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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-23-2008

By Catholic News Service


U.S. pilgrims cope with expenses, logistics to get to World Youth Day

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The logistics of bringing tens of thousands of young people together for World Youth Day are complicated, but this year's July 15-20 event in Sydney, Australia, has the added hurdle of the major expense for pilgrims just to get there. This is especially true for U.S. pilgrims, who are about 9,000 miles away and face airline tickets ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. Tickets also have been hard to come by because of the limited number of carriers with flights from the United States to Australia -- namely, Qantas and United Airlines. Pat Pacer, a youth ministry coordinator with the Chicago Archdiocese, said the trip's expense, coupled with a lack of flexibility to purchase more tickets, brought attendance numbers down considerably for their group. The Chicago Archdiocese sent 2,000 pilgrims to World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. Three years later it sent 500 youths to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. This year it is sending 43 pilgrims.

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Religious leaders support reworked U.S. Senate climate-change bill

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Christian and Jewish religious leaders May 21 formally threw their support behind a reworked U.S. Senate bill that addresses environmental climate change. During a media briefing on Capitol Hill, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski -- chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace -- joined bill co-sponsors Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., and John W. Warner, R-Va., and other Christian and Jewish religious leaders to discuss what he called "ground-breaking legislation" that also takes the poor into consideration when combating global warming. Though other Christian and Jewish religious leaders wholeheartedly pledged their support for the reworked bill, Bishop Wenski stressed that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not lead an interest group but a church. "We are not here to endorse the many details in this or any other legislation" but applaud lawmakers' efforts to consider the impact climate-change mandates will have on the low-income populace, said the bishop, head of the Diocese of Orlando, Fla.

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High court rules Internet child porn law doesn't violate free speech

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court's May 19 7-2 decision upholding a five-year prison term for a purveyor of online child pornography was seen by many as having more advantages than drawbacks. One drawback is it could be seen by some as having the potential for eroding First Amendment free-speech rights, but those interviewed by Catholic News Service felt the main advantage of the decision is it creates the potential for more prosecutions of Internet child porn. In its decision the court said a broad 2002 federal law that punishes individuals who sell child pornography or those who seek it does not violate free-speech rights. The decision came in the case of a Florida man serving five years for possessing child porn who appealed an additional five-year sentence on a charge of pandering in child porn. "On the whole, I think it's a very good decision," said Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media.

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Repercussions of immigration raid felt far beyond Iowa

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An immigration raid May 12 in Iowa may have taken place in tiny Postville, but its repercussions are being felt as far away as Washington and Guatemala. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Agriprocessors meat processing plant in Postville, arresting 389 people, most whom are Guatemalan, and ultimately charging 304 of them with felony criminal counts such as possessing a false ID. The remaining 85 were charged with civil immigration violations and released "for humanitarian purposes" such as caring for their young children. By the next week, members of Congress were holding hearings about the effects of workplace raids on families and calling on ICE personnel to explain elements of such raids. The Guatemalan government was decrying treatment of its citizens as human rights violations. In Iowa, churches stepped in to help families affected by the arrests. At St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, some families, afraid to go home, stayed in the church around the clock in the days immediately following the raid. There, and at churches of various denominations, volunteers provided meals, legal advice, comfort and support.

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Catholic leaders pray accord will improve conditions for farmworkers

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic and U.S. Senate leaders applauded an agreement between Burger King Corp. and a farmworkers' organization signed May 23 to raise the price paid to laborers, which they hope will lead to an industrywide revolution in social responsibility. Following a week at the negotiating table with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Burger King officials agreed to pay an additional penny per pound to the Florida farmworkers who harvest their tomatoes. The company also will pay incremental payroll taxes and administrative costs the growers will incur as a result of the increased wages for the farmworkers, making the total boost 1.5 cents per pound, said Amy E. Wagner, a senior vice president for Burger King Corp., based in Miami. This increase will translate collectively to about $250,000 in the paychecks of tomato farm laborers, Wagner said. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had urged Burger King officials to join companies like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, which signed similar agreements with the Florida farmworkers coalition, and hopes more corporations in the food industry will follow suit, said John L. Carr, executive director for the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

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California court's decision on same-sex marriage draws condemnation

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The May 15 California Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage continued to draw condemnation from Catholic leaders across the country as an act that destroys God's plan for humanity. Bishops in particular on both coasts were joined by the Maryland Catholic Conference in expressing grave concerns that the 4-3 decision undermines the legal status of marriage and threatens to destroy the moral framework of American culture. The court held that domestic partnerships currently recognized by the state are an inadequate substitute for marriage. The ruling makes California the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-sex couples to wed. The California decision was to go into effect 30 days after it was handed down, but its opponents vowed to fight it.

