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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-5-2011

By Catholic News Service


After emotional debate, bill to legalize civil unions in Colorado dies

DENVER (CNS) -- Nearly eight hours of emotional testimonies and legislator commentaries at the state Capitol in Denver March 31 ended in the defeat of a bill that would have created civil unions in Colorado. Voting 6-5 along party lines to defeat the bill, legislators went back and forth on the legal and societal effects that the state Senate bill could have on Coloradans. The debate featured seven hours of public testimonies in a standing-room-only Old Supreme Court room. At a prayer rally before the hearing, Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley told a crowd of more than 100 opponents of the bill that the measure was "just a clever way to create a springboard to impose same-sex marriage on Colorado. It will weaken marriage as an institution, which is already suffering in society." While the bill's passage out of the Democrat-controlled Senate in mid-March seemed to be a foregone conclusion, there was less surety about the bill's fate with the House Judiciary Committee, in which Republicans held a one-member edge. In the Senate Judiciary Committee debate, one Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango, voted with the majority Democrats. When the House Judiciary Committee vote was finally taken around 9 p.m., audible groans from the large group of bill supporters in the gallery indicated that they were hoping that at least one of two Republicans -- Rep. Brian DelGrosso of Loveland and Rep. B.J. Nikkel of Denver -- could be swayed to endorse S.B. 172. A second vote along party lines then postponed the bill indefinitely, effectively killing it for this legislative session. Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, the bishops' public policy arm, called those legislators who opposed the bill courageous. "The CCC has repeatedly pointed out that the key flaw to S.B. 172 was that in its language and practical effect, it created an alternative, parallel structure to marriage and this is bad public policy for the state of Colorado," she told The Colorado Catholic Herald, the Colorado Springs diocesan newspaper, in an April 4 statement.

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Baseball celebrities take field for Family Theater's 'Faith Bowl IV'

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (CNS) -- A lineup of baseball celebrities takes the field for the debut this spring of "Faith Bowl IV," which airs early this spring in conjunction with the start of the baseball season. "Faith Bowl IV," from Family Theater Productions with the collaboration of Catholic Athletes for Christ and the Knights of Columbus, focuses on "Coaches, Mentors and Parents Helping Kids Get the Most Out of Sports." The show has been made available to Catholic television networks and broadcast outlets, including the Eternal Word Television Network and CatholicTV, and it will air for the next several weeks. The program debuted April 1. Featured on "Faith Bowl IV" is Vin Scully, the longtime broadcaster of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also doubles as lector for the regular vigil Mass at Dodger Stadium. Scully won the Ford Frick Award for baseball broadcast excellence bestowed annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He also won a lifetime achievement Emmy in 1995 for his work in television, and was voted "Broadcaster of the Century" by his peers in 2000. Fifteen-year major leaguer Mike Sweeney, a five-time All-Star with the Kansas City Royals and a Catholic Athletes for Christ member, also appears on the program, as does his father, Mike Sr., a respected high school coach. Also on the show is Kristen Sheehan, director of the Play Like a Champion Today program at the University of Notre Dame, which promotes sportsmanship and participation for all kids. "Faith Bowl IV" focuses on the importance of the Catholic faith in the context of children's sports. Advice and personal stories are shared on coaching, mentoring and parenting children through the world of children's sports. The Family Theater website also has a link to "Faith Bowl IV": www.familytheater.org/en/TelevisionandFilm/FaithBowlIV.aspx.

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New Arizona law mandates ultrasounds, bars 'telemedicine' abortions

PHOENIX (CNS) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law legislation that will require abortion providers to allow women the opportunity for an ultrasound exam at least one hour prior to obtaining an abortion. "This bill sends a message that Arizonans continue to care deeply about protecting life and protecting families," Brewer said April 2 as she signed H.B. 2416, which was passed by the Legislature March 30. It also prohibits the practice of "telemedicine" with regard to chemical abortions, whereby a physician consults via video conference with a woman seeking a drug to induce an abortion and gives her a prescription without ever seeing her in person. The new law will likely save lives, according to Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the Phoenix and Tucson dioceses and the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., which includes part of Arizona. "The woman can say no, but they do have to offer her an ultrasound at least an hour before," Johnson said. "We want to give them a little bit of time to have meaningful reflection so they can actually see their unborn child." Johnson said women could still refuse the ultrasound, but will at least have the option and time to think before undergoing an abortion. Not surprisingly, he said, those who favor abortions have opposed the bill. "We see people who call themselves pro-choice showing themselves to be anything but," Johnson said. "You would think that these so-called pro-choicers would be supportive of legislation or efforts that would enhance the woman's informed choice of what she was going to do. But of course, they are always opposed to this type of legislation."

