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Divorce: Archbishops say Pope's advice mistranslated
In separate media interviews yesterday, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne and Archbishop George Pell of Sydney said the Pope's remarks to Divorce lawyers on Monday had been misunderstood. Archbishop Hart told The Age the Pope's remarks did not mean Catholic lawyers and judges could not participate in divorce cases. "He doesn't say that," he said. "What he is talking about is a change of attitude so that lawyers don't automatically assume that divorce is the answer." In Sydney, Archbishop Pell told The Sydney Morning Herald: "The English translations are clumsy and somewhat misleading on the role of Catholic judges and lawyers in civil divorce proceedings. Catholics judges [and by inference, lawyers] can participate for the common good in divorce proceedings, for example to help ensure the legal rights of all participants, such as the care of children, the protection of inheritances and distribution of property." - Age/West Australian/SMH/Ananova

Asylum Seekers: Hunger strike ends - Bishop Hurley visits Woomera
The Asylum seeker hunger strike at Woomera is winding down following the visit of government advisers and commitments that have been given to the detainees according to widespread media reports this morning. While the media has been exluded from the detention centre, Bishop Eugene Hurley -- whose diocese of Port Pirie includes the remote Woomera facility -- has visited the facility a number of times. In Sydney yesterday he spoke to the media. Helen Ransom of Catholic Communications, Sydney reports on what Bishop Hurley said. Elsewhere the Sydney Morning Herald carries a background article using the story of Moses in the bullrushes as a parallel to the sacrifices desperate parents make for their children. - AAP/CC/SMH

Bush asks Americans for 2 years volunteer service
President Bush's State of the Union address has received widespread media coverage. While in its general context it has implications for the mission of the Church in the world, the religious media has been looking for some indication that the "social issues" have not been pushed entirely off the agenda. Perhaps one of the most radical proposals for the whole ethos of Christianity has been his call for Americans to spend two years doing volunteer work. "My call is for every American to commit at least two years -- four thousand hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbours and nation. Through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know: We can overcome evil with greater good," Bush said. - Reuters

First Results from the National Church Life Survey
The ABC Sacred Space website this morning carries a report on the first results to emerge from the 2001 National Church Life Survey. Some 28% of attenders are strongly committed to the vision or directions of their congregation and a further 19% are partly committed. While few are unhappy with the directions of their church, others feel they cannot see clear directions or a vision (41%). Further results can be found through the links on our main story (click headline above). - ABC/NCLS

Relics of St Therese arrived in Austalia this morning
The relics of St. Therese of Lisieux arrived in Australia early this morning at Perth Airport. From there they were taken to the parish of Morley for a Mass scheduled to be celebrated by Archbishop Hickey at 3.00am. The relics will be touring parishes and Carmelite Monasteries in Western Australia until February 11th before moving to other States. Over the time of the complete tour -- which ends on 1 May -- it is estimated that the relics will be within an hour's drive of almost 80% of the Australian population. The relics will be displayed in some sixty venues across 19 dioceses in all six states and the ACT. The venues include 35 parish churches, 14 cathedrals and 10 Carmelite monasteries. The Record newspaper in Western Australia last weekend gave over the entire edition to coverage of the tour. Previous tours in the United States and Ireland are reputed to have brought tens of thousands of people back to the regular practice of their faith.

Churchgoer wins $270,000 damages for not meeting Jesus/Poor monks to sell £8m charity gift to help developing world/Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia?/Priest faces action over church fashion show/Refugees return to Goma - Various sources: see links

Opinion - The currents blowing in the Vatican
We are pleased to be able to publish the text of a private email newsletter that has been circulating on the internet from veteran Rome correspondent, Robert Blair Kaiser. It was previously posted on the Catholic Telecommunications Discussion Board but we have now received permission from the author to include it as an opinion piece in the news. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily the views of Catholic Telecommunications News but we believe, given the position that Mr Kaiser holds in the world of media, they will garner attention and they give important insights into what is happening at the highest levels in the Church. This is particularly so when read in conjunction with other commenators such as the conservative commentator, George Weigel. There is a growing consensus amongst commentators that the world has not understood the "political" position of Pope John Paul II at all well. Weigel argues in his biography of Pope John Paul, Witness to Hope, and other places that part of the problem in understanding this Pope is that we keep viewing him through the "political lense" or paradigm within which we do most of our thinking in the West today. Everything has a "political" tinge to it. Pope John Paul is trying to move the world out of this "political" paradigm. There are some things that simply cannot be properly evaluated within the constraints of the "left-right", French Chamber of Deputies political paradigm. The views Robert Kaiser is expressing in this newsletter are of significant interest when evaluated outside a "political" context also. What is of additional interest in this article is the observation that the Pope is conscious of the inability of the Church to penetrate the communication difficulties being experienced in the affluent, educated, socially sophisticated sectors of the world.

Feature - Further thoughts on Vocations
We didn't mean to begin a campaign on vocations at this time of the year but the article published yesterday has led to a string oF related articles. This third instalment is an article we have lifted from VocNET - the Journal of Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia. It links to the article published two days ago here about the role of the ordained person in helping people discern their vocatios in life. Fr Bernard Buckley is Vocations Minister in the Sale Diocese, Eastern Victoria. His article discusses the role of priest as inviter or catalyst in triggering a commitment to a religious vocation. - VocNET

What is the Pope seeking to achieve?
Reaction to the comments of Pope John Paul regarding divorce and the part that lawyers play in the process continued yesterday. The BBC ran a story, "Pope upholds traditional beliefs", seeking to explore what the Pope is seeking to achieve. The broadcaster reports: "some Vatican observers believe he sees the Church as a kind of "counter culture", in which divine law takes precedence over civil laws passed by governments. But his call to Catholic lawyers to boycott divorce cases on moral grounds has startled church members." On the other hand Zenit News Agency today published three separate reports examining different aspects of the territory His Holiness was seeking to raise debate about. - BBC/Zenit

Jesuits criticise US treatment of prisoners
Two prominent Jesuits - Cardinal Roberto Tucci, former head of Vatican Radio, and Fr Pasquale Borgomeo, its current director - have criticised the way the United States is treating captured Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Fr Borgomeo criticised what he called "the militarisation of justice" which was evident in the Guantanamo campin Cuba. He said there was a need for "a wider view, a more strategic view that would serve in the struggle to build peace". - The Tablet

Layman says European Constitution must reflect Christian values
There is a tendency in the contemporary world for the Church to be marginalised in some of the big debates concerning the future of civilisation. Last month, Pope John Paul lamented the European Union's rejection of the contribution of communities of believers in the convention, which should serve to write the future Constitution for the European Union. A prominent Italian jurist and layman, Professor Achille Chiappetti, says the European Charter has "to be Christian, because the history of the Old World is marked by natural values that are defended by Christianity". In the interview carried by Zenit, Professor Chiappetti would seem to be arguing against what the Pope called for and believes the values will be enshrined without any need for specific representation from religious groups. - Zenit

Bush aiming to revive his faith-based programs
An interesting bun fight could be brewing in the United States with President Bush's plan to revive his initiative to give federal aid to religious social-services groups. The President failed to get the initiative approved last year. The opposition to his plan is likely to come from conservative Christian groups according to a report yesterday carried by Zenit. The report would appear to have some substance as the conservative Catholic website, Diocese Report, carries a headline at the moment: "Bush shows true liberal colors again". - Zenit/Diocese Report

Caritas sets appeal sights at $6m plus
Caritas Australia has raised the bar for its Project Compassion Appeal this year with its eyes set on a target above the $5.8 million raised in its Appeal in 2001. The national director of Caritas Australia, Jack de Groot, said: "Because of the need and our continued commitment to practical almsgiving, we hope to raise over $6 million this year." The theme of this year's appeal is A Place to Call Home. In an interview in The Catholic Weekly, Mr de Groot, compares the experiences of bush fire victims in Australia to those in similar situations overseas which are supported by Caritas. - Catholic Weekly

