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BY Jim Cosgrove
St. Peter Loses a Hand
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, March 14 — A medieval statue of St. Peter at the Vatican has been vandalized, according to Independent Catholic News.
The 13th-century sculpture at St. Peter's was damaged when a vandal knocked off its left hand holding the keys. The sculptor, Arnolfo di Cambio, was also the creator of the better-known bronze statue of the first pope inside the basilica. The hand had been damaged once before, and the missing hand is an 18th-century restoration.
News reports of the theft have circulated widely, with headlines such as “St. Peter Loses Keys to Kingdom.”
Rome vs. Washington
THE SPECTATOR(London), March 15 — London Spectator columnist Gerald Warner analyzes the Vatican's opposition to America's newest war, noting that while the Pope opposes the war on both moral and humanitarian grounds, something deeper underlies Rome's fear of a new secular empire.
Warner writes: “Despite Islam's fierce hostility to Catholicism, the societies it controls exhibit many values whose abandonment by the materialist Western world is deplored by the Pope. Close-knit family life, in which women's role — although unacceptably circumscribed — is closer to the Marian model of womanhood than to the extreme feminism of urban America; daily life revolving around regular prayer and, in season, fasting; even the misplaced fanaticism of Muslim fundamentalists, reflecting a certainty and a spirit of martyrdom long departed from his own Church — much of this, with heavy qualification, must strike a sympathetic chord with the pontiff. Nor can he have any illusions about the kind of society that America would like to substitute. McDonald's burger bars, rap music, sexual license, individualism demolishing family life and consumerism banishing all sense of religion: Those forces have conquered Catholicism in the West — should the Pope take comfort from a similar overthrow of Islam?”
Warner suggests that with “the liquidation of the legacy of the Russian revolution in 1990, the removal of the Marxist distraction has brought the Church back into confrontation with the heritage of the French Revolution.”
He concludes: “Although Vatican rhetoric is resolutely internationalist, nothing could more menace the Church than eventual world government, predicated on some syncretic religion and employing anti-hate laws to suppress public expression of uncompromising Catholic orthodoxy.”
Vatican Garage Obstructed by Nero's Secretary
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia), March 12 — A reminder of Rome's pagan past now obstructs the Holy See's quest for parking, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
It seems Roman tombs dating from the reign of Nero have been found on the site the Vatican had designated for an underground garage and archaeological concerns have stalled construction.
The tombstone of Nero's secretary, along with well-preserved Roman remains, now stands in the way of the 300-space garage, which was started late last year, but Church officials are now reconsidering the whole idea.
“Of course, no one will destroy any archaeological finds,” responded Msgr. Francesco Marchisano, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.
Such finds, the paper noted, block many attempted projects in the ancient city.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholics of Cyprus Forgotten and Besieged
REUTERS, May 22 —For the past 30 years, conflict between Greek and Turkish residents has rent the island of Cyprus, resulting in a de facto partition of the island that still pits two NATO members against each other.
But one group left out in the cold is the small, Arab Catholic minority of Maronites, reported Reuters News Service. The Maronites of Cyprus fled Lebanon during the late Middle Ages to escape Islamic persecution and the wars of the Crusades. Fully accepted by neither side in the current conflict, Maronites are fleeing the island —just a part of the general exodus of Arab Christians from the region.
Antonis, a Turkish-speaking Maronite, complained to Reuters that Maronites who visit their family members in the southern Greek zone of the island are never allowed to come back, which leads many simply to leave the island altogether. Turkish law also forbids Maronites in the north to leave property to relatives in the south.
“We have paid the price, we have suffered for the problems between Greeks and Turks. Imagine coming to the house where you were born, where your mother still lives, but you cannot stay,” Antonis said.
“Maronites have not had a direct role [in the talks between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots], and they are concerned their positions are not taken into account,” said Madeline Garlick, a U.N. official working in Cyprus.
Fewer than 6,000 Maronites are left on the island, Reuters reported.
