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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-21-2011

By Catholic News Service


USCCB official has mixed reaction to HHS conscience rule revision

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although the U.S. bishops' pro-life spokeswoman expressed disappointment at the Obama administration's partial rescission of a federal regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care workers, she said there are "reasons for hope" in the new education and outreach effort announced by the Department of Health and Human Services. Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, was commenting Feb. 18 on the final rule issued earlier that day by HHS to rescind elements of a December 2008 rule on conscience protection. The 2008 rule came down in the final days of the administration of President George W. Bush. "It is very disappointing that the (Obama) administration has chosen to eliminate much of the existing regulation on conscience issued in December 2008," McQuade said. "Among other things, the final rule issued today eliminates important clarifications that would have helped in interpreting and enforcing long-standing federal statutes protecting the conscience rights of health care providers," she said. "It also eliminates a regulatory requirement that recipients of federal funds certify compliance with those statutes. However, it is welcome news that the administration says it will take initiatives to increase awareness of the conscience statutes, work to ensure compliance with them, and require that all government grants make clear that compliance is required." In its announcement of the final rule, HHS officials stressed that the partial rescission has no effect on existing laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers.

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Former Planned Parenthood director, now pro-life, to become Catholic

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- A woman who walked away from her job as a Planned Parenthood clinic director after helping with an ultrasound-guided abortion is preparing to enter the Catholic Church. Abby Johnson, 30, who has been speaking at pro-life events around the country, will become a Catholic, along with her husband, Doug, in her native Texas within the next few months. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter. "When we went to the Catholic Church for the first time, we knew that was where we were supposed to be and we have been there ever since," said Johnson, who said she particularly loves the church's reverence for Mary as the mother of God. "The more we started learning about the beliefs of the church and the Eucharist and everything, it seemed like this was what had been missing our whole lives." After eight years as a Planned Parenthood volunteer and employee, Johnson walked away from her job as director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan/College Station, Texas, Oct. 6, 2009, during a prayer vigil by 40 Days for Life. Johnson, who had one abortion at age 20 and another at 23, first began working as a clinic escort while a student at Texas A&M University. Assisting with an ultrasound during an abortion in September 2009 turned her into a pro-life advocate. She describes the experience in her book "Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of the Planned Parenthood Leader Who Crossed the Life Line to Fight for Women in Crisis," written with Cindy Lambert (Ignatius Press, 2011).

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Caritas Internationalis secretary-general denied second term by Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican officials have prevented the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis from seeking a second four-year term. Lesley-Anne Knight, a British citizen born in Zimbabwe, did not receive the necessary approval, or "nihil obstat" ("nothing stands in the way"), in January when she submitted her name as a candidate to continue in the position with the church's worldwide aid and development organization. "The Holy See wants a change in the way it works with Caritas and says this requires a change in the person of the secretary-general," said a statement released late Feb. 18 by Caritas Internationalis in Rome. "The Holy See has therefore not granted Mrs. Knight the nihil obstat to seek another mandate," the statement said. The statement said the Vatican had acknowledged "the professional work done and achievements of Mrs. Knight." Elections for the position of secretary-general and international president, which is held by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are set for late May in Rome during Caritas Internationalis' quadrennial general assembly. Submitting the names of candidates for the two positions is normally considered routine within the Vatican. However, the Vatican acted to block Knight's candidacy. In an attempt to keep Knight's candidacy alive, the Caritas Internationalis bureau -- Cardinal Rodriguez, Knight, the organization's treasurer and seven regional presidents -- met Feb. 5 and asked Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, to discuss the issue, according to the statement. Although representatives of Cardinal Bertone met several times with Cardinal Rodriguez, bureau representatives or members of the Caritas Internationalis Candidates Committee, the initial decision remained unchanged, the statement said.

