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Pope cites foreign visits, Vatican meetings as highlights of 2001
At his annual encounter with members of the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II reviewed the pastoral high points of a year that he said was darkened in recent months by terrorism and war. - CNS

At midnight Mass, Cardinal Egan honors fallen rescue workers
Surrounded by the families of victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks at the World Trade Centre, Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York paid tribute to the fallen police officers, firefighters and rescue workers, calling them examples of "courage and self-sacrifice". - CNS

Cardinal says bin Laden could have been great leader
Osama bin Laden could have been a great leader but he "threw it all away," Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press". - CNS

Romanian hierarchy slams 'Dracula Park' plans
Catholic officials in Romania say a planned Dracula theme park in Transylvania gives the area a bad name and will draw youths into "the occult". - Beliefnet

Nicaraguan bishop says "Shoot The TV!"
Nicaraguan Bishop Abelardo Matta Guevara of Esteli has told Catholics that they should be willing to "shoot the TV set", if necessary, to protect their family life. - CWN

Mother Angelica hospitalised by new stroke
Mother Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), has been hospitalised and remains in critical condition after suffering a stroke on Christmas Eve. - CWN

Opinion - Mary's 'no way out'
Somewhere in the midst of the grandeur, I thought of Mary on her way to Bethlehem. Once she'd said yes to the angel, she signed on for a trip with no way out. No chance to "get out now" and get her money back. - Lutheran pastor Heidi Neumark / Beliefnet

Feature - Models of holiness and married life
Pope John Paul II's emphasis on marriage as a path to holiness came under the spotlight when he recently beatified an Italian couple, the first couple in history to be elevated together to the rank of "blessed". In bestowing the status on Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi in October, the pope held them up as models of married Catholics who "lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way." - National Catholic Reporter

Pope fears for the future
The third millennium is threatened by "dark clouds" of war and children must be saved from the cruel effects of adult conflicts, a tired-looking Pope John Paul said in his message on Christmas Day. - Scotsman

Christmas in Bethlehem: few tourists, no Arafat
Tourists on Christmas Day stayed away from the town where Jesus was born, frightened by more than a year of violence, and Israel prevented Yasser Arafat from making his annual pilgrimage. - Zenit

Early Christians hid the origins of the Bethlehem star
A US astronomer claims he has found the first mention of the star of Bethlehem outside the Bible, in a fourth century manuscript written by a Roman astrologer and Christian convert called Firmicus Maternus. - New Scientist

French flock to buy new 'rap' version of Bible
A new "rap" translation of the Bible has taken France by storm, rising to number five in the bestseller list in two months, despite costing $A82.41. - Telegraph (London)

American internet users go online for religious guidance
A quarter of American internet users have looked for religious or spiritual information online. - Ananova

Vatican recognises nun friend of Irish prisoners
An Irish-born nun famed for campaigning on behalf of the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four has been bestowed with one of the Vatican's highest honours. - Irish News

Opinion - Egypt welcomed the stranger
Joseph recalled what the angel had said to him in the dream: "Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt." What if the Holy Family had been turned back at the border, would Jesus have been safe? What if they had been put into a detention centre indefinitely? - Brenda Hubber / Kairos

Feature - Survey reveals progress in reconciliation
The long road to reconciling Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is dotted with many milestones. Results of a survey conducted by the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes indicate that congregations' awareness raising is often shared in the wider community, where religious have been part of community groups, and where they have led projects in the ministries they operate. - Sr Daphne McKeough RSM, Convenor of ACLRI Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues Task Force / Australian Religious

Archbishop's Christmas support for Govt action on child protection
Archbishop Philip Wilson, in his first Christmas message as Archbishop of Adelaide, has supported government actions to protect children from sexual exploitation. - Various

Midnight Mass from St Peter's Basilica live on ABC TV
Television coverage of Midnight Mass from St Peter's Basilica and the Christmas Day blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) of Pope John Paul II will be broadcast by the ABC in Australia. - Zenit

Christmas to bring peace to Indonesian conflict zone
Christmas in Sulawesi promises to be peaceful, with representatives of warring Christian and Muslim factions pledging to end their hostilities. - Fides

Cardinal speaks out on Royal marriage ban
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said the British constitution should be changed so members of the Royal Family can marry a Catholic. - Ananova

Terrorised Scottish priest found dead
A priest tormented by a sectarian terror campaign was found dead on Thursday. - CWN

