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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-23-2012

By Catholic News Service


Denver prelates offer consolation in wake of Aurora shootings

DENVER (CNS) -- Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and his auxiliary, Bishop James D. Conley, offered prayers and support to the victims, survivors and the community after a gunman killed at least a dozen people and wounded dozens more during a July 20 midnight screening of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora. "For those who were killed, our hope is the tender mercy of our God," the bishops said in a joint statement. "'Neither death nor life,' reflected St. Paul, 'can separate us from the love of God.'" For those who were wounded -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- our hope is in their recovery and renewal. To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life." Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley also prayed for the shooter. "We hope also for the perpetrator of this terrible crime, and we pray for his conversion. Evil ruled his heart last night," they said July 20. "Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil." Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion of his weekly Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo July 22 to express his sadness over the latest tragedy saying he was "deeply shocked by the senseless violence."

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Tax exempt? Just try proving it through arcane IRS group-ruling system

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It might seem like there's an electronic database for everything, but if someone is trying to prove the tax-exempt status of a nonprofit organization such as a religious charity or school, the process is substantially lower-tech and not necessarily easily searchable. On top of that, the system is fraught with potential pitfalls for organizations that try to maneuver through the regulations for the tax status known as 501(c)(3), such as in an effort to provide donors with full disclosure about their charitable status. Many people are aware of the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of churches and church-related entities, because of concerns about political activities, some of which are prohibited for such entities. But Deirdre Dessingue, associate general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that a more common problem for 501(c)(3) entities is the complex and outdated system for proving who is and isn't a tax-exempt organization. Dessingue said the situation arises out of what is known as an IRS group ruling that since 1946 has granted an exemption from federal income tax to all the institutions listed in the 2,000-page Official Catholic Directory -- all 40,000 or so of them. As information about the group ruling on the USCCB website explains, since 1946, the USCCB has served as the central organization holding the group tax exemption. It is responsible for establishing eligibility criteria for inclusion in the ruling, for monitoring its administration and for resolving eligibility issues.

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Missouri bishops support proposed 'right to pray' amendment on ballot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- A proposed "right to pray" amendment to the Missouri Constitution "would affirm each citizen's right to religious liberty and to pray, both in private as well as public settings," said the state's Catholic bishops. "Increasingly, it seems, religious values are becoming marginalized in our society," the bishops said in a statement released by the Missouri Catholic Conference in Jefferson City. "People of faith need assurance that they remain free to exercise and express their religious beliefs in public, provided just order be observed, without threat of external pressure to conform to changing societal 'norms.' Amendment 2 would protect the right to religious freedom while assuring that 'neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion,'" they said, encouraging Catholics to review the measure and vote for it. It appears on the statewide ballot Aug. 7. The statement was signed by St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who is executive chairman of the Catholic conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops; Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, vice chairman; Bishop John R. Gaydos of Jefferson City; and Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

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Deacon says congress for African-American Catholics 'touched my spirit'

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Hands were raised in prayer and gospel music echoed in a large ballroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel July 19 as some 2,500 attendees from across the country gathered for the start of the National Black Catholic Congress XI in Indianapolis. At the start of the congress' opening general session, a roll call was taken of the dioceses across the country that were represented. As each diocese was named, groups large and small, with many attendees wearing colorful T-shirts, stood up and cheered. The congress in Indianapolis was the first one attended by permanent Deacon Lawrence Houston, who ministers at St. Peter Claver Parish in New Orleans. He said his positive experience in the congress' opening session "started with the music. It just touched my spirit," Deacon Houston said. "And just to be among so many African-Americans who know who they are as Christians and ... are not afraid to let people know that we are black and we are Catholic and that there's no separation in that was a powerful thing." The congress was founded in 1889, and met several times until the late 1890s. It did not meet again until 1987 in Washington and has met every five years since then. Dominican Father Reginald Whitt, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., gave the opening address. He spoke about the early meetings of the congress in the late 19th century, and how they discussed why black Catholics should respond to racism in the broader society, in the church and to the need for better education for their children.

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Priest urges Catholic Daughters to be living signs of an active faith

OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- "Would I know from walking in the elevator with you or sitting next to you in a restaurant that you're in love with your Roman Catholic faith?" That was a question Father Jim Sichko, pastor of St. Mark Parish in Richmond, Ky., asked more than 1,000 women in his speech opening the July 18-21 Catholic Daughters of the Americas' 54th Biennial National Convention in Omaha. "Would I know that you're a devoted member of not only our faith, but women of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas?" said Father Sichko, chaplain of the Catholic Daughters Court St. Anne No. 2568 in Lexington, Ky. As a boy growing up in Orange, Texas, the priest said, he met members of the Catholic Daughters who were "good and holy women" -- living signs of an active faith. He encouraged those at the conference to be similar role models. To live as a model Catholic Daughter, one must be rooted in God's grace, love and faith, show gratitude and stay focused on Jesus and the Eucharist, he said. Catholic Daughters should share the message of Jesus with enthusiasm, be willing to do difficult things at the service of others and the church and not depend on others' approval, he said. "It's about reaching out, believing and trusting. It's allowing that energy and love of Christ to go forth," Father Sichko said. "People want the truth. If you're going to call yourself a Catholic, be Catholic. If you're going to call yourself a Catholic Daughter, be a Catholic Daughter. Rejoice in it and be happy about it and love it." One of the oldest and largest organizations of Catholic women in North and South America, the Catholic Daughters serves the church through religious, charitable and educational ministries, and members practice the principles of unity and charity. The group has 76,000 dues-paying members in more than 1,400 courts in 45 states and Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

