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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-8-2010

By Catholic News Service


Bishops consider historic agreement with Reformed churches on baptism

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Catholic bishops prepare to consider a common agreement on baptism with four Protestant church communities, they "stand at an important juncture" in the quest for Christian unity, according to the chairman of the bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta said the "Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism," to be voted on at the bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore, would affirm "the unity that Christ has given to the baptized members of his body, a unity that is ever fragile and always in need of support from the pastors of the church." The proposed agreement, which requires an up or down vote by the bishops and cannot be amended, was drawn up over the past six years by a team of scholars from the Catholic-Reformed dialogue group, made up of representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ. While other bishops' conferences around the world have entered into similar agreements with Protestant communities in their regions, the proposed document is unprecedented for the U.S. Catholic Church. The agreement has already been ratified by the Presbyterian Church. If the USCCB approves it, any baptisms performed in either Catholic or Presbyterian churches after that would be mutually recognized, as long as the proper formula is used and documented. The other three Protestant communities are to consider the agreement at their national meetings in the coming months.

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Catholic policy agenda unchanged by election results, panelists say

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Despite the "endless, endless commercials" during the 2010 political cycle, "you didn't hear much about the poor and vulnerable," said John Carr, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. "Nobody talked about them -- Democratic or Republican," said Carr, who participated with two others in a panel discussion about Catholic policy priorities following the Nov. 2 election. Nevertheless, the Catholic public policy agenda in the lame-duck Congress that will complete its work this year and in the 112th Congress that convenes in January will remain focused on the poor, the unborn, the immigrant and other vulnerable populations, the panelists told participants Nov. 5 in the Eastern regional convention of the Catholic Press Association in Baltimore. Along with Maria Odom, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, and Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, Carr looked forward after the election, saying that campaign rhetoric or the results in terms of parties are not the Catholic Church's focus. "Our focus is the least of these," he said. "And that is not the focus of Washington no matter who is in charge." Carr said that during the coming debate on tax policy, "there will be a huge argument on how people at the top get taxed."

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University's Drexel scholarships open to best in class from across US

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Katharine Drexel Scholarships established earlier this year at Xavier University of Louisiana allow valedictorians and salutatorians from any Catholic high school in the United States to apply for full scholarships to attend the Catholic university in New Orleans. The scholarships honor the vision of St. Katharine Drexel, a native of Philadelphia who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. In 1925, she and the sisters founded Xavier, which is the nation's only historically black Catholic university. At the same time, the university also has established Norman C. Francis Scholarships, named for its current president. These are scholarships for valedictorians or salutatorians from public schools in Louisiana's Orleans and Jefferson parishes, which are civil entities. According to university officials, the two new scholarship programs reinforce Xavier University's Catholic foundation and values and increases access to higher education for some of the nation's and the region's underrepresented and disadvantaged students. The school welcomes students of all races and religions. "High school valedictorians and salutatorians have many choices when it comes to attending college," said Loren Blanchard, Xavier's senior vice president for academic affairs. "Although Xavier is already a popular choice for many, we want all of them to be aware that there are no financial barriers to attend Xavier because of their outstanding academic performance. "And as far as we know, Xavier is the first university to offer such a far-reaching scholarship opportunity to Catholic high school graduates," she said.

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Vatican confirms request of five Anglican bishops to join church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Five Anglican bishops have decided to join the Catholic Church and step down from their current positions with the Church of England, a Vatican spokesman said. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, confirmed to reporters a statement issued Nov. 8 by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales welcoming the five bishops. Father Lombardi said that a "constitution" that would govern the entry of former bishops of the Anglican Communion was being studied. One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage. The move was seen as a bridge to those unhappy with recent Anglican decisions on the ordination of women and the acceptance of homosexuality in some areas. Father Lombardi said, "Regarding the declaration of five bishops until now belonging to the Anglican Communion who have decided to join the Catholic Church and who therefore are obliged by conscience to resign from their current pastoral duties in the Church of England, we can confirm that the constitution of a first ordinariate is under study, according to the norms established by the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus,' and that any further decisions regarding this will be communicated at the proper moment." Under the arrangement, Anglicans can be received into the Catholic Church as a group while retaining their distinctive patrimony and liturgical practices, including married priests.

