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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-11-2012

By Catholic News Service


House panel's food aid cuts in farm bill called 'unjustified and wrong'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A proposed $16 billion cut in the nation's Supplemental Nutritional and Assistance Program is "unjustified and wrong," said a joint letter from the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic and international justice committees, leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. The cuts in SNAP, once known as food stamps, "will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and struggling workers," said the July 10 letter, addressed to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the committee's ranking Democrat. "At this time of economic hardship and continued high unemployment, the committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people. To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong," the letter said. "A just farm bill requires shared sacrifice by all but cannot rely on disproportionate cuts to essential services for hungry, poor and vulnerable people," it said. The letter was signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace; Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency; and James Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

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Some military chaplains feel religious freedom challenged, says bishop

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- While they work to defend the U.S. Constitution, some Catholic military chaplains feel that their First Amendment right to the "free exercise" of religion has been called into question. "Many have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, and of course among the first and the founding freedoms of our country was that of religious liberty," said Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. "Does a service member have to forfeit their constitutional right when they put on the uniform?" he asked during an interview with the Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Anchorage Archdiocese. Bishop Buckon was in Alaska recently to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage. Two recent incidents have prompted concerns among Catholic chaplains and those of other faiths. In late January, a directive was issued -- and later rescinded -- by the U.S. Army chief of chaplains that said a letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the military archdiocese, which opposed the Obama administration's contraceptive health care mandate, could not be read from the pulpit by Catholic military chaplains. Last October, the Pentagon issued a memo allowing military chaplains to participate in or officiate at same-sex marriages on or off military installations. The memo stated no chaplain would be required to do so if it "would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion," but religious leaders say questions remain over conscience protections for military members and chaplains.

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Drought, heat making Midwest corn farmers pray for rain

SEYMOUR, Ill. (CNS) -- The desperation of drought-stricken farmers in the Midwest was evidenced by what topped Mary Margaret O'Connor's "day's best memory" list as the July 8 celebration of her parish church's centennial came to a close. "It looks like we're going to get rain," said O'Connor, eyeing dark clouds approaching the grounds of St. Boniface Church, where a tent had been erected for a parish luncheon. Prayers to keep rain away from an outdoor parish celebration months in the planning and including a visit from the diocesan bishop would usually be the norm. But not this summer at St. Boniface Church, a Catholic landmark rising above the fertile corn and bean fields of western Champaign County. As in much of the Midwest, farmers in Seymour are on the edge of disaster from scorching heat and lack of rain. "Hopefully, it will come," Father Robert Lampitt, parochial vicar of the rural parish, said of the rain before leading the meal blessing. "It would be a godsend," agreed Bill Klein, a fourth-generation farmer whose great uncle willed the rural parish an 80-acre tract of land upon his death in 1954. The field north of the church is planted in soybeans this year. Klein, O'Connor and other farmers of St. Boniface Parish compared the current drought to one in 1988. The region is 10 inches or more below normal rainfall for the year. What rain comes now may already be too late for some corn crops but would be greatly benefit soybeans.

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Episcopal Church approves liturgical resources for same-sex blessings

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- In a decision that could strain relations with the Catholic Church and within its own Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has approved liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships. The church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 July 9 in favor of provisional use of the resources until the next General Convention, held every three years. About 80 percent of the church's House of Deputies gave their approval July 10. But Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana said during the debate that approval would "put the Episcopal Church out of the Christian mainstream. The Christian world is going to understand us as having changed the nature of the sacrament of holy matrimony," he said. "The Christian world will ... see vows, and exchange of rings, a pronouncement and a blessing and they will understand that to mean the Episcopal Church has endorsed same-sex marriage and changed a basic Christian doctrine. I do not believe that we are free to do that." The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, which has opposed the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay bishops. Oblate Father John W. Crossin, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, declined an interview request about the move, saying, "We don't comment on the internal workings of other churches." Both houses of the General Convention also voted to approve a resolution titled "Extending the rights of the laity" that forbids discrimination against members of the transgendered community.

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Illicitly ordained Chinese bishop incurs automatic excommunication

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Chinese Father Joseph Yue Fusheng has been automatically excommunicated for allowing himself to be illicitly ordained a bishop despite repeated warnings from the Vatican. "The Holy See does not recognize him as bishop of the apostolic administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the province of Heilongjiang," the Vatican said in a written statement July 10. It also praised the licit ordination of the new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, who reportedly was taken away by authorities after his July 7 ordination and whose whereabouts remain unknown. Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai has been restricted by the government after saying he would give up his role in the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association. In recent years, because of government requirements, the priests, nuns and laypeople of Chinese dioceses have elected their new bishops, and most of those elected have applied to the Holy See for approval. When such approval was given, it often was announced at the episcopal ordination. Father Yue was ordained bishop of Harbin July 6 without papal mandate following an acrimonious exchange of notifications between the Vatican and Beijing.

