NOVEMBER 8, 2004





Pope prays for Iraqis,
all victims of terrorism

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II said Oct. 27 that he prays every day for “the dear Iraqi people” and grieves for the innocent victims of “the blind barbarity of terrorism.”

The 84-year-old pontiff, who strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, closed his weekly general audience in a rain-swept St. Peter’s Square with a renewed appeal for a return to peace.

The pope also urged members of the small Christian minority in Iraq to remain in their homeland and work for reconciliation. Many Christians have fled war-torn Iraq following the bombing of churches and threats from Muslim extremists.

Emotional health linked
to religious involvement

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – College students with significant religious involvement report better emotional health than those with no involvement, new research from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute shows.

A national study of 3,680 college students indicates that those who are not churchgoers are more than twice as likely to say they have felt depressed or had poorer emotional health than students who frequently attend religious services.

New president of Catholic Charities USA
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A Minnesota priest who helped distribute more than $30 million in aid following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been named the new president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.

Father Larry Snyder will head the Alexandria, Va.-based agency after leading its local affiliate in St. Paul-Minneapolis for five years. He succeeds Father. Bryan Hehir, a respected social policy expert, who was recalled last year to his native
Archdiocese of Boston.

Father Snyder, 54, a former high school teacher, chaired Catholic Charities’ National Disaster Response Advisory Committee following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Wall blocking Catholic school demolished
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesian officials on Oct. 25 knocked down a brick wall erected by an Islamic group to block access to a Catholic school it accused of converting local Muslims.

The Sang Timur Catholic School west of Jakarta was closed in early October when the Muslim group built a seven-foot-high wall in front of its gates. Local government workers demolished the wall hours before former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is a well-known interfaith activist, arrived to discuss the issue with local people.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Indonesia’s 210 million people. More than 80 percent are Muslims, making it the world’s largest Islamic country.
Washington Cardinal

James Hickey dies at 84
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Cardinal James Hickey, the soft-spoken former archbishop of Washington and one of only 14 U.S. cardinals, died Oct. 24 after a lengthy illness. He was 84.

Cardinal Hickey was named to the prominent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and made a cardinal in 1988. He retired in 2000 as a non-voting member of the College of Cardinals and the nation’s second-eldest cardinal. He never had the opportunity to vote for a new pope in a conclave.

Cardinal Hickey shied away from the limelight of his post and carried a special devotion to the poor. Under his watch, Catholic Charities of Washington became the region’s largest provider of social services, and he also launched a nonprofit agency to provide housing to the elderly.

“We serve the homeless not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic,” he once said. “If we don’t care for the sick, educate the young, care for the homeless, then we cannot call ourselves the church of Christ.”

Before moving to Washington the cardinal attended the funeral of assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and later became an outspoken critic of that country after two U.S. missionaries he commissioned were killed there.

Vermont diocese looks
again at church closings

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) – Officials in the statewide Diocese of Burlington are reconsidering consolidating parishes and closing churches after parishioners in the Boston Archdiocese staged sit-ins and vigils, formed a coalition and appealed to the Vatican after parish closures were announced there.

The diocese, projecting that priest numbers will drop by half in 10 years, launched a study of its current 130-parish structure in January with hopes of announcing specific closings and reconfigurations early next year. But church officials, reading news reports about furor in the Archdiocese of Boston over plans to close 85 of 357 parishes, have decided to throw out their original timeline and start afresh.

“Not that Boston doesn’t need to close places, but for many people it was too much too soon too fast,” Father John McDermott, leader of the Vermont study, said. “Although we’d love to have a final plan now, we’re going to take a couple more months. We want to examine and exhaust all the possibilities.”

Theologians critique
‘national theology of war’

WASHINGTON (RNS) – A coalition of more than 200 Christian theologians and ethicists voiced concern Oct. 22 over what they called an emerging “national theology of war,” saying the war on terrorism doesn’t take precedence “over ethical and legal norms.”

“A climate in which violence is too easily accepted, and the roles of God, church and nation too easily confused, calls for a new confession of Christ,” said Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, in a statement. “No nation-state may usurp the place of God.”

Led by the progressive Christian faith and social policy organization Sojourners, theologians from a range of progressive and conservative religious institutions signed a confession in which they “reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms.”

“Our allegiance to Christ takes priority over national identity. Whenever Christianity compromises with empire, the Gospel of Christ is discredited,” the confession reads. The confession follows a national newspaper advertising campaign by Sojourners that displayed a large headline reading “God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.”

Davenport diocese cuts
staff after judge’s ruling

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – The bishop of the Diocese of Davenport said he would severely cut staff at the diocesan headquarters after a judge made a key ruling against the diocese.

The 44-member staff will be reduced to 18, Bishop William E. Franklin said.
District Judge C.H. Pelton on Oct. 21 rejected the diocese’s request to delay a Nov. 1 trial in the first of several lawsuits dealing with sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1950s. The diocese had pleaded for one more month to negotiate with its insurance company and lawyers for 38 men who say they were abused by priests when they were minors.

But Pelton, in a six-page ruling, said Church officials did not have a solid reason for asking for more time in the case, which was filed almost a year and a half ago.

Without time to work out a more favorable settlement, Bishop Franklin has said the only option would be to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

New trial denied in Schiavo right-to-die case
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – A judge has refused to order a new trial to determine whether severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo would want to be kept alive artificially.

The ruling in the long-running right-to-die case moves Schiavo’s husband one step closer to having her feeding tube removed, but Circuit Judge George Greer in Clearwater blocked removal of the tube until at least Dec. 6 so Schiavo’s parents can decide whether to appeal.

Gov. Jeb Bush has filed a motion in the Florida Supreme Court seeking a separate stay while his attorneys file an appeal in the case with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Iraqis back election of religious leaders
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A new poll has found that a small majority of Iraqis support a separation between religion and government. But in results that have not been made public, but reported by the Washington Post, the same poll shows a significant percentage of Iraqis backing leaders from explicitly Islamic parties or groups when elections are held in January.

The poll was financed by the U.S. government and conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit organization that receives federal grants to garner public opinion in Iraq.

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