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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-10-2011

By Catholic News Service


NBC family-friendly film explores issue of bullying, ways to respond

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Kit Johansen has been working on anti-bullying initiatives in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., since 2006 to raise schools' and parishes' awareness about the problem and to let children know they are not powerless in the face of bullying. Now the coordinator of the diocesan Office of Serving Children hopes a new made-for-TV movie on the issue will make a positive contribution to bullying prevention. Johansen attended a screening of the film "Field of Vision" in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with children ranging from "Peewee football ages" to those in the first years of high school. In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service June 6, she said she could "feel the energy" throughout the theater and that the youths were overall "very engaged" with the film and responsive to its underlying message. "Field of Vision," set to air June 11 on NBC at 8 p.m. EDT, explores the theme of bullying in schools and how standing up for what's right pays off, despite the difficulties of doing so. The movie, available on DVD in months to come, is part of an initiative called "Family Movie Night," backed by Procter & Gamble and Walmart. According to a news release, the companies launched the initiative in April 2010 to produce family-friendly entertainment in response to research showing there is a demand among parents in the United States for such programming. "Field of Vision" tells the story of how high school quarterback Tyler McFarland learns through some footage captured on an old video camera that his teammates have been bullying a new transfer student Cory Walker, who has a troubled past. Tyler is faced with a decision: Should he stand up to his teammates to help Cory or not? If he tells the football coach, his teammates could be kicked off the team, which could cost the school the state championship.

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Religion may play crucial role in 2012 campaign, as it has in past

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As seven Republican candidates for president prepared for a June 13 debate in New Hampshire and others waited in the wings, there were signs that religion will play as big a role in the 2012 election as it has in other recent campaigns. Many of the declared or potential candidates lined up in Washington June 3-4 to address a "strategy briefing" sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization headed by Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, and to pledge their commitment to the coalition's views on abortion, same-sex marriage and similar social issues. Polling in early June by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., showed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had more support among Republican or Republican-leaning independent voters than any other GOP candidate, with 25 percent. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who is not an official candidate, received support from 15 percent of the poll respondents, with businessman Herman Cain at 9 percent. But another part of the Quinnipiac survey offered less promising information to the Romney campaign. Asked to assess their comfort level with the faith of presidential candidates, 36 percent of the poll respondents said they felt somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with a Mormon candidate. Only 13 percent said they would be uncomfortable with a Catholic candidate, while 59 percent said they would not be comfortable with a Muslim candidate and 60 percent said a candidate who was an atheist would make them uncomfortable.

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Panelists say faith-based groups lead the way in addressing AIDS crisis

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Despite challenging cutbacks in funding, faith-based organizations remain at the international forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and patient advocacy, according to speakers at a panel discussion June 8 at Holy Family Church in New York. The work of faith-based organizations underpins the human dignity of people who live with HIV and AIDS and of their families, they said. "Faith-Based Action to Achieve Universal Access" was sponsored by the Catholic Medical Mission Board, Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic HIV/AIDS Network. It was held in conjunction with the U.N. General Assembly's high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS June 8-10. Dr. Paul De Lay, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, the joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, said the world body had a goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programs, treatment, care and support for the millions of people affected by the virus. He said 6.6 million people were taking anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS at the end of 2010 and 9 million more still needed the treatment. "Universal access is not about what happens," he said, "but who it happens to. How do we reach the people who don't have information, knowledge and access, the people who are deliberately excluded?" De Lay said faith-based organizations excel at prevention and treatment efforts but have been underutilized by the international community. Becky Johnson, a consultant with Catholic HIV/AIDS Network, said funding cuts for successful global programs threatened to rescind commitments made by U.N. member states. Faith-based organizations need long-term funding commitments to sustain their level of success.

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Strong faith, prayer credited in 9-year-old girl's recovery from cancer

GREENVILLE, R.I. (CNS) -- With quiet confidence, Sydney Khoury climbed each step of a metal ladder as she positioned herself to place a crown of flowers atop a statue of Mary at St. Philip Church. It was a bit of a reach for Sydney, but with determination, the 9-year-old extended her arms, carefully placing her tribute atop the head of the mother of Jesus for the church's May crowning this year. A short distance away, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin watched admiringly as the St. Philip School second-grader successfully met yet another challenge in her young life. Three years ago, Bishop Tobin also witnessed Sydney overcome one her greatest challenges. At that time, as she lay in the intensive care unit of Hasbro Children's Hospital with her life hanging in the balance, the bishop prayed over her with a relic of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. Sydney's parents say the prayerful intervention yielded results nothing short of miraculous, because very quickly after the blessing she began the road to recovery. While he is cautious about attributing Sydney's recovery solely to divine intervention, Bishop Tobin said the day he visited her in the hospital was a powerful day indeed. "I always tend to be skeptical of these divine interventions, but it is very clear to me that something very special happened that day," Bishop Tobin told the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Providence Diocese.

