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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-27-2009

By Catholic News Service


Allentown bishop retires; Wilmington's chancellor named his successor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward P. Cullen of Allentown, Pa., and named as his successor Msgr. John O. Barres, chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del. The pope also named Father Lee Anthony Piche, vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to be an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese. The changes were announced May 27 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Cullen is 76. Canon law requires all bishops to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. Bishop-designate Barres was born September 20, 1960, in Larchmont, N.Y. He was baptized by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, for whom his father worked at the time at the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in New York. His parents were both Protestant ministers who met each other at the Yale Divinity School and became Catholics in 1955. The couple's story was told in a book by Oliver Barnes titled "One Shepherd, One Flock."

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Catholic-run Mercy Bridges program provides literacy training, hope

ERIE, Pa. (CNS) -- Told by her mother to leave the home they shared, Beth (not her real name) was only a teenager -- pregnant, alone and confused. Caring grandparents took her in and helped her through the pregnancy. Beth, who gave birth to a baby girl, had a dream of working as a nursing assistant, but lacked the reading skills necessary to be accepted into a program. Her grandmother steered her to Mercy Sister Edwardine Weaver and Mercy Bridges, a Sisters of Mercy adult literacy program in Rochester, N.Y. Beth had been a student in the Mercy Bridges program for some time when her grandfather died. Her grandmother suggested Beth proclaim one of the readings at his funeral Mass. Thanks to Mercy Bridges, Beth had learned much and after working with her tutor to review the reading, she stood proudly to read at the Mass for the grandfather to whom she was so close. "She read beautifully and, for those who knew her story, there wasn't a dry eye in the church," Sister Edwardine said. Beth is just one of so many touched by Mercy Bridges. The program's Web site is www.mercybridges.org.

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Attorney traces federal conscience-clause protection to Roe decision

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "Signs of erosion" of support for federal conscience-clause protection began to appear about 10 years ago and have continued at the state level, attorney Susan J. Stabile told a group of Catholic health care leaders May 21. She discussed two potential federal threats to conscience claims, and concluded that neither one would specifically repeal conscience protection for health care workers. Stabile, who holds the Robert and Marion Short distinguished chair in law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, spoke on "Legal Challenges to Catholic Health Care: The Elimination of the Conscience Clause and Related Concerns." She delivered the address during the 25th Catholic Healthcare Administrative Personnel program May 18-22 at St. John's University in New York. Stabile cited as the first potential threat efforts to rescind Department of Health and Human Services' regulations adopted in December 2008 to ensure that "recipients of department funds do not support coercive or discriminatory practices" in the delivery of health care. She said the regulations did not create new restrictions or grant substantive rights.

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Pope says simplicity, sobriety, sacrifice aren't just for monks

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The principles of poverty, chastity and sacrifice for the good of the community, which are characteristic of monastic life, are valid for all Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said. During his weekly general audience May 27 in St. Peter's Square, the pope used the example of the Byzantine monk St. Theodore the Studite to explain how the virtues that monks and nuns strive for should be emulated by all in everyday life. St. Theodore, who was born in 759, emphasized the ideals of "renunciation of private property, freedom from material things, sobriety (and) simplicity," the pope told the crowd of about 14,000 people. "This extreme form is valid for monks, but the spirit is valid for everyone," he said. St. Theodore, who was born to a noble family and entered the monastery at age 22, led the opposition to the Iconoclastic movement that called for the destruction of religious images deemed to promote idolatry. In founding his own monastery later, he was instrumental in bringing back the ideals espoused by monks "who make a commitment to live the truth of the church with greater rigor and intensity in order to give a sign to all Christians," the pope said.

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Laypeople must share responsibility for church, pope tells delegates

ROME (CNS) -- Laypeople are called not simply to help their priests run their parishes, but to share fully in the responsibility of building up the church, Pope Benedict XVI told delegates to the annual convention of the Diocese of Rome. "This will require a change of mentality, especially regarding laypeople -- to move from considering them to be the clergy's collaborators to recognizing them as truly sharing responsibility for the existence and action of the church," the pope said May 26 during an evening talk at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The pope's speech about the identity of the church and the role of its members launched a three-day meeting by diocesan delegates to assess pastoral services and come up with ideas for strengthening the participation of Catholics in the life of their parishes and the diocese. The first step, the pope said, should be to improve education efforts so that people would understand what the Second Vatican Council meant when it described the church as "the people of God" and the "body of Christ."

