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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-17-2009

By Catholic News Service


Bishops meeting in San Antonio likely to approve Mass for life

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Nearly 10 years after Cardinal John O'Connor of New York suggested it, the U.S. bishops were likely to approve a Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life during their June 17-18 spring meeting in San Antonio. The Mass requested by Cardinal O'Connor, who died in 2000, was first prepared in 1990 to be included in the Roman Missal. The text was approved by the Committee on the Liturgy and the bishops as a whole in 1992 and sent on to the Vatican for review the following year. The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments soon after expressed interest in the subject matter but said it was "a matter of universal concern" that required further study. As Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., noted in his June 17 presentation of the text of the Mass, "no further response on the subject was ever received" from the congregation and there is no such text in the Latin version of the Roman Missal. The idea was resurrected In response to a request by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M.

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PBS won't let stations air new religious programs; current shows stay

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The board of directors of Public Broadcasting Service voted June 16 to stop its member stations from airing new religious programming, though existing programs on PBS affiliate stations will continue to be broadcast. "Interpretive" religious programming, such as concerts and journalistic programs, also will be permitted to air. The decision marks a compromise between PBS and some of its affiliate stations. The board had been considering an outright ban on "straight" religious programming in accordance with a 1985 policy mandating "noncommercial, nonpolitical and nonsectarian" programming on member stations. PBS conducted the policy review in conjunction with its preparations for the switch from analog to digital television. Currently, fewer than five of the 356 PBS member stations air sectarian programming. Among those stations, three broadcast a Mass for shut-ins. While the board's decision permits the broadcasts of Mass to continue, Washington-area Catholics accustomed to viewing Mass on PBS affiliate WHUT will be forced to look elsewhere. In February, the station told the Archdiocese of Washington that it will stop airing the Mass for shut-ins after July 23. WHUT attempted to reverse its decision after the announcement of the board's vote, but the archdiocese has already agreed to a broadcasting contract with the CW network affiliate.

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Apostolic visits to orders of religious women to begin in spring 2010

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The superior general overseeing the apostolic visitation of U.S. orders of women religious is hoping to gather up to 150 names of people who will begin visiting a cross section of congregations next spring. Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitator charged by the Vatican with directing the comprehensive study, told Catholic News Service June 17 that suggestions of names to fill slots on the teams continued to arrive, 11 days after a deadline she set for submissions. In the midst of meetings in the U.S. before returning to Rome June 19, Mother Clare said from the apostolic visitation office in Hamden, Conn., that the visits will encompass a wide variety of orders. "We know we cannot possibly visit all the congregations," she said. "So we want to give a representative sample to the Holy See." Mother Clare, a Connecticut native whose religious institute is based in Rome, began soliciting names of women religious and men religious for the visitation teams in a May 19 letter to superior generals. In all, she contacted nearly 400 Catholic institutes for women religious. Men would join visits only to those orders that indicate they would welcome a male, the letter stated.

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Palliative care must be part of health reform, CHA official says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Palliative care that focuses on pain management and attention to the psychological, social and spiritual needs of suffering and dying patients must be part of the nation's health care reform, the new chairwoman of the Catholic Health Association's board of trustees said at a Capitol Hill briefing. Colleen Scanlon, an attorney who previously worked as a palliative care nurse, said such care can be "a model to improve quality and manage scarce resources" as policymakers debate health care reform. "By reducing pain and suffering and coordinating care transitions, palliative care reduces emergency room visits, hospital stays and readmissions, and most importantly improves patient and family satisfaction," said Scanlon, senior vice president for advocacy at Catholic Health Initiatives in Denver. At the June 15 briefing, she represented both CHA and the Supportive Care Coalition: Pursuing Excellence in Palliative Care, a coalition of 19 Catholic health systems. Scanlon said research shows that in many cases people hospitalized with life-threatening illness "receive expensive, aggressive medical intervention that is often unwanted and that diminishes their quality of life." Given that the estimated 90 million Americans now living with serious and life-threatening illnesses is expected to double over the next 25 years, "we must find a better way to care for the seriously ill and dying," Scanlon said.

