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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-19-2008

By Catholic News Service


Legalizing gay marriage will affect church institutions, speakers say

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) -- For Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy in Manassas, Va., changing the law to allow same-sex marriage means changing one of the fundamental building blocks of society. But it also would have a direct impact on the institutions that regularly celebrate marriages, such as the Catholic Church, she told an audience in Providence. She also expressed concern that those who support traditional marriage will be treated "like bigots who opposed interracial marriage." Gallagher was one of two national speakers who addressed two groups that have a particular stake in marriage law -- Catholic clergy and lawyers. The other speaker was Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. In Rhode Island, same-sex marriage is not legal, but several bills are pending before the General Assembly that would allow them as well as same-sex civil unions. In their presentations, Gallagher presented a case for the importance of marriage to society and Picarello outlined several of the potential legal ramifications that religious institutions could face if marriage law is changed.

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New documentary showcases faith, witness of Sisters of Mercy

ERIE, Pa. (CNS) -- Mercy Sister JoAnne Courneen recalls holding in her arms a woman who was crying out in pain at a homeless shelter in Washington several years ago. It was a defining moment for her. "At that moment you realize God is really in your life. (The poor) are really the face of God for us," says Sister JoAnne in a new documentary film produced about the Erie Sisters of Mercy, who on Jan. 1 joined Mercy sisters in Buffalo, the Philippines, Pittsburgh and Rochester to form the New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community. Sister JoAnne, who serves on the leadership team for the new community, says the incident made her realize that everyone is one bad decision away from being homeless. Titled "Meeting of the Waters," the film is being released as a DVD. It premiered for the general public March 12 in Erie. More information about the film and a preview of it are available online at: www.IDVidPro.com/MOTW.

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English bishop says Iraqi Christian community undergoing own Calvary

LONDON (CNS) -- An English bishop asked Catholics in England and Wales to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq by praying for the Iraqi Christian community, which is "undergoing its own Calvary." "In the midst of continuing conflict and instability we should all reflect on the lessons that need to be learned and ask how we can contribute to creating a better future for Iraq," said Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, England, chairman of the Department of International Affairs of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "Above all, we need to remember the people of Iraq as they struggle to rebuild their country," he said March 18. "In particular, we ask you to hold in your prayers the Christian community." He said the plight of Iraqi Christians had been "brought home with terrible force" by the Feb. 29 abduction and subsequent killing of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq. "British military personnel, and the chaplains who accompany them, continue to serve with distinction, and they and their families are also in our prayers at this time," he said.

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Pope asks that dialogue, tolerance replace violence in Tibet

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI asked that dialogue and tolerance replace the tensions and violence that recently erupted in Tibet. "With violence, problems are not solved, only aggravated," the pope said in a March 19 appeal at the end of his weekly general audience. Pope Benedict asked that God would grant courage "to each and every one to choose the path of dialogue and tolerance." He said he was following "the news coming from Tibet these days with great trepidation" and felt "sadness and grief in the face of the suffering of so many people." With such events taking place at the time of Holy Week, it "helps us be particularly sensitive to their situation," he said. What began March 10 in Tibet as relatively peaceful protests to mark the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule turned to rioting and a crackdown by Chinese troops. Chinese authorities said the final death toll was 13 people, while Tibetan exile groups put the figure at more than 80.

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Pope expresses hope that Holy Week, Easter rituals deepen faith

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped the church's Holy Week and Easter rituals would help deepen all Catholics' conversion to Christ and their solidarity with those who suffer. At his March 19 general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the pope explained the meaning of the liturgies the church was to celebrate in the coming days. The Easter triduum lets the faithful share in the mystery of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, he said, and represents "the heart and climax of the liturgical year as well as the life of the church." He asked the thousands of pilgrims present to use this holy period to let their lives be guided by God and to "renew our 'yes' to the divine will just as Jesus did with his sacrifice on the cross." The moving ceremonies celebrated during Holy Week and Easter "offer us an opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian vocation," said the pope.

