Canadian bishops fight same-sex marriage bill
OTTAWA (CNS) - As the Canadian Parliament prepared to introduce same-sex marriage legislation, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops sent letters to government leaders reiterating their opposition and urging that legislators be allowed to vote according to their consciences. The bishops "stand united in their opposition to legislation that would redefine marriage in such a way that it is no longer recognized as the unique, essential and fundamental relationship of a man and a woman," said letters to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. The letters, sent on behalf of the bishops by Archbishop Brendan O'Brien of St. John's, Newfoundland, CCCB president, were dated Jan. 31. On Feb. 1, the Canadian government introduced a same-sex marriage bill into the House of Commons. The legislation contained provisions protecting religious groups that choose not to perform same-sex marriages.
In Peru, victims' relatives have long wait for justice
LIMA, Peru (CNS) - Thirteen years after her brother's burned body was found in a shallow grave in the desert outside the Peruvian capital, Gisela Ortiz is still waiting for his killers to be brought to justice. Her hopes, which rose when charges were brought against members of a military death squad known as the Colina Group, were dashed again in late January: Three members of the group were released from prison and placed under house arrest because they had been held for more than 36 months without being sentenced. "We're indignant that the judiciary has allowed this to happen," Ortiz said. "We had hoped for a faster trial for the members of the Colina Group. Who's to guarantee that these people will really remain under house arrest and won't escape?" The case underscores the difficulties that Peru faces in bringing to justice people accused of committing human rights abuses during the 1990-2000 authoritarian government of former President Alberto Fujimori, when government forces fought the Maoist Shining Path and the Marxist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
Bishops criticize lawsuit against conscience clause
OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) - California's Catholic bishops and a spokesman for Catholic health care organizations in the state have expressed dismay at efforts to overturn a federal "conscience clause" protecting those who refuse to perform abortions. In a joint statement, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, who is president of the California Catholic Conference, and William J. Cox, president of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, objected to a suit filed Jan. 25 by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to challenge the clause as unconstitutional. The provision, the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, was part of the 2005 Health and Human Services appropriation bill signed by President George W. Bush Dec. 8, 2004. It states that agencies or local governments that discriminate against doctors, hospitals or programs for refusing to provide, pay for or refer for abortions may not receive funding under the act. Lockyer said the amendment would allow the U.S. government to block $49 billion in funds allocated to California if the state barred funding to a hospital or health care provider who refused to perform an emergency abortion.
Stolen tabernacle returned to church
DETROIT (CNS) - A tabernacle, stolen from St. Augustine and St. Monica Church in Detroit Jan. 10 by thieves who reportedly thought it was a safe, was returned Jan. 27. According to a man who returned the tabernacle to the church for a monetary reward, two men and a woman had taken the tabernacle and later brought it to him for some money. He returned the tabernacle and some of its contents, including a ciborium, which is a container for consecrated hosts; a custodia, used to transport hosts; and a lunette, a crescent-shaped clip used to hold the host upright in a monstrance. Except for one large consecrated host contained in the lunette, the others that had been in the tabernacle were missing, allegedly consumed by the thieves who told the man they were hungry. "We're happy the tabernacle and its contents were returned, but we're especially grateful to learn the Blessed Sacrament had not been treated in a sacrilegious manner," said Father Daniel Trapp, pastor of St. Augustine and St. Monica Parish.
Historic church will rise from ashes, bishop says
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (CNS) - Four days after seeing their vintage church go up in flames, parishioners of St. Peter's Church in this town on the tip of Cape Cod stood and applauded when Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River announced that a new house of worship would be built. On Jan. 29, Bishop Coleman celebrated a Mass in the parish hall that was attended by 300 people. He comforted and assured them that their parish would survive the Jan. 25 fire that destroyed their 130-year-old church. The three-alarm blaze, apparently started by an electrical problem, quickly burned through the church's wooden structure, leading to the collapse of the roof and steeple, and leaving only the outer walls standing. But at a reception following the Mass in the parish hall, Bishop Coleman spoke optimistically about the future of the parish. "I am pleased to assure you that the church was fully insured," he said. "This parish, with the intercession of St. Peter, will build a new church building."
For newlyweds, a series of unfortunate events
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - When Pope John Paul II gets sick, millions of people pray for him, and thousands of people can end up losing a special chance to see him. But the pope's Feb. 1 hospitalization and the cancellation of his Feb. 2 general audience were particular blows for Americans Valerie Pajak and Gus Glyptis. The couple missed an opportunity for a papal blessing and a wedding photo with the pope - for the second week in a row. Pajak and Glyptis were married Jan. 22 in St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. In planning their honeymoon, they had three goals: visit Krakow, Poland, where her grandparents came from; visit Greece, where his family's roots are; and visit the Vatican. Pajak said her father told her about Pope John Paul's general audience practice of offering his blessing to couples who have been married less than two months. "It made a big difference in how we planned our trip," Glyptis said. But the honeymoon plans kept falling apart; "I wondered if I had a black cloud hanging over my head," the groom said.
Nebraska priest named as bishop of Wichita
WASHINGTON (CNS) - Msgr. Michael O. Jackels, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., who has served for eight years at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has been named bishop of Wichita, Kan. The appointment was announced Jan. 28. Bishop-designate Jackels, 50, succeeds Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who was appointed bishop of Phoenix in November 2003. "I am certainly honored by the Holy Father's choice and by the confidence that he has placed in me, but also humbled by it," Bishop-designate Jackels said at press conference at the chancery in Wichita.