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Pope to create three new saints, including founder of Xaverian order

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI will create three new saints Oct. 23, including the founder of the Xaverian missionaries, Blessed Guido Maria Conforti. The pope announced the date for the canonization ceremony at the end of what is known as an ordinary public consistory, a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope's decision to create new saints. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, read brief biographies of the three in Latin Feb. 21. Blessed Conforti, founder of the Xaverian Foreign Missionary Society, was born in 1865 in Italy. Vice rector of a seminary even before his priestly ordination, he was said to have filled seminarians with an awareness of their obligation to be missionaries. In 1895, seven years after becoming a priest, he founded a congregation of consecrated men dedicated to the evangelization of non-Christians. The others to be canonized Oct. 23, World Mission Sunday, are: Blessed Louis Guanella, an Italian priest who lived 1842-1915. He founded the Servants of Charity, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, and the Confraternity of St. Joseph, whose members pledge to pray for the sick and dying; and Blessed Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro, who lived 1837-1905. The Spanish founded the Servants of St. Joseph, a congregation originally dedicated to providing a religious and technical education to poor women.

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Vatican says number of Catholics, priests, bishops worldwide increased

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The number of Catholics in the world, the number of deacons, priests and bishops and the number of dioceses all increased in 2009, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics. At the end of 2009, the worldwide Catholic population increased by 15 million or 1.3 percent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate, which was estimated at 1.1 percent, said a statement published Feb. 19 by the Vatican press office. The statement reported a handful of the statistics contained in the 2011 "Annuario Pontificio," a yearbook containing information about every Vatican office, every cardinal and bishop, every diocese and religious order in the world. Officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and its Central Office of Church Statistics presented the first copy of the 2011 yearbook to Pope Benedict XVI during an audience Feb. 19. The Vatican statement said that in the calendar year 2010, Pope Benedict established 10 new dioceses, bringing to 2,956 the number of dioceses and church jurisdictions in the world. The more detailed statistics in the yearbook refer to the situation reported by dioceses and religious orders as of Dec. 31, 2009.

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Theology can be debated, even if theologian is pope, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- As the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" was about to be published, a Swiss cardinal said it's important that people realize the book was written by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger and not by Pope Benedict XVI. "This distinction is not a matter of splitting hairs," said Cardinal Georges Cottier, the former theologian of the papal household. Cardinal Cottier said even if it may be confusing in the case of Pope Benedict, who was famous as a theologian before being elected pope, it is important for people to understand that theology is a human exercise, which is open to debate and criticism; but because of the Holy Spirit's gift to the church and to the individual elected, the teaching of a pope requires a greater degree of assent. The Swiss cardinal spoke Feb. 18 at an evening conference organized by the Vatican publishing house; earlier in the day, the Vatican announced that the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" would be released March 10 at the Vatican. The first volume was published in 2007. Cardinal Cottier told a packed house at a bookstore in the center of Rome that the confusion between the work of the theologian Ratzinger and Pope Benedict was not helped by publishers of the first volume, who wrote "Pope Benedict XVI" on the cover in much larger letters than they wrote "Joseph Ratzinger."

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At prayer service, Irish archbishop repents for clergy sexual abuse

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Repenting for the crimes of priestly sex abuse does not mean that the Irish Catholic Church can return to business as usual, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told abuse survivors during a Feb. 20 prayer service joined by an American cardinal. However, seeking forgiveness can be an important step toward healing and overcoming the pain that survivors feel, he added as Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston listened during the "Liturgy of Lament and Repentance" at Dublin's Pro-Cathedral. Both prelates offered apologies for the church's failure to respond to reports of abuse during the afternoon service attended by 1,000 survivors and their families and supporters. Many in attendance were visibly moved when Archbishop Martin and Cardinal O'Malley washed the feet of eight survivors as a sign of humility. "The Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again," Archbishop Martin said. "It will always bear this wound within it. The Archdiocese of Dublin can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be." Cardinal O'Malley was in Dublin conducting an apostolic visitation of the archdiocese in the wake of a scandal that found church leaders doing little to investigate abuse claims and working to keep abuse reports under wraps to protect the clergy involved and the church's reputation. Other prelates also visited various Irish dioceses and religious congregations as part of the visitation.