Boston abuse scandal: latest developments - Text of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's open letter - Abuse bill would make supervisors liable/European Jews and Catholics hold 'summit' meeting in Paris/Catholic leaders refuse to meet Venezuelan President/New Bible translation causes stir even before it's printed/Tourist beaten to death over religious argument in Indonesia/Bible smuggler gets jail not death/Nine Network announces new lifestyle program "Body and Soul" - Various sources: see links

Opinion - The currents blowing in the Vatican
We are pleased to be able to publish the text of a private email newsletter that has been circulating on the internet from veteran Rome correspondent, Robert Blair Kaiser. It was previously posted on the Catholic Telecommunications Discussion Board but we have now received permission from the author to include it as an opinion piece in the news. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily the views of Catholic Telecommunications News but we believe, given the position that Mr Kaiser holds in the world of media, they will garner attention and they give important insights into what is happening at the highest levels in the Church. This is particularly so when read in conjunction with other commenators such as the conservative commentator, George Weigel. There is a growing consensus amongst commentators that the world has not understood the "political" position of Pope John Paul II at all well. Weigel argues in his biography of Pope John Paul, Witness to Hope, and other places that part of the problem in understanding this Pope is that we keep viewing him through the "political lense" or paradigm within which we do most of our thinking in the West today. Everything has a "political" tinge to it. Pope John Paul is trying to move the world out of this "political" paradigm. There are some things that simply cannot be properly evaluated within the constraints of the "left-right", French Chamber of Deputies political paradigm. The views Robert Kaiser is expressing in this newsletter are of significant interest when evaluated outside a "political" context also. What is of additional interest in this article is the observation that the Pope is conscious of the inability of the Church to penetrate the communication difficulties being experienced in the affluent, educated, socially sophisticated sectors of the world.

Feature - Vocations Crisis?
The editor of in the US must be another avid reader of this news service also. He contacted us this morning soon after our bulletin was published to say the the Vocations Feature article mentioned yesterday has not gone missing. Courtesy then of and The National Catholic Register we would like to bring to your attention a provocative article published on January 9th in the lead-up to a Vocations Summit being held in Montreal (18-21 April). The author of this article, John Burger, argues: "the working document of the 'Third Continential Congress on Vocations to the Ordained Ministry and Consecrated Life' leaves out one thing: the places where vocations work has been successful". You can find the working document for the Conference that is being criticised at: The foreshadowed local article will be held over until tomorrow's bulletin. -

Australian Bishops call for action on asylum seekers
The Australian Catholics Bishops today issued a strong call challenging the Australian government to "respect the human dignity and rights of asylum seekers, hear their cries for help, and to heed the disquiet of the community". Interviewed on the 7.30 Report (ABCTV) the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr George Pell, said "Innocent people are suffering. I understand the Government is between a rock and a hard place. I have sympathy with the Minister and the PM. My fear is they're digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole." The call from the Bishops has received wide media coverage including beyond Australia's shores. - ABC/ACBC

Pope tells Catholic lawyers they should refuse divorce cases
At the annual opening of the legal year in Rome, Pope John Paul generated immediate headlines around the world by his advice to Catholic lawyers that they should refuse to handle divorce cases. From what we can see most of main secular press agencies have picked up on the story and it is receiving significant coverage around the globe. Follow our link to the detailed story and we provide an overview of the secular coverage as well as the Vatican Information Service coverage of the story which was carried on EWTN. - BBC/Bloomberg/EWTN/VIS

Boston abuse scandal: fallout continues
In the aftermath of the first Geoghan abuse trial last week, the Church in Boston is continuing to generate significant coverage in the media as to how the whole matter of abuse has been handled and the measures that Cardinal Law has been taking since the trial. CBS News, quoting Associated Press, ran a mixed message headline yesterday "Catholics Debate Boston Leadership" with two subheads: "Some Argue That Cardinal Law Should Resign/Some Catholics see Cardinal Law's apology as an opportunity for forgiveness". An opinion piece in the NY Daily News by Stanley Crouch argues "we should be glad that Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law has ignored the dictates of Rome and called on his clergy to report to the police all charges of sexual abuse of children by priests". The Boston Globe is running a detailed investigative series on the whole matter. - AP/CBS/NY Daily News/Boston Globe

UK Bishops to live on low pay for Lent
In the style of that great English writer, Eric Blair (George Orwell), who went and lived in poor houses to understand how "the other half live", a group of Anglican Bishops and other clergy are going to try and live on the minimum wage this Lent. About ten million people live on the minimum wage in Britain. The Church wants the minimum wage, which is now £4.10 an hour, to be increased to £5.80. - The Times

New York condom ads raise media attention for Church
The electronic media started carrying a story last night about a spat between conservative and liberal Catholics in the New York area. The story has been running in the Pro-Life American Press for a while but appears to have escalated in the last 24 hours. The liberal Catholic group, Catholics for a Free Choice, has run provocative ads on the New York Transit system criticising the Church for not advocating the use of condoms to prevent aids. The ads, which read, "Because the bishops ban condoms, innocent people die," and "Catholic people care. Do our bishops?" have been on display at 50 bus shelters and 134 Metrorail cars in Washington since World AIDS Day Dec. 1. A similar ad appeared in the Washington Post on Nov. 30. The BBC World Service carried a report on the dispute last night. - BBC/NC Register

Priests unhappy with euro church offering/Vatican backs UN agreement on chemical weapons/British freemasons seek to end aura of mystery/New Gender-Neutral Bible Planned/Leprosy still a world health problem/Released dove flies back into Pope's studio - Various sources: see links

Opinion - Readers reflect on worship vs entertainment at church
The Star Tribune carried an interesting column on Monday visiting that age-old debate about worship versus entertainment. After publishing a dozen responses, columnist Tom Di Nanni asks: "Why do we worship at all? Is it to recharge our spiritual batteries through uplifting music and God will be singing along with us through the tedious week to come? Is it to hear the word of God, telling us the rules we need to follow to gain salvation? Is it because attending religious services is what 'good' people are expected to do? Is it to join with other seekers, other pilgrims, to seek answers to the ultimate questions posed by life itself? Or is it a coming together to gain the strength to love and serve the world?" This is one of those perennial questions we keep having to ask ourselves about our liturgies and the personal choices we make about honouring God. There will never be definitive answers. It is a question that is always there. We keep having to answer it as the circumstances of our lives shift. We should never become bored with answering these questions even though we have answered them a thousand times before. It is the questions that enliven our relationship with the Mystery of God. Feel free to continue this conversation on our own discussion board. - Star Tribune

Feature - A Letter to a Prospective Seminarian
Despite all the gloom in the world about the decline in participation in the Western world, there are signs of a turn-around in the numbers making enquiries about vocations. carried a passionate article last week outlining some of the places where vocations are rising -- and they are not just confined to particular conservative sub-sets of the population. Unfortunately the link has disappeared from their website. Today though they carry a letter from a Parish Priest to a prospective seminarian. There is a major conference coming up in Montreal between April 21-24 on Vocations. 1200 are expected to attend. The letter from Fr Morrow published here might spark further discussion on what are the pathways to helping the right people discern their religious vocations? More on this from an Australian perspective tomorrow... - Catholic Net


Historic Day of Prayer for Peace in the World
Following a two-hour journey in a train composed of seven carriages that departed from the Vatican City railway station at 8:40 am the Pope and around 300 representatives from the world's different religions arrived in Assisi, Italy, in order to participate in the Day of Prayer for Peace in the World. Upon arrival, John Paul II travelled by Popemobile to St. Francis Square where he welcomed the representatives who are participating in the gathering, accompanied by their respective delegations. The link to the main story provides access to the best coverage of this historic event. - VIS/CNN/BBC/AP