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Bringing religions together seen as 'powerful way' to work for peace

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In the shadow of the United Nations, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a coalition of faith communities known as Religions for Peace has worked quietly since 1970 to build peace. The coalition is composed of faith communities from the world's major religious traditions, including Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Shinto, Taoist and Zoroastrian. Its headquarters are in the Church Center for the United Nations. It is a nongovernmental organization that has general consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council, known as UNESCO. This accreditation is granted to organizations that have specialized knowledge and contribute to U.N. dialogues and initiatives. "The work of Religions for Peace is guided by its world council, a group of more than 60 senior religious leaders from around the world," said William F. Vendley, its secretary-general, in an interview with Catholic News Service. "Its projects include mediating conflicts, conducting election monitoring, helping children who have been orphaned by AIDS and ending violence against women," he said. A number of Catholic religious leaders are members of the Religions for Peace world council. Many Catholic organizations also are represented on it.

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Illinois widow leaves $2 million to her parish

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Before her death in October 2008, Alyce Christopher was a familiar face at St. Mary Nativity Parish in Joliet, Ill. Father Chris Groh, the pastor, said she was always around to lend a helping hand at women's club bake sales or senior citizens' events. In her younger years, he said, she was very involved in the parish's school. But no one suspected that her helping hand would be so generous. On June 11, the parish announced that Christopher had left $2 million to St. Mary Nativity. Parishioners often bequeath money to the church in their wills, Father Groh said, but Christopher's gift dwarfs the next largest donation in his memory, which was $240,000. Christopher was a lifelong member of the parish. She was baptized, confirmed, and married there, and graduated from the parish school's eighth grade in 1934. Although technically Christopher left her estate to the parish in general, Father Groh said that "her intent verbally was to benefit the school." He recalls one incident more than 10 years ago when she mentioned a dream she had about giving a million dollars to the school. "She kind of smiled and said, 'Father, if you had a million dollars, what you would do with it?'" The priest told her that kind of money could provide St. Mary Nativity's students with new insights and opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have had.

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People must hear Gospel, praise God in their own language, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Gospel message cannot be fully part of people's lives unless it has been faithfully translated into their language and is reflected in their culture, Pope Benedict XVI said. Talking about the life and mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, ninth-century brothers and missionaries, the pope said the two recognized that although the Slavic people of Central Europe had embraced Christianity and were baptized, the people needed to hear the Gospel and praise God in their own language. At his weekly general audience June 17 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said the two brothers not only helped invent an alphabet for the Slavonic language -- an alphabet now known as Cyrillic in honor of one of the brothers -- but they also carried out a theological battle against what is known as the "Trilingual Heresy." The heresy, the pope said, held that Hebrew, Greek and Latin were the only languages in which it is worthy to praise God. Studying the work of the fourth-century theologian St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Cyril became convinced of "the value of language in the transmission of revelation," because Jesus Christ is the Word of God addressed to all people of every language, the pope said.

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Pope says religious values must be part of solving world's problems

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The discussions and policy proposals of the leaders of the world's richest nations must promote the common good of all people and respect basic moral values, Pope Benedict XVI said. At the end of his weekly general audience June 17, Pope Benedict greeted 129 religious leaders from around the world who had been meeting in Italy ahead of the G-8 summit, scheduled for early July. Sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting brought together representatives of major Christian denominations, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and other leaders to offer their input on the G-8's expected discussions about the economic crisis, protecting the environment and access to clean water, peace and food security. Pope Benedict told the religious leaders he was certain their reflections "will do much to draw the attention of world political leaders to the importance of religions within the social fabric of every society and to the grave duty to ensure that their deliberations and policies support and uphold the common good."

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Report says 10,000 migrants kidnapped in Mexico over six months

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A nun who works on migration issues for Mexico's bishops said she was not surprised by a report from Mexico's National Human Rights Commission that nearly 10,000 undocumented migrants traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States were kidnapped over a six-month period. "Organized crime groups see in the migrant population a group that is extremely vulnerable for committing these kinds of crimes," Scalabrini Sister Leticia Gutierrez, executive secretary of the Mexican bishops' human mobility ministry, told Catholic News Service. She said church officials' research and interviews with migrants contributed to the report released June 15. The report underscores the changing nature of the challenges facing undocumented migrants -- most of whom are from Central America -- as they travel through Mexico. For decades, migrants have been targeted by corrupt public officials and gangs that would demand bribes and steal their meager possessions. But those working with migrants now report that migrants are being targeted by criminal groups -- including many with ties to powerful narcotics-trafficking cartels -- who kidnap them and demand ransoms from relatives living in either the United States or the migrants' home countries. The human rights report outlined a $25 million industry that was responsible for kidnapping 9,758 migrants between September 2008 and February 2009. Sixty-seven percent of the victims were from Honduras, while nearly 90 percent of the victims were apprehended by "organized groups."

