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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-21-2009

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

New bishops named for St. Louis, Syracuse, N.Y.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw, Mich., as the new archbishop of St. Louis. He also accepted the resignation of Bishop James M. Moynihan as head of the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., and named Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Ogdensburg, N.Y., as his replacement. The appointments and resignation were announced April 21 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Carlson succeeds Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, who was named prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature at the Vatican last June. The date of his installation in St. Louis was still to be announced. Bishop Robert J. Hermann, a St. Louis auxiliary who is archdiocesan administrator, called Archbishop Carlson "a very energetic, articulate, warm and gifted pastor and administrator. He thinks and works with the church he loves, and will continue to build upon the legacy of his predecessors here in St. Louis." Bishop Cunningham, who will be installed as bishop of Syracuse May 26 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, expressed gratitude for Bishop Moynihan for his "gracious welcome."

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No 'true progress' if embryos sacrificed, cardinal says of NIH draft

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- By proposing to allow the use of federal funds for stem-cell research on embryos created for reproductive purposes at in vitro fertilization clinics and later discarded, the National Institutes of Health opens "a new chapter in divorcing biomedical research from its necessary ethical foundation," said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia April 21. "Without unconditional respect for the life of each and every member of the human race, research involving human subjects does not represent true progress," said the cardinal, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "It becomes another way for some human beings to use and mistreat others for their own goals." Cardinal Rigali was commenting on draft guidelines for embryonic stem-cell research issued April 17 by acting NIH director Dr. Raynard S. Kington during a news briefing by telephone. Although Kington said he believed the draft guidelines reflect "broad support in the public and in the scientific community," he said he expected much of the public comment on them to focus on ethical concerns. A 30-day period of public comment was to begin with publication of the draft guidelines in the Federal Register, which had not occurred by April 21.

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Maryland Catholic community grieves over murder-suicide of family

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The Holy Family Catholic Community in Middletown in western Maryland was still in a state of deep mourning days after a murder-suicide claimed a parish family of five. Frederick County police said 34-year-old Christopher A. Wood killed himself with a shotgun after killing his wife, Francie Billotti-Wood, 33, and their three children, Chandler, 5, Gavin, 4, and Fiona, 2. Family members discovered the bodies the morning of April 18. Billotti-Wood's parents were founding members of Holy Family, the parish she and her family rejoined after relocating late last year from Florida to the small Frederick County town. After hearing of the deaths, Father J. Kevin Farmer, pastor of Holy Family, was among the first to arrive at the crime scene. The former Baltimore City Fire Department chaplain was up until midnight ministering to family members, emergency response officials and members of the community. He said he was used to seeing police officers keep up a strong front at such a crime scene, and many tried to do that "to the best of their ability ... but you can't help but crumble in the midst of something that horrific and beyond belief."

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DuBois says office will build on federal faith-based, community work

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For someone who came into the job as part of President Barack Obama's promise to change the way government works, Joshua DuBois has nothing but good to say about the previous management of what is now the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which he heads. Although Obama has set out a different focus for the office created by President George W. Bush, then called the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, DuBois talks in terms of building upon successes, rather than changing course. The office and a newly created advisory council have been given four specific areas on which to focus. Perhaps the one farthest afield from the work of the last eight years will be advising the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue outside the United States. The other goals are: including community groups in economic recovery programs; working to reduce the demand for abortion by supporting women and children and addressing teen pregnancy; and encouraging responsible fatherhood by supporting fathers who stand by their families. The Bush administration's office "focused on leveling the playing field, making sure folks (in faith-based and community organizations) had access to the various levers of government," DuBois said in an April 17 interview with Catholic News Service.

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Catholic coalition seeks to influence outcome of climate-change bill

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Led by a coalition of more than a dozen Catholic organizations, religious communities are ramping up efforts to ensure that the legislative debate on climate change beginning April 22 in Congress will not overlook the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. The effort of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and the National Religious Partnership on the Environment came as the House Energy and Commerce Committee opened hearings on a clean energy bill. The Catholic coalition unveiled the Catholic Climate Covenant, a wide-ranging climate-change campaign, during a nationwide teleconference April 21. Aimed largely at Catholics in the country's 19,000 parishes and 6,250 elementary schools, the campaign integrates the traditional Catholic practice of prayer with specific actions meant to reduce an individual's carbon footprint on the world while influencing public policy. Several coalition leaders said specific steps involve lobbying Congress and state legislatures about the need to pass prudent legislation that takes into account the needs of the common good, specifically the poor whom they say are affected most by climate change.

