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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-2-2011

By Catholic News Service


Irish Christian Brothers file for bankruptcy; abuse lawsuits blamed

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The Christian Brothers Institute, the legal arm of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection April 28 amid rising expenses for sexual abuse lawsuits. A brief statement by the institute April 29 said the trustees voted unanimously to file for bankruptcy reorganization, after "extensive, prayerful and difficult" deliberation. It said "deficit spending and litigation costs" forced the action. The institute had been running an annual "seven-figure deficit," said the statement, without elaborating on the amount. It added that the economic situation was "exacerbated by legal expenses involving lawsuits" particularly in Seattle and St. John's, Newfoundland. The brothers are the second religious order to file for bankruptcy protection in the United States because of expenses related to sexual abuse cases. The Oregon province of the Society of Jesus agreed in March to pay about $166 million in settlements to 500 people who have sought damages for abuse they said they suffered under Jesuits at schools and parishes in the Northwest. That settlement was part of the order's bankruptcy proceedings.

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New Washington seminary to be named for Blessed Pope John Paul II

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has announced that the new archdiocesan seminary opening for the fall semester will be named for Blessed Pope John Paul II. The seminary, which will be located in Northeast Washington will serve as a college-level pre-theology house of formation, with seminarians attending classes at The Catholic University of America nearby. Cardinal Wuerl said the seminary will be blessed on Oct. 22, the feast day of Blessed John Paul and the anniversary of his installation as pope in 1978. Plans for the seminary were announced in October 2010, and the permits necessary to complete the renovation of the structure that will house the seminary were recently finalized. Seminarians for the archdiocese will begin their formation through the new seminary in August, and renovation of the building is scheduled to be completed in October. Currently, 67 men are studying for the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Washington, including 29 in college and pre-theology studies. Renovation work is under way at the new seminary, which formerly housed archdiocesan offices for Carroll Publishing and the Office of Youth Ministry, which are now in downtown Silver Spring, Md.

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Southern dioceses cope with aftermath of worst storms in decades

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Southern U.S. Catholic dioceses are seeking aid for those shattered by the violent storms and devastating tornadoes that tore through their region in late April, killing more than 350 people. Officials from several dioceses told Catholic News Service that they are also busy assessing damage to church buildings and schools, and several special collections have been started to help those in need. In an April 29 letter, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Ala., asked all pastors in his archdiocese to hold a second collection at Masses over the weekend to assist tornado victims, especially in the neighboring Diocese of Birmingham, which covers the northern portion of Alabama, home to the hardest hit cities of Birmingham, Cullman and Tuscaloosa. Birmingham Bishop Robert J. Baker has toured some tornado-ravaged areas in his diocese and comforted survivors of the devastating storms, but diocesan officials are still determining the extent of the damage, said Mary A. Crockett, managing editor of One Voice, newspaper of the Diocese of Birmingham. Pope Benedict XVI also sent his prayers and support to victims and those engaged in relief and rebuilding efforts in the region in a May 2 letter to Archbishop Rodi from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state.

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A year after Nashville floods survivors relive memories, vow to move on

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- With strong storms tracking through Middle Tennessee all too often in recent weeks, bringing tornado watches, power outages and flash flood warnings, many are reliving painful memories as the anniversary of the great flood of 2010 looms. "It's like a flashback. It's very unnerving," said Mary Margaret Lambert, whose father, Joseph Formosa, and stepmother, Bessie Formosa, died in the flood. She is executive secretary to Nashville Bishop David R. Choby. The Formosas were two of 11 people in the Nashville area who lost their lives when the floodwaters quickly swallowed entire neighborhoods that first weekend of May last year. The floods also damaged 68,000 homes and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage to the city. With the help of regular counseling, journaling, the strong support of family and friends and her faith in God, Lambert is slowly making her way through the grief. "I don't understand how people who don't have faith get through something like this," said Lambert, a parishioner at St. Henry Church. "There was such a tremendous response from Catholic parishes in the diocese and beyond that was really touching."

