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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-17-2010

By Catholic News Service


Survey says dioceses getting the hang of new media, but slowly

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Dioceses are getting the hang of a multiplatform media universe, according to the results of a survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Communications. The increase in media awareness is at least evident in those dioceses who responded to the survey. Of 189 U.S. diocesan communications offices surveyed, 89 returned the questionnaire. Among those dioceses who completed the survey, "there is great variation in the use of new media," said the executive summary of the report, "Survey of Diocesan Media Usage," which was dated October 2010. The dioceses were queried earlier in the fall. Copies of the report were available at the U.S. bishops' Nov. 15-18 general meeting in Baltimore. "Some are just entering new media, others are immersed in it," the executive summary said. "Therefore, diocesan needs related to new media will also vary widely." Of the 89 dioceses that returned the survey -- although not every diocese answered every question -- 70 said they posted audio files on the diocesan website, and 72 said they provided video files. Fifty-one dioceses reported they had a "corporate presence" on Facebook, while 37 said they had such a presence on Twitter and 33 on YouTube. In each instance, it was a majority of dioceses answering the question. By a 6-to-1 margin, dioceses do not use social media for fundraising, although one diocese said it was using a mobile phone app for fundraising.

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Bishops to prepare assisted suicide document for vote next June

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- By a nearly unanimous vote, the U.S. bishops agreed to the preparation of a brief policy statement on assisted suicide, which they will debate and vote on at their spring assembly in June. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, outlined the "increasingly urgent threat" posed by the wider use of assisted suicide in the United States. He spoke Nov. 16 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Although for many years, Oregon was the only state where assisted suicide was permitted, "the situation has changed in recent years, and very much for the worse," the cardinal said. He described the proponents of assisted suicide -- led by the group Compassion & Choices, formerly called the Hemlock Society -- as "more organized, better funded and more sophisticated" than ever before. Both bishops from Montana -- Bishop George Leo Thomas of Helena and Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls and Billings -- rose to speak in favor of the proposed statement. Assisted suicide has been legal in Montana since 2008 following a court decision that said to ban it violated the state constitution. Proponents of assisted suicide "make it appear as if it is the compassionate way to go," said Bishop Warfel, adding that those who oppose it need more tools and resources to combat that attitude.

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Pope calls for release of Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI called for the release of a 37-year-old Christian woman who faces the death penalty in Pakistan after being convicted on charges of blasphemy. "I express my spiritual closeness to Asia Bibi and her family and ask that she soon regain her full liberty," the pope said at the regular weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Nov. 17. Bibi was convicted Nov. 14 by a Pakistani court for an alleged offense to the Islamic prophet Mohammed, news reports said. The pope said, "the international community is following the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan with great concern." He also said he prayed "for all those who find themselves in similar situations" and asked "that their human dignity and fundamental rights are fully respected." In an interview Nov. 17 with Vatican Radio, Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistani Bishops Conference, said, "the death sentence has shocked the civil society here," which he added, "is very active." He said there were "a number of appeals going on -- signature campaigns -- to make the authorities, the prime minister and parliament aware of people's sentiment that this injustice is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan."

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Defend common values, say delegates at Vatican, Iranian meeting

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians and Muslims must cooperate in responding to modern challenges and in promoting moral values, said a statement by members of a Catholic-Muslim dialogue sponsored by the Vatican and Iran. At the end of a meeting in Tehran, the participants said it is necessary "to cooperate in answering modern challenges, promoting moral values, justice and peace and protecting the family, environment and natural resources." Members of the dialogue sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Iran's government-related Center for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization also called for respect for religious freedom. The focus of the meeting, "Religion and Society Today: Christian and Muslim Perspectives," aimed at highlighting the similarities and respecting the differences of both religions while continuing a genuine dialogue, said a statement issued Nov. 16 at the Vatican. The statement was drawn up by Vatican and Iranian participants at the end of their meeting Nov. 9-11. Participants said religious believers, like all citizens, have a role to play in society, particularly in promoting the common good. They also called for an approach to educating the young that promotes "the search for truth, spiritual values and promotion of knowledge."

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US Jewish cantors share musical tradition with Catholics in Rome

ROME (CNS) -- Twenty cantors from U.S. Reformed Jewish congregations filled an ancient Roman basilica with the melodies of Psalms and other Scriptures in an attempt to share their heritage with a Catholic audience. The cantors, who are considered clergy in the Reformed tradition, belong to the American Conference of Cantors and were in Rome Nov. 14-18 for the concert, meetings with Vatican officials and discussions with local Catholics. They also attended Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience Nov. 17. "Catholic-Jewish dialogue has been mostly an intellectual exercise, but the future lies in people sharing their culture and music" and relating to one another as neighbors, said Rabbi Mark Winer, the retired rabbi of England's West London Synagogue. The rabbi, a U.S. citizen, accompanied the group to Rome. Claire Franco, cantor at the Community Synagogue in Port Washington, N.Y., coordinated the program in Rome and sang the solo on "Al Tifgi Vi," a Hebrew and English composition by a Canadian composer using a passage from the Book of Ruth. "We're here to send the message that music has the power to bridge different cultures and religions," Franco said.