Panamanians Pray for Murdered Priest
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 23 —As American seminaries attempt to filter out inappropriate candidates for the priesthood, one priest in Panama might have been a martyr to that cause, the news service reported.
Father Jorge Altafulla was murdered last week while preparing for Mass, allegedly stabbed by a man he expelled from the seminary he directed six years ago. Parishioners found the beloved, elderly priest in a pool of blood in the sacristy.
Archbishop Jose Dimas Cedeno called the murder a “strong blow against the clergy,” but called for people to forgive the killer. The suspect, Marcos Manjarrez, is now in jail awaiting charges.
Said Archbishop Cedeno in a homily, “Our attitude is to forgive and pray for him and his salvation.”
Pedophilia Not Widespread in Europe, Latin America ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 14 — In a meeting in central Spain beside the magnificent monastery-palace El Escorial, constructed by Spain's King Philip II, Catholic bishops from Latin American and European countries said that pedophilia and sexual abuse cases in their countries were rare, reported Associated Press.
The bishops warned against attempts to exaggerate the problem by anti-Catholic elements in society. Monsignor Baltazar Porras, president of the Venezuelan Catholic bishops' conference, told Associated Press, “This problem is marginal in Venezuelan society and in the Venezuelan Church.” He said that the “macho” culture of Latin America strongly discouraged such abuse and suggested that many of the U.S. cases recently reported need further scrutiny.
Said Monsignor Porras, “It's clear that in the United States there are law firms that are dedicated to this type of problem in order to win large sums of money.”
Archbishop Elias Yanes Alvarez of Saragossa, a former president of the Spanish bishops' conference, questioned why the press in Spain offered daily reports of abuse cases in the United States.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bulgarians Welcome Pope, But Rift is Still Bitter
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 18 —Even as the 70,000 Catholics who live in the majority-Orthodox Bulgaria thronged Masses to celebrate Pope John Paul II's visit and 82nd birthday, posters denouncing the Holy Father also went up around the country, inspired by nationalists and anti-papal elements in the country's Orthodox Church.
For instance, as reported by Associated Press, the town of Veliko Tarnovo, 156 miles from the capital city, Sofia, saw dozens of signs on walls of homes with slogans such as “A Pope —A Heretic,” and “Never a papal visit to Bulgaria.”
At the Mass in Sofia, John Paul beatified three priests murdered by communists in 1952 and paid honor to Orthodox faithful persecuted by the fallen atheist regime. The Bulgarian government, eager for Western good will —and an end to rumors that the old Bulgarian secret service fomented the 1981 attempt on the Pope's life —sent police to look for the source of the posters.
“I am convinced that the Christian and universal values and ideals which you preach so dedicatedly will contribute to building a peaceful and better world,” Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov told the Holy Father.
Pope May Sacrifice Juan Diego Rites to Failing Health
THE NEW YORK TIMES May 26 —Due to his failing health, Pope John Paul II might not be able to preside at the canonizations of Blessed Juan Diego of Guadalupe and other Latin American saints, warned Vatican sources this week.
But papal spokesman Joaquŕn Navarro-Valls told The Times that the Holy Father would attend World Youth Day. “Toronto is certain,” he said. “As for the others, we shall see.”
The Pope, who is suffering from effects of Parkinson's disease, had difficulty celebrating Mass in Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, but The Times noted that this was “the first time Vatican officials had acknowledged that he might have to curb his travel.”
The paper noted that Mexico is a favorite papal destination, “the first country he visited after his election in 1978.” Only twice before has the Holy Father canceled travel plans because of his health.
Navarro-Valls pointed out that the Pope's intellectual powers remain undiminished by illness, telling the paper: “His memory, his ability to plan the future, his sense of humor are all intact. I can tell you that in the daily work of the Curia, he is the one with original ideas, pushing toward the future.”
Pope Offers His Suffering to Cause of Ecumenism
CWNEWS.COM, May 24 —Despite the suffering imposed by his illness, Pope John Paul II will continue to travel and work in the cause of ecumenism —especially his long-deferred dream of reconciling Eastern Orthodox and Catholics, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian unity, told CWNews.com.
