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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-6-2009

By Catholic News Service


Court rulings, new policies seen as important changes for immigrants

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court's unanimous decision May 4 that said the government was wrong to prosecute illegal immigrants for identity theft in certain types of cases was the latest of several rulings and policy announcements that will effectively roll back approaches on immigration initiated by the Bush administration. In Flores-Figueroa v. United States, the court said the federal government was wrong to charge Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa with identity theft when he was found to have used someone else's Social Security and alien registration numbers in documents for employment. The case could have implications for other immigrants who faced similar charges under a tough prosecution strategy employed over the last year or two. That decision came three days after a federal district court ruling in California that ordered the federal government to reopen the immigration cases of dozens of foreign widows whose U.S.-citizen spouses died before their applications for green cards could be processed. In some cases, immigrants with pending applications for legal residency have been ordered deported after their spouses died before their cases could be processed.

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New center aims to reintroduce St. Thomas Aquinas to modern world

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A conviction that the 13th-century writings of St. Thomas Aquinas can foster a fruitful dialogue with contemporary culture is the true cornerstone of the newly built academic center and theological library recently inaugurated at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington. Participants in the inaugural weekend activities probed the challenges and possibilities the Thomistic tradition encounters in today's world. The Dominican house is a landmark of Michigan Avenue in northeast Washington, adjacent to The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. When construction of the new building commenced, some wondered whether plans to attach it directly to the Dominicans' much older building could succeed without damaging the property's overall beauty and balance. But the architects succeeded well at blending the exteriors of the old and new. The new center houses the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, conducted by the friars of the Dominican order's eastern U.S. Province of St. Joseph. Future Dominican priests, other seminarians and laypeople study there. Before many years, the center hopes to award theology doctorates.

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Build on strengths, speaker tells catechists at national meeting

DEARBORN, Mich. (CNS) -- Whether for self-improvement or helping others to grow, the key is to build on strengths, Greg "Dobie" Moser told nearly 600 catechists and catechetical leaders from around the country April 27. Individuals all have their God-given strengths -- and weaknesses -- and it is impossible to make people into something they are not, despite popular notions about anyone being able to achieve whatever he or she strives for, he said. "You can't be whatever you want to be, but you can be more of what you already are," Moser told the annual conference of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership, held April 27-30 at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn. Moser, who is executive director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry and of the Catholic Youth Organization for the Diocese of Cleveland, contended that a strengths-based approach is a powerful way for people to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ and invite others to do the same. He promoted the psychological approach to human development developed by the late Donald O. Clifton, recognized as the father of strengths psychology by the American Psychological Association.

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Bishops discuss joys, challenges of shepherding rural dioceses

ROCHESTER, Minn. (CNS) -- Demographics may be the biggest challenge to bishops in rural-dominant dioceses. Dwindling priest numbers have a part to play in the struggle as well. Bishop Bernard J. Harrington of Winona, who was ordained a priest 50 years ago for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said he fairly reveled in the ordination a year ago of four priests for the diocese in southwestern Minnesota. "Four priests ordained for Winona is like 40 priests ordained for Detroit," he said during an April 23 interview with Catholic News Service at St. John Church in Rochester. Even so, the news is not all good. "I'm still a priest short" for the upcoming round of clergy reassignments, Bishop Harrington said. Many of the diocese's parishes are already in cluster arrangements, sharing the service of one priest. Bishop Harrington said Catholics in his diocese must face the fact of a growing Hispanic presence in the diocese. He said demographic data made available to him indicate there are some 36,000 Hispanics living in the Winona Diocese. He added that immigrant Hispanics are lured by the promise of work in the pork industry. Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, is also aware of the Hispanic presence in his northeastern Iowa see. The 30-county archdiocese also has clustered parishes to account for the shrinking number of priests and has also closed others deemed too small to stay open.

