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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-13-2012

By Catholic News Service


Muslim-Catholic dialogue looks at prophets, qualities of believers

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Participants in the 13th annual West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue compared and contrasted the qualities of the believer in Islam and Catholicism during a recent meeting in Orange, Calif. Imam Taha Hassane, director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, identified the six principles of faith for Muslims and said each principle must be accompanied by a right understanding and by its practical application. Imam Hassane emphasized that belief without practice is considered weak in Islam, and that Islam places great emphasis on personal commitment to faith with righteous actions. Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis, vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs in the Catholic Diocese of San Diego, said the Catholic believer similarly requires an absolute submission to the will of God as conveyed through Jesus. But obeying the law of God requires more than doing good actions, he said. "In order to be a disciple of Jesus it is not enough to just obey the commandments but to turn one's life over to God and the proclamation of the good news," Msgr. Mikulanis said. The dialogue, co-chaired by retired Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla of Yakima, Wash., and Imam Muzammil H. Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of Orange County, also included study of the sacred texts of each religion in relation to the Islamic prophet Hud and the Catholic prophet Habbakuk. Imam Siddiqi said Hud, who lived in the third millennium B.C., warned the people of Ad in southern Arabia to turn away from their descent into immorality but was not heeded. The city was destroyed and passed into legend until 1992 when archaeologists discovered a city buried in the sands of southern Arabia that corresponded to the description of Ad in the Quran.

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Book, tuition, Israel, economy discussed at Catholic-Jewish dialogues

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic and Jewish scholars heard presentations on a book that one bishop called "an important milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations" and discussed mutual problems of rising school tuition and threats to religious freedom during recent dialogue sessions. Meeting in New York, the dialogue between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Synagogues heard from one of the editors of "The Jewish Annotated New Testament," published last November by Oxford University Press. Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and co-editor of the book with Marc Zvi Brettler of Brandeis University, said it is vital for Jews to study the New Testament to gain respect for their Christian neighbors and Christians must do the same with the Hebrew Scriptures. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, Catholic co-chairman of the dialogue, praised the book as a milestone. "Never before has a group of Jewish scholars made so learned and technical a reading of the New Testament," he said. "Clearly, this new effort reflects the progress we have made since the Second Vatican Council in mutual respect for each other's sacred Scriptures." Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues, said the volume "is testimony not only to the enormous competence of its editors and authors, but to the spirit of dialogue that can allow Jews to read and appreciate the Jewish context of Christian Scriptures."

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No deferred deportation rules yet; attorneys suggest steps to take now

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the myth-busting website Snopes.com jumps in to debunk a story making the rounds on the Internet, it's a pretty good indication that plenty of people are confused. No, Snopes assures us, there is no such thing as a blanket "amnesty for illegal aliens." And there is not yet an application process for an administration policy announced in June that could allow a million or more young people to apply for a program that defers the possibility of being deported and could give them permission to work. But it's coming. And potential applicants can do a lot of things to get ready, according to attorneys preparing to help process applications. Get official copies of your transcripts, church documents and other proof of how long you've been here; records of taxes, rent and mortgages paid; be sure your passport is current and that you're registered for the Selective Service if you're a male between ages 18 and 26. If you dropped out of high school, get your GED quickly. And sit down with your parents to make sure you know the whole story of how you came to be in this country. President Barack Obama June 15 announced a system whereby certain young adults who are in the country illegally can apply for "deferred action," basically shelving the possibility of deportation for two years and giving them the chance to work legally, possibly get a driver's license and maybe attend college at tuition at reduced in-state-resident rates. All those imprecise words -- chance, possibility, maybe -- are the source of endless questions, most of which can't be answered until the government releases its guidance in mid-August for how the policy will be enacted.

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Gallup survey shows low confidence in church, organized religion in US

PRINCETON, N.J. (CNS) -- Americans' confidence in "church and organized religion" has been on the decline since 1973 and Catholics' confidence in that institution remains lower than that of Protestants, according to the results of a new Gallup survey released July 12. Forty-six percent of Catholics express "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence" in the church and organized religion, compared to 56 percent of Protestants. Overall, 44 percent of Americans expressed that same level of confidence in church/organized religion. The percentage is slightly lower than what Gallup has found in recent years; in 2002, it was 45 percent and in 2007, 46 percent. "This follows a long-term decline in Americans' confidence in religion since the 1970s," Gallup said. In 1973, 66 percent said they had a high level of confidence in religion. This latest poll also found Americans' confidence in public schools, banks and television news is at its "all-time lowest, perhaps reflecting a broader souring of Americans' confidence in societal institutions in 2012," it added. Still, church and organized religion ranked fourth among the 16 institutions on the survey, it noted. Gallup said the difference between Catholics' and Protestants' confidence level in 2012 is "in line with an average 12-percentage-point difference" between the two groups' outlook seen in its polling since 2002, "with Protestants consistently expressing higher confidence." It said there were too few respondents of other religions to break out separate figures for confidence levels in each of those faiths, but taken as a single group, only 29 percent of those of all other faiths expressed "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence," which is "far less than either Protestants or Catholics."