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New evangelization needed to fight secularism, cardinal tells Knights

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Because materialism, secularism and individualism are "rapidly enveloping our society and culture," Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl urged Catholics to actively participate in the church's new evangelization efforts "to proclaim the Gospel anew." Cardinal Wuerl said in an address at The Catholic University of America: "This is a time when voices need to be heard that says there is an anchor, there is a basis, a moral foundation to the choices we make." The "subtle influences" of materialism, secularism and individualism, he added, "need to be cleared away before we can plant the seeds" of faith. Cardinal Wuerl spoke on "Why the New Evangelization Now?" to the D.C. Council of the Knights of Columbus. The March 28 address was attended by nearly 200 Knights along with university students and staff. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Wuerl said the new evangelization is "an effort to re-propose the Gospel -- what we do and how we express our faith" -- to those who already know the faith but for whom it holds no interest. Last June, the pope announced that he was establishing a pontifical council to promote "a renewed evangelization" to people "living through a progressive secularization of society and a kind of eclipse of the sense of God." Two months later, Cardinal Wuerl took up Pope Benedict's call and issued a pastoral letter, "Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision," in which he outlined his vision for a new evangelization. In that pastoral, the cardinal urged the faithful to "invite others to hear once again, maybe all over again for the first time, the exciting invitation of Jesus -- 'Come, follow me.'" In his address to the Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Wuerl said "the new evangelization is not a program, and I have to say this over and over again. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and experiencing."

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Thousands rally at Georgia Capitol to protest immigration measures

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Catholics were among the thousands of people who filled the streets surrounding the state Capitol to oppose legislation that targets illegal immigrants in Georgia. Critics say the proposals will weaken the state's economy and lead to racial profiling. The crowd railed against a measure in the state House and one in the Senate, holding signs with messages such as "The pilgrims were undocumented" and "No human being is illegal." Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted in Spanish: "Yes, we can!" Nora Soto, 35, who is in school to learn hairdressing, spent March 24 on Washington Street in the shadow of the Capitol's gold dome. She worships at Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn. "It's going to separate families. It's not fair. We came here to work and find a better life," said Soto, who has lived in the United States for 20 years. Soto was one of a reported 6,000 people at the rally, which featured musicians, priests, political leaders and activists. The proposals would broaden the powers of local police to enforce immigration laws and would require businesses to use an online verification system when hiring. The bills would also create criminal penalties for assisting people who are in the country illegally. Each bill passed in the chamber where it originated. A compromise measure was expected to take shape in the final days of the legislative session. Georgia isn't alone in trying to deal with illegal immigration. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2010, 46 states and the District of Columbia enacted 208 laws dealing with immigration and refugees.

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Bishop says welcoming the stranger an essential part of Catholic faith

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Providence was built upon and prospered because of the faith, sacrifices and contributions of many ethnic communities, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin explained during a recent symposium on "Immigrants and Immigration in the 21st Century" at Brown University. "Throughout its history in our nation and in this community, the church has welcomed and ministered to the historic immigration of these cultures," the bishop said. "Despite the various languages, cultures and traditions of these very diverse immigrant groups, they were united by a common Christian faith and the desire to improve their lives and contribute to the well-being of their new home in the United States and the state of Rhode Island," he said in the symposium's keynote speech. He emphasized that the Catholic Church has been concerned with the immigration question and responding to the needs of the immigrant community for a long time and added that the church has continued to be blessed and enriched by the immigrant community. According the U.S. Census Bureau, 133,000 Rhode Island residents are foreign-born. According to the Pew Center, 20,000-30,000 of the state's foreign-born residents are unauthorized immigrants. The daylong symposium at Brown allowed researchers, faith leaders and policymakers to come together as a community to discuss local views and attitudes toward immigrants and immigration policy in the state in hopes to work toward a greater awareness of the issue.

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French nun cured of Parkinson's to speak at John Paul II prayer vigil

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The French nun whose healing was accepted as the miracle needed for Pope John Paul II's beatification will share her story with pilgrims at a prayer vigil in Rome the night before the beatification Mass. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal vicar for Rome, said the vigil April 30 would include "the precious testimony" of Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former papal spokesman; Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who was the pope's personal secretary for almost 40 years; and Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, the member of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and believes she was cured in 2005 through the intercession of Pope John Paul. Cardinal Vallini, other officials from the Rome diocese and Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, held a news conference April 5 to discuss the details of Pope John Paul's beatification May 1 and other events surrounding the ceremony. After the prayer vigil at Rome's Circus Maximus, eight churches located between the vigil site and the Vatican will remain open all night for pilgrims to pray, the cardinal said. The cardinal also announced that prayers for the Mass and the office of readings for Pope John Paul's feast day should be approved before the beatification, although he said people will have to wait until the beatification Mass to find out which date will be Pope John Paul's feast day each year. The Vatican, he said, will be "very flexible" in granting permission to use the Blessed John Paul Mass texts around the world.

