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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-11-2012

By Catholic News Service


Florida bishops, on 'ad limina,' talk about marriage, immigration

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic bishops have an obligation to defend traditional marriage to ensure Catholic clergy are never in a position where they would be forced to perform a wedding the church would view as illicit and invalid, said Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. "What we're fighting for is to maintain the definition of a sacrament, one of seven instituted by Christ to give grace," the bishop said May 10 during an interview with Catholic News Service. Bishop Lynch was at the Vatican for his "ad limina" visit. After four days of meetings with Vatican officials and Masses at the major basilicas of Rome, he and the other bishops of Florida met May 11 with Pope Benedict XVI. As part of the 14th group of U.S. bishops to make their "ad limina" visits since November, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami told CNS that although the pope was engaged in the discussions, "you can see he is not a young man any more. It must be a great sacrifice on his part to put up with us day after day." The archbishop kicked off the Florida bishops' group discussion with the pope by explaining "the challenge and the opportunity" of the state's growth through people coming from other parts of the United States and, especially, through immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean. He said the bishops also spoke to the pope about the need to strengthen Catholic families. Bishop Lynch told CNS that in his experience, even if the government offers "all kinds of assurances" about exemptions for religious communities on same-sex unions, "if we give in on this one or blink on this one, which I don't think theologically we could do, but even if for any reason we did, we could suddenly find ourselves" facing a situation in which the government says, "You've got to do it" or all government funding for church programs would stop.

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Vatican spokesman calls on nations to help Syria implement peace plan

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The international community must help bolster Syria's fragile peace plan, which risks unraveling in the wake of one of the deadliest attacks in 14 months of uprisings and conflict, the Vatican spokesman said. Some 55 people were killed and more than 370 people injured after a two suicide car bombs exploded near a military compound in Damascus during early morning rush hour May 10.The government blamed terrorists for the attack while the chief of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, blamed the government for the bombings, saying it was a tactic to keep people indoors and not demonstrating against the regime. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, expressed the Vatican's "strong condemnation and the heartfelt closeness of the Holy Father and the Catholic community to the families of the victims." The written statement May 11 said the latest violence "should encourage all sides to boost and strengthen their commitment to implementing the Annan Peace Plan, which has been accepted by all sides in the conflict." The attacks also show that outside help is needed, it said.

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Messengers of hope, peace still face persecution, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People spreading the Gospel are still subject to persecution even though they are bringing a message of peace and hope to a world marked by crises, anxiety and desperation, Pope Benedict XVI said. "However, despite the problems and tragic reality of persecution, the church does not get discouraged, it remains faithful to the Lord's mandate," knowing that witnesses and martyrs always have been numerous and indispensible for evangelization, he said. The pope spoke May 11 to officials of Pontifical Mission Societies meeting in Rome. "Dear friends, you know well that proclaiming the Gospel often brings difficulty and suffering," he told his audience. Currently, much of the world is facing economic, cultural and political change and "often people feel alone, fallen prey to anguish and desperation," he said. In that context, those who proclaim the Gospel, "even if they are messengers of hope and peace, continue to be persecuted like their master and Lord" Jesus Christ, he said. Despite the challenges and threat of persecution, Christ's message "can never give in to the logic of this world, because it is prophecy and liberation; it is the seed of a new humanity that grows, and only at the end of times will it come to full fruition," the pope said. He said the task of evangelization always has been urgent, however, the current era impels the church to go forth "at an even quicker pace" so that people may know the truth in Christ, find salvation and grow in justice and peace.

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March for Life draws nearly 20,000 people to Canada's Parliament Hill

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- A largely young and noisy crowd gathered on Parliament Hill for the 2012 March for Life to urge the Canadian Parliament to make abortion illegal and to remind officials that children are the building blocks of society. Organizers estimated that 19,500 people participated in the May 10 march, a record for the 15-year-old event, according to Jim Hughes, Campaign Life Coalition president. He said about 60 percent of attendees were 30 years old or younger. Meanwhile, at several Masses around the Canadian capital in conjunction with the march, prelates challenged conventional thinking in society that leads to support for abortion. "We need to challenge the false idea that abortion is merely a private, personal decision," Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said in a homily at the packed Notre Dame Cathedral. "The truth is, abortion hurts everyone -- the developing child in the womb, the mother, the father, the extended family, the community, and even our culture."