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Catholic offertory giving may have rebounded after recessionary lull

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic parishes seemed to have weathered the recession of 2008, according to a study issued April 27.The study, "Holy Toll," conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, part of the interfaith Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, noted that more than half -- 57 percent -- of Catholic parishes said their offertory collections had declined either "a lot or a little" during the recession. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.The Catholic numbers, gleaned from earlier research conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, also said 13 percent of parishes studied indicated their offertory revenues had dipped but then rebounded, while 30 percent said they saw no change or had grown. Asked about their current financial situation, an equal percentage of parishes -- 40 percent each -- said it was "good or excellent" or "tight," while the remaining 20 percent said their parish was experiencing "some" or "serious" difficulty. The Catholic numbers would appear to mirror that of 26 other denominational groups, the vast majority of them Christian, studied in "Holy Toll: The Impact of the 2008 Recession on American Congregations." Frank Butler, president of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, told Catholic News Service in an April 26 telephone interview that the size of Catholic parishes compared to congregations of other faiths may help shield it from the impact of an economic downturn.

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Vatican says bin Laden's death cause for reflection, not rejoicing

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican said the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, a man who sowed division and hatred and who caused "innumerable" deaths, should prompt serious reflection about one's responsibility before God, not rejoicing. The Vatican statement May 2 came the day after President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed bin Laden in an attack on his hideout in northwest Pakistan. In several U.S. cities, the news prompted street demonstrations and expressions of jubilation. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, released a brief written statement reacting to the news. "Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end," Father Lombardi said. "In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred."

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Pope Benedict beatifies Pope John Paul 'because of his faith'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "John Paul II is blessed because of his faith -- a strong, generous and apostolic faith," Pope Benedict XVI said May 1 just minutes after formally beatifying his predecessor. Italian police said that for the Mass more than 1 million people were gathered in and around the Vatican and in front of large video screens in several parts of the city. Many in the crowd had personal stories about seeing Pope John Paul or even meeting him, and Pope Benedict ended his homily at the Mass sharing his own personal story. "I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II," he said. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1982 until his election in 2005, Pope Benedict said he "came to revere" the Polish pope as he worked at his side. "His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry," Pope Benedict said. After the Mass, Pope Benedict went into St. Peter's Basilica and knelt in prayer for four minutes before Blessed John Paul's casket.

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At vigil, young and old remember Pope John Paul as spiritual model

ROME (CNS) -- With songs, videos, testimonials and prayers, Catholics of every age and many countries gathered in Rome to remember Pope John Paul II on the eve of his beatification. "I feel him present here in the Circus Maximus," the pope's former secretary, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow told the crowd in Rome's ancient racetrack April 30. "I feel him returning tonight." The vigil began with a two-minute video clip of Pope John Paul talking to young people in 2000, struggling at first to find the words and then bantering easily, to the delight of the crowd. The video set the evening's tone of remembrance, and it was followed by a torchlight procession to an image of Mary, evoking the late pope's special devotion to the mother of Jesus. The vigil featured a live satellite link-up to five Marian sanctuaries around the world, including the pope's former Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland. Pope Benedict XVI closed the event with a prayer to Mary and a blessing, telecast live from the papal apartment at the Vatican. The crowd on a wet evening was small at first but swelled to an estimated 200,000.

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For many, Pope John Paul's humanity made him a more accessible saint

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Throughout his 26-year pontificate, Pope John Paul paid attention not only to world leaders but also to the "little people" and what was on their minds. On his journeys outside the Vatican, he would chat with workers, visit the sick and make pilgrimage to even the most humble of local shrines. More than once, he stepped off the official papal motorcade route to drop in on families in Africa and Latin America. He sipped tea in their huts, and once, after visiting a Brazilian shantytown, he took off his papal ring and left it to be sold for the benefit of the local residents. He opened a hostel for the poor inside the Vatican, and personally hosted the homeless for holiday dinners. In Rome, he visited the most out-of-the-way parishes and spent the better part of his Sundays with parishioners. Everywhere he went, Pope John Paul seemed to imbibe the local culture and embrace its expressions. He did this in the simplest of gestures: donning a tribal headdress in Kenya, swinging a hockey stick in St. Louis or drinking a pepper-root brew from a coconut shell in Fiji.

