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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-5-2008

By Catholic News Service


Vatican theologians see miracle in Hawaiian woman's cancer cure

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Theological consultors to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes have ruled that the cancer cure of a Hawaiian woman was due to Blessed Damien de Veuster's intercession, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva announced April 29. The decision represents a major step forward in Father Damien's cause for canonization. The final actions required to declare the priest a saint are the endorsement of the congregation's committee of cardinals and bishops and the approval of the pope. Father Damien, the 19th-century Belgian missionary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who spent the final 16 years of his life caring for the Hansen's disease patients on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, was beatified in 1995 in Belgium by Pope John Paul II. In his announcement, Bishop Silva included the name of the Oahu woman, Audrey Toguchi, whose cancer disappeared a decade ago after she began prayers to Father Damien that included pilgrimages to Kalaupapa where the priest worked and died. It was the first time the diocese had made her name public.

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Washington archbishop says denial of Communion is up to local bishops

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Following criticism that high-profile Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal were permitted to receive the Eucharist during the U.S. papal Masses in Washington and New York, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl reiterated that such an action should be left to the discretion of the bishop heading an individual lawmaker's diocese. In the archbishop's April 30 column in the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, he does not agree with those who say he supersede the authority of an individual bishop when dealing with public figures from those jurisdictions who serve in the District of Columbia. "A decision regarding the refusal of holy Communion to an individual is one that should be made only after clear efforts to persuade and convince the person that their actions are wrong and bear moral consequences," he said. "Presumably this is done in the home diocese where the bishops and priests, the pastors of souls, engage the members of their flock in this type of discussion." An April 28 column by syndicated columnist Robert Novak criticized Archbishop Wuerl and Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York for inviting to the papal Masses U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Edward M. Kennedy and former New York mayor and GOP presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, all Catholics who have supported keeping abortion legal and all of whom were reported to have publicly received Communion.

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U.S. commission cites Vietnam as major violator of religious freedom

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. watchdog group has named Vietnam as one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom because of its participation and acceptance in suppressing its citizens' ability to worship freely. Vietnam's religious communities, including Catholics, face ongoing and serious problems because the reforms meant to improve the situation are inconsistent and vary throughout the country, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's annual report on the status of religious freedom in countries around the world. Vietnam also continues to detain religious prisoners and, overall, the human rights situation is deteriorating, said the report released May 2 by the commission. The commission is an independent, bipartisan, federal agency mandated by Congress to review international religious freedom and recommend to the U.S. secretary of state which countries be designated as "countries of particular concern" for their engagement in or toleration of systemic and egregious violations of religious freedom. The agency also recommends a "watch list" for those countries where conditions require close monitoring. Vietnam earned the designation for reasons including that: "independent religious activity remains illegal, and legal protections for government-approved religious organizations are both vague and subject to arbitrary or discriminatory interpretations based on political factors," it said. While the Vietnamese government has made strides in improving religious freedom by "expanding the zone of permissible religious activity" and releasing some prisoners, the report said, "the notable progress occurred alongside persistent abuses, discrimination and restrictions."

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Zimbabweans afraid to vote without monitors, says church official

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Zimbabweans will be afraid to return to the polls unless runoff elections are internationally monitored, a church official said after official results showed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential election, but not enough to beat President Robert Mugabe. Harassment of opposition supporters and those involved in monitoring the March elections is happening mostly in rural Zimbabwe, said Alouis Chaumba, head of Zimbabwe's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. In a May 4 telephone interview, he said "people are scared" to vote in a runoff because they fear for their lives. With "polling agents being accused of being enemies of the state who want to sell out the country," few will want to be involved in monitoring the runoff, "which leaves the process open to cheating," he said. "People voted for change and now feel utter disbelief" as they are told they need to vote again in a runoff, he said. Those who voted in Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections "feel like it was a futile exercise and have lost faith in the process," Chaumba said. Election officials said May 2 that Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, took 47.9 percent of the vote while Mugabe, 84, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, took 43.2 percent. Zimbabwe election law requires 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff.

