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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-4-2012

By Catholic News Service


'The Last Supper' artwork invites visitors to sit around Christ's table

GREENSBURG, Pa. (CNS) -- From a distance, a distinct figure sits alone at a long, rectangular table surrounded by 12 large, empty stools. It is only upon approaching the table that one realizes the figure is a life-size bronze sculpture of Christ breaking bread. Yet none of his disciples is there. "The 12 empty seats basically suggest that we in a sense have to become the apostles of Christ," said artist Timothy Schmalz, who created the sculpture. Titled "The Last Supper," the artwork rests amid tranquility on the grounds of St. Emma Monastery in Greensburg, bordered by rolling hills and pastureland. A bronze plate rests on the table directly in front of Christ; a bronze cup sits to the right of the plate. Christ's eyes are fixed downward toward his chest, with the top of his garment open. "Christ is looking down at the holy Eucharist," Schmalz said. "And his opened robe exposes his heart." It might be difficult for a visitor to not get a sense of Christ's humanity in the sculpture. And every stool presents an opportunity to see and reflect upon Christ from a different vantage point. "The Last Supper" is an invitation to sit at the table, perhaps eat a picnic lunch, pray, reflect or converse with Christ. Schmalz, who belongs to St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Elmira, Ontario, has spent more than 22 years creating sculptures that glorify Christ. He considers his work "visual prayers" and is devoted to creating art with the power to convert and deepen one's spirituality. His website, www.sculpturebytps.com, displays photos of the numerous small and large religious sculptures he has created, depicting Christ, various saints and New Testament figures, among others. Schmalz's work also includes public monuments, ranging from the American Soldiers' Memorial in Walkhill, N.Y., to the National Mining Monument in Sudbury, Ontario, the mining capital of Canada.

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Legionaries to sell New York property, move philosophy students to Rome

THORNWOOD, N.Y. (CNS) -- Fewer vocations and a recessionary worldwide economy that has led to reduced funding from donors are forcing the Legionaries of Christ to put its formation center in Thornwood up for sale, said the director of the order's North American territory. Father Luis Garza announced the sale of the 265-acre site in a letter April 2 to Legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi, the order's lay movement. He said the 72 brothers studying philosophy in Thornwood, 35 miles north of New York, would continue their coursework at the Legionaries' seminary in Rome in the fall. The site also houses another 21 Legionaries and five consecrated men, but Father Garza made no reference to their future. The announcement comes as the order undergoes a Vatican-led reform and reorganization. The reform efforts came after revelations that the order's founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians. Father Garza's letter acknowledged that "the scandal involving our founder" has led to a decline in vocations to the order and to consecrated life within Regnum Christi. "Although God continues to call men and women to follow him in the Legion and consecrated in Regnum Christi, there are fewer in these last few years than in previous ones," Father Garza wrote. He also said the scandal "has been a great shock to us all, shaking our trust and raising doubts in many hearts. We are working hard to regain the rust of our friends -- and of one another."

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Holy Land pilgrimages on rise and could increase during Year of Faith

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Fear of violence in the Middle East has not kept pilgrims away from the Holy Land, according to U.S. Franciscan priests who frequent the sites commemorating the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Any hesitancy to visit these places is "overcome by faith and interest," said Franciscan Father Jeremy Harrington, commissary and guardian of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington. The holy sites, he added, remain safe places to visit despite unrest in the region. Father Harrington also is sure the number of pilgrims will increase during the Catholic Church's Year of Faith, which will begin Oct. 11 -- the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- and conclude Nov. 24, 2013 -- the feast of Christ the King. In pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith, U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stressed the importance of pilgrimages to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and to the Holy Land, "the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his mother." When pilgrims visit the Holy Land, they not only come away with a deeper sense of their faith, but they also show solidarity with the Christians living in the region, Father Harrington told Catholic News Service. Franciscan Father Garret Edmunds, a pilgrimage guide in the Holy Land and vice commissary of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, said the number of pilgrims from Europe and North America has been stable. In recent years, he has seen an influx of pilgrims from Eastern Europe, Russia, India, the Far East, Africa and Brazil, which he attributes to emerging economies. Franciscan friars know plenty about the Holy Land because they have been there for a long time. For more than 750 years, they have had a ministry there preserving shrines, welcoming pilgrims, leading parishes and schools and housing, and feeding those in need.

