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BY Jim Cosgrove
Americans Re-examine Their Lives After Attacks
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Oct. 3 — Since Sept. 11, more and more people are re-examining their lives and reconsidering their careers, the Chicago daily reported.
Some who find little meaning in their jobs or an overemphasis on making money are looking into volunteering or getting into professions that have more of an impact on the world, such as teaching. New York Giants fullback Greg Comella is reported as saying, “For the first time in my life, I questioned what I do for a living.”
Can Anonymous Prayer Aid Pregnancy?
ABCNEWS.COM, Oct. 4 — A Columbia University study has found that prayers by others appear to help women conceive, the television network's online news service reported.
In a study of 199 women at an in vitro fertilization clinic in Korea, a group of strangers in the United States, Canada and Australia were asked to pray for the women as they began treatments.
The women did not know about the prayer request. Fifty percent of the women who received prayers became pregnant, compared to only 26% of a control group who did not receive anonymous prayer.
The Church condemns in vitro fertilization which separates the parents’ love from reproduction and has had disastrous consequences in lost lives and custody battles.
ABC News medical editor Tim Johnson, who is also assisting minister of the Community Covenant Church in West Peabody, Mass., warned that the “benefits of prayer have by no means been conclusively proven” by the study.
And, Johnson said, a danger exists that women who hear of the study and do not get pregnant will conclude that they do not have enough faith or did not get enough people to pray for them.
Texas Churches Buck Economic Trend
THE AUSTIN BUSINESS JOURNAL, Oct. 5 — The American economy has been slowing down for some time, but in Austin, Texas, there is a church construction boom, the business weekly reported.
Austin has experienced a population spurt since the 1990s, and churches, synagogues and temples are spending more than $67.5 million to catch up. For example, to keep up with swelling church attendance and membership rolls, the Diocese of Austin has overseen 13 projects at a cost of more than $20 million in the past four years.
Currently, the diocese has more than $17.5 million in projects under construction, including a new student center at the University of Texas, a multipurpose building at one parish and an activity center expansion at another.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Nun Killed and Priest Kidnapped in Colombia
THE CALGARY HERALD, Sept. 21 — Sister Yolanda Ceron was shot by Colombian gunmen, probably in retaliation for her work with a Catholic human rights team, the Canadian daily reported.
Amnesty International blamed the killing on a right-wing paramilitary group that had targeted human rights workers before. Officials said they had no suspects.
Just days later, Florida's Orlando Sentinel reported a Slovak priest was kidnapped on a dangerous highway in Colombia. The most likely kidnappers of Father Pavol Sochulak were leftist guerrillas, members of the National Liberation Army.
Hentoff: Sudan Harbors Terrorists and Slaveholders
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Sept. 24 — The Sudan Peace Act is even more necessary in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on the United States, columnist Nat Hentoff wrote in the Washington daily.
There have been reports that President Bush may veto the act because of a proposed amendment to ban from American capital markets (including stock exchanges) foreign oil companies that invest in Sudan's rich oil fields. Sudan's Catholic bishops recently accused the companies of “profiting from gross and systematic violations of human rights.” The companies pay money to the Khartoum government, which uses slave raids and bombing of Christian schools and hospitals as part of its war against Christians and animists in the country's south.
In April, the State Department issued a report naming Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The report charged that Sudan sheltered members of terrorist groups linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group, and that bin Laden had a “working agreement” with Sudan's government.
Pakistan's Christian Minority Waits in Fear
THE INDEPENDENT, Sept. 24 — Armed guards surrounded Christian churches in Pakistan as tensions rose over the United States’ declaration of war on terrorists, the London daily reported.
Christians are a tiny minority in majority-Muslim Pakistan — there are about 4 million Christians in a country of 140 million. Although the country's constitution guarantees religious freedom, the law also punishes blasphemy against Islam. Courts have overruled blasphemy convictions, but Christians charged with blasphemy have been murdered before their cases even reach court, and a judge who overturned a conviction was assassinated. President Pervez Musharraf proposed amending the law last year, but dropped the issue when Muslim groups threatened protests.