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Papal butler's lawyers say client acted out of love for church, pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Everything Paolo Gabriele did, he did for love of the church and the pope, said the lawyers for the personal assistant to Pope Benedict XVI accused of leaking private documents. However, Carlo Fusco and Cristiana Arru, the defense lawyers, said whether or not anything Gabriele did was a crime will be up to Vatican magistrates or a Vatican court to determine. The lawyers spoke to reporters July 21 after Gabriele was allowed to leave a Vatican cell and return to his Vatican apartment to be with his wife and three children. He had been in custody for 60 days. Vatican magistrates said they had finished their interrogation of the 46-year-old papal valet and were putting him under house arrest. The magistrates are still drafting their formal decision on whether or not they believe they have enough evidence to put Gabriele on trial for his alleged part in the "VatiLeaks" scandal. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said he expected the decision to be published at the end of July or beginning of August. The report also will be given to the pope, Father Lombardi said. Pope Benedict already has received the final conclusions of a separate investigation by a commission of three retired cardinals, appointed to investigate a series of leaks of Vatican documents. Pope Benedict, after reading the reports, could decide "how to go forward," either allowing the process to continue or forgiving the man who had worked in the papal apartment since 2006, the spokesman said.

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Vatican withdraws recognition of Peru university as 'Catholic'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has withdrawn the titles "Catholic" and "Pontifical" from a university in Peru after decades of discussions over the school's Catholic identity and after tensions between university officials and the local cardinal over control of the school's assets. In a communique published July 21, the Vatican said Lima's Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, founded in 1917 and given Vatican recognition in 1942, could no longer call itself a pontifical Catholic university. A decree formally stating the decision was issued by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, "on the basis of a specific papal mandate," the communique said. In an interview published on the university website, Marcial Rubio, the school's rector, said the decree was "not the best example of tolerance and respect" and, he said, it was likely to end up "doing harm to the church, especially in its relationship with young people." Rubio said the university has registered the name Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. "This is our official name and through it we are recognized nationally and internationally. We have a full right to continue using it as we see fit." The Vatican said that since 1967, the university's governing body repeatedly has "unilaterally modified its statutes with serious prejudice to the interests of the church."

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Pope says he hopes greatest sports event in world brings global peace

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the Summer Olympics would help bring peace and reconciliation throughout the world. The Olympic Games, held this year in London, are "the greatest sports event in the world," drawing athletes from the myriad nations of the world to one city, the pope told visitors gathered to pray the Angelus with him July 22 at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. The games have "important symbolic value," and for that reason the Catholic Church looks to them "with special fondness and attention," he said. "I send greetings to the organizers, athletes and spectators alike, and pray that, in the spirit of the Olympic truce, the good will generated by this international sporting event may bear fruit, promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the world," he said. The Olympic truce tradition, originating in 8th-century B.C. Greece, asked that all wars and conflict be suspended before and during the games as a way make sure participants could travel to and from the venue safely. The pope said he prayed the Olympics would be "a true experience of brotherhood between all peoples on earth."

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Road-widening project claims part of Missionaries of Charity convent

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNS) -- A Missionaries of Charity convent in the Nepalese capital had to be partially demolished under a road-widening project that has turned several businesses and homes into little more than piles of rubble. Bulldozers smashed the exterior walls, gate and sections of the convent July 21 under terms of the project, which nearly doubles the width of a road in front of the building from 24 feet to 44 feet, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The sisters are responsible for paying for the demolition of part of a three-story building used by the sisters. The leveled section included a chapel and a play room for the 30 or so orphaned and sick children who live at the sisters' compound. "We were only given two days notice and then we quickly moved things from the rooms near the road as we did not know what to expect," said Missionaries of Charity Sister Brigid Ann, local superior of the community. The sisters have lived in the convent for almost three decades, Sister Brigid Ann added. Plans to widen the road have left dozens of street vendors out of business. Those affected say the government has offered little financial compensation.

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Bishops of UK, Ireland urge Catholics to use bodies for 'glory of God'

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- On the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Catholic bishops of the United Kingdom and Ireland called upon Catholics to use their bodies for the "glory of God" in a Day for Life message. Citing the Olympics and Paralympics, which were to open in London July 27 and Aug. 29, respectively, and the importance of healthy living, the bishops announced that they had distributed more than 400,000 pamphlets that urge churchgoers to "live a healthier, more balanced and environmentally sensitive lifestyle." They also reminded people of the importance of exercise and physical activity. "In the next few weeks, we are going to see Olympians and Paralympians do the most amazing things," said Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark in England, chairman of the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "It will be incredible to watch world records being broken, gold medals being won and after years of dedicated training, personal sacrifice and daily discipline, the body performing feats that humanly we would think impossible," he said in a statement July 23.

