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Latin American bishops stress need to adjust pastoral work
May 19 2007
APARECIDA, Brazil – The changes which have occurred in Latin America in recent years are so profound that they require fundamental changes in the way the church approaches pastoral work, said a cardinal from Honduras. “We need a pastoral conversion,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa said. “If these are difficult times, new disciples are needed – disciples who are able to respond to the difficulty, to resist the cultural storms that we are experiencing.” After listening to presidents from Latin American and Caribbean bishops’ conferences describe the problems the church is facing in their countries, Cardinal Rodriguez told reporters, “The question is how to respond to the new situations in Latin America.”

Head of National Office for Black Catholics dies
May 18 2007
SEATTLE – A funeral Mass was celebrated May 12 in a chapel at Seattle University for Walter Hubbard Jr., a national African-American Catholic leader who had headed the Seattle-based National Office for Black Catholics since 1970. Mr. Hubbard, 82, died May 5 in Seattle. No cause of death was given. He had served for two decades on Jesuit-run Seattle University’s board of regents. Born in New Orleans Oct. 19, 1924, he worked as a skilled cloth-cutter in the garment industry. He later became active in the trade union moment, serving as president of local unions in Seattle that represented garment workers and liquor store clerks, before becoming an insurance company executive.

Arrest made in arson fire at historic Indiana church
May 18 2007
NEW CASTLE, Ind. – Five weeks after fire destroyed historic St. Anne Church in New Castle during the early morning hours of Holy Saturday, Henry County authorities arrested William L. Abbott, 33, of New Castle on felony charges of arson, burglary and theft. County prosecutor Kit Crane said Abbott was arrested May 10 and charged with three felony counts of arson for endangering the lives of others, setting fire to a house of worship and causing a loss greater than $5,000. New Castle firefighter Jack Thurman injured his back while battling the April 7 blaze that gutted the 83-year-old brick church and county landmark. Abbott, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history, is being held at the Henry County Jail.

Prominent evangelical theologian returns to Catholic Church
May 17 2007
WASHINGTON – The return of a prominent evangelical philosopher and theologian to the Catholic Church, his childhood home, has provoked a storm of controversy in the evangelical community. Francis J. Beckwith is a tenured associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, the largest Baptist university in the world. He resigned as president of the Evangelical Theological Society May 5, after entering into full communion with the Catholic Church a week earlier.

Theme of papal book may also be hallmark of his papacy
May 17 2007
WASHINGTON – The emphasis on Jesus’ centrality to the Catholic faith in Pope Benedict XVI’s first book as pope is likely to permeate his papacy, panelists told a Washington audience during a book launch event for “Jesus of Nazareth” May 15. Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Vatican analysts George Weigel and John Allen discussed the book at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. The event was hosted by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Bill Barry, publisher in the Doubleday religious publishing division.

Pope accepts resignation of controversial bishop
May 16 2007
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the controversial head of Argentina’s military diocese, who submitted his resignation at age 75 in accordance with canon law. There was no immediate word on who would succeed Bishop Antonio Baseotto, who clashed with the government of President Nestor Kirchner two years ago. Pope Benedict accepted his resignation May 15. Earlier this year, an Argentine legislator drafted a bill to eliminate his position.

Latin American, Caribbean bishops tackle agenda outlined by pope
May 15 2007
APARECIDA, Brazil – With their agenda broadly outlined by Pope Benedict XVI, the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean began the conference that will lead to pastoral guidelines for the region for the next 10-15 years. Several bishops who spoke with journalists said the pope raised many of the issues likely to be addressed during the conference, including deeper formation in the faith and church social doctrine, poverty, ministry among indigenous peoples and family life. Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, called the pope’s May 13 speech to the bishops “inspiring” and “encouraging.” Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela, told journalists that the pope did not “put us in a straitjacket” but “came to present a challenge to the church.”

