Nation and World News

2007 promises to be busy for pope

A new Vatican calendar features photos of Pope Benedict XVI relaxing, but the pope

World and National News Briefs

Jewish group pledges donation to school

BALTIMORE (CNS) — A Baltimore-based Jewish foundation is pledging $3.5 million to Catholic schools in Baltimore to boost enrollment and attract more financial support for urban-based Catholic education. In a recent event at the Catholic Center in Baltimore, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore and Donn Weinberg of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation announced that the foundation would donate $500,000 in 2006 and $1 million for the next three years to benefit at-risk students in kindergarten to 12th grade at one of 17 Catholic elementary/middle schools and three high schools. The grant is contingent on the Archdiocese of Baltimore finding matching grants from other donors. The 20 schools are part of the archdiocesan Partners in Excellence program, known as PIE, which provides tuition assistance for low-income families. Since its inception in 1996, the program has provided more than $13 million in tuition assistance to more than 14,000 children.

Court won’t force vote on measure

BOSTON (CNS) — The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts said Dec. 27 that it could not force the state’s legislators to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage but that they should take the vote. The court said it could only seek to persuade legislators to act in good faith, since "there is no presently articulated judicial remedy for the legislature’s indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties." Less than a week earlier the bishops who head the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses wrote to all legislators urging them to move the proposed amendment forward Jan. 2 so that the people will be able to vote on it by popular referendum, as provided by the state constitution. As a result of a 2003 Supreme Judicial Court decision, in 2004 Massachusetts became the only U.S. state to legalize same-sex "marriages." About 8,000 such ceremonies have been performed.

Swiss Guard stickers among collectibles

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Move over, baseball players and soccer stars — an Italian publisher is hoping to hook young collectors on the Swiss Guards. To honor the guards in their 500th year of service to the popes, the publisher has released a deluxe collector’s album with 250 different stickers. "The Guardian Angels of the Pope" is heavy on images and light on text, but the brief explanations of each sticker are provided in both Italian and English. The images used were chosen and the explanations written by Giovanni Morelli, the retired Vatican Library employee who served as researcher and curator of the 2006 Vatican exhibition on the history of the Swiss Guards. Claudio Ventrella, editorial director of Pubblicazioni Collezionare Cultura, said the sticker collection fits perfectly with the company’s commitment to using sticker mania to promote appreciation of Italy’s culture, including its religious history and heritage.

Official wants priest tried for war crimes

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) — An Argentine state prosecutor has recommended that a priest who served as a police chaplain stand trial for his alleged role in disappearances, torture and other human rights violations during the country’s "dirty war." Father Cristian von Wernich will be the first priest to face trial for human rights violations committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship, in which an estimated 30,000 people died or disappeared. Marta Vedio, secretary-general of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights in the city of La Plata, said the case against Father von Wernich related to the period 1976-77 and was based on a great volume of testimony from witnesses. "I think we have a very good chance of getting him convicted," she told Catholic News Service. A spokesman for the Argentine bishops’ conference said the Church did not plan to comment on the case. Witnesses accuse Father von Wernich of being involved in the organization of kidnappings and death squads.

Chinese-Vatican difference discussed

MACAU (CNS) — A top Chinese official told the Catholic bishop of Macau that two conditions must be met for normalization of China-Vatican relations. According to Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau, the Chinese official said China is working to establish ties with the Vatican, but issues concerning Taiwan and the appointment of Chinese bishops remain obstacles. Liu Yandong, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China, and her delegation visited Bishop Lai and other Catholic leaders at the bishop’s residence, reported UCA News, an Asian Church news agency. Liu said China feels it isn’t respected if the Church in China has to follow foreigners’ instructions on the appointment of bishops, Bishop Lai told UCA News Dec. 20. China has insisted repeatedly on two prerequisites for discussing the establishment of formal relations with the Vatican: The Vatican must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and must not interfere in China’s internal affairs.

Jesuit coffee firm brews up peace

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — It could be called the ultimate "green" bean — a coffee bean that promotes peace, fair trade, education and organic stewardship. MadreMonte is a company that promotes 100-percent Colombian organic coffee and is linked with the Colombian Jesuits who have been helping Colombian farmers for the past 42 years. The U.S. company was co-founded by Jesuit Father Bill Watson of Portland and Jesuit Father Joe Aguilar of Colombia. To make it a for-profit company, Father Watson asked Joe Verschueren, the founder and CEO of the online printing company,, to give them financial backing. Verschueren is a graduate of Gonzaga University, the Jesuit college in Spokane, Wash. It is available only through the company’s website,, to keep costs down.

Political tensions affect Christmas in Bethlehem

Six friends, members of a local Christian choir, huddled together Dec. 24 in long coats and scarves for warmth against the evening chill on Manger Square in Bethlehem.

Savvy world still needs savior, pope says

Celebrating Christmas at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said the world still needs a savior, despite technological advances that make humanity consider itself the

Papal Message

VATICAN CITY (VIS) — In a traditional meeting just before Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI recently received a group of children from the group Italian Catholic Action, who came to the Vatican to wish him a happy Christmas.

Addressing the young people, the Holy Father referred to the slogan "Beautiful. True (Bello. Vero)" that the youth had chosen for their formative journey last year.

"Christmas," the pope told them, "is the great mystery of the truth and beauty of God who came among us for everyone’s salvation. The birth of Jesus is not a fable; it is a story that really happened, in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Faith brings us to recognize in that little Child born of the Virgin Mary, the true Son of God who, out of love, chose to become man.

"In the face of the little Jesus," the Holy Father said, "we contemplate the face of God, which is not revealed through force or power but in weakness and the fragile constitution of a child. This ‘Divine Child’ ... demonstrates the faithfulness and tenderness of the boundless love with which God surrounds each of us.
For this reason we rejoice at Christmas, reliving the same experience as the shepherds of Bethlehem.

"The wonder we feel before the enchantment of Christmas" is, said Pope Benedict, in some way reflected in the birth of all children, "and it invites us to recognize the Infant Jesus in all babies, who are the joy of the Church and the hope of the world."

The Pope assured the children of his trust in them and called upon them "to be friends and witnesses of Jesus ... Is it not a beautiful thing to make him better known among your friends, in cities, in parishes and in your families? ... Bear witness to the fact that Jesus takes away nothing of your joy, but makes you more human, more true, more beautiful."

Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intention for January is: "That in our time, unfortunately marked by many episodes of violence, the pastors of the Church may continue to indicate the way of peace and understanding among peoples."

His mission intention for January is: "That the Church in Africa may become a constantly more authentic witness of the Good News of Christ and be committed, in every nation, to the promotion of reconciliation and peace."

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