Muslim zealots often attack Christians. Many fear that the attacks will increase if the United States attacks Afghanistan. One Catholic priest said there were rumors that a mullah had urged his flock to kill two Christians for every Muslim killed in Afghanistan.
Bishop Alexander John Malik, of Lahore, the head of the Church of Pakistan, said he had written to the authorities seeking protection for Christians and their institutions.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Italy Tightens Security at Vatican
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Sept. 24 — The Italian government has authorized the use of the army to protect sites that might be targets for terrorists, the wire service reported.
Sept. 11's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have led to tighter security around the globe, and Italy is no exception. The interior ministry and the defense ministry issued a statement to all security services authorizing the use of the army to protect chemical factories, arms depots, fuel dumps and explosives storage facilities. Similar measures were also taken during the Gulf War in 1991.
However, Italy also heightened security at a wide array of locations ranging from aqueducts to restaurants frequented by foreigners. The Vatican also received extra protection, possibly as a result of evidence that terrorists linked to Osama Bin Laden had earlier planned to target Pope John Paul II for assassination.
Pope Gives Only First Half of Speech
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 25 — Pope John Paul II, showing signs of fatigue, broke off in the middle of a speech in the Apostolic Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, the wire service reported.
After giving part of the address in English, the Pope sat down and handed the prepared text over to a priest, who completed the speech in Armenian. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that the changeover had been planned in advance, as the Vatican has done in the past when the Pope is delivering speeches in languages he does not speak. At a later stop in the visit, the Pope rebounded, walking about 50 yards without the use of his cane and waving it cheerfully in the air.
The Pope gave the Etchmiadzin speech only 90 minutes after arriving in Armenia. He was met at the airport by Armenian President Robert Kocharian and the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II. Etchmiadzin, 15 miles west of the capital city of Yerevan, is the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which split with the Vatican after the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century.
National Television of Armenia, the country's television channel, reported that the Pope had studied the Armenian language in preparation for his trip. His visit is part of the former Soviet republic's celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of its proclamation of Christianity as the state religion.
Vatican Receives First Islamic Female Ambassador
TURKISH DAILY NEWS, Sept. 25 — Filiz Dincmen of Turkey became the first woman ever sent by an Islamic country as ambassador to the Holy See, the Turkish daily reported.
Dincmen's husband, Ustun Dincmen, is a retired ambassador. He will accompany his wife to the Vatican in order to research Ottoman documents in the Vatican's archives.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Teens Say Morals and Religion the Key to Chastity
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 25 — A new survey commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that teenagers say morals, religion and parental influences played major roles in their decisions about sexual behavior, the wire service reported.
The survey of 502 teens found that half cited their parents as the people who most influenced their decisions about sex. Far fewer cited friends.
Thirty-nine percent of teen-agers said that “morals, values and/or religious beliefs” were the most important factor in their decisions about sex. Only 17% said fear of sexually transmitted diseases was more important.
In a separate review of research on teen-agers’ sexual behavior and religion, the campaign found that teens who attended services frequently were “less likely to have permissive attitudes about sex.” Girls’ behavior was more likely to correspond to their moral or religious beliefs than boys’.
Catholic and “fundamentalist Protestant” girls were particularly likely to be abstinent. Those who did have sex were less likely to use contraception.
The campaign deemed the research insufficient so far.
Catholic and Jewish Groups Sign Major Agreement in NJ
COURIER-POST, Sept. 21 — Catholic and Jewish leaders in Cherry Hill, N.J., signed an agreement that is only the second of its kind in the United States, the Cherry Hill daily reported.
Representatives of the Diocese of Camden, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Tri-County Board of Rabbis signed the document during a ceremony at the local Jewish Community Center.
