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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-2-2012

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Bishop, others criticize plan to hold classes on religious holidays

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CNS) -- Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre and other religious and political leaders are criticizing an announcement by a state university that from now on it will hold classes on major Jewish and Christian holidays. In a March 26 statement, Bishop Murphy responded to the decision by Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, to hold classes on such religious holidays as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and have spring break fall after the seventh week of class in the semester rather than during the time of Holy Week, Easter and Passover. "The proposed changes are misguided and overtly hostile to a targeted group: the Judeo-Christian tradition and all those members of the administration, faculty, staff and student body who are proud to be part of this tradition," Bishop Murphy said. "Very simply, the changes, if adopted, will force these persons to choose between practice of their faith and taking examinations, attending/teaching classes or partaking in the other campus duties, responsibilities and activities," the bishop continued. "Sadly, the university would be sacrificing the long-recognized and long-standing freedom of Christians and Jews to practice their religion without fear of negative consequences," Bishop Murphy said, "and all for the sake of efficiency, logic and a specious inclusiveness." Nine state senators from Long Island, including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, sent a letter March 21 to Samuel Stanley, president of Stony Brook, saying the university's decision was reached without the wide consultation used in the past for academic calendars. "We are hopeful that you will re-examine your process and implement a policy that takes into consideration the best interests of students and faculty across your campus," the letter said.

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Dairy tour helps connect Wisconsin Catholics, Peruvian orphans

GREENWOOD, Wis. (CNS) -- Jessica Mollison knows firsthand the importance that Project Milk has for Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, an orphanage in Lurin, Peru, that is sponsored by the Diocese of La Crosse. Since 1984, Project Milk has been sending powdered milk to Casa Hogar for use at the orphanage and other nearby communities. In the last two years alone, the program has shipped more than 60,000 pounds of powdered milk to Peru. As the orphanage's development director, Mollison has seen the end results of Project Milk's efforts. But recently she had an opportunity to see where the dried milk that benefits Casa Hogar comes from as she took part in a tour of Grassland Dairy, which has been teaming with the diocese for the past three years on Project Milk. She was joined on the tour of Grassland by Dan Kitzhaber, liaison for the diocesan Rural Life Committee, and his daughter, Rebekah; Kitzhaber's brother, Father Keith Kitzhaber, parochial administrator of Holy Rosary Parish in Owen and St. Anthony Parish in Loyal, and Hispanic minister in the Abbotsford area; and Rural Life Committee member Phil Hein. "I was really looking forward to it (the tour of Grassland) because I have been involved in the process of the milk arriving there (at Casa Hogar)," said Mollison, whose fundraising efforts have shifted her primary working location from Peru to La Crosse. "I've been involved in unloading it (milk) ... but it was neat to see the roots of it all -- to see the connections of people coming together to make (Project Milk) a success." One of those connections is between the Kitzhaber brothers, who grew up on a farm in the Greenwood area, and the Wuethrich family, which has owned and operated Grassland since 1904. When Project Milk lost its former dry milk provider in 2009, Dan Kitzhaber didn't have to reach far to find a new partner. "It has really been a great relationship," said Grassland vice president Trevor Wuethrich, who guided the tour of the Grassland facility.

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Bishop continues to weigh options on 13 church closings in Cleveland

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland said he has not decided whether to appeal a series of Vatican decrees that reversed the closings of 13 parishes. In a letter sent March 27 to be distributed at Masses the weekend of March 31-April 1, Bishop Lennon said he was continuing to study the decrees from the Congregation for Clergy in a effort to "fully understand" them. The letter was made public on the diocesan website March 28, two weeks after Bishop Lennon was informed of the congregation's actions. "As I hope you can appreciate, this is a very complex matter with no easy or perfect solution," Bishop Lennon wrote. "With the help of a number of advisers -- including members of the clergy, laity and experts in church law -- I am carefully studying and seeking to fully understand the decrees. I can assure you that this is not nearly as clear-cut as it may appear on the surface. Although the decrees are brief in length, they are deep in underlying meaning and I continue to receive significant input and clarification." The bishop promised to explain his rationale for the decision he finally reaches. "Be assured that I will act fully in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the utmost respect for its governance and authority. I pray that God will guide me and I ask for your prayers," he said. Parishioners who had hoped their churches would reopen in time for Easter, April 8, expressed disappointment that the bishop has not yet acted in accordance with the decrees. In response to the bishop's letter, the canon lawyer working with three of the parishes filed motions with the congregation requesting that church officials order the immediate restoration of their parishes and the reopening of their churches. "Again we'll be shuttered out of our churches in the holiest time of the year," said Patricia Schulte-Singleton, president of St. Patrick Church parish council when the west side Cleveland parish closed who formed the Save St. Pat's Committee.

