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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-14-2010

By Catholic News Service


Federal judge says insurance mandate in health reform unconstitutional

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- A federal judge in Virginia ruled Dec. 13 that the health reform law's requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance or face penalties is an unconstitutional expansion of government power. The 42-page decision by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson was announced at a time when three national polls showed that the country remained split in its opinions about health reform. Hudson said the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce, does not permit it to require Americans to buy a particular product, such as health insurance. "Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," he wrote. Hudson did not issue an immediate injunction against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, however, because the individual mandate to buy health insurance does not take effect until 2014. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli following passage of a Virginia law making it illegal to require people in the state to carry health insurance. Cuccinelli said that although he was "gratified" at the Hudson decision, he knew it would be appealed. "This will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court," he said, "but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution."

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Cardinal Egan's radio series looks at Advent in Scripture, story, song

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Cardinal Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, is hosting a five-part Advent radio season on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio. The series, "The Spirit of Advent: in Scripture, Story and Song," debuted Nov. 27 on the Catholic Channel. A new edition has been featured each Saturday and a special finale will air Christmas Eve. Each program is replayed several times each weekend. Information on broadcast times can be found at www.sirius.com/thecatholicchannel. Cardinal Egan designed the Advent series to give listeners "a deeper and richer perspective on the teachings and traditions of Advent," according to a press release about the show. He draws on his experiences as parish priest, Vatican scholar and head of the Archdiocese of New York, along with his extensive study of the Scripture, knack for storytelling and appreciation of music. The cardinal has been focusing on the season's anticipation of the birth of Christ through Scripture and music, explaining the significance of each week's readings and discussing a particular song selection. He describes the differences between Advent and Christmas music and discusses lyrics and history of the hymns chosen for the Mass. The cardinal, who retired in 2009, played a key role in creating and launching the Catholic Channel in 2006. As archbishop of New York, he also hosted a weekly talk show on the channel: "A Conversation with the Cardinal."

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Real St. Nicholas still leaving imprint on Orthodox and Catholic Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- St. Nicholas, from whom the character of Santa Claus comes, looms large in Alaska where multiple Catholic and Orthodox churches bear the third-century saint's name. His generosity and kindness to children is legendary, and veneration of the saint spans 1,700 years. "St. Nicholas is next to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist in devotion and veneration," said Father James Barrand, pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church in Anchorage. Like the Russian Orthodox, most Byzantine Catholic Churches contain icons of St. Nicholas. Known in the West as the patron of children, St. Nicholas is seen in the East primarily as the patron of sailors, based on accounts of his calming the seas during his return from a pilgrimage in the Holy Land and his appearance to storm-tossed sailors off the coast of Lycia. These miracles were related across the world, especially by missionaries to Russia. St. Nicholas is the patron of Russia and many cities and towns throughout the world. Deacon Charles Rohrbacher, an iconographer at the Catholic Cathedral of the Nativity in downtown Juneau, said there are many icons and images of St. Nicholas on fishing boats and other sailing vessels in Alaska and elsewhere. According to Father Michael Oleksa, an Orthodox priest who is rector of St. Alexis Church and chancellor of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska, more churches in the Orthodox tradition are named for St. Nicholas than for any other saint.

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Deadline for film contest Jan. 10; trip to World Youth Day among prizes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- Winners of a Catholic film contest for youths and young adults will receive either all-inclusive travel packages to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid Aug. 16-21 or computer and video equipment. The deadline for the contest is Jan. 10 and winners will be announced in April. Winning entries will be posted online at www.GoodnessReigns.com. Films should be no more than seven minutes in length and focus on one of four categories: church history, including Bible stories and lives of the saints; sacraments; church teachings; or present-day missionary spirit of an individual or church ministry. The contest will offer awards in three divisions: individual; high school class or youth group; and young adult group. In the individual category -- open to anyone 14 years and older -- one winner will be selected from each of the categories listed. The winner and one guest/parent will receive free travel packages to World Youth Day 2011; winners unable to travel may choose to receive video equipment packages each valued at $4,000. For the high school class or youth group award, one group of teens and chaperones (up to 10 people) will be selected from all entrants to receive free travel packages to World Youth Day 2011; or the group may select a video equipment package worth up to $15,000.

