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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Aug-17-2006

By Catholic News Service


Catholic initiative offers housing, hope to New Orleans families

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- This was one serious crane. With the power of a few levers and pulleys, the crane plucked a 41,000-pound modular housing unit from the ground Aug. 7 and carefully deposited it on a raised wooden platform prepared a few days earlier to accept it. In a matter of minutes -- like an oversized tower of Lego pieces -- another New Orleans family was on the road home. As president of Providence Community Housing, a Catholic-run post-Katrina housing initiative, Jim Kelly anticipates sights such as this over the months ahead will produce a commodity that has been in short supply since last August -- hope. Providence was among 22 nonprofit and private developers that won approval Aug. 1 to rehabilitate about 2,000 blighted properties that have been seized by the city of New Orleans because their owners have failed to pay taxes. Providence applied for and was conditionally awarded 196 properties in all. "I don't believe the healing process can truly begin until we put people back into their own homes or their new homes or apartments," said Kelly, who is also CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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A Simple House is a spiritual, material outreach to poor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Relying on divine providence and the charisms of Sts. Francis of Assisi and Alphonsus Liguori, volunteers with A Simple House adhere to a lifestyle of Christian poverty and practice what they call "friendship evangelization" among the poor in Washington. According to the mission statement of the Catholic lay missionary apostolate, its volunteers "wonderfully and radically fall upon the cross of Christ for grace and support" and serve the poor by "proclaiming the Gospel through acts of faith, love and charity." They observe Franciscan poverty "with an Alphonsian love for the poorest of the poor." Clark Massey, director, said there is a "wonderful living in the moment" aspect of the ministry. "I've quit worrying about the whole course of my life and now focus more on the last five minutes," he said in an interview with Catholic News Service.

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Israel's ambassador to Vatican says Lebanese conflict had no victor

ROME (CNS) -- Israel's ambassador to the Vatican said the Lebanese conflict had no victor, but it served to focus world attention on the threat of global Islamic terrorism. At the same time, the aftermath of the fighting offers an opportunity for the West -- and the Catholic Church -- to support moderate Muslims by helping to rebuild Lebanon and resettle refugees, the ambassador, Oded Ben-Hur, said in an interview with Catholic News Service Aug. 16. The ambassador also encouraged church leaders to promote a new wave of pilgrimages to the Middle East, which he said would send a calming message and help restore normality in the region. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire was being implemented in mid-August after a monthlong Israeli offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The fighting killed more than 1,200 people, most of them Lebanese civilians, and destroyed homes, roads, bridges and factories throughout the country. Ben-Hur lamented the loss of life and destruction on both sides and said the war had "no winners or losers."

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As displaced Lebanese return home, CRS coordinates assistance efforts

ROME (CNS) -- As those displaced by the fighting in Lebanon returned to their hometowns, Catholic Relief Services and other international aid agencies were sending assessment teams throughout southern Lebanon and were meeting to coordinate their efforts. David Snyder, spokesman for CRS in Beirut, said in a telephone interview Aug. 17 that "90 percent of the people" housed in shelters during the monthlong fighting "left within the first 48 hours of the cease-fire," which began Aug. 14. "Many shelters are down to a handful of people," said Snyder. CRS is the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. After providing shelter, food, clothing and medicine in the shelters, CRS and the other aid agencies are shifting their focus to meeting the needs of returnees, many of whom are going back to houses destroyed or damaged, without electricity and clean water. "Everyone is trying to figure out what to do next," Snyder said. "Close coordination is essential" so that efforts are not duplicated and "no one is left out in the shuffle."