Amnesty International backs access to abortion
May 12 2007
WASHINGTON – The International Executive Committee of Amnesty International has declared that a woman should have full, legal access to abortion in cases of rape or incest or if her life or health is at grave risk. The new policy calls for eliminating criminal penalties for anyone who provides an abortion or obtains one. Last fall, when Amnesty was considering such a policy, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that the human rights advocacy group would risk its “well-deserved moral credibility” if it abandoned its neutral stance on abortion. “To abandon this long-held position would be a tragic mistake, dividing human rights advocates and diverting Amnesty International from its central and urgent mission of defending human rights as outlined in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights,” wrote the USCCB president, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., in a letter last September to the organization’s secretary-general, Irene Khan.

Pope tells reporters church must keep fighting abortion, poverty
May 10 2007
UPDATED ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO BRAZIL – On the plane taking him to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI called Latin America “the continent of life and hope” and said the church must keep up the fight against abortion, poverty and injustice. Speaking to reporters aboard his chartered Alitalia jet May 9, the pope spent more than 25 minutes answering questions, his longest in-flight press conference to date. He said the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar A. Romero deserves to be beatified, denounced the Latin American drug trade and said liberation theology has changed with the political times. In remarks about the recent legalization of abortion in Mexico, the pope appeared to support Mexican church leaders who held out the possibility of excommunication for Catholic legislators who voted for the legislation.

Vatican issues toned-down papal remarks
May 10 2007
UPDATED SAO PAULO, Brazil – Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on excommunication for pro-abortion Catholic politicians touched on huge and sensitive issues – so sensitive that the Vatican issued a toned-down version of his remarks the following day. Speaking with journalists on the plane taking him to Brazil May 9, the pope left the impression that he agreed with those invoking excommunication for Catholic legislators in Mexico City who had voted in April to legalize abortion. When reporters pressed the pope on whether he supported the excommunication of the Mexican deputies, he answered: “Yes, this excommunication was not something arbitrary, but is foreseen by the Code (of Canon Law). It is simply part of church law that the killing of an innocent baby is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ.”

Bioethicist calls suicide bill ‘implicitly anti-Catholic’
May 09 2007
SAN FRANCISCO – Calling proposed California physician-assisted suicide legislation “strongly and implicitly anti-Catholic” and accusing its advocates of “trying to bend the Catholic Church’s moral teaching to the will of the culture of death agenda,” an international expert on bioethics urged listeners at a May 7 lecture to do everything in their power to help defeat the controversial bill. Titled the California Compassionate Choices Act, Assembly Bill 374 would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to people diagnosed with a terminal illness, given less than six months to live and declared mentally competent.

Pope’s photographers snap coolly, with class
May 06 2007
VATICAN CITY – They are not pushy or pesky; rather, the pope’s own paparazzi are the epitome of discretion and class. Vatican photographers stand out from other media shutterbugs, not just because they’re always dressed in ironed dark suits and ties, but because, coolly clicking away, they are the ones standing right next to the pope. The papal photographers are also the only ones allowed to shadow the pontiff almost everywhere he goes, even during more private moments – be they special audiences inside the Vatican with heads of state or an intimate luncheon with cardinals or bishops.

Church must dispel prejudice about its stance on AIDS
May 02 2007
LONDON –The Catholic Church must do more to dispel “mistaken prejudices” about its attitudes to people with HIV/AIDS, said a Scottish archbishop. “It needs to be said again and again that the Catholic Church is committed to those works of mercy in the field of HIV/AIDS,” said Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland. The archbishop spoke in Kiev, Ukraine, in late April to a Caritas-sponsored conference on HIV/AIDS in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. An archdiocesan official provided Catholic News Service in London with a copy of the text.

Catholic Church in China: 'Two faces' expressing one faith
May 01 2007
BEIJING (CNS) -- Sometime after Easter, Pope Benedict XVI will issue a letter to Chinese Catholics that many hope will call for reconciliation and unity between those who have registered with the government and those who have not registered. In some places in China, that might cause surprise -- but for different reasons in different areas. Some priests and nuns reported not even knowing there was more than one church community as they grew up.

Jack Valenti, 85, dies
Apr 30 2007
WASHINGTON – Jack Valenti, who had overseen the Motion Picture Association of America for almost four decades, was remembered fondly after his April 26 death for his diligence in alerting parents to the content of movies and television programs their children might want to see. Mr. Valenti, a Catholic, died in Washington at his home from complications of a stroke he suffered in March. He was 85 years old. No funeral details were immediately released.