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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-19-2010

By Catholic News Service


Under plan, some St. Paul-Minneapolis parishes to merge, form clusters

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Before pastors had an opportunity to explain during Masses Oct. 16-17 how a strategic plan for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis would affect their parishes, local media prematurely announced the closure of some churches in one area of Minneapolis. Some church buildings will eventually close as a result of the strategic plan, which will reduce the number of parishes in the archdiocese from 213 to 192 during the next several years. However, the decision about which church buildings to close and which to keep open as a part of mergers is yet to be determined in some cases, with approval from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and the presbyteral council. That's the situation for some parishes in northeast Minneapolis. Before the 4:30 p.m. Mass Oct. 16 at Holy Cross in northeast Minneapolis, Sandra Westfall heard from a neighbor who read the newspaper that morning that she was going to lose her church. But Westfall closed her mind to the news. If she had to hear that message, she wanted to hear it from her own pastor, she said. Parishioners applauded after hearing during the homily that Holy Cross was not in imminent danger of closing its doors. "You, my brothers and sisters, can take a huge sigh of relief," said Father Glen Jenson, pastor of Holy Cross, St. Hedwig and the newly added St. Clement parish, all of which are merging into St. Anthony of Padua, which was designated the receiving parish in Minneapolis. "You will determine what goes on in these four parishes."

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Group, documentary decry taxpayer funds being used to buy women's eggs

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) -- Ethical and health concerns have long spurred Catholic and other pro-life activists to decry medical and scientific procedures involving the harvesting of women's eggs. Such concerns have only grown deeper in 2010 because of the very real possibility of public funds being put toward big-cash payments for women who sell their eggs to the state. Since the early 1990s, the United States has been one of the few countries in which a woman can legally sell eggs harvested from her body to be used for reproduction by in vitro fertilization. Though such arrangements commonly are called egg "donation," in reality they involve the selling of eggs, since prospective parents typically purchase the eggs and cover the donor's medical expenses. Now, New York state has taken this arrangement to a new level, thanks to legislation passed in June 2009 making it the first state to approve using taxpayer money to buy human eggs to use for research on cloned embryos. The United States is the only country in the world that permits this, noted Jann Armantrout, coordinator of life issues for the Rochester Diocese. A woman can potentially earn several thousand dollars for selling her eggs, either for reproductive or research purposes. Using taxpayer money to buy human eggs was the basis for a lawsuit brought in October 2009 by the advocacy group Feminists Choosing Life of New York against the Empire State Stem Cell Board, which is charged with implementing the 2009 legislation. In August, acting State Supreme Court Justice Roger D. McDonough rejected the advocacy group's suit, concluding that the eggs-for-pay program can't be challenged until a donor is injured and files her own lawsuit. Within days of McDonough's ruling, Feminists Choosing Life began the appeal process.

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Sisters ask synod to promote women's dignity in Middle East

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in the Middle East should be a leading example of respecting and promoting women in a region where their rights often are limited, a Maronite nun from Lebanon told the Synod of Bishops. Holy Family Sister Marie-Antoinette Saade, an observer at the synod for the Middle East, told the bishops Oct. 18 it "indeed would be true witness" if Catholics throughout the region worked to give women their "true and rightful place" in the church and society. Sister Saade was one of a dozen female experts and observers at the synod, which included about 250 participants. "Should the church not be at the leading edge in this area, given the practices in some Muslim communities where women are beaten, imprisoned, violated, abused, without rights, treated as domestic slaves?" she said. Focusing on the needs of women, who are the heart of the family, will strengthen families and in turn strengthen society, she said. Lebanese Sister Daniella Harrouk, superior general of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, said she rejoiced at the opportunity to speak at the synod, "this immense ocean of men where I have been navigating for the past five days." She pleaded with the synod Oct. 18 to support Catholic schools in the Middle East and ensure their ongoing survival, including by setting up a schools' fund to which all the dioceses and religious orders in the region would make "substantial, generous and regular" contributions.

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Bishop rejects claim that Northern Ireland's Catholic schools divisive

DUBLIN (CNS) -- A bishop in Northern Ireland has rejected a claim that Catholic schools represent a "benign form of apartheid." Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson made the claim and called for an end to state funding for faith-based schools. Catholic politicians have described the comments as "naked sectarianism." Bishop Donal McKeown, an auxiliary bishop of Belfast who chairs the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education, rejected Robinson's analysis and said church-run schools should continue to receive state funding. "This key principle, which recognizes the right of parents, is guaranteed by the European Convention for Human Rights," Bishop McKeown said. "It is also the hallmark of a stable and pluralist society, such as exists in Ireland and Britain, and which finds expression in the provision of state-funded faith-based schools." Robinson spoke at a function for the mainly Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, leading some people to question his motives. The education spokesman for the mainly Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party, Dominic Bradley, accused Robinson of "naked sectarianism." Commenting on Robinson's statement, Bradley told Catholic News Service in mid-October that the comments "are an attack on the right of Catholic parents to have their children educated in the ethos of their faith, a right which they have literally paid for down through the years in Northern Ireland."

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Catholic aid groups respond after typhoon strikes northern Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Catholic aid agencies worked to provide shelter and emergency relief to hundreds of people forced to flee their homes after the strongest typhoon in four years battered the northern Philippines. "We appeal to kind-hearted people, organizations and institutions to share donations for the victims," said Sister Perpetua Bulawan, coordinator of Caritas Filipinas Foundation, the church's relief and rehabilitation program in Manila. She spoke Oct. 19, a day after Typhoon Megi hit. She said the program had appealed to Caritas Internationalis partners around the world for assistance as well. Sister Perpetua said toiletries and food are most in need. "If the people get hungry, they'll become ill," she said. Churches in northern Luzon prepared to assist people who lost their homes after the storm made landfall in Isabela province, the Asian church news agency UCA News reported. The storm left at least 13 people dead and nine injured, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Crops throughout the region were destroyed by the storm's 140-mile-per-hour winds. The Philippine government's Department of Social Welfare and Development welcomed more than 8,000 people forced from their homes in 57 villages across seven northern provinces.