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US aid to Zambia demonstrates biblical charity, says church official

LUSAKA, Zambia, (CNS) -- The United States government's $355 million grant to reduce poverty in Zambia is a biblical act of charity, a Catholic Church official said. The grant from the Millennium Challenge Corp., an independent foreign aid agency created by the U.S. Congress in 2004, adheres to Jesus' directive that "those with more should give some of what they have to those with none," explained Father Paul Samasumo, spokesman for the Zambia Episcopal Conference. The Zambian government and officials from the U.S. agency signed off on documents clearing the way for the transfer of funds for water and sanitation projects in the Zambian capital of Lusaka May 10. "It's good when we have the richer nations think about the poor nations. It's biblical and according to what the Lord commands all of us to do," Father Samasumo said. The grant is the largest single investment to improve the country's water system since Zambia attained independence in 1964. Daniel Yohannes, CEO of Millennium Challenge Corp., said at the signing ceremony that the investment in the southern Africa nation will benefit more than 1 million Zambians by improving their health and economic productivity and decreasing the spread of water-borne diseases.

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Traditionalist leader says group could divide over unity with Rome

MENZINGEN, Switzerland (CNS) -- The leader of a breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics spoke in unusually hopeful terms about a possible reconciliation with Rome, but acknowledged significant internal resistance to such a move, which he said might lead to the group splitting apart. Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, spoke to Catholic News Service May 11 at the society's headquarters in Switzerland about the latest events in more than two years of efforts at reconciliation with the Vatican. The society effectively broke with Rome in 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops without the permission of Blessed John Paul II in a protest against modernizing changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. In April the society responded to a "doctrinal preamble" stipulating the group's assent to certain church teachings, presumably including elements of the teaching of Vatican II, as a prerequisite for reconciliation. The Vatican has yet to respond, but the director of the Vatican press office initially described the latest position as a "step forward." The society is hardly united behind its leader's position, however. In April, according to a letter which surfaced on the Internet May 10, the society's other three bishops warned Bishop Fellay that the Vatican's apparent offer to establish the group as a personal prelature -- a status currently held only by Opus Dei -- constituted a "trap," and urged him to say no. "There are some discrepancies in the society," Bishop Fellay told CNS. "I cannot exclude that there might be a split."

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Bishop Lynch says LCWR reform is not 'Armageddon' for group

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While a Vatican investigation or demand for reform can feel like the end of the world to the group or institution involved, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., said his experience has been that such actions are not devastating and actually can be opportunities. Bishop Lynch spoke to Catholic News Service May 10 about his advice to U.S. religious women after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered a reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization of superiors of most of the women's orders in the United States. Interviewed during his "ad limina" visit to the Vatican, the bishop would not comment on the discussions which the bishops of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina had with Vatican officials, including those at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. But, before coming to Rome, Bishop Lynch had written a piece for his blog about the doctrinal congregation ordering the reform of the LCWR and his suggestion that the sisters not panic. The bishop told CNS he did not think the Vatican move was encouraged by U.S. bishops, who "prize and love" the sisters in their dioceses.

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Austria's pastoral Cardinal Schonborn works to hold his church together

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- When discontented Austrian priests mark the first anniversary of their "Call to Disobedience" in June, it will highlight the difficulties facing Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna in holding his disparate Catholic community together. In the nearly 17 years since Cardinal Schonborn became the spiritual leader of the Vienna Archdiocese, he has had to face organized dissent from clergy and laity seeking several church reforms including admitting women to the priesthood. Both supporters and critics agree the cardinal has responded in a pastoral spirit. "There's no doubt he's under strong pressure," said Herman Bahr, treasurer of Austria's Laity Initiative launched in 2009."He's also a kind and generous man, who's in too strong a position to be pulled by either side. Although he can't tolerate open defiance, he clearly favors change himself," Bahr said. Bahr's comments came in reaction to an April 5 Holy Thursday homily by Pope Benedict XVI criticizing -- without specifying the European country -- a group of priests who issued a call to disobey certain aspects of church teaching. In Austria, there's little doubt that the pope was referring to the "Initiative of Parish Priests."

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French pioneer in group media as evangelization tool dies at 87

LYON, France (CNS) -- Oblate Father Pierre Babin, who pioneered the use of new forms of media in communicating tenets of the Catholic faith especially to young audiences, died May 9. He was 87. The French priest established a reputation as an innovator in the use of various communications forms, particularly group media, and was an expert in educational psychology, a writer and an essayist. For more than 30 years, Father Babin utilized what he called the "Symbolic Way" of communicating the faith through new styles of language and images as director of the Center for Research and Education in Communication. He retired from CREC in 2005. His work became widely known around the world as more than 1,300 students from 120 countries were trained as communicators of the Catholic faith at the center. Father Babin was born in 1925 at Paray-le-Monial, France. He entered the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate n 1942 and was ordained to the priesthood seven years later. He studied theology at the Catholic University of Lyon, where his teachers included Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In 1971 he founded CREC, specializing in media training and communication, primarily serving Christian institutions in Europe and Africa. His writings demonstrated how to combine media communication and religious calling by incorporating symbol, intuition, music and sound as evangelization tools.


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