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Children trim stockings with care, fill them with goodies for soldiers

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (CNS) -- Their eyes sparkled with delight -- in part because of the activity and in part because they were missing English class. The group of fourth-graders from Corpus Christi School in Falls Church crowded around long, newspaper-covered cafeteria tables Dec. 1 to decorate camouflage stockings to send to U.S. troops in Iraq and Korea during the holiday season. Using glue, scissors, glitter, garland, stickers and festive foam shapes, the students let their 9- and 10-year-old creativity loose on the large stockings that later would be stuffed with toiletries, candy and other goodies. "Everyone's is different, so it's kind of cool," said Emily Olivon, 9, while spreading gold glitter over her stocking. Once their creations were finished, students could write and decorate Christmas cards to accompany them. In her fourth year of organizing this activity, parent-volunteer Anne Fantini, a parishioner of St. Philip Church in Falls Church, created the stockings by cutting up old camouflage uniforms and sewing them together. Once decorated by the students, the stockings are stuffed with toiletries -- also provided by the students -- and shipped abroad. The project teaches the students "the art of giving," said Fantini, who added that in the first year the youths wanted to take the stockings home.

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Pope to make four foreign trips in 2011

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI plans to make four foreign trips in 2011, including one to his German homeland and a three-day visit to the African country of Benin. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters Dec. 14 that the pope would also make four trips to Italian cities. In all, the pope will spend 18 days on the road next year. The pope will visit Croatia June 4-5 and travel to Spain Aug. 18-21 to preside over World Youth Day Celebrations. He will visit Germany Sept. 22-25, the third trip to his native Germany. German bishops have said the pope is likely to visit the capital city of Berlin, as well as Freiburg and Erfurt. The pope's trip to Benin Nov. 18-20 will be his second trip to Africa. In Benin, a small country in West Africa, Catholics make up about 30 percent of the population, and Muslims about 25 percent. Pope Benedict, who will turn 84 in April, has to date made 18 trips abroad, 12 of them in Europe.

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Syrian patriarch urges Iraqi government to ensure safety of citizens

BEIRUT (CNS) -- Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan called on the Iraqi government to ensure the safety of all Iraqi citizens, especially Christians, "who are defenseless, honest and peaceful people." In his homily at a Dec. 10 memorial Mass in Baghdad that venerated the "46 new martyrs" of the Syrian Catholic Church, the patriarch said the presence of government officials at the liturgy "helped to inspire some trust and feelings of some protection" for the faithful, despite a prevailing mood of being anxious for the future "since the cover-up of the terror targeting Iraqi Christians is still going on after such a period of time." The patriarch, who flew from Beirut for the Mass, reminded those present of the pleas of all Christians in Iraq and abroad, "that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to carry out proper and thorough investigations to uncover the terrorist groups who did plan and finance the carnage, of whatever religious or political allegiance they may be, and to bring them publically to justice. We need deeds and not just ... promises, that our Christian faithful feel really safe in their churches, houses and places of work. They also need that the government ensure equality in the work places, since the Christians fear vengeance and harassment from many fundamentalist and self-proclaimed leaders in parts of the city as well in the civil and administrative areas," he said. Fifty-eight people died in the attack on the Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad Oct. 31 after military officials tried to end a terrorist siege of the church.

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Legionaries formalize changes in how founder is publicly depicted

ROME (CNS) -- With the authorization of a papal delegate, the Legionaries of Christ have formalized in a new decree a number of reforms regarding the depiction of the order's founder, the late-Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. "The decree formalizes in broad strokes what has for the most part already been general practice," said a statement posted Dec. 11 on the Legionaries of Christ website. Legionaries Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the order and of the order's lay association, Regnum Christi, issued the norms following authorization by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the papal delegate in charge of governing the Legionaries and helping reform the order. The decree, promulgated Dec. 6, forbids the placement of photographs of Father Maciel "alone or with the Holy Father" anywhere in Legionary or Regnum Christi centers. However, out of respect for individuals' personal freedom, it said members of the order and its lay association "may privately keep a photograph of the founder, read his writings or listen to his talks." Father Maciel's "personal writings and talks will not be for sale in the congregation's publishing houses, centers, and works of apostolate," it said, but "the content of these writings may be used in preaching without citing the author."

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Anti-Christian violence continues to cause exodus of Mideast Christians

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Violence continued to feed the flow of Christians leaving the Middle East, with church leaders generally agreeing that only peace would solve the problem. A shocking coda to the violent year was the attack on a Syrian Catholic church in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Oct. 31. As police moved in to rescue Catholics held hostage by Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida, 58 people, including two priests, were killed. At a Dec. 10 memorial Mass in Baghdad for the victims, Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan referred to the cover-up of "the terror targeting Iraqi Christians. It is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to carry out proper and thorough investigations to uncover the terrorist groups who did plan and finance the carnage, of whatever religious or political allegiance they may be, and to bring them publicly to justice," he said in his homily. Some reports indicated that more than half of Iraq's Christian community, estimated to number 800,000 to 1.4 million before the American-led invasion in 2003, have already left the country. The October incident led to a new wave of flight. Iraqi officials pledged to protect the Christians, but their pledges were met with skepticism. The British branch of Aid to the Church in Need reported that Iraqi officials were erecting concrete barriers around Christian churches, and police were scanning people as they entered the churches for services.