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Iraqi bishops underscore reasons Christian minority flees country

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians in postwar Iraq, already a tiny minority in the mostly Muslim country, continue to leave because of fear for their safety, and to a lesser extent, because of economic difficulties, Iraqi bishops said. Concrete solutions and help from the international community are needed immediately if the flight of Christians is to be stopped, many warned at the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which ends with a Mass Oct. 24. Kidnappings for ransom, bombings of churches and other Christian buildings and a general lack of security have made life so precarious for the vulnerable Christian community that about half have left their homeland for safer destinations in the past seven years, the bishops said. At least one bishop raised the question of systematic attacks as part of a "plan" to drive all Christians from the Middle East. In comments both in and out of the synod hall, Iraqi bishops and priests painted a picture of extreme hardship for the small Christian community sticking it out in the country torn by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. "Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq," Syrian Archbishop Athanase Matoka of Baghdad told synod participants Oct. 16. He blamed the invasion for bringing to Iraq in general and Christians in particular "destruction and ruin on all levels."

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Bishop says half of Christians in Middle East are vulnerable migrants

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Up to half of the Catholics in the Middle East are migrant workers, mostly from the Philippines, who pack the few churches in the Arabian Peninsula each weekend and often turn to the church when their employers exploit or abuse them. Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar for Arabia, is responsible for the pastoral care of Catholics in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There are more than 2 million Filipinos in the region, and about 80 percent of them are Catholic. There also are tens of thousands of Catholics from India, Sri Lanka and Africa, he told reporters at the Vatican Oct. 19. Given that situation, he said he thought the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was "too focused on the classical Oriental churches in the Middle East" and on problems facing the region's native Christians because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the continuing tensions in Lebanon. "The church cannot distinguish between first- and second-class Catholics" by downplaying the needs of the millions of Catholic migrant workers in the region, he said. The situation is urgent, the bishop said, because in too many places the migrant workers, especially the women, "are treated as slaves," not just in the Arabian Peninsula, but in Lebanon and Israel as well.

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Scott named editor-in-chief for Catholic News Agency, EWTN News

DENVER (CNS) -- David Scott, an author and former editor of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper, has been named editor-in-chief of both Catholic News Agency and EWTN News. The move reflects a growing collaboration between the two large news companies to expand their operations in the global Catholic digital and multimedia market. Catholic News Agency, based in Denver, has news bureaus in North and South America and Europe. EWTN is the news arm of EWTN Global Catholic Network, based in Irondale, Ala., which provides multimedia services to more than 140 countries and territories and describes itself as the world's largest religious media company. Michael Warsaw, president and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, said Scott "brings a tremendous skill set to the post of editor-in-chief and is highly respected within Catholic journalistic circles. Having him on board will allow us to take our services to the next level," he added. Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of CNA and its Latin America-based sister news company Aci Prensa, said Scott has been a friend and colleague for nearly two decades. "It is a true blessing to have him with CNA," he said.

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Anglican bishop announces he will resign, join Catholic ordinariate

LONDON (CNS) -- The bishop who leads the largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England said he plans to resign by the end of the year and join a personal ordinariate when it is established in England and Wales. "I am not retiring, I am resigning," Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham told an Oct. 15 meeting of Forward in Faith, the traditionalist group of which he is chairman. He added to applause that he expects to "enter the ordinariate." Bishop Broadhurst told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 telephone interview that he was "absolutely, absolutely" certain that a personal ordinariate would soon come into existence in England but did not know exactly when. Pope Benedict XVI established the mechanisms to create personal ordinariates last November through his apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus" ("Groups of Anglicans") in response to repeated requests for a means of group reception from disaffected Anglican bishops around the world. The structures will resemble military dioceses and allow former Anglican communities to retain their distinctive patrimony and practices, including married priests. "If the pope makes you an offer, you can't ignore it," Bishop Broadhurst told CNS.

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Cancer survivor says her faith restored during struggle with disease

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nicki Boscia Durlester has experienced triumph tinged with potential tragedy. Durlester, 54, seems to have beaten breast cancer. "I believe my prognosis is excellent," she told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 11 telephone interview from her home in Encino, Calif. "I say this because my doctor and I were interviewed together last week. I asked for a second opinion! The doctor said my cancer is somewhere in a lab at Cedars-Sinai (Medical Center)." During the Columbus Day weekend, when National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was brought to the fore in a multitude of ways -- including walks, pink-tinted Sunday comic strips, and even pink shoes worn by players during the Oct. 10 NFL games -- Durlester's activities were more muted. "A little hiking, dinner a couple of nights," she said. One reason behind the muted celebration was that her 22-year-old daughter learned she inherited the gene that likely brought about Durlester's own breast cancer -- and that probably killed Durlester's mother and aunts well before there were tests for such things. "I had hoped and prayed that it would end with me," said Durlester, a Catholic whose faith was restored in the midst of her struggle to beat cancer. In her book "Beyond the Pink Moon: A Memoir of Legacy, Loss and Survival," Durlester recounts that after she married her Jewish husband, she raised their children as Jews and that she herself attended the synagogue weekly. "He never wanted me to convert," Durlester said of her husband. "I was the one that needed ritual."


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