Church groups pressure Government - offer to look after detainees
Ten of Australia's leading welfare agencies have written a strong letter to Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock urging him to release Woomera detention centre inmates into their care to avoid possible deaths. Welfare organisations including the Centacare, St Vincent de Paul and the Brotherhood of St Laurence yesterday said the Government's policy was causing "unnecessary suffering" and that children were "incarcerated". "Woomera should be closed," the letter states. "We are highly concerned that there will be deaths soon in this . . . facility." The treatment of asylum seekers has been generating embarrassing coverage for the Australian government in the international media in the last 24 hours. - The Australian/ABC/BBC

Concern for Christian minority in the Holy Land
Bishops from Europe and North America are meeting in Jerusalem to study how Catholic communities can help Christians in the Holy Land. The four-day assembly, called by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, follows in the wake of the Dec 13 meeting of worldwide Catholic leaders at the Vatican. "Palestinian Christians now form no more than 2% of the population in Israel and the Palestinian territories," a press statement issued by the patriarchate explains. "And there is profound concern that migration, as a result of the massive economic problems and insecurity caused by Israeli occupation and the intifada, will result in the further diminishment of the Christian community in the Holy Land." - Zenit

Another meeting of religious leaders in Egypt
A dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders issued a joint declaration here declaring the killing of innocents a desecration of God's name and defamation of religion, the Jerusalem Post reported. The three-day gathering, organized by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, was billed by him and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, another driving force behind the conference, as historic. This meeting is seeking to get the peace process back on track. - Zenit

Christian Brothers Bi-Centennial launched
The bicentenary of the establishment of the Christian and Presentation Brothers by Edmund Rice in Waterford in 1802 will take place this year. The programme of events for 2002 was officially announced by Br Andrew Hickey FPM and Br Edmund Garvey CFC, the Congregation Leaders of the Presentation and Christian Brothers respectively, at a launch event held in the Marino Institute of Education in Dublin this week. The Executive Coordinator on the International Bicentennial Committee is Br Daryl Barclay, a Christian Brother from St Patrick's Province Australia. Br Barclay took up his position early last year, after completing eight years as principal of St Virgil's College in Hobart. - Christian Brothers Ireland

Opinion - Catholics can model a "happy death"...
Catholics can model a "happy death" for a culture terrified of dying by properly treating pain and caring for the entire person who is suffering, said the keynote speaker at a Catholic end-of-life conference. "We have the ability to really change things on a national scale," said Father Myles N. Sheehan, a Jesuit priest and medical doctor at Loyola University, Chicago. He addressed about 200 health care professionals attending a Jan 22-24 conference on "Recovering Our Traditions: A Catholic Perspective on End-of-Life Care." Father Sheehan said the dying fear being alone and miserable, in uncontrollable pain. - CNS

Feature - St Therese: who was this woman creating such interest today?
As the ABC puts it on her website, "on 31 January a casket of bones - the relics of St Therese of Lisieux - will arrive in Australia". This Sunday, ABC Encounter will feature St Therese in a program entitled "A Shower of Roses". It should be worth listening to: ABC RN Sun, Jan 27, 7.00am. The December issue of Priests and People carried an article exploring the relationship that St Therese had with the Holy Child. "Why did St Therese have such a devotion to the Child Jesus? Ruth Burrows (Sr Rachel of the Quidenham Carmel), author of many books on prayer, shows how it could reveal a divine truth: 'the inexpressible nature of God's tender, compassionate love for us, which will stop at nothing but which will pour out its all to us and for us'." - Priests & People

Ex-prisoner Cardinal looks ahead to Day of Prayer in Assisi
Cardinal Van Thuan, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was a prisoner in Vietnam and missed the 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace. He had to wait two years to find out what happened at that summit. In 1988 he was released after 13 years of incarceration. Today he is travelling to Assisi for the World Day of Prayer for Peace 2002. "I never imagined that one day I would be present at a Day of Prayer in Assisi." He argues today: "Never can a genuine religious sentiment turn to violence." - Zenit

Shame in Bogota: Nun jailed for murder
A Colombian nun has been sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment for the murder of another sister in her convent after the authorities were finally able to prove her guilty with the aid of forensic tests by the American FBI. It took the authorities five months to identify the corpse found by a roadside outside Bogota in November 1999. The body had shots to the head, the legs severed and the torso badly burnt. - BBC

Support grows for splitting church-state link in UK
The media in Britain is carrying reports of a poll that shows 48% against Blair's role in choosing the Archbishop of Canterbury. Only one in three voters - 36% - believe the Church of England should keep its special position as the only state recognised religion. The Guardian/ICM poll is the first for many years showing that support for the idea of disestablishing the Church of England outstrips opposition to the move. - Guardian

In US religious schools' use of tax-free bonds spurs church-state debate
Associated Press is reporting a new element in the separation of church and state debate. It concerns the use of tax-free bonds by religious schools to fund capital works. No public funds are used to pay the bonds. The state serves as a conduit, a legal requirement for the nonprofits to get the tax exemption, and the bonds' credit is backed separately. But nationwide, similar schools have had their bonds' tax-exempt status challenged by groups who claim it amounts to state support of religion. Some judges have agreed, though the law is unclear. The religious schools maintain that it would be religious discrimination to deny them the bonds. - AP/Freedom Forum

US Pro-lifers mark 29 years of Roe vs Wade decision
Thousands of pro-lifers rallied on Tuesday to mark the 29th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling allowing abortion, urged on by President George W. Bush who told them even unwanted children should be "welcomed into life and protected in law". American Catholic leaders have strongly objected to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union entitled "Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights". Fr Michael D. Place, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said the report "leaves the false impression that Catholic health care gets funds it isn't entitled to." - Zenit/CNS

Death of Salesian Superior General
News has just come in of the death of Fr. Juan Edmundo Vecchi, Superior General of the Salesians of Don Bosco on the vigil of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales. Fr. Vecchi, an Argentinian by birth, had suffered for 19 months with a brain tumour, but only in very recent months had this prevented him from regularly communicating with the 18,000 members of the Salesians (SDB) and a similar number of Salesian Sisters. Fr. Vecchi's last letter, written by his own hand to all the Salesian Family, was a meditation on illness and suffering. A precious legacy. A close relative of Fr. Vecchi, Bro. Artemide Zatti of Viedma, Argentina, will be beatified in April by Pope John Paul II. Fr. Vecchi had dearly hoped to 'be there'. In a real sense he will be. - RelPacNews

SA Catholic editor to join ABC on-air team/Appeal made for religious liberty in Vietnam/Italian missionary kidnapped in Philippines Is alive/Disgraced ex-priest ordered to undergo psychiatric tests before sentencing/Religious leaders call for Mugabe's resignation - Various sources

Opinion - PJPII: Internet, A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel
The Vatican published the message from PJPII for World Communications Day (May 12th) yesterday. It immediately drew a lot of interest from the media around the world with perhaps the most interesting headline being: "Pope issues the Net Commandments" (on a technology news service). You can read the original text of the message on the Vatican website and make up your own mind. PJP says: "The Internet is certainly a new 'forum' understood in the ancient Roman sense of a public space. ... lt was a crowded and bustling urban space, which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. This is no less true of cyberspace, which is as it were a new frontier opening up at the beginning of this new millennium. ... For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message." - VIS

Feature - The relationship between religion and art
Laura Gascoigne explores the relationship between religion and art in a feature, "God in the Gallery", published in the current issue of The Tablet. The best quote in it must come from Marcel Duchamp: "although the devil has all the best tunes, God has all the best themes for art"! She explores some of the reasons why some in the world of art are experiencing a fascination with blasphemy. - The Tablet

