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 September 20, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

New bishop for San Francisco
The Book of Gospels is held over Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy during his ordination Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco Sept. 7. Bishop McElroy, 56, formerly served as vicar for administration of the San Francisco Archdiocese and has been pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo since 1996.
Prayers for trapped miners
Relatives of trapped miners hold an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and rosaries during a Mass celebrated Sept. 3 by Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa in honor of the 33 miners trapped in a mine near Copiapo, Chile.

Two priests, nun indicted for anti-nuclear protest

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Five people, including two priests and a Sister, have been indicted on federal charges 10 months after an All Souls’ Day demonstration at a U.S. Navy nuclear weapons storage depot in Bangor, Wash.

In indictments unsealed Sept. 3, a federal grand jury in Tacoma, Wash., charged Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel, 82; Jesuit Father Stephen Kelly, 61; Sacred Heart Sister Anne Montgomery, 83; Susan Crane, 65; and Lynne Greenwald, 61, with conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation and depradation of government property.

Calling themselves the Disarm Now Plowshares, group members defended their actions as a requirement of their Catholic faith and as necessary under international law.

The five are accused of using bolt cutters to cut holes in three chain-link fences to enter the Naval Base Kitsap’s Bangor complex, 20 miles west of Seattle. The base is the West Coast home of the Trident nuclear-armed submarine and the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific, where more than 2,300 nuclear warheads are stored.

“All citizens are free to disagree with their government. But they are not free to destroy property or risk the safety of others,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan in a statement announcing the indictments. All five are scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Sept. 24. Each could face up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

Pope, Kentucky bishops sought to halt execution

FRANKFORT, Ky. (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic bishops of Kentucky have asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to commute the death sentence of Gregory Wilson, whose execution was scheduled for Sept. 16. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville and the Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, met with Beshear Sept. 9 to outline their legal and moral objections to the execution of Wilson, whose attorneys say is mentally disabled and who has asked for DNA testing that he says would exonerate him.

The archbishop also presented a letter from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, asking on behalf of Pope Benedict that Wilson’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Guatemalans die in torrential rain, mudslides

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Catholic aid agency Caritas has responded to the torrential downpours in Guatemala with appeals for food and clothing for the victims of what has been described as the heaviest rains to be dumped on the Central American country in more than 50 years. Caritas Guatemala said the rains had left more than 14,000 people homeless and more than 40 people dead.

Many of the dead were trapped in mudslides that buried vehicles and a bus traveling the Inter-American Highway. Subsequent mudslides later trapped rescue workers. The Caritas report said rescue efforts would resume only with machinery because of the risk of further mudslides.

A report from the Diocese of San Marcos spoke of heavy crop damage, a lack of clean water and sanitation and a persistent risk of victims’ homes being looted. The situation was listed as desperate in some of the more isolated regions of the diocese.

Catholic student group wrongly denied funding

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the University of Wisconsin imposed unconstitutional limits on the activities of a Catholic student group at the school. The Aug. 30 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling is a victory for the Badger Catholic, which has been arguing with the university for years about which activities are eligible to receive student-fee funding, according to Inside Higher Ed, a Washington-based higher education news journal.

The decision was based on several U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have upheld the use of public funds for the activities of religious organizations, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Hindus boycott Indian Catholic villagers

BANGALORE, India (CNS) — The 800-member Catholic community in a village in India is facing a social boycott for refusing to follow traditions to appease Hindus gods. “We are Christians and we are not bound to follow Hindu religious practices,” Father Philip Rock, pastor at St. Sebastian Parish in Mangalawada village, said.

The village in India’s Karnataka state has about twice as many Hindus as Catholics. Following the spread of cholera in the village, Hindu leaders announced steps to appease their gods and ward off evil. These steps included special fasts and the banning of regular work in the village on all “inauspicious days,” including all Tuesdays and Fridays.

Father Rock said the Hindus indicated that nobody should eat during the day, wash clothes, work in the fields, open their shops, or repair or wash their vehicles on such days. Pointing out that the government supplies water to the dry village only on Tuesdays and Fridays, Father Rock said, “How could I tell our people to follow these conditions?”

The refusal of the Catholic families to follow the directives angered the Hindu majority. Hindu leaders called a meeting and declared a “social boycott” against the Christians. Since then, Hindus have stopped buying from small Christian shops, selling to Christians or using vehicles owned by Christians.

Filipino policeman-priest sees no conflict in roles

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Father Noel Ponsaran is a Catholic priest and a police superintendent, but he says the two roles are not as incompatible as they might seem on the surface. “When I entered the service, I learned that police are not only law enforcers but also peacemakers,” said the priest-police officer. It’s his work particularly as a peacemaker for which he was named one of 10 honorees to receive an Outstanding Policemen in Service Award for 2010.

Assigned to the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, Father Ponsaran has been allowed to become involved in resolving potentially violent conflicts during pastoral visits to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other communities in the southern Philippines. He usually is accompanied by an imam during his visits.

Israeli president, pope meet on peace deal

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — As the first direct peace talks in two years between Israeli and Palestinian leaders were launched in the United States, Pope Benedict XVI and Israeli President Shimon Peres met in a private audience. The two leaders expressed hopes that the renewal of direct talks in Washington would contribute to the “reaching of an agreement that is respectful of the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples and capable of bringing lasting peace to the Holy Land and the entire region,” the Vatican said.

Pakistani Catholics condemn triple bombing

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) — Church leaders in Pakistan have condemned the triple bombings that killed more than 30 people and injured more than 200 at a Shiite religious ceremony in Lahore. Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore said the bombings, committed as “thousands of flood victims await international support, (were) cowardly.” A banned Taliban movement claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings and one grenade attack on Shiites marking the martyrdom of Prophet Ali, one of Shiite Islam’s most respected holy men, Sept. 1.


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