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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-21-2011

By Catholic News Service


Arizona Senate rejects immigration crackdown bills; Utah does opposite

PHOENIX (CNS) -- The Arizona Senate voted down five immigration bills March 17 that proponents argued would crack down on illegal immigration even further than last year's S.B. 1070, which is still hung up by court challenges. Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert March 15 signed a series of bills that have been described as a state equivalent of comprehensive immigration reform being sought at the national level. They step up enforcement, but also create a guest worker program that itself is likely to face court challenges. Among the bills Arizona's legislators rejected were those that would have required hospitals to verify patients' legal status before admitting them for nonemergency care, required schools to collect data on immigration status and challenged the 14th Amendment's provision for birthright citizenship. "All of the most problematic bills were defeated soundly on the Senate floor," said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops in public policy matters. "Clearly we have significant immigration problems facing this country, but these bills do nothing to solve them," he said. "They actually make things worse for a vulnerable population." After the vote, Republican State Sen. Rich Crandall explained his opposition to the bills. "If you ask anybody what we need to do solve the immigration crisis, they tell you, 'Secure the border,'" he said. "Well, these five bills had nothing to do with the border." State Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican and sponsor of the two bills that dealt with birthright citizenship, said the next step is to take the measures to a ballot proposal. In Utah, Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester lauded the efforts "to adopt humane solutions in the face of the federal government's failure to act on immigration reform." He particularly praised Herbert's willingness to sign immigration bills despite extreme opposition, but said he feared the bills would be unenforceable and unconstitutional.

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Scripture holds the key to resolving all labor issues, says cardinal

QUEENS, N.Y. (CNS) -- Cardinal Edward M. Egan told a March 19 conference in Queens that "all labor issues" are resolved in passages in the Book of Genesis, St. Mathew's Gospel and St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians "if only we have the faith and confidence in God to realize it." The retired archbishop of New York spoke on the second day of a two-day conference on "The Theology of Work and the Dignity of Workers" at St. John's University School of Law. Cardinal Egan said Chapter 1 of Genesis establishes that humans are made in the image of God, "created with divinity as the pattern." He said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners they are the most precious and unique of God's creatures, and in Chapter 2 of Philippians St. Paul "pounds home" the message by describing Jesus' willingness to "despoil himself of all signs of divinity and be murdered for us," he said. Labor and management can resolve disputes if workers are recognized as excellent, unique, noble human beings, with the ability to think and choose, Cardinal Egan said. Regarding corporations, he said, "Capital has a right to profit. Capital has a right to work out agreements with those who work for it. It does not have a right to deal with employees as anything other than what they are." Cardinal Egan said the current labor struggle in Wisconsin over collective bargaining for public employee unions is complicated and both sides have made good points. He said a worker's compensation must always reflect that the worker is a human being, made in the image of God. He described late-night, closed-door conflict resolution during the mayoralty of Richard Daley in his native Chicago. "I would hope that anything that will be as far-reaching as the current discussion of collective bargaining could be done in Mayor Daley fashion: solved quietly with giving and taking. ... If both sides understand what's at issue, I believe human cleverness can resolve problems, carefully, craftily and honorably," he said. Individual interests can be protected by mutually accepted compromise.

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Pope calls on leaders to protect, allow aid for civilians in Libya

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI made an urgent appeal to political and military leaders to protect the safety and security of civilians and guarantee the free flow of humanitarian aid inside Libya. He said the "worrying news from Libya" in the past few days caused him "deep trepidation and fear," and he kept the North African country's people in his prayers during his Lenten retreat March 13-19. Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square March 20 for the recitation of the Angelus, the pope said, "I address a pressing appeal to those who have political and military responsibilities" to ensure the safety and security of defenseless citizens as well as guarantee those offering emergency assistance have access to those in need. As U.S., British and French military began a series of strikes against Libya's air defenses March 19 as part of a U.N.-approved effort to protect pro-democracy protesters from retaliation by Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the pope said he was following the events with great concern and praying for those involved in "the dramatic situation." He prayed that "peace and concord would soon reign over Libya and the entire North African region." Meanwhile, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli, Libya, criticized the rash and hasty decision to use military action against Gadhafi rather than pursue a negotiated solution. "I hope for (Gadhafi's) surrender, but I think that Gadhafi will not give in," he told the Italian news agency, ANSA, March 20.