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Priest joins rally urging Congress to protect rights of homosexuals

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- More than 100 U.S. clergy from Catholic and several other faith communities nationwide stood in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 5 and publicly urged Congress to pass legislation protecting the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. "It's the quality of our character, not who we love, that defines us," said Claretian Father Richard Estrada of Los Angeles at the morning rally in the Upper Senate Park. Father Estrada urged lawmakers to "pass the Matthew Shepard hate crime bill and the (proposed) Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would protect people from losing their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identification." The rally also was intended to attract media coverage for Clergy Call 2009, a yearlong educational effort encouraging congregations in churches, synagogues and mosques to view members of all sexual orientations as people of faith. Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation -- which describes itself as the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization -- the two-day 2009 Clergy Call for Justice and Equality in Washington May 4-5 drew more than 300 clergy from all 50 states.

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Vatican reaffirms support for nuclear nonproliferation treaty at UN

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- The Vatican's chief representative to the United Nations has set forth a series of steps that will move the world toward the goal of eventual nuclear disarmament. Speaking at the U.N. May 5, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, papal nuncio to the world body, reaffirmed the Vatican's support for the nuclear nonproliferation treaty in offering five "concrete, transparent and convincing" steps that could be achieved in "a short period of time" to demonstrate the world's willingness to end the threat that nuclear weapons pose. He called for: adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear weapons testing; the immediate opening of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty that would prohibit the further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium; an end to reliance on nuclear weapons as a part of military policy among nuclear states; giving oversight of the peaceful use of nuclear energy to the International Atomic Energy Agency and expanding its role to include the nonproliferation side of the treaty; and developing an agreement on the production of nuclear fuel to meet growing energy needs, with the international atomic agency taking a leading role to ensure safety, security and fair access for all countries.

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Obama's approach to economic crisis is positive, says academy member

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- President Barack Obama's efforts to tackle the economic crisis drew praise from a Nobel Prize-winning member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. At a Vatican press conference May 6, the president of the academy, U.S. Catholic scholar Mary Ann Glendon, was asked about Obama's economic strategies in light of Catholic teaching. She avoided specific comments on Obama's policies. But the chancellor of the academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, intervened to say that the prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz, an academy member since 2003, had spoken in favor of the U.S. president's economic moves. Stiglitz believes that, "from the social justice point of view, the approaches that (Obama) is trying to take are positive," Bishop Sanchez said. Glendon, who presided over the academy's May 1-5 plenary assembly at the Vatican, announced that academy members would be addressing the world financial crisis during next year's meeting. Taking up the topic "The Crisis in the Global Economy," academy members will focus on "perspectives on the current crisis that tend to be neglected," said Glendon.

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Pope, at audience, says he wants to promote peace, unity in Holy Land

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Using the media present at his weekly general audience to address the people of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Pope Benedict XVI said that he hoped to promote peace and unity during his eight-day visit to the region. "I am eagerly looking forward to being with you and to sharing with you your aspirations and hopes as well as your pains and struggles," the pope told the region's people May 6, just two days before he was to begin his trip. After his main audience talk about the teachings of St. John Damascene, Pope Benedict turned directly to the cameras to tell the people of the Holy Land that he would make his visit as a pilgrim of peace. "My primary intention is to visit the places made holy by the life of Jesus and to pray at them for the gift of peace and unity for your families and all those for whom the Holy Land and the Middle East is home," he said. In addition to praying at Christian holy sites and meeting government officials, the pope said he also would have several meetings with representatives from "the Muslim and Jewish communities with whom great strides have been made in dialogue and cultural exchange."

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Irish cardinal criticizes use of violence to achieve united Ireland

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- An Irish cardinal criticized the idea of using violence to achieve a united Ireland. But Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, also insisted that the goal of uniting Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic remains a "legitimate and still noble ideal." He also said that peace in Northern Ireland is a fitting tribute to the men who gave their lives in the Irish revolution of 1916, known as the Easter Rising. Cardinal Brady spoke May 6 at the annual commemoration Mass at Dublin's Arbour Hill cemetery, where the executed leaders of the Easter Rising are buried. Among those present at the Mass were Irish President Mary McAleese and other senior government representatives. The Mass commemorated the execution of 14 leaders of the 1916 rebellion when Irish Republicans seized many key government buildings and sought to gain independence from Britain. While initially unsuccessful, the rising precipitated the Irish War of Independence that led the British to grant independence to the 26 southern counties of Ireland five years later. The remaining six northern counties became known as Northern Ireland and remain part of Britain.