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Religious release 'map' of how orders help people with HIV/AIDS

ROME (CNS) -- In an effort to enhance their visibility on the world stage and provide networking support to others, two worldwide organizations of religious released a global "map" of how the church is combating HIV/AIDS. Titled "In Loving Service," the 30-page booklet documents the services religious orders offer to millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS around the world. Organizers said the mapping project will be vital for showing the churches, governments, international organizations and potential donors exactly what men and women religious are doing in the areas of prevention, care and education. A draft of the booklet was released April 30 and at a May 3-5 international forum sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General, an organization for women religious, and the Union of Superiors General, an organization for men religious. Organizers said the role religious institutes play in fighting the spread of HIV and caring for those affected by AIDS has either been overlooked or criticized for the church's opposition to the use of condoms in prevention programs.

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Pope: Catholic laity must show world faith not opposed to freedom

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic laypeople are called to study their faith, live it and show the world that faith is not opposed to intelligence or freedom and that it is a powerful force for good in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said. Addressing nearly 150,000 people gathered in and around St. Peter's Square for the 140th anniversary of Italian Catholic Action May 4, the pope said that by focusing on "contemplation, communion and mission" the parish-based organization helps laypeople fulfill their vocation in the world. Pope Benedict told the members that the importance of Catholic Action, which formed generations of Italian Catholic politicians and social activists, had not outlived its mission. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and fidelity to church teaching, he said, Catholic Action members are called to find "ever new syntheses between proclaiming salvation in Christ to people of our age and promoting the integral good of the person and the entire human family."

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Catholic agencies assess humanitarian situation in Myanmar

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic aid agencies were assessing the humanitarian situation in Myanmar after a cyclone hit the Southeast Asian country and killed thousands. Cyclone Nargis swept over southern Myanmar May 3. Initial reports put the death toll at around 350, but that number soon jumped to 4,000. Foreign Minister Nyan Win said May 5 that 10,000 people could have been killed by the cyclone's heavy rains and winds of up to 120 mph. The cyclone damaged at least three major cities, including Yangon, the capital of Myanmar and its largest city. Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations, said in a statement May 5 that it was gathering information in Myanmar and was concerned about the humanitarian crisis. "There is an urgent need" for aid workers to get "to the affected areas so that we can assess the damage, start to provide food, shelter, clean water and medical assistance," said Dolores Halpin-Bachmann, Caritas emergency response tem leader, in the statement. "Myanmar is a poor country and will most likely need international help to respond to a disaster on this scale."

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Some Latin American politicians grounded in Catholic social teaching

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- After Latin America's bishops established their "preferential option for the poor" in a conference in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, the church became a training ground for active Catholics throughout the region. Although some were involved with leftist movements that fought rightist governments in the 1970s and 1980s, more and more Catholics are gaining political clout at the ballot box. The rise of presidents who are controversial in some circles but who campaigned on platforms of fighting poverty and social inequality -- such as Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and most recently retired Bishop Fernando Lugo in Paraguay -- is putting Catholic activists in many government offices. "The liberation movement had a tremendous impact on the Catholic left in Latin America and was very influential," said Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center in Washington. "Catholic social teaching has always been pro-poor," Father Reese said. Many people who are now involved in politics "got their feet wet in the Catholic Church. They learned political skills there."

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Swiss Guards show that loyalty to church does not change, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world of constant change, the Swiss Guards with their colorful traditional uniforms are a sign that loyalty and dedication to the church never go out of fashion, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope met May 5 with 33 young Swiss Catholic men who had joined the 110-man corps over the past 12 months. They were to take their official oaths of office the next evening. Pope Benedict said the corps, formed 502 years ago, was always small, but always dedicated to protecting the pope and his residence. "After five centuries, the spirit of faith that pushes young Swiss men to leave their beautiful land in order to serve the pope at the Vatican has remained unchanged," he said. In addition, he said, "the love for the Catholic Church to which you witness with your persons more than with your words" also has remained unchanged.

