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 December 14, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Visit from St. Nick
The shoes of students at Christ the King School in Irondequoit, N.Y., each hold a candy cane and a card during a celebration of St. Nicholas’ feast day. Students put their shoes filled with toiletries in the hallway for a collection by the Red Cross. While the students were in class, “St. Nicholas” replaced the toiletries with cards and candy canes.
Protest at Ft. Benning
Young people join a rally at the gates of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga., Nov. 22. Formerly known as the School of the Americas, the institute trains military personnel from Latin American countries and its graduates have been responsible for murders of Church personnel.

13 embryonic stem-cell lines approved for funding
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Thirteen human embryonic stem-cell lines have been approved for use in federally funded research and approval of many more lines is expected to follow, the head of the National Institutes of Health announced Dec. 2. Dr. Francis S. Collins, who took over as NIH director in August, said it was a “significant day” in the efforts to achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of “a loosening up of what had been considered too stringent requirements” for federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells.

Collins said the 13 stem-cell lines were approved after NIH staff determined that the scientists who created the lines had followed the “very detailed informed consent process” outlined in NIH guidelines published in July. “In accordance with the guidelines, these stem-cell lines were derived from embryos that were donated under ethically sound informed consent processes,” said Collins.

When the final guidelines were published, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, then chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said they ignored the comments of tens of thousands of Americans who expressed opposition to embryonic stem-cell research during the public comment period and failed to respect “existing federal law against funding research in which human embryos are harmed or destroyed.”

SF Archdiocese to appeal ruling on property taxes

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — The San Francisco Archdiocese said it was confident a civil court would rule in its favor over a determination by a city tax appeals board that the archdiocese owes millions of dollars in unpaid property transfer taxes.

In a unanimous ruling Nov. 30, San Francisco’s Transfer Tax Appeals Board said the archdiocese must pay property transfer taxes for moving church properties from one nonprofit entity to another. According to the board, the archdiocese owes $14.4 million.

In a statement released the same day, the archdiocese said that more than 19 months ago, it presented “a straightforward transaction” requesting to change the titles of ownership on various pieces of property, including churches, vacant lots, apartment buildings, schools and storefronts around the city. But it said it has faced “inexcusable delays and, at times, arrogance” from the city’s Office of the Assessor-Recorder in its handling of the request.

According to the archdiocese, the transfers were part of an internal reorganization and not subject to taxation according to the law on intrachurch property transfers.

Irish Mercy Sisters pledge $191 million to abuse victims

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — Ireland’s Sisters of Mercy have pledged to contribute an additional 128 million euros ($191 million) to compensate victims of abuse in government schools and orphanages run by the order. That equals the amount that 18 religious orders — including the Sisters of Mercy — agreed to pay under terms of a 2002 deal with the Irish government.

The Christian Brothers announced in late November they would contribute an additional 161 million euros ($239 million). Four other religious congregations have also announced additional contributions.

In May, an independent commission on child abuse issued a report that said a climate of fear created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment permeated most of Ireland’s residential care institutions for children and all those run for boys from 1940 through the 1970s.

Bridgeport Diocese releases documents on abuse cases

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CNS) — The Diocese of Bridgeport announced Dec. 1 it has released thousands of pages of court documents related to clergy sexual abuse cases that were settled in 2001. The diocese complied with court orders to turn over the documents to the Superior Court in Waterbury and to the attorneys for the four newspapers that sued to obtain the material.

On Nov. 2 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept the diocese’s appeal of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling that the papers must be released, ending years of appeals. The 12,000 pages of documents include materials submitted to trial courts by the diocese preceding the settlement of 23 lawsuits involving six priests.

Alaska bishops urge action on global climate change

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) — Citing Pope Benedict XVI’s recent calls to protect nature, Alaska’s four Catholic bishops have urged Congress to take action on global climate change. “Addressing global climate change is about our responsibility to care for God’s creation and to care for one another, especially the weak and the vulnerable,” wrote Alaska’s four bishops in a Nov. 17 letter to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican Congressman Don Young, the state’s only House member.

In the letter, Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz and retired Archbishop Francis T. Hurley of Anchorage joined Bishop Donald J. Kettler of Fairbanks and Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau in asking Alaska’s congressional delegation to support legislation such as the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009. The bill, S. 1733, was introduced in October by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. It has now advanced to the full Senate.

Swiss bishops criticize ban on minaret construction

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The bishops of Switzerland said the country’s ban on the construction of minarets, the Muslim prayer towers, represents an obstacle to interreligious harmony. The ban aggravates interfaith tensions and could have negative repercussions on Christian minorities in Muslim countries, said the bishops.. The prohibition was adopted by Swiss voters in a referendum that passed with a 58 percent majority.

There are about 150 mosques in Switzerland serving 400,000 Muslims; only four have minarets and, unlike in Islamic countries, they are not used to call Muslims to prayer. The bishops said the referendum campaign, promoted by right-wing parties, had used exaggeration and caricature, and demonstrated that “religious peace does not operate by itself and always needs to be defended.” Banning the building of minarets “increases the problems of coexistence between religions and cultures,” the bishops said.

Chaldean church targeted in bombings in Mosul

LONDON (CNS) — A Chaldean Catholic church, rectory and convent in the northern Iraq city of Mosul were bombed in two separate incidents in late November, but no one was injured. Explosives were detonated inside St. Ephrem’s Church Nov. 26, and the building was reduced to a “blackened shell,” said a Nov. 27 statement by the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a charity working to help persecuted Christians around the world

Hours later a bomb was thrown at St Theresa’s Convent in New Mosul, west of the city. At least five Dominican sisters who were in the complex at the time of the attack escaped unharmed.

Bishop says election only exit from political crisis

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The president of the Honduran bishops’ communications department expressed early satisfaction with Nov. 29 elections that he said would allow the Central American country to emerge from a five-month political crisis provoked by the ouster and exile of President Manuel Zelaya. “The only exit that we had from the political crisis was the elections,” Auxiliary Bishop Romulo Emiliani Sanchez of San Pedro Sula told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

The bishops’ conference had called on Hondurans to support the electoral process, “but did not oblige them to do so,” Bishop Emiliani said.


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