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Researcher says survey on why Catholics left church provides insight

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Church leaders should take to heart reasons why Catholics have left the church, according to a priest who has conducted an "exit poll" of former Catholics. Above all, their departure highlights how the church must offer a "fresh explanation of the Eucharist," said Jesuit Father William Byron, professor of business and society at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, pointing out that those who leave the church separate themselves from the celebration and reception of the Eucharist. "This calls for a creative liturgical, pastoral, doctrinal and practical response," he said, to help Catholics understand what the Sunday Mass obligation is really about and what they're missing when they leave. Father Byron conducted the study last fall along with Charles Zech, professor of economics and director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University's business school. They surveyed 298 non-churchgoing Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. They presented their results March 22 at The Catholic University of America in Washington and have written about the study for the April 30 edition of America magazine. Father Byron said the idea of the survey came about after a conversation he had about the number of Catholics who have left the church, which according to a 2007 Pew Forum report is one-third of those raised Catholic in the United States. In the course of the discussion, a retired CEO told the priest that if the church were a business, it would conduct exit polls to find out why people left, or in business terms to "know where your losses were from." That's what Father Byron and Zech set out to do with the study "Empty Pews: Survey of Catholics Regarding Decrease in Mass Attendance."

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WORLD

Pope donates funds to aid people affected by violence in Syria

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has donated $100,000 to help the people of Syria. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican's charity promotion and coordinating office, announced March 31 that the pope made the donation to fund "the charitable work of the local church in Syria supporting the population" that has been hit by the ongoing violence in the country. The council's secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, was to personally deliver the aid March 31 and meet with Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, as well as other local church leaders. In predominantly Muslim Syria, the Catholic Church helps all people in need through its charitable organizations but is particularly active in the area of Homs and Aleppo, the council said in a press release. The pope also earmarked the collection to be taken up at his Holy Thursday evening Mass April 5 for use for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.

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After papal request, Cuba makes Good Friday 2012 a national holiday

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican spokesman praised Cuba's decision to accept Pope Benedict XVI's request to make Good Friday a national holiday this year. "It is certainly a very positive sign," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said April 1. Good Friday, the commemoration of Jesus' passion and death, falls on April 6 this year. During the pope's private meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana March 27, the pope asked for further freedoms for the Catholic Church in the communist nation, including the declaration of Good Friday as a holiday. The Cuban government accepted the proposal March 31 after the pope's March 29 return to the Vatican. Father Lombardi said the Vatican hopes that the holiday will enable people to attend religious services and have "happy Easter celebrations." The Vatican hopes Pope Benedict's March 26-28 visit to Cuba "continues to bring the desired fruits for the good of the church and all Cubans," the spokesman added. Only Good Friday 2012 has been made a public holiday; the government hasn't decided whether it will become a permanent celebration, news reports said.

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Response to Christ's sacrifice must be gift of time, prayer, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The truly Christian response to Christ's death and resurrection must be the dedication of one's life and one's time to building a relationship with Jesus and being grateful for the gift of salvation, Pope Benedict XVI said. "In this Holy Week, the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love," the pope said April 1, celebrating Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square. "We must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us," Pope Benedict said. Tens of thousands of people gathered for the Mass under overcast skies. Pope Benedict arrived in an open popemobile behind a procession of young people carrying whole palm fronds, priests carrying olive branches -- the traditional Palm Sunday symbol in Italy -- and bishops and cardinals carrying tall, braided palms. In his homily, Pope Benedict said the disciples and crowds who followed Jesus to Jerusalem had their own idea of who Jesus was and what difference he would make in their lives and the life of Israel. In fact, he said, the vast majority of them were disappointed he did not live up to their expectations and they went -- in a space of a few days -- from acclaiming him as Messiah as he entered Jerusalem to calling for his crucifixion or running away frightened. In the same way, Christians today must ask themselves, "Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?" the pope said.

