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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-7-2010

By Catholic News Service


Growth of Syro-Malankara church in US nourished by grace, says bishop

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The flock of Syro-Malankara Catholics who emigrated from India to New York in 1984 was as small as a mustard seed, but the group has rooted and grown like a mulberry tree nourished by grace, said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre. He spoke at the Oct. 3 installation of Bishop Thomas Naickamparampil, the first bishop of the newly established exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Church in the United States. More than 1,000 people participated in a festive liturgy at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale to celebrate the exarchate and its new bishop. Bishop Murphy said the local branch of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was a gift from India, called into being by divine love, and it will "flourish in the soil of America and become indigenous here." The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church based in the southwest Indian state of Kerala. It has more than 400,000 members, including 10,000 in North America. It is one of two Eastern churches that, along with the Latin Church, make up the Catholic Church in India. The other is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. An apostolic exarchate in the Eastern Catholic Church is the equivalent of an apostolic vicariate in the Latin Church and is created by the Vatican for the pastoral care of Catholics living outside the territory of the Eastern church to which they belong.

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Analysis of tea party movement looks at supporters' beliefs, interests

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- More than half of the people supporting the tea party movement identify themselves as Christian conservatives, with beliefs on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage that are at odds with the movement's libertarian, no-government-intrusion image, according to a new survey. About 11 percent of Americans identify with the tea party movement, and most of its supporters beliefs' reflect Republican Party principles, the survey also said. As part of its biennial American Values Survey, the Public Religion Research Institute asked questions intended to try to define the attributes of people who see themselves as part of the tea party, a political movement that espouses reduced government, lower taxes and a strong emphasis on the Constitution. The data comes amid much media coverage of the movement as tens of thousands of people have participated in rallies under the tea party umbrella around the country since the 2008 election. Though the tea party is not a formal political party and lacks a central organization, candidates associated with it have won primaries in several congressional races. But unlike a general impression the movement is libertarian, most of the people who consider themselves part of it "are largely Republican partisans," said the study's authors in the report, "Religion and the Tea Party in the 2010 Election," released at a forum in Washington Oct. 5. "The survey findings challenge, more than confirm, the conventional wisdom about the tea party movement," said the report by researchers Robert Jones and Daniel Cox.

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Pew survey finds more Americans, Catholics support same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- More Americans, including Catholics, now say they favor allowing same-sex couples to marry than did a year ago, according to surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center. Overall, 42 percent of the more than 6,500 poll participants supported same-sex marriage. Polls conducted between July 21 and Sept. 6 found that a plurality of Catholics -- 46 percent to 42 percent -- approved of allowing gays and lesbians to marry. In similar polling in 2008 and 2009, the number of Catholics favoring same-sex marriage stood at 42 percent with 45 percent opposed. The polls were conducted in two separate periods for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The margin of error was plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. Support for same-sex marriage has grown gradually since the Pew Research Center began surveying attitudes on the issue in 1996. Then, just 27 percent of Americans supported marriage among gays and lesbians. Catholic teaching holds that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman directed to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. The church has opposed efforts across the country to legalize same-sex marriage and supported ballot initiatives to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage works to promote church teaching on marriage.

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Supreme Court term takes on speech, immigration, school tuition cases

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The thorny question of whether the First Amendment protects the right to protest in a way that disrupts a family funeral is among the cases on this year's Supreme Court docket. Other cases accepted for the term that are being followed by Catholic entities include a constitutional challenge to Arizona's tuition tax credit system because it includes religious schools, another Arizona case over a state immigration law and at least one death penalty challenge. In the funeral protest case, heard by the court Oct. 6, Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Rev. Fred W. Phelps and members of his congregation at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., seeking financial compensation for emotional distress, defamation and other such injuries. Members of the church protested outside the 2006 funeral in Westminster, Md., of Snyder's son, Matthew, who was killed while serving as a Marine in Iraq. Rev. Phelps teaches that the deaths of soldiers are God's vengeance on the United States for society's -- and the military's -- tolerance of homosexuality. The Westboro members have made a practice of protesting at funerals of soldiers, with signs such as "God Hates the USA," "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Though the protest was at a distance from the church and the funeral procession was routed so as to avoid traveling near it, Snyder and his family saw coverage of the Westboro protest on the news during the wake. Because the Snyders are Catholic, signs used at this particular protest included "Priests Rape Boys" and "Pope in Hell." While searching the Internet for stories about his son, Snyder also later came across a piece posted on the church's website that said Snyder and his ex-wife taught their son "that God was a liar." A Maryland federal district court ruled in favor of Snyder, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, saying, essentially, that the statements on the signs fell within the scope of First Amendment protection.