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Pope urges Albanian bishops to minister to Albanian emigrants

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops of Albania to confront a double task: repairing the spiritual damage left by decades of communism and ministering to the many Albanians who have left the country in recent years. The pope spoke to the bishops May 23. They were on their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican, a series of consultative meetings made approximately every five years. The pope said the atheistic regime that ruled Albania until 1992 had left a "sad inheritance" from which its people are still recovering. The bishops now have the difficult job of helping the country find a new way of thinking about the social order, he said. He said they also face the phenomenon of emigration, which has taken hundreds of thousands of Albanians to Western Europe and other developed countries. The bishops not only need to assign priests for pastoral care to Albanians outside the country, but also make contact with bishops in the host countries and establish lines of communication with local churches there, the pope said.

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Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling may not be permanent change

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The four dozen people who received Communion from Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling. Vatican officials said the gesture at the May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran does not mark a permanent change in papal liturgies, but highlighted the solemnity of the feast and a connection to Mass practices in the past. As the pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the basilica steps. The chosen communicants -- laypeople, nuns, seminarians, priests and boys and girls who had received their first Communion in their parishes in May -- all knelt and received on the tongue. Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand. The majority choose to receive on the tongue, but some reverently extend cradled hands to receive the Eucharist. In a brief e-mail to Catholic News Service May 23, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the decision "was a solution adopted for (the feast of) Corpus Domini," but as for the future, "we'll see."

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Vatican rep says rise in food prices threatens lives of 1 billion

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican representative said the recent rise in global food prices threatens the lives of the 1 billion people who spend most of their daily income in search of food. The current food crisis shines "a red light of alarm" on structural injustices in the agricultural economy worldwide, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva May 22. It was the second strong statement in less than a week by Vatican officials on the food crisis, which has sparked riots in several countries in recent months. The Vatican released a copy of the text May 23. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome reported food prices have risen 45 percent over the last nine months, with the price of rice increasing 83 percent since December. Much of the increase has been blamed on higher fuel costs. Archbishop Tomasi, who addressed a special session of the council on the right to food, said the surge in food prices threatens the stability of developing countries and calls for urgent international action.

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Quebec to keep crucifix but accept other commission recommendations

MONTREAL (CNS) -- The Quebec government refused a government-mandated commission's recommendation to remove a crucifix from the wall of the Quebec National Assembly and move it to the city hall next door. But it has not yet commented on the same commission's recommendation that there should be no prayers at city hall meetings. Referring to the crucifix as a symbol of "our religious and historical patrimony," Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest made it clear that he supports the conclusions of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices related to Cultural Differences, which delivered its 300-page report containing 37 recommendations May 22. Launched in September 2007, the commission led a Quebec-wide public consultation on the religious and cultural accommodations of immigrants and cultural minorities, in which more than 3,000 people participated and some 900 statements were delivered by the general public and interested organizations.

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Church workers deliver food in China's quake-devastated area

MIANYANG, China (CNS) -- Four priests and two nuns crossed a checkpoint leading to a sealed-off area in China's devastated Beichuan County to deliver food to isolated earthquake survivors. They came close to the town of Beichuan, which has been sealed off and will be razed in an effort to prevent epidemics, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News May 23. Father Zhong Cheng, a priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mianyang, led the Catholic team in three cars and a truck to deliver the aid May 21 and 22 to survivors of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake May 12 in Sichuan province. Three priests from other parts of the country and Sisters Zhang Yimei and Zhan Dengju, who serve in the parish, were part of the relief team. They loaded the truck with five tons of rice and 200 buckets of cooking oil before heading northwest from Mianyang. They delivered the foodstuffs door to door and comforted residents, including some Catholics, at more than 10 locations in Beichuan, An and other counties, Father Zhong told UCA News May 22.

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World's busiest pharmacy? Vatican drugstore offers cut-rate prices

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From a simple storeroom for the pope's pills to a bustling drugstore open to the public, the Vatican pharmacy has come a long way in 134 years. The Vatican says the pharmacy is the busiest in the world; some 2,000 customers stream through its doors daily. The booming business and crowded store led officials to recently expand and open a whole new wing dedicated to top-brand beauty-care products and sparkly glass bottles of perfume. If it weren't for the large antique, hand-painted ceramic "arborelli," or medicinal urns, topping the cabinets and the portraits of Pope Benedict XVI and St. John of God, founder of the order that oversees the pharmacy, one would think this was just any old high-end drug and beauty store. But many people -- about 45 percent of the daily clientele -- come to the Vatican pharmacy for foreign, hard-to-find medicines or to fill prescriptions at cut-rate prices. Savings can range from 12 percent to 25 percent less for the same products sold in Italian drugstores.

