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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-20-2012

By Catholic News Service


Fordham symposium explores use of language in new Roman Missal

BRONX, N.Y. (CNS) -- The language used in the new translation of the Mass has evoked a variety of responses, from highly enthusiastic to deeply distressed, and can be seen as both a gift and a challenge, according to speakers at a symposium April 16 at Jesuit-run Fordham University. The program, "Letting Us Pray: A Symposium on Language in Liturgy," explored the intricacies of the new English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, in use in parishes since last November. A thorough appreciation of the new translation requires a firm grounding "both in the Gospel and in the history and tradition of Catholic worship, not some nostalgic, colorized version of the past" according to keynote speaker Mercy Sister Julia Upton, provost and professor of theology at St. John's University. Sister Julia said the new language could jolt people into a "second naivete," where old sacred symbols become newly accessible, without sacrificing either the symbol's integrity or the believer's modernity. "What has been called the 'new' Roman Missal is not new! It is the same Mass, but it sounds different," Sister Julia said. "This third edition of the Roman Missal was published in Latin in 2002 and took almost 10 years to translate." Announced by Pope John Paul II in 2000, the missal is the book of prayers used in the worship in the Latin-rite church. The English translation was a lengthy and rigorous process that took place through the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. It was approved in sections by the various bishops' conferences. It received final approval from the U.S. bishops in November 2009. The tension associated with the implementation of the revised translation can lead to new thinking and dialogue if worshippers remain open and hopeful, Sister Julia said. "There is a lot for all of us to learn in this process."

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Religious liberty issue takes center stage at Catholic prayer breakfast

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Religious liberty was topic A at the eighth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held April 19 at a Washington hotel. "Never in the lifetime of anyone present here has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today," warned Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in remarks to the estimated 800 people in attendance. "We must remind our fellow Americans, and especially those who exercise power, that religious liberty -- the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment -- has been essential to the founding, development and improvement of the American republic." Anderson said, "Today we find a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways. And it is not only because of the Obama administration's HHS contraception mandate." Besides the mandate requiring that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion, Anderson pointed to the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, a court challenge to a Lutheran school's firing of a teacher. The attempt to more narrowly define who is a religious employee was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. He also noted the revocation of a federal human trafficking grant awarded to the U.S. bishops' Department of Migration and Refugee Services because MRS would not offer its clients the "full range of reproductive services," including abortion. "A government willing to affect the faith and mission of the church is a government willing to change the identity of the church," Anderson declared.

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US bishop reiterates call to end Cuba embargo; gets support in Miami

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- The relaxation of some travel restrictions to Cuba last year has already had positive effects, but the U.S. needs to go all the way and lift its economic embargo, according to the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. That would be a valuable step, agreed Florida Catholics who follow the situation in that country, though some said Cuba itself has to make more major changes, too. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the committee, said in an April 17 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the modified policies "have given but a taste of what truly should happen for the sake of the people of both countries. It is imperative that more must be done to support deepened dialogue and communication between our respective countries." Such communication holds promise of fostering human rights and other positive changes in Cuba, wrote Bishop Pates. He explained that he visited Cuba in March for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI and learned how complicated it is for the church's social aid organizations to function because of the trade embargo. He noted that the staff of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana told him Catholic charitable organizations are advancing a more free and humane society. "To do this work well, these organizations must not be encumbered by outdated policies that only harm the most vulnerable people," he wrote. "All restrictions should be systematically examined and eliminated so that the complete abolition of the embargo and its harmful effects can be achieved. These burdens are not borne by the members of the Cuban governing elite, but rather by the 'ordinary' Cuban and especially by the weakest members of that society."

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Gender equality brings economic empowerment to all, CRS adviser says

VILLANOVA, Pa. (CNS) -- Empowering women and girls makes good economic sense. That's the message Carrie Miller, senior technical adviser for health and HIV with Catholic Relief Services, brought to a roomful of Villanova University students April 18. Miller, who has worked in 10 countries since joining the overseas aid and development agency for the U.S. Catholic community in 2000, told the story of Abushu Gudeta, an Ethiopian man with 16 children -- 11 of them daughters -- whose Oromo traditions called for each daughter to be promised in marriage at birth, with her future husband's family paying to raise her. If the girl did not marry at around age 13, the father would have to repay the family for the money they had spent. But if she did marry at that young age, her education would end and she would be expected to become pregnant soon after, perpetuating "a cycle of poverty, risk to her health and inequality," Miller said. A CRS project in Ethiopia called Empowering Adolescent Girls has helped to break that cycle for some young girls in that country, she said. The project, from 2006 to 2009, targeted 5,500 rural girls with the goal of giving them greater access to education and economic opportunity. Elements of the project included education about agricultural production, more efficient cook stoves to free up the girls from household chores, access to low-cost irrigation, financial literacy training and access to financial services so that they could save and get small loans. It is important, however, that the project worked not only with the girls themselves but at what Miller called "multiple levels of influence" -- the girls' family and male peers, their communities and at the institutional and cultural level.