Assisi causing string of parallel peace events around world
At short notice the Assisi Meeting on Thursday has sparked a string of meetings and Church services around the world echoing the call for peace. The discussion board of Catholic Telecommunication News contains a place to publicise local events to be held in conjunction with the meeting of World Religious Leaders in Assisi. A Vigil Mass for Peace will be celebrated by Archbishop Pell at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney this evening at 5.30pm. Archbishop Denis Hart has invited people of all faiths to a Mass for Peace at St Patrick's Cathedral at lunchtime tomorrow. For details go to detailed story. - Various Sources

Refugee Protest: Ruddock adviser quits in disgust, 7 protestors taken to hospital
The Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning that one of the Howard Government's most senior advisers on immigration resigned in disgust yesterday at the Government's treatment of asylum seekers. The paper and the ABC also carry reports that 7 hunger strikers were taken to hospital overnight, some of them unconscious. In a separate report the newspaper quotes a letter from one of the protestors: "We have no hope, we see no future. We are ready to die ... We only request the Australian people help us, otherwise we have no choice but to continue the hunger strike until the end of our life." - SMH/ABC

$9bn pledged to rebuild Afghanistan
The international financial commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan had risen to $9bn by the time the Tokyo conference on rebuilding the war-torn nation ended yesterday. This is still some way short of the $20bn the United Nations believes will be needed over the next few years. - ABC News

90% of Wars Since 1945 Occurred in Poor Countries
Caritas-Italy has revealed in research that 90% of wars since 1945 occurred in poor countries. The innocent have paid the greatest price of wars, the data shows. Between 1990 and 2000 alone, 2 million children were killed. Since 1945, wars have left close to 27 million civilians dead and produced 35 million refugees. - Zenit

The economics of running a church
The cost of maintenance of church properties has generated many innovative schemes down through the centuries. In Britain Carthusian monks are copping a bit of flake over a £3m proposal to build and sell 16 homes on their property to fund restoration of their vast, crumbling Sussex monastery. Meanwhile in Wales, a Methodist minister has dished out £10 notes to his congregation and told them to go forth and multiply the money. One parishioner wanted to know if he could "put it on 4.25 at Aintree"? - The Times/Ananova

Call to change Australia Day to Jan 1st
Australia Day should be moved from January 26 to January 1 to better reflect the founding of the Commonwealth, Centenary of Federation Queensland chairman Ross Fitzgerald said. Prof Fitzgerald, a noted historian, said Australia became a nation on January 1, 1901, when six independent British colonies became the Commonwealth of Australia. He said,"January 1 is therefore the most appropriate day to celebrate Australia Day." - Story AAP

Pope: Internet 'wonderful' but needs regulating/Catholic press can help country recover from Sept. 11/Using Tolkein for political ends/Pope Blesses Lambs For Archbishops' Palliums/Scholar designs objective Bible study for public high schools- Various sources

Opinion - Historian's accusations of the Church's 19th Century anti-Semitism
The Catholic Church's endorsement of anti-Semitism in the 19th century paved the way for the Holocaust, says the historian David Kertzer in an interview published in The Times last Friday. The Times introduction claims: "It is a sordid and shocking story, if true. The Church is accused of fuelling the rise of anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its own ghettos and anti-Jewish laws were models for the Nazis. The Vatican allowed Jewish children to be seized, separated from their parents and forced into the Catholic faith. Its pet newspapers ran racist campaigns that are vile even by the poisonous standards of the era. And its priests enthusiastically endorsed and encouraged a revival of the atrocious medieval accusation that Jews were ritually murdering Christian priests and children." - The Times

Feature - Working with Refugees
2001 was the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Refugee Convention. The current issue of Eureka Street celebrates the milestone with an article by Australian lawyer Martin Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck was co-ordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre in Melbourne. He is currently in the East Timorese territory of Ocussi. He recalls the people, from many countries, whose lives have crossed his own in the course of refugee work. - Eureka Street

Justice Bishop: no "kangaroo" courts for terrorists...
Bishop William Morris says the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council is "deeply concerned about the nature and processes of the military commissions set up by the United States Government late last year. They appear to have no rules of evidence or rights of appeal. They are to sit in secret and are staffed by military personnel. They will have the power to impose death sentences but can convict on a standard of proof lower than 'beyond reasonable doubt'. They are, in short, kangaroo courts". The ACSJC call adds to growing international concern over the treatment of captured Taliban and al-Qaeda combatants. - ACSJC

Refugees: Centacare director says Ruddock's view "ignorant"
Centacare family services director Dale West is quoted in The Australian as describing Federal Minister, Phillip Ruddock's view about refugees returning to Afghanistan as "ignorant". Mr West has called for the immediate release of all children. - The Australian

Goma Tragedy: Caritas has responded and seeks further support
Caritas Australia has made an immediate contribution of US$20,000 to assist those affected by last week's eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Congolese town of Goma. It is calling for further donations from Australians as much further assistance is going to be required. The Bishop of Goma has been found in a coma in his residence. - Caritas/Zenit

Archbishop Pell announces $100,000 allocation to Centacare for bushfire victims
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Dr George Pell has announced the allocation of $100,000 to Centacare, Catholic Social Welfare agency, to establish targeted, professional support for those affected by the recent tragedies. - Centacare

Feedback on healing of schism in Brazil
Probably the best coverage of the ending of the Lefebvre schism in Brazil has been carried by the Fides and Zenit News Agencies. The secular media seems to have been quoting from the Fides report which was headed "Lefebvre Catholics opt for full communion with Rome". Zenit carried an interview yesterday with the Theologian to the Papal Household, Dominican Fr Georges Cottier, providing his thoughts on the significance of the healing. - Fides/Zenit/CNN/Star Tribune

Anglicans feel pressure from abuse scandals
The controversy surrounding the Anglican Church in Brisbane and the Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth (former Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane) shows no signs of abating. The Australian newspaper reported yesterday that further actions are in the pipeline and the financial implications for the Anglican Church are very serious. - The Australian

Zimbabwe in Chains/Nazareth Mosque/Disqualify Blair from deciding new Archbishop/New Cathedral in Albania/New Glasgow Archbishop under fire/Tape recording of Martin Luther King Jr. restored/$3bn promised to rebuild Afghanistan/Sanctity of Human Life Proclamation by Pres. Bush/Religious Leaders in Assisi Will Repudiate Violence, Pope - Various sources

Opinion - Islam: The Appeal and the Peril
The fact that Islam shares certain roots with Judaism and Christianity gives the religion a certain affinity with us. But the forced conversions ‹ indeed the slaughter ‹ of Christians by Muslims through the ages and today strain that affinity. This is the current "Hot Topic" on the Catholic.Net website. reprinted from the National Catholic Register. Don DeMarco, who teaches Philosophy at St Jerome's University, provides a rich, thought-provoking essay. He concludes: "The inner Jihad leads to purification and peace; its exterior counterpart brings about discrimination and war." - NCR

Feature - "She was the only man on the Falls Road"
The Guardian newspaper carried an inspiring feature story yesterday of a nun in Northern Ireland who seems to have some understanding of applying Christ's admonition to us today: Be Not Afraid! As headmistress of Belfast's largest single-sex school, the formidable Sister Genevieve O'Farrell taught her girls to rise above the Troubles. Former student Mary O'Hara pays tribute to a remarkable woman. - Guardian

PJPII: Natural Law Is Common Ground for Believers and Nonbelievers
Pope John Paul sees natural law as an area of dialogue between believers and nonbelievers who are concerned with the common good. Addressing the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father said on Friday that natural law, the "participation of the rational creature in the eternal law of God," offers decisive elements for the work of Christian lawmakers at the service of human rights. - Zenit

