had a change of heart about his long support for capital punishment. Richardson said at the press conference where he signed the bill into law that he only decided that afternoon to sign it.

Richardson, a Catholic, said he went to Mass and then to visit the state’s high-security penitentiary where prisoners would serve out life-without-parole sentences in lieu of facing execution. He also had met with murder victims’ family members who wanted the law to remain in place and weighed the fact that few nations in the world practice capital punishment, making the United States out of step with most Western democracies.

Richardson said he had been re-evaluating his beliefs and his position for six years.

Pope criticized for condom remarks

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Government officials in Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium publicly criticized Pope Benedict XVI after newspapers reported that he said the use of condoms could increase the spread of AIDS.

On his March 17 flight to Cameroon, Pope Benedict had told reporters, “One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.” The pope said the best response to AIDS was educating people in morally responsible sexual behavior and caring for those who are sick.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the pope’s comments were in line with the Church’s basic position on AIDS, which has never had “excessive or absolute trust in condom distribution” as a way to stop the spread of the disease. The Church’s approach is based largely on education toward sexual responsibility, the spokesman said, and overemphasis on condoms “does not allow for an adequate concentration of attention on this formation and sense of responsibility.”

Oregon sees highest assisted-suicide toll

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Oregon’s annual report on assisted suicide showed that doctors helped 60 patients take their lives in 2008. That marked the highest annual total since the Oregon Death With Dignity Act went into effect 11 years ago. In all, 401 Oregonians have died by the legal lethal prescriptions, which are legal only for those judged to have six months or less to live. State health officials said nearly all the patients were older, suffered from cancer and died at home.

University of Notre Dame firm on Obama as commencement speaker

WASHINGTON (CNS) — University of Notre Dame officials were standing firm on their choice of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker at the institution’s May 17 graduation, in spite of an effort by the Cardinal Newman Society to have the university rescind the invitation.

“The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research,” said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.

“Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement,” he said in a March 23 statement.


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