Nation and World News

World and National News Briefs

Cardinal issues defense of celibacy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Two months after taking over as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes has issued a strong and lengthy defense of priestly celibacy. "Priestly celibacy is a precious gift of Christ to his Church, a gift that must continually be meditated upon and strengthened, especially in the deeply secularized modern world," Cardinal Hummes said. The cardinal made the comments in a full-page article for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Cardinal Hummes, formerly the archbishop of Sao Paolo, arrived at his new Vatican post last December, shortly after telling a Brazilian newspaper that priestly celibacy was a disciplinary norm and not a Church dogma and therefore open to change.

Death-penalty foes hail Tenn. decision

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — Death penalty opponents in Tennessee are applauding Gov. Phil Bredesen’s decision to temporarily halt state executions to study the state’s protocol for carrying out death sentences, but they say it "doesn’t go nearly far enough." Alex Wiesendanger, associate director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, called the move "a great first step," but said "a full study of the entire system is needed" beyond the 90-day study of the state’s death-penalty procedures. The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission is also among those pushing for a more wide-ranging moratorium. Announcing the moratorium at a press conference Feb. 1, Bredesen said he is a death penalty supporter but believes that "it is incumbent on the state to carry out these sentences constitutionally and appropriately."

Papal writings heading to press

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — A new book to be published in March by HarperSanFrancisco brings together what its editors call "the central writings and speeches" of Pope Benedict XVI. "The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches" opens with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s sermon at the funeral of Pope John Paul II April 18, 2005, and closes with his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love)," dated Dec. 25, 2005. Edited by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne, the 464-page hardcover book will sell for $27.95 in the United States.

N. Korea’s nukes concern to pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI told South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun that he shares that nation’s concerns about a nuclear arms race in the region. With the aid of interpreters, the pope and president spoke privately for 25 minutes Feb. 15 before Pope Benedict handed the president a letter expressing his concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and about the continued separation of families on either side of the border. Roh’s visit to the Vatican came just two days after North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States reached a tentative agreement to put a stop to the development of new nuclear weapons by North Korea.

Soldiers’ families meet with pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Searching anywhere and everywhere for information about their loved ones, the families of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers met Feb. 14 with Pope Benedict XVI. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Reghev were kidnapped last July near the Israeli-Lebanese border by the militant Islamic group Hezbollah in a raid that sparked the monthlong conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Despite efforts by the Israeli government and humanitarian organizations, the soldiers’ families have had no news about them. Benny Reghev, the brother of one of the missing soldiers, asked for Pope Benedict’s help in getting information, said Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, who joined the families at the pope’s weekly general audience. "The Vatican has contacts," and any information might prove useful, Ben-Hur said.

Argentine bishops issue info on sex ed

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) — The Argentine bishops’ conference has published a sex education manual for Catholic schools, where the subject has become mandatory for the new academic year. The 160-page manual, "Education for Love," will be available to parents and teachers and will teach the Church’s position on sex education for use in the classroom when the new academic year begins in March. Last year Argentina passed a federal law making sex education compulsory for students as young as age 5. The law outlines certain issues that must be raised in class — such as discrimination against women, sexuality, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and abortion — which the Church considers "dangerous," said Father Ruben Revello, coordinator of the Institute of Bioethics at the Catholic University of Argentina. However, in the case of controversial issues such as contraception, church schools could teach "from a Christian standpoint," Father Revello told Catholic News Service Feb. 14.

New top canon lawyer is named

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, the Vatican’s top expert in canon law, and named an Italian bishop to succeed him. Auxiliary Bishop Francesco Coccopalmerio of Milan, a 68-year-old with doctorates in canon and civil law, was named an archbishop and president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican announced Feb. 15. Cardinal Herranz, a member of Opus Dei, had led the office since 1994. The cardinal, who will celebrate his 77th birthday March 31, began working at the Vatican in 1960, serving as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law from 1963 until the 1983 promulgation of the new code.

Polish archbishop retracts statement

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Polish archbishop who resigned after admitting collaboration with communist secret police has withdrawn his confession and asked a court to clear his name. Lawyers for former Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus said he did not collaborate and that his secret police files were falsified. "There was neither secret nor conscious collaboration — in my view, the archbishop acted in the interests of the Church," said Marek Malecki, a lawyer acting for Archbishop Wielgus. He said a trial would allow "a different evaluation of the stance of clergy at the time." Waldemar Gontarski, another lawyer, told the Zycie Warszawy daily Feb. 13 that the national appeal the archbishop delivered Jan. 5 was not his own and that "not just his signature, but the whole file covering his alleged cooperation with the secret services has been falsified."