The agreement was crafted over a decade. It encourages cooperation between parallel charitable groups, and unity in fighting antiSemitism, anti-Catholicism, racism and religious intolerance, among other provisions. The Diocese of Rochester, N.Y. signed a similar agreement with the local Jewish community over five years ago.
“Only in America can we do what we have just done,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told the Courier-Post.
Homosexual Ministry Conference Sparks Controversy
THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, Sept. 21 — Bishop William Curtin of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., came under fire for his decision to celebrate Mass for the eighth annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Charlotte daily reported.
The group ministers to homosexuals and their families. Some local Catholics claimed the group is “notorious for its dissent from Church teaching on homosexuality,” but Bishop Curtin said the meeting would not endorse homosexual relationships or dissent from the Church.
The meeting featured a speech by Father Augustine DiNoia, director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, and workshops on topics such as how parents can listen to their homosexual children and how homosexuals can accept God's love.
BY Jim Cosgrove
South African Bishops Getting Support for Condom Stance
NEWS24, Sept. 18—The South African Catholic Bishops' Conference has received overwhelming support for its pastoral statement upholding the Church's ban on condoms, the South African news agency reported.
The statement, “Message of Hope,” was released at the end of July. The bishops said that the widespread promotion of condoms did not work to prevent AIDS.
The South African bishops based their statement partly on purely practical considerations: A study in the British Medical Journal had found condoms to have a failure rate of 31%. But the bishops also noted that condom promotion led to a breakdown of self-control and to use of another person for one's own pleasure.
The bishops have received many letters on the subject, and have spoken with teenagers about it. The response has been extremely positive.
Neapolitans Dedicate San Gennaro Miracle to U.S.
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, Sept. 19—A dark red substance that many Neapolitans believe is the blood of the city's patron, San Gennaro (St. Januarius), liquefied on the saint's feast day as it does most years, the wire service reported.
Cardinal Michele Giordano of Naples dedicated the liquefaction, which he proclaimed was a miracle, to the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. He told the U.S. consul to Naples, Clyde Bishop, that he would ask St. Januarius to protect “the USA, Italy, and the entire world.”
Leader of Northern Ireland's Moderate Catholics Quits
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 17—Citing poor health, Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume announced he was stepping down as leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, the wire service reported.
The party, which represents Northern Ireland's moderate Catholics, is the largest Catholic member of the troubled Protestant-Catholic government created by the Good Friday peace accords. Hume led the party since 1979, but drew criticism and suffered electoral losses for his decision to work with Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.
Hume said Sinn Fein's support was necessary to achieve cease-fires in 1994 and 1997. But his party lost voters to Sinn Fein, which in June out-polled the moderate Catholics for the first time.
Hume will remain as a lawmaker in both the European and British parliaments.
West African Bishops Warn Against Sharia Law
AFRICA NEWS, Sept. 5—Bishops from English-speaking countries in west Africa urged the Nigerian government to prevent the further imposition of strict Islamic theocracy in the northern regions of the country, the African news service reported.
The bishops warned that imposing Sharia, which demands harsh punishments for crimes like adultery and theft, could lead to widespread conflicts with Christians, who advocate mercy.
Since late 1999, 10 Nigerian states have enforced Sharia. In one state, 1,000 people have died in subsequent Muslim-Christian clashes.
BY Jim Cosgrove
New Ambassador Comforts Americans After Attacks
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 18—R. James Nicholson, the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, gained an unwanted prominence after the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the New York daily reported.
Nicholson appeared at St. Susanna's, the church frequented by American Catholics in Rome, and gave a “reflection” at the end of Mass. He noted that the church, which ordinarily draws a smattering of expatriate worshipers, was so full that the priests nearly ran out of hosts when giving Communion.
Many Italians had come to show support, and sang “God Bless America.” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was in Rome to address a legal conference, also attended.
