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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-20-2011

By Catholic News Service


Faith-filled surfer inspires Hollywood star, director

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- When Dennis Quaid agreed to star in the new film "Soul Surfer," it represented a career first: the only time the actor had ever accepted a role before reading the script. The film tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who continued to compete even after losing her left arm in a shark attack in 2003 when she was 13 years old. Quaid and Helen Hunt star as Bethany's parents, Tom and Cheri Hamilton. Just five days before accepting the role, Quaid had seen Hamilton, now 21, interviewed on NBC's "Today" show, where she was promoting her autobiographical book. As he watched Hamilton tell her story, he said, he was amazed by her positive outlook on life. "I live in awe of someone like Bethany," Quaid told The Southern Cross, San Diego diocesan newspaper, in an April 5 phone interview. He said "Soul Surfer" shows how a person can respond with faith and courage when "life throws up barriers in front of us." He said: "Sometimes unfair things happen to really good people. What do you do with that? Do you give up? Or do you pick yourself up and turn it into a positive, turn it into a bump in the road of life, which is what Bethany did?" Quaid is no stranger to fact-based sports dramas featuring characters whose persistence enables them to overcome incredible challenges. In 2002, he starred in "The Rookie," the true story of a 35-year-old baseball coach and married father of three who enters the major leagues at an age when many players are considering retirement. Like "The Rookie," which suggested that the intercession of St. Rita may have had something to do with the protagonist's second chance, "Soul Surfer" also has a spiritual component.

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Veteran of pro-life movement sees 'mood change' in US on abortion

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Joseph Scheidler, regarded by many as the "godfather of the pro-life movement," sees the mood shifting in the United States on the abortion issue and predicts pro-lifers eventually "will prevail." He said: "There is a mood change in the country. A lot of our legislators are actually getting backbone and they are beginning to stand up for the rights for the unborn." The president and founder of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, Scheidler made the comments in a recent telephone interview with Catholic News Service. In Chicago in early April, more than 400 people paid tribute to him at an evening banquet organized by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society. Scheidler, along with his wife, Ann, and their son, Eric, listened to several speakers tell stories, share humorous anecdotes and offer words of praise for his decades of pro-life activism. "The polls now show that the majority of people call themselves pro-life. There has been a lot of media exposure with Planned Parenthood and it has exposed a lot on abortion. It's becoming more and more of a negative thing than it was in 1973," Scheidler told CNS, referring to the year of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. The recent focus on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has occurred as a result of the budget debates on Capitol Hill and demands from pro-life groups that the organization no longer receive federal funding. A resolution to amend federal appropriations bills for the current fiscal year to exclude any funding for Planned Parenthood or its affiliates passed in the House April 14 but failed in the Senate later that day.

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North Carolina bishop asks prayers for tornado victims, survivors

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh urged Catholics in the diocese to include in their prayers for Holy Week a special intention for the victims and survivors of the deadly tornadoes that ripped through portions of the diocese April 16. According to the National Weather Service, 25 tornadoes swept through North Carolina. On April 20, a 50-year-old woman died of injuries she suffered in the storm, bringing the death toll to 24. It was estimated that more than 800 homes were damaged or destroyed. President Barack Obama declared 18 counties to be a major disaster area. Bishop Burbidge directed the Raleigh Diocese's 95 parishes and mission churches to hold a special collection with the money to be dedicated entirely to disaster relief. In a video message posted to the diocesan website, www.dioceseofraleigh.org, the bishop noted that while pictures of the devastation are dramatic, the fact that people's lives have been traumatically affected is much more significant. "In a matter of seconds," Bishop Burbidge said, "many lost all their possessions, some were badly injured and sadly several lost their lives." Four fatalities were children who lived in the same home in a mobile home park. Two were 8 years old, one was 3 and one was 6 months old. An evening funeral Mass for the four was being celebrated at St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Raleigh April 20.

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Catholics need to be awake to reality of evil, pope says at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was asking every believer throughout history to remain awake to the reality of God and to the reality of sin, Pope Benedict XVI said. Jesus' request that his disciples keep watch was "a permanent message for all times because the drowsiness of his disciples was not just a problem in that moment; it is a problem throughout history," the pope said April 20. Explaining the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter to an estimated 13,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said the drowsiness that Jesus warns all believers against is "a certain insensitivity of the soul to the power of evil, insensitivity to all the evil in the world; we don't want to let ourselves be too bothered by these things. We want to forget them or we try to think they aren't so serious." But, the pope said, the lack of awareness about evil is the flip side of an equal lack of awareness about the presence and love of God. "This is our real drowsiness," the pope said. "We don't feel God's presence, it would disturb us," so we "stay on the path of our own comfort. We must also stay vigilant in order to do good, to struggle on behalf of the force of goodness."

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Local clinics fulfill vital role in Haiti's strained health care system

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- Yvrose Jacques uses her one leg to roll her wheelchair out of the hospital ward and onto the veranda at the LaKu LaPe Clinic to get a little fresh air and look up at the clear blue sky. A smile crosses her face as visitors approach. She extends a hand for a warm embrace. Yes, she's happy, the 63-year-old Jacques says. She's happy to be alive. Never mind that her two-bedroom home was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake and that she, her 27-year-old daughter and her granddaughter now live in a tent, facing the heat of day and the tropical downpours with a thin layer of canvas over their heads. "I cannot afford to build a new house," she says. "I'm just waiting." Never mind that just weeks earlier, her life was in peril after she contracted cholera near the height of the epidemic that swept across Haiti. Never mind that, as the effects of the water-borne disease subsided, her right leg began to swell. Then gangrene set in. Doctors discovered the blood flow in her leg was not normal and that they would have to amputate the limb at the knee. Jacques was recovering at the clinic, run by the Missionaries of Charity Brothers, on the edge of notorious Cite Soleil. She cares for her granddaughter at the clinic so her daughter can go to work. Brother Rajit Kumar Dungdung, clinic director, thought that would be better than having Jacques stay in her tattered tent with the child. "I feel at home," she says.