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Church workers help families find relatives missing in Sri Lankan war

CHEDDIKULAM, Sri Lanka (CNS) -- Catholic workers are helping desperate Sri Lankans look for loved ones missing in the country's civil war. "One nun took me from camp to camp to find my father and my sweet younger brother," said Niroshini, 21, a university student who used only one name. She told the Asian church news agency UCA News that she already had lost her mother in the December 2004 tsunami and another brother in the war. When she finally found her brother and father in one of the camps, "I just hugged them," Niroshini told UCA News. But thousands of others have not been as fortunate, and church workers are facing unprecedented problems when trying to trace people in refugee camps spread out across thousands of acres. "We are working in little-known, remote areas with difficult transportation and communication problems with the Sinhalese soldiers," a Good Shepherd nun in Vavuniya told UCA News. The chaotic situation on the Jaffna peninsula, where government troops have cornered Tamil separatists, has forced approximately 200,000 people into refugee camps.

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Israeli, Vatican officials deny reports about control of holy sites

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Israeli and Vatican officials denied reports that Israeli President Shimon Peres had asked the government to relinquish sovereignty over several holy places as a gesture of good will for Pope Benedict XVI. Reports abounded in the Israeli press in early May claiming internal discord between Peres and officials from the Tourism and Interior ministries after the president allegedly had urged them to yield key Christian holy sites to the Vatican. "What was published was taken out of context," a spokeswoman for the president's office said May 6. "The Israeli media published it as if the president was asking to give up sovereignty over holy sites, and there is a great distance between that and the reality." The spokeswoman said Israel already has pledged to the Vatican that it will not confiscate land around six Christian sites for any sort of national development purpose such as the widening of roads. She said Peres had asked the ministries, as a gesture of good will before the pope's May 8-15 trip to the Holy Land, to confirm the pledge and to speed up the negotiations. The holy sites mentioned include the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and Gethsemane in Jerusalem.

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Comic actor Dom DeLuise dies at age 75

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dom DeLuise, the Catholic comic actor who mastered the double-take look of surprise on film, died May 4 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long illness. He was 75. First bursting into national consciousness with guest appearances on TV's "The Gary Moore Show," he cemented his fame with his appearances in some of Mel Brooks' zaniest movie spoofs, including "Blazing Saddles," "Spaceballs," "Silent Movie" and "History of the World Part 1." DeLuise also partnered with Burt Reynolds in several movies, among them "Smoky and the Bandit II," "The End," "The Cannonball Run" and "Cannonball Run II." In a 2006 interview with Msgr. James Lisante for the priest's TV show, "Personally Speaking," DeLuise told of his fealty for Mary. "People give me Blessed Mothers," DeLuise said in an interview "I have one here, I have one there. I have them all over the house." DeLuise noted that the statues give him comfort. "The Blessed Mother is someone that I pray to all the time, and in fact, I use her as a mantra. When I'm in my car and there's traffic, 'Hail Mary, full of grace ...,'" he said, reciting the complete prayer. "I say it all the time. It calms me down."

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Bishop visits Catholic families who lost homes in S.C. wildfires

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (CNS) -- Joseph Gosiewski removed a carefully folded tissue from his pocket. Inside it, he said, were symbols of his Catholic faith. They are among the few possessions remaining after a fire destroyed the home he shared with his wife, Nancy. "There's the rosary I got for my first holy Communion, and the St. Joseph and St. Patrick medals that were put on my baby's crib," said Gosiewski, pointing to a singed but still recognizable rosary and two scorched medals held together by a safety pin. The Gosiewskis' home was one of about 150 that were destroyed or seriously damaged when wildfires tore through the coastal beach area of South Carolina April 22-23. The retired couple, members of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach, were one of seven families at the parish whose homes were destroyed. No one was injured or killed in the fires. Our Lady Star of the Sea families spent the afternoon of May 3 with Charleston Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who visited the parish to celebrate Mass, meet with parishioners and tour the burned areas of nearby Barefoot Resort which was particularly hard-hit by the wildfires.


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