APRIL 26, 2004





Violence forces departure
of Peacemakers in Iraq

CHICAGO (RNS) – Iraq’s increasing instability has prompted a Chicago-based religious peace organization to temporarily withdraw its personnel from the country. The five members of Christian Peacemaker Teams left Baghdad for Amman, Jordan, on the counsel of friends and partners in Iraq, including human rights workers and Muslim clerics.

Foreigners in Iraq have increasingly become targets for killing and kidnapping. The Teams hope to return to Iraq in a few weeks.

Christopher Plummer cast as Cardinal Law
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Christopher Plummer has been cast as Cardinal Bernard Law in “Our Fathers,” Showtime’s TV movie about the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal scheduled to begin production in June.
Plummer will bring “authority, humanity, and an appropriately chilling detachment” to the part, said Robert Greenblatt, Showtime Networks’ entertainment president. Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop of Boston while under fire for mishandling abuse cases.

“Our Fathers” is based on a book about the scandal written by Newsweek’s
David France.

English prelate: time for
disengagement from Iraq

LONDON (RNS) – Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England, an influential bishop who sits on the international affairs committee of the English and Welsh Roman Catholic bishops conference, has called on Britain and the United States to end the military occupation of Iraq.

In his Easter message he said it was time to reassess the whole situation, given that there had been “no slackening” of worldwide opposition to the occupation and subjugation of the people of Iraq.

“It is time for Britain and the United States to disengage from the occupation of that country and attacks on its people,” he said.

“It is time for the United Nations to be effectively involved in providing security and developing an accountable and representative government as soon as possible.” He said assurances given by the two governments before the invasion had not been fulfilled.

Poll says Bush, Kerry tied for Catholic vote
WASHINGTON (RNS) – President Bush and his presumptive Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, are in a virtual dead heat among American Catholic voters, according to a new poll released April 12 by Georgetown University.

In the poll of 1,001 Catholics, Kerry drew support from 46 percent of voters, and Bush got 41 percent. With the poll’s 3 percentage point margin of error, the two candidates are virtually tied.

Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is the first Catholic to be nominated by a major party since John F. Kennedy in 1960, holds a slight lead – 40 percent to 33 percent – among the 22 percent of Catholic voters who say they are independents. Fewer than 10 percent of Catholic voters said they were undecided.

Pollsters said Kerry is drawing strong support from members of his own church, but added that it does not seem enough to lure Catholics away from the Republican fold. Thirty-nine percent of Catholics said they were Democrats, and 31 percent Republicans.

‘Passion’ movie rakes in $355 million

NEW YORK (RNS) – Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” movie about the death of Jesus earned $17 million over the Easter weekend, making it the eighth-highest grossing film of all time. Gibson’s self-financed blockbuster has earned $354.9 million since it debuted on Feb. 25.

Irish census finds increase of Christians
LONDON (RNS) – For the first time since the 1922 founding of what was then called the Irish Free State, the numbers of non-Roman Catholic Christians have risen instead of declining, according to the 2002 census of the Republic of Ireland.

Anglicans (members of the Church of Ireland) increased from 89,187 in the 1991 census to 115,611 in 2002, or 3 percent of the population. Presbyterians increased from 13,199 to 20,582; Methodists from 5,037 to 10,033; and Orthodox from a mere 358 to 10,437. There are now Russian Orthodox
parishes in Cork, Galway and Monaghan as well as Dublin.
Jerusalem’s Catholic patriarch lashes out

JERUSALEM (RNS) – In what is arguably his most politically charged annual Easter message to date, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, lashed out at the Israeli occupation while urging Holy Land Christians to resist hatred in their fight for freedom.

Patriarch Sabbah, the first Palestinian to be appointed patriarch of Jerusalem by the Catholic Church, urged the faithful to remain resolute in their struggle against Israel.

In his message, he repeatedly alluded to the separation barrier that Israel is building between itself and the West Bank, a barrier Israel says is needed to prevent terrorism in the wake of more than 100 Palestinian suicide bombings, and which the Palestinians and the Church say is simply a means to seize their property.

Christmas closing bill advances in England
LONDON (RNS) – A proposal that would prevent large stores from opening for business on Christmas Day appears headed for approval by the British Parliament.

The bill has the backing of the government and the support of trade unions and churches. It seeks to correct an anomaly in the 1994 Sunday Trading Act that allowed large stores to open on Sundays.

Technically supermarkets and other large stores are legally entitled to open their doors on Christmas Day provided it is not a Sunday.

Kerry meets with Washington cardinal

WASHINGTON (RNS) – Sen. John Kerry, whose support for abortion rights has angered some Catholic leaders, met on April 15 with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who heads a committee considering how to treat dissenting Catholic politicians.

Kerry met privately with Cardinal McCarrick for about 45 minutes in the cleric’s office in Hyattsville, Md. Church officials and campaign staff both declined to comment on the meeting. The closed-door meeting was the first time the two men had met, aides said.

Orthodox official sees hope for papal visit
ROME (RNS) – An official of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church said recently that a renewal of Orthodox-Catholic negotiations could lead to a papal visit to Moscow.

Mikhail Dudko, secretary of the patriarchate’s Department for Foreign Relations, said Vatican proposals to create a Greek Catholic patriarchate and four dioceses in Russia have been obstacles to a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Moscow Patriarch Alexey II. But during a visit to Rome he told reporters that if the churches resumed dialogue, the meeting would be “very probable.”

Donations to churches and non-profits rise
(RNS) – The average amount of money given to nonprofits, including churches, rose significantly in 2003, according to the Barna Group, a research firm in Ventura, Calif.

Donations to non-profits increased from a mean of $991 in 2002 to $1,079 in 2003, an 8 percent increase. Although the amount of money donated rose, the percentage of households donating to at least one non-profit group remained at 80 percent, the same as in the two previous years.

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