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'Tell them to come to the church'

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NCR readers will be seeing some full page ads in the paper for a conference on immigration in San Antonio next Jan 12-14. And if you are a regular to this Web site, you can't miss the colorful banner ad for the same conference at the top of this page. The conference is being hosted by Celebration magazine, the worship resource of the National Catholic Reporter. I am Celebration editor, and I will be writing here in the coming weeks to tell how this conference came about and why I think it could be crucial in the life of the church and for our country as we struggle with the question of immigration reform.

Living in a church -- literally

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With massive numbers of Catholic parishes closing around the country, diocesan owners have been selling off church buildings and lands. Occasionally, the property converts into another use. But what happens when a church building is bought and the new owners literally move in?

The Wall Street Journal's real estate section has a picture slideshow of such a case.

In this case, St. Mark's Methodist Church (a National Historic Landmark), located in Brookline, Mass. was converted into condominiums. Sharon and Paul Olean bought a three floor unit in the 19th century church.

A new semester, new promise

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This past week, we started our fall classes at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As I have done for the last several years, I am teaching our large Introduction to Chicano Studies class with over 500 students. This class is focused on the history of Chicanos/Latinos in the United States. The great majority of students in this lower-division class are new freshman of which about 70 percent are Chicanos/Latinos.

Vatican Bank lacks transparency

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Bloomberg News reports: "The Vatican has yet to formally commit to financial transparency, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said one week after Italian magistrates opened a probe into its bank for alleged violations of money-laundering laws."

Earlier stories from NCR and CNS are here:

On Vatican sovereignty

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An interesting interview with "Foreign Policy" editor Josh Keating on the issue of Vatican sovereignty, in light of the new Vatican bank scandal and lawsuits surrounding the sex abuse cover-up.

Keating points out that the Vatican is not really a state in that it has no fixed population and controls virtually no territory. Yet the Holy See's sovereignty and observer status at the UN give it a voice in international debates over issues like birth control, abortion and homosexuality--not to mention diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

He makes a compelling argument that it may be time to rethink the Vatican's status, while admitting that it's nearly impossible to have it removed.

Listen to the interview on NPR's "Worldview" here.

Priest in Wisconsin charged with theft

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The news comes from a Madison, Wisc. NBC affiliate:

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that on September 28, 2010, attorneys for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, acting as special prosecutors for Jefferson County, filed a summons and criminal complaint in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Thomas Marr (age 64), now of Madison, Wisconsin, alleging a count of theft in a business setting and a count of theft by fraud.

It's the usual story -- priest takes money from parish accounts.

What's interesting here is that the Wisconsin state attorney general is pursuing the case. Here in Connecticut, the popular state attorney general Richard Blumenthal has never pursued million dollar plus priest thefts, though he's had plenty of opportunities in the diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.

It remains a mystery as to why Blumenthal has sat on his hands for so many years on this particular type of theft. Blumenthal is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. senate.

To be sure, Fr. Marr is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Boat carrying aid, Jewish delegation to Gaza intercepted

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While Israeli bulldozers rolled out across the West Bank yesterday, marking an end to the freeze on settlement construction and possibly the Middle East peace talks, seven Jewish activists and two journalists sailed toward the Gaza Strip in an attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of that region.

This morning the Israeli navy intercepted the British-flagged Irene, a tiny 33-foot catamaran carrying what the activists described as "symbolic aid" for the Palestinian Territory. The mission's organizers said in a statement on their website www.Jewishboattogaza.org:

Last contact with the boat's captain, Glyn Secker, was at 0937 GMT, when their path had been cut off by a Destroyer. Recent reports from other news source indicated that the boat has been surrounded and boarded. At this point, they were less than twenty miles from Gaza's shore. Since then all phones went dead.

The occupied Gaza Strip's territorial waters end 12 nautical miles from shore but the Israeli blockade is enforced at 20 miles from shore.

The statement reports the activists were taken to the Israeli port, Ashdod.

Record number of unmanned drone attacks launched in September

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The New York Times reported yesterday that the CIA launched a record number of attacks in a single month using unmanned aerial vehicles in the mountains of Pakistan during September.

The unmanned drones, as they're known, are operated remotely from the U.S. and are used to target specific people or groups. This month the CIA has launched 20 attacks on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the most since January when the agency launched 11.

The news comes just a week and a half after 14 activists -- many of them Catholic -- went to trial for an action they committed in April 2009 to protest the use of the drones abroad.

The activists, who walked onto Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas, Nev. and held a prayer vigil on Holy Thursday, claimed in a court memorandum that the attacks are akin to "extrajudical killings" and disproportionately kill civilians.

Surprising prosecutors, Clark County, Nev. Judge William Jansen delayed a verdict in the case for four months so he could study the issues at hand.

A few points from the Times report:

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    January 29-February 11, 2016

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