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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-11-2011

By Catholic News Service


US bishops' agency denied federal grant to help trafficking victims

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since 2006, the U.S. Catholic bishops' Migration and Refugee Services has helped more than 2,700 victims of human trafficking obtain food, clothing and access to medical care. That service came to an abrupt halt when the agency recently learned that it would no longer receive a federal grant for this work from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. MRS officials had no immediate comment on the contract's discontinuation. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service Oct. 11 that she hoped the Catholic Church's "position against abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception has not entered into this decision, especially since this administration has said it stands fully behind freedom of conscience." She noted that the MRS's anti-trafficking program "ran quite well without these services" and said it would be "tragic if abortion politics harmed the men, women and children already at risk because of the crime and scandal of human trafficking." HHS officials contacted by Catholic News Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for not making the U.S. Catholic bishops' agency include referrals for abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception in its anti-trafficking program. That case is still pending. Sister Mary Ann said in an email to CNS that MRS officials are concerned about their clients and hope they will "not suffer from a clumsy transition to new agencies or from limited or lack of services."

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Washington cardinal confirms members of former Episcopal community

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During a Mass marked by a joyful homecoming of faith, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl welcomed 71 members of a former Episcopal parish into full communion in the Catholic Church with the rite of reception Oct. 9 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. "Today is a day of rejoicing for all of us," Cardinal Wuerl said in welcoming the St. Luke community from the Maryland suburb of Bladensburg at the beginning of the Mass in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He noted that during that Mass, the new Catholics from St. Luke, and the other Catholics in attendance, could come together "to the altar of the Lord, filled with joy and gratitude. The church is the body of Christ, the beginning of the kingdom, the family of God, and the way to salvation," the cardinal said in his homily. "Today, as part of your faith journey, you come to the church to complete your initiation into the body of Christ. The heart of our communion, our bonding, our spiritual life, is this altar," Cardinal Wuerl said, adding, "Today, we will invite everyone (here) to that table of the Lord, to receive that Communion that bonds us with Christ and with one another." Mark Lewis, the former rector of the St. Luke community, who as an Episcopal priest shepherded his parishioners through the process of joining the Catholic Church, said after the Mass, "I'm so glad to be home."

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Deacon says alliance will aid parishes, dioceses with latest technology

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- A Nebraska-based company providing financial services and tuition management for 5,500 schools and more than 1 million families across the United States has formed a partnership with a New Hampshire company that is a pioneer of cloud-based accounting systems for the Catholic Church. FACTS Management Co. in Lincoln, Neb., and CathoNet in Hudson, N.H., announced they will integrate their software and computer data centers to offer Catholic parishes, schools and dioceses improved tracking, recording and coordination of information. Clergy and laity will have "21st-century technology tools" for financial stewardship and accountability, according to Deacon William A. Koniers, president of CathoNet,www.cathonet.com. The joint venture was formally launched during the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference in Minneapolis Sept. 25-28. Other for-profit and nonprofit organizations offer parish programs for online giving and offertory campaigns, Deacon Koniers noted. But only this new collaboration provides an "overall business process," or "central nervous system," he said, for financial administration in dioceses, parishes and Catholic schools. "Clergy and laity must be encouraged and taught to exercise good and sound leadership over the temporal goods of parishes and schools so that they can not only survive, but thrive," said the deacon, former director of parish finance services for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. He serves at St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield, Conn. "By investing in CathoNet, we are making a commitment to accelerate change in every Catholic diocese in the United States," said Tim Tewes, president of FACTS.

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Growing secularism seen as greatest threat facing health care workers

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. (CNS) -- The greatest challenge faced by Catholic health care workers is growing secularism, said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. "This growing secularism endangers our religious freedom," he said Oct. 8, giving a keynote address that concluded the Oct. 6-8 Catholic Medical Association annual conference. The archbishop noted the federal Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception and sterilization. "When we stop acknowledging our creator, we stop acknowledging who we are," Archbishop Gomez said. "Without God, we lose our ethics and the reason for human rights." More than 300 Catholic health care professionals from across the United States attended the educational conference. The association's numbers are growing, according to the group's leadership, and medical students are joining its ranks. The archbishop said Catholic health care workers' greatest responsibility is the sanctity of the human person. "We're not just biological," he said, "our life is also theological." During the conference, held in the Phoenix Diocese, speakers addressed Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted's decision to revoke St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's status as a Catholic institution. The Phoenix bishop's decision involved many factors, including an abortion performed at the hospital in late 2009. The hospital has stated that the abortion saved the life of the mother, who was suffering from pulmonary hypertension. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said aborting the child violated the Ethical and Religious Directives issue by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. When the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine took on the case -- commonly referred to as "the Phoenix case" -- many scholars asked the committee to change the directives, Haas said. The committee's statement, issued June 23, 2010, appeared to confirm Bishop Olmsted's evaluation that the procedure was a "direct abortion."