Cardinal Kasper acknowledged that he was personally “very concerned” about the Holy Father's health and attributed the current trip to the Pope's embrace of sacrifice for the sake of Christian solidarity.
“We are seeing, at each ceremony, that he has an iron will,” Cardinal Kasper said.
He reminded leaders of the long-estranged Eastern churches “that we want to have fraternal and amicable relations with the Orthodox Church and that we will not impose anything on them.”
Optimistic about the outcome of the trip, Cardinal Kasper said: “This suffering Pope has brought us one step closer to Christian unity.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Priest Plans Center to Heal Abuse Victims
NEW YORK NEWSDAY, May 27 —Father Gary Hayes of Cloverport, Ky., has responded with love to abuse of young people by clergymen: He's starting a live-in center for victims, where they can receive therapy and make “spiritual reconnections,” reported the Long Island daily.
Himself the target of abuse by two priests in high school, Father Hayes said he feels the devastation such molestation can cause, and he wants to help his fellow victims heal.
“We've got 14 treatment centers around the country for priests, but the bishops have set up nothing for survivors, which is astounding,” Father Hayes told the paper. “I'm trying to interest a number of therapists.”
Father Hayes aims to raise $500,000 to buy a 75-acre parcel of land with a 40,000-square-foot house and to pay for operating expenses.
A spokesman for Father Hayes' Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., said that Bishop John McRaith supports Father Hayes' project, agreeing that “[the victims] need spiritual care from the Church.”
Stealing From the Poor?
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, May 27 —Even as they note the benefits free trade will offer to African countries that export manufactured goods to America, the U.S. Congress and the White House are enacting other policies that will devastate African farms, reported the Los Angeles daily.
While Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill toured Africa with rock star/philanthropist Bono of the Irish band U2, observers worried about the impact of the $190 billion agriculture bill President Bush recently signed.
“This farm bill, I think it's fair to say, will put millions of small farmers out of business in Africa,” warned agriculture analyst Mark Ritchie. “They will have to move to cities and become part of unemployed labor pools.”
Ritchie feared that the large subsidies given to farmers in the United States would cause overproduction of corn, wheat, cotton and other staples, which represent up to half of the output of some African countries.
“Commodity prices will probably sink lower on a global basis,” said Neil Harl of Iowa State University. “For countries that do not subsidize their farmers as well as we do, that will mean economic and financial trauma.”
Homeless Men Used as Gladiators
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP., May 25 —Two graduate school filmmakers in the United States have made money for their next cinematic project by plumbing new depths of so-called “reality TV”: encouraging homeless people to fist-fight, undertake dangerous stunts and humiliate themselves for gifts and food —on videotape.
The result is Bum Fights, which its 24-year-old creators, Las Vegas-based Ray Laticia and Ty Beeson, claim is a socially useful picture of homeless life.
The video has already sold more than 200,000 copies, bringing in revenues of more than $1 million. Its ads promise “drunk bums beating each other silly,” and the tapes deliver, according to the BBC, which reported that the hand-held video “shows homeless men fighting, sometimes resulting in serious injuries.”
Donald Whitehead of the U.S. National Coalition for the Homeless condemned the video: “It's clearly exploitative. It's clearly cruel. … People are being forced to do things under various conditions of substance abuse and mental illness … by people that clearly just are absolutely uncaring, unfeeling.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Arroyo: Improving Morals Must Start At the Top
ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 31 — Faced with endemic corruption and other social ills in the Philippines, new President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said recently that the only way to build a brighter future for the country is “leadership by example,” the news service reported.
Arroyo, who took power Jan. 20 when Joseph Estrada was forced from office by protests over allegations of corruption, realizes she faces a massive task in trying to end the perception of pervasive cronyism.
“We have to work on integrity down the line,” the new president told Associated Press.