Study says praying the Rosary is good for your health
Reciting the Rosary is good for a person's health because of the calming power of prayer, according to researches from the University of Pavia in Italy. - Telegraph (London)

Opinion - Unwrap your hidden inner Christmas
Christmas is upon us - like a stealth bomber, something to be wary of. I've decided to avoid the shopping malls, breathe deeply and walk the dog every day. I will renew my resolve to honor the children in my life and the ones suffering from war and hunger and spiritual starvation around the world. - Kris Berggren / National Catholic Reporter

Feature - Christmas at Ground Zero
New Yorkers celebrate Christmas this year under the shadow of the terrorist attacks of 11 September. It will seem less like Christmas than Good Friday. But we will try to imagine a creche at the centre of Ground Zero, not a grave, at least for one night only. - Roger Ferlo, Episcopalian priest / The Tablet

Pakistan bishops urge low-key Christmas celebrations as precaution
Catholic bishops in Pakistan have called for subdued Christmas celebrations amid fear of anti-Christian attacks. - CNS

Decision on Opus Dei founder's canonisation expected today
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints will officially clear the way for the canonisation of Opus Dei founder Monsignor Josemaria Escriva, and stigmatist Padre Pio, today, according to informed sources. - CWN

Church under fire over carer time-off initiative
The Catholic Church has come under attack from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board over a decision of the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission. - Catholic Weekly

Australian Catholic University wins award for its compassion
The Australian Catholic University has outshone corporate heavyweights in helping its 800-odd employees balance their work and personal lives. - Catholic Weekly

Nun praises court ruling that South Africa must give anti-AIDS drug
A southern African bishops' conference official has praised a High Court ruling requiring South Africa to provide an anti-AIDS drug to expectant mothers with HIV. - CNS

Accused monsignor 'a soft touch for hardened ex-cons'
Monsignor Thomas Gradilone was a "soft touch" taken advantage of by hardened ex-cons - but he wasn't guilty of embezzling $A3.88 million from his parish, New York Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said this week. - New York Post

Opinion - Ireland's age of innocence has passed
The manner of Sr Philomena's death poses serious questions about the increased violence and coarseness in Irish life. The liberal agenda has indeed led to a new sense of freedom, but it has not been accompanied so far by a corresponding sense of responsibility. - Bishop Joseph Duffy, homily at funeral of murdered Irish nun / Independent Catholic News

Feature - Holy Land looks forward to a sad Christmas
In Bethlehem there will be only services in church, with little goodwill outside, according to Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan who is director of Jerusalem's Qehillah community of Catholics of Jewish origin. - Fides

Pope says peace is our greatest hope this Christmas
Humanity longs for peace above all this Christmas, John Paul II said at an audience in the Vatican on Sunday. - Zenit

Pope receives Christmas tree from Romanian president, religious leaders
Romania's president gave Pope John Paul II a 25 metre tall Christmas tree from the forests of Transylvania. - CNS

Pax Christi seeks UN intervention in Holy Land
The Pax Christi International Catholic Movement has sent a message to the president of the UN Security Council calling for UN intervention in the Holy Land. - Zenit

Mexicans hoping for go-ahead for Juan Diego canonisation
The Pope is due to make an announcement tomorrow on the suitability for canonisation of Juan Diego, an Indian peasant to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared in 1531. - Observer

Hong Kong Bishop defends children's right to education
Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen has mobilised Catholic schools in Hong Kong to defend the right of education for some 170 children being denied an education while awaiting the outcome of their residency applications. - Fides

Congress says family retreats will produce religious vocations
To get more young people to think about vocations, churches should offer family retreats, and priests and religious should talk more about their own vocations, according to participants attending regional meetings about vocations being held across the United States and Canada. - CNS

In defence of marriage
Married couples look likely to become a minority, according to a report released by Britain's office of national statistics. Teachers, politicians and even some Church people doubt that it is now wise, or kind, or even possible to support and to advocate marriage. But destabilising marriage erodes the social structures on which humanity depends. - Michael Scott-Joynt, Anglican Bishop of Winchester / The Tablet

Cistercian Abbey putting down roots in secularised Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, one of the most secularized countries in the world, is witnessing the birth of a new Cistercian abbey, the initiative of a French Abbey founded in the 12th century. More than 40 of the total of 76 monks are young, with many from Eastern Europe. - Zenit

