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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-12-2012

By Catholic News Service


Catholics urged to resist unjust laws, join in 'fortnight for freedom'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- American Catholics must resist unjust laws "as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith," a committee of the U.S. bishops said in a new statement on religious liberty. Titled "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," the 12-page statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty also calls for "a fortnight for freedom" from June 21, the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, U.S. Independence Day. "This special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty," the committee said. "Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty." Made public April 12, the document was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee during its March meeting for publication as a committee statement. The ad hoc committee opened its statement with several "concrete examples" of recent threats to religious liberty, saying that "this is not a theological or legal dispute without real-world consequences." Cited first was the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services. "In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are 'religious enough' to merit protection of their religious liberty," the statement said. "These features of the 'preventive services' mandate amount to an unjust law." Among other examples of "religious liberty under attack" the bishops named: Immigration laws in Alabama and other states that "forbid what the government deems 'harboring' of undocumented immigrants -- and what the church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants"; and discrimination against Christian students on college campuses.

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Bill banning late-term abortions in Arizona awaits governor's signature

PHOENIX (CNS) -- The executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, said he was pleased the Arizona Legislature has passed a bill to outlaw abortions past 20 weeks gestation. "It's very exciting news," Ron Johnson told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Phoenix Diocese. "It's on its way to the governor's office now and we're very hopeful that she will sign this bill." In the past, Gov. Jan Brewer has consistently supported pro-life legislation. She had until April 16 to sign it into law or let it become law without her signature. Either way it is to go into effect this summer. Johnson said the bill passed the House April 10 with 37 votes, although only 31 were needed for passage. He noted that one Democrat, Rep. Catherine Miranda, voted for it even though her party doesn't usually support that type of legislation. "We're very appreciative that she made it a bipartisan bill, voting yes on this as a Democrat," Johnson said. He also lauded the efforts of the Alliance Defense Fund and the Bioethics Defense Fund in helping craft the measure and working for its passage. The Senate approved the bill in March. Some six other states already ban abortions after 20 weeks, largely based on the argument that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at that phase in their development. Johnson said that supporters of the bill not only argued that fetuses suffer pain in abortion, but that mothers face a greater risk in late-term procedures.

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Preventive strike on Iran is seen as lowering the bar on waging war

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While Iran's secret nuclear program has raised serious questions about that country's intentions, a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would not be justified under Catholic teaching in the eyes of the U.S. bishops and other Catholic leaders. Further, any attack on Iran by Israel or the U.S. would greatly destabilize an already volatile Middle East, setting the stage for retaliatory military strikes that would place innocent civilians at risk and serve little more than to lead to an expanded arms race in the region, several Catholic observers told Catholic News Service. The concern lies in what is seen as a preventive attack meant to stop Iran from furthering its nuclear program, which Iranian officials claim is for peaceful purposes. Such a preventive attack -- as opposed to a pre-emptive strike meant to head off an imminent attack under just-war principles -- also poses moral questions because Iran's research is legal under international agreements and to date falls within the limits set by the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding the development of nuclear weapons, the Catholic observers said. "The problem with preventive war is that it lowers the barrier to war too low," explained Stephen Colecchi, director of the bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace. "Using military action for a vague and gathering threat is very different than using military force in the face of an immediate threat," he said.

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Anglican parishes in Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Canada join church

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Anglican parishes in Philadelphia and Indianapolis were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in early April, and two Anglican bishops in Canada were slated to lead their clergy and congregants into the church later in the month. The Anglicans are joining the new U.S. Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, a structure for Anglicans to become Roman Catholics while retaining some of their Anglican heritage and traditions, including liturgical traditions. The numbers are not large by Catholic parish standards. At St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Parish in Philadelphia, the congregation numbers 25 plus its rector. The St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society in Indianapolis totals 18. In Canada, many parishes have split -- sometimes more than once -- over doctrinal disputes that have roiled the Anglican Communion in recent years, or abandoned the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada altogether. The head of the ordinariate, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, is the former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande. A married man with children, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., in 2009, and named to head the ordinariate by Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 1. The ordinariate, officially inaugurated Feb. 12, is similar to a Catholic diocese, but national in scope. Pope Benedict established the ordinariate Jan. 1 in response to requests by Anglicans seeking to become Catholics. "We look forward to developing the work of the ordinariate in Philadelphia, in cooperation with Msgr. Steenson and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia," said an April 3 statement by David Ousley, a former Anglican priest who has been rector of St. Michael the Archangel and is studying to become a Catholic priest. "As with any such transition, it has been a challenging journey. Yet, we already have heard from former Anglicans who are interested in joining us."

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Vatican Library, Oxford's Bodleian launch major digitization project

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, England, and thanks to a grant of more than $3 million, a million pages of material from the Vatican Library will be digitized over the next five years. "Digitizing means better conservation of cultural goods, less arduous consultation, guaranteeing a high-quality reproduction before the original can deteriorate and making them immediately accessible online to many more people," said Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library. The project, funded with a grant from the London-based Polonsky Foundation, is expected to digitally reproduce a total of 1.5 million pages of manuscripts and ancient books from the Vatican Library and the Bodleian Libraries. Msgr. Pasini told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that about two-thirds of the total pages would be from the Vatican Library's holdings. The project will be a huge leap forward in the Vatican Library's digitalizing process, which began in 2010 and has produced an online catalogue describing its 8,900 incunabula, which are books printed in the 15th century. The new project will allow the library to digitize and make available online complete copies of 800 of the incunabula, he said, including Johann Gutenberg's Latin Bible, which was printed between 1454 and 1455 and was the first book printed using movable type.