The daughter of a former president, Arroyo has taken several high-profile actions that reflect a new approach. Among other things, she ordered the sale of luxury government cars that proliferated under Estrada and banned a controversial film about sexual performers on moral grounds. Asked about the prospect of seeking her own six-year term in 2004, Arroyo said she was leaving that decision up to “divine providence.”
Added Arroyo, “The Lord has been a very good manager of my career.”
Russian Catholics Celebrate Anniversary of Freedom
FIDES, April 3 — “God Almighty and Everlasting! Ten years ago you restored our freedom and happiness.” Thus began a prayer composed by Bishop Joseph Werth, apostolic administrator of Western Siberia, in commemoration of the restoration of religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, reported the missionary news agency.
In the prayer, Bishop Werth thanked God for the martyrs of the 20th century and their sacrifice, “on which you have re-built your Church in these last 10 years.”
On April 13, 1991, the Catholic Church was allowed to re-establish ecclesiastical structures after more than 70 years of state-imposed atheism. After the October Revolution in 1917, the Soviet government confiscated all Church property, and in 1923 Stalin initiated a campaign to eliminate totally the presence of the Church.
Bishop Werth, who was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, also thanked God for all those “who despite persecution kept the faith and handed the light on to us” and expressed gratitude for missionaries — “the priests, religious and laity who left their own countries and came to Russia to help our spiritual rebirth.”
Uzbekistan Officials Block Religious Literature
KESTON NEWS SERVICE, March 30 — Despite its international human rights commitments to allow the free publication, import and dissemination of religious literature, the Uzbek government continues to obstruct this right for all religious groups, the news service reported.
In a March report, Keston said that Uzbek government authorities frequently obstruct or ban religious literature from a variety of faiths, including Christianity. Censorship of all religious literature, Keston said, is enshrined in law and enforced throughthe government's Committee for Religious Affairs.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Missionary Priest Brings Hope to the Persecuted
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, March 29 — In its weekly Houses of Worship column, the Journal took readers on a tour of the Rome offices of Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service in Rome.
“The magnificent Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, with its 17th-century facade designed by Bernini, sits a stone's throw from the busy Piazza di Spagna and the shopping mecca of Via Condotti. But inside the lavish walls, away from the throngs of tourists, the small, dedicated staff of the Fides News Service sit in spare offices that would not look out of place in an American Catholic School,” the Journal report began.
Founded in 1927 by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Fides reports on and circulates information about Catholic missionary work for the Vatican. Its director, Father Bernardo Cervellera, has been with the news agency since 1997. Ordained a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in 1978, Father Cervellera worked as editor in chief of the monthly magazine Mondo e Missione, until leaving for Asia in 1989 to work as a missionary in China and Hong Kong.
It was in Hong Kong, Journal writer Kate Flatley writes, that Father Cervellera developed his interest in the Internet as a tool to let people now about the Hong Kong Mission's activities. This led to Father Cervellera's starting the Fides Web site, http://www.fides.org The s.ite has become a valuable tool, Flately said, in making the world aware of the struggles of the persecuted Church worldwide.
Japanese Bishops Say Today's ‘Values’ Destroy Man
FIDES, March 30— Japan will be destroyed not by the threatening economic crisis but by a crisis in spirit, according to the Japanese bishops who visited Rome for their ad limina visit, March 26–31.
Materialism and self-centered values, the bishops warned, are leading Japanese society to self-destruction. Youth suicide is also a growing phenomenon in Japan, where more than 30,000 young people took their own lives in 1999 and many more attempted.
Japanese society today is one of “anxiety and sadness,” Nagasaki Archbishop Shimamoto Kaname, told Fides.
One hundred twenty-six million Japanese, with 440,000 Catholics among them, live in a country in which the myth of materialism, the pursuit of pleasure, productivity and technology has robbed Japan of its soul, the bishops said. They added that “life itself has lost all value,” and that it is “abused and distant from God.”