Church in India condemns terrorism and urges probe into attack
The Catholic Church in India has severely condemned all forms of terrorism, particularly the recent attack on the country's Parliament. - Zenit

Former seminarian named British PM's 'faith czar'
After naming a drug czar, then a homelessness czar, Prime Minister Tony Blair has created the first "faith czar" to watch over the religiously minded among his flock. - Zenit

London to officially support St Patrick but not St George
London is to stage officially supported celebrations of St Patrick's Day next year. - Ananova

Chinese priest loyal to Vatican dies at 90
Monsignor Odorico Liu Ho-Teh, a Chinese vicar general loyal to the Vatican has died at the age of 90. - AP

Philippine nuncio rejects arming of priests
The Vatican's ambassador to the Philippines has frowned upon suggestions that priests assigned in areas of conflict on the island of Mindanao should be armed. - Philippine Inquirer/Ananova

Jerusalem patriarch says Israel can defuse Holy Land violence
Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said Israel holds the key to defusing Palestinian violence, and he warned that extremist resistance will continue to erupt as long as Israeli occupation continues. - CNS

Opinion - Why Fast and Give Alms?
Foregoing food helps us to acquire freedom of heart. It is a sign that we do not wish to be centered on our own selves, and therefore assists us in prayer as we raise our hearts and minds to God. It helps us to be open to those in need. - Bishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, explaining the Holy Father's call for Catholics to fast for peace last Friday / Inside the Vatican

Feature - Security fears at Vatican bring chill to a season of joy
Like December's cold "tramontana" wind, security fears are blowing around the Vatican this Christmas, bringing a chill to what is normally a season of joy. Ever since 11 September, rumours have been flying about possible terrorist attacks against the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica and Pope John Paul II. The alarms have been unspecific, but in the current climate, nothing is discounted. - CNS

Irish Bishops support referendum against abortion
The Catholic Bishops in Ireland have given their support to a referendum that they say will sanction the right to life. - Zenit

Papal Euro set for circulation
Following a 1998 agreement between the Council of Ministers of the European Union, the Vatican's Philatelic and Numismatic Office is releasing Vatican euro coins to coincide with the wider launch of the Euro notes and coins next month throughout the European Union. - Zenit

Melanesian priest-linguist dies in California
The compiler of the first Tok Pisin Dictionary, Fr Frank Mihalic SVD, died in California on 8 December. - Relpac News

Russian ambassador says obstacles to Papal Visit fading
The Russian ambassador to the Holy See has indicated that the obstacles to a visit by Pope John Paul II to Moscow are fading, and "we won't have to wait much longer before that visit takes place". - CWN

Nun murdered in Ireland sex attack
Police in the Irish Republic have launched a murder inquiry after a nun was strangled and sexually assaulted in County Monaghan. - BBC

Pilgrims return to the skies
Two Australian pilgrimage operators say travellers are taking to the skies again following the 11 September terrorist attack and despite continuing conflict in the Holy Land. - Catholic Leader/Zenit

Opinion - Christmas message says good is stronger than evil
Christmas is a major anti-death festival. Along with midwinter festivals of other faiths, it asserts the power of light over darkness, hope over fear, life over death. However, this Christmas is blighted by the fear of death, which has taken possession of the souls of so many Americans. - Andrew Greeley / Daily South Town

Feature - High point of Muslim holy month
Today is the culmination of the Muslim holy month Ramadan, with the feast of Eid al-Fitr, in which people put on their best clothes and go to the mosque. They visit relatives, swap gifts, send each other cards and wish each other "Eid Mubarak" (Blessed be your celebration). - Trish Madigan OP / Catholic Weekly

Pope accuses Israelis, Palestinians of extremism
Pope John Paul yesterday condemned violence by both Israelis and Palestinians, saying people were being crushed by "two different extremisms" that were disfiguring the face of the Holy Land. - Reuters

Israeli Govt says it's stopped work on Nazareth mosque
Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres said his government has halted for the time being, construction work on the controversial mosque in Nazareth. - Zenit

Vatican to unveil new document on Christian-Jewish relations
The Vatican will soon publish a new 200-page document setting out guidelines for how Christians should relate to Judaism and the Jewish people. - CWN

Stand-off in dispute over sacked chaplain
A stand-off is continuing between the Church and Edith Cowan University in Perth over the sacking of a Catholic chaplain. - Catholic Leader