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Pope meets with Japanese bishops to discuss Neocatechumenal Way

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Japanese bishops, including the president of the bishops' conference, met with Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials to discuss the Neocatechumenal Way. The Dec. 13 meeting with four Japanese bishops had been called by Pope Benedict, said the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka. He told Catholic News Service that the meeting lasted nearly two hours and included the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and "several other cardinals." While the archbishop would not comment on the substance of the meeting, he said the bishops would have to have further discussions with the Vatican and the Neocatechumenal Way's co-founder, Kiko Arguello. The Japanese bishops "have to make a plan to proceed," he said, adding, "We have to proceed slowly." The meeting came more than a year after the Neocatechumenal Way's Redemptoris Mater seminary in Takamatsu was closed. Bishop Francis Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu and the diocesan pastoral council wanted to shut down the seminary because of concerns that the activity of the Way's members was damaging the unity of Japan's small Catholic community.

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Jury finds activists guilty in Washington state weapons depot protest

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Five longtime peace activists were found guilty of a series of federal charges stemming from an All Souls' Day demonstration in 2009 at a U.S. Navy nuclear weapons depot in Bangor, Wash. A 12-member jury convicted Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel, 82, Jesuit Father Stephen Kelly, 61, Sacred Heart Sister Anne Montgomery, 83, Susan Crane, 65, and Lynne Greenwald, 61, of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation and depredation of government property Dec. 13. The verdict for the defendants, who called themselves the Disarm Now Plowshares, came after a four-day trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma, Wash. Settle set sentencing for March 28. Each activist faces prison terms of three to five years and fines of $50,000 to $250,000 on each charge. Crane, a member of the Jonah House Community in Baltimore, told Catholic News Service by phone shortly after the verdict was announced that the group faced an uphill battle in establishing their defense after Settle determined that no witness would be able to discuss whether nuclear weapons existed at the base. U.S. policy prohibits the confirmation or denial of the presence of nuclear weapons at any particular site. "The judge said we couldn't use our defense, (that we acted out of) necessity and about humanitarian law or military law. So it was an unfair trial right from the beginning," Crane said.

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Punk rocker joins The Priests in recording of 'The Little Drummer Boy'

DUBLIN (CNS) -- The Irish trio of clerical classical singers The Priests has teamed up with former hellion and punk rocker/Irish folk singer Shane MacGowan for a recording of "The Little Drummer Boy." The track, also known as "Peace on Earth," was always going to be included on The Priests' third album, "Noel," but mindful of the success of the 1977 recording by Catholic crooner Bing Crosby and glam-rock star David Bowie, the clergymen thought a collaboration with another singer might provide a counterpoint to their classically trained voices. "Our management told us Shane was available and we were delighted by the idea," Father Eugene O'Hagan, one of The Priests, told Catholic News Service. A gifted songwriter, MacGowan, former lead singer with The Pogues and later a band named The Popes, became widely known for his alcoholic binges both on and off stage. His song "Fairytale of New York," recorded in 1987, is the Christmas song most requested and played on radio in Ireland and the United Kingdom. "It was a pleasure working with Shane," Father O'Hagan said. "After the recording, Shane asked if we could pray together and he asked for our blessing. It was a lovely moment." The three priests from the Down and Connor Diocese, brothers Eugene and Martin O'Hagan and David Delargy, started singing together as youngsters at St. MacNissi's College, an elementary school in Northern Ireland.

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Top pastry chef recreates Washington's national shrine in gingerbread

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington has sometimes been called "a hymn in stone." This year, it can also rightly be called "a hymn in gingerbread." That is because Charles Froke, the executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, has recreated the national shrine as the hotel's 2010 massive gingerbread replication of a Washington landmark. The gingerbread shrine will be on display in the hotel's lobby through the Christmas season. "I've made a lot of cool buildings (out of gingerbread) in the past, but nothing like this," Froke told the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. "In the past, I've done the National Cathedral, the Smithsonian Castle, the White House, the Capitol and Healy Hall at Georgetown University, but this is the most ambitious one to date." Froke, a Catholic who attends St. Ann Church in Washington, crafted the gingerbread shrine out of more than 125 pounds of a specially prepared gingerbread dough. "It is a little more sturdy and not as sweet as regular gingerbread," the pastry chef explained. The creation also includes about 55 pounds of icing and 20 pounds of sugar. He used dyes to create the shrine's ornate blue dome. The stained-glass windows -- which are illuminated by electric lighting -- are made from colored liquid sugar.


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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