Latin America family in decline

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI warned that the family in Latin America is showing signs of erosion, as evidenced by increasing divorce, cohabitation and adultery. He said the Church should help resist legislative lobbies that are advancing an anti-family agenda in the region and undermining the institution of marriage. He made the remarks Feb. 17 to participants at a Vatican meeting of apostolic nuncios stationed in Latin America and other Church officials. They met in a planning session for the fifth general conference of the Latin American bishops, which will take place in Brazil May 13-31.

Condom giveaway draws criticism

NEW YORK (CNS) — With their decision to distribute 18 million free condoms to the public, New York City officials are failing "to protect the moral tone of our community," two Catholic leaders charged. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., said that city officials "encourage inappropriate sexual activity by blanketing our neighborhoods with condoms." In a joint statement Feb. 15, the two bishops said, "Although in their statements they give nod to the truth that only abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage are fail-safe, by their actions they ignore that truth and degrade societal standards." On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, more than 150,000 condoms were handed out in the city’s five boroughs. The new condoms were branded with the logo "NYC CONDOM," with the letters imitating the signs for the New York subway system. The Free Condom Initiative of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene distributes about 1.5 million condoms a month.

Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten message

The text of the Lenten message for 2007 of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope asks for concern for the ill

Catholics must ensure that people who are sick, especially the terminally ill, receive affection, spiritual support and medical care to keep them comfortable, Pope Benedict XVI said in marking the World Day of the Sick Feb. 11 during his midday Angelus address.

Church numbers confirm increases in Asia, Africa

The latest Vatican statistics confirm that the Church

Group criticizes effort to stunt child’s growth

The governance board of directors of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability has condemned

World and National News Briefs

Catholic social-justice work draws praise

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl Feb. 11 encouraged Catholic social ministry activists meeting in Washington to continue building the kingdom of God on earth. He celebrated the opening liturgy for the Feb. 11-14 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, organized under the theme "Bringing Good News to a Broken World: Overcoming Fear with God’s Love." Some people view their work as only a job, or a way to earn a living, Archbishop Wuerl told participants. Instead, by looking through the eyes of faith, Catholics who work for social justice are "not only changing the world, but helping God’s kingdom break through this world," the archbishop said. "It just depends on your perspective." Working for peace and justice, he continued, is mandated by Gospel teachings, "a ministry of bringing about a realization in our world of those values Christ proclaimed."

Hawaii’s Catholic hospitals are sold

HONOLULU (CNS) — It took place in the middle of the week, with no one paying attention except for the workers and a supervisor or two. Four maintenance men climbed onto the roof extension over the entranceway of St. Francis Hospital in Honolulu and lowered a 70-foot-long vinyl banner over the dark brown letters and symbols that for so long had identified the building as Hawaii’s first Catholic hospital. The new temporary sign — bright white with blue and red corporate logos and blue block lettering — spelled out the reality that had taken place in executive offices and meeting rooms several weeks earlier. St. Francis Medical Center, and its sister facility with the same name in west Oahu, have been sold. If the sign-hanging seemed unremarkable and went unnoticed, what it symbolized was historic. For the first time in 80 years, Hawaii no longer has a Catholic hospital. The Franciscan legacy of the universally acclaimed Blessed Marianne Cope has been replaced by the Hawaii Medical Center LLC, an alliance of local physicians and a mainland company.

Pax Christi calls for U.S. pullout in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pax Christi USA has been gathering signatures for an advertisement that will call for "a complete reversal of U.S. policy" in Iraq, including a withdrawal of U.S. troops. "The U.S. is not the honest broker who can craft peace among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Our continued military presence is counterproductive," says the ad, which Pax Christi plans to run in the March 16 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. "Four years after launching an illegal and immoral war, it is time to bring the U.S. occupation of Iraq to an end," the ad says. Pax Christi USA is the U.S. branch of an international Catholic peace movement committed to nonviolence as a means of conflict resolution. "For all who would believe that violence can serve any productive purpose, the tragic experience in Iraq should be ample evidence to the contrary," the ad says.

Pope says lay movements help bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A bishop can turn to Catholic lay movements not only when he needs an organized group to implement his pastoral plans but also when he needs to care for his own soul, Pope Benedict XVI said. When a movement gathers its "bishop-friends" together, it helps them experience "a more intense communion of hearts, a stronger mutual support and a greater shared commitment to showing that the Church is a place of prayer and charity, a house of mercy and peace," the pope said. Pope Benedict spoke Feb. 8 at a joint audience for 80 bishops participating in a conference sponsored by the Focolare movement and 110 bishops attending a meeting organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Pope Benedict said the variety of lay movements responds to the variety of needs and blessings found among the world’s peoples. "In the rich Western world where, even though a culture of relativism exists, at the same time there is a widespread desire for spirituality, and your movements witness to the joy of the faith and the beauty of being Christian," he said.

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