Catholic paper slams secular paper on sexual abuse coverage
In a David and Goliath attack on the weekend, the Catholic newspaper in Western Australia, The Record, trained all its guns on the main secular newspaper in the State, The West Australian, over its coverage of the release of a document from Rome on how sexual abuse and other grave offences are to be dealt with. The attack began on page 1 with the headline "Media Abuse" in response to The West's "Priest Abuse", continued on page 3 with a column by column analysis of where The Record believed The West got it wrong and finished with an editorial (see opinion below) ripping into the editorial in The West. - The Record

Conferences explore ways for Church to become more media savvy
The website of Vidimus Dominum carries reports of a conference held in Rome last week sponsored by the Union of Superiors General urging "we need to know how to train young religious in publishing and social communications". On the other side of the world a conference took place in Miami for representatives from Catholic radio and television networks, internet portals, newspapers and film production companies. CNS carries a report that the Cardinal-Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Lopez Rodgriguez is urging the creation of a Catholic television network that will span all of American from Alaska to Argentina. - Various

Vatican document on Judaism praised by Jews
A document that was released quietly by the Vatican has been drawing much praise in the media over the weekend. Ananova carries a report that "a leader of Rome's Jewish community has praised a new Vatican document that says Christians should respect the Jewish wait for a messiah." The NY Times carried a lengthy report on Friday "Vatican Says Jews' Wait for Messiah Is Validated by the Old Testament" which explained the document in more detail. - Ananova/NYTimes

Opposition to Human Cloning mounts
There have been three reports in recent days of significance in the human cloning debate. Deputies in the French National Assembly have tentatively backed legislation to criminalize reproductive cloning, but to allow research on "spare" human embryos. Britain's Court of Appeal has allowed a government challenge to a High Court decision on the cloning of human embryos. In the US the cloning human beings for the purpose of reproduction is medically unsafe and should be banned, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded. - Zenit/CWN

Contemporary Christian music sales rise again
The Jubilee Debt Campaign, representing over 100 national and church organisations, has just launched a stark new poster campaign, exposing the fact that one year on from Jubilee 2000, government debt promises remain unmet. In the meantime the electronic media is this morning carrying reports of how a dozen unemployed Argentines were symbolically "crucified for capitalism" in a protest against austerity measures, banking restrictions and the government's handling of the worsening Argentine economic crisis. - Photo AFP, Report ICN

Opinion - How not to write an editorial
The WA Catholic Newspaper, The Record, mounted a stringent critique of the coverage given by the mainstream secular newspaper in the State, The West Australian, for its front page coverage of the release of the Rome document on sexual abuse. The editorial in The Record had its focus on the editorial in The West that accompanied the front page article. Includes link to original editorial in The West. - The Record

Feature - Who's to blame for Argentina?
In a background report published on the weekend, Zenit news agency analyses the debate going on in the financial media over the role of the International Monetary Fund. Some see the IMF as the cause of a lot of the difficulties others see it as the solution. Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, argues that the situation in Argentina highlights the urgent need to reform the international financial system, starting with a reform of the IMF. - Zenit

World Leaders push Freedom of Religion/Tolerance
Bush proclaims Religious Freedom Day (Jan16) while in Britain, Tony Blair has met with religious leaders of all faiths in major conference on tolerance. In Pakistan, the Government has dropped religious discrimination in elections. Meanwhile in China a US consulate spokesperson said: "We have called upon China as a member of the international community to meet international standards on freedom of religious expression and freedom of conscience" in the controversy of a Hong Kong man distributing Bibles. - Various Sources

Christian Brother's Leader defends Church's response to abuse
The Province Leader of the Christian Brothers in WA & SA, Br Tony Shanahan, has published a strong letter in The West Australian responding to accusations of how the Church and the Brothers are responding to abuse allegations. He writes: "The Catholic Church's record in this area has been much criticised, often justifiably. However, it doesn't help if this important discussion on child sexual abuse is conducted on the basis of incorrect information or without acknowledging the substantial steps taken by the Catholic Church in recent years." - West Australian

CCJP accuses Federal Minister of "family smashing"
The Executive Officer of the CCJP in Melbourne, Marc Purcell, published a frank news release yesterday welcoming the release of asylum seeker Shayan Badraie's mother Zahraa and sister Shubnam from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney. He then went on to strongly attack the Federal Minister over the continuing incarceration of the boy's father. - CCJP (Melb)

300 Religious Leaders Expected at Assisi
Compared to the 1986 and 1993 meetings for the World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, the meeting next week will include a large Muslim representation from Iran will attend. A provisional list of participants for the meeting scheduled for Jan. 24, reveals that at least 44 religious delegations with 300 people will attend. - Zenit

Arch. Foley decries loss of public service time on TV, radio
The President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John P. Foley, has called it "a disgrace that the public service time once available to religion both on radio and television in the United States is now, for the most part, no longer available." The archbishop also encouraged the formation of communications committees at the parish level and said he was "a special fan" of weekly Catholic newspapers. "We should always be ready to be evangelizers -- not attempting to force something down people's throats, but taking advantage of any opportunity to give witness, in a non-threatening way, to the truth and love of Christ," he said. - CNS

The Jubilee Debt Campaign
The Jubilee Debt Campaign, representing over 100 national and church organisations, has just launched a stark new poster campaign, exposing the fact that one year on from Jubilee 2000, government debt promises remain unmet. In the meantime the electronic media is this morning carrying reports of how a dozen unemployed Argentines were symbolically "crucified for capitalism" in a protest against austerity measures, banking restrictions and the government's handling of the worsening Argentine economic crisis. - Photo AFP, Report ICN

Click here to get the latest updates on media coverage of the Geoghan trial and an interview with the Loretto Nuns after their release from prison.

Opinion - Von Balthasar, Mozart and the quest of beauty
Adelaide concert pianist, music teacher and church musician, Mark Freer, wrote to use during the week. "Having followed your link to Dr Ken Craven's magnificent Tolkien article on the Traditional Catholic Reflections website, I offered TCR my own essay entitled "Von Balthasar, Mozart and the Quest of Beauty" with the comment that it is also about "fairy tales come true". My article now features on the TCR website, and I would be very happy if you could give it a mention and a link, as it describes a very beautiful but little-known story of faith." This is a rich essay, well worth the read. - TCR

Feature - Backgrounder on the new leader of the American Bishops
Wilton Gregory was elected two months ago as the first African-American president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Newsday published a lengthy and detailed background report earlier this week under the title, A Priest's Priest. He first felt the calling to priesthood at the age of eleven. His mother sort out a priest for advice who enquired where he had been baptized. His mother replied: "Oh, Wilton has never been baptized. We're not Catholic!" The report continues" "That dimple-faced child with the uncanny sense of calling has been confounding expectations ever since. By age 25, Gregory was ordained a priest, and by 35, he was the youngest bishop in America. Two months ago, he became the de facto voice of the American Catholic Church after his election as the first African-American president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops." - Newsday

Thaw in Rome-Moscow relations?
There are further signs of an improving climate of relations between Rome and Moscow. The Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, has published an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that he is willing to invite John Paul II to visit Moscow "at any time," and to encourage the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches to "establish full relations". - Zenit

Geoghan Sex Case Testimony To Start
The first of three criminal trials of defrocked priest, John J. Geoghan, has begun in Boston. At the same time a second priest has been arrested in Boston on child rape charges. - CBS News/USA Today

The cost of a Catholic Education
Catholic parents continue to make considerable financial sacrifices according to the Executive Director of Schools in Sydney, Br Kelvin Canavan. In a background report published in this week's Catholic Weekly, Br Canavan estimates that Catholic parents in the Sydney Archdiocese are now paying over $100m per annum in fees and other school-related charges. - Catholic Weekly

