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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-20-2011

By Catholic News Service


Cities, towns along swollen river prepare for worst, hope for the best

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is the approach being taken by those making decisions about the flooding Mississippi River and the effects of opening spillways to divert floodwater onto farmland to spare towns and cities in its path. When the Army Corps of Engineers opened the first floodgate in the Morganza spillway north of Baton Rouge May 14, evacuation orders were given to those living in the area that would be flooded by the Mississippi's record high waters. Annual notices are sent to people with homes in the flood plain reminding them that their property could be flooded if the spillway is opened. So, the sentiment from most people is they know the situation and the measures that must be taken to protect the major metropolitan areas of Baton Rouge and New Orleans and many other smaller cities in between. More flood gates were being opened to ease the water pressure on the levees lining both sides of the Mississippi River past New Orleans. Because the water was being diverted, flood crests that had been predicted to be at historic levels will be lower. In the Baton Rouge Diocese, Catholic Charities' office of disaster and direct financial assistance of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is included in a daily conference call with state and local officials discussing what actions need to be taken to protect people and property. The diocesan agency's disaster management team "was activated May 5 and has been in daily contact with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and the Emergency Operations Center," said C.J. Roy, who is coordinating Catholic Charities' work with government officials. "We are identifying the areas that are affected and how we can mitigate what is going on," Roy told The Catholic Commentator, Baton Rouge's diocesan newspaper. The Catholic agency is on standby and ready to assist whenever the time comes, Roy added.

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Graduation gift: an improved job outlook for class of 2011

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The graduating class of 2011 is armed with something college graduates haven't seen in the past four years: an improved job outlook. It sure beats a nice briefcase, luggage or jewelry. Employers are planning to hire 19.3 percent more new college graduates this year than last year -- the highest increase since 2007 -- according to a new report released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The report, released May 12, shows an even brighter outlook than the 13 percent increase in the number of college graduate hires it predicted last fall. Starting salaries also are better. In February, the Bethlehem, Pa.-based organization reported that the average starting salary offers for college seniors were up about 3.5 percent from the same time last year -- a first since 2008. These glimmers of good news have not gone unnoticed on college campuses. Gillian Steele, managing director of the career center at Vincentian-run DePaul University in Chicago, said the market for this year's 6,924 graduates looks even better than the National Association of Colleges and Employers' prediction. He said the career center had nearly 50 percent more job postings listed this year than the previous year and more job postings in March than they had since January 2008. Of these job postings, 83 percent were for full-time jobs primarily in professional services, technology, finance, accounting, banking and government and nonprofit sectors.

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Pennsylvania House approves regulations for state's abortion clinics

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation May 12 that would require abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as other outpatient health facilities in the state. The measure, H.B. 574, mandates more stringent fire and safety regulations, personnel and equipment requirements, and adherence to quality assurance procedures as is currently required of the state's ambulatory surgical facilities, such as laser eye surgery centers or colonoscopy clinics. The bill passed by a vote of 148 to 43 and will be sent to the state Senate. It began as a response to a grand jury report that detailed deplorable conditions at the Women's Medical Society, a clinic that Dr. Kermit Gosnell ran in West Philadelphia. The report cited illegal late-term abortions that Gosnell performed there, which led to the death of one woman and at least seven newborn babies. The deaths, according to the report, resulted from "the reckless and illegal manner in which Gosnell operated his clinic." "The investigation of Dr. Gosnell's government-approved clinic revealed filthy, unsafe conditions and evidence that unlicensed workers illegally treated patients," said Amy Hill, communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops. "Basic standards of cleanliness and infection control were not met. The office had no access for a stretcher in the case of an emergency. Exit doors were padlocked shut or blocked, resulting in a delay in the ability to respond in previous emergencies," she said.

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Doctrinal congregation: Small Vatican office has broad reach

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As two recent documents illustrate, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith keeps an eye on almost everything coming out of the Vatican. Although it has fewer than 50 employees, including ushers and receptionists, whatever any Vatican office does or says having to do with faith and morals is a matter that falls under the congregation's gaze. As the heir of the Holy Office of the Inquisition -- and housed in a building still known as the Palace of the Holy Office -- the congregation often is portrayed as an agency almost exclusively dedicated to seeking out errant theologians and condemning their writings. The congregation does review books that bishops' conferences bring to its attention, especially if the book presents itself as explaining Catholic morals or doctrine and is widely used in schools of theology or seminaries. But since Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005 and U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada was appointed to succeed him as the congregation's prefect, the office has issued only one formal public criticism of written works: a notification about two books by a liberation theologian, Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino. More and more, the congregation's pronouncements involve the application of Catholic moral teaching to questions concerning the very beginning and very end of human life. Biotechnology, the use of human embryos, politics and abortion, euthanasia and the care of the dying all have been topics of recent documents.

