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 January 24, 2011   •   VOL. 49, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

ABOVE: Priest closer to sainthood
VATICAN CITY — A Buffalo diocesan priest, Msgr. Nelson H. Baker, has cleared the first major hurdle on the way to being declared a saint. Pope Benedict XVI signed a formal decree Jan. 14 recognizing that Msgr. Baker, who died in 1936 at the age of 94, heroically lived the Christian virtues and is worthy of veneration. Msgr. Baker, a Civil War-era soldier and grain dealer who became a Buffalo diocesan priest in 1876, served as pastor of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y., for more than 50 years. At Our Lady of Victory, Msgr. Baker operated soup kitchens and a hospital, as well as homes for unwed mothers, homeless and troubled boys and abandoned infants.
RIGHT: Making a gift
A Haitian boy is among those dropping money into the collection box during a Mass celebrated Jan. 12 in Port-au-Prince to mark the first anniversary of the massive earthquake that devastated the country. The Mass was celebrated outside what was the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption before it was destroyed by the 2010 quake.
CNS photo/Peter Finney, Clarion Herald

Congress leans more pro-life, but challenges remain
WASHINGTON — With apologies to Charles Dickens, it is the best of times or the worst of times, the spring of hope or the winter of despair. That depends on whether you think the increased pro-life numbers in the U.S. Congress and the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner portend a greater appreciation for and protection of human life or the rise of “the most powerful anti-choice politician in the country” and a move to “shrink the government to be small enough to fit inside our bedrooms,” as NARAL Pro-Choice America puts it.

The 112th Congress that was sworn in Jan. 5 contains up to four dozen more pro-life House members and four to six more pro-life senators than the Congress that preceded it, according to estimates from organizations on both sides of the abortion question. And the Republican “Pledge to America” outlining the party’s legislative priorities vows to “establish a governmentwide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion.”

Retired L.A. auxiliary bishop dies at age 90

LOS ANGELES — Bishop John J. Ward, retired auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, died Jan. 10 in Los Angeles at age 90. Bishop Ward was ordained to the priesthood in 1946, the last priest ordained by the first archbishop of Los Angeles, Archbishop John Cantwell. He served as an auxiliary under the next three archbishops of Los Angeles: Cardinal James McIntyre, Cardinal Timothy Manning and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the current archbishop.

Ordained to the episcopate in December 1963, Bishop Ward attended the 1964 and 1965 sessions of the Second Vatican Council. His death leaves only two U.S. bishops still living who participated in Vatican II: retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans, 97, who was appointed a bishop by Pope Pius XII in 1956, and retired Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle, 90, who was appointed to the episcopate by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

Catholics credited for role in arms pact

WASHINGTON — As Democratic and Republican senators pressed their divergent views on the New START agreement with Russia outlining the next phase of nuclear disarmament during final debate in December, a wide array of Catholics played a major role in getting the pact ratified. From political insiders to people in the pews, Catholics provided a moral perspective on the need for the treaty, helping build the final 71-26 margin for ratification, several people working on the issue told Catholic News Service.

The effort by Catholics also helped keep the vote on schedule, preventing it from being pushed into 2011 when the likelihood of ratification would have been dimmer because of the loss of six Democratic seats in the Senate. Both houses of the Russian parliament are reviewing the treaty and are expected to ratify it in the coming weeks. No one contacted by CNS said that without the Catholic effort the treaty would have failed. But they acknowledged that with the involvement of such a broad array of Catholic voices, ratification became much easier to accomplish.

Pope: Same-sex unions ‘penalize’ marriage

VATICAN CITY — Same-sex unions “penalize” traditional couples and distort the true nature of the family, Pope Benedict XVI said. The many crises that families face are “caused by the rapid social and cultural changes” in society, the pope said Jan. 14 in a speech to officials from the city and province of Rome and the Lazio region of Italy. Passing legislation or adopting policies that recognize “forms of unions, which distort the essence and purpose of the family end up penalizing those who, with much effort, commit themselves to living a life whose bonds are marked by stable intimacy, have juridical guarantees and are recognized publicly,” he said.

While same-sex unions or gay marriage is not recognized in Italy, a number of city and regional governments, including Rome’s Lazio region, have introduced registries for same-sex couples that are largely symbolic and have no legal consequences. Pope Benedict also called on the government officials to help support married women who wish to pursue a career and build a family. Too often, he said, women “are forced to wait” to have children.

In Mexico, a debate over number of dead migrants
MEXICO CITY — The director of a migrant shelter in northern Mexico has rebuked the federal government for questioning the results of a survey by the National Human Rights Commission, which reported more than 10,000 undocumented migrants were kidnapped over a six-month period of 2010. “The government is completely wrong,” said Father Pedro Pantoja, director of the Belen migrant shelter in Saltillo. “They’re debunking the fact kidnappings happen, saying that it’s insignificant, that the number is low. There’s an intention of diminishing the facts.”

The survey, released Jan. 6, reported at least 215 mass abductions of migrants heading north to the United States between April and September with an average of at least 50 victims being kidnapped each time by groups linked to organized crime. Commission ombudsman Raul Placencia told reporters that local police and officials from the National Immigration Institute assisted the “well-organized groups” in some of the abductions, which usually required migrants to call relatives for ransoms.

Purgatory is a process, not a place, pope says

VATICAN CITY— Purgatory is like a purifying fire burning inside a person, a painful experience of regret for one’s sins, Pope Benedict XVI said. “A soul stained by sin cannot present itself to God,” the pope said Jan. 12 at his weekly general audience. The pope spoke about purgatory in an audience talk dedicated to the life and mystical writings of St. Catherine of Genoa, a 15th-century married woman who ran Genoa’s largest hospital. Although she is the author of a “Treatise on Purgatory,” Pope Benedict said, “she never received specific revelations about purgatory or the souls that are being purified there.”

Pope names diplomatic representative to Vietnam

VATICAN CITY — In a first step toward establishing diplomatic relations, Pope Benedict XVI has named a 57-year-old Vatican diplomat to be a “non-resident pontifical representative” for Vietnam. Italian Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, currently Vatican nuncio to Indonesia, was reassigned Jan. 13 to serve as the pope’s representative to Vietnam and simultaneously as nuncio in Singapore and apostolic delegate in Malaysia and Brunei (two countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican). The representative would not be residing in Vietnam for the time being, according to a statement.

Door opens to more Cuba travel, remittances

WASHINGTON — With little fanfare Jan. 14, the White House announced a presidential directive that will make travel and financial assistance to Cuba easier, especially for religious organizations. The changes revert some policies to those of the Clinton administration — which were reversed under President George W. Bush — but expands others. Once the regulations governing the changes — expected within weeks — they will make it possible for certain groups and individuals to get the necessary U.S. government licenses for more “purposeful travel.” The order explained that “purposeful travel” includes allowing religious organizations to sponsor religious travel as well as educational exchanges for coursework, seminars and “people-to-people” programs, and a greater scope of journalistic activities.

Catholic News Service


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