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At Easter breakfast, Obama touches on grace and resurrection

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Reflecting on Christ's resurrection, "the all-important gift of grace" and times when faith is shaken, President Barack Obama welcomed 150 Christian religious leaders to the White House April 4 for his third Easter prayer breakfast. With a guest list composed of theologians, preachers, nuns, priests and lay activists from dozens of denominations, Obama opened the event by thanking the people in the room for the work they do in their ministries and for their prayers for him. "Every time I travel around the country, somebody is going around saying, we're praying for you. We've got a prayer circle going. Don't worry, keep the faith. We're praying," he said. "Michelle gets the same stuff. And that means a lot to us. It especially means a lot to us when we hear from folks who we know probably didn't vote for me ... and yet, expressing extraordinary sincerity about their prayers. It's a reminder not only of what binds us together as a nation, but also what binds us together as children of God," he said. It was Obama's third such Easter prayer breakfast, each coming sometime close to Easter and typically including primarily religious leaders and some White House staff and Cabinet members, not members of Congress or other primarily political figures. Later in the week the White House was to host another tradition of his administration, a Passover Seder, the guests for which have been staff and close friends. Among the breakfast guests were Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, who did a reading; Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrious; Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; the Rev. Al Sharpton; the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and the Rev. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention.

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Joys, sufferings of families focus of pope's Good Friday Via Crucis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An Italian couple, married 59 years, let the joys and sufferings of families guide the reflections they prepared for Pope Benedict XVI, thousands of pilgrims and potentially millions of television viewers to meditate on during the Stations of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum. The pope asked Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi to write the meditations for his Good Friday service April 6 in Rome. The Zanzucchis, who have five children and 12 grandchildren, are the co-founders and were the longtime leaders of the Focolare's New Families Movement. "I am not even going to tell you how many drafts we went through," Danilo Zanzucchi told the Focolare's Living City magazine when asked how he and his wife prepared the meditations. "We wanted to make sure that these texts bore the mark of a lived Christian experience and, at the same time, reflected our understanding of the Passion as it has developed through years of contact with thousands of couples," Annamaria Zanzucchi told the magazine. The New Families Movement has a special outreach to couples who are hurting because of separation, divorce or abandonment. The movement believes that stronger families will increase peace and brotherhood in communities. The text of the Zanzucchis' meditations was published in advance by the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. The couple looked at how Jesus suffered and died under the weight of human sin -- including marital infidelity and abortion -- but also how "every single family has its own Way of the Cross: illnesses, deaths, financial problems, poverty, betrayals, immoral behavior, discord with relatives (and) natural disasters."

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Pope reviews trip to Mexico, Cuba, says religious freedom is needed

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said that during his recent journey to Mexico and Cuba, he experienced "unforgettable days of joy and hope." While he went as "a witness of Jesus Christ," it was also an opportune occasion to call for reform, especially in allowing greater religious freedom, he said. At his weekly general audience April 4 in St. Peter's Square, the pope told an estimated 11,000 pilgrims and visitors about his March 23-28 visit. "I reminded everyone that Cuba and the world need change," he said. However, real change will come about "only if everyone opens up to the whole truth about mankind -- a binding requirement in order to achieve liberty -- and decides to cultivate in their lives reconciliation and brotherhood, building their life on Jesus Christ," he said. Only Jesus "can dispel the darkness of error, helping us conquer evil and all that oppresses us," the pope said. The church does not seek to secure any special privileges for itself, he said, just the freedom to be able to preach and celebrate one's faith even in the public sphere and "bring the Gospel message of hope and peace to every part of society." He said he appreciated all that has been done up to now by Cuban authorities but that he emphasized it was necessary to continue on this path of allowing "ever fuller religious freedom." Such progress, he said, will require "an effort of sincere collaboration and patient dialogue for the good of the country."

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Can business lead to holiness? Promoting virtue in the executive suite

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to help businesses stay strong and healthy, and avoid the occupational hazards of greed, overwork and exploitation, the Vatican's justice and peace council has released a handbook for business educators and entrepreneurs. "Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection" is a 30-page primer from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace that spells out the risks of unethical economic strategies and the principles needed for running a sound, moral business. It seeks to heal the so-called "divided life" of Catholic employers, who may practice their Christian values at home and church, but not in the company they manage or run. "Dividing the demands of one's faith from one's work in business is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today, including overwork to the detriment of family or spiritual life, an unhealthy attachment to power to the detriment of one's own good, and the abuse of economic power in order to make even greater economic gains," the booklet says. The ethical principles of the church's social teaching are presented not as hindrances to the smooth functioning of a market economy but as tools for its repair. "Without guiding principles and virtuous leadership, businesses can be places in which expediency overcomes justice, power corrupts wisdom, technical instruments are detached from human dignity, and self-interest marginalizes the common good," it says.

