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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-19-2007

By Catholic News Service


Blair says U.S., Europe share mission to spread justice, liberty

NEW YORK (CNS) -- America and Europe must stand together against terrorism and make it their shared mission to spread justice and liberty throughout the world, the former prime minister of Great Britain said Oct. 18. "The values we have are not our property. They are our gift to the world," Tony Blair said in his keynote speech at the 62nd annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Blair was given two standing ovations by the 1,100 participants at the black-tie event that raises funds for health care initiatives of the Archdiocese of New York. The formally dressed philanthropists, politicians and clergy heard some good jokes and some inspiring words during the evening, but they did not hear Blair, an Anglican, announce that he will become a Catholic, as some had speculated. Blair's wife, Cherie, and the couple's children are Catholic and he regularly attends Mass with them.

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Catholic leaders say veto won't end efforts to insure poor children

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders who had urged an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program expressed disappointment at the House's Oct. 18 vote that fell short of overriding President George W. Bush's veto but said efforts to reach a compromise must not stop now. The House vote was 273-156, 13 fewer than the two-thirds majority needed to override. The Senate had already passed the legislation by a veto-proof majority. Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, decried the fact that "there were not enough House members willing to stand up for children and vote to override this ill-conceived veto of a bill that would have helped so many children without health insurance." The veto and the 156 House members who supported it "put the health of many of our nation's children at risk," he said in a statement. The legislation would have expanded funding for the program known as SCHIP by $35 billion over five years. Bush said the bill would have been a step toward socialized medicine and could have led many families to drop their private health insurance in favor of coverage by SCHIP.

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No 'pastor in chief': Religion as a factor in 2008 presidential race

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In contrast to the 2000 and 2004 presidential election cycles, when some saw Republican candidates as too cozy with religious leaders and too willing to bring their faith into the public sphere, this year's GOP candidates for president have been relatively quiet on the topic of religion. The Democratic presidential candidates, on the other hand, have lost the reticence of recent years and are talking openly about their faith experiences and how that would affect their political decisions. But the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister who is president of the Interfaith Alliance, isn't any happier with the Democrats now than he was with the Republicans then. "We're electing a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief," he said at an Oct. 10 panel discussion with Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and Amy Caiazza, study director for democracy and society programs at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.

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Foundation says its pro-life ads having effect on intended audience

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Unless you're watching daytime talk shows or soap operas, late-night or late-late-night television or some of the most basic cable channels, you might not have seen commercials with a pro-life message sponsored by the Vitae Caring Foundation. The foundation buys commercial time from local stations in selected U.S. cities for just short periods of time. But the impact of their ads on their intended audience -- women who may be facing a troubled pregnancy -- has been measurable in both the upsurge in calls made to local crisis pregnancy centers and the decline in the number of abortions performed in those areas. The ads, in both English and Spanish, are generally shot with a soft focus and feature a woman who remarks about the gift of life she received and is able to pass on, or some fact about abortion designed to make the female viewer think about that fact's ramification in her own life. They include an 800-number for a pregnancy resource center.

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Pakistan's bishops condemn deadly bomb blasts

BANGALORE, India (CNS) -- The Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference has condemned the bomb blasts that killed and injured hundreds of people marking the return of a former prime minister from self-imposed exile. "We consider the killings at Karachi an act of extreme cowardice and terrorism, and demand that the government should ensure the safety of the lives of citizens," said a statement issued Oct. 19 by Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, president of the bishops' conference and chairman of the bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace. Two blasts, including one by a suicide bomber, rocked the rally in Karachi Oct. 18. The blasts killed more than 130 and injured approximately 290 people who were celebrating the homecoming of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party. The statement said the bishops expressed "solidarity and condolences with the families of the deceased" and condemned the carnage.

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Archbishop says vision of 'Populorum Progressio' not yet realized

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- If Pope Paul VI reappeared on earth to assess progress toward meeting the challenges he addressed in his 1967 social encyclical, "Populorum Progressio," he would say: "You've done a lot, but you haven't even started -- and you've lost a lot of enthusiasm." That was the conclusion of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, in an Oct. 17 speech at a side event to the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly. Titled "Development: The New Name for Peace," the event was organized by the Holy See's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations and co-sponsored by the Path to Peace Foundation. "Our current family of nations is a dysfunctional family," said the archbishop, who was formerly Vatican nuncio to U.N. agencies in Geneva. "The existing structures (for the governance of global goods) are often inadequate, politically weighted in one direction or the other, and at times they work against one another. ... (The family members) do not have the courage to move forward."

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Russian Orthodox bishop says Catholic-Orthodox text not comprehensive

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Russian Orthodox bishop who walked out of the official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue meeting said its final document cannot be assumed to represent the entire Orthodox world. "The Orthodox-Catholic dialogue cannot be considered comprehensive without taking the Russian Orthodox Church's opinion into account," said Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria. Since the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of the world's Orthodox churches, was not present for the final discussions about and approval of the dialogue commission's document, "its legitimacy is cast in doubt," he said in an Oct. 17 interview with Russia's Nezavisimaia Gazeta newspaper. The 42-year-old bishop led the Russian Orthodox delegation to the Oct. 8-15 meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Ravenna, Italy. But, in a dispute with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, he and the other Russian Orthodox delegate left Ravenna before the working sessions began.

