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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-9-2011

By Catholic News Service


Roman Missal voted top news story of 2011; Pope Benedict top newsmaker

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The introduction of the English translation of the Roman Missal topped the religious news stories of 2011, and Pope Benedict XVI was again the top newsmaker, according to the annual poll conducted by Catholic News Service. The continued effect of the global economic downturn was second among the 30 news stories on the ballot, the democracy movement in the Middle East dubbed the Arab spring took third place. Among the 24 newsmakers on the ballot, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was second and U.S. President Barack Obama was third. The poll was the 50th annual survey conducted by CNS. This year's ballots were distributed Dec. 2 and the deadline for returns was Dec. 8. When the editors' poll was first conducted in 1962, the overwhelming choice for top story was the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Last year, editors chose the recovery and rebuilding effort that followed the devastating January earthquake in Haiti as the top religious story of the year and Pope Benedict as the top newsmaker. Editors were asked to vote for the top 10 news stories from a list of 30, and the top five newsmakers from a list of 24. Votes were weighted by the rankings editors gave -- 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., and five points for top newsmaker, four for second, etc. With 29 editors and CNS staff members submitting ballots, the maximum points a story could have received was 290. The most a newsmaker could receive on the five-point scale was 145. Rounding out the top five for religious news stories were the Irish church's sex abuse scandal and the issue of religious freedom. Pope Benedict, who has been the top religious newsmaker in the CNS poll every year since 2006, took first place this year for his travels to Croatia, Benin, Germany and Spain; his declaration of the upcoming Year of Faith; and his meetings with U.S. bishops, which were to continue into 2012.

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Online community filling a gap for Newman centers, says priest

MELBOURNE, Fla. (CNS) -- Salvatorian Father Douglas Bailey has been the chaplain of Catholic campus ministry at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne for the past 28 years and was one of the first to join the Newman Connection. The nonprofit organization unites college Catholic campus ministries in prayer, fellowship, education and support through its website, www.newmanconnection.com. "It is difficult to find resources for campus ministry," said Father Bailey, who is in the Orlando Diocese. "Newman Connection is coming at a time that that gap needs to be filled and it is doing so especially well." Newman Connection was founded in July 2009. Its website has a list of all Newman centers, which are on the nation's secular university campuses. About 160 of them are officially registered on the site. For each of those the site includes a calendar of events; times for Mass, confession and adoration; center details and staff; and location and contact information. Father Bailey told Catholic News Service he was especially pleased with two online offerings launched in August: a series of sessions titled "Exploring the 'YouCat': Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church" taught by three priests, and iFACTS -- Institute For Advancing Catholic Thoughts and Studies, a three-year program of study in Catholic faith and morals. Both programs are available via the website 24/7 at no charge. They are "just what we need," the priest said. "To be a good Catholic you have to know a whole worldview and culture and history on top of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior."

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Board approves miracle needed for Blessed Marianne Cope's canonization

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The path to sainthood for Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai has been cleared after a Vatican congregation Dec. 6 confirmed a second miracle attributed to her intercession. The final step for her canonization is approval by Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican decision was announced Dec. 6 by the sister's religious community, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y., and by Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva. Mother Marianne, who worked as a teacher and hospital administrator in New York, spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to those with leprosy. She died on the island in 1918 at age 80. The Dec. 6 ruling by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes confirmed recent decisions by a medical board and a group of theologians declaring that a second miracle could be attributed to Mother Marianne's intercession. The first miracle required for her beatification was the medically unexplainable recovery of a New York girl who recovered from near death from multiple organ failure after prayers were said to Mother Marianne. The miracle was approved in 2004 by a medical board and a group of theologians. At the end of the year, Pope John Paul II affirmed the case. She was beatified in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 14, 2005. The only known detail about the second miracle is that a woman's healing was declared inexplicable since doctors had expected her to die and were amazed at her survival. The Sisters of St. Francis will not disclose details of the second miracle until after the pope's proclamation of Mother Marianne's sainthood. In other news about U.S. sainthood causes, there have been unconfirmed reports that an announcement will be made in mid-December about the approval of a second miracle attributed to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha's intercession, which would clear the way for her canonization.