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Vatican newspaper criticizes embryonic stem-cell research

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the continuing debate over stem-cell research, the ideologues are those who claim it is necessary to use embryonic stem cells, an Italian research physician wrote in the Vatican newspaper. A growing body of research has proven that a variety of somatic stem cells -- usually referred to as adult stem cells -- holds more promise for curing many diseases than stem cells derived from embryos, wrote Dr. Angelo L. Vescovi, a professor at Milan's Bicocca University and a researcher at the Cerebral Stem Cell Bank in Terni. Vescovi's full-page article May 27 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, was headlined "Behind embryonic stem-cell research there is only a patent war." The doctor wrote, "The decision made in March by U.S. President Barack Obama to use federal funds to finance research on stem cells derived from the destruction of human embryos -- embryonic stem cells -- has reignited the polemics regarding a theme with complex bioethical implications." He said that while promoters of embryonic stem-cell research like to label opponents as ideologues or religious extremists, science itself has proven that those who insist on destroying human embryos are the ones being unreasonable.

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Irish religious orders do not want to renegotiate 2002 abuse deal

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- The 18 Irish religious congregations implicated in the abuse of children in their care say they do not wish to renegotiate a controversial deal in which they received indemnity from being sued by victims in exchange for contributing to a victim's compensation fund. The deal made as one of the final acts of an outgoing government in 2002 has proved increasingly controversial, partly because the overall compensation paid out has increased by hundreds of millions of euros, so that the religious orders are only paying about 10 percent of the compensation paid to victims of decades of abuse. "Rather than reopening the terms of the agreement reached with government in 2002, we reiterate our commitment to working with those who suffered enormously while in our care. We must find the best and most appropriate ways of directly assisting them. We will meet again in the coming days to explore the detail of our responses," said a statement issued May 25. Following a May 26 Irish Cabinet meeting to discuss the recommendations made by an independent investigation into the abuse of children in residential care, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen called on the orders to provide "a substantial additional contribution" to compensating victims and said he would like to discuss the matter with the orders concerned.

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Vatican condemns North Korean nuclear test, missile launches

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has condemned the latest round of nuclear testing and missile launching by North Korea, warning that these acts of aggression threaten "the very survival" of the country's own people by exacerbating its isolation. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published a front-page news story May 27 along with an editorial titled "International isolation as a regime's choice." North Korea drew swift and angry international condemnation after announcing May 25 that it had successfully performed a nuclear experiment. Seismic equipment registered a small blast in the eastern portion of the country. Three short-range missiles were then launched into the Sea of Japan. The following day, May 26, two more missiles were launched off the country's eastern coast. In its commentary, L'Osservatore said, "Barack Obama has condemned Pyongyang's nuclear test, labeling it a threat to international security and peace. But even before being a threat to peace, this atomic experiment constitutes a threat to the very survival of the North Korean people who will pay the consequences of the isolation the regime has chosen." Pyongyang is North Korea's capital.

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Superiors offer support to US sisters during apostolic visitation

ROME (CNS) -- An international group of superiors of religious orders of women has expressed its support and appreciation for sisters in the United States as they undergo a Vatican-ordered evaluation. The board of directors of the International Union of Superiors General, which includes about 2,000 superiors of women's orders, issued their statement of support after a meeting in Rome in late May. The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced in late January that it had organized an apostolic visitation to examine the life of women's religious communities in the United States. The May statement of the International Union of Superiors General, whose members include superiors with sisters working in the United States, said, "We affirm unequivocally our support for our sisters in the United States." The way religious sisters in the United States responded to the mandates of the Second Vatican Council "has been a great gift not only to the pluralistic society in which they live, but also to the universal church," the superiors said.

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Vatican offers new look at King Henry VIII's marital breakdown

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A meticulous restoration and reproduction of a precious document from the Vatican Secret Archives brings new attention to one of the most complicated annulments in history -- that of King Henry VIII and his queen, Catherine of Aragon. The document, a letter written in 1530 by members of England's House of Lords, other nobility and members of the clergy, urged Pope Clement VII to annul the royal marriage because it had not produced a male heir and warned that, with no clear succession, England could be plunged into chaos and bloodshed. Pope Clement, as history shows, did not grant the annulment, and the ensuing rift with King Henry led to the establishment of the Church of England. During a press conference in May, Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, gave reporters a rare opportunity to see the restored parchment bearing the letter to the pope signed by 84 nobles and clergy and weighed down with more than six pounds of wax from the seals notarizing each signature.


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