JUNE 7, 2004





Bishops’ official hits suicide ruling
WASHINGTON – Cathleen Cleaver, a spokeswoman for the pro-Life Secretariat of the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops, criticized a court ruling last month that struck down Attorney General John Ashcroft’s directive that doctors in Oregon may not misuse federally controlled drugs to assist suicides. The Ashcroft directive had reversed a Clinton Administration decision to allow Oregon doctors to ignore federal law and prescribe lethal doses of federally controlled substances. The decision in the case of Oregon v. Ashcroft will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Cardinal Law appointed to Basilica post in Rome
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has named Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, to the ceremonial post of archpriest of the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Cardinal Law, 72, has been resident chaplain at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy of Alma in Clinton, Md., since the pope accepted his resignation as head of the 2.1-million-member Boston archdiocese on Dec. 13, 2002, amidst criticism of the cardinal for failing to discipline priests accused of pedophilia.

St. Mary Major is one of four major basilicas in Rome under direct Vatican jurisdiction. Cardinal Law will succeed Italian Cardinal Carlo Furno, 82, and be in charge of administration, including ceremonies and finances. Cardinal Law will continue to serve as a member of nine congregations and two councils.

Boston to close 65 parishes in downsizing
BOSTON (RNS) – The Archdiocese of Boston will close 65 parishes in a consolidation plan to combat low Mass attendance and a decline in clergy.

The plan announced May 25 by Archbishop Sean O’Malley affects 70 of the 357 parishes in the archdiocese – five new parishes will be created through mergers, and five more buildings will remain open as worship sites with no resident parish.

The archbishop said that population shifts away from urban areas, combined with a shrinking supply of clergy and rising maintenance costs forced the downsizing. He added that since 1988, the number of clergy has dropped by 37 percent.

If parish assets are sold, none of the money will be used to pay a $90 million settlement with abuse victims, he said. The sale of the former archbishop’s residence and surrounding property will pay for the settlement.

Newark proposes to close 25 parishes
NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) – As many as 25 parishes in the Newark Archdiocese should be closed in the next two years, according to recommendations a church task force has submitted to Archbishop John J. Myers.

The recommendations, proposed by a panel of 14 clergy and lay people appointed by the archbishop, single out churches that have not met a series of critical benchmarks including membership, baptisms and community involvement. The proposed closings would affect about 10 percent of the 235 parishes of the archdiocese, which includes more than 1.3 million Catholics.

The recommendations say 15 of the parishes should merge with larger ones nearby, and that an additional 10 should either merge or share services with nearby parishes.

Bishop’s warning on gay marriages
WORCHESTER, MA (RNS) – Bishop Robert McManus, the new Catholic bishop here, said Catholic city officials or town clerks who approve gay civil marriages are “involving themselves in cooperation with evil.” Bishop McManus said legalized gay marriages in Massachusetts are “clear and serious violations” of natural law and Roman Catholic teaching.

Belief in angels, devil on the rise
NEW YORK (RNS) – While the portion of Americans who believe in God has remained relatively steady at upward of 90 percent, increasing numbers of Americans believe in heaven, hell, angels and the devil, a new Gallup poll shows.

According to Gallup, 81 percent of Americans believe in heaven, and 70 percent believe in hell. More than three-fourths of Americans – 78 percent – believe in angels, which is up from 72 percent in 1994. Belief in the devil has also grown – 70 percent of Americans believe in the devil, up from 65 percent in 1994.

EU debate on religion in constitution continues
ROME (RNS) – Seven nations in the European Union have urged that the bloc’s new constitution make an explicit reference to Europe’s Christian roots. But France said on May 24 that it could not accept such references.

The debate over what, if any, reference should be made to God, Christianity and Europe’s religious heritage, has been one of the most contentious issues facing European foreign ministers since they began drafting the EU constitution in early 2002. Pope John Paul II has been one of the strongest proponents of making an explicit reference to Christianity in the constitution. Seven EU nations are predominantly Roman Catholic.

Ultimatum to Episcopal Church

ABUJA, Nigeria (RNS) – Anglican leaders from the Third World have said the Episcopal Church should be given until the end of the year to “repent” for allowing an openly gay bishop or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion.

In a May 17 statement issued on behalf of 18 Anglican provinces in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said Episcopalians have “cut themselves adrift” by consenting to the election of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, which includes 38 autonomous churches led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Pope marks 100th year of Rome’s synagogue
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II marked the 100th anniversary of Rome’s great synagogue by deploring the Holocaust and appealing to Jews, Christians and Muslims to work together for peace in the Middle East. “We share the values for the defense of life and of the dignity of every human person,” the pope said in a message May 23 to Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. “Our fraternal cooperation can grow in concrete ways.”

Peace group creates military ‘memorial’
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (RNS) – Borrowing a page from the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, a group of peace activists has created a portable “memorial” to the 800 or so United States troops who have died in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.
The display of 10 large folding placards – two in red to designate those fallen before President George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” in May 2003 and the other eight in green to designate those who have been killed since – was on display a few minutes away from the gates of the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg military reservation.

Bosnians support Nobel for Catholic bishop
SARAJEVO (RNS) – Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Bosnia have voiced support for the nomination of Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Patriarch Pavle, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Rais-ul-ulema, the Muslim Mustafa cleric, have both said they favor the bishop’s nomination. The interreligious support is a big step for a country that has been deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines

During the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, Bishop Komarica was punished for opposing the Bosnian Serb policy of expelling all non-Serbs from the northern area around Banja Luka. Bishop Komarica, an ethnic Croat, was kept under house arrest for nearly a year. The war between the three ethnic communities claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people.

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