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Vatican Museums shows art works inspired by vision of Apocalypse

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an unusual exhibit, the Vatican Museums has assembled 100 art works inspired by the New Testament vision of the Apocalypse. While the paintings, statues and engravings depict some catastrophic scenes, the emphasis is on hope and the victory of good over evil. In that sense, the exhibit takes a page from Pope Benedict XVI's audience talks last year, in which he said the Book of Revelation -- also known as the Apocalypse -- should not be read as a frightening warning of imminent destruction, but as an encouraging Christian vision. The images unveiled at the Vatican Oct. 18 include ancient and modern interpretations of scenes from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. The text is believed to have been written by St. John the Apostle based on visions he received on the island of Patmos, just off the coast of Ephesus. It is full of dramatic figures and images, including a woman giving birth, the book of seven seals, the lamb, the dragon and the beast. The exhibit is on display until Dec. 7 in the Sistine Hall of the Vatican Museums.

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Pope says political field is for laypeople, but church must guide

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Involvement in politics is a role reserved to laypeople, but Catholic Church leaders must explain and promote the moral principles that will contribute to the common good, Pope Benedict XVI said. "The church, while recognizing that it is not a political agent, cannot abstain from taking an interest in the good of the whole civil community in which it lives and works," the pope said in a message published Oct. 18. The papal message marked the 100th annual celebration of a week dedicated to studying Catholic social teaching sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference. Working for a just social order is a task that belongs to laypeople, the pope said. "As citizens of the state it is up to them to participate personally in public life," and to dedicate themselves "with generosity and courage, enlightened by faith and the teaching of the church, and animated by the love of Christ," he said.

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Pope, Tanzanian president discuss pacification in central Africa

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete held talks on pacification in central Africa and the importance of Christian-Muslim cooperation. The pope and the Tanzanian president met for 15 minutes of private discussions Oct. 19. Afterward, Kikwete held separate talks with the Vatican's top foreign affairs officials. A Vatican statement said the talks touched on Tanzania's role in working out peace agreements among the Great Lakes countries of central Africa. Kikwete recently hosted a one-day summit to ease tensions along the Uganda-Congo border, where the discovery of oil has generated a dispute. The Vatican said the talks also focused on "the importance of peaceful coexistence and collaboration between believers of all religions, in particular between Christians and Muslims."

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Pope: Understanding past conflicts helps Catholics, Mennonites heal

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Understanding the roots of past conflicts can help Catholics and Mennonites heal their relationship and move toward a common witness of faith in Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Since it is Christ himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the 16th century," the pope said during an Oct. 19 meeting with leaders of the Mennonite World Conference. "To understand is to take the first step toward healing," Pope Benedict said. The Mennonites are a branch of the Reformation movement known as Anabaptists because they rejected infant baptism and insisted adults be baptized as a public confession of faith. In the 16th century, thousands of Anabaptists were declared heretics and put to death by some European Catholic governments, such as the Habsburgs in the Netherlands and the Tirol region and the dukes of Bavaria, as well as by Protestant governments in Germany and Switzerland.

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North American College in Rome experiences enrollment boost

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pontifical North American College in Rome experienced an increase in its enrollment of seminarians as it welcomed a freshmen class of 52 students this year. Now the total number of students enrolled in the U.S. seminary is 185, the most in the past 40 years, said Msgr. James F. Checchio, the college's rector. While the upturn reflects U.S. national trends, the rector said enrollment also has been boosted because more dioceses are sending their men to Rome for preparation for the priesthood. "There are 14 new dioceses that have men here that did not last year," including many dioceses from the Midwest and the South, he told Catholic News Service Oct. 16. The college also has "a pretty good number," 74 priests, who are pursuing graduate degrees in Rome and living at its Casa Santa Maria, he said. "A few years ago (that number) had been down to 57," he said.

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Pope says church can contribute to peace in Republic of Congo

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church can contribute to the consolidation of peace and democracy in the Republic of Congo by educating its members in Gospel values, strengthening family life and improving services to the poor, Pope Benedict XVI said. Meeting Oct. 19 with Congo's bishops, who were at the Vatican making their "ad limina" visits to report on the status of their dioceses, Pope Benedict expressed his hope that the nation's Catholics would "remain untiring workers for justice and peace." Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu of Kinkala, president of the Congolese bishops' conference, told the pope his country had lived through three armed conflicts in the 1990s, and efforts continue "for the reconstruction of the country and the education of consciences." Pope Benedict called on the Congolese "to open the paths to reconciliation so that ethnic and social differences, lived with respect and in mutual love, would become a common richness and not a reason for division."

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'Google-generation' seminarians minister with MySpace and more

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An ocean away from family and friends, some U.S. seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome are bridging the divide with online communities and digital means of communication such as Skype, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace and more. But while it may have begun as simple e-mails and Web log, or blog, entries meant to keep loved ones in touch, their notes from Rome to home have blossomed into a whole new way these students preparing for the priesthood can share their spiritual journey with the rest of the world. "It's a great witness when we share our stories, our experiences in (the) seminary" that include "our hopes, our joys, our fears, our anxieties about" the journey toward the priesthood, said Johnny Burns, 27, of Milwaukee. Burns, Jacob Bertrand of San Diego and Michael Bruno of Brooklyn, N.Y., took a break from their busy schedules as second-year theology students to speak with Catholic News Service about how some seminarians from the "Google generation" are helping other people find God and the church through the Internet.


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