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Kenyan church leaders teach children everyone is a missionary

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- In Kenya, evangelization begins with the children. In the Archdiocese of Mombasa, along Indian Ocean coast, children from different parishes take turns feeding and spending time with children in the local hospital for the disabled. They also visit child prisoners, delivering toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, slippers and tissues. If a child dies, the children take over the planning of the funeral, said Sister Pauline Andrew Wangeci, a member of the Daughters of Divine Love. "They carry the coffin, they bury that child," she said of the children. "Then they visit the family to console them with prayers." Sister Pauline Andrew coordinates the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies for three dioceses in eastern Kenya. There are four societies, all of which concern evangelization, but the one that takes the most time, she said, is the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood, known in the United States as the Holy Childhood Association. Sister Pauline Andrew coordinates a large grass-roots network of programs and volunteers whose goal is to teach children that everyone is a missionary. Nearly every parish in the Archdiocese of Mombasa has a volunteer animator, or coordinator, to work with the children's activities. Once a month, the parishes have a special Mass in which the children do the readings, take the collection, serve at the altar, lead the singing, and handle other liturgical tasks. At Epiphany, parishes celebrate Holy Childhood Day with sports and a special Mass. Once each year, children from across the diocese celebrate a special Mass with the bishop.

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More than 30,000 Nairobi children gather for Mass with cardinal, guests

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- More than 30,000 children from the Archdiocese of Nairobi had been sitting in Mass nearly four hours when the tall American priest taught them to howl like a wolf. "When wolves are far apart, a wolf makes a special call, and it goes like this," said Msgr. John E. Kozar, head of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. After Maryknoll Father Robert Jalbert translated into Swahili, Msgr. Kozar lifted his chin and howled. Then he got the children to try it -- again and again, until they were loud enough. "When we come back to visit and you see us far off, because we will be looking for our Missionary Childhood family, how are you going to greet us so we know our family is here?" he asked, and the children responded with a howl. The yearly Mass with the local bishop is one of the highlights for many members of the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood, known in the U.S. as the Holy Childhood Association. In the Archdiocese of Nairobi, this means Mass concelebrated by Cardinal John Njue and other priests. This year's special guests included 10 diocesan Pontifical Mission Societies directors from throughout the United States, as well as Msgr. Kozar and Father Jalbert.

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Priest uses energy, heart to share mission in Nairobi Archdiocese

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- He has the charisma of a televangelist, the energy of a marathon runner and the values grounded in faith learned in a Kenyan village with a vibrant Catholic community. Father Moses Kago has been a priest for four years, and he is making an impact on the growing church in the Archdiocese of Nairobi. His current job is head of the Pontifical Mission Societies for the archdiocese's 112 parishes. With an easy smile and a friendly manner, the priest connects with the people. At 33 -- "the same age as Jesus Christ," he jokes -- he has a sense of what is expected of him. "Missionary is nothing else than sharing one's own life with the rest of humanity," he told Catholic News Service. "It's not easy because it calls for sacrifice, self-denial and actually that spirit, that heart of generosity." During a recent outdoor Mass with more than 30,000 children from the archdiocese, Father Kago acted as part concelebrant, part master of ceremonies and part cheerleader. He sang and clapped along with the choir, alternating between English and Swahili. He introduced special guests and passed out helium balloons for the children to send a message of love to the children in America. During the 15-minute offertory procession, as children from throughout the archdiocese brought up gifts for those less fortunate, he kept up a running commentary from the podium so those seated far away could know what was going on. But within that commentary was the message of self-reliance the Kenyan church is preaching.