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Catholic-Hindu relations open new chapter in India, says cardinal

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican and Catholic leaders helped reassure Hindu leaders in India that the church is firmly opposed to forced conversions and that it does not carry out its mission in the same aggressive manner as some Protestant sects do. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said it is very difficult for Hindus to grasp the difference between a Catholic, a Baptist or a Pentecostal, so all Christians usually get blamed for the proselytizing activities of others. In just one region in India, some 160 churches were being built by evangelical sects, he said in an interview with Vatican Radio June 16. Many Hindu leaders seem "quite worried about this 'invasion' and we are paying the consequences a bit," he said. Cardinal Tauran, together with five Indian bishops and the Vatican nuncio to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, attended a closed-door interreligious summit in Mumbai June 12 with 10 leading Hindu leaders. It was the first such high-level meeting between Catholic and Hindu leaders since the violent attacks by Hindu extremists against Christians in 2008 that left about 90 people dead.

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Planned ordination of St. Pius X priests 'illegitimate,' Vatican says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X ordains new priests at the end of June as planned, the ordinations would be illegitimate, the Vatican said. However, responding to reporters' questions about the planned ordinations, the Vatican spokesman June 17 did not mention the possibility of any penalties being imposed as a result of the ordinations. A spokesman for the Diocese of Regensburg, Germany, had said in early June that if the ordinations occurred without Vatican permission the new priests and the ordaining bishop could be excommunicated. The Society of St. Pius X has announced it will ordain three priests and three deacons at its seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany, June 27, and that another 18 men will be ordained at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland, and in Winona, Minn. Bishop Gerhard Muller of Regensburg told Vatican Radio June 1 that he had warned the Zaitzkofen seminary the ordinations would violate canon law and create a "dangerous situation," adding that he had asked the Vatican to "prescribe how to proceed." But the rector of the Zaitzkofen seminary, Father Stefan Frey, issued a statement saying the Society of St. Pius X had "provisional legal status" in the Catholic Church pending a "definitive canonical ruling" on its future, and that it had not been told to "put a stop to ordinations."

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Vatican must push for more religious freedom in China, says cardinal

ROME (CNS) -- Too much importance is being given to establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China and not enough is being done to push for greater religious freedom on the mainland, said retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. Diplomatic relations "alone do not rectify everything. In fact sometimes they can deceive by giving the false impression that religious freedom exists," he told the Rome-based agency AsiaNews. "The most important thing is religious freedom," he said, which diplomatic relations can foster, but in no way guarantee. "Currently the establishment of diplomatic ties appears to be improbable," he said. The cardinal, who retired this year as head of the Hong Kong diocese, made his remarks in a lengthy interview with AsiaNews. Excerpts were published on the agency's website June 16 and the entire interview was to appear in its monthly magazine in August-September. Cardinal Zen said the Catholic Church in China and the Vatican should stop compromising with the Chinese government and start implementing the guidelines Pope Benedict XVI set out in his 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics.

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UN appeals for massive financial support for world's refugees

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The United Nations appealed for massive financial support to serve refugees and internally displaced people, saying the ability of humanitarian agencies to help is waning. Worldwide, 42 million people were uprooted at the end of 2008, said Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, during a June 16 briefing at the National Press Club. Although this is 700,000 fewer people than the previous year, he said, new displacement in 2009 because of recent crises in Pakistan and Sri Lanka has already offset the decline. Guterres called this an "illusion of stability." Issues such as urbanization, climate change, poverty and economic and food crises are forcing more people to move, and the international community is not prepared, Guterres said. Eighty percent of refugees are sent to developing countries, where hot climates, monsoons, lack of funding, lack of awareness and threats to safety interfere with agencies' efforts, he added. Such is the case in Pakistan, where 2 million people have been displaced because of violence between the Taliban militants and Pakistani forces, Guterres said. "We have more and more peacekeeping operations in countries where there is no peace to keep," he said.

