Nation and World News

Humanitarian crisis looms in Darfur

Despite a May peace agreement meant to end the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur, refugees who fled into neighboring Chad are not returning to Sudan, said aid workers.

World and National News Briefs

Protecting aid workers is a challenge

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Michael O’Neill’s education in the security needs of international aid organizations came, literally, at the point of a gun. "Well, guns," elaborated the security director for Save the Children. "Many guns." As an employee of a Red Cross affiliate in Sierra Leone in 1993, O’Neill learned when he was kidnapped by rebel soldiers that there was no protocol in the local organization for protecting employees or dealing with a security crisis. Since then, he’s made a career of helping aid groups working in the world’s most troubled regions keep their own employees safe, whether from traffic accidents or missile attacks. The question of how well prepared the world’s nongovernmental aid organizations are for handling their own security came to the headlines in early August when 17 employees of Paris-based Action Against Hunger were kidnapped and killed in Muttur, Sri Lanka. The government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group each blamed the other for the attack. Since 2000, more than 50 aid workers in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Sudan have been killed in attacks on their vehicles or offices.

New order to minister to deaf Catholics

HONOLULU (CNS) — Father Thomas Coughlin’s lifelong dream to start a religious community where sign language is the primary means of expression at both the eucharistic table and the dinner table is finally becoming a reality. Deaf since birth, Father Coughlin has founded the new order, the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate. The priest of the Diocese of Honolulu was one of five men who made their first profession of vows as Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate Aug. 27 at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, Calif. "Necessity is the mother of invention," he told the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Honolulu Diocese, in an interview by e-mail. "I saw how badly we need a religious community of deaf priests and brothers dedicated to a deeper spiritual life and the deaf apostolate in the language of signs and the deaf culture milieu."

Cardinal discusses all-male priesthood

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — The Church’s prohibition against women priests is not culturally conditioned by the "patriarchal society" in which Jesus lived and taught, said Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali. "Jesus treated women in a manner highly unusual for his culture," he said, noting that Christ "forgave the woman caught in adultery." The cardinal described as an "unfortunate incident" the July 31 riverboat ceremony near Pittsburgh at which eight women said they were ordained to the Catholic priesthood. But the event provides an opportunity to discuss Catholic teaching, he said. Some critics of the all-male priesthood "have attempted to dismiss this teaching by stating that Jesus lived in a patriarchal society and that, because he was limited by the culture of his time, he chose only men to be priests," the cardinal said in his weekly column appearing in the Aug. 17 archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times. Christ "could hardly be limited by culture," he said.

Neighbor plans papal homecoming

PENTLING, Germany (CNS) — The neighbor who cares for Pope Benedict XVI’s home in Pentling has planned the pontiff’s Sept. 13 homecoming in great detail. "Waiting for him on the dining table in his house will be a very special surprise from me," said the neighbor, Rupert Hofbauer. "There will be several jars of honey from his own bees, from his own garden, and I am sure he is going to love this." For many years Hofbauer, a part-time beekeeper, has been keeping his bees in Pope Benedict’s garden — with the approval of the pope. "I know he misses his house dearly, and he told me so when I visited him in Rome" last year, Hofbauer told CNS Aug. 31. "He asked after his garden, the flowers, even the bees, and after our two animals: Chico, the cat, and Igor, the golden retriever."

New secretary of state starts Sept. 15

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy opens a new chapter Sept. 15 when Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone takes over as secretary of state. It’s arguably the pope’s biggest appointment to date, and it reunites him with a man who for many years was his No. 2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Does that mean the Vatican is about to turn into one great big doctrinal congregation? An Italian journalist dared to pose that question to Cardinal Bertone in August. The cardinal didn’t really answer, but he suggested the doctrinal experience wouldn’t hurt in the great task of announcing the Gospel "in its entirety" in every country of the world. Cardinal Bertone, 71, is at the center of what might be the longest and most scrutinized transition in Vatican history. The pope offered him the position last December, he mulled it over and accepted earlier this year, and the pope announced the appointment in June — three months before it took effect.

Papal Message

Here is the Vatican text of Pope Benedict XVI

Catholic peace groups say protests don’t aid terrorists

Leaders of Catholic peace groups bristle when asked if their opposition to the Iraq War and their criticisms of the Bush administration

World and National News Briefs

Cardinal: Study Darwinism as science

RIMINI, Italy (CNS) — Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna said he thought Darwin’s theories on evolution deserve to be studied in schools, along with the scientific question marks that remain. It is right to teach "the science of Darwin, not ideological Darwinism," Cardinal Schonborn said Aug. 23. He spoke at a meeting in Rimini sponsored by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation. In 2005, Cardinal Schonborn helped fuel the debate over evolution and intelligent design when he wrote in The New York Times that science offers "overwhelming evidence for design in biology." He later said some scientists had turned Darwin’s teachings into an ideological "dogma" that admitted no possibility of a divine design in the created world.

Vatican Observatory director takes over

ROME (CNS) — The new director of the Vatican Observatory said it’s important to distinguish between the scientific study of natural causes and the religious beliefs of faith. At the same time, science can sometimes help people "arrive at a knowledge of God," said Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes. Father Funes spoke Aug. 24 in a phone interview with Catholic News Service from the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome. On Aug. 19, Pope Benedict XVI named the 43-year-old priest director of the astronomical observatory. Father Funes said he thought it would be an almost impossible mission to match the "wonderful work" of U.S. Jesuit Father George Coyne, 73, who was leaving as the observatory director after 26 years. Father Funes dismissed speculation that Father Coyne had been forced out of the job because of his strong comments in support of evolution and criticism of the "intelligent design" movement.

Colo. bishops call for water improvements

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) — The water-quality issues affecting the Fountain Creek Watershed in Colorado represent a moral problem and need to be resolved ethically and responsibly, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan and Pueblo Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya said in a joint statement. Residents along and near Fountain Creek claim sewage spills from Colorado Springs have seriously contaminated the water. Pueblo District Attorney Bill Theibaut and the Sierra Club filed federal lawsuits against the city of Colorado Springs last October and December, respectively, claiming that Colorado Springs has violated the Clean Water Act. As the tension between the two cities has increased and with no solution in sight, Bishops Sheridan and Tafoya felt it was time for the Church to encourage collaboration toward a solution.

Pope surprises town with chapel visit

NEMI, Italy (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI made an unannounced visit to a small sanctuary outside Rome, surprising the local priest and exciting the townspeople. The pope went with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, from the pope’s summer villa in Castel Gandolfo to the nearby town of Nemi to pray at the Chapel of the Crucifix. The Vatican did not release details of the Aug. 24 visit, but Italian news agencies reported on it. Father Giacinto Masala, who helps run the sanctuary, hurried to greet the pontiff and take him to the chapel, where the pope knelt in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, then recited vespers. The priest explained the tradition by which the 17th-century wooden crucifix that stands in the chapel was carved by a Franciscan monk, who fell asleep before he had completed the face of Christ. When he awoke, the story goes, the face had been finished.

Hurricane aid trickles into Catholic schools

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast region one year ago, schools in their path were flattened, swept away, damaged or flooded.

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