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UNAIDS chief meets pope to discuss efforts to prevent HIV in children

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, met Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican officials April 11, seeking greater collaboration to prevent HIV infection among children by 2015. Preventing mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus and keeping children free from HIV is an achievable goal, Sidibe told the pope, according to a press release from UNAIDS. "Millions of people around the world living with and affected by HIV are being supported by Catholic health care organizations," Sidibe said. "The full engagement of the Catholic Church in efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections among children is of paramount importance." The U.N. agency noted that the Vatican has estimated Catholic agencies provide about 25 percent of all HIV treatment and care throughout the world. And the World Health Organization has estimated that perhaps as much as 70 percent of all health care in Africa is provided by faith-based organizations. In addition to his brief meeting with Pope Benedict at the end of the pope's weekly general audience, Sidibe also met with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and with Michel Roy, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis. After the meetings, he told Vatican Radio the influence and reach of churches and other faith-based groups have a huge potential "to fight stigma and discrimination and also to inform people that being sexually responsible is important when you want to prevent new infections" with the virus that causes AIDS. He said Catholic parishes also can encourage women to get tested for HIV, offer support to those who are positive, let them know treatment is available and encourage them to get the antiretroviral drugs when pregnant to prevent passing the virus on to their children.

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As a man grows older: Papal milestones prompt celebration, speculation

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's 85th birthday, April 16, and the seventh anniversary of his election, April 19, are obviously occasions for wishing the pope well and reflecting on the events of his reign thus far. Inevitably, however, these milestones also prompt speculation about what Vatican officials and observers refer to diplomatically as "papal transition." Pope Benedict, after all, is already the sixth-oldest pope since the 1400s, when records became available. It has been almost two years since he told a German interviewer, "My forces are diminishing" and that, when it comes to public appearances, "I wonder whether I can make it even from a purely physical point of view." Last fall, the pope stopped walking in processions up the main aisle of St. Peter's and started riding a mobile platform instead; in March, it was revealed that he sometimes walks with a cane. The pope's schedule grew lighter last year, as he stopped meeting one-on-one with most visiting bishops. During this year's Holy Week liturgies, television viewers around the world could see unmistakable signs of fatigue on the pontiff's face. While none of this suggests that the pope does not have years of life ahead of him, a number of commentators have asked in print, and many more have done so off the record, if he might be getting ready to step down. Pope Benedict himself has said that a pope might have an "obligation to resign" once he "is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office." Americans may be especially inclined toward such speculation at the moment, encouraged by last month's release of the Italian movie "We Have a Pope," in which a fictional pontiff flees from the demands of office. As tempting as filmmakers and journalists might find so dramatic a scenario, the evidence for it is less persuasive when seen in proper context. Consider, for example, that the public first saw Pope Benedict walking with a cane as he was about to board a plane for a 14-hour flight to Mexico, the first stop on a six-day trip that also took him to Cuba. Less than 78 hours after returning from Havana to Rome, the presumably still-jet-lagged pope was offering Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, the first celebration in his busiest week of the liturgical year.

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Irish survey: Gap between church teaching, self-identified Catholics

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Three out of four Irish who identified themselves as Catholics find the church's teaching on sexuality "irrelevant," according to new research published by the Association of Catholic Priests. The survey -- conducted by the research association Amarach -- also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass. Under church law, divorced and remarried Catholics who have received an annulment may receive Communion. The figures were compiled from a sample of 1,000 Catholics and, according to researchers, have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. According to the results, 35 percent of those surveyed attend Mass at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month. Five percent of Irish who identify themselves as Catholics never attend Mass. The Association of Catholic Priests, which represents about 20 percent of Ireland's priests, is campaigning for changes in the church. Its members maintain that they are mainstream church and not dissidents; their founder, Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, has been asked by the Vatican to quit writing for his order's monthly magazine. The survey appeared to reveal a wide disparity between what the church teaches and what the self-identified Catholics believe. Eighty-seven percent disagreed with church teaching on an unmarried priesthood and said they believed that priests ought to be allowed to get married, while 77 percent said the church should admit women to the priesthood. When asked "to what extent do you agree with the Catholic Church's teaching that any sexual expression of love between a gay couple is immoral," 61 percent said they disagreed while 18 percent of those surveyed believed homosexual acts to be immoral.

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Bishop Roman, first Cuban emigre to become US bishop, dies at age 83

MIAMI (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Agustin A. Roman of Miami, the first Cuban exile to be made a U.S. bishop, died April 11 at the age of 83. The Archdiocese of Miami reported that Bishop Roman suffered cardiac arrest at Our Lady of Charity Shrine, which he founded to honor the patroness of Cuba, and where he continued to spend much of his time in retirement. He died later at Mercy Hospital. After visitation and a wake at the same shrine April 12 and 13, his funeral Mass was to be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Mary April 14. Bishop Roman was the son of Cuban peasants who never forgot his roots, according to a release from the Archdiocese of Miami. "His ministry in south Florida has been marked by humility, tenacity and unceasing devotion to his work," said a biography on the archdiocesan website. The late bishop tended "to speak in parables, using stories full of everyday symbolism to illustrate his point. Yet in his quiet, unassuming way, he (got) things done." His death came two weeks after Bishop Roman watched on television from Miami with other Cuban-Americans as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Masses in his homeland, part of celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. It also followed just days after the announcement on Easter Sunday that Father Felix Varela, an 18th-century Cuban priest who also had a long career in exile in the United States, had been declared venerable by the Vatican, which is the first major step in the process toward canonization.


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