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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-3-2008

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Blair says faith has positive role to play in interdependent world

NEW YORK (CNS) -- If religious faith is an instrument of peaceful coexistence rather than a countervailing force, it will play a profoundly positive role in the interdependent world of the 21st century, Tony Blair said as he announced the launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation May 30. "Faith motivates, galvanizes, organizes and integrates millions upon millions of people. ... It enriches, it informs, it provides a common basis of values and belief for people to get along together," he said. Blair, prime minister of Great Britain from 1997 to 2007, was received into the Catholic Church in December 2007. He is currently the special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the Quartet, a group comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. Blair said the foundation will work with people of the world's six leading faiths: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism. He said it will show faith in action, produce greater understanding between faiths through encounters, and help people of "one faith to be comfortable with those of another because they know what they truly believe, not what they thought they might believe."

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Retired Cleveland bishop testifies at trial of former diocesan CFO

CLEVELAND (CNS) -- The retired bishop of Cleveland testified May 30 that he was unaware of any secret payments to the diocese's former top legal and financial officer, who is accused of orchestrating an elaborate kickback scheme that netted him nearly $785,000. Bishop Anthony M. Pilla said that Joseph Smith, who stepped down as the Cleveland Diocese's legal and financial secretary in February 2004, was one of his closest friends and advisers, and that he was stunned to learn of the alleged illegal payments through an anonymous letter, according to published reports. "My reaction was disbelief and secondly shock," Bishop Pilla testified during the three hours he was on the witness stand at Smith's U.S. District Court trial, as reported by The Plain Dealer daily newspaper in Cleveland. "That was not the person I knew. Why was I shocked? We had a close relationship. I trusted him, for good reason," said the bishop, who retired in 2006 after 25 years as head of the Cleveland Diocese. Smith, 51, has been charged with making false personal income tax returns, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy.

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Speakers laud faith-based groups for efforts to rebuild Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Speakers at a New Orleans conference on disaster relief and preparedness May 29 and 30 lauded the efforts of faith-based organizations in leading Gulf Coast recovery efforts in the two and a half years since Hurricane Katrina. "Katrina taught us to work together more effectively," said Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which hosted the conference. Hein said the office's policies and programs have become "embedded in communities" since the office's founding seven years ago, and said the three candidates running for the presidency have each indicated their support for the office. One focus of the conference, which offered workshops on disaster preparedness, recovery efforts, rebuilding, education, hunger and community development, was "how to get more resources -- both volunteers and funds -- to faith-based organizations," said Hein. "We have seen a terrific response to (Hurricane Katrina)," Hein said May 29. "We learned a lot about poverty but also learned a lot about generosity. What we do matters."

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Tulsa parish establishes shrine to patron saint of immigrants

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) -- In response to seven months of living with one of the toughest immigration laws in the nation, a predominantly Hispanic parish in Tulsa has established a diocesan shrine to St. Toribio Romo, considered by many to be the patron saint of immigrants. Aside from the original shine to St. Toribio in his hometown of Santa Ana de Guadalupe in the Mexican state of Jalisco, it is believed to be the only other shrine to him in the world. On May 21, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa signed a proclamation establishing the shrine during a special Mass and blessing at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. A second Mass was celebrated May 25 by Father Gabriel Gonzalez, proctor of the original shrine in Mexico. About 300 people gathered early that morning at the largest Catholic church in Oklahoma, Tulsa's St. Francis Xavier Church and Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and processed six miles to the new shrine at Sts. Peter and Paul for a daylong celebration.

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WORLD

Pope urges countries to combat causes of hunger, malnutrition

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged the international community to combat the causes of hunger, saying starvation and malnutrition were unacceptable in a world that can produce plenty to eat. Any further increase in global food production will help alleviate hunger "only if it is accompanied by the effective distribution" of the food, which needs to be "primarily channeled to satisfy essential needs," Pope Benedict said in a message to the World Food Security Summit in Rome. "The great challenge today is to globalize not only economic and commercial interests, but also the expectations of solidarity," he wrote. The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, read the pope's message during the June 3 opening ceremony of the three-day summit. Numerous heads of state and nongovernmental organizations attended the high-level summit, dedicated to addressing the current world food crisis, the challenges of climate change and the development of biofuels.

- - -

Men, women religious call for dialogue, peace in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) -- The Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Sri Lanka urged the government and Tamil rebels to stop the increasing violence and enter into political dialogue. The letter, sent to both parties June 2, called for an end to travel restrictions for humanitarian aid workers and appealed for the disarmament of paramilitary groups in the North and East. The Asian church news agency UCA News reported on the letter June 3. The letter also asked for the disputed area around Our Lady of Madhu Shrine in the northern Diocese of Mannar to be made a "peace zone" and for the government and rebel forces to stay clear of it. "Respect the human rights of each individual as enshrined in the international law and grant permission for the U.N. monitoring mission to be present in Sri Lanka," said the letter. In 2007, the United Nations asked to be allowed to monitor human rights violations in the country, but the government rejected the request. The civil war began in 1983, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched an independence struggle against the Sinhalese-led government. The war has killed about 80,000 people and displaced more than a million.

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Catholic student association launches pilgrim news Web site for WYD

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- The Australian Catholic Students Association has kicked off a Web site linking international pilgrims with Australian Catholics as they prepare for World Youth Day in July. Sydney Cardinal George Pell launched the Web site, www.ybenedict.org, in late May at a Spanish-themed party in Sydney, where World Youth Day will be held July 15-20. The Web site offers daily pilgrim news in English and Spanish for the final days leading up to World Youth Day events. It will be translated into Spanish by Mexican youths who are in Sydney volunteering for the events. The Web site is a project of Towards 2008, the Australian student and young adult campaign for World Youth Day 2008. Anthony McCarthy, national coordinator of Towards 2008, said the Web site will allow pilgrims "from Sydney to Santiago, from South Australia to Spain" to follow all the developments leading up to the events.

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As English dioceses abandon adoption work, bishop appeals to trustees

LONDON (CNS) -- Several Catholic dioceses in England have announced they will end adoption services because of new laws compelling them to place children in the care of same-sex couples, but one local bishop has said he will fight to keep his adoption agency under church control. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster issued a letter June 1 appealing to the trustees of the diocese's Catholic Caring Services adoption agency to reconsider their April decision to cut ties with the church. When they announced the decision in April, the trustees of the adoption agency of the Diocese of Lancaster said they voted to cut ties with the church in order to continue the agency's work and to protect the jobs of 200 staff involved in a range of social work. "Over the generations thousands of Catholics have prayed and contributed to this vital work carried out by their Catholic agency," Bishop O'Donoghue wrote in the letter dated May 26. He suggested that the trustees amend the organization's constitution slightly to make it clear that the charity operated in accordance only with the religious principles of the Catholic faith. This, he argued, legally would be defensible under the freedom of religion clauses of the Equality Act 2006.

- - -

PEOPLE

'Unfinished business' prompted retired Marine to head recovery office

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- It was a feeling of unfinished business that prompted retired Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell to accept the White House's invitation to become the second coordinator of federal support for the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. In April 2007, O'Dell retired from the military after spending two and a half years on post-Katrina duty in New Orleans. About a year later he felt a "nagging sense of unfinished business" that led him "to say yes to the president's offer" to head the recovery office. He said he was just beginning to get reacquainted with his children and grandchildren -- he has five sons and four grandchildren -- and enjoy his home in Maryland when he took the position. O'Dell spoke about his job in an interview with the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese. He was in New Orleans for a conference on disaster relief and preparedness sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

END


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