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Issue Date:  December 21, 2007


Movie review yanked

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Dec. 10 it was withdrawing a review of “The Golden Compass” prepared by its New York-based Office for Film and Broadcasting and originally posted on the bishops’ conference and Catholic News Service Web sites Nov. 29. The conference gave no reason for its decision.

The film has been widely criticized in some Christian circles because Philip Pullman, the author of books on which the film is based, is an atheist. Catholics have criticized the film because they see Pullman’s books as anti-Catholic.

The review was jointly written by Harry Forbes, director of the film and broadcasting office, and John Mulderig, a staff critic. They wrote: “This film -- altered, as it is, from its source material -- rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment. ... Taken purely on its own cinematic terms, it can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.” They classified “The Golden Compass” as A-II -- for adults and adolescents.

Caroling calls people ‘home’

PHILADELPHIA -- It’s called “Do you hear what I hear?” It’s an Advent program in the Philadelphia archdiocese that uses Christmas music as a low-key opportunity to reintroduce inactive Catholics, friends or relatives to parish life.

Franciscan Sr. Louise Alff, archdiocesan coordinator for parish evangelization, designed the program, which was adopted by several parishes across the archdiocese.

The Dec. 16 program at St. Leo Parish in Philadelphia featured an icebreaker game, congregational singing, bells and refreshments, said Pat Lardon, parish services director.

“It is nonthreatening -- there is no preaching,” she said. “Everyone can just enjoy themselves. [And we hope] some of the guests will want to come back to church.”

St. Christopher Parish in Philadelphia had a program Dec. 9 that featured the parish’s 32-voice adult choir and 24-voice children’s choir singing Christmas carols.

Ann Marie Gervino, pastoral minister at St. Christopher’s said it’s a great outreach opportunity. “We can capitalize on the grace of the season, and the Holy Spirit will do his part.”

-- CNS/Paul Jeffrey

Out to sea
Michel Fernando, a fisherman in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, goes to sea in late November with a boat and equipment provided by an ecumenical group after he lost his home and equipment during the 2004 tsunami. Three years after the tragedy claimed 35,000 lives and left more than half a million homeless in this South Asian nation, Catholic Relief Services has unique challenges to overcome as it helps people rebuild. One is the renewed armed conflict between government and rebel forces in some parts of the country. Another challenge is working with the government, which wants rebuilt communities placed well inland to protect them from future storms, and with the displaced fishing families who want to return to their traditional beachside villages. This has “slowed down the decision-making process about where we could help people rebuild,” said Anne Bousquet, country director for Catholic Relief Services, which is the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency.


Archbishop removes collar

LONDON -- The African-born Anglican archbishop of York startled a nationwide BBC audience Dec. 9 when he sliced up his clerical collar during a live interview and vowed not to wear it again until Robert Mugabe quits as president of Zimbabwe.

Archbishop John Sentamu, the No. 2 prelate in the Church of England’s hierarchy, said Mugabe has “taken people’s identity and literally -- if you don’t mind -- cut it to pieces.”

With that, the Ugandan-born cleric grabbed a pair of scissors, took off his collar and chopped it to pieces. He announced that “I’m not going to wear a collar until Mugabe is gone.”

The archbishop has been a steadfast critic of Mugabe, whom he described as “the worst kind of racist dictator.” His regime, Sentamu said, has turned Zimbabwe, a once-wealthy nation in the days when it was known as Rhodesia, from a “bread basket into a basket case.”

Monasteries said to be closed

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar’s military junta has shut down monasteries in the country’s two largest cities that were linked to antigovernment protests led by the Buddhist clergy in August and September. The junta warned other temples not to offer sanctuary to the displaced monks, according various media outlets citing local sources.

Maggin monastery, a sanctuary for rural HIV-AIDS patients seeking treatment in Yangon, has reportedly been raided four times since the protests were suppressed, and its senior monk, Sayadaw U Indaka, is under arrest, detained at a secret location. reported that authorities closed monasteries in Mandalay that sided with antigovernment protests and are relocating monks to remote rural areas.

Legality of church questioned

JAKARTA, Indonesian -- Civil authorities have ordered the priest of Christ’s Peace Church in West Jakarta to cease all activities in the parish including celebrating Mass. A group of Muslims have challenged the church building’s legal status, and until that situation is rectified, officials have ordered a halt to all activities out of “fear of sectarian clashes.”

Christ’s Peace Parish has at least 4,000 members and usually held three Masses on weekends. It has used the same building since 1968.

Several weeks ago, a group of local Muslims challenged the legal status of the church, saying it does not have the right permits required by places of worship.

There is room at the inn

LONDON -- Travelodge, determined to help make amends for that “no room at the inn” business back in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, is offering free Christmas accommodations to married British couples named Mary and Joseph.

Travelodge, which owns 322 hotels in the United Kingdom, said that starting Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, and lasting to Twelfth Night, Jan. 5, couples matching its criteria will get a one-night stay on the house.

“The phrase ‘no room at the inn’ is something that resonates with us in the hotel business,” says Travelodge’s operations director, Jason Cotta. “Therefore, this year we have decided to evoke the true spirit of Christmas and invite Mary and Joseph couples as our guests.”

Sandy Leckie, manager of Travelodge’s inn at Covent Garden in London, said there may not be any gold, frankincense or myrrh in the rooms set aside for the Marys and Josephs, but “it’s definitely more comfortable than a stable.”

Meanwhile at the other inn

BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- Former British prime minister Tony Blair is urging people to support the Palestinian economy by visiting the historic sites of the Holy Land and staying overnight in places such as Bethlehem.

Blair, who is now a special representative to the Middle East, stayed at the InterContinental Hotel in Bethlehem in mid-December, in the run-up to the crucial Christmas season, as part of his work promoting economic development for the Palestinians.

“Bethlehem is safe and a great place to visit. Everyone who can should share the experience,” Blair said. “There is no reason for people not to come here and stay overnight.”

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, December 21, 2007

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