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OCTOBER 18, 2004

 

 

 

NEWS IN BRIEF

Prayers for peace
The Dalai Lama greets children as Mexico’s Cardinal Norberto Rivera (R) looks on during a prayer service for peace at the Mexico City Cathedral, Oct. 4.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

Dog for sale
Augustinian monk Frederic sits with an original St. Bernard dog on the Grand St. Bernard Pass on the border between Switzerland and Italy. The four monks of the Hospice for Martigny say that caring for the dogs is taking too much time away from their work with pilgrims who visit the monastery, so they hope to sell the dogs.

RNS PHOTO/ REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Bishop resigns from scandal-plagued seminary
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of an Austrian bishop who dismissed a sex scandal in his diocesan seminary as a “schoolboy prank,” the Vatican said Oct. 7.

The pope named Bishop Klaus Kueng, 63, to succeed Bishop Kurt Krenn, 68, as bishop of St. Poelten. Bishop Kueng investigated the scandal in the St. Poelten Seminary for the Vatican. The pope acted under a canon (church) law providing for the resignation of a bishop “who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office.” The normal retirement age for a bishop is 75.

The pontiff sent Bishop Kueng to St. Poelten, in Carinthia some 45 miles east of Vienna, on July 20, a day after Austrian police charged an unidentified 27-year-old Polish ex-seminarian with distributing and possessing child pornography.

Authorities said they found some 40,000 photographs and videos of child pornography in seminary computers, allegedly downloaded from a Polish Web site. The rector of the seminary, and his deputy, resigned July 5, and the former seminarian was convicted and given a suspended sentence Aug. 13.

Vatican urges cooperation instead of competition
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – The Vatican has called on members of the United Nations to base reform of the world organization on the principle of “cooperation rather than competition among states.”

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, stressed the need for “effective multilateralism” in a speech to the General Assembly on Oct. 4. “Strengthening the United Nations system implies the acknowledgment that this is a system founded on cooperation rather than on competition among states and actively nourished by constructive will, trust, keeping of commitments and collaboration among equal and reciprocally responsible partners,” Archbishop Migliore said. “Making these founding principles irreversible is a primary task,” he said.

Cardinal criticizes same-sex marriage proposal
MADRID, Spain (AP) – The head of Spain’s bishop’s conference has decried a government proposal to allow homosexuals to marry and adopt children, calling it “a big error and a serious injustice.”

Cardinal Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, praised marriage as contributing to the growth and stability of a society and as a structure for bringing up children. Giving same-sex couples the same rights will have negative consequences for the future, he said.

The proposal will go to Parliament for debate. If it is passed, as expected, Spain will join Belgium and the Netherlands as European countries that have legalized gay marriages.

Episcopalians to consider Israeli divestment
NEW YORK (RNS) – Two top officials of the Episcopal Church said an investments panel will recommend a 12-month study of whether the denomination should divest from companies operating in Israel, following a similar move by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Presbyterians’ decision to explore divestment has angered Jewish groups who say the action is unfair. A high-level summit in New York Sept. 28 failed to find common ground between the two faiths.

Episcopal Bishop Christopher Epting, the church’s ecumenical director, and the Rev. Brian Grieves, director of its peace and justice division, said the church’s Socially Responsible Investment Committee is expected to recommend a 12-month investigation into what investments are “appropriate with companies that contribute to the ongoing (Israeli) Occupation (of Palestinian territories), especially in the areas of home demolitions, settlement building and the separation wall.”

‘West Wing’ president in Pax Christi campaign
LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Actor Martin Sheen, who plays a left-leaning Catholic president on NBC’s “The West Wing,” has signed on to a campaign to tell Catholics that abortion should not be the only factor weighed in supporting a political candidate.

Pax Christi USA, the Catholic peace movement, has spearheaded a statement that “Life Does Not End at Birth: Catholics Called to Vote for the Common Good.” So far, 200 Catholic organizations have signed on, Pax Christi said.

“Contrary to words used in political speeches, a politician’s commitment to the sanctity of life must be judged by the actions taken to defend and promote life in all its forms,” said Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, a Pax Christi supporter.

Pope makes appeal for French hostages
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Making a renewed appeal for the release of two French journalists and others held hostage in Iraq, Pope John Paul II has declared that nothing can justify “haggling over human lives.”

