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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-4-2012

By Catholic News Service


Philadelphia archbishop's residence, dating to 1882, to be sold

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The home of Philadelphia's Catholic archbishops since the 1930s will soon be sold, archdiocesan officials confirmed Dec. 31. The 10,000-square-foot mansion located on more than eight acres at 5700 City Avenue next to St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia was purchased by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty in 1935. It has been used as the home of every archbishop of Philadelphia ever since, including Cardinals John O'Hara, John Krol, Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali. Prominent visitors of the archbishops' residence over the years have included Pope John Paul II in 1979 and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. While Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput did not comment on the impending sale of the house, archdiocesan officials indicated that proceeds from the sale would go to help struggling inner-city parishes in the archdiocese and that the archbishop may reside in the cathedral rectory, which had been built originally as the residence of the archbishop. According to a 1982 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission report, Philadelphia real estate records and contemporary news accounts, the stone house was built in 1882 in the Victorian Gothic style by one of Philadelphia's leading architects, a Quaker, Addison Hutton, for the prominent Scull family. They lived in the home and named it Egerton House, along with a home on an adjoining property, which is now the convent of the contemplative Sisters of the Visitation.

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Catholic school affordability: Progress made but still a long way to go

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When educational leaders look at ways to make Catholic schools more affordable, they are happy about some of the positive steps that have been made but fully aware that there is still a lot to do. During a recent conference at The Catholic University of America, a group of panelists focused particularly on the status of tuition tax credits and how they have enabled students who would normally not be able to afford Catholic schools to attend them. Currently, there are less than a dozen school voucher programs and scholarship tax-credit programs in the United States. Some states have more than one program. Catholic elementary schools in Indiana experienced increased enrollment in the fall of 2011 because the state's new school voucher program enabled more than 3,200 students to attend religious or private schools. The educational scholarship program, described as the nation's broadest, has been supported by the Indiana Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops. School voucher programs in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah and the District of Columbia offer private school vouchers to low-income students, students with special needs or children in failing schools. The scholarship tax-credit programs in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also are primarily for students from low-income families or those with special needs. Tuition vouchers are funds awarded by a government agency to a low-income family to spend at any school of their choice. Tuition tax credits generate scholarships for Catholic schools by allowing individuals and businesses to deduct a portion of their income taxes to donate to education. These donations can go to public or private schools. Donations to public schools typically help pay for after-school programs, school trips or supplies.

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Priest finds 'powerful' moments in visits to black, Indian communities

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two experiences stand out for Father Wayne Paysse from his constant travels around the United States as executive director of the Washington-based Black and Indian Mission Office. One came during a visit to an African-American Catholic parish where choir members were lined up holding their hymnals as they welcomed him. "I remember how moving it was," he recalled. "They had made a small request to purchase hymnals for their choir. And when I drove up, they were standing there with their hymnals. ... When we went into the church, they said, 'Father we have a little gift for you.' It wasn't anything wrapped up in a pretty box. I sat down and they began to sing. That was a powerful moment." The other was the reception that Native American children gave him at a mission church and school serving the Ojibwe people in the Diocese of Superior, Wis. "They'd never met me, but they'd heard about me. They all hugged me and were giggling and grabbed me by the hand and said, 'Father, Father, come see our shrine to Blessed Kateri (Tekakwitha)," he said. The children gave him a tour of the school and parish grounds. "When we walked into the church, it was so beautiful to see those little boys and girls, they all genuflected like little angels, they knelt down and they said their prayers. ... They were just wonderful," Father Paysse told Catholic News Service in an interview in his office in early December. A priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, he heads the office whose mandate is to evangelize African-American and Native American communities in the United States. He has held the job since January 2007. "I'm very humbled. I'm only the seventh director since 1874. And when I think about my predecessors -- and I've read about them in our archives -- it's amazing what was accomplished. I'm part of this great legacy of evangelization of the U.S. Catholic Church," he said.