Christmas rush on Vinnies services
As Advent comes to an end, many elderly people, low-income families and homeless genuinely need a hand to get over the holiday period. - Catholic Weekly

Polish composer known for horror films pleases pope with Mass score
A Polish composer famous for horror film soundtracks struck a new note when he wrote the music for a solemn Mass and heard it performed for Pope John Paul II. - CNS

Opinion - 'Collateral damage' from clergy sex abuse
What happens when a priest - a very good priest - is falsely accused of sexual misconduct? He is often presumed guilty until proven innocent. - Fr Owen Kearns LC / National Catholic Register

Feature - Poetry opens a window to prayer, healing
For Arleen Hynes the essence of the spiritual life lies in making holy the here and now, in her own daily life and that of others. The 85-year-old Benedictine sister has spent 27 years using poetry as a tool to help others discover and enhance their spiritual life. - National Catholic Reporter

Pope says anti-terror fight is moral
Pope John Paul II on Tuesday endorsed the view that countries have the moral and legal right to defend themselves against terrorism, but said forgiveness is also needed for true peace to take root in the world. - AP

Pope's apology to Aboriginies "opens way to treaty"
A leading Aboriginal Catholic Church official has aid that Pope John Paul II's apology to indigenous Australians opens the way for a treaty or compact between white and black Australians. - Catholic Leader

Lismore Diocese welcomes Bishop Jarrett
Last night a Solemn Mass and Liturgical Reception was celebrated in St Carthage's Cathedral in the NSW rural diocese of Lismore to mark the beginning of the ministry of Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett as the diocese's fifth Bishop. - Lismore Diocese

Parish priest is Perth's new Auxiliary Bishop
Pope John Paul II has appointed Fr Donald Sproxton, 48, as the new Auxiliary Bishop of Perth. - The Record/Newman Graduate

Caritas Australia raises record amount in Project Compassion
Caritas Australia yesterday announced that it raised a record $5.75 million for impoverished communities throughout the world in this year's annual Project Compassion appeal. - Caritas

Pope repeats call for lifting of embargo against Iraq
Pope John Paul II on Tuesday appealed to the international community to lift the embargo imposed on Iraq, for the sake of the innocents who suffer its consequences. - Zenit

Opinion - Our rights, yes, but not absolutely
I have the right to say who comes into my home and eats at my table, but what of the right of a starving person who collapses at my front door? Do I shut it in his face? Narrow self-interest and a spirit of fear provide a poor environment for objective discussion, much less a compassionate response. - Archbishop Francis Carroll, Canberra-Goulburn / Catholic Voice

Feature - Sudan Christians Fight for Survival
Bishop Akio Mutek of southern Sudan sees a warning of his people's demise in the re-writing of school history textbooks to say that Arabs were the original settlers in the region. Though the world's attention has been focused on Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Bishop Mutek feels Sudan is in the path of a radical Islam spreading throughout the world. - National Catholic Register

Christmas bloodshed feared for Indonesian island
Catholic sources believe Muslim militants in Sulawesi are preparing for a Christmas of bloodshed. - Fides

Killers of East Timor priests, nuns convicted
Ten members of a gang responsible for one of the worst massacres linked to East Timor's vote for independence in 1999, have been found guilty of crimes against humanity. - ABC

Pope schedules urgent summit on Holy Land
Concerned for Christians in the Holy Land, Pope John Paul II will preside over a meeting of Christian leaders of the region, to be held tomorrow in the Vatican. - Zenit

Melbourne Archbishop defends sexual abuse commission
Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart has defended the independent Commission into Sexual Abuse set up by his predecessor, Dr George Pell. - ABC

Muslim theologian agrees with Pope on Mary
An Iranian Islamic theologian has affirmed the Pope's assertion on Sunday that Muslims venerate Mary. - Zenit

Priest-rapper a hit with Catholic youth at US conference
A rap-singing, grey-habit-wearing Franciscan priest with a funky gray beret reached out to young people at a national conference of Catholic youth in the United States. - CNS

Opinion - Wanted by the Fertility Police
Like many Catholic mothers of large families, I've got 'the glance'. Being open to new life and not cooperating with the contraceptive mentality of today's culture makes a Catholic parent a walking sign of contradiction. - Beliefnet