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On anniversary of Blessed John Paul's death, Vatican focuses on WYD

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the seventh anniversary of the death of Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to one of his predecessor's innovations: World Youth Day. Greeting an estimated 5,000 cheering young people from Spain April 2, Pope Benedict said they were "the protagonists and principal recipients of this pastoral initiative promoted vigorously by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, whose passage to heaven we remember today." The Spanish youths had come to the Vatican for the celebration of Palm Sunday April 1 and to thank the pope for visiting Madrid for World Youth Day last August. The Spanish delegation included the World Youth Day orchestra, which played during the papal audience. While the pope was with the young people, Vatican officials and representatives of the Brazilian bishops' conference were holding a news conference to talk about plans for the next international celebration of World Youth Day, which will be held July 23-28, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. Pope Benedict told the Spanish youths that the World Youth Day experience "can only be understood in the light of the presence the Holy Spirit in the church," who continues to enliven the church and to push believers "to bear witness to the wonders of God." He told the young people, "You are called to cooperate in this exciting task, and it's worth it to commit yourself to it without reservation. Christ needs you to expand and build his kingdom of charity."

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Mexican Senate approves religion liberty provisions

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican Senate narrowly approved a constitutional provision providing "freedom of religion," days after Pope Benedict XVI completed a visit to the country marked by an outpouring of enthusiasm and affection. The Senate approved changes to Article 24 of the Mexican Constitution March 29, guaranteeing freedom of religion and making it possible to lift restrictions on religious groups to hold services outside of authorized churches without first seeking government permission. Earlier in the day, the Senate approved changes to Article 40 of the constitution by including the word "secular" as one of the descriptions of the Mexican state. The Mexican bishops' conference welcomed the changes, saying in a March 29 statement that with the reforms, "Mexico incorporates the highest levels of respect and promotion of human rights." Critics of the measures, including some non-Catholic congregations, questioned why amendments were necessary and warned the changes would allow for the religious education and religious groups owning TV and radio stations -- two Catholic Church priorities in Mexico. "In Mexico, there's religious freedom. What's limited is priests' political expressions," Sen. Pablo Gomez wrote in the newspaper Milenio. Gomez opposed changing Article 24.

- - -

PEOPLE

Archbishop calls for support for those living with autism

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church needs to address the alienation often surrounding those living with autism, especially children and young people, by coming to the aid of those affected, said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski. The archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said those who draw near to people with autism can help break down the barriers of silence and join in them in solidarity and prayer. The archbishop made his comments in the council's message for the Fifth World Autism Awareness Day April 2. "The church sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people -- children and young people in particular -- and their families, if not to break down these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering," said the archbishop. Along with suffering often come frustration and resignation, especially from the families of those affected, said the archbishop. Families experience repercussions and are often "led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalizes and wounds," he said. Archbishop Zimowski said he hopes that all people of good will and the church may become "traveling companions" with people suffering from autism and express their awareness, supportiveness and sensitivity to those affected.

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Young Franciscan author says getting to know God is like dating

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Getting to know God is akin to entering a dating relationship, according to Franciscan Brother Daniel P. Horan. When two people already like one another, they devote copious amounts of time and energy to learning everything they can about each other and joyfully anticipate spending time together, he explained. "Dating requires intentionality, planning and effort," Brother Horan said. Brother Horan, a member of the Order of Friars Minor, is the author of "Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis." At 28, he is not very far removed from the more traditional understanding of dating. The oldest of four boys, Brother Horan attended Catholic schools and was an altar server, lector, eucharistic minister and sacristan at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, in the Diocese of Syracuse. He felt drawn to the priesthood in high school and studied theology and journalism in the honors program at St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan school in Olean. "Over the course of four years, I got to know the friars' intellectual traditions and spiritual life and develop personal relationships with the friars themselves," he said in an interview with Catholic News Service. In college, Brother Horan ran a photography business, specializing in sports and news coverage. He called it "a hobby that got out of control." His freelance clients included CNS, Associated Press and Getty Images. After graduation in 2005, Brother Horan entered the Franciscans. He is one of five men from his parish who became Franciscans. Brother Horan earned a master's degree in systematic theology at Washington Theological Union and will complete a master's in divinity in May. He expects to be ordained May 19 in Silver Spring, Md. After a summer assignment to St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J., he will begin studies for a doctorate in systematic theology.

END


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