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Italian abuse victim asks to meet pope, wants norms applied

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Francesco Zanardi walked almost 350 miles to deliver a letter asking Pope Benedict XVI to meet Italian victims of clerical abuse and to work harder to ensure bishops around the world follow Vatican norms for dealing with accusations of abuse. Zanardi, 41, set off from Savona, Italy, Sept. 22 and walked almost all the way to Rome. He said he was abused by a priest when he was about 10 years old, but by the time he reported it to police in 2007, the statue of limitations had expired. Although more victims of the same priest came forward in 2010 and police are now investigating, Zanardi said, "this priest is still free. He lives in an apartment owned by the church." The Italian police who patrol St. Peter's Square stopped Zanardi and Alberto Sala, president of an Italian organization that cares for abused children, Oct. 11 at a checkpoint. The men were unable to deliver Zanardi's letter to the Bronze Doors of the Apostolic Palace, but a Vatican employee accepted the letter. "All accusations should be investigated and accused priests should be isolated from children during the investigation," Zanardi said. In addition, he said, "it's important to respond to the victims -- they need an incredible amount of help. It's taken me 20 years to overcome the trauma and that's fast. I wanted to die. Victims feel they are at fault, that they are dirty. They need help." Zanardi said it isn't right that Pope Benedict has met with victims from the United States, Australia, England and Germany, but not victims from Italy. In fact, he said, while his registered letters have reached the Vatican, he has never had a response from the pope or any Vatican official.

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Zenit editors resign over differences with Legionaries of Christ

ROME (CNS) -- The six editors of the Catholic news agency Zenit have resigned, saying the agency has become too closely identified with the Legionaries of Christ. "The initial vision of Zenit was never to make it a service of a particular congregation, but rather of the universal church. This has been the spirit with which we have worked throughout the years, and the spirit we could not betray," said a statement issued Oct. 10 by the editors of Zenit's French, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese and Arabic services. Their departure follows the resignation in late September of Zenit's director, Jesus Colina. Colina, who founded Zenit in 1997 and helped build it into an agency with about 450,000 email subscribers, said he was forced out because he resisted pressures to identify the agency and its work more closely with the Legionaries order. At that time, Colina said there had been a loss of mutual trust and transparency in the agency's relationship with the Legionaries. In their statement, the six editors cited "years of fruitful collaboration" between Zenit and the Legionaries of Christ, but said they disagreed with the order's decision to "underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion." The statement said that, from Zenit's inception, the Legionaries of Christ had acted as "spiritual advisers" to the agency "to ensure fidelity to the magisterium." For the past 14 years, it said, the agency has worked independently of the religious order. Colina told Catholic News Service Oct. 11 that the Legionaries had not financed Zenit during that period, but did control the board that oversees the agency. A spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, Father Andreas Schoggl, said the order had "always been involved with Zenit" in strategic decisions. At the same time, he said, Zenit's journalists operated with "editorial independence."

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Honduran bishop to run for office because politics 'screwed the poor'

JESUS DE OTORO, Honduras (CNS) -- The "Red Bishop" of Honduras says he will run for president of the Central American nation if he gets permission from Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Luis Santos Villeda of Santa Rosa de Copan will celebrate his 75th birthday in November and plans to immediately submit his resignation to the Vatican, as required by canon law. Once his resignation is accepted and he is freed from the responsibilities of bishop, Bishop Santos says, he will run for president as a candidate of a progressive faction of the Liberal Party, whose last president, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed in a 2009 coup. "I don't aspire to be president of Honduras. This isn't my idea," Bishop Santos told Catholic News Service. He said he was first asked by Liberal Party leaders in the 1990s, and again in 2009, to become a candidate, but both times he declined. "But now that I'm retiring as bishop, I hope to speak with the pope and get his permission. I would no longer be bishop or have any church office, but would remain a priest. I could celebrate Mass privately in the morning before showing up in the presidential office at 8 a.m.," Santos said. Bishop Santos has long been a public supporter of the Liberal Party, whose red flag contributed to his nickname. He was also a strident opponent of the 2009 coup, a position that put him at odds with Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who backed the coup. Analysts say the cardinal's support for the coup cost him political capital; the cardinal is seen much less often in public these days. Bishop Santos, on the other hand, remains highly visible, despite his remote western diocese, which includes some of the poorest communities in Central America. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Resistance, the loose-knit coalition of civil groups opposing the government since the coup.

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Everyone has mission to 'grow the church,' says archdiocesan official

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The newly named executive director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Office for Black Catholics wants to evangelize the African-American community in creative ways. "People respond to what attracts them, especially in the black community," said Bill Bradley. "Whether that's through preaching, song, liturgy, educational programs, cultural events or special liturgies ...., we need to be creative." Bradley's "do what works" approach supports his goal of "building communities with Christ-centered values. Anything that brings people together to praise God is good," he told The Catholic Standard & Times, Philadelphia's archdiocesan newspaper. The more than 25,000-strong black Catholic population in the archdiocese has a long and rich history. Black Catholics have worshipped in numbers in Philadelphia since the 19th century, and today belong to both city and suburban parishes. What is today called the Office for Black Catholics was started as an apostolate by Cardinal John Krol in 1980 to build "participation of the African-American community in the life of the Catholic Church." Bradley is the eighth director of the office. "Everyone," he said, "has a mission to evangelize and grow the church."


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