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 April 13, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Grief after earthquake
A couple embrace near the ruins of their house after an earthquake hit the village of Onna, Italy, April 6. A powerful earthquake struck a huge area of central Italy as residents slept April 6, killing at least 260 people. Among the victims was Abbess Gemma Antonucci, head of the Poor Clares’ cloister of St. Clare in Paganica.

Supporting conscience protection rule
Dr. John Bruchalski, founder of the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., is flanked by other medical professionals as he speaks concerning conscience protection during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington April 8.
CNS photo/Paul Haring

Protest at Notre Dame
People hold rosaries during a rally at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., April 5. Hundreds of anti-abortion advocates protested against the school’s invitation to U.S. President Barack Obama to speak at the May 17 graduation ceremony.

Iowa bishops decry gay marriage ruling
DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) — Iowa’s Catholic bishops vigorously disagreed with the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision April 3 that strikes down state law defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. “This decision rejects the wisdom of thousands of years of human history. It implements a novel understanding of marriage, which will grievously harm families and children,” the bishops said in a statement prepared by the Iowa Catholic Conference.

The bishops vowed to continue to protect and promote marriage as a union between a man and a woman and asked Catholics and other citizens of Iowa to call for a constitutional amendment on marriage. With the high court’s ruling, Iowa becomes the third state in the nation to recognize marriages for gay and lesbian couples, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Pope calls for end of land mines, cluster bombs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI called on nations to end the production, stockpiling and use of land mines and cluster bombs. He also expressed his support for programs and measures that “guarantee the necessary assistance to victims of such devastating weapons.”

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which would prohibit all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs and munitions, was recently adopted and is open for signatories. “I wish to encourage countries that still haven’t done so to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law which the Vatican has always supported,” the pope said.

Aid agency pays fines for non-violent inmates

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) — Food for the Poor, a Florida-based Christian aid agency, paid the fines owed by 69 non-violent inmates to secure their release form prisons in Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Honduras. The prisoners had been incarcerated because they lacked funds to pay the required fines for their non-violent offenses.

Knights Templar may have secretly held shroud

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Vatican researcher has found evidence that the Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order, held secret custody of the Shroud of Turin during the 13th and 14th centuries. The shroud, which bears the image of a man and is believed by many to have been the burial cloth of Jesus, was probably used in a secret Templar ritual to underline Christ’s humanity in the face of popular heresies of the time, the expert said.

The researcher, Barbara Frale, who works in the Vatican Secret Archives, said documents on the 14th-century trial of the Templars contained a description of a Templar initiation ceremony. The document recounts how a Templar leader, after guiding a young initiate into a hidden room, “showed him a long linen cloth that bore the impressed figure of a man, and ordered him to worship it, kissing the feet three times,” Frale said.

Woman writes book on friendship with late pope

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Polish psychiatrist has published a book of letters and reflections detailing her close, lifelong friendship with Pope John Paul II. “The Holy Father asked me to publish these notes and meditations as a testimony that each person possesses a spirit which has to develop,” said Wanda Poltawska, who was friends with Pope John Paul from his first years as a priest until his death April 2, 2005.

Poltawska, 87, said Pope John Paul had approved most of the material and asked her to write the book in the 1990s. She said she still had a “suitcase of letters” from the late pope which would not be released until after her own death.

Bill would lift limits on clergy abuse suits

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — The New York State Catholic Conference has mounted a statewide campaign to educate Catholics about a bill that would temporarily waive the state’s civil statute of limitations on suing individuals and private institutions over child sexual abuse.

The Child Victims Act of New York — also known as the Markey bill — also would lengthen the period in which alleged victims may sue individuals and private organizations for child sexual abuse in the future. Sponsors of the proposed legislation in the state Assembly and Senate claim it will bring justice to victims of child sex abuse, but the Catholic conference, which represents the state’s bishops in matters of public policy, said the proposal unfairly targets the Catholic Church and other private institutions.

Vatican: investigation of Legionaries of Christ

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pope wanted to help the Legionaries of Christ deal with its present problems with “truth and transparency.” It said the visitation would be carried out by “a team of prelates,” who were not identified.

Apostolic visitation is a form of internal church investigation ordered by a pope and undertaken by his delegate or delegates. The pope sets the jurisdiction and powers of the visitation, which usually ends with the submission of a report to the Holy See.

Priest gets 50 years in prison for sex abuse

EASTLAND, Texas (CNS) — A Texas jury March 26 found a suspended Catholic priest guilty of raping and molesting an 11-year-old boy in the early 1990s and sentenced him to 50 years in prison. In 2007 Father Thomas Teczar was sentenced to 25 years after being convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. But his conviction was overturned on appeal based on a witness’s testimony and a new trial was ordered.

According to news reports, the jury in the priest’s second trial on the same charges took less than an hour to find him guilty. On March 27, his 68th birthday, jurors gave the priest a 50-year sentence. According to a story by The Associated Press, Father Teczar testified that he was innocent and claimed he did not know his accuser, who is now 30. But he also “admitted to being sexually attracted to teenage boys,” AP said.

Arrest of Chinese bishop seen as dialogue obstacle

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The recent arrest of a Chinese bishop and other instances of religious persecution in China are obstacles to dialogue, said the Vatican, April 2. The Vatican expressed its “deep sorrow upon hearing the news of the recent arrest” of 74-year-old Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, who has not registered with the government.

He was taken by five police officers from his residence in Hebei province March 30, the same day the Vatican commission on China began its meeting. Pope Benedict established the commission in 2007 to study issues related to the Catholic Church in China.

Bishops oppose Reiki in Catholic centers

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Reiki therapy, an alternative medicine originating in Japan, is unscientific and inappropriate for use by Catholic hospitals, clinics and retreat centers and people representing the Church, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine said March 26.

“In terms of caring for one’s physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent,” the bishops said, adding that the technique — which involves a Reiki practitioner laying hands on a client — also is encouraged as a “spiritual” kind of healing. For Christians “access to divine healing” comes through prayer to God, they said. A Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki “would be operating in the realm of superstition,” they said.


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