Feature - Americans marching to a different beat this Christmas
"There is a lot of evidence that after 11 September, people have refocused on core values, and they are asking themselves the question, 'How can I get back to the things in life that really matter to me?' " says Juliet Schor, a Boston College sociology professor. "It's been a wake-up call for many who find themselves operating in a world of excess." - Christian Science Monitor

Church demands end to Pacific Solution
The Federal Government has subjected asylum seekers to intimidation and incited xenophobic fears in the community, according to a report by Melbourne's Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace. - AAP

Pope calls nations to give legal protection to refugees
John Paul II on Sunday appealed to nations to adopt appropriate juridical measures for the legal protection of refugees. - Zenit

Vatican Archbishop denies further Fatima secrets
Sister Lucia, the sole surviving Fatima visionary, has not received any new messages from the Virgin Mary in the wake of 11 September, according to Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. - CWN

Pope establishes new apostolic prefecture for Pakistan
Although Catholics are a tiny minority in Quetta and the surrounding area near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, Pope John Paul II has decided the Pakistani city will be the centre of a new apostolic prefecture. - CNS

Pope proposes fastng as weapon against hatred and violence
Pope John Paul II has suggesting fasting and prayer are "weapons" that may overcome the present hatred and violence. - Zenit

Cardinal says smell of victory blinding US to moral issues
Milan's Cardinal Carlo Martini has suggested that the US-led war in Afghanistan has begun to slide into the "excessiveness of revenge". - Vidimus Dominum

Opinion - Something in the way he died
It was strange, the outpouring of feeling which met the death of George Harrison. He was the one who provided the spiritual impetus of the band. He was a seeker. He knew that there was something else, and that religion was intensely interesting. Celebrity bored him, and sometimes he would not even promote his own records. - The Tablet

Feature - Putting Christ back into Christmas
For Christina Artini-Jackson and her family, Christmas is much more than hundreds of dollars spent on expensive gifts. The suburban Adelaide mother of two is determined the true meaning and traditions of Christmas will never be lost. A major Christmas highlight this year is her children Alex and Sam's inclusion in the nativity play at Sacred Heart Parish. - Southern Cross

New archbishop weighs into human rights debate
The new head of the Catholic Church in South Australia says the Howard Government needs to take a greater international role in the field of human rights. - ABC

SA churches offering legal aid to Woomera asylum seekers
South Australia's Christian churches have set up a legal outpost to give hundreds of asylum seekers at the Woomera Detention Centre access to legal advice. - Southern Cross

Worried Pope calls on humanity to overcome hatred
Pope John Paul, indicating he believed the United States should not expand its war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan, urged the faithful on Sunday to push for peace and not pursue vendettas. - Reuters

Archbishop wants a 'soul' for technology
A new humanism is needed to give technological progress a soul, says Archbishop John P. Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. - Zenit

Vatican says new document stresses all forms of priestly scandal
A new document on disciplinary treatment for priests, to be promulgated soon by Pope John Paul II, will address all forms of scandalous behavior, and not only the sexual abuse of children. - CWN/Sunday Age

Cremation acceptable, but burial preferred
Even if a believer is cremated and their ashes scattered to the winds, God will resurrect them body and soul, according to an article in an Italian Jesuit magazine. - Tablet

Opinion - Harry Potter criticism a fundamentalist crusade
Fundamentalism is rare among Catholics, but the anti-Potter crusade is an example of how Protestant fundamentalist ideas are disseminated in certain Catholic milieus as well. The Harry Potter books and movie are examples of popular culture not controlled by the Church. Fundamentalists reject contemporary popular culture because modes of production are not intrinsically Christian. If we honour the Catholic teaching on the autonomy of the culture, we should judge popular culture on a case-by-case basis. - Massimo Introvigne, Director Centre for Studies on New Religion ( / Zenit

Feature - Small step for science an ethical minefield
The recent announcement that scientists at a small biotechnology company in the US had cloned human embryos seemed to bring Brave New World one step closer to reality. Many bioethicists, including some Catholics, are not in favor of a ban on all human cloning research, but express concern that scientific research is outpacing public discussion of it. - National Catholic Reporter

Pope urges equity in wealth distribution
Pope John Paul II has expressed concern about the poverty and social injustice in Honduras when he received the nation's bishops in audience on Tuesday. - Zenit

