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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-10-2010

By Catholic News Service


100 traditionalist Anglican parishes seek to join Catholic Church

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- About 100 traditionalist Anglican parishes in the United States have decided to join the Catholic Church as a group. Meeting in Orlando, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America voted to seek entry into the Catholic Church under the guidelines established in Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus" ("Groups of Anglicans"), said a March 3 statement. The Anglican Church in America is part of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group of churches which separated from the worldwide Anglican Communion in 1991. The Traditional Anglican Communion claims 400,000 members worldwide. The request means the 100 Anglican Church in America parishes will ask for group reception into the Catholic Church in a "personal ordinariate," a structure similar to dioceses for former Anglicans who become Catholic. Churches under the personal ordinariate can retain their Anglican character and much of their liturgy and practices -- including married priests -- while being in communion with the Catholic Church. Archbishop John Hepworth of Australia, primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and Father Christopher Phillips of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish, an Anglican-use Catholic church in San Antonio, attended the meeting, according to the statement. The Anglican Church in America is the third group of Anglican churches to respond positively to the Vatican's invitation.

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Anglicans' formal bid to join Catholic Church seen as 'starting point'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although leaders of the Anglican Church in America have formally sought to join the Catholic Church, "we still have a number of questions" about how it would work, said the traditionalist denomination's spokesman. "What we Anglicans are looking for is full sacramental unity," said the Rev. Jeffrey Monroe, Anglican Church in America communications director, in a March 9 telephone interview with Catholic News Service from Conway, N.H., where he is vicar of a parish. The priest also serves as a maritime chaplain for the denomination. "For Anglicans, what is important is that we maintain our rites," Rev. Monroe said. "It is important to us that we maintain our practices, our scriptural focus." The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America voted for their parishes to seek entry into the Catholic Church as a group under the guidelines established in Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus" ("Groups of Anglicans"), said a March 3 statement. "It's a starting point for all of us, which is very important," Rev. Monroe said. "We are now anticipating further conversations, which we are working our way to. The Roman Catholic Church needs a process just like we did."

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There's an 'app' for that: iPhone applications devised for Catholics

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a world that boasts continual technological change, the iPhone by Apple has gained near-iconic status. Even Apple boasts there are more than 140,000 applications -- or "apps," in Apple-speak -- that users can obtain for their phones. It only follows that there would be some clever Catholics who have devised apps to bolster people's faith. Dave Brown of Bend, Ore., invented a virtual rosary-beads app as a sign of thanksgiving after doctors found a successful bone-marrow match for his kindergarten-age daughter in 2008, curing her of her leukemia. Brown and his wife, Jackie, prayed the rosary frequently through their daughter's treatment, even though one parent was in Bend keeping the home fires burning while the other stayed with the desperately ill girl in Portland, Ore. How? With iPhones that Dave Brown bought so they could talk and send photos and video. An information technology manager at a window and door company, Dave Brown used his know-how to design an iPhone app that allows the user to pray the rosary. The small screen has animated beads that can be moved with a touch. Corresponding prayers pop up on the screen, along with devotional images. Brown told the Catholic Sentinel, Portland's archdiocesan newspaper, that within a year of its introduction, more than 20,000 sales of the app had been recorded. The Browns decided to keep the price low -- 99 cents -- to get as many people as possible praying. A similar rosary app, known as the Prayer Beads App, was designed by Premier Christian media in England in advance of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Great Britain later this year and made available in March through Apple's online store. In California, the Riverside Press-Enterprise daily newspaper reported that a San Bernardino priest will use an iPhone app to deliver daily inspirational video messages. Divine Word Father Michael Manning, who hosts a show on cable television's Trinity Broadcasting Network, will make his iPhone debut in April.

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Archbishop defends Boulder school's decision on children of lesbians

DENVER (CNS) -- The decision to refuse re-enrollment at a Boulder Catholic school to two children of lesbian parents was the only outcome that was fair to the children, their teachers, school parents and "the authentic faith of the church," said Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. "Our schools are meant to be 'partners in faith' with parents," the archbishop said in a column published in the March 10 issue of the Denver Catholic Register, the archdiocesan newspaper. "If parents don't respect the beliefs of the church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. "It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the church," he added. Archbishop Chaput, whose archdiocese includes Boulder, was commenting on the case of two children whose parents, a lesbian couple, were enrolling them at Sacred Heart of Jesus School. The couple was told that their older child, who was being enrolled for kindergarten next year, could attend kindergarten but could not continue into first grade after that. The younger child could be enrolled in preschool for next year but could not continue into kindergarten the following year, school officials said.