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Mexican priest forced into exile gets hero's welcome upon return

CIUDAD IXTEPEC, Mexico (CNS) -- Father Alejandro Solalinde got a hero's welcome when he returned to his shelter for undocumented Central Americans. The welcoming crew included a brass band, media and dignitaries, as well as migrants waving signs reading, "We missed you." He returned with an escort from the Mexican attorney general's office: four guards expected to provide security for the priest known for his willingness to confront corrupt officials and the organized criminal groups preying on migrants. "This return of Father Solalinde is a continuation of his mission," said Scalabrini Sister Leticia Gutierrez, director of the Mexican bishops' human mobility ministry. "The migrants need you, we need you, too." Father Solalinde left the country in May after receiving undisclosed threats; church and human rights officials encouraged him to go. Such is the danger of working with the thousands of migrants transiting Mexico, where criminal groups -- such as Los Zetas -- kidnap them for ransom, and public officials are often complicit in their crimes. And such is his fame -- as one of Mexico's few figures to openly defy organized crime -- that media made a big deal of his Mexico City press conference upon his return to the country earlier in the week. A team from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights accompanied him back to Oaxaca July 12. "This is my passion, my reason for being," Father Solalinde said upon returning to Oaxaca, adding that he never really wanted to leave the Brothers of the Road shelter that he had founded. I'm a missionary, not because I'm a priest ... because I'm baptized," he said.

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As pope's vacation begins, taking stock of his work year

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every year about this time, American legal journalists review the recently ended Supreme Court term, trying to identify trends and themes that cut across the court's most important rulings. As it happens, the court's October-through-June term coincides almost exactly with what we might call the papal year, which starts when the pope returns to the Vatican each fall and ends when he leaves for the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo (where he relocated this year July 3). Almost all of the Vatican's important business gets done in this span, making it the most relevant unit of time to use when analyzing the papacy's activity and its implications for the church as a whole. So what can the 2011-12 papal "term" tell us about where Pope Benedict XVI is leading the church? If there was one message that the Vatican's agenda and statements this year seemed designed to convey, it was that the world needs the Catholic Church's help to solve its most urgent social and economic problems. In five speeches over the course of six months to U.S. bishops on their "ad limina" visits to Rome, Pope Benedict said that the health and prosperity of American society as a whole require the engagement of its Catholic citizens, in fidelity to the church's teaching on contentious matters, including marriage, abortion, euthanasia, immigration and education. On a November visit to the West African country of Benin, the pope said that a "church reconciled within itself can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society," on a continent divided by often violent ethnic and religious conflicts.

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Father Taras Kraychuk: From drug dealer to Ukrainian Catholic monk

LAC STE. ANNE, Alberta (CNS) -- For years, the alcohol, the drugs, the parties consumed Taras Kraychuk. Then, literally, he saw the light. He's now Father Taras (Terry) Kraychuk, serving as a hieromonk -- pastor-monk -- in the Ukrainian Catholic Church and living the monastic life near Derwent, Alberta. For 12 years, Father Kraychuk has followed God's call to serve others, he told about 2,000 participants at the Catholic Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne in early July. Father Kraychuk said his conversion came on a bus trip from California to his family in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He had decided to return home at the urging of friends who felt his hard-driving lifestyle would lead to his death. The light appeared, he said, soon after he dumped the illicit drugs he was carrying into the toilet in the back of the bus, and he promised God that he would try not to get drunk again. Suddenly, he recalled, he realized that Christ loved him despite his decadent lifestyle. As he looked out a bus window, Father Kraychuk said he saw God's creation with new eyes. He turned to the biker-type man behind him, with whom he had exchanged stories about the partying life during the trip, and realized something had happened to his new friend at the same time. They started to talk loudly. People came from the front of the bus to the back and sat down and listened to the pair. "That was the moment my life turned around," Father Kraychuk said. Not long afterward, Father Kraychuk began working in native missions in northern Canada, discerning a call to the priesthood and monastic life in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. He studied at the Benedictine Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, British Columbia, at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, Calif., and at Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Ottawa before being ordained in 2000.

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Baltimore Catholic school grad makes US Olympic women's basketball team

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Angel McCoughtry's dreams keep coming true. McCoughtry, a 2004 graduate of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore and the leading scorer in the Women's National Basketball Association, is on the 2012 U.S. Olympic women's team. "It's just an honor," said McCoughtry, 25. "It hasn't really hit me yet. When I get to London and the opening ceremonies, I think everything will start flashing back." After St. Frances Academy, McCoughtry was a three-time All-American for the University of Louisville, where she earned an undergraduate degree. She was the No. 1 selection in the 2009 WNBA draft and then the league's Rookie of the Year for the Atlanta Dream. McCoughtry said she "dreamed of being in the WNBA," and being an Olympian is "a dream come true." McCoughtry was to head to London July 18. The Summer Olympics begin July 27, and the medal round games in women's basketball will be Aug. 11, the day before the games close. The U.S. women are heavy favorites to defend their title, as they went 8-0 at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and are the reigning world champions. She won't be as visible on NBC as Michael Phelps -- who will? -- but McCoughtry is a major part of the U.S. team. She was the second-leading scorer and the fourth-leading rebounder for the Americans at the 2010 world championships, and their high scorer in the gold medal rout of the Czech Republic, the tournament host. McCoughtry is one of five WNBA players nominated for an ESPY, presented by the cable sports network ESPN, for best WNBA player. The winner was expected to be announced July 11 in Los Angeles.


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