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Bill to codify same-sex marriage called attack on religious freedom

HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) -- For the second time in as many months, Connecticut's Catholic bishops used weekend Masses to urge parishioners to fight proposed legislation that they said attacks religious freedom. Pulpit announcements read in churches statewide April 18 and 19 called on Catholics to help defeat a Senate bill that seeks to codify the Connecticut Supreme Court's ruling last October legalizing same-sex marriage but that "fails to protect the First Amendment rights of individuals, religious organizations and related societies." The bishops said in the pulpit announcement, "Last month, Catholics across Connecticut joined with fellow citizens in sending a strong message to the state Legislature: Religious liberty must never be violated." The bishops were referring to a March 11 rally that drew 5,000 people for a rally outside Connecticut's state Capitol in Hartford to protest a bill -- pulled from the Legislature the previous day -- that would have given laypeople financial control of their parishes. "Your swift and decisive action brought down Senate Bill 1098, which was a direct attack on the Catholic Church," they said. "We need you to speak out again. Now we are facing another attack on our religious liberty. It is very serious and must be stopped now," they added.

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WORLD

Vatican officials object to Iranian president's remarks on Israel

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks about Israel at a U.N. conference on racism as "extremist and unacceptable" and said the comments promote an atmosphere of conflict. At the same time, Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI, emphasized the importance of participation in the conference, which was being boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries. Ahmadinejad told conference participants in Geneva April 20 that Israel had "resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering" and had established a "totally racist government in the occupied Palestine." His comments prompted a temporary walkout by dozens of diplomats. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told Vatican Radio April 20 that "statements like those of the Iranian president do not go in the right direction, because even if he did not deny the Holocaust or the right of Israel to exist, he expressed extremist and unacceptable positions." The next day, Father Lombardi issued a broader statement, saying that "the Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions of an extremist and offensive nature against any state."

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Irish parishes report increase in Mass attendance since recession

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- Many Irish parishes have reported an increase in Mass attendance in recent months, with some parishes reporting increases of up to 30 percent. Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher, Northern Ireland, said it is not just the older people who are attending Mass in greater numbers. "There are a lot of people with young families who have been absent from the church who are now returning," Bishop Duffy said. "It's been happening for a little while now -- people are seeing the need for deeper values, for moral values that lead on to a search for spiritual values; people are certainly searching for something deeper," he said. After a period of unprecedented economic growth, Ireland's economy has been in dire straits in recent months. In a work force of 2 million, approximately 1,000 people lose their jobs every day. "People are experiencing deep crisis for the first time in their lives," Bishop Duffy said. "The pace of this economic collapse has been so swift, I think it is causing people to stop and search; this naturally finds a home in coming back to church."

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Pakistani archbishop says Islamic law jeopardizes minorities

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore has written to the country's president and prime minister expressing concern over a regulation that allowed Islamic law to be implemented in northwestern Pakistan. "We note with sorrow that your government has failed to take stock of the concerns of civil society in Pakistan in your decision," said the April 16 letter by Archbishop Saldanha, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference. The Asian church news agency UCA News reported on the letter April 21. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the new regulation April 13, after it was approved by Parliament. In February, the government of the North-West Frontier province reached a peace deal with local Taliban militants, who had been fighting for 18 months to impose Islamic law. The new regulation brings six districts, including the Swat Valley, under the Pakistani Taliban's strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law. Archbishop Saldanha's letter said that "besides jeopardizing the socio-economic and cultural growth in Swat and Malakand (division)," the decision also has given legal sanction to the "dictates of the trigger-happy Taliban." The letter added that the resolution "erodes constitutional protections for minorities and women."