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Pope erects Chaldean eparchy in Toronto; Archbishop Zora to lead it

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has erected a new Chaldean Catholic eparchy in Toronto and named Archbishop Hanna Zora, who has worked with Catholics in Toronto for nearly 20 years, as its head. The new eparchy, or diocese, will be known as the Eparchy of Mar Addai. In making the announcement, the Vatican said there are 38,000 Chaldean Catholics in Canada. Archbishop Zora, 74, and four priests have been involved in the pastoral care of Toronto-area Catholics, the largest community. On May 28, Chaldean Catholic officials consecrated Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Toronto. Led by Archbishop Zora, the growing Toronto Chaldean community rented out churches and parish halls to celebrate Mass before the construction of the church in 2001. Masses were held in the parish hall, however, until 2009, when the church was partially consecrated, meaning that Mass could be celebrated in the parish but that an official consecration was still required. Archbishop Zora was born in Batnaia, Iraq, March 15, 1939. He was ordained in 1962 and worked in various Iraqi parishes before being transferred to Iran in 1969.

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Water fight: A new Catholic issue emerges in Italy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A referendum in Italy has spotlighted an emerging social justice issue for the Catholic Church: access to safe water as a basic human right. Italians were going to the polls June 12-13 to decide whether to revoke a decree that imposed the privatization of water resources. The issue has stirred an unusually intense debate, with church leaders arguing that water is the archetypal "gift from God" that should not be polluted by the profit motive. On June 9, a group of more than 100 missionary priests and nuns fasted and prayed in St. Peter's Square to underline their support for the referendum and their opposition to the privatization of water. Beneath Pope Benedict XVI's windows, they unfurled a giant banner reading: "Lord, help us save the water!" The next day, the Vatican's Cardinal Peter Turkson weighed in. Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said water distribution should be a service provided by governments to their citizens as part of their role in protecting the common good. Some 25 Italian dioceses have signed an appeal asking for a "yes" vote to preserve water as a universally shared resource. Franciscans in Assisi have asked prayers and action in defense of "sister water." Bishop Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference, said recently that access to clean water supplies was a "fundamental human right, connected to the very right to life." He warned that privatization efforts have seen multinational companies "turn water into business" to the detriment of the wider population.

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Vatican experts say tomb shows how Christian art grew from pagan Rome

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A newly restored third-century family tomb shows the gradual flowering of Christian funerary art as it grew out of ancient Rome's multireligious and pagan cultures, said members of a Vatican archaeological commission. While early Christian catacombs offer clearer examples of early Christian iconography, the burial chambers of the Aureli family are more complicated and confusing in that they mix pagan, Christian and Gnostic symbolism, representing "an evolving cultural process" at work in Rome at the time, said the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology at the unveiling of the tomb June 9. The figures on the tomb's walls are "the first step toward the religious transformation of the city" of Rome, from being a rich mix of pagan cults, Jewish thought and Christianity to a culture that came to embrace Christianity both as a religion and a new source of ideas and art, said Msgr. Giovanni Carru, commission secretary. The white walls of the three burial chambers are decorated with great philosophers, colorful animals and bucolic scenery, and scenes from Homer's "The Odyssey." There are also fragmentary images of a woman seated with a snake underfoot and a man creating smaller men by his side. There is much debate over who these figures could be: either Eve in the Garden of Eden and the creation of Adam or a nymph in the garden of the Hesperides and Prometheus creating man, said Fabrizio Bisconti, the commission's archaeological superintendent.

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Vatican clarifies excommunication penalty for unauthorized ordinations

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican said bishops' ordinations that are not authorized by the pope generally bring the penalty of automatic excommunication, but there can be mitigating circumstances -- including fear of reprisal, necessity or serious inconvenience. The clarification, issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, appeared to respond to the situation of recent ordinations of bishops in China against the orders of Pope Benedict XVI. The text was published June 10 by L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. In China, the most recent ordinations have involved bishops loyal to the Vatican, who were said to have been intimidated or forced to participate as ordaining ministers. The normal penalty for participation in such an ordination is automatic excommunication. The Vatican clarification said that while unauthorized ordination is always a grave crime against church law, automatic excommunication would not apply in certain circumstances, in particular if the participating bishop acted "out of grave fear, even relatively grave, or out of necessity or out of serious inconvenience." Such circumstances need to be verified and evaluated for each participant, it said, and in the end "each of them knows in their heart the degree of their personal involvement" and therefore whether the penalty of excommunication applies. However, the Vatican added, the issue does not end there. Ordaining bishops without a papal mandate is such a serious crime that the very act provokes scandal and confusion among the faithful, and this scandal must be repaired through acts of communion and penitence, it said.

