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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-5-2010

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Cardinal Rigali calls creating sacred spaces an 'exalted mission'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Praising the "the esteemed heritage and promising future" of church architecture, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said architects who create sacred spaces have "a vocation and a mission" and perform "important work that serves to express our response to God." Artists and architects who work on church projects "open themselves to the light of sacred tradition," and "prepare a dwelling place that becomes a fitting sanctuary," the cardinal said. Such work, when created "in the light of faith," becomes "an exalted mission," he said. Cardinal Rigali was the keynote speaker at a two-day symposium, "A Living Presence: Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Sacred Architecture," held April 30-May 1 at The Catholic University of America in Washington. The symposium was presented by the Partnership for Catholic Sacred Architecture, a collaboration between the schools of architecture at Catholic University and the University of Notre Dame. Cardinal Rigali spoke April 30 to about 100 architects and others on the importance and role of sacred architecture in the life of the church. Calling the Catholic faith "a mystery both timely and timeless," Cardinal Rigali said architects of sacred space help the faithful gather for "prayerful reflection in God's presence."

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Leniency proposed for some protesters at 2009 Notre Dame commencement

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A year after the fractious conflict over the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Barack Obama to be its commencement speaker and give him an honorary degree, some protesters still face charges. However, a majority of the demonstrators arrested while protesting Obama's commencement address at the Indiana school have been offered the option of a pretrial diversion program, which, if successfully completely, would lead to dismissal of the charges. Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, applauded the decision by St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak, calling the potential outcome "balanced and lenient." Many Catholics had said Obama was an inappropriate choice for an honorary degree at the nation's most recognizably Catholic university because of his support for keeping abortion legal. While some have argued that campus police showed bias by arresting only pro-life protesters, and leaving alone pro-Obama demonstrators who support keeping abortion legal, Father Jenkins said only people who disobeyed the university's protest policies were charged. "They were given repeated warnings by law enforcement officials, and then, when they persisted, they were arrested and charged with criminal trespass," he said in a statement released April 30.

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Middle Tennessee begins long recovery from floods

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- More than 15 inches of rain fell in some areas of middle Tennessee as May began, causing unprecedented flood damage in the area and killing at least 19 people. Among those who perished in the floodwaters was 88-year-old Joseph Formosa, father of Bishop David R. Choby's secretary, Mary Margaret Lambert, and his wife, Bessie Formosa, 78. The floods have swallowed area neighborhoods, washed away roads, knocked out electricity and surrounded downtown landmarks such as the Country Music Hall of Fame. Four counties have been classified as national disaster areas, and Nashville residents are under mandatory order to conserve water, as water treatment plants have been threatened by the floods. Many families throughout the Diocese of Nashville have been affected and are working to clear out their waterlogged homes and assess the damage to their businesses. For the most part, diocesan schools and parishes, including the most historic ones, escaped the floods unscathed except for minor damage. The chancery office had water damage on the first floor and had to pull out all the carpets, but no archives or valuables were damaged. All Nashville-area diocesan schools were closed May 3, and individual ones were reopening throughout the week as they were able.

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Hawaii civil unions bill, opposed by church, awaits governor's action

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle has until July 6 to sign or veto a bill that would permit same-sex couples to receive all the rights and benefits of marriage in Hawaii under the designation "civil union." The Diocese of Honolulu had joined Hawaii evangelical Protestant churches and others in a vigorous fight against the passage of the bill. But the bill's last-minute approval by the Hawaii state House of Representatives on April 29, the last day of this year's legislative session, caught its opponents off guard. The bill had been considered dead after the House tabled it by unanimous voice vote Jan. 29. The state Senate had approved the civil unions bill, HB 444, in January. Lingle, a Republican, has not yet indicated what she will do. She is required to send the Legislature a list of bills she might veto by June 22; any bills not on that list would automatically become law. HB 444 would allow homosexual couples to gain a status identical, except in name, to marriage in Hawaii. It would not affect any federal rights or benefits. The law would also allow a heterosexual couple to have a civil union.

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Immigrant church must lead the way on immigration reform, cardinal says

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Catholic leaders and universities should "come out of the shadows" and take a significant role in educating those who are ambivalent or undecided about the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, according to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. "We are an immigrant church ourselves since the founding days of the republic," the cardinal said in a May 3 presentation at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. "The immigrant experience is our own," he added. "We should be front and center in leading the charge for immigration reform not only because it is a matter of justice, but also because it is part of our identity as a church." Cardinal Mahony said Christ himself "was an itinerant preacher with no place to lay his head" and "a refugee who fled the terror of Herod. When we welcome the newcomer, we welcome him. We need to do more to ensure that we do not become a nation that treats those who look foreign as suspect and to be investigated, even arrested, merely on the basis of their appearance."

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WORLD

Pope, at audience, calls for complete nuclear disarmament

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI asked world leaders to work calmly and seriously to control the spread of nuclear weapons "in the prospect of their complete elimination from the planet." At the end of his weekly general audience May 5, the pope made his appeal to participants at the U.N. Review Conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, being held in New York May 3-28. Designed to promote nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and an equitable development of peaceful nuclear energy, the treaty can succeed only if nations respect the commitments they made in signing it, the pope said. "Peace, in fact, rests on trust and on respect for the obligations assumed and not only on a balance of forces," he said. "In that spirit, I encourage the initiatives aimed at progressive disarmament and the creation of zones free from nuclear arms in the prospect of their complete elimination from the planet."

