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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-22-2011

By Catholic News Service


US bishops to study 50-state approach to immigration at Utah conference

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) -- A three-day conference on issues faced by Catholic advocates of comprehensive immigration reform is scheduled for Jan. 11-13 in Salt Lake City. The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. The conference's title, "Immigration -- A 50-State Issue: A Focus on State and Local Immigration Initiatives," reflects the USCCB's position that immigration is a federal issue, said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City. He said the conference is a wonderful opportunity for the diocese. "Anytime anything of that size comes in here, it gives us a platform to once again speak of the important immigration issues to our people," he told the Intermountain Catholic, Salt Lake City's diocesan newspaper. Bishop Wester added that immigration legislation created by state governments tends to create a harsh environment for undocumented people, and the conference can help advocates learn how to help these immigrants. "On a broader scale, it allows us to be part of the solution that we hope will come about once the 2012 elections are over," he said. Immigration must be dealt with on a federal level, said Kevin Appleby, USCCB director of migration policy. "If you have 50 different state policies and untold number of local policies on immigration, you're not going to have an effective system. Instead of putting energy into passing bills that are unconstitutional and build fear in communities, we should put energy into getting our federal delegation to do the right thing and reform the immigration system."

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Bishops join others in lauding new EPA toxins rule

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development joined with others in praising a new federal rule to cut down on the amount of toxins emitted from coal- and oil-fired plants. "It just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations," said a statement by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., issued Dec. 21, the date the new EPA rules on toxins were unveiled. "Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment," he said. "Their bodies, behaviors and size leave them more exposed than adults to such health hazards." The EPA rule, which has been in the works since 1990, is intended to cut mercury, arsenic and other toxins by up to 90 percent by 2016, the year the rule would be fully implemented. The rule is expected to eliminate among other things, 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 cases of asthma a year. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, at a Dec. 21 news conference at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, said that $9 will be saved in health and other costs for every dollar spent in compliance with the regulations. Jackson's two sons have suffered from asthma. "Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposures to toxic chemicals in the environment," said a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issue brief written earlier this year. "Exposure to air pollutants and toxins is significantly more harmful to children, born and unborn. Children in poverty and children of color are at a disproportionate risk, with routinely higher rates of lead poisoning and asthma-related deaths and hospitalization," it added.

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Pope points to joyful lessons learned from World Youth Day, Benin trip

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Knowing one is loved by God gives life meaning and gives one the energy needed to carry on with joy, even in difficult personal or societal situations, Pope Benedict XVI told top Vatican officials. Meeting members of the Roman Curia Dec. 22 for his annual exchange of Christmas greetings, the pope said the "faith fatigue" seen in various areas of church life contrasts sharply with the faith and joy he witnessed during World Youth Day in Madrid and during his November trip to Benin. The two trips, he said, hold lessons for church leaders and for the faithful. In what usually amounts to a review of the past year, Pope Benedict's speech to the Curia included acknowledgment of the global financial crisis, particularly in Europe, as well as of the dwindling number of practicing Catholics and the priest shortage on the continent. The church's commitment to a new evangelization push can help both situations, he said. As he has said many times, Pope Benedict told the curia members that the economic crisis is ultimately an ethical crisis that continues, in part, because "the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practice renunciation and make sacrifices." Looking inside the church, the pope said the general aging and diminishing number of active Catholics and the "stagnating" of new vocations to the priesthood in Europe are indications of "a crisis of faith. If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms (of the church) will remain ineffective," he said.

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For pope, 2011 was year of evangelization, travel and technology

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An interfaith meeting in Assisi, a new book on Jesus of Nazareth and a website-launching tap on an iPad were among the highlights of 2011 for Pope Benedict XVI. Although the year saw a further cutback in individual papal audiences, the 84-year-old pope still enjoyed a productive and busy 12 months, meeting privately with nearly 400 church or civil leaders, addressing more than 180 groups and presiding over about 40 public liturgies. He traveled to Croatia, Spain, Germany and Benin, delivering 60 speeches on the road. In weekly talks at the Vatican, attended by nearly half a million people, he gave a series of reflections on the great teachers of the church and on prayer -- a continuation of the "back to basics" approach that has marked his pontificate. The reduction of papal meetings and the introduction of a rolling platform for his entrance into St. Peter's Basilica fueled speculation about the pope's health. Close observers say that, like most octogenarians, the pontiff tires more easily today, but that he suffers no serious health problems. The year 2011 saw two of Pope Benedict's favorite themes come into clearer focus: new evangelization and religious liberty. Increasingly, he has linked the two topics, telling bishops that both tasks require courageous truth-telling in sometimes hostile environments.

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Midnight Masses canceled in Iraq because of growing security concerns

LONDON (CNS) -- Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in "great fear" because of the risk of new attacks. All services and Masses have been scheduled for daylight hours, he said in an interview with Rome-based AsiaNews. "Midnight Christmas Mass has been canceled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians," he said, citing the Oct. 31, 2010, attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral that left 57 people dead in the Iraqi capital. Archbishop Sako also expressed concern over the growing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims vying for political power. He said the conflict has led to growing instability, especially in the days since the pullout of U.S. military troops in mid-December. The archbishop's concerns follow a series of incidents in the northern province of Kurdistan, which had been considered safe haven for Christians.

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New homes help tsunami survivors adjust to changed circumstances

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNS) -- Squatting inside his small home in the fishing hamlet of Alua Naga near the city of Banda Aceh, Hussein Sweid knitted together a fishing net, preparing for his next venture out to sea. "This is a new life and I am slowly coming in terms with it," Sweid, 45, said, surrounded by his family: a wife of four years and two daughters, both now almost 3 years old. Tears welled up in his eyes as he recalled how he lost four of his five children and first wife in the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami when the sea rose up to 38 feet, submerging much of westernmost Indonesia's island of Sumatra. "Only my (10-year-old) daughter survived because she was with the grandparents (in another city) at the time," Sweid said. Sweid himself survived only because he was at sea fishing with his brother. Their boat was swamped and both men were swept ashore by the giant wave. Sweid was among the fortunate; 75 percent of Alua Naga's 3,000 inhabitants were swallowed up by the monstrous tsunami. A lifelong fisherman, Sweid lived in a temporary shelter for nearly five years while his sole surviving daughter remained with his deceased wife's parents. He said he had lost hope of getting into a home he could call his own. Catholic Relief Services then stepped in, offering him a house in 2009. "We are very happy now," said Sweid, walking to the home's wooden gate, with his wife, Nurhiati Ibrahim, whom he married in 2007, by his side. A lush coconut tree on the family's small plot symbolized his new life.


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