JANUARY 10, 2005





Pope may rescind miracles for sainthood
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II is reported to be considering a proposal to abolish miracles as requirements for sainthood.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, said recently that there is a growing feeling that the key requirement for sainthood is a life of “heroic virtue” and that miracles are “anachronistic.” He said the proposal was sent to the pope by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

An official of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which is in charge of the process of creating saints, refused to discuss the proposal but indicated that doing away with the miracle requirement would be little short of revolutionary. Asked for how long miracles have been needed for sainthood, he replied: “Always.”

There have been two major reforms in saint-making over the centuries. Pope Sixtus V centralized the process at the Vatican in 1588, and Pope John Paul II streamlined it in 1983 by cutting the number of miracles required from four to only one for martyrs and two for other candidates.

Pope John Paul II considers saints important examples for Catholics living in an increasingly secular world. In 26 years, he has proclaimed 483 saints and 1,345 blesseds, more than all his predecessors combined over the last four centuries.

Israeli archaeologists fear forgery effects
JERUSALEM (RNS) – Some archaeologists are concerned that recent indictments leveled against members of a sophisticated antiquities forgery ring will give Israeli archaeology a bad name.

The criminal indictments followed an exhaustive investigation by the Israeli police and Antiquities Authority, which had long suspected four men of masterfully forging such important relics as the James Ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone burial box bearing the Aramaic inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

During a Dec. 29 press briefing, Shuka Dorfman, the director of the Antiquities Authority, told reporters that the activities of the ring, led by Israeli antiquities dealer and collector Oded Golan, are “the tip of the iceberg. We believe this is happening worldwide and has generated millions of dollars.”

Pope saw 2.2 million people during 2004
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Despite his failing health, Pope John Paul II saw 2.2 million people at general and special audiences, liturgical celebrations and the Angelus prayer during 2004, the Vatican says.

The pontiff, who is 84 and suffers from Parkinson’s disease, conducted 48 general audiences attended by 504,600 pilgrims during the year. Another 197,200 people were present at special audiences, 523,000 at liturgical celebrations and slightly more than 1 million at the midday Angelus prayer on Sundays and holidays.

Israel, Palestinians jointly push
for pilgrims

JERUSALEM (RNS) – Israel and the Palestinian Authority plan to jointly market their region as a pilgrimage destination.

The Israeli and Palestinian tourism ministers agreed on the plan during a meeting in early December. The campaign, which will initially cost $500,000, will target Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The men also agreed to place the symbols of both ministries on advertisements promoting tourism to the Holy Land. Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered from the virtual collapse in their intertwined tourism industries that resulted from the violence in their countries.

Despite a significant increase in the number of tourists to Israel in 2004, only 13,000 pilgrims, including 4,700 Israeli-Arab Christians, visited Bethlehem during Christmas. Thousands of Christian and Muslim Palestinians have emigrated from the region in recent years, and many more say they will do so if the economy does not improve significantly.

Bishops cite ‘The Passion’ as
one of year’s top films

BALTIMORE (RNS) – Mel Gibson’s controversial depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion in “The Passion of the Christ” and Bishop T.J. Jakes’ silver-screen adaptation of his book “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” were named among the top films of 2004 by the film review office of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

Also in the best films category were “The Aviator,” “Danny Deckchair,” “Finding Neverland,” “Hero,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Ray,” “Shall We Dance?” and “Spanglish.” Honorable mentions went to “Seducing Dr. Lewis,” “Super Size Me,” “Vanity Fair” and “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

The 10 worst movies were “Conspiracy of Silence,” “Dreamers,” “Envy,” “Eurotrip,” “Girl Next Door,” “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” “Head in the Clouds” and “National Lampoon’s Golddiggers,” “Seed of Chucky” and “White Chicks.”

Brethren leaders ‘cautious’ after draft officials’ visit
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Leaders of the Church of the Brethren said they are satisfied but still “cautious” that an unannounced visit by a Selective Service official to the historic peace church does not signal the military’s intent to reinstate the draft.

Brethren officials, who traditionally shun military service in favor of conscientious objector status, were surprised when the official made an impromptu visit to the church’s Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., in October. The Maryland center trained conscientious objectors for alternative service during World War II and the Vietnam War.

Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Washington Office, said the official stressed that the Pentagon has no plans to reinstate the draft and considers conscientious objection a “legitimate response.” Still, he said the visit “raised red flags” with church leaders. “The meeting went well,” Jones said in an interview, “but they didn’t totally convince us that there’s not any preparations for a draft.”

Police disrupt Mass and
arrest priest on Christmas

BEIJING (AP) – Armed police broke up Christmas Mass at an underground Catholic church in eastern China, arresting the priest, demolishing a makeshift pulpit and scattering the 2,000 worshippers in attendance, a human rights center said Dec. 26.

The church, in a family courtyard in Zhejiang province, had been torn down by police four years ago, but parishioners had begun rebuilding it in defiance of Chinese law.
On Christmas Eve police with guns tore down the stage, seats and entrance gate that the group had erected. The 70-year-old priest, Wang Zhongfa, was arrested. He had previously spent a year at prison labor camp in 1996 for holding religious activities in the same courtyard, owned by a family named Lin, the center said.

Priest gets 93 years in jail
on sex abuse charges

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) – A Catholic priest in southeastern Brazil has been sentenced to 93 years in jail for molesting young boys..

Father Alfieri Eduardo Bompani, 60, was arrested in 2002 after 15 men came forward with allegations that he had abused them over a 15-year-period. It was unclear when the abuse began or what age the men were at the time.

“The sentence was extremely harsh and unjust especially since my client is absolutely innocent,” Father Bompani’s attorney, Abramo Rubens Cutter, said in a telephone interview.

The sentence handed down by Judge Marcelo Siqueira was largely symbolic since, in Brazil, the statutory limit for any crime is 30 years. At the time of the abuse, Father Bompani was a parish priest in the city of Sorocaba. Cutter said they will appeal the verdict.

Vatican sets up fund
to assist AIDS victims

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican has established a foundation to fund Catholic organizations assisting AIDS victims, urging people to contribute even if they object to the Church’s opposition to the use of condoms to fight the spread of the disease.
Pope John Paul II has set aside $132,000 for the Good Samaritan Foundation and is asking “all people of good will, particularly those in the economically advanced nations, to contribute,” said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan.
The cardinal, head of the pontifical council on health issues, said discussions of the moral issues around AIDS should not prevent people from contributing to the fund.

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.