Catholic official warns of sectarian conflict from Nazareth mosque
The Holy Land's top Catholic clergyman has warned of possible sectarian strife if Muslims go ahead with the construction of a large mosque next to a major Christian shrine in Jesus' boyhood town. - AP

Australian Catholic women ready for action
The Bishops' Commission for Australian Catholic Women finalised its Action Plan at a Commission meeting held at the National Secretariat in Canberra late last month. - CACW

Vatican publishes manual on pastoral ministry for drug users
The Vatican has published a manual offering advice for pastoral care workers dealing with the consequences of drug abuse. - CWN

Pope calls volunteers a sign of hope for the world
Volunteers are "a sign of hope" for our time and for the poor, Pope John Paul II has said in a message at the close of the UN International Year of Volunteers. - Zenit

Vatican official says peace efforts should intensify
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's foreign minister, has met US Secretary of State Colin Powell for talks that centred on the renewed conflict in the Middle East. - CNS

Opinion - Australians need to do soul-searching
We have prided ourselves on being a generous and compassionate people. In many parts of the world we have enjoyed that kind of reputation. Recent statements and events, particularly in regard to asylum-seekers and refugees, have shattered much of that reputation. Perhaps they should also shake our conviction about ourselves. - Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra/Goulburn / Catholic Voice

Feature - Religious people live longer than nonbelievers
Religion appears to soothe the body as well as the soul, as people who are highly religious tend to live longer than others, a review of more than 40 scientific studies has found. - Web MD

Sydney Archbishop calls for increase in refugee quota
Echoing last week's statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop George Pell has issued a qualified appeal for an increase in Australia's refugee intake. - ABC

Ratzinger takes responsibility for priestly pedophilia cases
In a new set of norms, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has taken juridical control over cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, classifying it as one of several "graver offences" against church law. - CNS/CWN

Queen invites cardinal to preach to Royal Family
The British Queen has made an unprecedented gesture of goodwill towards the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales by inviting its leader to stay at Sandringham and to preach to the Royal Family. - Telegraph (London)

Caritas repeats call for donations for Afghanistan
The response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been far slower than to many other appeals throughout the aid and development community, Caritas Australia has revealed. - Catholic Weekly

Brisbane offering training for deacons
The Archdiocese of Brisbane's Diaconate Directorate plans to begin the first training program for permanent deacons in the new year. - Catholic Leader

Indonesian bishop calls for UN intervention to curb violence
The bishop of Manado in eastern Indonesia has called for UN intervention to prevent a potential genocide against Christians. - CNS

Opinion - We must end denial of priest shortage
The first thing to do is face the fact, be realistic and honest. This sort of thing is like a bereavement, a real sense of loss. A sudden death is often met with simple denial - "It can't be true. I don't believe it." Only when we face the fact can we begin to mourn properly and let go. And as with any loss, we must be confident that the Lord is with us." - Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton (UK) / Independent Catholic News

Feature - Retired nuns face poverty after years of service
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops figures show there are 429 nuns under the age of 30 and 4,096 over 90. Nuns are living longer, health-care costs have soared, their Social Security benefits are a third of the average American's and, most critically, there are not enough younger nuns to support them. - Reuters

Thousands of Christians flee Sulawesi violence
Thousands of Christian villagers on Indonesia's Sulawesi island are fleeing attacks by armed Muslim paramilitaries, according to Church sources. - AP

Pope says nomads have 'a place in the heart of the Church'
John Paul II has praised the typical values of nomad populations, particularly gypsies, which he said often stand in marked contrast to the empty ideals of consumeristic societies. - Zenit

Pope cautions Poland on move into European Union
John Paul II on Monday encouraged Poland's entry into the European Union but said it should not be at the price of losing its national identity and traditions. - Zenit

Massacre leads to improved interfaith relations, say church leaders
A month after the massacre of 16 people at a Catholic church, Pakistan's Catholic leaders said reaction to the killings has improved communications between Muslims and Christians. - CNS

West African bishops ask Senegalese priest to leave rebel group
The bishops of Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Mauritania called on a priest to leave a regional rebel group he heads. - Fides

Irish bishop says religion 'clicks in' at mature age
Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns in Ireland has said he is not worried that young people are falling away from attendance at religious services because they are responding to the Holy Spirit "in their own way", through various activities such as fund raising. - Irish Times