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Nearly 1,200 priests urge South Korean president to resign

SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Nearly 1,200 South Korean priests have signed a petition urging President Lee Myung-bak to step down, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. "We can no longer bear the current situation that is destroying democracy," said the statement from the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice. The priests charged the government with suppressing the voice of the people through excessive use of power. They also accused the country's political leaders of planning to revise media laws in an effort to further gag public opinion. In their petition, the priests highlighted an incident last year in which the government blocked protests over the import of U.S. beef believed to be at risk of contamination with mad cow disease. Hundreds of thousands of people attended candlelight vigils to protest the imports, but the government blocked the marches by placing containers on Seoul's main street. The priests' association also demanded greater freedom of speech during a June 15 Mass in central Seoul. About 200 priests and 300 religious and laypeople attended the event at the site of a fatal protest held earlier this year.

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Pope meets leaders of Austrian church to discuss current problems

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials met June 15-16 with four representatives of the Austrian bishops' conference to discuss recent problems in the life of the church, including the controversy over the appointment of a bishop earlier this year. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, president of the bishops' conference, told Vatican Radio there is no secret that the controversial bishop's nomination revealed "great tensions" in the Austrian church, so the Vatican invited some of the bishops to come to Rome to discuss ways to address the tensions. The bishops did not feel they were being called to task, he said in the interview broadcast June 17, but rather they were invited to discuss the situation and education of Austrian laity, the country's Catholic theological faculties and seminaries and people's understandings of church teaching and church discipline. Obligatory celibacy for Latin-rite priests is one of the church disciplines that have been questioned publicly and repeatedly in Austria. Cardinal Schonborn said he gave Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, a copy of a letter from a group of influential lay Catholics suggesting that the celibacy requirement be dropped because of a shortage of priests.

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Vatican editor says postwar hostility toward Pope Pius XII unjustified

ROME (CNS) -- The hostility toward Pope Pius XII in the years following World War II was the unjustified result of his firm stance against communism and an unfair comparison with his successor, Pope John XXIII, said the editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. In the introduction to a compilation of essays by historians and church officials, editor Giovanni Maria Vian said that the esteem awarded Pope Pius during and immediately after the war changed after his death into criticism over his failure to strongly condemn the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews. The book, "In Difesa di Pio XII," ("In Defense of Pius XII") includes essays by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Vian wrote that the memory of Pope Pius had been "deformed by such a bitter and persistent controversy as to obscure the historic reality." These negative judgments are in contrast, Vian said, with the respect he enjoyed during his lifetime and "nearly unanimously positive opinion of him following his death in 1958." The "principle elements" of this evolving opinion of Pope Pius were his strong opposition to communism and a perceived contrast in style and personality with Pope John, who was known as "the Good Pope" and who unexpectedly called for the Second Vatican Council, Vian said.

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Louisiana journalist retires from Catholic press after 60 years

LAFAYETTE, La. (CNS) -- After more than 60 years with the Diocese of Lafayette, Kathleen Toups, writer for the Acadiana Catholic, Lafayette's diocesan newspaper, is retiring ... sort of. She'll still contribute to the paper. A special Mass celebrated her many years of service to the diocese and to the diocesan newspaper recently at the Immaculata Chapel in Lafayette, followed by a reception in her honor. In his homily, Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell pointed out Toups' "unique record of 60 years of faithfulness to the church and to the Catholic press." For Toups, known by her friends as "KT," writing for the Catholic press is a way of life, and her personal response to that basic question from the Baltimore Catechism: "Why did God make you? To know him, to love him and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in heaven." At the reception, Toups received a framed picture of the six bishops of Lafayette under whom she served. She also was presented with a photo album commemorating her years with the diocese.

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Priest who is new liturgy official praised as 'incredible theologian"

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Colleagues of Archbishop-designate J. Augustine DiNoia said they were pleased with his new appointment at the Vatican, calling him an "incredible theologian" and a man with a "brilliant mind" who can engage others in liturgical and theological discussions. Pope Benedict XVI named the U.S.-born Dominican an archbishop and the next secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments June 16. He has worked at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2002. Archbishop-designate DiNoia, known for his expertise in liturgical and doctrinal affairs, was praised for his knowledge as well as his warm personality. News of the Vatican announcement spread quickly in the Dominican order's St. Joseph province, based in New York, to which Archbishop-designate DiNoia belongs. Dominican Father Brian Mulcahy, provincial vicar, said he and his fellow Dominicans were "absolutely thrilled" by the appointment. "We see it as not just an honor for us, but for the order as a whole," said Father Mulcahy, who studied systematic theology under the archbishop-designate at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington.


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