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Pope calls on laity to evangelize for social justice worldwide

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said that lay Catholics have a responsibility to promote social justice and charity in a globalized world often marked by injustice and inequality. Addressing the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Nov. 4, the pope called for "renewed evangelization of the church's social doctrine." Lay people, the pope said, as "free and responsible citizens," are invested with "the immediate task of working for a just social order." The pope made his remarks in a message to Cardinal Peter Turkson, the council president, as he welcomed council members at the beginning of their plenary meeting at the Vatican Nov. 4-5. He praised the council for promoting the formation of the laity through the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" and Pope Benedict's own "Caritas in Veritate" ("Charity in Truth"), the 2009 encyclical that addressed social justice issues. But lay Catholics cannot carry out the church's message alone, the pope said. "They must find priests and bishops able to offer untiring support for purification of the conscience, as well as indispensable support for the coherent witness of the social doctrine of the church." Victims of injustice and inequality expect "words of hope" from the church and signs that God "can save humanity from its radical evils," the pope said. Pope Benedict said Catholics had their work cut out for them in a world where "lies often trap men and society" and undermine solidarity.

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Individuals, art need transcendent values to be complete, pope says

BARCELONA, Spain (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI warned countries of the danger of no longer being at the loving service of their citizens as he urged the faithful to bring Christ's message of hope to all people. During a two-day journey to a once-staunchly Catholic Spain, the pope sought to bolster and renew people's faith in God and convince an increasingly secular society that the church wants dialogue, not confrontation. The pope's Nov. 6-7 visit, his 18th trip abroad, brought him first to one of Catholicism's most popular and ancient pilgrimage sites, Santiago de Compostela, and then Barcelona, where he consecrated the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. During the Nov. 7 Mass in which he blessed and anointed the altar of the church dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth, he said Christians must resist every attack on human life and promote the natural institution of the family. Under the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004, Spain has relaxed its divorce laws, eased restrictions on abortion, legalized same-sex marriage and allowed gay couples to adopt. In his homily, the pope praised the technical, social and cultural progress made over the years. However, he said, a country must also advance morally. He asked that courts, legislative bodies and society respect and defend the sacred and inviolable life of the child from the moment of conception. "For this reason, the church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family" based on marriage between a man and a woman, he said.

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Clerical sex abuse, religious freedom on agenda of cardinals' meeting

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has convened a meeting of the world's cardinals to discuss a wide range of topics, including clerical sex abuse and religious freedom around the world. The "day of reflection and prayer" will take place at the Vatican's synod hall Nov. 19, the day before the pope presides over a consistory to create 24 new cardinals, a Vatican statement said Nov. 8. In the past, Pope Benedict has participated in such sessions, listening carefully and summarizing the main points at the end of the meeting. The morning session will begin with discussion of the situation of religious freedom in the world and the new challenges being faced, with an introductory talk by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state. Recent problems faced by Christian minorities were a major topic at the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The cardinals will then take up the question of "Liturgy in the life of the church today," with introductory remarks by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The afternoon session will hear three reports. Cardinal-designate Angelo Amato, head of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, will speak on the 10th anniversary of "Dominus Iesus," the doctrinal congregation's 2000 statement that underscored the unique and universal salvation offered by Christ through his church.

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Christians in Middle East pray for Iraqi victims, seek more protection

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNS) -- Hundreds of Palestinian Catholics in Ramallah and Bethlehem attended special Masses in memory of the more than 50 Iraqis killed in an attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and called for protection for Christians in the Middle East. In Iraq, Christian leaders met with the nation's prime minister to discuss the problem of security for Christian places of worship. In front of the altar at Holy Family Parish in Ramallah Nov. 5, members of the Catholic Scouts held signs calling for an end to the massacre in Iraq and the killing of innocents. A sign on one of three flower wreaths propped against the pulpit proclaimed, "To our beloved victims in Iraq, Christians and Muslims." On the steps of the altar, small lit candles spelled out the words "Iraq" and "Palestine." Outside the church, Maral Shatara, 20, painted Iraqi flags and crosses on the faces of young Catholic Scouts. "This was something very bad, not just because they were Christian but because we are all human beings and no one has the right to take another life. There is no guarantee that it won't happen here," she said, referring to the Oct. 31 attacks that left 58 people dead and at least 75 injured. Shatara said tensions between Muslims and Christians had not escalated to murder. "I am not afraid, but for sure we have to be careful. Of course I would prefer that there be more security around the church. Most religions feel that Christians are a good target for them. Our society is better than Iraq, but for sure we have fears," she said.

