Catholic Essentials


Bishops from the Philippines, Latin America, and the Caribbean sent a letter to the U.S. Congress in which they angrily called the release of $385 million allocated to contraception programs in third-world nations “unjust, offensive, and criminal.” The money would support organizations that offer abortions and support contraception. The House later approved a Clinton administration request to accelerate the release of the money from July 1 to March 1.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco and the city’s government ended a dispute over a city ordinance that required any organization doing business with the city to offer full spousal benefits to domestic partners of their homosexual and lesbian employees. The Church fell under the provisions of the law because Catholic Charities of San Francisco receives a substantial portion of its operating budget for social services from the city. The deal between the archdiocese and the city involved changing the wording of the 2-monthold ordinance so that the employer must now assign benefits to any person in the employee’s household designated by that employee.


Pope John Paul Ii will travel to Sarajevo on April 13. The one-day trip has two main purposes, as outlined in an official Vatican press release. First, the pope hopes to “encourage the Catholic community to continue their active Christian witness” throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. Second, he hopes to achieve some progress in ecumenical relations, promoting “understanding and collaboration among the faithful of all religious confessions.”

Priests from the entire world have been invited to the city of Yamoussoukro, in the Ivory Coast, for a retreat to be held July 7 through 14. The Pontifical Council for the Clergy has organized the retreat, as part of the program of preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. The council plans to put together such gatherings of priests each year during the preparation for the jubilee. The retreat will include spiritual exercises, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Way of the Cross, eucharistic adoration, penance, fraternal meetings, conferences, and the recitation of the rosary “for the sanctification of priests and their vocations.”

The Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) announced that the Computer Network of the Church in Latin America (RIIAL) will be officially operational this month. The network will connect, through the Internet, all databases from the Episcopates of Latin America, Spain, and Italy, and will also connect, in the near future, with Catholic computer databases in the United States. The network will have a public area that will be available for any Internet user and will give access to general information on the Catholic communities in each country.

A Canadian missionary priest was murdered in Rwanda as he brought the Blessed Sacrament to sick members of his parish in the small town of Kampagna. Father Guy Pinard, sixty-one, was a member of the Missionaries of Africa order and had worked in Rwanda for more than thirty-five years. He remained at his parish despite the dangers of life in a frontier town, where thousands of refugees—some heavily armed—passed each week. Officials speculated that Hutus who had taken part in the three-month genocide in 1994 and returned late last year from Zaire or Tanzania carried out the killing, possibly fearing that he would recognize and denounce them.

A Catholic priest has been held in jail in Burundi since last June on charges that he helped rebels fight the army. Father Patrice Uyiyingoma, forty-four, denies the charges that he supplied food and medicine to rebels who came to his parish, said his lawyer, Fabien Segatwa. He has been unable to secure Father Uyiyingoma’s release pending trial. Church sources in Burundi said there was strong support for Father Uyiyingoma, both from his own parishioners and from members of the clergy elsewhere in Burundi. No other priest is known to be held in Burundi.


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed that the official Latin-language translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is due to appear before the middle of 1997, will be modified to take into account new Church teaching on the death penalty. “The text to come will reproduce the substance of the first edition, which appeared in 1992,” the cardinal explained to the press in Rome. “But on the question of capital punishment, we have seen since that time an advance in doctrine, and therefore we will integrate it.”

In February, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Their discussion centered on the peace process, the status of the Catholic Church in Israel, and freedom of religion and of conscience in Israel and throughout the Holy Land. The prime minister invited the pope to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as soon as possible. The Holy Father plans to visit the Holy Land in 1998 or 1999.

Pope John Paul will beatify a Spanish Gypsy martyred during that country’s civil war, according to Church sources quoted in news reports. The Holy Father will beatify Ceferino Jimenez Malla on May 4, making him the first Gypsy to be elevated to beatification. Jimenez Malla was born in 1861 and was known for helping the poor in his small village. Republican government forces imprisoned him for defending a priest in his town and executed him in 1936.

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