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Dialogue group praises schools where Catholics, Muslims study together

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Schools where Christians and Muslims study together, as they do at many Catholic schools in the Middle East, should be supported and cherished by both communities because they promote dialogue and lead to real friendships, said dialogue participants. Delegations representing the Vatican and the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies in Jordan met in Rome May 18-19 to discuss "human and religious values shared by Christians and Muslims for a common education." A statement released May 20 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said participants affirmed that "Christians and Muslims share basic human values like the sacred character of human life, human dignity and the fundamental inalienable rights deriving from it." They said even some strictly religious values are shared by Christians and Muslims, although other tenets of faith are not. Religious education programs must make those differences clear, but without "antagonism or conflict," they said. "Helping the youth to be well rooted in their own religious identity," participants said, leads to a secure self-identity that is not threatened by others.

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New app to link people, send prayers to Holy Land

ROME (CNS) -- A new iPad application developed by two priests will send users news, videos and photos from the Holy Land and let people send prayers via "virtual candles." The new app, called "Terra Sancta," was to be launched in English, Spanish, French and Italian at the Apple Store in mid-May, according to a May 18 press release by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Hebrew and Arabic were to be made available at a later date. App users receive news from the custodia.org website as well as videos and high definition photographs produced by the Franciscan Media Center. The application lets users have "information on what is happening in the holy places, news and videos on the life of the custody, and photos of celebrations, events and people," the press release said. The content can be shared on Facebook and Twitter, it said. Users can also "light a candle for the Holy Land" by sending prayers and messages to the custody, it said.

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Allied diplomats pressed Pope Pius to be silent on Nazi deportations

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- U.S. and British diplomats discussed exerting pressure on Pope Pius XII to be silent about the Nazi deportations of Hungarian Jews, according to newly discovered documentation. The British feared that the wartime pope might make a "radio appeal on behalf of the Jews in Hungary" and that in the course of his broadcast would "also criticize what the Russians are doing in occupied territory." Sir Francis D'Arcy Osborne, the British ambassador to the Vatican, told an American diplomat that "something should be done to prevail upon the pope not to do this as it will have very serious political repercussions." Osborne's comments were made to Franklin C. Gowen, an assistant to Myron Taylor, the U.S. special representative to the Vatican. Gowen recorded the conversation in a letter to Taylor, saying he had promised Osborne that he would bring his concerns to the "immediate attention" of the U.S. ambassador. "It was understood that, pending your reaction, he would not take any steps vis-a-vis the Holy See," Gowen told Taylor.

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In Libya, religious continue to offer care, service to migrants

ROME (CNS) -- Despite the worsening crisis in Libya, religious women and men continue to offer pastoral care and desperately needed services to the country's many migrants. Many of the migrants who have stayed behind have lost their jobs and have nowhere else to go, which leaves them searching for food, medicine, clothing and most of all, rent money, said a nun working just outside of Tripoli. Sister Shirley of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary told Catholic News Service May 20 that the livelihood of many immigrants depended on the once-strong presence of diplomats, oil workers and other foreign professionals. After those professionals left, there was little to no work left for the lower-paid immigrant workers, she said. "Everything is so expensive and there are no jobs," she said. "Lots of (migrants) come flocking to the church looking for help," she said. The sisters have been able to give out small amounts of cash and they have been distributing food and other supplies they receive from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees via Tunisia, she said. Foreigners began fleeing Libya in March when NATO forces began airstrikes to quell a civilian uprising. While most immigrants have left the country, some are stuck in Libya or have chosen to stay. "The majority of people who left were in Libya for only a short time or Libya was a transit country for them;" others were too frightened to stay or some had no money to stay on, Sister Shirley said.

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Archbishop Dolan, Rep. Ryan exchange letters on House's budget for 2012

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chief author of the recently passed House budget for 2012 have exchanged letters discussing the moral implications of the federal budget debate. Archbishop Timothy P. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said in a May 18 letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a Catholic who chairs the House Budget committee, that he was pleased to know that consideration was given to the foundational principles of Catholic social teaching in drafting the budget plan. The archbishop's correspondence came in response to an April 29 letter from Ryan, who explained that the needs of the poor, the sick and the elderly were not being ignored and that it was a moral imperative to address the growing federal deficit in the budget as passed in the House. The Senate has yet to take up the budget. Ryan's office released the letters May 19. The House budget has been criticized by some Catholics who have said that it deviates from the basic tenets of Catholic social teaching. Specifically, they have raised concerns about how the plan would change Medicaid funding in the future, particularly harming children and women, how it would reshape Medicare and would likely reduce access to health care for the elderly, and how its plan to reduce the tax rate for high income individuals would fuel the federal deficit. Archbishop Dolan reminded Ryan that any budget must keep the needs of the poor as a priority. He reiterated the guidelines he offered in a Jan. 14 letter to all members of Congress as well as those offered by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, in an April 13 letter to the House as it debated the budget bill.


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