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Maryland governor supports business tax credit benefiting all schools

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) -- A business tax credit benefiting public and nonpublic schools received a major boost when Gov. Martin J. O'Malley threw his public support behind the long-sought measure. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted 10-5 to send the proposal to the Senate, but discussion on the floor planned for March 10 was held up a day so one Democratic lawmaker could prepare an amendment to ensure that special needs children have access to private schooling. The bill itself would establish a business tax credit known as BOAST, or Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers in Maryland. It would grant businesses a 75 percent state income tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations for nonpublic school students. It also would support enrichment programs in public schools and professional development for public and private school teachers. "The BOAST bill will increase scholarships for children in low- and middle-income families and stabilize enrollment in nonpublic schools," O'Malley said in a March 3 letter to the Senate committee. "I believe the bill is crucial if we are to stem the tide of private school closures in the state." O'Malley said school closures "represent a loss of educational diversity and opportunity for our students and will ultimately increase costs and enrollment pressures on our public school systems." Support for the tax credit found a sense of urgency after the Baltimore Archdiocese announced March 4 what it called a consolidation plan affecting 13 schools -- 12 elementary and one secondary. Under the plan the schools will close next fall, with each of those schools paired with a receiving school to accept its students.

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God renews, does not reinvent church, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council's renewal of the Catholic Church was a sign of progress, not a sign of repudiating the past, Pope Benedict XVI said. "We know that after the Second Vatican Council some people were convinced that everything was new, that there was a new church, that the pre-conciliar church was finished and that we would have a completely different church," the pope said during his general audience March 10. Their vision would have led to "a utopian anarchy," he said, but the wise guidance of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II "defended the new things brought by the council, while affirming the oneness and continuity of the church." The pope made his remarks about reactions to the Second Vatican Council during an audience talk focused on St. Bonaventure's attempts in the mid-1200s to balance enthusiasm for the new form of religious life introduced by St. Francis of Assisi with continued fidelity to the hierarchal church. St. Bonaventure taught the early Franciscans and continues to teach Catholics today that living the faith requires "discernment, sober realism and openness to new gifts" given to the church by the Holy Spirit, the pope said.

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Abuse cases show need for greater women's role, Vatican newspaper says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A greater presence of women in decision-making roles in the church might have helped remove the "veil of masculine secrecy" that covered priestly sex abuse cases, a front-page commentary in the Vatican newspaper said. The article said that despite calls by popes and others for welcoming women into equal, though diverse, roles in the church, women have generally been kept out of positions of responsibility. As a result, the church has failed to take advantage of the many talents and contributions that could have been provided by women, it said. The article, published March 10 by L'Osservatore Romano, was written by Lucetta Scaraffia, an Italian journalist and history professor who has been a frequent contributor to the Vatican paper in recent years. As an example of what the church has lost by not taking advantage of women's contributions, Scaraffia pointed to the "painful and shameful situations" of sexual abuse by priests against the young people entrusted to their pastoral care. "We can hypothesize that a greater female presence, not at a subordinate level, would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past often covered the denunciation of these misdeeds with silence," the article said. "Women, in fact, both religious and lay, by nature would have been more likely to defend young people in cases of sexual abuse, allowing the church to avoid the grave damage brought by these sinful acts," it said.

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Bishops pleased with vote to shift policing from London to Belfast

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- Church leaders in Ireland welcomed a decision by Northern Ireland's devolved power-sharing government to take over responsibility for justice and policing and urged politicians to tackle other difficult issues. The transfer of justice and policing powers from London to the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont was one of the last outstanding elements of a 1998 peace agreement that ended almost 30 years of sectarian conflict. During a meeting March 10, the Irish bishops' conference said it "welcomed the overwhelming vote yesterday by the Northern Ireland Assembly to devolve policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont." Members of the region's legislative assembly March 9 voted 88 to 17 to create a Department for Justice for the first time in almost 40 years. Responsibility for justice and policing was removed to the British government in London in 1972 after violence intensified and Catholics complained of mistreatment by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland's former police force. "Now that the political parties have succeeded in tackling this difficult issue, bishops believe it is vital that other outstanding areas of disagreement within the executive -- particularly education issues -- can and should be faced immediately in the interests of good government," the bishops added.