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Legionaries of Christ join in tributes to Pope John Paul

ROME (CNS) -- At the door of the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University, priests and seminarians welcomed former Vatican officials and other important guests in the days leading to the beatification of Pope John Paul II . Like other religious communities in Rome, the Legionaries of Christ joined in the joy and enthusiasm of the May 1 ceremony. The Legionaires seemed untroubled by critics who view the sex abuse scandal of the order's founder, the late Mexican Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, as a black mark on Pope John Paul's pontificate. "The Vatican cleared all this up. The postulator (of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause) cleared it up. They did an investigation and said that the pope had nothing at all to do with this episode," said Father Pedro Barrajon, the rector of the Legionaries' university. Father Barrajon said the fallout from the sex abuse revelations about Father Maciel did not diminish the happiness felt by priests and seminarians at the late pope's beatification. "At least for me, it's not a problem," he said.

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Thousands return to Vatican to give thanks for pope's beatification

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the same square where Pope John Paul II was shot by a would-be assassin almost 30 years ago, thousands of people returned to thank God for the gift of his life and for his beatification. "We can never forget that 30 years ago, in this very square, he gave his blood for the cause of Christ," his longtime personal secretary, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, told an estimated 60,000 people gathered May 2 for the thanksgiving Mass. A Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot Pope John Paul May 13, 1981, while the pope was riding through the square during his weekly general audience. A silver reliquary containing a vial of Blessed John Paul's blood was carried into St. Peter's Square at the beginning of the procession of 30 cardinals and 150 bishops who concelebrated the Mass. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, presided over the thanksgiving Mass. He thanked "the Lord for having given us a pastor like him" and for "having given us a witness like him."

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Long lines of pilgrims pay last respects to Blessed John Paul

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 250,000 people visited Blessed John Paul II's mortal remains on the day of his beatification. At the end of the May 1 beatification Mass, Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals and other dignitaries knelt and prayed at the foot of the closed wooden casket; many kissed and caressed the recently cleaned and polished wood. Once the dignitaries left, a thick velvet rope was put around the casket and the public was allowed to stream up the right side and down the left side of St. Peter's Basilica. Ushers kept the crowds moving swiftly, leaving many with little time to linger. Moving the crowds so quickly meant many pilgrims who were in the square after the beatification only had to wait 30 minutes to get in to see the casket. The Vatican said that within 13 hours May 1-2, some 250,000 people passed by the casket to pay their respects before the basilica closed at 3 a.m. Hundreds of people handed ushers notes and flowers that were set behind the casket. The public viewing resumed again in the afternoon of May 2 after a Mass of thanksgiving for the Polish pope in St. Peter's Square.

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Libyan bishop invokes Blessed Pope John Paul in peace prayer

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The top church official in Libya said he was praying to Blessed Pope John Paul II for peace and an end to civilian casualties in the North African country. Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli also questioned the morality of the NATO airstrikes against the residence of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The attack April 30 reportedly killed one of Gadhafi's sons and three of his grandchildren, but the Libyan leader was said to be unharmed. "The bombs, as precise as the aim can be, lead to civilian victims. Bombs are immoral. I wonder also whether it is moral to kill a head of state. What right do we have to do so?" Bishop Martinelli told the Vatican missionary news agency Fides April 30. He said several people had reported to him earlier that day several other bombings had caused civilian casualties.