Kazakhstan: ‘Unprecedented’ Security for Pope
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Sept. 17—Kazakh police vowed to tighten security to “unprecedented” levels for the visit of Pope John Paul II, the wire service reported.
The attacks on the United States caused the former Soviet republic, which is near Afghanistan, to bring in about 900 police officers from neighboring regions, for a total of 2,400 officers.
But the capital, Astana, will not be closed, and all who want to attend Mass celebrated by the Pope will be able to do so, officials said.
Airline Terrorists Plotted Against Pope
GEOSTRATEGY, Sept. 25—Decoded messages on hard drives kept by a captured terrorist revealed a plot against Pope John Paul II's life, the Internet news agency reported.
In 1995, Ramsi Youssef was captured in the Philippines. His computer hard drives included plans for many terrorist attacks using hijacked aircraft. According to an intelligence source, the first plan was to assassinate the Pope during a scheduled visit to the Philippines.
Other material on the hard drives helped convict the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Youssef has been linked to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist group.
Vatican Criticizes Sept. 11 Soccer Matches
L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO, Sept. 12—The Vatican newspaper criticized European soccer teams for playing on the day of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.
The Vatican newspaper, criticized UEFA for allowing eight Champions League games to be played, saying: “As the whole world found itself exposed to the terrorist threat and as the American people plunged into mourning, it was decided—in an inopportune way, to say the least—to play the scheduled games.”
Eight Champions League and more than 40 UEFA Cup matches were scheduled to be played on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13.
European soccer's governing body postponed all its matches for the rest of the week of the attacks “out of a mark of respect” for the victims in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Unexpected Benefits of Natural Family Planning
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Sept. 19—Many couples, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are turning to natural family planning, the Chicago daily reported.
Some couples essentially use natural family planning as a means of contraception, and may augment it with condoms. But others turned to “fertility awareness methods” for religious reasons, or as a means of understanding their bodies better.
The periods of abstinence kept the relationship “fresh,” one woman said. Another, who said that giving up the birth control pill when she became Catholic was “the toughest decision I've ever made in my life,” said natural family planning helped her and her husband to see her fertility as a gift, rather than a nuisance.
As well, fertility awareness can also help couples discover a pregnancy or a fertility problem needing medical attention.
Sermons Grapple With Terror Attacks
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 17—Preachers and pastors around the country sought words to address the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the New York daily reported.
Some spoke of the justice that governments must exact on the attackers. Others, like Father Vladimir Alexeev of Brooklyn's Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, spoke of the “victory of love” represented by the decisions of many passengers on the hijacked planes to call their loved ones. Manhattan's Sheik Dr. Mohammad Gemeaha said, “Peace is one of the most noble teachings of Islam.”
Christians and Jews Return to Contemplation
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Sept. 8—Christians and Jews who practiced a “mix-and-match spirituality,” taking bits from Eastern traditions as well as their own religions, are now returning to the neglected meditative traditions of their own faiths, the Los Angeles daily reported.
Increasingly, Christians are studying the works of the early Church's mystics and saying the daily office of prayers. One Catholic, who studied Zen meditation but now practices contemplative Catholic prayer, pointed out the biggest difference between Zen meditation and Christian meditation: Buddhism has no personal God, whereas Christian meditation aims “to recognize God's presence and invite it to become active in you.”
Christian Web Site Ministers to Porn Users
KNIGHT—RIDDER, Sept. 8—The Minneapolis-based Love Lines Crisis Center offers a telephone line and a Web site with services that seem triple-X rated, the wire service reported.
But callers and visitors to the site don't get the steamy chat they expected. Instead, a man or a woman describes how unfulfilled he or she felt by compulsive sexual behavior. The message ends, “Jesus Christ delivered me.” Callers are directed to call Love Lines' main number for counseling.
The Web site, www.lovelines.org/sex, also includes a list of 12 signs of sexual addiction.
In July, the site got 1,368 hits, and many callers and visitors sought out further counseling.