FEBRUARY 9, 2004





CA clergy lead ‘pilgrimage’
for striking workers

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Organizing a “Grocery Workers Justice Pilgrimage,” California religious leaders accompanied striking workers on a journey from Los Angeles to Alamo to deliver 10,000 cards and letters to the home of Safeway CEO Steve Burd, asking him to return to the negotiating table.

The grocery workers, on the picket lines since October, are demanding that employers continue to provide affordable health care, which the union feels current contract offers threaten.

Priest in marijuana case
won’t return to ministry

BARBERTON, Ohio (RNS) – A priest charged with growing marijuana in his rectory will never return as pastor, regardless of the outcome of the case, the Diocese of Cleveland has announced.

Father Richard Arko, pastor of the 500-family Prince of Peace Church, was arrested Jan. 22 after police found 35 marijuana plants in the closet of a spare bedroom in his rectory. Father Arko, 40, was immediately placed on leave, the diocese said. Also charged was Jensen Powell, 24, who was living in the rectory.

U.S. bars women from
Church of England school

LONDON (RNS) – A choir from a Church of England girls boarding school will fly to the United States this month for a weeklong tour of California without five members who fell afoul of strict U.S. visa requirements.
The five, all from mainland China and due to take graduation examinations this summer, were refused visas by the U.S. embassy in London on the grounds that they had not provided enough evidence they did not intend to remain in the U.S.

The school, St. Mary and St. Anne at Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, belongs to the Woodard Corporation, launched in the 19th century by the Rev. Nathaniel Woodard to provide Christian education within the Anglo-Catholic tradition. There is an affiliated school in Monterey, Calif., which the 27 other members of the choir will visit.

Religious freedom panel
criticizes North Korea

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Religious worship in North Korea has been virtually destroyed by decades of brutal and bizarre dictatorships that routinely starve North Koreans into submission, according to speakers at a Jan. 27 hearing before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Speakers told the commission the government has reduced organized religious membership to only about 10,000 Protestants, 4,000 Buddhists and 10,000 Roman Catholics among North Korea’s 22.2 million people. Religion has effectively been replaced with deity worship through government-enforced cult worship of Kim Jong II.

Church group can’t visit Guantanamo detainees
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The National Council of Churches has been denied access for a humanitarian visit to terrorism detainees at an American base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A delegation from the New York-based NCC had asked government officials late last year for access to the more than 600 detainees.

Israel finally recognizes Greek Orthodox patriarch

JERUSALEM (RNS) – Two-and-a-half years after he was elected by a synod of bishops to become the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land, Erinaeos I has finally received official recognition from the Israeli government that had shunned him.

Israel announced on Jan. 25 it would acknowledge the patriarch’s authority, reversing its longstanding rejection of his May 2001 appointment because it believed he is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

According to reports in the Israeli press, the government reversed its decision after pressure mounted from religious and political leaders from around the world.

Religious leaders criticize resurgent anti-Semitism

LONDON (RNS) – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster, and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks have joined in denouncing the resurgence of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world.

Describing anti-Semitism as “abhorrent,” they called it an attempt to dehumanize a part of humanity by making it a scapegoat for shared ills. “We recognize that the suffering of the Jewish people is a stain on the history of Europe, and our total rejection of anti-Semitism, amid evidence of its resurgence, is a signal that we will not permit it to stain our continent’s future as it has its past,” they wrote.

Court lets stand ruling on religious literature
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an appeals court decision that an Arizona school district cannot prohibit distribution of literature advertising a program with religious content.

“If a school district permits distribution of material from private groups, it cannot prohibit the distribution of literature simply because it promotes an event with a religious viewpoint,” said Walter M. Weber, senior litigation counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which filed the suit against the Scottsdale Unified School District.

Pope names successor to
envoy slain in Burundi

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has named Monsignor Paul Gallagher, a British prelate with previous experience in Africa, as successor to the papal envoy slain in Burundi in December.

Msgr. Gallagher, a native of Liverpool who turned 50 on Jan. 23, will succeed Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, who was shot and killed Dec. 29 in an ambush on the car in which he was riding in the countryside south of the capital of Bujumbura. The rebel National Liberation Forces denied government charges they were responsible for the assassination and on Dec. 31 demanded that Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega leave Burundi within 30 days for backing the allegation. He has not left.

Burundi’s ethnic-based civil conflict, which pits Hutus against Tutsis, has claimed more than 300,000 lives in 10 years.

Cincinnati attorney says abuse
fund is too small

CINCINNATI (RNS) – A local attorney here is challenging the size of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s $3 million fund to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse, saying the fund is too small to properly compensate victims.

The creation of the compensation fund was announced Nov. 20 following the archdiocese’s plea of “no contest” to five misdemeanor counts of failing to report a crime. Compensation is to be made available to any victim who is not currently suing the archdiocese, including persons who have sued and lost a case due to the statute of limitations.

Attorney Janet G. Abaray, representing five alleged victims, said the money being offered is inadequate, and purported victims “had no say in the process.”

Israeli authorities report major archaeological find

JERUSALEM (RNS) – Israeli archaeologists have uncovered impressive remains of the Tiberias Crusader fortress gate and walls as well as other architectural elements dating back to Roman-Byzantine times.
The discovery was made during excavations in the summer of 2003 but news of the find was made public only Jan. 22 to coincide with a conference on excavations at the Haifa University. Tiberias is on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Prelate tells Catholic politicians to toe line

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) – Catholic politicians who support abortion, assisted suicide or any other “life issues” out of step with church teachings should refrain from Holy Communion, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes has declared.

“When Catholic officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the church and should not partake of Holy Communion,” he wrote.

The issue came to the fore in November at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall meeting in Washington. The bishops expressed concern about those politicians who espoused one position in their private lives and another publicly.

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