The 84-year-old pontiff spoke at a Vatican ceremony in which the French Catholic television channel KTO and the political review International Policy conferred on him their Prize for Courage in Politics.

D.C. cardinal given top education honor
WASHINGTON – The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) presented Cardinal Theodore McCarrick its highest honor, the 2004 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, during an Oct. 4 ceremony. The award, given by Catholic educators in recognition of significant philanthropic or leadership contributions to Catholic education, was bestowed on the prelate who is known as an articulate advocate of parental choice in education and quality inner-city schools.

Catholic Relief Services seeks more emergency aid
BALTIMORE — Catholic Relief Services is making an emergency appeal for funds as it struggles to respond to disasters in the Caribbean, India and the Darfur region of Sudan.

In a letter to U.S. bishops, CRS chairman Bishop Robert Lynch said the agency has been “stretched thin by this recent string of catastrophes” and the victims “need our help.”

After several hurricanes last month, hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Grenada, Jamaica and the Bahamas need food, clean water, shelter and other necessities.

In India, floods from the summer monsoon season have left millions in danger of water-borne diseases as they struggle to recover from the loss of their homes and crops.

In Darfur, Sudan, already 50,000 people are known dead and more than 1.4 million Sudanese remain uprooted because of civil strike. They face harsh rains, lack of food and water, and continued attacks by the government-backed Janjaweed militia.

Archdiocese mediation challenged in Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A proposal by the Archdiocese of Portland to settle hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits through mandatory mediation is under attack by attorneys for alleged victims of Catholic priest sex abuse.

The lawyers say the proposal would force victims to waive their rights to a jury trial and punitive damages while allowing the archdiocese to keep secrets about whether former archbishops knew about pedophile priests. The proposal, filed earlier this month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, would require all parties to try to settle their lawsuits, now estimated at 80 or more, under the guidance of a mediator.

Pharmacist disciplined over birth control pill
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A Catholic pharmacist who refused to fill a woman’s birth control prescription violated medical standards for care, a state Department of Regulation and Licensing attorney claimed during a disciplinary hearing Oct. 11.
Neil Noesen, 30, was working as a fill-in pharmacist in July 2002 when HE refused to refill a University of Wisconsin-Stout student’s birth control pill prescription because he believes helping anyone obtain contraceptives would be a sin. Noesen also refused to transfer the prescription to any other pharmacy.

Study on fate of babies who die unbaptized
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has asked a panel of theologians at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study the fate of babies who die without baptism.

The pontiff told members of the International Theological Commission Oct. 7 that the issue is of “maximum interest” because it involves fundamental beliefs. Catholic dogma dating to the Middle Ages holds that unbaptized babies are tainted with original sin and must, like unbaptized adults, await the last judgment in “limbo,” a place without torments but far from God.

“The question of the fate of babies dead without baptism,” the pope said, “is not simply an isolated theological problem. Many other fundamental themes are intimately interwoven with this.”

He cited “God’s will for universal salvation, the unique and universal mediation of Jesus Christ, the role of the Church, universal sacraments of salvation, the theology of the sacraments and the sense of the doctrine of original sin.”

Over the next several years it will be the job of the theologians “to scrutinize the nexus between all these mysteries in view of offering a theological synthesis that can serve to help (develop) a more coherent and illuminated pastoral procedure,” he said.

Christian Peacemakers attacked in Hebron
For the second time in as many weeks Israeli settler youth attacked members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) earlier this month as they escorted Palestinian children to school in the South Hebron hills.

On Oct. 9 Diana Zimmerman and Diane Janzen of CPT were attacked by eight settlers with wooden sticks and sling shots. The settlers also attacked other members of the international accompaniment group who were in Hebron on a mission of peaceful presence, including members of an Italian peace group and Amnesty International.

Two other CPT members were attacked and critically injured on Sept. 29.

Settlers from Ma’on have reportedly used physical assaults to drive out Palestinian residents of this remote area for years. Escalating attacks spurred Palestinian villagers to ask CPT to place a violence-reduction team in the area.

CPT is an ecumenical program dedicated to nonviolent alternatives. Lorin Peters, a teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, recently spent six weeks as part of the peace team in Hebron.

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
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