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Pregnancy adds to peril of Honduran migrant in Mexico

TULTITLAN, Mexico (CNS) -- Noemi Espinal Vaca, 29, left Honduras in the middle of May, carrying her meager possessions on a northbound path through Mexico. She left with her common-law partner for a trip of stealing rides on trains. And she left six months pregnant -- such was her partner's desperation to depart Honduras, which Espinal says has descended into poverty and violence. "I'm not going to return," Espinal said, while sitting outside the St. Juan Diego migrant shelter, a facility she had to abandon after it was closed July 9 due to repeated run-ins between migrants and neighbors. "What I want is to be (in the United States) to give birth." Espinal is among the hundreds of Hondurans heading north every day, having given up on a Central American country plagued by political conflicts -- including a 2009 coup -- and drug-cartel crimes. Honduras ranks among the most violent country in the hemisphere with a murder rate of more than 80 per 100,000 residents, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. That rate is roughly four times higher than the rate in Mexico. The Honduran consul in Mexico told the newspaper La Jornada that 700 Central American migrants cross the border every day, despite the risks of transiting Mexico. Espinal said she encountered no difficulties in Mexico, where crimes committed against migrants spiraled in recent years. Migrant shelter operators say the crimes seem to have diminished in scale and scope recently.

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No peace without dialogue, sacrifice, patience, pope says

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Just as individual musicians in an orchestra turn dissonance into harmony through hard work, sacrifice and listening to one another, so, too, can the world's people turn conflict into peace, said Pope Benedict XVI. The pope made his remarks following a July 11 concert performed in his honor by young musicians from Israel, the Palestinian territories and other Arab countries. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is directed by the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and was co-founded in 1999 by Barenboim and the late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said. The interfaith orchestra celebrated the feast of St. Benedict by treating the pope to two Beethoven symphonies -- Nos. 5 and 6. The pope thanked the musicians for their performance, held in the courtyard of the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, and said that the orchestra's existence reflected the conviction that music can bring people together in spite of all dividing forces. "Music is a harmony of differences as happens every time before a concert begins," when all the different instruments are brought in tune, he said. "But this doesn't happen magically or automatically," he said, since it takes patience, time, sacrifice and dedication to listen to others and avoiding grandstanding.

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Irish bishop appeals for prayers for a break in the rain

DUBLIN (CNS) -- An Irish bishop has appealed to parishioners to pray for a break in the rain. Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns asked local churches to offer prayers for farming families struggling under a severe loss of income due to the weather conditions. The Irish Farmers' Association warned that farm families across the country have been hit by a loss of 100 million euros due to higher feed costs and a loss of output as a result of the poor weather conditions. Bishop Brennan said many farming families in the area are "experiencing real strain and anxiety as they grapple with the prospect of a continuation of the current poor spell and its threatened adverse effects on the annual harvest." He also expressed the fear that the poor weather could hinder the wider national economic recovery. Bishop Brennan said many parishes in his diocese have received requests for prayers for fine weather. "In truth, they range from the very heartfelt of the farming community to those of parents whose children are looking to get outdoors and enjoy the best of the summer holidays," he told Catholic News Service. "Our real thoughts and prayers are with the farming community at this time. I am very conscious of the vital role it plays in our society and our economy. This persistently poor weather is a real threat to crops and livelihoods -- and it now spells extra animal feed costs," Bishop Brennan said. While summers in Ireland are generally damp, this year has proved to be particularly wet. Nine inches of rain -- nearly three times the average -- fell in the month of June. June had only 93 hours of sunshine, scarcely half of the monthly average. It was the wettest June since records began in 1910.

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German-born priest named superior general of Society of the Divine Word

TECHNY, Ill. (CNS) -- Father Heinz Kuluke, a member of the Society of the Divine Word since 1981, was elected superior general of the missionary order. He succeeds Father Antonio Pernia, a native of the Philippines and the order's first Asian-born superior general. He was elected to the post in 2000 and served two-six-year terms. Father Kuluke's election was announced July 3 by the order's Chicago province, which is based in Techny. The Society of the Divine Word, founded in 1875, has more than 6,000 priests and brothers working in 71 countries, providing pastoral care, building schools and medical clinics, and developing social service programs that offer food, clothing and shelter to those in need. It is the world's largest Catholic religious order of priests and brothers who focus on missionary work. On July 5, the order also announced that a Chicago-born Divine Word priest, Father Robert Kisala, was elected vice superior general. A missionary and educator in Japan for 20 years, Father Kisala has been admonitor of the general council at the Divine Word world headquarters in Rome since 2006. German-born Father Kuluke joined the Society of the Divine Word after a year of military service in the German air force and studies in electrical engineering. After his 1986 ordination as a priest in Germany, he was sent to Mindanao in southern Philippines for his first assignment.


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