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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-26-2009

By Catholic News Service


North Dakota seminary partially evacuates because of flood alert

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Msgr. Gregory Schlesselmann, rector of Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, N.D., was doing all he could during a heavy snowstorm March 26 to prepare for the expected rise in two days of floodwaters of the adjacent Red River. An existing, half-mile-long clay dike, about 45 feet high in his estimation, was expanded in an effort to keep an expected 41-foot crest of water not only from the seminary property but also from the north side of Fargo. He told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview March 26 that he couldn't see the river, because the dike, significantly raised the previous day by the Army Corps of Engineers, blocked the view. Several days of unrelenting rain had caused the waters of the Red River to rise as much as 5 feet in one day, according to news reports. The city had closed a number of bridges over the river. A heavy blizzard March 25 knocked out power and dumped wet snow and freezing rain on the already rain-soaked region. President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration March 24 for much of the state.

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Pro-life official criticizes court ruling on Plan B for 17-year-olds

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. District Court judge's decision giving 17-year-olds over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill known as Plan B "will put minors' health at greater risk," according to a pro-life official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications in the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, told Catholic News Service March 25 that U.S. District Judge Edward Korman's decision the day before was "worrisome in any number of ways." Korman, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, said the Food and Drug Administration had "repeatedly and unreasonably" delayed a decision on whether Plan B should be available over the counter and had been swayed by politics in ultimately deciding to make the drug available without a prescription only to those 18 or over. McQuade said the decision opens up the possibility of a 17-year-old male getting "emergency contraception" for his girlfriend -- "whether she's 17 or 12" -- and subjects the young woman to taking "a very strong drug without any medical supervision." Plan B, containing a high dose of birth control pills, usually prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

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Archbishop Burke apologizes to fellow US bishops for video comments

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature issued an apology to his fellow U.S. bishops March 26 for how comments he made in a videotaped interview were used. The videotape was released to the press in Washington a day earlier by anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. In the videotaped interview, U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke told Terry that bishops, priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion should refuse Communion to Catholic politicians who insist on supporting legislation to keep abortion legal, and said U.S. President Barack Obama "could be an agent of death." Terry, 49, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, showed the videotaped interview during a press conference, at which time he called for two U.S. bishops to be removed as bishops because he said they had not instructed ordinary and extraordinary ministers to refuse holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support laws that keep abortion legal. In a statement released in Rome, Archbishop Burke said Terry told him the videotaped interview, conducted in Rome March 2, would be used to encourage pro-life workers in their cause and had no idea Terry would be showing it at a press conference.

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Baseball home opener on Good Friday ends 20-year attendance streak

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (CNS) -- Michael Ochab's 20-year streak of rooting for the Detroit Tigers as part of the opening day crowd is coming to an end. Home opening day this year falls on Good Friday, April 10. "It's a no-brainer for me," said the 47-year-old lifetime Hamtramck resident. "He died for us on that cross." As the first pitch crosses the mound at Comerica Park, just after the 1:05 p.m. start of his beloved Tigers facing off against the Texas Rangers, Ochab will be in St. Florian Church for Good Friday services. He and his eight siblings grew up in the parish, attended the grade school and high school, and he said he spent years there as an altar server. "I like to have fun on opening day," said the social studies teacher for Detroit City High, an alternative school. "I like to watch the revelries and all. But it just doesn't seem appropriate this year." Ron Colangelo, vice president for communications for the Detroit Tigers, told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit's archdiocesan newspaper, that the league "tries to accommodate the clubs the best it can." As it turns out, each of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball play on Good Friday this year, though not all are afternoon games.