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Caritas official likes PEPFAR funding for HIV, hopes it can continue

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Holding this year's International AIDS Conference in Washington is recognition of the U.S. government's decision to grant visas to people who are HIV-positive, but it also is recognition of U.S. efforts to combat AIDS worldwide, said a top church official. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, ending a 22-year ban on the entry of people with the virus that causes AIDS. But Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, special adviser on HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis, said the conference also was an indication of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, a massive funding surge initiated by President George W. Bush and continued, though at a lower level, by Obama. Both Bush and Obama will address the July 22-27 conference via videotaped messages. Funding from PEPFAR and the United Nations has made possible great strides in combating the disease. According to the U.N., some 8 million people received antiretroviral treatment last year, a 20 percent increase over 2010. That treatment can significantly prolong life by reducing the viral load in infected people. Yet almost 8 million others who are eligible for the treatment have no access to the medications. At the same time, global funding for AIDS work is flat-lining or declining.

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Zambia progresses in AIDS fight, but bishop warns against complacency

LIVINGSTONE, Zambia (CNS) -- Nurse and midwife Angela Maseka is no stranger to the realities of HIV. A resident of Livingstone, a border community and tourist destination known for its proximity to the wondrous Victoria Falls and to neighboring Zimbabwe, Maseka said being a regional hub and "mobile city" are factors helping drive HIV infection rates. Maseka's work places her at the center of Livingstone's fight against AIDS. Working in a clinic that provides prenatal care and treats pregnant women who are HIV-positive, Maseka and her colleagues see about 10 to 15 pregnant women a day. About three-quarters of them are HIV-positive. One of them, Melody Pumulo, 32, eight months pregnant with her fourth child, lives in one of Livingstone's shanty towns. Pumulo is not sure how she contracted the virus that causes AIDS, but ruefully notes that her husband has steadfastly refused to be tested. Pumulo accepted the news of her HIV status with certain fatalism: "It has come," she recalled thinking when she got the news. Recent advances in medical treatment have given Pumulo some hope that her child -- a girl, she hopes -- will not be born with HIV. Advanced pregnant mother-to-child treatments are given through antiretroviral drugs. However, the child's eventual HIV status will not be known until after birth. "She's prepared for all eventualities, prepared for any treatment," Maseka said of Pumulo. "The child did not invite the HIV," Pumulo said. "I just want her to be free of HIV, go to school, work."

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Pope names New York-born priest bishop for Ukrainians in France

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has named a Ukrainian Catholic priest who was born in Syracuse, N.Y., to be the bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France. Father Borys Gudziak, 51, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, has lived and worked mainly in Ukraine since completing his doctorate in Slavic history at Harvard in 1992. The Vatican announced July 21 that the pope had named him a bishop and appointed him apostolic exarch for Byzantine-rite Ukrainians in France. According to Vatican statistics, he will be responsible for the pastoral care of about 25,000 Ukrainian Catholics, who are ministered to by 16 priests, five religious women and a permanent deacon. Bishop-designate Gudziak was born Nov. 24, 1960, to parents who emigrated from Ukraine. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1980 and moved to Rome to study at Holy Sofia College and the Pontifical Urbanian University, earning a degree in theology. He studied at Harvard from 1983 to 1992, and then moved to Ukraine where he was the founding director of the Institute of Church History and coordinator of an oral history project to collect the stories of those who survived and maintained their faith under communist repression of the church. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1998 and was named rector of the Lviv Theological Academy in 2000. The academy grew into the Ukrainian Catholic University in 2002 and he was named rector.

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Cuban activist, founder of Varela Project, killed in car crash

HAVANA (CNS) -- Lay Catholic leaders in Havana were among those mourning the death of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, a champion of civil and human rights, coordinator of Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement and founder of the Varela Project, who was killed in a car accident July 22. The laity magazine Espacio Laical posted a note seeking prayers for Paya and his family and friends, and calling him "an honest man, an exemplary family man, a Catholic of integrity, a good Cuban and a politician who invariably acted according to his conscience." Paya, 60, and another Cuban activist, Harold Cepera, were killed when the car in which they were driving struck a tree, about 14 miles outside the city of Bayamo in Granma province. Two other passengers in the rental car, a Spaniard and a Swede, were injured and reported to be recovering in a Bayamo hospital. Paya was a Catholic who was public about his faith and its influence on his work, even during the years when Cuba was an officially atheist nation and being active in a church carried social and employment ramifications. The Varela Project advocates peacefully for democratic reforms in Cuba. Though the Catholic Church has no official involvement with the Varela Project because of its political activities, it was named for Father Felix Varela, a 19th century Cuban priest who was involved in the country's first independence movement. Father Varela was declared venerable in April.


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