More controversy on sharing the communion cup...
The issue of sharing the communion cup has erupted in America after a 49-year-old teacher died from meningococcemia on New Year's Day. Two days earlier, she drank from a cup shared by others during Communion at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Arlington. - Dallas Morning Star

Freed nuns vow to renew protests at training base
Three elderly Loretto Nuns have served six month sentences in Illinois for protesting at a training base for Latin American soldiers. On their release from custody they said they intend to continue protesting. Ð Chicago Tribune

Timor reconciliation commission to open next week
East Timor will formally open a truth and reconciliation commission next week, in a major step toward shedding light on widespread human rights abuses committed during Indonesia's brutal rule over the territory. - ABC News

Opinion - The Challenges That Theology Is Facing
Teologia, the journal of the school of theology of Northern Italy, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Zenit news agency carries an interview today with the director of the journal, Monsignor Giuseppe Angelini. Mgr Angelini, who is also professor of moral theology and the president of the school since 1994, speaks about the challenges facing theology today. - Zenit

Feature - In praise of the civilizing obsession of cricket
University of Notre Dame (Indiana) academic, Peter Walshe, writes in praise of Cricket: "Could it be that C.L.R. James, the West Indian classicist and Marxist, got it right when he argued in his book Beyond a Boundary that Britain, as it industrialized, was insulated from some of the nastier cultural depredations of capitalism by the civilizing influence of sport, particularly cricket? Cricket, he believed, provided a paradigm of an egalitarian society where cooperation, competition and the celebration of individual prowess were played out within the rules of the game. James also discerned a subtle sense of restraint -- of respect for oneÕs opponents and an unwillingness to win at any cost." - NCR

Pope John Paul comments on the meaning of suffering
In his message for World Day of the Sick (Feb 11) released on Monday, Pope John Paul has discussed the Christian understanding of suffering. - Zenit

Cardinal's historic homily to the Queen
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, made history when he preached at Sandringham on Sunday at the personal invitation of the Queen. The event has been widely reported in the international media. - Various

Congregation for Doctrine of Faith meets in Rome
The members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will meet in Rome this week for their annual plenary session. - CWN/EWTN

WA Pro-lifers accuse government of secrecy
The West Australian government has been accused of secrecy by Pro Lifers over its handling of a review into State's abortion laws. The laws, the most liberal in Australia when passed in 1998, are now being examined as part of a requirement in the Act that it be reviewed after three years. - The West Australian

Knights of Columbus Pledge $1m to World Youth Day
Day The Knights of Columbus announced a $1 million gift to World Youth Day to fund the construction of a Park of Reconciliation where the sacrament of reconciliation will be offered during the July 23-26 meeting of the world's youth with Pope John Paul II in Toronto. - Knights of Columbus

6,000 people copy out Bible in 16 minutes
6,000 students, attending a religious conference in Picarquin, Chile, wrote down the bible in just over 16 minutes. They hope it will win them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. - Ananova

Opinion - Liberals' Dream Choice for Pope Plans to Retire
Melinda Hennenberger of the NY Times recently interviewed Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini whom she describes as "the popular archbishop of Milan, has long been cast as the progressive Catholic's dream candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II". She has produced a fascinating feature article published on 13 January where Cardinal Martini opens up on a range of issues challenging the Church and the world. Ms Hennenberger says the Cardinal "made clear that his maverick image had been overdrawn" and herself reaches the conclusion from her interview that "it seems mistaken to characterize this cautious and complicated man as pushing hard for change". - NY Times

Feature - Faith, the Brain, Science and Cures
Two interesting feature reports in the last few days focus on the relationship between science and faith. Zenit produced a report last weekend, "Scientific Studies Link Faith and Cures", on work going on at the Rabin Medical Center in Tel Aviv. carried a report on Monday, "Spirituality and the Brain", asking "Does Research Show New Evidence for Faith, or a Challenge to Religion?". Also worth looking at is The Times Talking Point E-Lectures, "The Brain of the Future", with Baroness Susan Greenfield who is a leading researcher into the brain. Professor Greenfield was the presenter of the series "Brain Story" on Compass (ABC Television) last year. - Zenit/ Times
"Scientific Studies Link Faith and Cures" - Zenit
"Spirituality and the Brain" -
"The Brain of the Future" - The Times

Vinnies Bushfire appeal raises $120,000
The St Vincent de Paul Society raised more than $100,000 through its parish bushfire appeal at the start of the month. This was in addition to $20,000 raised through its appeal hotline in the preceding weeks, bringing the appeal total to $120,000 so far. - Catholic Weekly

Pope gives word of encouragement for World Youth Day
Pope John Paul II gave a word of support today to the final preparations for the forthcoming World Youth Day in Toronto. - Zenit (UK)

Agnostic to lead Catholic anti-sex abuse unit
Ananova reports that the Church has named an agnostic single mother as the new head of its drive to stamp out sex abuse among priests in England. - Ananova

Bishop's remains back in NZ
A bishop buried in France more than century ago is back in the country that became his second home. - ONE News

Bishop's remains back in NZ
A bishop buried in France more than century ago is back in the country that became his second home. - ONE News

Nazareth Mosque blocked
The Israeli government on Wednesday ordered a halt to all work on a controversial mosque being built on the doorstep of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. - ACNAUS/Daily Telegraph

Crisis resolved at Catholic faculty in Prague
A long-term crisis at the Catholic theological faculty of Charles University in Prague ended in late December. - The Tablet

Opinion - Ecology and the Church
The editorial writer for the current issue of the Catholic Weekly uses the NSW bush fires as the introduction to some questions concerning the Church's response to ecological issues. The paper states: "The Catholic Church has come rather late to the ecological party, but it is certainly there now and pronouncements by Pope John Paul II and others have made it clear that Catholics should be getting involved in this area." The thrust of the editorial is that we all have a part to play in ecology. The editorial ends: "the message of this summerÕs blockbuster film, The Lord of the Rings, implies Ð humble people and humble actions can go a long way. Just ask Frodo." - Catholic Weekly

Feature - After sex abuse scandals, many priests tread warily
The Boston Globe carried an in-depth feature on Sunday exploring the impact of sex abuse scandals on the many priests in the Church who haven't been implicated. The report includes personal reflections from a number of priests. The paper comments: "The crisis of clergy sexual abuse has taken an enormous toll on the Catholic Church, harming victims and their families and shattering the faith of many others. But the crisis has also been devastating for the vast majority of priests who are not child molesters. Accused of nothing, they find their own lives dramatically transformed by the abusive behavior of others, and by the occasional failure of the church they love to detect, deter, or stop that abuse." - Boston Globe

Greek Orthodox head declines papal invitation
Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek-Orthodox Church, declined a papal invitation to visit the Vatican -- a chance to reciprocate for John Paul II's trip to Greece last May. - Zenit

Former Catholic favoured for Anglican top job
The man widely tipped to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury was a Roman Catholic in his youth, the Church of England confirmed on Saturday. - Independent (UK)

British Cardinal makes history preaching to Queen
For the first time in over 400 years, a Catholic has preached to the British Royal Family in one of its own churches. - BBC

Survey shows most young Irish believe in God
The perception that the youth of Ireland has abandoned religion is cast in doubt by the results of a new study that claims 95% of young Irish people pray at some time. - ICN

Church in NZ explores cut-price scheme for electricity
An effort is under way to use the muscle of New Zealand Church agencies and institutions to get a better deal on electricity prices. - NZ Catholic

Filipino bishops warn Lord of the Rings is not for kids
Catholic bishops in the Philippines have criticised Hollywood's Lord of the Rings, saying the film's graphic battle scenes could give children nightmares. - ABC

