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c. 2004 Religion News Service

Vatican Doctrine Office Wants to Meet with Politicians Task Force

(RNS) The Vatican office responsible for church doctrine is concerned that some U.S. bishops are being too harsh in their threats to deny Communion to dissenting politicians, according to one U.S. bishop.

Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, N.M., who met with Vatican officials during a series of regular meetings, said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wants to meet with a task force of American bishops who are studying the issue.

Pelotte told Catholic News Service that Ratzinger said American bishops should be “cautious” about denying Communion and has requested a meeting with the task force, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.

A second Vatican source told Catholic News Service that some church officials feel the U.S. bishops need “a concerted and nuanced approach,” not the hard-line positions favored by a vocal minority of American prelates.

Pelotte said Ratzinger did not stake out a firm position, but implied that denying Communion was not an appropriate response _ a position held by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill.

In April, Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican’s worship office, implied that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry should be denied Communion because of his support of abortion rights, prompting several U.S. bishops to issue similar statements.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., who attended the same meetings in Rome and is a member of McCarrick’s task force, said Arinze expressed concern to him about “some Catholics who have made the Eucharist a battleground.”

Pelotte said the issue “has to be” on the bishops’ agenda during their closed-door meeting next week (June 15-19) in Denver. McCarrick’s commission is not expected to deliver its report until after the November elections.

“I would be happy to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger on any topic,” McCarrick said through his spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs.

Evangelist Billy Graham Released From Hospital

(RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham was released from the hospital Monday (June 7) following treatment for a pelvic fracture.

Graham, 85, will continue physical therapy at home for at least three months, the Missions Hospitals of Asheville, N.C., announced.

“He has made tremendous progress for a man of his age,” said Dr. Daniel Eglinton, an orthopedic surgeon, in a statement.

Eglinton helped perform the May 20 surgery on Graham that stabilized the pelvic fracture, which Graham sustained in a fall at his home.

The evangelist plans to use his time of rehabilitation for writing and preparation for upcoming crusades that were rescheduled due to his health setbacks.

In a statement, Graham said the daily visits of his wife, Ruth, were “the best medicine” while he was hospitalized.

“Ours is a long and wonderful love story, like that of our friends Ronald and Nancy Reagan,” Graham said in a statement. “Today I would ask all those who have been praying for me, and for whose prayers I am so very grateful, to lift up our nation, our late president, and his wife in her time of mourning.”

The two 2004 crusades are now scheduled for Oct. 7-10 in Kansas City and Nov. 18-21 in Pasadena, Calif.

_ Adelle M. Banks

Senators Urge Bush to Modify Stem-Cell Policies

WASHINGTON (RNS) Fifty-eight senators have asked President Bush to ease restrictions on stem-cell research, with some noting that the late President Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease could have been aided by expanded research.

In a June 4 letter to Bush, 42 Democrats, one independent and 15 Republican senators said the president’s policy adopted in 2001 is no longer adequate. A similar letter was sent last month by 206 House members.

The 2001 White House policy allowed research on 78 existing lines, or colonies, of stem cells, but banned the creation of new lines. Some scientists believe stem cells _ which can grow into almost any human tissue _ hold treatments or cures for a host of debilitating diseases.

The senators said only 19 of the 78 colonies are still available to researchers. In addition, some of those colonies may no longer be viable because they have been “contaminated” with mouse cells.

“We would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures for which we are all hoping,” said the letter, whose signers included Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Opponents, including Roman Catholic bishops and most evangelical Protestant groups, say the procedure is tantamount to abortion because it involves destroying a potential human life for research.

Several of the letter’s signers, including Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, oppose most abortions but support expanded stem cell research.

“This issue is especially poignant given President Reagan’s passing,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who helped draft the letter. “Embryonic stem cell research might hold the key to a cure for Alzheimer’s and other terrible diseases.”

Feinstein and others have sponsored a bill that would ban human cloning but allow federally funded stem cell research on the estimated 400,000 embryos created for in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be destroyed or go unused.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius told the Associated Press that Bush “continues to believe strongly that we should not cross a fundamental moral line by funding or encouraging the destruction of human embryos.”

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Pope Sends `Heartfelt Condolences’ to Nancy Reagan

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope John Paul II sent his “heartfelt condolences” to Nancy Reagan on Tuesday (June 8) and praised former President Reagan for his “unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom.”

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, would represent the pope at Reagan’s state funeral in Washington on Friday. Sodano ranks No. 2 in the Vatican hierarchy.