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Three-year-old rural clinic focuses on compassion in care

PETITE-RIVIERE-DE-NIPPES, Haiti (CNS) -- Beyond a few hospitals, quality health care facilities in Haiti are scarce. It's the clinics -- some big, some small -- that provide the bulk of health care Haitians receive. One such clinic is located 70 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in the rural community of Petite-Riviere-de-Nippes. The three-year-old Visitation Clinic -- a project of the Visitation Hospital Foundation in Nashville, Tenn. -- sees about 70 patients a day. Most have common illnesses -- gastro-intestinal ailments, urinary tract infections or a slight infection, all typically caused by ingesting contaminated water. In a country where access to health care is limited, having a clinic nearby can mean the difference between a mild illness or something more serious. Many patients are children whose parents are glad the clinic opened in their seafront town because it saves them from making the 45-minute, 10-mile trip over sometimes rocky unpaved roads to St. Therese Hospital in Miragoane. Dr. Rony Jean-Francois has worked at the clinic since it opened in 2008. He left a hospital in Port-au-Prince to work among people who have few other alternatives for care. "I'm proud of my work because I'm giving service. It's a gift to be part of it. I can bring my competence to a community that is by itself without help," the 43-year-old physician said.

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Jerusalem's Christian leaders pray for Mideast reforms, minority rights

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- In their joint Easter message, the heads of Christian churches of Jerusalem turned their attention to the unrest in the Middle East, noting the need to respect the rights of the minorities in the region. "We pray for reforms that will lead to a modern civil society, where freedom of expression, religion and human rights -- including the rights of those considered minority in number are respected," they said in their message, released April 19. "We call on all peoples of faith and good will to pursue peace, while recognizing that this peace cannot be obtained at the price of silence and submission to corruption and injustice." They also urged all Christians to "pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land," where they said the "deteriorating situation" was "making peace and justice seem further away than ever before." The church leaders related Christ's passion to the current situation. "The violence, when it erupts, reminds us that the cross of Christ is ever present for the faithful followers of the prince of peace. The crucifixion is an ongoing reality for many of our clergy and people who continue to seek to live with mutual understanding and cooperation with their neighbors," they said.

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Vatican withdraws recognition of international Catholic press group

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pontifical Council for the Laity has withdrawn the canonical recognition of the International Catholic Union of the Press as a Catholic organization because of operational irregularities. "It is a disaster from a functional point of view," said Guzman Carriquiry, undersecretary of the council. Carriquiry told Catholic News Service April 20 that the council's decision had nothing to do with questions involving faith or morals but were motivated by questions involving the rights of members and the transparency of UCIP's staff and top officers. "For too long, the association has not functioned, and too many Catholic journalists and organizations have abandoned it for this reason," he said. In a letter March 23, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, council president, and Bishop Josef Clemens, council secretary, outlined the Vatican concerns to Bernhard Sassmann, UCIP president. The council sent copies of the letter to UCIP members March 25. Contacted by CNS April 20 while he was traveling in Spain, Sassmann said UCIP would release a detailed statement after Easter, because the laity council's action was based on "misinformation and lies, which are awful for me." The letter from Cardinal Rylko and Bishop Clemens said the laity council, in consultation with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Vatican Secretariat of State, revoked its "recognition decree" and "from now on, the UCIP will have to remove from its name the adjective Catholic."

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Irish cardinal to attend Prince William's wedding

ARMAGH, Northern Ireland (CNS) -- Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh will attend the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in what a church spokesman has described as an unprecedented move. While it is customary for British Catholic prelates to attend royal ceremonies, Cardinal Brady is the first senior Irish churchman to attend a British royal function. Edinburgh Cardinal Keith O'Brien will represent Scottish Catholics while Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster will represent Catholics from England and Wales. An Irish church spokesman attributed the invitation to Cardinal Brady's contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. His Armagh Archdiocese straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and is seen as a symbol of reconciliation on the divided island. Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II's grandson, will marry Middleton in London's Westminster Abbey April 29. Middleton, who is not of noble birth, will be ennobled on the day of the wedding and is expected to be named a duchess as well as receiving the honorary title of princess.

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Armed robbers attack Jesuit community at Ivory Coast theology school

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (CNS) -- Armed robbers attacked the faculty of a Jesuit-run theology school in the Ivorian capital, injuring one person and ransacking the private rooms of individual priests. Jesuit Father Michael Lewis, president of the Superiors of Africa and Madagascar for the Jesuits, said in an email to Catholic News Service that the robbers stormed the Institute of Theology of the Company of Jesus April 17 as the priests were preparing for dinner. Deacon Herve-Noel Kanziama was beaten and physically abused during the incident, Father Lewis reported. Students were not at the school at the time, having been sent out of the country about two months ago as fighting intensified between army forces and militia supporting President-elect Alassane Ouattara and security personnel and mercenaries loyal to outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo. Ouattara was declared the winner of elections in November, but Gbagbo refused to leave office. French and U.N. forces on the ground in Abidjan arrested Gbagbo April 11 after an assault on his residence in Abidjan. The robbers entered school grounds by jumping over a security wall and quickly disarmed the guards on duty, Father Lewis wrote. The Jesuits at the school reported that the robbers stole everything of value, including computers, cellphones, a television and personal possessions.


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