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Pope to canonize Italian Poor Clare mystic

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, 1458-1524, the illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman, was a mystic who had to overcome her father's initial objections in order to enter the convent of the Poor Clares. According to an autobiographical letter, when she was 8 or 10 years old, she heard a Franciscan priest preaching about Christ's passion and made a vow that every Friday she would shed at least one tear for Jesus' suffering. The practice became a powerful form of meditation on the Passion. When she was 18, she felt called to enter the convent, but her father wanted her to marry. She was not able to join the Poor Clare convent in Urbino, Italy, until she was 21. She took the name Sister Battista (Baptist). Her writings, mainly based on mystical experiences received while praying, include the "Treatise on the Mental Sufferings of Jesus Christ Our Lord," which she initially attributed to an unnamed sister. The central thesis of the book is that because Jesus was divine and his love for humanity was infinite, his mental suffering during his passion also was without limit.

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Book-length interview with pope to be released Nov. 23

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "Light of the World," a book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI will be released Nov. 23 in the world's major languages, including English, the head of the Vatican publishing house said. Addressing journalists Oct. 7 at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, the director of the Vatican publishing house, said the text of the book based on interviews conducted in July by the journalist Peter Seewald had already been consigned to 12 publishing houses from around the world. In the United States, the book will be published by Ignatius Press, which also published the two book-length interviews Seewald conducted with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope. The Vatican publishing house, LEV, said it expected to sign publishing agreements with other companies before the Frankfurt fair ended Oct. 11. The book is based on conversations Seewald and the pope had the week of July 26-31 at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the conversation covered a variety of topics, such as Seewald's earlier book-interviews, "Salt of the Earth" (1996) and "God and the World" (2002).

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Vatican-ordered investigation to focus on abuse victims, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The apostolic visitation of the Catholic Church in Ireland will pay special attention to victims of clerical sex abuse as part of its overall goal of helping the local church respond adequately to past cases of abuse and to perfect preventative measures, according to the Vatican. "The visitators will give particular attention to victims of abuse and their families, but will also meet with and listen to a variety of people, including ecclesiastical authorities, lay faithful and those involved with the crucial work of safeguarding children," said a statement released by the Vatican press office Oct. 6. Vatican officials held a series of preparatory and planning meetings with the apostolic visitators named by Pope Benedict XVI and with the Irish archbishops whose dioceses will be the first to be investigated. The Irish church leaders -- Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland; and Archbishops Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly, and Michael Neary of Tuam -- met Oct. 6 with the prelates conducting the visitations and with officials from the Congregation for Bishops and the Vatican Secretariat of State. The meeting, which was "marked by fraternal warmth and mutual collaboration, summarized the discussions from the previous day and focused on the organization of the apostolic visitation and the archdioceses involved," the Vatican statement said.

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The printed word: Meeting looks at challenges for Catholic press

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church obviously believes it has an important message to share with the world. And with relatively easy access to the printing press, the airwaves and the Internet, it would seem that communicating the Gospel would be easier than ever today. In North America and Europe, especially, the church has relied for decades on the Catholic press to provide the faithful with news, information and the perspective they need to understand the church's position on a variety of current political, social and ethical issues. Church officials, though, recognize that even as opportunities to communicate expand, its message is often muffled. Pope Benedict XVI, meeting Catholic journalists and communications professionals Oct. 7, said that despite the "multiplication of antennas, dishes and satellites," the printed word is still essential for communication, especially for a church community that draws its inspiration from Scripture. "The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with passionate minds and hearts, but also with the professionalism of competent workers with sufficient and effective instruments," he said. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications invited journalists and communications experts from 85 countries to the Vatican Oct. 4-7 for a congress on the Catholic press.

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Chile needs faith, values for peaceful future, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The deep faith and strong values that helped Chile face an earthquake in February and that are behind the support for the 33 miners who have been trapped underground since early August, are the same values Chile will need for a future of peace and prosperity, Pope Benedict XVI said. "I want to underline and show appreciation for the unity of the Chilean people in the face of hardship (and) their response of generosity and solidarity when suffering intensifies," the pope said Oct. 7 in a speech to Chile's new ambassador to the Vatican, Fernando Zegers Santa Cruz. As Chile is celebrating the bicentennial of its independence, he said, the country's people need to recognize that the Catholic faith has been an essential part of the nation's history and the values taught by the church have helped Chileans overcome much hardship. "One cannot claim to explain the triumph of the desire for peace, harmony and understanding without taking into account how deeply rooted the seed of the Gospel is in the hearts of Chileans," he said. As the nation faces new challenges that "threaten its cultural identity," it must encourage, especially among young people, "a healthy pride in and a renewed appreciation for and revival of their faith, history, culture, traditions and artistic heritage, and all that constitutes the best and richest spiritual and human heritage of Chile," the pope said.

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Iran's president asks pope to join efforts against intolerance

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Pope Benedict XVI that he would like to work more closely with the Vatican in an effort to stop religious intolerance and the breakup of families. The president also appealed to world religions to cooperate in the fight against secularism and materialism, Iranian news agencies reported. The appeals came in a letter that was handed to the pope by Iranian Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Sayyed Mohammad-Reza Mir-Tajeddini, during a brief meeting Oct. 6 at the Vatican. Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi confirmed to Catholic News Service Oct. 7 that the letter was given to the pope and its contents already published by Iranian media outlets. According to reports, the letter praised the pope and the Vatican for criticizing a U.S. pastor's threats to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. The Iranian president lamented people's disregard for religious teachings, which, he said, stemmed from ideologies such as "secularism, Western extremist humanism, and man's growing tendency toward material life." Such ideologies have been on the rise, he said, and have "paved the way for the decline of human society."

