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Issue Date:  January 11, 2008


Jews called back to Sabbath

SAN DIEGO -- The leader of Reform Jews is spearheading a campaign for greater observance of a 24-hour Sabbath, including increased attendance at Saturday morning worship.

“In our 24/7 culture, the boundary between work time and leisure time has been swept away, and the results are devastating,” said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, speaking at the biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism last month.

“Do we really want to live in a world where we make love in half the time and cook every meal in the microwave?”

Yoffie said “stressed-out, sleep-deprived families” can benefit from abstaining from wage-earning work and reflecting on life. “We are asked to stop running around long enough to see what God is doing,” he said.

Yoffie’s proposal includes recommendations that congregations set up task forces to study their own Shabbat morning service and those of other congregations, and then suggest how to enhance their services. Since 1869, Reform Jews have observed a Shabbat Eve service on Friday nights.

Civil-unions law delayed

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal judge blocked Oregon’s domestic partnership law for gays and lesbians from taking effect Jan. 1, saying opponents should have a chance to make their case for a statewide election on civil unions.

The surprise ruling came just days before gay couples would be eligible for most of the legal benefits of marriage. But U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that they will have to wait.

Mosman set a Feb. 1 hearing for a lawsuit by gay-rights opponents challenging the state’s methods for verifying voter signatures. Opponents gathered signatures last summer to try to overturn civil unions on the November 2008 ballot, but state elections officials said they fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed for a referendum on a law passed by the Legislature.

Mosman said the rights of voters may have been violated if their signatures were wrongly rejected.

The ruling didn’t affect a companion state law banning discrimination against gays in work, housing and public places.

-- CNS/Reuters

End to violence sought
Christians attend a peace meeting in New Delhi Dec. 27. India’s Catholic bishops have demanded a federal investigation into Hindu violence against Christians in Orissa state and are seeking compensation for damages Christians suffered. The violence began Christmas Eve when about 500 Hindu radicals attacked a tent displaying a Nativity scene that Christians of various denominations put up in Bamunigam, eastern India. Over four days, extremists attacked and burned five parish churches, at least 50 village churches, six convents, three presbyteries, six hostels, two seminaries and a vocational training center. As many as 400 Christian homes have been looted and set ablaze. “The speed with which the attacks were carried out” suggests the attacks were well-planned and orchestrated, said church officials at a news conference Dec. 31 at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India center in New Delhi.

Report: Clergy give to Democrats

WASHINGTON -- Clergy and staffers of religious organizations are giving more to Democratic campaigns this year, marking a shift from four years ago when Republicans had the advantage.

Contributions to candidates, parties and committees from clergy and other individuals affiliated with religious groups has totaled $655,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations.

Fifty-six percent of that money went to Democrats, based on the center’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data on giving in the first three quarters of 2007.

By contrast, at the same point in 2003, clergy and religious staffers had given a total of $461,600 in contributions to candidates, parties and committees, with 59 percent going to Republicans.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the top recipient of these funds among all presidential candidates at the end of the third quarter of 2007, with $109,850.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the top Republican recipient, with $39,350. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received the third highest Republican contributions from this category of donors, with $22,900, behind Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who has dropped out of the race.

Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the nonpartisan research center, said there has been a shift in giving among contributors from a range of categories, with more Democratic donations.

“That’s just the trend that you see all over,” he said. “They’ve at least become more Democratic in their giving ... since the last election. The Democratic presidential candidates have raised far more money than the Republican candidates.”

Catholic group issues voter guide

WASHINGTON -- Catholics United, a group of left-leaning lay Catholics, is distributing 30,000 voter guides for the presidential primaries, focusing on early voting states and listing eight issues they say affect human dignity and the “common good.”

Major cities in Iowa, which held bipartisan caucuses Jan. 3, and New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primaries this month, received most of the guides, according to Catholics United.

The group says it independently researched the candidates’ positions on eight issues, which it lists in the following order: the Iraq war, poverty, abortion, the death penalty, health care, immigration, care for the Earth, and foreign relations. Each candidate’s stance is explained in a paragraph.

Joseph Wright, a political scientist and Catholics United board member, said Catholics “will play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the election given their large share of the electorate in Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and Nevada.”

-- Religion News Service


Verdict annulled in nun’s killing

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A judicial panel annulled the conviction of a man in the 2005 shooting death of Sr. Dorothy Stang, a longtime American missionary in Brazil who supported campesiños in their fight against large ranchers and loggers.

Rayfran das Neves Sales was convicted of murdering Stang last year and in May was sentenced to 27 years in prison. An appeals court upheld that verdict and sentence, which NCR reported in its Dec. 28 issue, but another panel of judges quashed the verdict in late December.

The second panel said that the trial judge should have allowed the jury to consider Sales’ story that he acted on his own. A rancher and two others were convicted of planning the murder and hiring Sales to kill Stang for $25,000. Sales has been order to stand trial again.

Prosecutors said Sales, who has changed his testimony several times, is now trying to clear the other men, according to The Associated Press.

-- CNS/Reuters

Bishops offer mediation
Supporters of Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, on the poster, took to the streets in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 2. An explosion of tribal violence over a disputed presidential election had claimed the lives of more than 300 people, including 30 burned alive at a Pentecostal church in Eldoret. Fr. Vincent Wambugu, secretary-general of the Kenya Catholic Episcopal Conference, said the crisis has displaced 75,000 people of various faiths. “Half of this figure is being sheltered within the Eldoret Catholic diocese,” he said. Churches in Eldoret established an interreligious coordinating committee, and Eldoret Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir asked his fellow Catholic bishops for aid, especially food, bedding, tents and supplies for sheltering the rapidly increasing number of needy people. The episcopal conference issued a statement Jan. 2 appealing to political leaders to make every effort to engage in dialogue to resolve the crisis. The bishops offered to mediate the crisis and proposed a review of the election results.

Sticky strips to correct errors

VATICAN CITY -- When the Italian bishops announced the Vatican-approved publication of a new translation of scripture readings for use at Mass, they said they had made more than 100,000 changes to the text. But, it turns out, some of the changes were not intentional.

The three volumes of readings for Sundays went on sale in late November and, by early December, the bishops had ordered thousands of copies of self-adhesive strips to paste over a dozen errors.

The most obvious mistake was the New Testament heading, “The First Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.” There is no second letter to the Romans, so the word “first” is never used.

Fr. Mimmo Falco, director of the Italian bishops’ national liturgy office, said the other errors mainly involve punctuation. He rejected calls for the volumes to be recalled and reprinted as wasteful.

Women asked to be mystical

MANGALORE, India -- The 45th annual assembly of women religious in India began Dec. 29 with their leader urging them to be “prophetic and mystic.”

Addressing 345 major superiors, Sr. Innamma Yeruva, president of the women’s section of the Conference of Religious India, said nuns should be “in touch with the experiences of people’s lives” and at the same time have “an experience of God.”

In a later conversation with reporters, Yeruva said religious women need to balance contemplation and action. “It is our union with God that impels us to involve actively in the other ministries in the church, and one’s prophetic mission will not be effective without mysticism,” she said.

Yeruva, who heads the Hyderabad province of the Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sisters, said that prophets empower and energize people and are willing to suffer. They are not only social workers or people who simply proclaim justice, she said. They “are compassionate in the struggle for justice.”

India has 91,650 professed women religious. They belong to 251 congregations and live in 12,062 communities.

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, January 11, 2008

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