Pope to Plant Olive Tree in Golan Heights
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, March 29 — Pope John Paul II will plant an olive tree as a symbol of peace, on the Syrian side of the divided Golan Heights during his visit to Syria in May, the French news agency reported.
The Golan Heights are a symbol of a still-unresolved conflict between Syria and neighboring Israel, which captured them from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war.
Disagreement over their future is the key sticking point in Israel and Syria reaching a peace agreement.
The Pope will visit Syria May 5–8, as part of a trip that will also take him to Greece and Malta on a pilgrimage in the steps of the apostle Paul.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Is Christmas Constitutional?
BECKET FUND, March 30 — The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called on the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a court challenge to the designation of Christmas as a federal holiday, the organization announced.
In 1998, an assistant city attorney from Cincinnati filed suit claiming that the federal holiday violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But two courts have already rejected this claim.
Dissent on Bush's Ambassador Pick
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL, March 29 — President George W. Bush made a misstep in nominating Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci as ambassador to Canada, according to the pro-family group. Cellucci's nomination was confirmed by a Senate committee April 5.
As governor, Cellucci introduced legislation that would allow minors to get abortions without the consent or notification of their parents. One of Cellucci's three appointments to the Massachusetts Supreme Court had served as an attorney for Planned Parenthood, while another had served on the board of directors for an abortion clinic. Cellucci also raised funding for the Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.
Cellucci also faced criticism for his handling of allegedly false sexual-abuse charges against a day care center, and charges of dishonesty regarding the cost of the “Big Dig” highway project in Boston.
Columbus Statue Attack Called ‘Hate Crime'
WASHINGTON WATCH RADIO COMMENTARY, March 29 — When James Costner took a sledgehammer to a San Jose statue commemorating Christopher Columbus, he thought he was striking a blow against colonialism, the radio program reported.
But Costner was charged with committing an anti-Italian hate crime. The radio commentary decried this charge, saying that Costner should receive solely a three-year sentence for vandalism. Costner has denied that he was motivated by hatred of Italians.
High-Tech Leaders Have Faith
USA TODAY, March 27 — The national daily's “Money” section surveyed leaders in the technology industries and found that for most, science reinforced their belief.
While some industry leaders believed in a more diffuse “spirituality,” and a few thought that science and religion were incompatible, Nobel prizewinner Arno Penzias spoke for many when he explained that his Judaism “goes past physical sciences.”
Bishop Finally Rests With Fellows
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, March 30 — The body of James Duggan, who served Chicago as a bishop during the Civil War, was brought to the mausoleum reserved for the city's leaders of the Church, the Chicago daily reported.
The mausoleum was built in 1912. The archdiocese had exhumed the bishops who had already died — except for Bishop Duggan. He was left behind, most likely because he had been mentally ill.
Said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, “I hope that we can make visible the silent suffering of mental illness and that we will never leave anyone behind as we left Bishop Duggan behind.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Sabbath Mass Disturbs Orthodox
THE NEW YORK POST, Feb. 18—Pope John Paul II's upcoming Holy Land visit “faces new problems” after ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders asked him to cancel a Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25, a Saturday, because it will require security and other state employees to work in violation of the Jewish Sabbath, the New York tabloid reported. But a top Israeli official dealing with the papal visit said it was normal for many troops and police to handle security on Saturdays for visiting dignitaries. “It's a nonproblem,” he told the Post.
Bishop Arrested in China
THE NANDO TIMES, Feb. 15—Chinese leaders sent about 150 police officers, at midnight, to arrest 80-year-old Archbishop John Yang Shudao of Fushou, the Times reported. It is another sign, the paper said, of how the Chinese communist suppression of the underground Church has intensified in recent years. Eight bishops and scores of priests loyal to Rome have been jailed in recent years.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Puts ‘Burning At Stake’ in Context
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 18—On the 400th anniversary of the burning of heretic philosopher Giordano Bruno, agnostics crowded his tomb in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome to honor a man they regard as a hero, the Times reported.
