FEBRUARY 7, 2005





Holocaust anniversary
A concentration camp survivor wipes a tear during a ceremony at the former death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jan. 27. World leaders and elderly survivors of the camp in Poland gathered to mark the 60th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops and to remember its victims.



Prayers for Ukraine Newly inaugurated Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko with first lady Kateryna Chumachenko and their daughter Sofia kneel during a prayer for Ukraine, attended by heads of all Ukrainian Christian churches, at St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiev, Jan. 24. Yuschenko won the presidency in a second balloting after the first runoff vote on Nov. 21 was declared fraudulent because of vote rigging by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the other candidate.


Pope says Auschwitz remains warning to all
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II, marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, said Jan. 27 that the Holocaust should be a warning to terrorists acting in the name of religion.

“May it serve, today and for the future,” said the pope, “as a warning: there must be no yielding to ideologies which justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, color, language or religion… I make this appeal to everyone, and particularly to those who would resort, in the name of religion, to acts of oppression and terrorism.”

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, represented the pope at the ceremonies in Poland and delivered the pontiff’s message. Cardinal Lustiger was born into a Polish-Jewish family, and his mother died at Auschwitz in 1943 during World War II.

Australian priests urge Vatican to drop celibacy
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Catholic priests in Australia have urged the Vatican to overturn a centuries-old ban on married clergy to help boost recruitment of new priests.

Australia’s National Council of Priests wrote to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops last month arguing that marriage should not be a barrier to ordination and asking the Church to consider readmitting priests who had left the clergy to marry, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.

The council includes about half of Australia’s 1,649 priests. “Priesthood is a gift, celibacy is a gift,” the council wrote. “They are not the same gift.”

The council’s chairman, Father Hal Ranger, said the changes were necessary to stem a dramatic decline in the number of priests in Australia and ensure there are enough clergy to administer the sacraments.

About 27 percent of Australians, or just over 5 million, are Roman Catholic.

New screening for priests on cruise ships
PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has started screening those celebrating Mass on cruise ships, a plan geared toward preventing former, rental and even fraudulent priests from ministering to Catholic passengers.

More than 650 priests have been approved to work on cruise lines, where some priests suspended in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal have recently sought employment. Some Catholics have complained to the bishops that priests on their ships were incompetent, according to The Miami Herald.

Celebrity and Holland America lines are working with priests approved by the Apostleship of the Sea, but other cruise lines are still striking private deals with priests or hiring clergy through Rent-A-Priest, a group that provides former, now-married priests who are no longer authorized to conduct Mass, the newspaper reported.

Eventually, the bishops hope that all cruise lines will adopt a more thorough screening process for clergy.

Christians see bias in Oscar nominations
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Some Christian groups are outraged, but not surprised, that the box-office hit “The Passion of the Christ” didn’t receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture or best director.
Mel Gibson’s film, which grossed $370 million in the United States and more than $600 million worldwide, did receive nominations for “makeup,” cinematography” and “original score.”

Catholic League president William Donohue called “The Passion’s” three nominations “second-tier.”

Canada to consider law for same-sex marriage
TORONTO (RNS) – In stark contrast to the U.S. where voters in 11 states approved bans on same-sex marriage last fall, Canadian leaders in Parliament plan to soon consider a law guaranteeing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right on a par with freedom of speech or religion.

Prime Minister Paul Martin plans to offer legislation that would codify a series of court decisions over the past three years that favored same-sex marriage.
However, grass-roots opposition to same-sex marriage has emerged and opponents have mounted a lobbying campaign to sway members of Parliament against Martin’s bill.

First Holocaust exhibit opens at United Nations
NEW YORK (RNS) – The United Nations General Assembly is marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Holocaust’s death camps with its first-ever exhibit on the atrocities of the Holocaust.

“Auschwitz: The Depth of the Abyss’” will be displayed in the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby for six weeks. The exhibit is part of a global commemoration of the anniversary, meant to mark some of the most painful lessons learned in modern history.

Supreme Court won’t take Terry Schiavo case
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 24 declined to review a case involving Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose right to life has been at the center of a 15-year legal battle.

A Florida Supreme Court decision had denied Florida Gov. Jeb Bush the power to block a court ruling that Schiavo’s life support be stopped. Her parents had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group representing Schiavo’s parents, expressed dismay over the development. “By declaring ‘Terri’s Law’ unconstitutional, the Florida courts have handed down a death sentence for her,” said Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Schiavo suffered a heart attack in 1990 that led to severe brain damage, causing her to be dependent on a feeding tube. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, wants the life support to be stopped so that she may die peacefully. Her parents believe she is not in a vegetative state and that pulling life support would amount to state-sponsored starvation.

No tax on sale of church candles
SOFIA, Bulgaria (RNS) – Patriarch Maxim, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, has persuaded the government to exempt the sale of church candles from the country’s Value Added Tax. The sale of candles is a lucrative business for the church in a country and culture where the burning of candles every day is part of Orthodox rites.

Ecumenical News International, the Geneva-based religious news service, said the agreement to snuff the tax on candles was reached during a meeting between Patriariach Maxim and Bulgarian Finance Minister Milen Velchev in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital

Jewish groups launch abortion rights initiative
NEW YORK (RNS) – Jewish groups from across the religious spectrum are heading into President Bush’s second term with a fresh agenda for protecting abortion rights.

The main feature of the new initiative, which is spearheaded by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), is a letter to senators urging them to support choice as a civil rights and religious freedom issue. Over 150 Reform and Conservative rabbis have already signed the letter, which will be distributed to senators, organizers say, at an opportune political moment.

At issue for Jews is the potential for an all-out ban on abortion to contradict Jewish law, which mandates abortion in situations where the mother’s life is in danger, and may permit it in cases of rape, incest or other case-specific circumstances.

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