Opinion - Jesus does not seek vengeance
The Pope's appeal for world peace on 1 January is particularly urgent because of the terrorist attacks and the conflicts in the Middle East. The God of vengeance is not the God of Jesus. Christ is no Rambo exacting vengeance on his enemies and winning glory in battle. Christ embodies God's ultimate identification with the victims of violence and injustice. - Fr Bruce Duncan CSsR / Catholic Weekly

Feature - Winds of change: Top Vatican officials hit retirement age in 2002
The winds of change were blowing at the Vatican early this year -- a year in which several leading officials will reach the normal retirement age of 75. The potential vacancies give Pope John Paul II an opportunity to bring new personalities into his papacy as it proceeds through its 24th year -- in March, it will become the sixth longest pontificate in history. - CNS

Hickey insists Church respects law on priest pedophilia
Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey says the Catholic Church is not trying to bypass civil law in its preferred methods of handling allegations of paedophilia against priests. - The West Australian/Newsday

Pope tells diplomats: Do not be afraid
Pope John Paul II yesterday addressed the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, urging them not to let themselves become overwhelmed by fear in these 'dark' times. - MISNA

Pope criticised in Nazareth mosque controversy
An Islamic leader yesterday accused Pope John Paul II and other top clergy of meddling in a dispute over the building of a mosque near a major Christian shrine in Nazareth. - CNN

Zimbabwe's bishops say they will avoid party politics
Zimbabwe's bishops said they will stay out of party politics in the weeks leading to the March presidential elections. - CNS

Bishop's remains returning to NZ
The remains of the bishop who founded the Catholic Church in New Zealand are on their way back to the country. - One News

Gay association to ask Pope for homosexual patron saint
An Italian gay association is to ask the Pope to give homosexuals a patron saint. - Ananova

Opinion - Padre Pio's stigmata: mind over matter
On 20 September 1918, at the age of thirty, Padre Pio received the stigmata visibly and permanently until his death at the age of 81. I know of no one who has denied the existence of Padre Pio's stigmata. Even his archbishop, who ordered his clergy to denounce Padre Pio as a fraud, acknowledged that the stigmata were real holes in his body; he alleged that they were self-inflicted. - Fr John A. Schug OFMCap / Homiletic & Pastoral Review (via

Feature - Vatican drug manual on where church draws the line
The manual published last month by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers notes that it is a serious error to think that our desires for peace, happiness and personal satisfaction will be automatically fulfilled by means ingesting some type of chemical cocktail. The Church opposes the legalisation of drugs, including so-called soft drugs that foster the same type of dependence mentality and the loss of personal dignity that hard drugs produce.

Church says Vatican not above law on pedophile priests
Amidst suggestions that new procedures for dealing with clergy sexual abuse allegations could requre senior church officials to practise civil disobedience, a spokesman for the Australian Catholic Church said the instruction should not be interpreted as a call to ignore the law of the land. - ABC/CMO

Pell announces $100,000 aid for fire victims
Sydney's Archbishop George Pell has announced that $100,000 from the Archdiocesan Charitable Works Fund disaster budget will be provided to Centacare to assist in providing counselling and support for those suffering the trauma and shock of this devastation. - Catholic Weekly

Bathersby tells New Age nuns to put house in order
Brisbane's Archbishop John Bathersby has told the religious orders involved in the city's controversial Womenspace community centre at Kedron to thoroughly examine its operations after allegations that the centre has held meetings or distributed material related to witchcraft or New Age practices. - Catholic Leader

Vatican praise for retiring Archbishop of Canterbury
The Holy See quickly expressed its gratitude for Archbishop George Carey's efforts at ecumenism over the years following this week's announcement of his retirement in October. - Zenit

Vatican aide ponders possibility of extra-terrestrial life
Scientific studies on the possibility of intelligent life on other planets is not against the Christian faith, according to the director of the Vatican Observatory. - Zenit

Opus Dei conference celebrates 100th birthday of founder
An international conference titled The Grandeur of Ordinary Life opened in Rome on Tuesday, as members of Opus Dei began their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Blessed Josemaria Escriva. - CWN

Opinion - Arsonists' cry for help a wake-up call for community
NSW Premier Bob Carr's restorative justice idea would probably work - making the young arsonists meet fire victims and tour burns unit to show them the damage fire can do. But many people today feel ignored and uncared for and some end up caring little for others as a result. Perhaps as much as just punishment for their actions, such people also await our care and concern. - Catholic Weekly

Feature - Alaskan bishops seek views for pastoral on hunting, fishing
Joe Beaty said every fish he catches is a "gift from God". But the avid sports fisherman told the bishops of Alaska his faith would compel him to give up his favourite pastime if it were necessary to ensure there would be enough fish for those who depend on them for survival. He was invited to share his views with the bishops of the state as they prepare a pastoral document on the topic of subsistence. - CNS

Vatican issues new rules on pedophile priests
The Vatican has issued new rules for local Church authorities to deal with pedophile priests, saying they should stand trial in closed ecclesiastical courts. - Reuters

Vatican plans auction for Afghan war victims
In an extraordinary effort to raise funds for war victims in Afghanistan, the Vatican is planning to auction off items including works of art, books, and even episcopal rings. - CWN

Italian bishops approve low-gluten host for celiac disease sufferers
In a policy move that reflects differing medical opinion in Europe and the United States, Italy's bishops approved a low-gluten Eucharist host for sufferers of celiac disease. - CNS

Sociologist addresses challenges of multicultural parishes
A leading Jesuit sociologist in the United States has said that the ideal parish situation for new migrants is not a multicultural parish, but their own ethnic parish. - CNS

Bishops say Argentina's crisis is a moral one
Argentina's Catholic bishops have urged politicians to face up to their own role in the nation's crisis, stating that, beyond economics and politics, the problems are the result of leaders' moral corruption. - Zenit

Priests tell parishioners to bless their own houses
Overworked priests near Milan have devised a 'blessing kit' to make sure families get their traditional holiday benediction. - Zoomata

Opinion - Dilemma of a gay teacher in a Catholic school
I am a Catholic school teacher. I am gay. I am proud to be both. We will have religion class tomorrow. As a teacher, I must teach the doctrines of the church. What do I say about gays? - US Catholic

Feature - St Thérèse of Lisieux was captivated by Jesus' vulnerability
Why did St Thérèse have such a devotion to the Child Jesus? In his infancy and passion, Jesus is defenceless, 'delivered up' to human hands. Here was something that caught at her heart and on which she dwelt incessantly. Love must offer itself nakedly and be received in its nakedness. - Ruth Burrows / The Tablet

Pope ordains 10 bishops during Mass celebrating Epiphany
Pope John Paul II regretted that the true spirit of the Christmas season is being lost by consumerism and urged the faithful on Sunday to focus on the holiday's original meaning. - Ananova

John Paul II sends greetings during Russian Christmas
Pope John Paul II on Sunday congratulated the Eastern Churches, particularly the Russian Orthodox, which celebrate Christmas on the night of 6 January. - Zenit

Polish PM Invites Pope for return visit
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller has invited John Paul II to make another pastoral visit to Poland. - Zenit

Communicants in Texas run little risk of exposure to meningitis
The death of a woman from bacterial meningitis two days after drinking wine from the chalice as an Arlington church has caused safety fears in the Texas community. - CNS

Sister Emmanuelle of Cairo Receives French Legion of Honour
The nun popularly known as Sister Emmanuelle of Cairo has received her native France's Legion of Honor. - Zenit

Italian Catholics alarmed by brothel proposal
A suggestion by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that state-run brothels, outlawed 44 years ago, may return to Italy has been condemned as "obscene and scandalous" by Catholic commentators. - Guardian