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Catholics in Tokyo give shelter to Filipinos fleeing disaster zone

TOKYO (CNS) -- Catholic churches in Tokyo are caring for Filipinos who fled the disaster area in Sendai and Fukushima prefecture. The Filipinos began arriving in Tokyo March 16 on a bus that had carried relief supplies to the disaster area; it took eight hours to travel the 230 miles because of damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The first group of 42 was sheltered at Kichijyoji Catholic Church, run by the Divine Word Fathers. The coordinator of the church-based project, identified only as Mr. Harashima, said he met March 17 with a representative of the Philippine Embassy to Japan, a Catholic priest, a Philippine support group representative and others to decide what role each needed to play to help the evacuees. One of the evacuees said she considered herself lucky to get on the bus, which she learned about at a local evacuation center. Another woman expressed concern about radiation levels from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. "I'm worried about my kids; they had been scared by the unbelievable earthquake, and day and night cry, 'I don't wanna die,'" she added. "We are relieved now, but still there are people who couldn't catch the bus."

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Pope says parishes are places for prayer, learning, charity

ROME (CNS) -- A parish church is a place for people to get to know God better, to worship him together and to learn how to take the message of his love to the neighborhood and the world, Pope Benedict XVI said at the dedication of a new church in Rome. "Grow in the knowledge and love of Christ as individuals and as a parish community and encounter him in the Eucharist, in listening to his word, in prayer and in charity," the pope told parishioners at the new St. Corbinian Church March 20. The parish on the southern edge of Rome was financed with help from the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Germany, where Pope Benedict served as archbishop in the late 1970s and early 1980s before being named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And, he told parishioners, his papal coat of arms features the symbol most closely associated with St. Corbinian: a brown bear loaded with a pack on his back. Legend holds that St. Corbinian, a Frenchman who became the first bishop of Freising in the early 700s, was on his way to Rome when a bear attacked and killed his horse. St. Corbinian punished the bear by making him carry the saint's belongings the rest of the way to Rome.

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Holy Land collection supports Christians, peace, says Vatican official

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Helping Christians in the Holy Land with concrete material and spiritual support is a fundamental part of bringing peace to the region, said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Unfortunately there is a "sorrowful tendency of Christian emigration which impoverishes the entire area, draining it of the most vital forces constituted by the young generations," he said in a written appeal to bishops around the world. The letter, released to journalists March 21, is sent every year to bishops to encourage parishes in their dioceses to support the Holy Land collection, which traditionally is taken up during Good Friday services. Cardinal Sandri, who coordinates the Holy Land collection, said there has been an increasing number of pilgrims to the Holy Land thanks in part to Pope Benedict XVI's visit there in 2009 and the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in 2010. However, despite the "few positive signs" in the region, escalating violence continues against Christians, who are experiencing real martyrdom and "suffering because of instability or the absence of peace," the letter said. Pope Benedict urges the universal church to encourage and support Christians in the Holy Land, it said. "This appeal for the collection is inherent in the cause of peace, of which the brothers and sisters of the Holy Land desire to be effective instruments in the hands of the Lord for the good of the whole" region, it said.

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Irish church leaders pledge millions more to help abuse victims

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Ireland's Catholic leaders have pledged a further 10 million euros ($14.2 million) to provide support services for victims of clerical abuse and announced plans for spiritual support to people whose faith has been damaged by the abuse. In a pastoral letter, "Towards Healing and Renewal," the bishops also acknowledge that "the inadequate response (to abuse) by some church leaders has left a deep wound that may never be fully healed." While reiterating an earlier apology for the suffering of survivors, the letter said: "No apology, no gesture of repentance or sorrow can ever make up for the hurt that has been caused to those abused and to their families: They have been grievously harmed and let down by people who professed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "We are deeply ashamed of this and we are profoundly sorry for any failures on our part," said the letter, released March 19 to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics of Ireland dealing with the abuse crisis. The bishops' conference and the Conference of Religious of Ireland, which represents 136 religious congregations, agreed to fund the "Towards Healing" counseling service for another five years. They already have spent 20 million euros on the service over the past 14 years. In addition, the bishops said they would set aside the first Friday of every month to pray and fast in reparation for the sins and crimes of abuse, and they encouraged the faithful to do the same. Plans were also unveiled for a new program of spiritual support for "survivors whose faith has been damaged and who want to work through this particular consequence of their abuse."