The Vatican took the opportunity to express regret over the incident, but also to teach. Bruno's Feb. 17, 1600, death is viewed, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said, with “profound regret” by the modern Church. He added, however, that it was not up to modern Church leaders to pass judgment on the motives of those who sentenced Bruno.
Bruno's errors were no triflings. He questioned the Trinity and the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother and claimed that Jesus was a wizard, reported the Times.
In a message to an Italian conference, Cardinal Sodano said that those who judged Bruno were “animated by a desire to serve the truth and promote the common good, while trying to save his life.”
While the Times was careful to note that the year he was burned for refusing to recant heretical teachingswas also a Holy Year, the newspaper acknowledged that Bruno's eight-year-long trial was carried out according to the common legal practices of the day.
BY Jim Cosgrove
GOP Offers Consolation Prizes to Catholics
USA TODAY, Feb. 15—Republican leaders have made several conciliatory gestures toward Catholics since the GOP controversial decision to pick a Protestant Chaplain over a priest who received more votes for the post from a bipartisan search committee, the national daily reported. Among the consolation prizes listed in the paper were:
• Speaker of the House Denny Hastert's invitation to Chicago Cardinal Francis George to sit in the speaker's box during the State of the Union address.
• Passage of a House resolution to honor Catholic schools.
• A 413-1 vote to award New York's Cardinal John O'Connor the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor.
K.C.'s Catholic Paper Blasts AIDS Series
THE CATHOLIC KEY, Feb. 13—An editorial appearing in the newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph addressed a series of articles on priests with AIDS that recently appeared in The Kansas City Star.
“The series evoked a storm of sewer-level invective from the ever-ready anti-Catholic bigots, as evidenced in the e-mail messages on the Star's Internet site.
“… The fact is, the series was not news. It is based on old information. It went over the same ground tracked by the National Catholic Reporter in a story published on April 17, 1999, and a three-part series by Catholic News Service in 1987.
“… The Star estimated the AIDS-related death rate among priests to be ‘about 4 per 10,000 — four times that of the general population rate of roughly 1 per 10,000.’ But the appropriate comparison groups for priests is surely not the general population, which includes women and children, but rather adult males.
Concluded the diocesan newspaper: “… From our point of view, there is enough misinformation and bigotry about the Church without having a powerful news organization purposefully add to it.”
Denver Has Ceremony for Homosexual Unions
ROCKY MOUNTAN NEWS, Feb. 15—On the first day of Denver's new Domestic Partnership Registry, 81 couples took part in a civic ceremony which gave their relationship some legal status.
The Denver City Council approved the registry late last year in large part to give homosexual, lesbian and straight couples the chance to gain insurance and other benefits enjoyed by married couples. Denver is the 36th city with a domestic partners registry, the Colorado daily reported.
Mayor Wellington Webb and other city officials congratulated the couples in a brief ceremony in the second-floor rotunda. “Strong family bonds are what make our society great,” he said.
New York's Bishops: Same but Different
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 12—The approaching retirement of New York's Cardinal John O'Connor prompted the Times to offer a reflection on the city's past bishops.
The Times noted that 10 out of New York's 11 bishops, and all of its archbishops have been Irish. The exception, Bishop John Dubois, was harassed by the city's Irish community, and the diocesan trustees, who at one point tried to withhold his salary.
“‘You may vote the salary or not, just as seems good to you,’ Bishop Dubois famously told the trustees. ‘I can live in a basement or a garret. But, whether I come up from the basement or down from the garret, I shall still be your bishop.’”
The Times gave Msgr. Florence Cohalan, author of a history of the Church in New York, the last word on Cardinal O'Connor's legacy.
“Msgr. Cohalan ventured that Cardinal O'Connor, who is expected to retire soon, will be remembered as a ‘very good caretaker.’ Asked whether he meant for souls or of the Church itself, Msgr. Cohalan said the two went together. ‘An archbishop who does his duty frequently has to speak up on issues that irritate people, like divorce [and] abortion.”