Opinion - Thank God for secularism
In early December, the Pope encouraged Catholics worldwide to fast on the last day of Ramadan, and thus to share in the spirituality of the Islamic world. Precisely because I live in secular America I find myself able to admire people whose religious faith is not my own. And I feel my own faith burnished by their good example - Richard Rodriguez, editor Pacific News Service / LA Times

Feature - Birth of new monastic communities in Italy
Communities in the form of associations of the faithful are emerging in Italy. They foster a sense of common life and a rootedness in Scripture, and form an antidote to 'an overly bureaucratic Church'. Theologian Mario Torcivia says they rely on the support of traditional monastic communities, which are 'urged not to feel themselves the sole custodians of the monastic charism'. - Vidimus Dominum

Pope's message of support for Sydney aboriginal medical centre
An appeal for Vatican backing in its campaign for the reversal of an Archdiocesan decision to end its 'rent-free' tenure of land ajoining St Vincent's Church, Redfern, has been boosted by an encouraging letter from the Pope. - SMH

Pope promotes Family Studies bishop
Pope John Paul on Saturday named Bishop Angelo Scola, the head of the Vatican's Institute on Marriage and the Family, as the new Patriarch of Venice. - AP

Vatican official cautions against syncretism
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has cautioned against syncretism in ecumenical dialogue. - CWN

Survey reveals Irish peace process widens religious divide
The gulf between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland has widened since the peace process, new research has revealed. - Irish News

Laotian priestless parish celebrates late Christmas for children
Children were the focus of a late Christmas celebration in a priestless village in Laos. - CNS

Catholics slam food art exhibit
The Catholic League of Religious and Civil Rights in the USA is protesting against an exhibit at a Californian food and wine museum that depicts the Pope and nuns defecating. - Los Angeles Times

Opinion - The path from hate to Love
The Japanese seldom speak about the bomb. In my many decades in Japan I have encountered little talk of revenge. The attack on the World Trade Centre was a turning-point. "No negotiation with terrorists" is the slogan. "We are good: terrorists are evil." The frightening thing is that the Islamic fundamentalists who destroyed the Twin Towers have the same way of thinking. - religious dialogue expert Fr William Johnston SJ / The Tablet

Feature - The Lord of the Rings 'a great Catholic poem'
JRR Tolkien was a Catholic who had traditional Catholicism, the Catholicism of altars, feasts, fasts, heroic suffering, rituals, saints, miracles, doctrines, and mysteries, in his very bones. The Lord of the Rings is a great poem about the ultimate things made by a Catholic imagination steeped in the greatest of Western traditions. - TCR News

Argentinian Bishops say everyone must build new homeland
Argentina's bishops have issued a New Year call for the country's population, and political leaders in particular, to act with responsibility as the nation remains on the brink of chaos. - Fides

Vatican says Bishops cannot require priests to use altar girls
In an English-language document, the Vatican said bishops cannot require their priests to use female altar servers. - CNS

Vatican Euro delayed by Italian production problems
Delays in the distribution of the Italian version of the euro are holding up the Vatican's version of the Euro. - Reuters

Taizé community head urges young people to 'overcome hopelessness'
The head of the ecumenical Taize community urged young people to "overcome hopelessness" and experience the "miracle of forgiveness." - CNS

Rome's chief excorcist warns parents against Harry Potter
Rome's official exorcist, Fr Gabriele Amorth, has warned parents against J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, suggesting that Satan is behind the works. -

Australian pilgrims returning to the skies
Two Australian pilgrimage operators say travellers are taking to the skies again following the 11 September terrorist attacks and despite continuing conflict in the Holy Land. - Catholic Weekly

Opinion - Christ shows the way to peace
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you." The coming of the Messiah does make sense, even in a world rocked by violence and evil. I wonder what would have happened if the response of the West to 11 September had been a determination to address the root causes of terrorism. - Sr Mary Cresp RSJ, Executive Director, Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes / Catholic Weekly

Feature - The Real Meaning of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"
Much more than a haunting melody with nonsensical lyrics, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century as a catechetical device. - Fr Edward Dowling, Have You Heard the Good News? (Alba House) /

Vinnies seeks disaster relief assistance
The St Vincent de Paul Society is asking Australians for monetary donations to assist those affected by the bushfires in NSW and the ACT. - Catholic Communications (Sydney)

Four churches bombed in Indonesia
Explosions rocked four churches in the volatile central Sulawesi province, while a separate blast hit Jakarta on New Year's Day killing one person. - Zenit

Perth Catholic uni establishes Philosophy and Ethics school
A separate school of Philosophy and Ethics has emerged from Notre Dame University's College of Theology. - Newman Graduate

2.5 million visit Pope at Vatican in 2001
John Paul II in 2001 met with 2.5 million faithful in public events, not including parish visits and pastoral trips, the Vatican reported. - Zenit

Pope welcomes arrival of common European currency
Pope John Paul II has welcomed the arrival of Europe's common currency, expressing the hope that the Euro will promote development and unity. - Ananova

Thousands defy police to attend Chinese bishop's funeral
The funeral of Beijing "underground" Bishop Matthias Pei Shangde, was attended by five thousand people, according to eyewitness accounts. - Fides

Opinion - Knights chairman confronts membership decline
All lay apostolates seem to be facing an enormous challenge in attracting active members today. The Knights has been facing a decline in both overall and active membership for at least a couple of decades and much energy has been expended in trying to address the challenges but without much result so far. If you look out into the wider community, political parties, trade unions, service clubs and all manner of other community organisations have been facing the same challenge. - Chris Hunt, WA State Chairman, Knights of the Southern Cross / Newman Graduate

Feature - Faith amidst the flames
'We have a black landscape out the back of our house. Thanks for your prayers.' In the midst of a scorching summer, Australians battle the devastating effect of bushfires. It is a time of hardship and sacrifice. - The Story Source: Prayers & reflections for home and parish

Pope prays for strength to continue
Pope John Paul II prayed on Monday for the strength to continue in his papacy, which has seen a once robust, tireless pontiff lose energy and struggle with health problems. - AP

Pope urges New Year resolution to set aside anger
Pope John Paul II asked individuals and families to begin the New Year by setting aside feelings of anger and by giving thanks for the blessings they have received. - CNS

Demonstrators hold prayer vigil at military checkpoint
Hundreds of Palestinians and foreigners led by Catholic priests staged a prayer vigil near one of the Israeli military checkpoints ringing Bethlehem. - Ananova

Ordinary Aussies the face of Federation
Canberra parish priest Fr Bill Kennedy, long-time educator and Missionary of the Sacred Heart Fr Harold Baker and Rosary School principal Mrs Moira Sutch were among the 4000 Australians honoured on the slopes of Parliament House last month. - Catholic Voice

Irish bishops' move arouses discontent
A decision by the Catholic bishops to move more than 40 church agencies to their headquarters in the County Kildare town of Maynooth is leading to internal dissent and large-scale staff losses. - Irish Times

End-of-the-world priest accused of stealing from followers
A Catholic priest who told believers the end of the world was nigh has been accused of stealing their belongings. - Ananova

Opinion - Why Muslims find Americans hard to love
Instead of dropping bombs and killing innocent people, the United States should ask what are the reasons that so many Muslims all over the world hate and resent America. - Fr Andrew Greeley / Daily South Town

Feature - 2001: Reviewing an eventful year
As Pope John Paul II closed the Holy Door to end the Jubilee Year, Australians were still basking in Olympic glory, and the Centenary of Federation gave us something to celebrate. Sydney gained Archbishop George Pell and played host to the Vatican's World Day of the Sick celebrations, the first Vatican World Day event to be held in Australia. - Catholic Weekly