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In his class, instructor requires students to keep cellphones on

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Most colleges require students to put away their cellphones during class. However, for one class at The Catholic University of America, not bringing a cellphone to class can result in loss of points from their participation grade. Cellphone photography is a new class at Catholic University in Washington that allows students to see photography in a fresh way and explore a device they carry with them every day in a different way. Students are told to turn their everyday lives into a book of photographs. For example, one assignment was to take photos on their phone at their Thanksgiving dinner celebration with their families. Only a handful of other universities offer a class like the one taught at Catholic University. The class encourages students to post the photos taken in class on their social media sites and is taught by professional photographer Matthew Barrick. "The goal of this class is to show the true creative art of photography using a cellphone. You have your camera with you 24 hours a day," Barrick said. The class assignments consist of weekly blog entries that must include pictures students took that week on their phones, as well as ongoing work on their final project. The class's final project is called "100 photographs in 100 days," and the students can take pictures of anything they want with their phones over the course of the semester. Then, they pick the best photos and put them into an online photo book for the professor to review and grade. Barrick emphasizes that it does not matter what type of phone students use, as long as it has a camera. He thinks the most important part is that students use their eyes and imagination to take the best photos possible.

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Economic hardship hits nearly all, from individuals to nations

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's not new, but it's still news: The economy remains in a funk. Not just in the United States, but it has spread to many nations around the world. Although the "Great Recession," which officially started in December 2007, was declared over in June 2009, U.S. unemployment numbers were staying stubbornly around 9 percent. In December, the figure dipped to 8.6 percent, the lowest it's been since the second full month of Barack Obama's presidency, but that was because nearly three times as many people quit looking for work as found jobs. The number of poor Americans has grown to roughly 49 million, or close to one in six overall. New Jersey's Catholic bishops, in a Nov. 21 statement, called on Americans to "address the critical needs of the poor who live among us. ... We cannot ignore children who go to bed hungry, parents who are jobless, families who are homeless, the sick who suffer without medical care, or the elderly who live in infested or unsafe housing." Most leading economic indicators show little change. And working Americans -- in terms of "consumer confidence" -- still seem wary over the prospect of losing their job or the possibility of a second recession. Deficit cutting might not have been all the rage in 2011, but efforts to cut deficits spurred lots of rage from various segments of the population. When new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tried to force through a "budget repair" bill to solve a projected $117 million budget deficit, some Democratic state senators fled the state to delay the vote, which ultimately went Walker's way. Thousands of Wisconsinites rallied outside, and inside, the state Capitol in Madison for weeks to protest the move, and a recall-Walker petition drive was under way.

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Virginia Tech Catholic students support one another after shooting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of students had been hanging out at the Catholic campus ministry center at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., when an alert was issued midday Dec. 8 warning all students and faculty members to stay indoors. For the next few hours, the students stayed put, knowing a shooting had taken place on campus and initially that the shooter was on the loose, but not much more. After a campus police officer had been shot and killed that afternoon in his parked cruiser, police and SWAT teams searched the university for the gunman, calling to mind images of the 2007 shooting on campus that left 32 students and faculty, as well as the gunman, dead. The unidentified shooter Dec. 8, who was not a student, fled on foot, changed clothes in a campus greenhouse and was spotted by police in a campus parking lot before fatally shooting himself, The Associated Press reported. Not long after the university was finally given the all-clear signal, students packed the Catholic student center chapel for a Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass had been postponed for a half hour because of the day's lockdown. "Mass was a great contrast to the day's events," said Father John Grace, a Richmond diocesan priest who is director of Virginia Tech's Catholic campus ministry. He said it reminded students of how to live their faith in the context of real world. After Mass, some students were talking about the day but he primarily sensed "a strong feeling of support and community." The priest, who spoke to Catholic News Service by phone Dec. 9, said that kind of support isn't "something you can create at a moment of crisis. You cultivate it year after year. It is really what the Catholic community stands for."