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Archbishop says UN has obligation to do more to help world's poor

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- The United Nations must fulfill its responsibilities to address extreme poverty, said the Vatican's new representative to the United Nations. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt said Oct. 5 that although the global financial and economic crisis has shown signs of recovery, "many of the poorest within society remain outside the benefits of this recovery with an additional 64 million people falling into extreme poverty by the end of this year. This challenge presents a need for new focus by the international community to return to authentic humanitarian programs and financial systems which place the person at its center rather than at its service," he said. The archbishop, named to the post in July, delivered the statement to a session of the General Assembly that was addressing a report on the work of the world body. Focusing on military expenses around the world, he called the $1.3 trillion spent in 2007 for arms and other military expenditures particularly troubling in light of the fact that more than 1.4 billion people around the world live on less than $1.25 per day. "This never-ending ability to find funds for military programs highlights yet again the need for individuals and governmental leaders to refocus their priorities and financial commitments," he said. Archbishop Chullikatt noted that issues facing the world's poor -- such as lack of education and access to clean drinking water and sanitation -- have not been met "even though the capacity to provide remains within our grasp."

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Student recalled for her faith, a spirit that could 'light up a room'

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (CNS) -- A Seton Hall University honors student who was fatally shot at an off-campus party was remembered at an Oct. 6 prayer service as a young woman who had a deep spirituality and a personality that could "light up a room." Hundreds of students, faculty and other members of the university community gathered on campus with the family of Jessica A. Moore, 19, who was shot and killed at a Sept. 25 house party in nearby East Orange. Prayers also were offered for students Nakeisha Vanterpool and Nicosia Henry, who were injured in the shooting and have since returned to campus. A slideshow ran during the service, projecting candid photographs of Moore, a sophomore from Disputanta, Va., and condolences from her friends and family. Gabriel Esteban, interim president of the Catholic school, assured the audience that Moore's presence was with them at the service. Coming together as a community, Esteban stressed, was the best way to face such tragedy. Professor Melinda Papaccio, Moore's former English instructor, remembered the student as a "lovely, intelligent, talented" young woman who could "light up the room with her warm, vibrant spirit." The professor commended Moore's parents for instilling her with positive values and a deep sense of spirituality. "Your Jessica was the embodiment of love and compassion. She was a beautiful spirit of life and love."

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Pope appoints new heads to Vatican offices for clergy, charity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI appointed new heads for two Vatican offices, naming Italian canon lawyer, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and Guinean Archbishop Robert Sarah as president of the Vatican's charity-promotion agency, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Archbishop Piacenza, 66, who served as secretary of the clergy congregation since 2007, replaces Cardinal Claudio Hummes. The pope accepted the resignation of the 76-year-old Brazilian cardinal, who led the congregation since 2006. Archbishop Sarah, 65, replaces German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, 76, who served as head of Cor Unum since 1995. The Vatican announced the appointments Oct. 7. Archbishop Piacenza spent years in a variety of teaching posts, from teaching religion in Italian public high schools to teaching theology, canon law, contemporary culture and the history of atheism at both public and church-run institutes. He also served as a judge for church courts on the diocesan and regional levels, and worked in communications for the Archdiocese of Genoa -- the northern port city where he was born. He began working at the Congregation for Clergy in 1990 and was promoted to the position of undersecretary in 2000.

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Catholics have great expectations for new Guatemala City archbishop

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- When Bishop Oscar Vian Morales arrived in a rural and poor area of Guatemala in 1997, he told supporters he would "listen closely and faithfully and work according to the needs of the people." For more than a decade, he has stayed true to that creed, winning over Guatemalans, young and old alike, said people who know him who spoke by phone to Catholic News Service. "On a personal level, he's warm, affectionate, very open and very approachable," said Salesian Father Heriberto Herrera, a friend and editor of the Salesian Bulletin of the Central American province. "People feel comfortable around him. That's what makes him so effective as a leader." The 62-year-old's leadership skills are about to be put to their most ardent test. On Oct. 2, Pope Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Guatemala City, replacing Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, 78. The transition will be complete within two months, church leaders said. The appointment of Archbishop Vian, who was born in Guatemala City, comes at a critical time for the country. Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war ended in 1996 with an estimated 200,000 dead or missing. In recent years, the country has suffered endemic violence. Its murder rate, which is roughly 800 percent higher than that of the United States, makes it one of the most violent countries in the hemisphere. "These are very difficult times we're living in here in our Guatemala," Archbishop Vian told reporters. "The challenges facing the church are the recovery of human and Christian values. The message is to respect life, respect God, our brothers and nature."


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