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Cuba allows repair work to proceed on four Havana churches

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- The Cuban government has given the go-ahead to renovations of four Catholic churches in Havana, using funds provided by the Australian office of Aid to the Church in Need. In a March 23 statement, the organization based in Blacktown, near Sydney, called it an unprecedented breakthrough that the Cuban government agreed to allow major repairs to proceed. The statement called the decision "one of the best signals yet of improving links between Catholic leaders and Raul Castro's year-old administration." Within weeks of the government's approval, Aid to the Church in Need donated $120,000 Australian dollars ($83,350) for the work. The buildings scheduled to be repaired include some of the capitol's oldest structures, Spanish colonial churches dating to the mid-18th century, the organization said. The statement quoted an unidentified spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need saying that approval of the repairs "shows that since Raul Castro replaced his brother, Fidel, as president, a new relationship is beginning to emerge with the church, one in which Catholics -- and Christians in general -- are no longer automatically seen as enemies of the state. Obviously there is a long way to go still, but this gives grounds for hope."

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Vatican still working out clear policy on reciprocity, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- While the Catholic Church recognizes the religious freedom of all believers and insists that Catholics be able to worship wherever they live, the Vatican does not have clear guidelines for applying the principle of reciprocity to relations with other religions, said the cardinal in charge of interreligious dialogue. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Francesco D'Agostino, a Catholic professor of the philosophy of law, discussed the legal and theological implications of reciprocity at a conference March 26 in Rome. "Reciprocity is a concept present mostly in the field of international law, particularly in relations between states," the cardinal said, opening the conference on religious freedom and reciprocity at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. In international relations, reciprocity is an agreement that rights or obligations guaranteed in one state also will be guaranteed in states where an agreement of reciprocity has been reached, he said. One of the clearest cases where reciprocity is lacking, he said, is in the field of religious freedom. For example, while Muslims generally are free to build mosques and worship publicly in predominantly Christian nations, Saudi Arabia still refuses to allow Christians to build churches or worship publicly.

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Mexican priests give mixed reactions to US plan to stem drug violence

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Plans by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to deploy approximately 500 federal agents to the southern border region have been lauded by Mexico's political leaders, but received mixed reviews from Catholic officials in northern Mexico. Priests surveyed by Catholic News Service in five northern states expressed opinions that ranged from full support to suspicion to indifference. "Reinforcing security in the border zone would be something positive," said Father Victor Manuel Solis, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Durango, which covers part of Mexico's thinly populated north-central highlands. The area has become famous as a location for Western movies, but infamous of late for a spike of more than 500 percent in the murder rate during the first quarter of 2009. Father Solis expressed hope the extra U.S. agents would diminish the flow of weapons to narcotics-trafficking cartels that wield enormous influence over many parts of Durango and target public officials and police officers. "People are living in fear," Father Solis said of his state. "There's a psychosis in many small towns."

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Vatican releases details of papal trip to Holy Land

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On his first trip to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, stop at the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and visit a refugee camp in Bethlehem, West Bank, the Vatican said. The May 8-15 visit will take the pope to holy sites in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The schedule, published March 26, said the pope would visit the new King Hussein Mosque in Amman, Jordan, stop at Jesus' baptism site at the Jordan River, and make a pilgrimage to Mount Nebo, where Moses once looked out at the Promised Land. The pope's program calls for encounters with Israeli political leaders, Christian leaders, Jerusalem's most prominent rabbis and the city's leading Muslim cleric, the grand mufti. Pope Benedict also will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and celebrate public Masses in Amman, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth, Israel.

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Missionaries of Charity elect German nun as new superior general

CALCUTTA, India (CNS) -- The newly elected head of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Mary Prema, said she will continue the work of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to show God's compassion to "broken humanity." The German-born nun, elected March 24 to lead the congregation, said she felt "unworthy of the office" held by Sister Nirmala Joshi for the past 12 years and by Mother Teresa before that. Sister Prema told the Asian church news agency UCA News March 24 that she felt humbled at taking up the leadership of her congregation's mission of serving "the poorest of the poor." She said, "With God's strength, I will do this work and be part of this mission." Sister Prema was elected at the end of the congregation's general chapter, which began Feb. 1. Earlier, the nuns had elected Sister Nirmala for a third term, but she reportedly withdrew because of ill health. Her third term would have required papal approval since the congregation's constitution allows only two six-year terms for the superior. The chapter of 163 delegates from across the world then elected Sister Prema, who for the last six years was part of Sister Nirmala's team of councilors.


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