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Prayer, not activism, is key to evangelization, preacher tells pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's project of "new evangelization" faces two dangers: people thinking others will do the work and people so fired up to preach the Gospel, they forget to pray, said the preacher of the papal household. Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who preaches to the pope and top Vatican officials on the Fridays of Advent and Lent, dedicated his December 2011 series to lessons the church can learn from its own history of evangelization efforts. Focusing Dec. 9 on the contribution of monastic orders beginning in the 5th century, Father Cantalamessa said their example is a reminder of "the importance of the contemplative life in view of evangelization." The first of the dangers facing today's efforts to re-proclaim the Gospel is "inertia, laziness, not doing anything and letting others do everything," he said. "The other is launching oneself in a feverish -- and empty -- human activism, which results in losing contact little by little with the source of the word and its effectiveness," he said. Father Cantalamessa said people sometimes tell him it's hard to stay still and silent and pray when the world so obviously needs ministers and missionaries. "It's true. But imagine what would happen if a squad of firefighters runs so fast at the sound of an alarm to put out a fire, but once on the scene realizes that they have no tanks, not even a drop of water with them," he said.

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New Jersey, Pennsylvania 'ad limina' talks look at new evangelization

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The "new evangelization" includes renewing diocesan structures, helping Catholics publicly live the moral dimension of their faith and defending their right to do so, U.S. bishops said. During their "ad limina" visits to Rome in early December, the bishops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania spoke to Vatican officials about energizing the faith of Catholics, re-proposing the faith to people who have drifted away and proclaiming the Gospel in new ways, several said. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service Dec. 7 that it was his fifth "ad limina" visit, but his first as archbishop of Philadelphia. Pope Benedict XVI met privately for about 25 minutes with the archbishop and his four auxiliary bishops, each of whom was participating in his first "ad limina," the archbishop said. "The Holy Father is well aware of the situation in Philadelphia and very caring and supportive of our people, our priests and the bishops who serve there," he said. "We've had some critical things happen in Philadelphia. We've had two grand jury reports that have raised concerns about the church's response to sexual abuse of minors in southeastern Pennsylvania. "One of our former vicars for clergy is going to be on trial this spring" on charges of child endangerment after being accused of not removing abusive priests, "so we have a unique situation regarding sexual child abuse ... and the Holy Father is well aware of that," Archbishop Chaput said.

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Refugee Convention has room for improvement, says Vatican official

GENEVA (CNS) -- More than half a century after its creation, an international treaty designed to protect refugees has room for improvement, a Vatican official said. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to U.N. and other agencies in Geneva, noted the Holy See was among the original 26 states that took part in the conference on the status of refugees in 1951, which then led to the U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees. He made the remarks during an intergovernmental meeting Dec. 7-8 in Geneva marking the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The more than 33 million refugees in the world "are both the flashing red light of alarm pointing out deep social and political failures and an urgent call to remedy their suffering," he said. If people who are forcibly displaced are to be protected in today's new circumstances, there needs to be an "evolution of standards" that expand and improve on what the convention ensures, the archbishop said. For example, the provision of financial support by richer countries should not mean they are thus free from welcoming and hosting refugees on their shores, he said. The so-called "burden sharing" of the refugee crisis also should entail richer nations accepting "persons fleeing conflict or disaster in similar proportion to poorer states," because the gap between poor and wealthy countries in taking in refugees "remains significantly wide," he said.

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Cuban bishops announce Marian jubilee year, confirm papal visit

HAVANA (CNS) -- The Cuban bishops announced that 2012 would be a Marian jubilee year and that Pope Benedict XVI would come to Cuba as a "pilgrim of La Caridad," the popular name for the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, the country's patroness. In a Dec. 8 pastoral letter, they declared a jubilee year from Jan. 7, 2012, through Jan. 6, 2013, and said Cubans need the joy of faith, the strength of Christian love, and the light of hope that can come from "a reunion with our Christian roots" and with the "enthusiastic reception of the teachings of Jesus Christ." The bishops did not announce dates of the papal visit but said it would be part of national observances of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, the small statue of Mary found floating in the Bay of Nipe, which came to be the country's most revered icon. The Vatican earlier confirmed that a papal trip to Mexico and Cuba for spring 2012 was in the final planning stages. Since August 2010, a replica of the statue of the Virgin of Charity has been traveling around the country for a series of processions, prayer services and Masses. Record crowds have turned out for the religious events in every part of Cuba, exceeding the expectations of organizers, and meeting with no apparent resistance from the country's communist government. The tour of the replica, known as La Mambisa, has led to a new springtime of faith in the hearts of the Cuban people, the bishops said.

