German newspaper says pope was spied on
OXFORD, England (CNS) - A German newspaper has published details of how East Germany's communist secret police, or Stasi, spied on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger three decades before he became Pope Benedict XVI. "Long before his nomination as prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, state security ministry agents kept watch on him," the Bild am Sonntag weekly reported Oct. 2. The newspaper also noted that one agent "wrote with concern that, as congregation prefect, he would have an influence on the growth of anti-communist attitudes in the Catholic Church, especially in Latin America." The tabloid, which was given exclusive access to archives covering two decades, said a Stasi agent codenamed "Birke" (Birch) had begun regular surveillance of the future pontiff when, as a priest and professor at the University of Regensburg, he visited East Germany in April 1974 to lecture on "problems of modern theology" at the University of Erfurt.
Eucharist gives hope in war, says Iraqi patriarch
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - The Eucharist is a source of needed strength and hope to those in the midst of war, conflict or personal difficulties, said several participants in the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of war-torn Baghdad, Iraq, said Jesus "is our strength and our consolation" during times of "difficulty and persecution." Jesus in the Eucharist "is the light that illuminates the path that leads us to eternal life" and is "the living manna that gives us life and sustains us," he told the Synod of Bishops Oct. 6. According to information released by the Vatican, his remarks were met with applause.
New California law makes human trafficking a crime
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law the most comprehensive legislation in the country to combat human trafficking and modern day slavery: the California Trafficking Victims' Protection Act. "Now we have a great tool to expand our efforts in this area," said Steve Cooley, Los Angeles district attorney during a Sept. 21 press conference at his downtown office shortly after the governor signed the legislation, supported by several communities of women religious. A federal law already exists against human trafficking, but Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, one of the bill's principal sponsors, said the state law would empower local police and prosecutors to get directly involved when they suspect human trafficking is taking place in their local communities. Among those who lobbied for passage of the bill were hundreds of Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
Orange Diocese makes progress in retiring debt
ORANGE, Calif. (CNS) - Less than a year after the Diocese of Orange settled clergy sex-abuse lawsuits with 90 plaintiffs for $100 million, the diocese has repaid 70 percent of its half of the debt without affecting the funds of Catholic schools and parishes. The other half of the settlement total was paid out by eight liability insurers. The diocese retired $35 million in debt this summer with funds drawn from the diocesan general fund and reductions in the diocesan investment portfolio. Diocesan officials said the remaining $15 million is expected to be repaid by next June. "Instead of 20 years of crippling and demoralizing debt, our lay advisers have mapped out a financial plan that is as progressive as our diocese," said Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange. The bishop was referring to the 10-member Task Force on Debt Reduction, made up largely of lay business executives, working as volunteers.
Protect rights of allies, enemies, bishop says
WASHINGTON (CNS) - Efforts to combat terrorism, while a top priority for the government, must not undermine respect for human dignity, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy said in a letter to U.S. senators. "We believe that a respect for the dignity of every human person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice and peace," said Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., in the letter. "There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason," he added. In the letter, Bishop Ricard urged senators to approve amendments to the 2006 Defense Authorization Act proposed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and backed by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The text of the bishop's letter was released Oct. 5 by the U.S. bishops' conference.
Louisiana priests who fled Rita face unknowns
TYLER, Texas (CNS) - Five LaSalette priests from Sulphur, La., who fled to east Texas in advance of Hurricane Rita said they were happy to find refuge in the Tyler Diocese but now face the same uncertainties as other storm evacuees. "We're getting bits and pieces of information," said Father Donald Jeffrey. "What we know is that Sulphur won't be habitable for about a month. There are a few priests we don't have any word on, so we're hoping to find out that they're all right." His parish of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Carlyss, just outside Sulphur, and Father John Blumm's parish, Our Lady of LaSalette in Sulphur, are in the Diocese of Lake Charles, La., an area hit hard by Rita, which made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border Sept. 24. The diocese's Web site lists four churches in Cameron Parish, a civil entity, along with four mission chapels, that were destroyed by wind and water. Severe water damage has left the chancery building in Lake Charles unusable, according to the site, and the Catholic Service Center, which offers social services, was destroyed.
Denver gathering opens celebration of EWTN
DENVER (CNS) - When Mother Angelica started her work to establish the Eternal Word Television Network, "she knew the Holy Father was calling us to evangelize," said Deacon Bill Steltemeier, chairman of the Alabama-based network. "Every challenge has been met head-on. We are who we are, we tell the truth, and we're in union with the Holy Father. We love the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist and that's it," he said. The deacon made the comments during a two-day family celebration at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver marking the beginning of a yearlong celebration of EWTN's 25th year. The Oct. 1-2 conference, one of several being held in cities around the country, featured prayers, opportunities for eucharistic adoration and seminars with some of the network's hosts, including Marcus Grodi, host of "Journey Home," and Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, host of "Threshold of Hope" and "EWTN Live."
Trenton Diocese receives top Proclaim honors
WASHINGTON (CNS) - The Diocese of Trenton, N.J., earned three 2005 Proclaim Awards for "Realfaith TV," a half-hour talk show for teens that deals with such issues as depression, abortion, war and self-harm. The show, which premiered in 2002, won in the categories for TV talk shows, TV public service and paid announcements, and radio public service announcements. The Proclaim Awards are given by the U.S. bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign. The awards honor excellence in communications in the dioceses that participate in the CCC. This year's awards were presented Sept. 25 during a reception for diocesan communication personnel at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. Six Proclaim Awards and 13 certificates of merit were presented to representatives of 14 dioceses.