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A red hat means more responsibility, cardinal-designate says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just after the final fitting of his new red robes, Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said his new clothes are a sign of new responsibilities. "When a married couple exchange rings, it's to say things are different now. When a priest puts on a Roman collar, it's to say things are different now. And when a cardinal receives that red hat, it says things are different," he said Nov. 17. "All of those examples speak to joy and responsibility," he told Catholic News Service just three days before Pope Benedict XVI was to induct him into the College of Cardinals. As a cardinal, he will become a member of the clergy of Rome and be assigned a titular church in the city. He also likely will be named a member of several Vatican councils or congregations. His responsibilities as archbishop of Washington will not change, but he said he hoped being a cardinal would "provide me a bigger pulpit, a larger platform on which to stand" when fulfilling his role as a bishop, which is "to proclaim the Gospel, to teach, to pass on the faith and apply the Gospel message to the issues of the day. I think now, with the red hat, there may be those who would be persuaded to listen more carefully," he said. Cardinal-designate Wuerl said he is concerned about the tensions among Catholics, including serious disagreements related to political issues and the challenge of encouraging Catholic politicians and voters to allow their decisions to be informed by Gospel values.

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Pope, at audience, recalls St. Juliana, feast of Corpus Christi

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The feast of Corpus Christi is an important occasion for Catholics to renew their faith in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI said. Speaking about the life of the little-known medieval nun who was the first to promote the creation of a feast celebrating the sacrament, Pope Benedict also said that frequent participation in Communion "is essential to the path of faith." At the regular weekly audience Nov. 17, Pope Benedict praised the "zeal for the eucharistic cult" of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon, Belgium. During her life from 1193 to 1258, the pope said, she was educated by Augustinian nuns, became one herself and served as abbess of an Augustinian convent. The pope explained how, beginning at age 16, St. Juliana had a series of visions in which she was instructed to establish a feast day to exalt the sacrament of the Eucharist. She kept the vision secret for some 20 years until she found others who would help her promote such a celebration. Pope Benedict said St. Juliana convinced the bishop who would later become Pope Urban IV to create a special feast. After her death, Pope Urban created the feast of Corpus Domini, also known as Corpus Christi, and celebrated it for the first time in Orvieto, Italy, in 1264. Pope Benedict said that the feast of Corpus Christi "has had a marvelous development and is still very much felt by Christian people."

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After 26 years, Suriname cathedral reopens to Catholics

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CNS) -- Bishop Wilhelmus de Bekker knocked three times on the massive wooden doors of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral and, after 26 years, they opened to the largest wooden building in South America. For four years, Catholics had been watching renovations on the cathedral in the UNESCO World Heritage site of downtown Paramaribo; for 22 years before that, it sat vacant. But in mid-November, Bishop de Bekker and prelates from elsewhere in Suriname, the Netherlands, and French- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries participated in a rededication Mass. Catholic representatives -- young and old, men and women, children, American Indian, African, Asian -- processed into the 130-year-old structure. As the Mass, Dutch-born Bishop de Bekker blessed the interior and exterior walls with holy water, then blessed the more than 1,000 people in the congregation. Suriname President Desi Bouterse and former President Ronald Venetiaan were among those inside the cathedral. Those unable to fit inside sat under tents outside to view a live audio-video feed. The cathedral was decorated with gold and burgundy cloth streaming down from two central points of the cathedral roof and floral arrangements tied to each column. Ornate chandeliers lit the cathedral, revealing the detail of the architecture.

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Fresno bishop hospitalized in critical but stable condition

FRESNO, Calif. (CNS) -- Fresno Bishop John T. Steinbock has been hospitalized in critical but stable condition since early November. The bishop, 73, was diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer in August and has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. On Nov. 6, he was admitted to the intensive care unit of St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno because of breathing difficulties. Hospital tests revealed that the bishop had blood clots in his legs and one in his right lung. According to a diocesan statement, the bishop is in regular communication with chancery officials. He has also "delegated some administrative matters to appropriate diocesan officials" and his schedule of appearances and appointments has been cut back. Bishop Steinbock was "slowly responding treatment and medication," the statement said, but added that his doctors have not estimated a date for his release from the hospital. The diocesan statement said the bishop is resting and "devotes a great deal of his time praying for the needs of clergy, the diocese and the faithful. He thanks those who have remembered him in their daily prayers and asks for their continued blessing and prayer."

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Garvey tells bishops fostering Catholic intellectual culture a priority

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- John Garvey, the new president of The Catholic University of America, told the U.S. bishops Nov. 15 at their annual meeting in Baltimore that he hopes the university can be a model of Catholic intellectual culture and also a resource for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said the national university of the U.S. Catholic Church, which celebrates its 125th anniversary next year, is staying true to its initial mission of educating priests and lay leaders, but it is also looking at ways to develop the intellectual Catholic tradition beyond traditional schools of theology, canon law and philosophy to programs in history, literature, art, music, engineering, biology and economics. "It is my aim as president to build and spread this culture in our academic community," he told the bishops, noting that this can happen by "hiring Catholic intellectuals whose faith informs their work, and by creating programs that bring scholars of like mind together. Some of our schools embrace this mission with enthusiasm," he said, pointing out the university's architecture degree in sacred spaces, the music school's specialty in sacred music, and a joint venture with the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the university's nursing school and theology department. But he noted that not all the schools on campus are the leaders "in Catholic higher education" that they could be.


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