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Book helps Romanian Christians mark anniversary of communist takeover

BUCHAREST, Romania (CNS) -- Christians in Romania are marking the 60th anniversary of the country's communist takeover with resolve and a book commemorating their persecution. "Sixty years ago, by law, the communists tried to destroy the church," recalled Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest. "They confiscated our property, jailed our priests, closed our seminaries and schools, shuttered our printing operations, threatened to arrest -- then expelled -- the Holy See representative to Romania, and instituted an atheist ideology. "Instead of burying us, the church is thriving today, but we remind ourselves constantly about what we lost," the archbishop said in the book's introduction. As part of a commitment to remember the communists' suppression of religion starting in 1948, several Romanian Christian churches produced "The Martyrs of Christ in Romania Under the Communist Regime," on sale for the past 10 months. The 812-page book is a joint project of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Latin-rite Catholic Church and evangelical churches.

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In northern Israel, walking from village to village, like Jesus

TABGHA, Israel (CNS) -- As the two hikers reach the parking lot of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, a group of tourists scrambles into their waiting air-conditioned bus. The hikers, Maoz Inon, 32, and David Landis, 25, have just taken a short hike down from the Mount of Beatitudes to the shore of the Sea of Galilee on part of the new Jesus Trail hiking route they have mapped out over the past five months. "Can you imagine what it would be like for a hiker after walking the route for some hours and then to arrive here, or at another holy site? It is different than arriving on an air-conditioned bus," said Inon. The two young entrepreneurs -- Inon, a Jewish Israeli, and Landis, an American Mennonite tourist who divides his time between Israel and other travel destinations -- met over the Internet when Landis came across Inon's travel blog. For several years Inon had toyed with the idea of mapping out a hiking trail along the route of Christian holy sites in Galilee. He found a partner in Landis, who shared his passion for hiking and world travel.

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Jewish Scouting group honors Cardinal Keeler with Shofar Award

FALLSTON, Md. (CNS) -- Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore and an Eagle Scout, received the National Jewish Committee on Scouting Shofar Award for helping the committee but also was cited for his work to promote Christian-Jewish relations. The cardinal is a member of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and its Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue. Rabbi Rachmiel Tobesman, a member of the Baltimore Area Council Boy Scout Relationship Committee, presented Cardinal Keeler with the award. "We have more in common than we have differences," said the rabbi, who also praised the cardinal for his work bringing together Scouts of different faiths. The award presentation came at the end of the 62nd annual Archdiocese of Baltimore Scout Mass celebrated March 2 at St. Mark in Fallston. Scouts of all ages packed the church.

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Gonzaga University president to leave post in July 2009

SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, president of Gonzaga University, announced March 17 that he plans to leave his post in July 2009 and will work with the school's board of trustees to initiate a transition in leadership at the Jesuit-run university. Father Spitzer, a graduate of Gonzaga, has been its president for the past 10 years, overseeing growth in the university's facilities, enrollment, fundraising, technology and mission programs. "The university has made considerable progress during the past 10 years and now enjoys a momentum which will catalyze even further progress," Father Spitzer said. "I believe that transitions are best made during times of real advance rather than times of crisis or neutrality, and so I believe that this is an ideal time to begin the transition process." During his tenure, enrollment at the university has increased along with the annual budget. Several construction projects also took place totaling more than $200 million.

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Archbishop criticizes Polish media for publishing claims of sex abuse

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- An archbishop criticized the Polish media for publishing claims of clerical sex abuse and defended the right of the Catholic Church's court to hear the case. "It is hard to understand motives" that guided the authors of a report in Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily "and those who gave them material. I am pained that a person's intimate sphere has been so easily displayed to public view," said Archbishop Zygmunt Kaminski of Szczecin-Kamien in a pastoral letter read in churches March 16. The previous week Gazeta Wyborcza printed a report accusing church leaders of covering up repeated sex abuse by a priest identified as Father Andrzej while he was director of a local Caritas children's home in the archdiocese. Archbishop Kaminski said reports about the priest's alleged crimes had caused "confusion and unease" among local Catholics and placed him in a "troublesome situation." "Appropriate procedures apply in the church -- as the church's pastor, I am bound by them, like any believer," said Archbishop Kaminski.


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