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Aid worker says Sri Lankan conflict blocks tsunami reconstruction

POINT PEDRO, Sri Lanka (CNS) -- The increasingly tense civil conflict between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has blocked tsunami reconstruction work, said a church aid worker. "We are forced to suspend all tsunami relief work. ... Our staff is now scared of going to areas like Muttur," said Father Francis Dias, head of the church's social services in Trincomalee. "Though we have plenty of money to help the people, we cannot do much in situations like this. The tragedy is that the suffering of the people is becoming worse," Father Dias told Catholic News Service in an early August telephone interview. Seventeen Tamils working with the Paris-based Action Against Hunger were massacred in early August in their Muttur office during the so-called "water war" between government forces and Tamil rebels. More than 300 people -- soldiers, rebels and civilians -- have been killed in the water war as government forces tried to open the water supply closed by the rebels. Because of the blocked system, water was denied to the majority ethnic Sinhalese villages.

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Colombian bishop expresses concern about privatizing oil company

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya of Barrancabermeja has expressed concern that a government decision to privatize up to 20 percent of the state-owned oil firm Ecopetrol could have consequences on regional stability. The diocese, home to the larger of Ecopetrol's two refineries, is located in an area of eastern Colombia with a long history of violence linked to the country's 42-year-old civil conflict. President Alvaro Uribe announced in late July he plans to offer up to 20 percent of Ecopetrol to private investors, although legislators must pass the measure before it is implemented. Government and company officials said the move is Ecopetrol's chance to free itself from government control of its finances and investment decisions so that it can spend more money exploring for oil. Colombia is rapidly running out of oil and needs to find more soon to avoid costly imports. However, the sale of shares "concretely opens the door to the possibility of a progressive privatization," Bishop Prieto said in a statement, noting that Uribe had pledged a few years ago that Ecopetrol would remain in state hands.

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Bishop Moynihan of Syracuse undergoes open-heart surgery

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CNS) -- Bishop James M. Moynihan of Syracuse was recuperating at the Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center after being released Aug. 11 from St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, where he had open-heart surgery Aug. 3. "The bishop did very well" were the first words from Dr. Mehdi Marvasti at a press conference held the same day as the bishop's surgery. Marvasti is the cardiac surgeon who performed the valve replacement on the bishop's leaking mitral valve and repaired his tricuspid valve during the more than three-hour procedure. The mitral valve is actually named after its shape, that of a bishop's miter. The valves are designed to control the direction of blood flow through the heart. It is the opening and closing of the valves that produce the sound of the heartbeat. The doctor explained that Bishop Moynihan, 74, had been experiencing symptoms of congestive heart failure including shortness of breath, swelling and fatigue. The surgery, Marvasti said, will alleviate his symptoms and prevent further deterioration of his heart function.

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Pope names Philadelphia-born priest as nuncio to South Africa

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has named Philadelphia-born Msgr. James P. Green an archbishop and appointed him as nuncio to South Africa and Namibia and apostolic delegate to Botswana. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, will preside over the Sept. 6 ordination in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia will concelebrate the Mass. The 56-year-old monsignor had been the head of the English-language section of the Vatican Secretariat of State since 2003. The announcement of his appointment as a nuncio and archbishop was published Aug. 17. Msgr. Green, who has never been to South Africa, said of his nuncio duties, "The very first thing I have to do is learn a lot" about the society and culture. In an Aug. 17 telephone interview from the Philadelphia area, Msgr. Green said as nuncio for the countries of southern Africa he will be charged with maintaining "the bonds of the church universal and local church."

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Detroit seminary rector named acting director of Washington center

DETROIT (CNS) -- Dominican Father Steven Boguslawski, rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit for the past three years, has taken up a new post in Washington as acting director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. He had already been appointed regent of studies for the Dominican House of Studies in Washington before beginning his Aug. 1 position with the cultural center. The priest, who plans to work both jobs concurrently, said his work at the cultural center will be similar to his duties at Sacred Heart because of the educational component, just on a larger scope. Father Boguslawski is currently working on a five-year strategic plan for the center, planning to marshal its resources and form strategic relationships to allow it to fulfill its mission. "I have great hope for the future," he told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit's archdiocesan newspaper. The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, which opened in 2001 near The Catholic University of America, has been experiencing financial difficulties. Because of low attendance, center officials discontinued its museum activities and shifted the focus to its Intercultural Forum -- a think tank on the philosophy of Pope John Paul II.


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