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Despite terrorist threats, Mideast Christians place trust in God

BEIRUT (CNS) -- Despite terrorist warnings that all Christians in the Middle East are "legitimate targets," the faithful in the region say they have placed their trust in God. An al-Qaida group in Iraq made the threat in an Internet statement in early November. The same group was responsible for the Oct. 31 siege in the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that ended in a rescue drama that killed 58 people, including 46 Catholics who were in the church. "When I hear about people dying for their faith, it pushes me to believe even more and to be a better Christian," said Patty Barbara, a 40-year-old Melkite Catholic from Beirut. "It's as if someone is telling me, 'Wake up and be a better Christian!'" Barbara said attacks such as the one in Iraq and threats to Christians "make the people who are lukewarm in their faith to boil for Christ." While the Christian presence in Lebanon -- about 33 percent of the population -- has been steadily dwindling due to emigration, Barbara said she is determined to stay in the land of her birth. "I am planted in this country," she said, adding that she will encourage her three children to stay in Lebanon. "This is our mission, to be a witness to Christ here."

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USCCB official, Columbans honored with mission awards in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNS) -- A longtime mission leader and a religious order mission education program won top honors for their work in the church's missionary fields at Mission Congress 2010 in Albuquerque. David J. Suley, director of the Catholic Home Missions Appeal of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, received the Father George Mader Award from the Catholic Volunteer Network. The award, named for the co-founder of the organization, honors organizations or individuals that foster faith-based service in the United States and abroad. Columban Mission Education garnered the Mission Award 2010 from the U.S. Catholic Mission Association in recognition of "excellence and creativity in mission education and promotion." The awards were presented in an Oct. 29 ceremony during the Mission Congress, a gathering of mission-focused organizations held every five years. "Dr. Suley truly exemplifies what Father Mader and his sister, Patricia Mader Stalker, started 47 years ago," said Jim Lindsay, Catholic Volunteer Network's executive director. "He has stayed true to his missionary roots both in his professional and personal life and for that we honor him." Suley has been an official in the USCCB Home Missions office since 2000. Before that, he was director of the church relations department of Bread for the World for 13 years. He is a former director of International Liaison of Lay Volunteers in Mission, now called the Catholic Volunteer Network. He also is an adjunct faculty member of Chaminade University in Honolulu.

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Priest who is nationally known peace activist honored for his advocacy

DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Peacemaking begins without a trace of desire to retaliate, said Jesuit Father John Dear, a nationally known peace activist honored in Iowa for his advocacy. "Dare we make peace within ourselves, to go within the depths of our souls to the peace within," he told an audience of about 300 people gathered in Christ the King Chapel on the campus of St. Ambrose University in Davenport. "War is not the will of God; war is never blessed by God. War just doesn't work; it never leads to peace," the priest said. He added that Christians have lost their understanding of the nonviolence of Jesus and need to embrace that message. Father Dear was sick with the flu but nonetheless delivered a passionate and spiritual speech after receiving the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award Oct. 31. The award, presented since 1978, is named after Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical, "Pacem in Terris" ("Peace on Earth"), which calls on all people to "secure peace among the nations." In his remarks, Father Dear paid tribute to previous award recipients, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, and said he felt humbled to be counted among them. The 50-year-old priest, who lives in New Mexico, has been jailed for his efforts to end war and nuclear weapons proliferation during his 30 years of activism.

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Obamas dance, answer pupils' queries in Indian Catholic schools' visits

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, danced, played with students, signed autographs and answered questions when they visited two Catholic schools in Mumbai, India's commercial capital. First, two groups of students at Holy Name School presented their science projects on the theme, "Caring for Creation." Later, the couple watched students' dance performances as part of a celebration of the Hindu feast of Diwali, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. When the students invited Michelle Obama to join them, she matched their steps of a traditional fishermen folk dance. Soon the children asked the president to join them and he, too, obliged. "This was a memorable moment for me," said Sudha Shinde, 12, one of the dancers. Father Michael Pinto, principal of Holy Name School, said his students had "prepared well" and put up an excellent performance without a hitch during the president's 40-minute program Nov. 7. Obama also visited Jesuit-managed St. Xavier's College, where he interacted with some 300 students from various colleges in the city. He fielded questions that ranged from topics such as midterm elections to spirituality. "India's future is not determined by CEOs and political leaders. India's future will be determined by young people like you, which is why I always meet young people and not only CEOs and heads of state," Obama told the gathering.


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