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March 14, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Cross removed
from church

Chinese authorities are continuing their campaign of removing crosses in Zhejiang province, and one of the latest was taken from a Catholic Church. Government officials removed the cross of Zhuangyuan Church in Yongqiang parish just before dawn Feb. 25, two weeks after Zhejiang's religious affairs director called for "religious stability" ahead of the Sept. 4-5 Group of 20 summit in the provincial capital, Hangzhou. In the file photo, a Chinese Catholic kisses a crucifix during a pilgrimage in Baoji, China,
on May 3, 2013.

Religious Ed Congress
People gather in Anaheim for a demonstration against the death penalty Feb. 27 as part of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. At the closing Mass, before thousands who crowded into the Anaheim Convention Center Arena Feb. 28, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles challenged Religious Education Congress attendees to be God's mercy to everyone they meet. It was better to be there for the afternoon Mass than at the Oscars, the archbishop quipped, referring to the Academy Awards presentation taking place that night. The Mass, concelebrated by several bishops and dozens of priests, capped four days of religious education workshops and motivational speeches that drew more than 35,000. Speakers in 308 sessions addressed issues of faith in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Dissolving racism
To describe how racism can be dissolved, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, referred to Zulu greetings in his March 3 message to a Birmingham, Alabama, conference. "The healing of racism begins in our own hearts. How our hearts would be shaped if everyone learned to greet each other in the Zulu manner!" Cardinal Turkson said in the message, which he called "A Word of Encouragement" to the "Black and White in America: How Deep the Divide?" conference.

Sister killed in Yemen are 'martyrs of charity'

Survivors of the attack are seen at a room for elderly care.

VATICAN CITY — The four Missionaries of Charity murdered March 4 in Yemen "are the martyrs of today," Pope Francis said. "They gave their blood for the church."

After reciting the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square March 6, Pope Francis publicly offered his condolences to the Missionaries of Charity and prayed that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata would "accompany to paradise these daughters of hers, martyrs of charity, and that she would intercede for peace and a sacred respect for human life."

The four Missionaries of Charity and 12 other people were killed by uniformed gunmen, who entered the home the sisters operate for the elderly and disabled in Aden.

The superior of the Missionaries of Charity at the home survived by hiding, according to the Vatican's Fides news agency. Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian priest who had been living at the home since Holy Family Parish in Aden was sacked and burned in September, was missing after the attack.

Although the sisters would not make news headlines, Pope Francis said, the martyred sisters "gave their blood for the church."

The sisters and the 14 others killed "are victims of the attack by those who killed them, but also (victims) of indifference, this globalization of indifference that just doesn't care," the pope said.

Yemen has been experiencing a political crisis since 2011 and is often described as being in a state of civil war with members of the Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities vying for power; in the midst of the tensions, terrorist groups have been operating in the country, including groups believed to be associated with the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan dies

LOS ANGELES — Nancy Reagan, who became first lady of the United States in January 1981 after husband Ronald Reagan's victory in the 1980 presidential election, made her anti-drug campaign a signature effort of her eight-year tenure as first lady. Reagan, 94, died March 6 in Los Angeles. Ronald Reagan died in 2004. In 1983, she and Washington Redskins football player Mark Murphy visited Bishop McNamara Catholic High School in the Washington suburb of Forestville, Maryland, to warn young people about the dangers of drug abuse.

'Nuns who rock'

CHICAGO — Dominican Sister Gabriella Williams in the Diocese of San Bernardino gives her heart and soul to her ministry with migrant field workers, hourly laborers and their families living in trailer parks in California's Coachella Valley. Sister Rita Schonhoff, a School Sister of Notre Dame, and Dominican Sister Maria Yelitza Ayala live out their religious vocations by serving desperately poor communities in Missouri and Texas, respectively. Benedictine Sister Kathleen Atkinson from the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, is the founder and director of Ministry on the Margins, working with prison inmates, former prisoners, the homeless, at-risk youth and others who need to encounter God's love. These religious sisters and many more around the United States are being highlighted by Chicago-based Catholic Extension as part of National Catholic Sisters Week March 8-14.

Church property scrutiny

SCITUATE, Mass. — Parishioners occupying a Massachusetts Catholic church for more than a decade are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower court decision calling for their removal from church property. Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini, the organization that has occupied the church in the Boston Archdiocese since Oct. 24, 2004, filed the request March 1, attorney Mary Beth Carmody said. "This is a case the court could very well take," Carmody said, admitting, however, that "the odds are long." The petition for review follows a Massachusetts Court of Appeals decision that agreed with the archdiocese's claim that the parishioners were trespassing on church property.

Biden, Boehner honored

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With public confidence in government "at historic lows" and cynicism "high," the University of Notre Dame will present its 2016 Laetare Medal to two public servants known for "their leadership, civility and dedication to our nation," the university's president announced. Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner — two Catholic officials from opposing political parties — will be this year's recipients of the medal. They will be honored May 15 during Notre Dame's 171st commencement ceremony.

Genocide on Christians

WASHINGTON — The House Foreign Affairs Committee March 2 unanimously passed a bipartisan measure condemning as genocide the killing of Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities by Islamic State militants in the Middle East. The House body also passed a second measure unanimously calling for an international tribunal to hold the Syrian government led by President Bashar Assad accountable for war crimes for "terrible atrocities" committed against the country's own people.

The 'scourge of abuse'

WASHINGTON — A Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse of hundreds of children over several decades and an Oscar win for "Spotlight," about the Boston abuse scandal, "brought painful, but important, reminders that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect children from the scourge of abuse," said Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau, Alaska. The bishop made the comments in a March 3 statement as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.

Transparency pledge

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. — Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown committed the Pennsylvania diocese to be transparent in its efforts related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and to make public the names of all priests found to have a credible allegation of abuse against them and the status of each man within the diocese. The pledge came during an afternoon news conference March 3 at diocesan offices in Hollidaysburg, two days after a state grand jury issued a report saying that at least 50 priests or religious leaders were involved in the sexual abuse of hundreds of children over several decades and that diocesan leaders systematically concealed the abuse to protect the church's image.

Girl Scout alternatives

ST. LOUIS — The Archdiocese of St. Louis has formed a new Catholic Committee for Girls Formation that is being charged with ministry to all girls in the archdiocese. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson announced the new committee in a Feb. 18 letter to priests, scouting leaders and the faithful of the archdiocese. The letter reiterated the ongoing concerns with the values and policies of Girl Scouts USA, which he said are "becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values."

Pius' war against Hitler

ROME — Pope Pius XII, who some critics say remained silent during the Holocaust, played a pivotal role in coordinating covert spy operations and efforts to take down Adolf Hitler, a U.S. author said. "Pius XII conspired with the German resistance to try and get rid of Hitler on not just one but three occasions — from 1939 to 1945 — and that's the story that I tell," Mark Riebling said. In his book, "Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler," Riebling's research unveils a series of plots and acts of espionage involving Pope Pius that sought to bring down the tyrannical Nazi regime, which was responsible for the death of an estimated 6 million Jews.

Civil unions bill

ROME — After months of public debate and protests, the Italian Senate passed a controversial bill that grants legal recognition to nonmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples. The legislation, known in Italy as the "Cirinna" bill, passed Feb. 25 after the bill's sponsors removed a proposed clause that would allow for a nonbiological parent in a homosexual union to adopt the biological children of his or her partner. To become law, the bill also needs the approval of the lower house of the Italian parliament; a final vote is expected within two months.

Catholic News Service


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