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Asian church leaders warn of possible backlash after bin Laden's death

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- A retired archbishop said Pakistani Christians could suffer a backlash after the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, but it also might return balance to the nation. In India and Philippines, Catholic leaders also warned of backlash. "We are a soft target as they cannot attack America," said retired Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan. He told the Asian church news agency UCA News that, despite the risk of short-term retaliation against Christians, bin Laden's killing could return balance to Pakistan's society. He said he hoped the killing of world's most-wanted terrorist would reduce the militant radicalism that has engulfed Pakistan in recent years. In India, Father Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, prayed the al-Qaida leader's death would not lead to retaliatory attacks. "The church never endorses violence or associates with violence," he added. The head of the Bangladeshi bishops' Christian unity commission also expressed concern about Bin Laden's death. "No killing is welcomed. A criminal should be brought to trials and be duly prosecuted," said Bishop Bejoy D'Cruze of Khulna.

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Church needs blogs, bloggers need church, say meeting participants

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs active members who blog, but Catholic bloggers also need the church, especially to remind them of the virtue of charity needed in their writing, said participants at a Vatican meeting. The gathering May 2 was sponsored by the pontifical councils for culture and for social communications. The councils accepted requests to attend, then drew the names of the 150 participants once the requests were divided according to geography, language and whether the blog was personal or institutional. Richard Rouse, an official at the culture council, said news of the meeting already has encouraged other church officials to begin a dialogue with local bloggers. The meeting, he said, was not designed as a how-to seminar, and it was not aimed at developing a code of conduct, but rather to acknowledge the role of blogs in modern communications and to start a dialogue between the bloggers and the Vatican.

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Pope removes bishop who expressed openness to ordaining women

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI removed Australian Bishop William M. Morris of Toowoomba from office five years after he wrote a pastoral letter indicating he would be open to ordaining women and married men if church rules changed to allow such a possibility. In a brief statement May 2, the Vatican said, "The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has relieved His Excellency Msgr. William M. Morris of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Toowoomba." The formulation indicated that Bishop Morris had not offered his letter of resignation. The Vatican did not explain the pope's decision, but in the past has made it clear that the Catholic Church considers it a matter of faith that Jesus chose only men to be his apostles and, therefore, the church is not free to ordain women. In an open letter to Catholics in his diocese released May 1, Bishop Morris said the 2006 letter "has been misread and, I believe, deliberately misinterpreted" by a small group within the diocese. He said he did not offer to resign as "a matter of conscience" because "my resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as breaking 'communio,' which I absolutely refute and reject."

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Small miracles happen at beatification celebrations, pilgrims say

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Blessed Pope John Paul II worked a number of miracles at his beatification, some pilgrims said. Weather forecasts of a weekend of heavy rains turned into innocuous grey clouds April 30 and then sunny skies May 1. "We prayed to John Paul that it wouldn't rain," said Josephine Faehrmann from Sydney, Australia, who was planning to sleep outside with her friends. Also, mysterious benefactors with a special devotion to the Polish pope paid for a bus full of young people from Naples to attend the ceremonies "because John Paul II loved young people and we had to be here," Rosa Giordano said. Each of the more than one million people of every age, background and nationality attending the April 30 vigil in Circus Maximus and May 1 beatification in St. Peter's Square had his or her own story of pilgrimage. Danila Fabrizio, another member of the group that left Naples at 1 a.m. May 1 on the benefactor's bus, said, "This is a sign of God's providence that we're here."

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Retired Spanish Cardinal Garcia-Gasco dies in Rome

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Spanish Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente of Valencia, 80, was found dead May 1 just hours before he was to go to St. Peter's Square for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Vatican Radio reported that the cardinal had attended the beatification prayer vigil the night of April 30 without any sign of difficulty. His death early the next morning at the guesthouse where he was staying in Rome was presumed to be the result of a heart attack. He was named archbishop of Valencia in 1992, was created a cardinal in 2007 and retired in 2009. A former auxiliary bishop of Madrid, he also had served as secretary-general of the Spanish bishops' conference. Born in Corral de Almaguer in 1931, he was ordained a priest in 1956.


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