National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  August 29, 2003


Marcelo Suntheim and César Cigliutti became the first gay couple to be formally united in Argentina after the new civil union law, approved in Buenos Aires last December, went into effect July 18.

John Michael Talbot has released his 46th album, “Signatures,” with 15 of his compositions that he rerecorded with the Sinfonia of London and St. Michael’s Singers from Coventry Cathedral. A Catholic layman who heads the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, the Arkansas monastic community he started, Talbot gives about 50 concerts a year. Talbot acknowledged that in the face of a hectic ministry there is a continual challenge to lead a life of simplicity, which is the monk’s calling.


Fr. Ronald Witherup, the U.S. superior for the Society of St. Sulpice, was installed Aug. 9 as the new president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, an umbrella group for Catholic male religious orders.

Abbot Jean-Baptiste Gourion, 68, a Jewish-born Benedictine, has been named an auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, charged with the pastoral care of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in the Holy Land. Differing by language, culture and daily experiences from the Palestinian majority of Catholics in the patriarchate, the Hebrew-speaking community had petitioned for pastoral structures of their own.

Fr. Christian von Wernich, an Argentine priest accused of committing human rights abuses while serving as police force chaplain under Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, was arrested by police after refusing to testify in court Aug. 6. His detention renews controversy over the role of the Roman Catholic church during Argentina’s “Dirty War” against leftists in the 1970s, which left 30,000 dead or missing. Victims said von Wernich tried to become their confidant and then encouraged them to cooperate with their torturers, according to Alicia Peralta, a lawyer for the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights, which is representing many of the victims’ families.

Blessed Joseph Freinademetz, known as Joseph of Shandong, once wrote, “I want to be a Chinese in heaven.” Pope John Paul II will canonize Freinademetz and two others Oct. 5 in Rome. With his canonization, Freinademetz, an Italian-born Divine Word missionary sent to China in 1879, will become the 122nd saint who was Chinese or worked in China and the first who is not a martyr. He was beatified in 1975.



Jesuit Fr. Walter J. Ong
Theorist on oral and literate cultures

Jesuit Fr. Walter J. Ong, 90, author of Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, died after a long illness Aug. 12 in St. Louis. A professor at St. Louis University for nearly four decades, Ong was noted for his analysis of how the invention of the printing press shifted communication from primarily oral to primarily written and how that impacted culture and human consciousness. His studies continued through the rise of radio and television. Current revolutions in digital technology are causing scholars to take a new look at his work. Ong was convinced the power of advanced technology could be humanized, and he pushed religious thinkers to incorporate an understanding of modern technology in their theology.

Photos by CNS

National Catholic Reporter, August 29, 2003

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