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Finance reform hampered by politics, says former US ambassador

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Regulation of the financial industry is hampered by the political pressure the financial institutions put on governments and politicians, said a Harvard law professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. "The regulatory process is captured by the political interests of the people who are supposed to be regulated," said Mary Ann Glendon, president of Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. "There are all kinds of pressure on the shaping of regulations, so there's the problem of the political will to reform," she said during a Vatican news conference May 5. Glendon spoke at the end of the academy's four-day plenary session, which focused on the theme, "Crisis in a Global Economy: Re-planning the Journey." The academy invited economists, lawyers, theologians and social scientists to look at the causes of the current economic crisis, its impact on individuals and nations, the relationship between ethics and economics, and ideas for promoting economic recovery and preventing a similar financial meltdown in the future. In a written summary of the proceedings, Glendon said some speakers noted how much of the world economy has shifted from being based on the real production of goods "to an economy dominated by speculative activities driven by greed."

- - -

Catholics need a 'new apologetics' to defend faith, cardinal says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The rise of "new atheism" and the popularity of books that distort church doctrines call for a "new apologetics" to explain and defend the Christian faith, said U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada. Proclaiming the good news always involves explaining and defending the faith, tailored to the sensibilities of particular times and places, said the cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The cardinal spoke April 29 at a conference on "a new apologetics" at the Legionaries of Christ-run Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University in Rome. The development and use of "apologetics" -- a system of explaining and defending the truths of faith -- largely went out of fashion with the Second Vatican Council, but is still needed today because Catholics in every age are called to explain the reasons for their faith and their hope, the cardinal said. "If apologetics was criticized and largely abandoned in the wake of the Second Vatican Council for being too defensive or too aggressive, it is perhaps because the admonition to proceed with 'courtesy and respect' had too often been ignored," he said.

- - -

In Portugal, pope will address spiritual and political challenges

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's four-day visit to Portugal will focus on spiritual, political and economic questions seen as crucial for the country and the rest of modern Europe. The May 11-14 trip is first of all a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Fatima, where three young shepherd children had visions of Mary in 1917. In the pope's view, Mary's appearances in human history are an important sign for the church and the world, a much-needed invitation to conversion. On a political level, the German pontiff will visit Portugal at a time when cultural change is challenging the country's Catholic identity. Most specifically, the country appears poised to legalize same-sex marriage, but on a broader level, church leaders are concerned about erosion of traditional moral values, especially among the young. Finally, the pope's visit coincides with an economic downturn in Portugal that has threatened to make it the next crisis zone in the European Union. The pope will have an opportunity to revisit one of his favorite themes: European unity built solely on financial interests is bound to fail.

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PEOPLE

Needs of Sudanese church drive ex-Salesian Volunteer's 2,200-mile hike

ALONG THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL NEAR LURAY, Va. (CNS) -- The 40-mph winds were whipping around 23-year-old Chris O'Keefe and the wind chill was below zero as he tried to cross from Georgia to North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail. He tried to take a video to show the blowing snow, but his camera shut down from the cold. He struggled ahead, determined to hike across the state line in mid-February, but when he reached drifts over his head, he decided to head for shelter. So, using a compass, he bushwhacked down the mountain, reached a six-person shelter around 11 p.m., crawled -- fully-clothed -- into his bivvy sack and tried to sleep. He recalled that as he tried to find his way down the mountain in the dark, he asked himself, "Why am I doing this?" Two-and-a-half months later, O'Keefe was starting to get feeling and dexterity back in the ends of his once-frost-bitten fingers. And after a week off the trail for shinsplints, he was nearly halfway finished hiking the nearly 2,200-mile trail -- all in an effort to raise money to help the Diocese of Rumbek, in southern Sudan. By May 1, O'Keefe had earned $20,000 for the diocese, but he said the needs were very, very great. "I think it (Sudan) is one of the areas that has suffered most in the whole world," said the former Salesian Volunteer who spent nearly two years in the African nation. He has set up a website -- www.hikeforsudan.org -- that describes the four projects toward which he is channeling all pledges.

- - -

Catholic school rewarded creativity in kids' musician Uncle Rock

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One could argue that Robert Burke Warren, the children's entertainer known professionally these days as Uncle Rock, got his start at Catholic school. After going to public schools in his native Atlanta through fourth grade, Warren's mother and grandmother enrolled him at Christ the King School in Atlanta. "I actually had the same fifth-grade English teacher my mom had, God rest her soul. It was a real formative time in my life," Warren recalled in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service from Atlanta. That teacher, Warren said, "took a poem I had written about Snoopy and read it to the class, and it went over great. That was my first experience at getting praise as a writer that I remember." Warren added, "I remember kind of being drawn in to the beauty of the church and the music and ... the ceremonial aspect of it all." After stints in several bands and a brush with acting, including a role in the London stage production of "The Buddy Holly Story," Warren opened two new chapters in his life at pretty much the same time. One was refocusing on his music career by being a singer-songwriter, thanks in part to a workshop led by country hitmaker Rosanne Cash. The other was parenthood.

END


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