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Praying the rosary is experiencing a new revival, pope says

ROME (CNS) -- Praying the rosary is enjoying a revival among Catholics and can be a profound way to relive the events of Christ's life, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope led the recital of the rosary with hundreds of Catholics in Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major May 3. U.S. Cardinal Bernard F. Law, archpriest of the basilica, welcomed the pontiff and prayed with him. Speaking at the end of the encounter, the pope said the rosary was "not a pious practice relegated to the past, like a prayer of former times to be remembered with nostalgia." He said, "The rosary, on the contrary, is experiencing almost a new springtime. This is undoubtedly one of the most eloquent signs of the love that younger generations have for Jesus and for his mother, Mary." The papal event took place on the first Saturday of May, the month the church dedicates to Mary, at Rome's pre-eminent Marian basilica. In his talk, the pope emphasized that devotion to Mary through the rosary always has Christ at its center.

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Pope says Christians have fundamental duty to work for peace, justice

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians have a fundamental responsibility to work for peace and justice, which is tied inseparably to their mission to proclaim the Gospel, Pope Benedict XVI said. This social aspect of the faith is crucial as humanity faces new and important challenges in the 21st century, including economic justice and environmental protection, he said. The pope made the remarks May 3 in a speech to members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy was meeting to discuss Catholic social teaching and the common good. The pope said the technical aspects of social justice must be understood by Catholics in a framework of faith. "The responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman," he said.

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Alvare named consultor to Pontifical Council for the Laity

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Helen Alvare, an associate professor of law at The Catholic University of America, has been appointed as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity by Pope Benedict XVI. She becomes one of 20 consultors to the 36-member council. In her role, Alvare will "advise the Holy Father and therefore the universal church on particular problems or questions regarding the laity that may arise," she said in a statement. "The appointment inspires me to redouble my efforts toward scholarship on the situation particularly of Catholic laywomen and families insofar as this might be helpful to the universal church." Alvare is one of six people with ties to Catholic University who assist various Vatican bodies. The others are: Sister Rose McDermott, a Sister of St. Joseph who advises the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Father Paul McPartlan, consultor to the International Theological Commission; Vincentian Father David M. O'Connell, Catholic University president, serving with the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education; and Msgr. Robert Trisco and Nelson Minnich, members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

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Christian Brothers University president killed in two-car crash

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) -- The president of Christian Brothers University in Memphis died in a May 2 automobile accident in Louisiana. Christian Brother Vincent Malham, 73, also worked for nearly a decade at Bethlehem University in the Middle East and was its president for seven years. He was killed when his car crossed the center line as he drove southbound and collided head-on with a pickup shortly after 2 p.m. on a road near Clayton, La., southwest of Vicksburg, Miss., reported the Louisiana State Police. The two occupants of the pickup sustained minor injuries. A funeral Mass was to be celebrated at 10 a.m. May 12 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Memphis. "We are reeling," Willis H. Willey III, chairman of the university's board of trustees, told Catholic News Service May 5. "Vincent was a real gift from God for Christian Brothers University. He came at a real critical time in our history. In his very brief tenure he has done a remarkable job at pulling things together." Willey credited Brother Malham for spearheading the development of a master plan for the midtown Memphis campus. "He was a change agent at CBU," Willey said. "We fully intend to carry on what he planned."

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Vatican official challenges colleges to be 'unambiguously Catholic'

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (CNS) -- You can't have a college or university that "happens to be" Catholic; the institution's Catholic identity ought to unmistakably permeate every discipline, and its graduates ought to be willing to stand up for the church. This was part of the message delivered by Cardinal Francis Arinze, who spoke at a fundraising dinner April 16 for the SS. Peter & Paul Educational Foundation. The Nigerian cardinal is the head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. During his speech at the Inn at St. John's banquet center in Plymouth Township, he outlined what the Catholic faith community ought to expect of their institutions of higher learning. "Not only should it be a community of scholars and students, representing different branches of human knowledge," Cardinal Arinze told the gathering of about 200 people. "But at the same time it should be an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative."


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