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Recovery from earthquake moves forward in rural Chilean communities

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- As Salvador Pinera takes office as president of Chile, his main task will be to oversee the country's recovery from the strong earthquake Feb. 27 that left a large area of the country in shambles. With quake damage estimated at $15 billion or more, Pinera's March 11 inauguration was planned without the elaborate celebrations that usually accompany such events. Meanwhile, church workers say the economic figures do not reveal the human tragedy of the disaster. In the rural area of Rancagua, near the epicenter of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake, "There is considerable damage. Families are terribly affected. People are only surviving thanks to assistance" from churches, the government and aid organizations, said Cesar Morales, who heads the Rancagua diocesan social pastoral and Caritas office. In the diocese of about 600,000 people, 19,000 families lost their homes and 22,000 houses were damaged, Morales told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. "We still don't know the full extent of the disaster," he said. As of March 10, the government put the death toll nationwide at 528. Many people in the diocese's 65 parishes work as day laborers on large farms in the region. Only about one month remains until the end of the harvest season, and people usually count on their savings to see them through the winter, Morales said. In cities and towns throughout the hard-hit Maule and Bio-Bio regions south of Santiago, the Chilean capital, people lost their livelihoods to the earthquake. Along the central Chilean coast, a series of huge waves damaged or destroyed hundreds of boats, leaving small fishermen with no way to earn a living, said Gabriela Gutierrez, head of the social pastoral and Caritas office in Concepcion, the largest city near the earthquake's epicenter.

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Vatican expects bishops to comply with civil laws on reporting abuse

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican officials are concerned that the church's longstanding insistence on confidentiality in its treatment of priestly sexual abuse cases is being misinterpreted as a ban on reporting serious accusations to civil authorities. As past episodes and accusations of abuse have come to light recently in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, media attention has focused in part on what kind of guidance or instructions local bishops received from the Vatican on how to handle such cases. An increasingly widespread impression -- and a mistaken one, Vatican officials say -- is that Pope Benedict XVI himself, when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, ordered bishops not to inform civil authorities about accusations of sexual abuse by priests. The issue surfaced March 8 when Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said that as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope had in 2001 written a directive that said serious sex abuse cases "are not supposed to be divulged outside the church." The minister's reference was to the 2001 document, "De delictis gravioribus" ("On more serious crimes"), which gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith juridical control over how the church handles cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests. It was seen inside the Vatican as an important tool in making sure perpetrators were discovered and brought to justice. But much media attention has focused on the fact that the 2001 document said such cases were covered by "pontifical secret," which meant they would be handled in strict confidentiality. Critics saw that as a way for the church to hide accusations from civil authorities.

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Homilies should be under eight minutes long, says head of synod office

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Homilies should be no longer than eight minutes -- a listener's average attention span, said the head of the synod office. Priests and deacons should also avoid reading straight from a text and instead work from notes so that they can have eye contact with the people in the pews, said Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. In a new book titled, "The Word of God," the archbishop highlighted some tips that came out of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Bible. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reproduced a few passages from the book in its March 10 edition. The archbishop wrote that it's not unusual for preachers to recognize that they have less-than-perfect communications skills or that they struggle with preparing homilies. Everyone should spend an appropriate amount of time to craft a well-prepared and relevant sermon for Mass, he said. He said Pope Benedict XVI starts working on his Sunday homilies on the preceding Monday so that there is plenty of time to reflect on the Scripture readings from which the homily will draw.

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Sheik Tantawi, supporter of Muslim-Catholic dialogue, dies at 81

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi, one of Sunni Islam's leading clerics and a supporter of Catholic-Muslim dialogue, died of a heart attack March 10 at the age of 81. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told Vatican Radio, "We have lost a friend, because he always showed us great understanding and always welcomed us with great cordiality." Tantawi served since 1996 as grand sheik of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the principal centers of Islamic theology for Sunni Muslims. In that position, he welcomed Pope John Paul II to the university in 2000 and helped established a permanent dialogue commission for discussions between university leaders and Vatican officials. Cardinal Tauran, who was in Cairo for the annual meeting of the commission Feb. 22-23, said that although Tantawi did not participate in the dialogue sessions, he welcomed the commission members and spoke with sorrow about the tensions that broke out between Muslims and Coptic Christians at Christmas. "He was a man of peace, of dialogue and I am convinced this will be the line of his successor as well," the cardinal said.

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Vatican official cautions against genetically modified organisms

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Genetically modified food crops could be used as "weapons of infliction of hunger and poverty" if they are managed unjustly, said the new head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Peter Turkson told Catholic News Service March 9 that he would urge an attitude of caution and further study of the possible negative effects of genetically engineered organisms. Under Cardinal Turkson's predecessor, Cardinal Renato Martino, the justice and peace council sponsored several conferences on genetically modified food as a way to alleviate hunger in poor countries. Agribusinesses and biotech industries that produce genetically modified organisms are justified in wanting to recoup the expenses laid out for research and development, and they have a right to want to make a profit from their work, said Cardinal Turkson, who took over the reins of the council in January. But the issue becomes problematic when a company that controls the use of genetically modified seeds and crops is motivated more by profit than by "the declared desire to want to help feed humanity," he said. There are also doubts about the efficacy and long-term effects of genetically engineered crops, he said.


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