Opinion - The importance of family at Christmas
Instead of swaying softly to Silent Night, we are frantically rearranging seats at the dinner table to avoid a repeat of last year's fiasco between Uncle Pete and Dad. In the season when we celebrate the beginnings of the Holy Family and the gift of Jesus Christ, every chair filled at the family table is a unique and wonderful gift God gives us. - Peter Holmes, Council for Marriage & the Family (Melbourne) / Kairos

Feature - Theologian says calling AIDS incurable 'isn't the full story'
4.2 million HIV-positive people in South African pose challenges to Christians in terms of truths of the faith relating to sickness, healing, death and resurrection, says Fr Stuart C. Bate OMI. "As soon as people are diagnosed HIV-positive, it is as though death enters into their lives," he said. "And with death comes sin, because AIDS infection is perceived to result from sinful sexual encounter." - Zenit

Pope grieves following Israel bomb attack
Pope John Paul II expressed grief and concern on Sunday over the suicide attacks that killed at least 25 and wounded more than 200 in Israel at the weekend. - Zenit

JRS worried about asylum seekers already detained in Australia
As Australia concentrates on keeping asylum seekers off its shores, the Jesuit Refugee Service has expressed concern at those already here who remain locked in the country's "repressive and punitive" detention centres. - JRS

New archbishop calls on faithful to keep Christ in Christmas
Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was inaugurated last night as Adelaide's new Catholic Archbishop, has sent a "keep Christ in Christmas" reminder message to Catholic in the Archdiocese. - CathcommSA

Tasmanian archbishop completes Call to Change
Archbishop Adrian Doyle of Hobart has formally ended a process of spiritual renewal that was known as Call to Change . - Catholic Media (TAS)

Newcastle nursing home finally closes
The controversial closure of St Catherine of Siena Nursing Home, Waratah, in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, was finally completed yesterday. - Maitland-Newcastle Diocese

Vatican approves 'miracle' needed for Padre Pio canonisation
The Capuchin friar Padre Pio could be made a saint next year after the approval of a second miracle attributed to him. - Telegraph (London)

Opinion - What I would say to Osama bin Laden: Zen monk
If I were given the opportunity to be face to face with Osama bin Laden, the first thing I would do is listen. I would try to understand why he had acted in that cruel way. I would try to understand all of the suffering that had led him to violence. -
Zen monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh / Beliefnet

Feature - A new course for school discipline
Detention and raised voices may still be part of the practice, but the emphasis in Sydney Catholic schools is more on challenging students about negative behaviour; helping them to understand what they have done and encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions. - Catholic Weekly

Bishops welcome asylum seeker cooperation with Indonesia
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has welcomed news that Australia and Indonesia will work together to focus international attention on refugees and asylum seekers. - ACBC

Stem cell researcher fears Church 'could obstruct cure'
A leading researcher into stem cells has hit back at last week's Australian Bishops' statement calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning, suggesting that the research the Church is trying to block "could produce a cure for AIDS". - Sunday Age

Tasmanian Govt backs down on promise to Church
The Tasmanian Government has narrowed an amendment to its Anti-Discrimination Act, contravening an assurance given to the Archbishop of Hobart, Adrian Doyle. - Catholic Media Office (TAS)

Media cardinal says political advertising raises ethical questions
While political advertising can play on people's fears or misrepresent candidates' positions, the greatest ethical concern is how much money political advertising requires candidates to raise and spend, said Archbishop John P. Foley. - CNS

Theological Commission to mull nature of diaconate
The question of the diaconate is on the agenda at this week's plenary session of the International Theological Commission at the Vatican. - CWN

Priest threatens drunk churchgoers with excommunication
A priest in Malawi has threatened to ex-communicate Catholics who attend church services while drunk. - Ananova/Catholic Voice

Opinion - The fantastic truth about Harry
The Harry Potter book and films are clearly fantasy, and wonderful fantasy at that. We should be more worried about the images of reality as portrayed on the evening TV news service. - Matthew Abraham, Director Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Adelaide

Feature - Churchgoers looking to the future
Australia's church-going Christians believe their churches are looking to the future, a national survey has found. Preliminary findings from the National Church Life Survey, which quizzed 435,000 church attenders, including 130,000 Catholics, in more than 7000 churches across 19 denominations, suggest many are willing to consider new ideas, want to identify clear directions and are moving towards the future, according to researchers. - Catholic Voice