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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-12-2008

By Catholic News Service


Catholic leaders reflect on Brett Favre's impact on, off field

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- While the sports world came to halt at the March 4 announcement of Green Bay Packer Brett Favre's retirement, Catholic leaders in Green Bay and Mississippi also paused to reflect on the impact the near-certain Hall of Fame quarterback had on and off the field. Father Richard Getchel, pastor at St. Agnes Parish on Green Bay's west side, presided at Brett and Deanna Favre's wedding in 1996, and baptized their daughter Breleigh in 1999. The couple grew up in Mississippi. "I thought he would return, so it surprised me," Father Getchel told The Compass, newspaper of the Green Bay Diocese. "I'm happy for him and the family. I sent Deanna an e-mail. She wrote back thanking me for my concern, which was nice." Norbertine Father James Baraniak, chaplain for the Packers, attempted to reach the Favres in the days prior to the announcement. He was unaware of the pending retirement. Instead, Father Baraniak sought to share a special invitation from the papal visit advance team for Brett and his wife and the Packers' Coach Mike McCarthy to attend the papal Mass in Washington. Both priests spoke of their admiration for the Favres. St. Agnes was the family's home parish, while they were in Green Bay. Daughters Brittany and Breleigh had both attended Holy Family School, located on the parish grounds.

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Murder victims' families say death penalty exacts toll on their lives

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) -- Armed with a new study that shows the death penalty has cost Maryland taxpayers at least $186 million, opponents of capital punishment urged a Senate committee to ban the death penalty in Maryland or at least commission a study to look at the issue. Family members of murder victims also testified at the March 6 Judiciary Committee hearing, outlining how the death penalty has exacted a painful toll on their lives. John Roman, senior research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington and author of the study commissioned by the Abell Foundation, told lawmakers it costs the state about $3 million to seek and obtain the death penalty. That is about $1.9 million more than the costs of a murder case in which no death penalty is sought. The study examined 162 murders between 1978 and 1999 that became death penalty prosecutions. Democratic Sen. Lisa Gladden, chief sponsor of a repeal of the death penalty, said $186 million could be put to much better uses. "What could we purchase with that?" she asked. "We could cover all the uninsured. We could provide tuition assistance or drug treatment two or three times over."

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Catholic students to mark Pope Benedict's birthday with service hours

WASHINGTON (CNS) --The National Catholic Educational Association in Washington has issued an invitation to students in Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, colleges and seminarians around the country to do voluntary acts of service in honor of Pope Benedict XVI's 81st birthday. The pope's birthday is April 16, the second day of his six-day visit to the United States. The project is called "Birthday Blessings for Pope Benedict XVI: A Gift of Public Service From U.S. Catholic Youth and Students." It includes service projects conducted between Feb. 25 and May 31. NCEA has established a Web site, http://ncea.catholic.org, to help schools, parishes and individuals learn more about the effort and to register their volunteer hours. Students must register for the project through an online pledge form by April 11; hours are to be completed by May 31, but must be pledged by April 11. By March 12, at least 23,961 students had pledged 174,722 service hours. Pledged service hours and hours already completed will be tallied and indicated on a document to be presented to the pope during his U.S. visit.

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Catholic college to be first to set foot in new major league stadium

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The baseball team from Jesuit-run St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia will get to do something not even Pope Benedict XVI will be able to do: break in a major league baseball stadium. When the pope celebrates Mass in Nationals Park April 17, it will be the first nonbaseball event to take place at the new home of the National League's Washington Nationals. But the St. Joseph's Hawks will get to play a game there -- against the George Washington University Colonials March 22, Holy Saturday. It will be the closing game of a three-game series between St. Joseph's and George Washington that kicks off the Atlantic-10 season for both squads. "Our coaching staff alerted me to that possibility" probably at the beginning of the new year, said Joe Greenwich, assistant director of athletic communication at St. Joseph's. "I know the coaches were pretty excited about the prospect, especially (playing there) before the major leaguers have played." News about the college game was released in late February. The Nationals' opening day is March 30, but to work out whatever transportation and stadium bugs may arise before the season starts, the Nats also have scheduled some dress rehearsals, including a March 29 exhibition game with the Baltimore Orioles. It's an invitation-only affair for workers involved in the ballpark's construction and other select individuals.

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CPA scholarship fund now accepting applications; deadline is April 15

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Catholic Journalism Scholarship Fund of the Chicago-based Catholic Press Association is now accepting applications for scholarships or grants for 2008. Registered agents of publications, registered staff members, registered individual freelance members, service members, associate members and/or anyone working for a registered CPA publication may apply for a scholarship or grant. The deadline for applications is April 15. Application forms can be found by going to the CPA's Web site, www.catholicpress.org, and clicking on the link along the right side. Scholarship funds can be used for graduate studies and other types of educational opportunities, such as institutes, study trips and specialized workshops. The application form, prepared in Microsoft Word, can be copied, completed and e-mailed as an attachment to Velma Parks, the CPA's accountant: kbotdorf@catholicpress.org. If supplementary material (e.g., course catalog descriptions) is needed, it can be sent by regular mail to her at the CPA, 205 W. Monroe St., Suite 470, Chicago, IL 60606.

