Organized crime suspected in Tijuana priest's murder
MEXICO CITY (CNS) - An unknown gunman shot and killed a Catholic priest from the border city of Tijuana, and authorities suspect the murder might have been the work of organized crime. Father Luis Velasquez Romero was handcuffed in his car and shot six times with a pistol during the early hours of Oct. 24, Mexican media reported. The city's top homicide detective, Francisco Castro Trenti, said police were "provisionally" treating the murder as related to organized crime, the Mexico City newsmagazine Proceso reported. However, Castro said police were unaware of Father Velasquez having received any threats. Father Velasquez, 52, was well-known in Tijuana for his outspoken sermons that often criticized local politicians. The Tijuana newspaper Frontera reported that police did not discover his body for an hour after the murder, despite the shooting having occurred in Plaza Zapato, a trendy bar and nightclub complex.
Firearms referendum fails despite church support
SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) - A referendum that would have stopped the sale of small firearms and ammunition to civilians in Brazil failed to pass despite the efforts of the Catholic Church. Only 36 percent of voters supported the ban in a nationwide referendum Oct. 23. Brazil's Catholic Church was one of the leading groups to push for the prohibition of firearms in the country. In July 2004, when the government started a disarmament campaign, encouraging citizens to turn in their firearms in exchange for money, toys and food, Catholic churches all over the country transformed into collection centers for weapons. Since the beginning of the campaign, government officials estimate that more than 443,700 firearms were given to authorities to be destroyed. The Brazilian bishops' conference asked priests to encourage Catholics to dispose of their firearms. According to Sou da Paz institute, each year in Brazil more than 40,000 people die of gunshot wounds.
Truth commissioners receive death threats
LIMA, Peru (CNS) - Two years after Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its report on two decades of political violence in the country, former commission members, including the president of the Catholic University of Peru, are the target of death threats and harassment. The threats have come during the trial of several military officials charged with human rights violations and mentioned in the truth commission report. "Their aim is to frighten us, to silence us," Salomon Lerner, former head of the commission and Catholic University president, said of the death threats and harassing phone calls and e-mail messages that he and other former commission members have received. "It's a systematically organized attack. The message is that we've sullied the military and have not recognized the merits of the people who saved Peru."
Agency responds to hardest hit by Wilma
IMMOKALEE, Fla. (CNS) - Like many residents of Immokalee, Debara Milton didn't have a lot to call her own prior to Hurricane Wilma, other than a job at one of the local tomato-packing houses and a roof over her head. After Wilma tore through the agricultural town in the early hours of Oct. 24, she and many other residents now have even less. "All the panels were torn off my trailer on one side," she said while standing in line outside Guadalupe Social Services Oct. 26. Two of the windows also were blown in and the front door was damaged and, of course, there is no electricity or running water. If that weren't enough, it looks like this season's tomato crop was wiped out, meaning that she may not have a job waiting for her when power returns to the area. "I don't know what we're going to do," she told The Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Venice Diocese. "I got no work, I got no money. I may go to the labor pool in Naples, if they'll take me."
Portland-area Catholics testify in bankruptcy
PORTLAND, Ore (CNS) - Parish properties belong to the parishes themselves, not to the Archdiocese of Portland, Catholic parishioners told a federal bankruptcy court at a mid-October hearing. All 390,000 Catholics in the archdiocese are class-action defendants in the archdiocese's bankruptcy case. The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection last July to settle sexual abuse claims against it. Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows the archdiocese to reorganize financially. The parishioners who spoke at the Oct. 11 court hearing echoed what the archdiocese, the parishes and canon law say - parish assets belong to the parishes, not the archdiocese. But lawyers for abuse claimants contend the archdiocese owns parishes in western Oregon the way a company owns subsidiaries. That would mean the parish assets could be added to the archdiocese's holdings, driving up settlement costs.
Jesuit working for literacy wins $1 million Opus Prize
MILWAUKEE (CNS) - A Jesuit priest working in India to bring books and teachers to the desperately poor is the 2005 recipient of the $1 million Opus Prize. Jesuit Father Trevor Miranda heads Reach Education Action Program, founded in Mumbai, India, which has opened more than 450 literacy centers in six years. The organization's goal, the priest said, is to bring literacy to "every street, pavement, slum, hilltop (and) tribal village, to bring about social transformation." The Opus Prize is given to individuals or organizations that demonstrate innovative strategies to solve community problems in a way that fosters responsibility and independence. The foundation is a philanthropy established by the Opus Group, a real estate development company based in Minnetonka, Minn., that contributes 10 percent of its profits to community and religious groups.
Beatification again delayed for French priest
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval for the beatification of 25 church figures in October and November, but French Father Leon Dehon was not among them. A Vatican panel named by the pope was continuing to study whether anti-Semitic writings and speeches by Father Dehon should disqualify him from being declared "blessed." The case is highly unusual because Pope John Paul II had approved Father Dehon's beatification and set a date for the ceremony, but died before it could be carried out. Pope Benedict put the beatification on hold after protests from French bishops, the French government and some Jewish groups.
President of Loyola visits students across country
WASHINGTON (CNS) - When Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes became president of Loyola University New Orleans last year, he never imagined he would be visiting his students and faculty members scattered across the United States. But that's what his fall schedule has involved since Hurricane Katrina sent his students to 150 colleges and universities across the country. Father Wildes He began his tour Sept, 28 at Loyola University Chicago and was to end it Nov. 5 at Regis University in Denver, making 14 stops in between. At each visit, he updates students, faculty and parents and asks alumni for support. During an Oct. 26 reception at Georgetown University in Washington, Father Wildes announced the 2006 spring semester would begin Jan. 9.