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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-24-2010

By Catholic News Service


Saint who was former slave suggested as patron of trafficking victims

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- There's a move under way to seek Vatican approval for a patron saint of human trafficking and slavery victims. St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave-turned-nun, is the ideal saint for people whose labor and bodies are being exploited, said Brian Willis, a Portland Catholic who has worked for years to help women who have been forced into the sex trade. Trafficking does not require the crossing of international borders, because "you can be born and raised and live in the same house and be a trafficking victim," said Willis, a member of St. Mary Cathedral in Portland. "It is about exploitation." Global Health Promise, an organization Willis founded in 2007, protects women and their children from the impact of trafficking, prostitution and sexual exploitation. Global Health Promise is working on establishing shelters for children in Nepal, plus a drop-in center at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in downtown Portland. Willis also works with End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, a group dedicated to combating sexual exploitation and trafficking of youth, in the U.S. Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny and Willis have written letters to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, suggesting that the cause of trafficking victims would benefit from the naming of a patron saint. The letters will then be sent on to the Vatican.

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Mormon history began in 1830 under founder Joseph Smith

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 by Joseph Smith Jr. marked the establishment of a religion which holds a unique understanding of God, emphasizes family life and believes in continuing revelation of God in daily life. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Salt Lake City, is the principal body embracing Mormonism. Membership in the church has grown to more than 11 million, with about half in the United States and the remainder spread throughout Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Philippines and parts of Oceania. Mormons, as followers of Mormonism are known, also have a desire for order, respect for authority and engage in missionary work. The LDS church makes no distinctions between laity and the priesthood. At age 12 all worthy males become deacons in the Aaronic priesthood. At 14 they become teachers and at 16 they become priests. At 18 they may enter the Melchizedek priesthood as elders and may continue rising in the upper ranks of church hierarchy. Latter-day Saints regard Jesus and the Holy Spirit as children of the Father and the Heavenly Mother. They believe that baptism was instituted by the Father, not Christ, and that it goes back to Adam and Eve. Because of this view of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, some feel Mormons are not Christian.

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Man accused of ordering murder of Sister Dorothy Stang gets new trial

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) -- Five years after the murder of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a man accused of ordering her killing will face his third trial. Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, nicknamed Bida, will begin a new trial March 31. He remains in jail following a court order that he return to prison because of the power he wields in the region where the crime occurred. Initially, de Moura was found guilty of ordering the murder of Sister Dorothy, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. His lawyers are seeking his release from prison. Another man accused of ordering the murder, Regivaldo Pereira Galvao, is also awaiting trial. With de Moura back in jail, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur decided to halt disclosure of Sister Dorothy's letters to government authorities denouncing the troubles peasants suffered at the hands of powerful land owners. American Notre Dame Sister Rebecca Spires said the disclosure of Sister Dorothy's documents would be "inconvenient" at this time. "We don't want to harm the procedural work and we have a positive, collaborative relationship with the authorities," she said in a telephone interview in mid-February.

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Sudan archbishop says April election can begin Sudan's transformation

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- With the approach of Sudan's first multiparty elections in 24 years, Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro of Juba, Sudan, appealed to voters to learn as much as possible about the candidates before casting their votes. In a Feb. 21 pastoral letter, Archbishop Loro said the April 11 elections for the nation's president and local officials can mark the beginning of Sudan's political transformation. "The church has the moral obligation to guide this important process," the archbishop wrote in the letter, titled "The Genuine Voice of the People Is the Voice of God." The campaign ends April 9, five days after Easter, and Archbishop Loro said Sudanese can take the opportunity during Lent to restore their relationship with God while hearing from candidates about their goals for the future of the country. "God wants us to repent from the many sins we have committed against him and ourselves, especially in southern Sudan: tribes against tribes, killings, abductions, robbery, corruption and so forth," he said. "We must atone for these sins by prayers and good deeds." Archbishop Loro acknowledged that for 60 percent of the population in southern Sudan, where his archdiocese is located, the prospect of a voting will be a new experience, and he called for widespread participation in balloting. He expressed hope that the peace that was maintained during voter registration will carry through the election.

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Niwano awards peace prize to Indian promoter of women workers' rights

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Niwano Peace Foundation has chosen Ela Ramesh Bhatt of India, a pioneer in organizing poor women workers and in microfinancing projects, as the recipient of the 2010 Niwano Peace Prize. Bhatt, a Hindu, founded the Self-Employed Women's Association in 1972 to organize and protect the rights of poor women, mainly textile workers, who were not covered by labor laws that protect factory workers. The trade union now has more than 1.2 million members. Two years later, she founded the SEWA Cooperative Bank, which provides small, low-interest loans to poor women to help them start their own businesses. Some 3 million women have been involved in and assisted by the bank's lending program. Bhatt served as a member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, from 1986 to 1989. She founded and served as chair of Women's World Banking, a microfinance nongovernmental organization, and also has been instrumental in the International Alliance of Home-based Workers and in the research network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organizing. The Niwano Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to interreligious cooperation and peace.

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Island of Molokai has spiritual connection to priestly fraternity

HONOLULU (CNS) -- No member of the Priestly Fraternity of Molokai had ever been there. Until January. Father Thierry de Roucy, founder of the fraternity, and Father Gonzague Leroux visited the island made famous by the ministry of St. Damien of Molokai to leprosy patients there. Until then, the Molokai connection had been purely spiritual -- but part of something much bigger. That something bigger is Heart's Home, an international Catholic movement that spreads what it calls a "culture of compassion" to impoverished places around the world through mostly lay volunteers living in prayerful communities. Father de Roucy and Father Leroux came to Molokai to scout out facilities for a retreat in August for 30 to 35 members of Heart's Home. Father de Roucy, who has a soft, quiet smile, said he envisioned the organization in a literal "flash" of inspiration. It came to him on Jan. 4, 1990, more than six years after his ordination as a member of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus and Mary. The French priest was saying the rosary after lunch outside his monastery. He was on the first joyful mystery, the Annunciation, when the idea "to start a community for the poorest and most suffering in the world" descended upon him like "a light." The idea was to open "houses of compassion" in destitute areas to serve the poor, particularly children, by visiting them and keeping an open door.


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