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Mexican diocese: Sacraments must be performed in places of worship

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Diocese of Cuernavaca announced it will no longer recognize sacraments, including marriages and baptisms, performed outside authorized places of worship. Bishop Florencio Olvera Ochoa of Cuernavaca described many of the ceremonies that are often held in private homes, luxury hotels and former haciendas as lacking a sense of community, inclusion and openness. "It creates an elitism, generally in favor of the rich," he said in mid-May. Cuernavaca, a mountainous colonial city located about 55 miles south of Mexico City, is a bustling weekend retreat for wealthy Mexico City residents and a popular spot for the high-profile weddings of the country's best-known entertainers, politicians and business people. The bishop added that the new rules would crack down on phony priests offering their services in the diocese -- usually at destination weddings and, in one prominent case, the marriage of a famed soap opera actress and prominent soccer star.

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Lancaster Catholic teen receives international service award

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Shannon Hickey, a 17-year-old Catholic from Lancaster, Pa., is this year's recipient of the Service to Mankind Award from Sertoma International, an organization that raises money for local community projects. Hickey, who is scheduled to receive her award July 18 at the Sertoma International Convention in Denver, is being honored for her work with the nonprofit group she founded in 2002 called Mychal's Message. The organization collects and distributes items for the homeless. It is named after the late Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain for the New York Fire Department who died helping victims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The priest was a family friend of Hickey and her mother, Kelly Lynch. Steven Murphy, executive director of Sertoma, described this year's pool of nominees for the service award as "highly competitive" and "extraordinary across the board." Murphy also found it "very encouraging" that more and more of the nominees are from the younger generation.

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Pope encourages media professors to teach skepticism, not cynicism

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Students preparing for a career in communications must learn to be skeptical, especially when the public good is at stake, but they also must be helped to avoid becoming cynical, Pope Benedict XVI told communications professors. "Nourish and reward that passion for truth and goodness that is always strong in the young. Help them give themselves fully to the search for truth," the pope said in a May 23 address to participants in a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The meeting brought together professors and staff members from communications departments at Catholic universities and institutes from around the world to discuss the specifically Catholic mission of their educational programs, the best ways to respond to rapid changes in the field of communications and how to educate future media professionals in ethical values. Pope Benedict told the professors that every form of communication -- from teaching to prayer -- using every means from the human voice to a computer is a reflection of the fact that human beings were created to communicate, to create relationships and to grow "in knowledge, wisdom and love."

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Australian bishop, former WWII and Vietnam chaplain, dies at 98

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- Bishop John Aloysius Morgan, perhaps Australia's last living World War II chaplain, died May 21 at the age of 98. He died at his home in Canberra hours after asking to return there from Calvary Hospital, where he had been for several weeks after being injured seriously in a fall. "I just want to go home to prepare to die," he reportedly told the hospital staff. Bishop Morgan, who retired in 1985, became a chaplain of the Australian army June 12, 1941, serving in Papua New Guinea. He was present at the formal surrender of Japanese forces at Wewak, Papua New Guinea, in September 1945. He also served during the Vietnam War. Bishop Max Davis of the Military Ordinariate of Australia said Bishop Morgan significantly raised the profile of chaplaincy in the Australian military and promoted solidarity and coordination among chaplains serving in the world's armed forces. Bishop Morgan was legendary in the Catholic Church and the Australian army, with a very personal approach to soldiers, said Bishop Davis and Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn.

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In Jerusalem, Jon Voight says Catholic roots fight Hollywood nonsense

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight said the strong Catholic roots instilled in him by his mother have helped him overlook much of the "nonsense" of Hollywood. "It is a relief in Hollywood to have some spirituality," Voight told Catholic News Service in mid-May in the lounge of a hotel on the edge of Jerusalem's Old City. "You are protected from all the nonsense. You keep your spirituality by doing good deeds." After a period of spiritual-seeking in the mid-1980s, Voight said, he rediscovered the lessons learned as a young child from his mother and became involved in using his celebrity status to help others, including American Indians, drug addicts, the homeless, Vietnam veterans and farmers. He also has been a spokesman for almost 20 years for Chabad's Children of Chernobyl, a medical relief program for Russian Jewish children still affected by the fallout from the 1986 explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Voight was in Israel to show his support for the Chernobyl children's program.

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McCain repudiates endorsements by two televangelists

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has rejected the endorsements of two televangelists amid criticism that one of them said God sent Adolf Hitler to help the Jews reach the Promised Land. The U.S. senator from Arizona had been under fire for months from some religious and civil rights groups for soliciting and accepting the endorsement of the Rev. John Hagee, a televangelist and pastor of a San Antonio megachurch. Rev. Hagee has a history of using harsh language to describe the Catholic Church, as well as saying such things as Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin. McCain also has rejected the endorsement of an Ohio minister who has called Islam the "Antichrist." McCain told The Associated Press May 22 that he also repudiates his endorsement by the Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio, who has described Islam as the "Antichrist" and said the prophet Mohammed was "the mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil."


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