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Mexican shelter is safe stop for migrants on a dangerous journey

SALTILLO, Mexico (CNS) -- Father Pedro Pantoja never minces words when addressing the guests staying at his migrant shelter, especially when warning them of the pending perils on the remaining 200 miles of their journey from this northern Mexican city to the U.S. border crossing at Laredo, Texas. "You're about to enter the territory of death," he told about 100 mostly Central American guests during an evening gathering at the Belen Inn of the Migrants in late March. "Please don't take the information we're about to give you lightly," he said. While shelters such as Belen continue to house, clothe and feed weary migrants transiting Mexico on their journeys to the United States and offer tips on what to expect upon crossing the border, they now offer a variety of other services. The shelter's staff provides advice on how to stay safe and avoid being kidnapped as well as spiritual, psychological and legal support to migrants who increasingly arrive with horror stories of being robbed, raped and kidnapped by criminal gangs. Among the most notorious outlaws is Los Zetas, the former elite soldiers turned cartel toughs implicated in the massacre of 72 undocumented Central and South Americans on a northern Mexico ranch in August. The new role has put the shelters and staff members at risk, especially because kidnapping of migrants has become a big business for Los Zetas, which security analysts say has taken over the human trafficking networks while corrupting police departments, immigration officials and municipal governments along the routes plied most commonly by migrants.

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Migrant workers face dangers from Mexican gangs in effort to find work

SALTILLO, Mexico (CNS) -- Migrant worker Carlos Vasquez's journey through Mexico to find work in the United States has posed one danger after another. The Honduran was been robbed and assaulted almost immediately after crossing into Mexico from Guatemala. Not long after he was hauled away at gunpoint from the railway line near the Mayan ruins at Palenque and taken to hotel room full of other kidnapped migrants in Villahermosa, Tabasco. "I knew that I was going to die there," Vasquez recalled in late March, while resting at the Belen Inn of the Migrants shelter in Saltillo in northern Mexico. "I thought, 'I have to escape.' Thanks to God, I had the opportunity," he said. Vasquez bolted from the hotel when his guard stepped out for a cigarette. Migrants such as Vasquez frequently fall into the hands of kidnappers as they transit Mexico on their way to the United States. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission reported 11,333 migrants were kidnapped over a six-month period in 2010 as organized criminal groups -- frequently abetted by corrupt cops and public officials -- abduct Central Americans and demand ransoms from the victims' relatives. Vasquez suspects the criminal gang Los Zetas was responsible for his abduction. What became of the other abductees remains a mystery. "I would imagine that they were killed," Vasquez said.

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US-born priest named to lead Australian diocese facing abuse scandal

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- A U.S.-born priest has been appointed to succeed an Australian bishop who sought early retirement saying he felt "battered and worn out" after dealing with the clergy sexual abuse crisis for more than a decade. Bishop-designate William J. Wright, 58, was named the new bishop of Maitland-Newcastle by Pope Benedict XVI April 4. He has been a priest in the Sydney Archdiocese since his ordination in 1977. He succeeds Bishop Michael J. Malone, 71, who wrote to the pope in 2009 appealing for an early retirement and asking for a coadjutor bishop after struggling to cope with the church's sexual abuse scandal for "15 difficult years." Bishop-designate Wright will be ordained in ceremonies at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Newcastle at a yet-to-be determined date. The new bishop was born in Washington Oct. 26, 1952, while his father was on a two-year assignment as an economist for the Australian Central Bank, now the Reserve Bank of Australia. Bishop Malone said in a statement April 4 that he felt "great relief" at being able to retire, and that the diocese "presents the new leader with difficult issues." In a Feb. 3 letter to his diocese, Bishop Malone wrote: "While our diocese has achieved much in recent years, the profile of the church has suffered and our mission has been compromised because of the events we have faced."

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Indian bishop who worked for spiritual renewal declared venerable

COCHIN, India (CNS) -- Syro-Malabar Bishop Thomas Kurialassery, founder of the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, has been declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI. The pope signed a decree April 2 recognizing the virtues of Bishop Kurialassery, who died in 1925, said Adoration Sister Benjamin Mary, vice postulator of the bishop's cause for sainthood. "I've been working as vice postulator for the last seven years," the 70-year-old nun told the Asian church news agency UCA News. "This news makes us happy and proud as he founded the Adoration congregation." Born on January 14, 1873, Bishop Kurialassery was ordained a priest May 27, 1899, and consecrated bishop on Dec. 3, 1911. He ministered in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The prelate worked for spiritual renewal and his apostolic activities were inspired by devotion to the Eucharist. He founded the Adoration congregation in 1908 and died in Rome on June 2, 1925. His body was brought back to Changanacherry in 1935 and interred in St. Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral Church.


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