“Having learned with sadness of the death of President Reagan, I offer to you and your family my heartfelt condolences and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest,” the pope said in a telegram to Reagan’s widow.

“I recall with deep gratitude the late president’s unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom as well as his abiding faith in the human and spiritual values which ensure a future of solidarity, justice and peace in our world,” John Paul said.

The 84-year-old pope was told early Sunday during a visit to the Swiss capital of Bern that Reagan, 93, had died Saturday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Meeting at the Vatican on Friday with President Bush, John Paul had noted that the Vatican and the United States established full diplomatic relations during the Reagan administration in 1984 and said, “I send my regards to President Reagan and to Mrs. Reagan, who is so attentive to him in his illness.”

Both Reagan and the pope were staunch anti-Communists and supported the Solidarity free trade union in the pope’s native Poland during the early 1980s and President Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms that led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Reagan and John Paul met four times.

_ Peggy Polk

Protest Planned Against Annan on Sudan Crisis

(RNS) As many as 1,000 clergy-led protesters plan to denounce United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s “complacency” toward genocide in Sudan in a protest in Cambridge, Mass., to coincide with his address to Harvard University’s commencement this week.

African-American pastors from the 10-Point Coalition, the Boston Ministerial Alliance and a Sudan outreach program called My Sister’s Keeper will lead the rally on Cambridge Common at 6 p.m. Wednesday (June 9). Activists from across New England are expected to pressure Annan, an African from Ghana, to bring international pressure to “end the hell in Sudan” where children are enslaved, women are raped and men are killed by the thousands.

“Something needs to be done about this genocide,” said Jeffrey Hipp, spokesperson for the American Anti-Slavery Group, which is helping organize the rally. “We believe the general secretary has failed to stand up to the government of Sudan.”

According to rally organizers, the Taliban-style Islamic government of Sudan is waging a brutal war against minority groups who represent other ethnicities and ideologies. This means Christians in the south and Sufi Muslims in the west are targeted alike. Human rights advocates say government troops have killed 30,000 so far, but that number could rise to 400,000 before year’s end as refugees file into the scorching desert without food, water or shelter.

Speakers at the rally will include the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, founder of the Congressional Black Caucus; the Rev. Gloria White Hammond, a Boston-area minister who has helped purchase freedom for Sudanese slaves; and Francis Bok, an author and speaker who spent 10 years enslaved in Sudan.

Petition signers at the rally will call on Annan and the United Nations to provide emergency relief supplies to refugees, investigate slavery charges, help refugees return home and bring government officers to stand trial for genocide before an international tribunal. But some suspect Annan is hesitating because one of his key constituencies, the Organization of Islamic States, wants the situation kept quiet.

“They do not want this issue talked about,” Hipp said. “And Kofi Annan knows where his bread is buttered.”

_ G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Cardinals Mahony, Maida Make Friendly Wager on NBA Finals

(RNS) Cardinals Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Adam Maida of Detroit are each praying his city’s basketball team will win the NBA Finals _ and they have offered up a friendly wager of T-shirts and baked goods to sweeten the deal.

Mahony, rooting for the LA Lakers, has offered a shipment of “Jobs not Jails” T-shirts and baked goods from Homeboys Industries, a Los Angeles center for at-risk youth.

Maida has put up a case of Friar Rick’s homemade honey, canned goods and jams made by Franciscan monk Rick Samyn should his beloved Detroit Pistons lose.

“I am looking forward to a great series, but in the end there will be no stopping the Lakers,” a confident Mahony boasted.

Maida was equally confident. “The Pistons have a great work ethic, and in the end that will help them prevail.” Detroit beat L.A. in the first game of the finals, 87-75. Game two was scheduled Tuesday (June 8).

If Mahony loses, his T-shirts will be distributed in Detroit homeless shelters. If Maida comes up short, Los Angeles low-income families will receive the homemade honey and jams.

Maida said the series could end up being a “sweet deal” for Los Angeles, but “more than likely, they’re going to lose their shirts. And the series.”

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has bet lemon cakes from Mrs. Beasley’s Bakery, while Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has not made a counter-bet. Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have wagered cherry pies and Motown CDs, while Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California have offered up California wine, avocados and tickets to Disneyland, according to the Associated Press.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Quote of the Day: Former President Bill Clinton

(RNS) “Politics is not religion, and we should govern on the basis of evidence, not theology.”

_ Former President Bill Clinton, in a speech in Chicago promoting the upcoming release of his memoirs. He was quoted by The New York Times.


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