- - -

As papal visit nears, issues in Israel, Palestinian lands are unclear

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Less than three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian territories, many issues remained unresolved. It is unclear how much preparations for the trip will cost or who will foot what part of the bill, whether more than 200 Gaza Christians who have been promised permits to attend the pope's Masses will receive them, or even how many Christians live in the Holy Land, said Wadie Abunasser, head of the communications committee for the May 11-15 visit to Israel and the West Bank. The papal visit is part of a larger trip that includes a stop in Jordan May 8-11. In a press briefing April 21 in Jerusalem, Abunasser said the cost for the May 11-15 visit is being shared by the Israeli government and local Christians. Before the recent formation of the new government, Israel had earmarked more than $10 million for infrastructure and other preparations; the local church also is raising funds for the visit, he said. "The total (cost) is not clear," Abunasser said, noting that the local church is a tiny one. "We estimate it could reach a few million dollars. And there are fundraising efforts but we don't have an exact figure. Every day we have to add more -- there are always budgetary surprises."

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Buying organic shows solidarity, helps environment, says CRS official

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Paying attention to where your morning coffee comes from not only makes good consumer sense, but may also help stave off climate changes that increasingly affect poor farmers. Organic farming that prevents erosion and conserves water gives farmers extra income and helps preserve forests that absorb harmful greenhouse gases, said Jefferson Shriver, who heads the Nicaraguan office of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. For Earth Day, April 22, the U.S. bishops are urging Catholics to take action to help slow climate change. By choosing organic and fair-trade items, consumers can "practice solidarity with the products they buy" and help protect the environment, Shriver told Catholic News Service. "Most people buy (organic products) for health reasons, but the benefits are even greater" in the countries where the products are grown, because organic farming methods promote better land and water use, he said. Worldwide, "more forests have been destroyed in the past 50 years than the previous 500," Shriver told CNS by phone April 21. Much of the deforestation is due to the clearing of land for agriculture.

- - -

PEOPLE

For mom, son's paralysis is a daily reminder of Columbine tragedy

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CNS) -- Ten years after the shootings at Columbine High School, the massacre is still fresh in Connie Michalik's mind. Her son, Richard Castaldo, was a junior at the school on April 20, 1999, when students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed a dozen students and a teacher and wounded more than 20 other people in a rampage that ended when they took their own lives. Castaldo was eating lunch with friend Rachel Scott on the school lawn when a shooter he saw out of the corner of his eye shot Scott four times, killing her instantly, and pumped eight bullets into him, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. "Every single day I think about it," said Michalik, a homemaker and longtime parishioner at St. Louis Church in the Denver suburb of Englewood. Her son's limited mobility is a daily reminder, but his injuries haven't stopped him from building an independent life and following his dreams for the future. Now 27, Castaldo lives alone in Hollywood where he's pursuing a career as a sound engineer.

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Catholic teen finds reward in helping girls in need get prom dresses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Although Mariel D'Andrea's first high school prom is a year away, the Catholic high school sophomore has a closet full of prom dresses, shoes and makeup -- all the necessary trappings for that special occasion. Well actually, none of these items belong to her. They've been donated to D'Andrea for her Becca's Closet initiative, a national program with local chapters that collects donated formal wear and accessories and makes them available to girls who can't afford to buy their own. It all started three years ago, when D'Andrea's mom, Jo Ann, read the Ms. Cheap column in The Tennessean daily newspaper about a girl in Franklin, Caroline Davidson, who was collecting and giving away prom dresses through her own Becca's Closet chapter. "We e-mailed her, and said we'd love to help out in any way we could," said D'Andrea, who is a student at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. "We didn't hear back from her for a year. Then she e-mailed us, said she'd kept our e-mail and that she was graduating and needed someone to pass this on to."

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Student turned filmmaker tells story of Columbine shootings in movie

DENVER (CNS) -- Filmmaker Andrew Robinson hopes the movie he has made about the shooting tragedy at Columbine High School 10 years ago will have a positive impact on students who see it. Robinson's film, "April Showers," deals with the violence, death and recovery Columbine's victims went through. It is a fictional account of an attack on a Midwestern high school and events that take place in the week that follows, as everyone deals with the trauma of loss, being a survivor and trying to make sense of something so senseless. Robinson was a student at Columbine when, on the morning of April 20, 1999, fellow students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the high school in the Denver suburb of Littleton with weapons and began firing on their classmates. By the time the two youths had taken their own lives, 12 other students and a teacher were dead and more than 20 other people had been wounded. Robinson's film stars Tom Arnold, Illena Douglas, Kelly Blatz and Daryl Sabara. Robinson, who wrote and directed the film, said the dramatized retelling of what it is like to be a Columbine survivor is a story he just couldn't keep inside.

END


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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