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Haitian amputees return to normal life with new prosthetic program

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- Lying in a hospital bed in May, his left leg amputated below the knee, Wagner Petit-Frerre could only think that, at 21, his dancing days were done. No more cha-cha, no more samba, no more mambo. No more people showing up at performances of his dance team, cheering his every move. "When my leg was amputated I felt helpless because I was thinking I could not work anymore," Petit-Frerre said, recalling the two-vehicle accident on a busy Port-au-Prince street that claimed the life of his cousin, the driver of the motorcycle they were riding. Ten months later, Petit-Frerre is back to dancing. Not quite the smooth step he once was, Petit-Frerre is slowly returning to form. In September, he was fitted with an artificial leg under the University of Miami's Project Medishare with assistance from the Knights of Columbus. He has started dancing again with the help of physical therapist Jason Miller, a 33-year-old American who is rehabilitation director for Project Medishare. Petit-Frerre's prosthesis was produced by technicians at Project Medishare's new Ossur International Prosthetic and Orthotics Laboratory based at Bernard Mevs Hospital in the Haitian capital. After being fitted with the prosthesis, Petit-Frerre quickly regained his independence, a necessity in a culture that traditionally has discriminated against amputees. The lab was dedicated in ceremonies March 5, although patients have been outfitted with devices for several months. Ossur, an Icelandic-based multinational that specializes in developing noninvasive orthopedics, donated the lab structure while the Knights of Columbus provided $1 million for equipment under its Healing Haiti's Children program. The Knights of Columbus program also supports up to two years of physical therapy for children.

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Haitian soccer players get their kicks despite being amputees

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- Even though it was just practice, Chery Sequel shot the ball, got down on his knee, pointed a finger and shouted "Scooooooooore!" His excitement was contagious. Later, he led a chest bump with teammates who combined for another goal. Sequel had another reason to be happy as well. He was on a soccer field playing the game he loved despite having lost his right leg an automobile accident in 1992. The 39-year-old Sequel is among a slowly growing contingent of Haitian soccer players who have had an arm or leg amputated because of an accident or an injury during the country's 2010 earthquake. Currently, 24 men are part of a team of amputees who joined together to prove that they can be athletes and contributing members of society. That's a difficult task in a country where the amputees are rarely accepted. At practice early March 17 at a field nearly under the flight path of nearby Toussaint Louverture International Airport, about a dozen team members participated in rigorous agility drills, reviewed positioning techniques and scrimmaged. Almost all have lost a leg. Goalkeeper Francois St-Julien had part of his left arm amputated after being injured in the earthquake. The players dribbled and passed well and hustled to chase loose balls. Most team members glided across the field with the aid of crutches, using them for support when they shot or passed the ball. The crutches were considered extensions of their arms, and any attempt to block or pass the ball with them was not allowed. The team meets three times a week to practice. On most days not all team members are able to practice because they must report to work, said head coach Cedieu Fortilus.

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Father Corapi, a popular preacher, put on administrative leave

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CNS) -- Father John Corapi, a popular author and preacher who has had speaking engagements all over the world, has been placed on administrative leave from priestly ministry over an accusation of misconduct. "We have received an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation into this accusation," said Father Gerard Sheehan, a spokesman for Father Corapi's community, the Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Father Sheehan, who has the title "regional priest servant," issued the statement March 18 on behalf of the community. "It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation," Father Sheehan said. "It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far, the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the level of criminal conduct." The matter will "be investigated internally," he said. Father Sheehan did not reveal the exact nature of the allegation. In a March 19 statement, Father Corapi said, "All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned." His statement was posted on his website, www.fathercorapi.com. He said he learned on Ash Wednesday, March 9, that a former employee "sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women." Father Sheehan told Catholic News Service that Bishop William M. Mulvey of Corpus Christi has instructed the religious community to ask two priests who are not clergy of the diocese and who are not members of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity to investigate the allegation.

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Church, world need the work of faithful Catholic artists, says speaker

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Faithful Catholics have all but disappeared from the arts in America -- leaving the arts "spiritually impoverished" and undercutting the ways the church "speaks to the world," according to Dana Gioia, Catholic poet and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. "Catholic artists today are virtually invisible," Gioia observed in a lecture on "The Catholic Writer Today" he delivered at The Catholic University of America. Gioia's talk was part of a series of events celebrating the January inauguration of the university's new president, John Garvey. Garvey attended the Feb. 28 lecture, along with approximately 200 students, priests, university deans, professors and visitors. His address was the third of six in an inaugural lecture series titled "Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University." The last lecture is scheduled for April 27. Gioia told the group that the lack of Catholics in the arts is a "paradox," given the Catholic Church's long tradition as "patron and mentor" to the arts and the strength of the largest cultural minority in the United States. It is particularly ironic, Gioia added, in a nation where "diversity of culture and ethnicity are actively celebrated." But "contemporary American culture has little use for Catholicism," said Gioia. Anti-Catholicism, he noted, remains "the one respectable form of intellectual bigotry." Gioia compared the dwindling numbers and influence of Catholic artists to the modern exodus of the "upwardly mobile" out of the nation's immigrant, big-city neighborhoods.


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