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Education key component of church's evangelization efforts, says priest

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Education is key to the Catholic Church's evangelization efforts among Native Americans and St. Anthony Indian Mission School in Zuni, N.M., is "a case in point," said Father Wayne Paysse. Last October, the priest, who is executive director of the Washington-based Black and Indian Mission Office, visited the school in the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., which encompasses seven Indian tribes. Principal Deborah Goering showed him around the elementary school. Accompanied by a reporter and photographer from Catholic News Service, Father Paysse stopped in every classroom, talking to the teachers, teachers' aides and students. In a Christmas blog on his website, www.blackandindianmission.org, he said the visit was like the "'magi experience' when I saw the smiling faces of the Zuni youth. They were like bright shining stars that gave a glow of joy, peace and a great sense of faith. The children and their teachers along with their principal shared a real treasure with me as I walked through the classrooms and school campus," he wrote. "We feel that there is nothing greater than the positive impact on evangelization among our Catholic Indian mission schools than a good teacher," Father Paysse told CNS in an interview in his office in early December. "Education is most important, because education is like a ladder. It gives them an opportunity to climb out of the difficult environment they're in."

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Pope, at audience, reflects on meaning of Christmas, Epiphany

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At Christmas, the human dream of being like God started to become a reality -- not through any human efforts, but through God sending his son to be born on earth to redeem humanity, Pope Benedict XVI said. Addressing an estimated 7,000 people gathered for his weekly general audience Jan. 4, the pope encouraged Christians to continue living the joy and mystery of Christmas as they prepare for the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated at the Vatican Jan. 6, and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which the pope planned to celebrate Jan. 8 by baptizing babies in the Sistine Chapel. "Christmas is the feast when God becomes so close to human beings that he shares the same fact of being born to reveal to them their deepest dignity, that of being sons and daughters of God. In that way, the dream of humanity that began in paradise -- we want to be like God -- is realized in an unexpected way: not because of the greatness of man, who cannot make himself God, but through the humility of God, who descends," the pope said. Pope Benedict said that if at Christmas Jesus is born and almost "hidden" in human form in the manger of Bethlehem, at Epiphany he is revealed to the Three Kings, and the world. The pope encouraged Christians to stay with the Christmas spirit, contemplating the fact that God has revealed himself to humanity and radiating "the joy born of knowing how close God is to us."

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Under the radar, African women struggle more than others in food crisis

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The year 2011 was not good for women such as Joan Ochieng. Just about everything was a struggle. "We were not treated fairly," the Nairobi resident and single mother said of life in 2011, noting the many pressures, including spiraling food prices that caused her and her family of four children and one grandchild to often go to bed hungry. When things like rice doubled in price in six months, a bowl of porridge was often the only salve in a day in which eating three meals was almost unheard of. Even eating two meals was often a rarity. That was not good for a woman who must also take anti-viral medicines for treating HIV. Such treatment can be debilitating on an empty stomach, and it caused Ochieng to shake and experience nausea. These factors left Ochieng, 41, who lives in the Kiamaiko section of Kenya's capital city, pessimistic as the new year began. "It's out of our control," she said, "it's up to God." It also made her angry that the experiences of her and other poor Nairobi residents do not seem to be a priority for Kenyan politicians -- nor for the larger world. Humanitarian agencies struggled in 2011 with raising funds and sustaining public interest in the Horn of Africa food crisis, which affected about 13 million people in varying degrees. Worst hit was Somalia, and international agencies such as the World Bank have warned that as many as 750,000 Somalis are still vulnerable and could die from hunger-related causes through the first few months of 2012.

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Bishops accuse Nigeria of collusion, fraud over removal of fuel subsidy

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- A group of Nigerian bishops accused the government of selfishness, collusion and fraud and said removal of a fuel subsidy showed "insensitive timing. Must the poor suffer to make the rich smile? It may not be fair to blame the ... government alone for all the woes of Nigeria, but this government must take full responsibility for the insensitive timing and execution of this policy on fuel subsidy," said the statement, signed by Archbishop Felix Alaba Job of Ibadan, president of the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria. The bishops said the government made "the poor suffer in the selfish interest of a few who have fraudulently enriched themselves in collusion with those in the corridors of power" in setting public policy. The statement from the bishops of the Ibadan, Ilorin, Ondo, Osogbo, Oyo and Ekiti dioceses emailed to journalists Jan. 2 said the announcement by the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to end a widely supported fuel subsidy would mean additional hardship for poor people. After the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulation Agency announced the end of the subsidy Jan. 1, pump prices of for fuel rose between 100 percent and 250 percent across the country, immediately leading to higher prices for goods and services, according to reports. Prices rose from about 41 cents per liter of fuel to between 89 cents and $1.57 per liter, surveys showed. Labor leaders quickly mobilized and began mass protests Jan. 2 in opposition to the new policy. The government has had no further comment.