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Pope establishes new diocese, names new bishop in Puerto Rico

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has established the Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico, and named Father Eusebio Ramos Morales to be its first bishop. The new diocese, the sixth in Puerto Rico, was created with territory taken from the Archdiocese of San Juan and the Diocese of Caguas. The Vatican announced the establishment of the new diocese and the appointment of the 55-year-old bishop March 11. Bishop-designate Ramos was born in Maunabo Dec. 15, 1952, and studied science and biology at the University of Puerto Rico. He was a high school teacher before entering the seminary. He studied philosophy and theology at Bayamon Central University in Puerto Rico, with the Jesuits in Mexico and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla. He also earned a degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

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U.S. Dominican nuns turn heads, spread God's love to youths in Sydney

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Everywhere they go in Sydney, the three Dominican nuns from Tennessee keep turning heads. Dressed in their distinctive white habits and black and white veils, the sisters stand out in the crowd. At Sydney Harbor, where the tourists fix their cameras on the iconic Opera House and bridge, the arrival of Sisters Anna Wray, Mary Rachel Capets and Mary Madeline Todd gets everybody's viewfinders swinging in their direction. The reaction of local residents in Belmore, the multicultural suburb where they are staying, is similar. The nuns are in Sydney at the invitation of Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, World Youth Day 2008 coordinator and fellow Dominican. Normally they would be at home teaching, but their motherhouse in Nashville has sent delegations to assist with preparations for each World Youth Day since Denver was the host city in 1993. "It's part of our apostolic mission to spread God's love to the youth of the world," said Sister Anna, 28, noting that as Dominicans their lives are balanced between "contemplation and action."

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Spanish bishops pledge cooperation with Socialist government

MADRID, Spain (CNS) -- Spain's Catholic bishops have pledged to cooperate with the newly re-elected Socialist government, but a cardinal warned the church would oppose secularizing reforms. In a March 10 statement, the bishops' conference said its president, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, and secretary-general, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Martinez Camino of Madrid, had written to congratulate Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on his March 9 election victory. "We assure you of our prayers that the Lord will grant you his light and strength in carrying out the important responsibilities commended to you by the Spanish people in the service of peace, justice, freedom and the common good of all citizens," they said. "Likewise, we express our personal willingness and that of the bishops' conference to collaborate sincerely with the legitimate state authorities in order better to serve the common good." The Madrid-based bishops' conference press office told Catholic News Service March 12 there would be no further church statements or declarations after the elections, in which Zapatero's Socialist Party gained nearly 44 percent of the votes.

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Polish priest-cosmologist wins prestigious Templeton Prize

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Michal Heller, 72, a Polish priest-cosmologist and a onetime associate of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, was named March 12 as the winner of the Templeton Prize. The prize, the world's largest annual monetary award given to an individual, is worth 820,000 pounds sterling (US$1.65 million). The award is given for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities. Father Heller, a philosophy professor at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland, was honored for 40-plus years of work developing "sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the universe," according to the announcement on the prize. The priest, who for much of his life worked under the strictures of communism, is an international figure among cosmologists and physicists. He has written more than 30 books and nearly 400 papers on such topics as the unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics. But he also has, through a "theology of science," placed the Christian view of the universe "within a broader cosmological context."

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Priest celebrates 50 years of sheltering neglected children in Mexico

OAXACA, Mexico (CNS) -- His young voice cracked several times, but the little boy courageously finished Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" and welcomed the enthusiastic applause of the audience. It was the highlight of the choir's performance at the 50th anniversary celebration of the "Ciudad de los Ninos," a shelter for abandoned children in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. "Ciudad de los Ninos" is Spanish for City of the Children. For Father Jose Miguel Perez Garcia, founder for the shelter, the late-February event was the culmination of a long and difficult fight to restore the dignity of more than 2,000 orphans and street children over the last half century. "The fact that we exist mirrors our society," said the almost 80-year-old priest from a small village not far from Oaxaca, capital of the state with the same name. This agricultural state with 3.5 million inhabitants is experiencing a huge wave of migration to the United States caused by poverty and political neglect.

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Pope: Even in facing torture, happiness is possible with hope in God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even in the face of terrible misfortune and suffering, true happiness is possible as long as one continues to have hope in God, Pope Benedict XVI said. When personal disaster strikes, only true friends stick around, and one of those true friends is God, he said. At his March 12 general audience at the Vatican, Pope Benedict discussed two early Christian writers, Boethius and Cassiodorus. Boethius, born in Rome around 480, was imprisoned, tortured and executed at 44 years of age, the pope said. The Christian martyr wrote his best-known work of philosophy while he was in jail, "De Consolatione Philosophiae." The pope called him a "symbol of a huge number of detainees unjustly" imprisoned throughout history and the world today. The Christian writer struggled to "find consolation, find light, find wisdom" during his imprisonment and realized that those harsh conditions allowed him to discover what things in life were superficial. The pope said Cassiodorus, a Roman statesman and monk who lived from 490 to 585, promoted the monastic movement and believed monks were the best people to salvage, preserve and pass down the cultural heritage of classical Christian culture.


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