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Group urges Ireland to study abuse claims against former Dublin prelate

DUBLIN (CNS) -- An abuse victims' support group has urged the Irish government to set up a statutory inquiry to investigate whether there is any truth to allegations of sexual abuse against former Dublin Archbishop John McQuaid. The support group One in Four made the request after The Irish Times said it had established that Archbishop McQuaid, who died in 1973, was the cleric referred to in a supplementary chapter of Judge Yvonne Murphy's report into abuse allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese. A spokeswoman for Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the matter is the subject of a police investigation. One in Four's executive director, Maeve Lewis, said an inquiry "is the only way to establish the truth of the matter. If (Archbishop) McQuaid is innocent of the allegations, then it will be an opportunity to restore his good name. "If the allegations are true, then we must know the extent of the sexual abuse, who else was involved and, crucially, if the church or civil authorities of the time had knowledge of the abuse but failed to act. If records exist, they must be examined," she said. Lewis noted that Archbishop McQuaid was the Dublin church leader for more than 30 years "and was, at that time, possibly the most powerful, influential and feared man in Ireland. If Archbishop McQuaid was, as is alleged, a sex offender himself, then it is no wonder that the secrecy and cover-ups which have characterized the church's handling of sexual abuse was so entrenched."

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Retired Bishop Pataki, 84, dies from injuries suffered in car crash

PASSAIC, N.J. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Andrew Pataki of the Byzantine Diocese of Passaic died Dec. 8 after an automobile accident in New Jersey. He was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, about 60 miles from Passaic, where he died from his injuries. Bishop Pataki was 84. A funeral liturgy was to be celebrated Dec. 15 at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Passaic. Interment was scheduled for the following day at Calvary Cemetery in Uniontown, Pa. Bishop Pataki had headed the diocese from 1996 to 2008. Ordained a priest of the Passaic Diocese in 1952, he also served as auxiliary bishop of Passaic, 1983-84, and bishop of the Byzantine Diocese of Parma, Ohio, 1984-95. Installed as bishop of Parma Aug. 16, 1984, he was named bishop of Passaic Nov. 6, 1995, and installed there Feb. 8, 1996. The Passaic Diocese covers Byzantine and Ruthenian Catholics living in New England and on the East Coast. Bishop Pataki was the former chairman of U.S. bishops' Committee on the Relationship Between Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches. He also was a regular presence at the Vigil for Life in Washington, leading rosaries or night prayer in the Byzantine tradition at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the night before the annual March for Life.

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Mercy nun at hospital that allowed abortion 'no longer excommunicated'

PHOENIX (CNS) -- A Mercy sister who was automatically excommunicated because of her role on the ethics committee that allowed an abortion to be performed at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix in 2009 is back in good standing in the Catholic Church. In May 2010, officials at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center publicly acknowledged that an abortion had occurred at the hospital in late 2009. Officials said the woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued. It also was revealed at the time that Mercy Sister Margaret McBride had incurred automatic excommunication because of her role on the ethics committee that sanctioned the abortion. On Dec. 21, 2010, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced that the hospital could no longer identify itself as a Catholic hospital. In a Dec. 8 statement, the hospital said Sister Margaret has since "met the requirements for reinstatement with the church and she is no longer excommunicated. She continues to be a member in good standing with the Sisters of Mercy and is a valued member of the St. Joseph's executive team." The statement, emailed to Catholic News Service in response to a query about her status, provided no more details and the hospital had no further comment. Sister Margaret is currently the medical center's vice president for organizational outreach. Last year when Bishop Olmsted issued his decree revoking the 116-year-old hospital's affiliation with the Catholic Church, he wrote that he could not verify that the hospital provided health care consistent with "authentic Catholic moral teaching." "It became clear that, in their decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," he said. The baby "was directly killed," which is a violation of the church's ethical and religious directives.


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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