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Polish priest found murdered in Salesian school in Tunisia

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A young Polish missionary priest serving in Tunisia was found dead with his throat slashed in a storeroom in a Salesian-run school outside of capital of Tunis, said the Salesian Info Agency, ANS. The body of Father Marek Rybinski, 33, was discovered by police who searched the school Feb. 18 after the director of the Salesian community in La Manouba became alarmed when he had not been seen for a day and his room was found empty. Ali Aidoudi, Tunisia's ambassador to Poland, assured the Polish government that a nationwide manhunt was under way for Father Rybinski's killers, reported Polish Radio. "The Polish priest was much loved in Tunisia," the ambassador told the radio outlet. Police have increased patrols around Christian churches since the murder was discovered, ANS said. The priest's murder prompted demonstrations in support of the Salesian community Feb. 19 and 20 by hundreds of people including students from the school and their parents, ANS reported.

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Religion vs. science: Writer delves into sainthood process in new book

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Bill Briggs was at his home in Denver reading a short newspaper article about the Archdiocese of Denver bringing in teams of doctors to investigate a possible miracle in the cure of an infant girl as part of a canonization cause. "I was intrigued by priests and doctors in the same room on the same page," said Briggs, and the possibility of a book began to swirl in his mind. "I saw an opportunity to apply journalism to the miracle process," said Briggs, a former reporter for the now closed Nashville Banner and The Denver Post and currently a writer for MSNBC.com. Ingrained in the Catholic Church's ancient process of recognizing and elevating saints are the struggles of faith vs. reason and religion vs. science that play out in contemporary culture, Briggs said. The idea eventually became "The Third Miracle: An Ordinary Man, A Medical Mystery and a Trial of Faith" (Broadway Books, $24), about the successful canonization process of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, a French nun who in 1840 led a group of Sisters of Providence to the American frontier near Terre Haute, Ind., to establish a motherhouse, novitiate and a school now known at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

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Irish bishops criticize 'bonus culture' in country's financial sector

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Ireland's Catholic bishops charged that a "bonus culture" promoted "reckless gambling practices" in banking and financial institutions during the country's recent Celtic Tiger economic boom and led to "immense suffering" for many during the bust of the current economic recession. The assessment comes in a new document, "From Crisis to Hope: Working to Achieve the Common Good," which the bishops released Feb. 21 at the Capuchin Day Center in Dublin, which daily feeds up to 400 homeless people. In their document, the bishops harshly criticized the increase in social and economic inequality, which, they said, was "an inevitable consequence of this bonus culture and the accompanying institutional failure." They also warned that there is a "serious risk" that such inequality could lead to a breakdown of social cohesion, "the bedrock of both a properly functioning democracy and an orderly economy." Dublin Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field, chairman of the Irish Bishops' Council for Justice and Peace, said people in Ireland were "struggling to maintain a decent standard of living in these challenging economic circumstances." Some people, he explained, have experienced poverty for the first time and were frightened and perhaps ashamed of their situation. Others were "experiencing, with disappointment and despair, a return to circumstances they hoped they would never see again," he said.

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Former prosecutor to re-examine sex abuse claims against 37 priests

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Philadelphia has pledged a re-examination of the cases of 37 priests who a grand jury report says remain in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Three priests named in the report were immediately prohibited from publicly exercising their priestly ministry until the latest review is complete. "Change begins with action," the Philadelphia Archdiocese said in a Feb. 16 statement. "The grand jury report makes it clear that for as much as the archdiocese has done to address child sexual abuse, there is still much to do." The archdiocese also placed Msgr. William J. Lynn on administrative leave from his assignment as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Pa. He was arrested on two charges of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with his role as the former archdiocesan secretary for clergy. He remains free on bail until his trial date, which has not been set. Msgr. Lynn remains pastor of the parish but Msgr. Joseph C. McLoone, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester, assumes the duties of parochial administrator. The re-examination of the 37 cases will be led for the archdiocese by Gina Maisto Smith, a former city assistant district attorney with long experience prosecuting child sexual assault cases who now practices law privately.


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