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Guanajuato, site of papal visit, is state filled with Catholic history

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- In 1941, the Mexican government -- under the control of a predecessor to the once-dominant and anti-clerical Institutional Revolutionary Party --- and the Catholic Church made peace, sealing their pact in the state of Guanajuato. Seven decades later, with the Institutional Revolutionary Party favored to regain the presidency in elections later this year, church and government leaders will meet again in Guanajuato, where Pope Benedict XVI will visit March 23-26 -- at a time church-state relations have decidedly improved. "It's a very emblematic state, where ... there have been the biggest conflicts ... and the biggest pacts between church and state," Ilan Semo, political historian at the Jesuit-run Iberoamerican University, said of Guanajuato. The 1940s pact ended a quarter-century of strife marked by the Cristero Rebellion -- when fighting flared and churches closed for three years in the late 1920s. But church and state remained estranged for much of the last century, and the Vatican and Mexico only established diplomatic relations 20 years ago. Relations, however, have warmed to the point that President Felipe Calderon -- whose Catholic-friendly National Action Party has governed since 2000 and draws strong support in Guanajuato -- will personally welcome Pope Benedict March 23 for a four-day visit to a region known for the Cristero Rebellion and conservative Catholic politics. For church observers such as Semo, the setting and timing speak volumes, especially as Mexico moves into an era of improved church-state relations that promises to lift lingering restrictions on church-sponsored speech and potentially promises to provide prelates with a voice in the nation's political and public-policy arenas. But church officials publicly caution against reading any symbolism into the papal visit. The visit is scheduled barely three months before state and federal elections -- a time previously unthinkable for a papal tour of Mexico, where references to Our Lady of Guadalupe during campaigns have been enough to annul elections.

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Bishop Zavala resigns after disclosing he is father of two children

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after disclosing to superiors that he is the father of two children. The Vatican announced the bishop's resignation Jan. 4 in a one-line statement that cited church law on resignation for illness or other serious reasons. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez announced the "sad and difficult" news in a letter to Catholics in the archdiocese. He said Bishop Zavala, who was auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel pastoral region, had informed him in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children who live with their mother in another state. Archbishop Gomez announced early Jan. 4 that Msgr. James Loughnane, a native of Ireland, was appointed episcopal vicar for the pastoral region. Bishop Zavala told Archbishop Gomez that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Since that time, Bishop Zavala has not been in ministry and "will be living privately," Archbishop Gomez said. "The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy," Archbishop Gomez said. He asked prayers for all those affected by the situation. Bishop Zavala's resignation leaves a vacancy in the chairman's position of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had no immediate announcement about who would assume the chairmanship. "There won't be anything here for a day or two," she said.

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Bishop Flores, auxiliary in Orange, named coadjutor bishop of San Diego

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Cirilo B. Flores of Orange, Calif., as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. The appointment was announced Jan. 4 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. As coadjutor, Bishop Flores will automatically succeed Bishop Robert H. Brom upon his retirement or death. The 73-year-old Bishop Brom has headed the San Diego Diocese since 1990. Bishop Brom said in a statement that the Mass officially welcoming Bishop Flores into the diocese would take place Feb. 13. He said Bishop Flores would "assist me until my retirement in 2013, at which time he will become the fifth bishop of San Diego." With the Jan. 4 resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, Bishop Flores is one of 28 Hispanic bishops actively serving in the United States. In a statement, Bishop Flores thanked Pope Benedict for "this wonderful and challenging assignment" and said he looked forward to "working with Bishop Brom and assisting him during this time of transition, which will be a time for me to learn about the local church of San Diego and Imperial counties." But he also said he would miss the Orange Diocese, where he had spent "my entire priesthood. I was formed as a priest by the parishioners I was privileged to serve for 18 years; I learned how to serve by the example of the priests I have known in Orange," he said.


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