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Secularism in America: Growing American movement raises concerns

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Arianne Gasser of Canton, Ohio, is proud to call herself a graduate student at a prestigious Catholic university, and she also is proud to call herself an atheist. The pride she has in her atheist status is part of what inspired her to travel from the Philadelphia area, where she is enrolled at Villanova University, to Washington in March to join thousands of other atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers for the "Reason Rally," an event that was billed as an assembly to unify secular people nationwide. Carrying a sign that reads, "This is what an atheist looks like," Gasser is part of a growing segment of Americans under the age of 30 who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. It's a movement that concerns Catholic leaders worldwide, including Pope Benedict XVI. "We have morals and we have beliefs and we have these values," said Gasser, as she walked along the National Mall and marveled at how many people turned out for the rally. "People just think that we're evil, God-hating. We're just people. We just don't believe that something happens to us after we die." A survey released in 2009 by the Pew Research Center found that a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 surveyed said they were atheists, agnostics or had no religion. "Radical secularism" threatens the core values of American culture, the pope warned a group of U.S. bishops visiting the Vatican in January. He called on the church in the U.S., as well as politicians and other laypeople, to render "public moral witness" on crucial social issues. "The larger concern with secularism is that it damages people, and that it actually keeps people from being reasonable with one another," said Chad C. Pecknold, assistant professor of systematic theology in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

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Holy Spirit inspires church's interpretation of Bible, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the text of the Bible is fixed, the same Holy Spirit that inspired its writing continues to inspire its proclamation and interpretation in the church, Pope Benedict XVI said. The Catholic Church's understanding of the Bible grows through time thanks to the Holy Spirit's guidance and to reflection, study, prayer and preaching, the pope said in a message to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an international group of scholars who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The commission met at the Vatican April 16-20 to continue its discussion and study of "inspiration and truth in the Bible." While the act of revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, Pope Benedict said, "the revealed word continues to be proclaimed and interpreted by the living tradition of the church. For this reason, the word of God fixed in the sacred texts is not an immobile deposit within the church, but becomes the supreme rule of its faith." Pope Benedict said no one can really understand the Bible without recognizing that it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But, as he told the biblical commission last year, "it is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, extrapolating a single phrase or expression."

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Guinea-Bissau bishops reject military coup, pray for return of peace

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of Guinea-Bissau repudiated the military coup of the West African nation and called for the respect of democratic rule and for prayer to resolve the conflict peacefully. In a statement released April 17, five days after military commanders seized power from interim President Raimundo Pereira and former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr., the bishops said, "We are facing a very serious national problem of yet unpredictable consequences." They also acknowledged long-standing "explicit signs of uneasiness" that resurfaced during the first round of the presidential election in March and said they must be addressed. The coup, which occurred two weeks before elections, aggravated Guinea-Bissau's tenuous situation and posed "risks, problems and suffering for the whole population" of the country of 1.6 million residents, the bishops added. Calling for prayer to assure a peaceful outcome of events, the bishops urged the country to "correctly form our moral conscience in order to promote and defend the common good and avoid negative behaviors" that have led to conflict at various levels of leadership. "Let us have sacred respect for the laws of the republic and for democratically elected institutions," the bishops said.

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Cardinal says Vatican bank meeting reassured US donors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Trustees of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, which donates millions of dollars to papal charities each year, spent two hours at the Vatican bank April 20 and came away convinced that the institution's bad press was undeserved, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington. "I found it very reassuring," the cardinal told Catholic News Service in Rome. "The effort of the Holy See to be transparent is demonstrable." The bank, which is formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion (known by its Italian initials, IOR), "is just that -- a work of religion," said the cardinal, who is chairman of the Papal Foundation's board of trustees. Having a bank allows Vatican offices, international religious orders and Catholic institutions to handle money in a variety of currencies and move resources to where they are needed, he said. Cardinal Wuerl said the trustees were given an overview of the bank's operations and a tour of its offices in a medieval tower inside the Vatican. A series of leaks of letters exchanged among Vatican officials and between the officials and the pope himself beginning in January raised concerns about the bank and about financial transparency within the Vatican. Concerns increased in March when the U.S. government put the Vatican on a list of countries that are vulnerable to money launderers, although the list says the Vatican is not as vulnerable as the United States itself.

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Former head of diocesan child protection office on leave over claim

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- A priest of the Arlington Diocese who is a pastor and former head of the diocese's Office of Child Protection and Safety has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a male minor in the late 1990s. The investigation of the allegation made against Father Terry Specht is in its initial phase and no final determination has yet been made, the diocese said in an April 18 statement. Father Specht has denied the allegation, and the diocese said it has received no other allegations of misconduct against the priest. Like all priests, diocesan employees and volunteers who work with children, he underwent an official background check early in his tenure, it added. In accordance with its child protection policy, the diocese notified the Fairfax County Police Department when it received the allegation and is cooperating fully with law enforcement. Father Specht was director of the Arlington diocesan Office of Child Protection and Safety from 2004 to 2011. He has been administrator and pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale since 2007. Before that, he was parochial vicar of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, 1996 to 2000, and then chaplain and assistant principal at Paul VI Catholic High School, also in Fairfax, 2000 to 2004. "Any allegation of abuse deepens the pain felt by all Catholics, and particularly survivors of abuse," Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde said in a statement.


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