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Diplomats need to be loyal, respectful, not crafty, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Diplomats need to be loyal, consistent and respectful, not crafty and cunning, Pope Benedict XVI said. Being sent on behalf of a nation to represent its views and to listen to another nation's concerns is a delicate mission, he told a group of papal diplomats. The emissary needs to be able to communicate his country's position accurately and effectively and yet at the same time be respectful of the sensibilities and opinions of others, he said in a June 10 audience with priest-students graduating from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican's school for diplomats. "Loyalty, consistency and deep humanity are the fundamental virtues of any envoy," he said, not, as is often mistakenly believed, "craftiness or attitudes that represent rather the degeneration of diplomatic practice." Vatican diplomats are unique in that they are priests or bishops and are already dedicated to living their lives in service to others and representing "a word that is not their own," but of the Gospel. Vatican nuncios, apostolic delegates and pontifical representatives are called to exercise both their human and spiritual skills, he said. They must nurture their spiritual life as well as be virtuous and cultured, he said.

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Vatican hopes postponed event marks end to illicit ordinations in China

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican said it hoped the postponement of an illicit episcopal ordination in the diocese of Hankou would mark the end to all ordinations without papal approval in China. The Vatican confirmed the planned illicit ordination of Father Joseph Shen Guoan was postponed indefinitely; he was to have been ordained bishop of Hankou, or Wuhan, June 9. Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service June 10 that the Vatican hopes "this kind of ordination without the permission of the pope doesn't ever happen again." There was no new date set for the ordination or explanation for the postponement. The postponement came after the Hong Kong-born secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples urged priests and bishops in China to show "some backbone" and resist government pressure to disobey the pope. In an interview with the Rome-based AsiaNews June 3, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai said he had been aware of the planned illicit ordination in Hankou and that he knew the faithful there had been urging the government and the Chinese Patriotic Association not to go through with the ordination. He said he would want to tell Father Shen: "I trust you to act the right way. The only thing to do is to refuse."

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Priest reports curbs on religious activities intensify in northern Laos

LUANG PRABANG, Laos (CNS) -- Curbs on religious activities around Luang Prabang province have intensified following a series of protests in May by ethnic Christians across the border in Vietnam, said a Vietnamese priest working in Laos. "We are deeply concerned about the future of the Luang Prabang Apostolic Vicariate where religious activities are limited, local Catholics are closely watched and vocations are few," Father Raphael Tran Xuan Nhan told the Asian church news agency UCA News June 9. Development of the apostolic vicariate has been hindered by dozens of years of communist rule, he said. Father Nhan, 57, from the Vinh Diocese in central Vietnam, has worked in Laos for years and established Legion of Mary groups in the communist-led country. He said that since 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao rose to power after the Laotian civil war, the apostolic vicariate has produced just one native priest and no nuns. The priest said Luang Prabang provincial authorities try to limit local travel of Catholics, who are required to inform village authorities when they want to leave their communities. The situation is worse for ethnic Hmong Christians, who demanded religious freedom in an early May demonstration in Vietnam's Dien Bien province, which borders Luang Prabang province.

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Boston Archdiocese opens canonization cause of Opus Dei priest

BRAINTREE, Mass. (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has opened the canonization cause of an Opus Dei priest, Father Joseph Muzquiz, who established the organization in the United States and worked for many years in the greater Boston area. About 150 people, many of whom are local members of Opus Dei, attended the ceremony held June 2 at the archdiocesan pastoral center in Braintree. "All Christians are called to be saints and we are deeply grateful that the Archdiocese of Boston is undertaking this effort to see whether Father Joseph Muzquiz indeed truly lived a holy life," said Opus Dei spokesman Brian Finnerty. Father Muzquiz was born in Spain in 1912. He served for a time in the nationalist army toward the end of the Spanish Civil War. He worked as a civil engineer, building bridges and railroad stations, and according to his biography, he sought to bring friends and colleagues closer to God in his daily work. In 1940, he asked to join Opus Dei. He was ordained to the priesthood June 25, 1944. Upon coming to the United States in 1949, Father Muzquiz helped establish Opus Dei centers in Chicago and Washington. He also laid the foundations for Opus Dei's work in Canada and Japan. The organization, a personal prelature of the pope, today has about 87,000 members around the world, including about 1,900 priests.

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Bishops in southern Africa urge end to violence in Swaziland

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Noting their alarm at increasing brutality in Swaziland, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference has urged regional blocs to act to secure human rights in Africa's only absolute monarchy. Swaziland, a country of 1 million, is "in turmoil ... tearing itself apart from the inside by the actions of an uncaring head of state and a regime that is getting more brutal by the day," the conference said in a June 9 statement. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban and the conference president, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, were part of a bishops' delegation that visited Swaziland before the conference issued its statement. Noting that protest marches in Swaziland's economic hub, Manzini, in April resulted in the "most stringent security clampdown" in the country's history, the bishops said urgent action is needed "to redeem Swaziland from this deadly crisis." They proposed that the Southern African Development Community and the African Union examine "critically and honestly" whether the constitution of Swaziland meets with the requirements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and whether Swaziland's election process conforms to the southern African bloc's protocol on elections. While Swaziland's constitution "supposedly guarantees the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," it simply enshrines the king's 1973 decree, in which the king suspended the constitution.


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