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Pope encourages people fighting to rid world of land mines

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI called for continued efforts to rid the world of land mines so that people could be free to walk the earth without fear of injury or death. "I encourage all those who are working to free humanity from these terrible and insidious devices," the pope said, as he expressed his closeness to all victims and their families. The pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience talk April 4 as he recalled the U.N. International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, celebrated the same day. Recalling the words of Blessed John Paul II the day before a U.N. convention on the ban and destruction of anti-personnel land mines took effect in 1999, Pope Benedict said land mines keep people from "'being able to walk together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death.'" About 72 countries in the world are thought to be riddled with land mines, and Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya are considered nations most at risk, according to a 2011 report by the non-profit Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. More than 12 countries produce land mines, including China, India, Russia, Cuba and the United States, the report said.

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Working to change Latin America's culture of violence against women

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- On a Friday in mid-March, Dominican police were called to a three-story hotel that sits off a major highway in a busy neighborhood here. Inside, they found a grisly crime scene: a woman, strangled to death, and the 37-year-old man who'd killed her hanged dead with the bed sheets. Police said the murder-suicide was the result of a fight between the couple. Human rights groups called it something else: an example of the growing trend of violence against women. "Women are being killed and are subjected to abuse just because of their gender," said Virgilio Almanzar, director of the Dominican Human Rights Committee in Santo Domingo. The murder became the country's 53rd case of femicide in 2012. The term, commonly used in Latin America but rarely seen in the United States, originally meant the targeted killing of women, but has since expanded to include all murder of women. "It's a serious problem, not just in the Dominican Republic," Almanzar said. "It's a problem we share with other countries in Latin America." A majority of the most dangerous countries in the world for females are found in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where historical patriarchy is increasingly clashing with a changing role for women. While some, including Catholic officials working on the issue, see signs of progress, such as new laws and public awareness campaigns, observers say changing the deep-rooted culture is a slow process. Of the 25 countries around the world with the highest homicide rates for women, 14 are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a recent survey by Geneva-based research organization Small Arms Survey. The three most dangerous countries were El Salvador, Jamaica and Guatemala, respectively. The countries were ranked by female homicide rates for 2011.

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Massachusetts Catholic college rescinds invitation to Kennedy widow

PAXTON, Mass. (CNS) -- Anna Maria College has rescinded its invitation to the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to speak during spring commencement ceremonies after a local bishop said he found her an "objectionable" choice because of her association with organizations whose points of view are contrary to church teachings. Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Mass., said he told the president of the college that he would not attend the May 19 commencement if Victoria Reggie Kennedy were the speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree from the institution. "My difficult is not primarily with Mrs. Kennedy," Bishop McManus told The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Worcester Diocese. "My difficulty is with the college choosing her to be honored by allowing her to be commencement speaker and giving her an honorary degree. My concern basically was that to give this type of honor to Mrs. Kennedy would in fact undercut the Catholic identity and mission of the school," he said. "And that in so far as that happens, the 'communio' (communion) or the unity that exists between the local church and the local Catholic college is strained and hurt." Bishop McManus did not specify which of Kennedy's public appearances or statements raised concerns, but he said he was concerned that if Kennedy, who is Catholic, were honored by the college it would have given the impression that "someone can hold a position that is contrary to the church's teaching (and still be honored). That cannot be allowed," he said.

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Following St. Thomas, Indians climb mountain to find peace, healing

MALAYATTOOR, India (CNS) -- When doctors recommended a second heart surgery for Joseph Kudiassery in 1999, the penniless fishermen was at his wit's end. Feeling desperate, Kudiassery organized a pilgrimage on foot to St. Thomas International Shrine in Malayattoor, about 75 miles from his home and St. Joseph Parish in Punnappra. This year, 85 fellow parishioners joined the 58-year old fisherman in a four-day pilgrimage under the blazing sun. Clad in saffron, each carried small crosses, and participants took turns carrying a larger cross in the front as they walked along the highway. Along the way they prayed, sang and ate food offered by Christian families. "I never went for the surgery. My medicine is this annual pilgrimage," Kudiassery told Catholic News Service just before he began the Way of the Cross and the rocky climb up St. Thomas Mountain. St. Thomas the Apostle, who reached the coast of Kerala coast in A.D. 52 in the company of spice merchants from the Middle East, is said to have gone up the Malayattoor mountain to pray frequently, and the shrine on the mountaintop is said to have a footprint of the doubting apostle. "I have been walking with the group and climbing this sacred hill for the last two years," said Soniachan Kalluparamabil, who has a steel rod in his right leg after a fall from a building three years ago. "Each time I joined the pilgrimage, my pain has only gone down," he added. As the group started climbing, smaller groups of pilgrims were coming in, carrying crosses on their shoulders. "When I started the annual pilgrimage (on foot) five years ago, we had only three members. This year there are 12 members in the team," said Shiju Chacko, a Catholic painter from Kodancherry. "Now two Hindus are also part of our group."


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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