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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Sep-10-2012

By Catholic News Service


Philadelphia archbishop's residence sold to university for $10 million

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- St. Joseph's University will buy the archbishop of Philadelphia's residence for $10 million, the university announced Sept. 7. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia signed a letter of intent with St. Joseph's to acquire the 8.9-acre property and its three-story, 23,350-square-foot mansion that has been the home of Philadelphia's Catholic archbishops since 1935. The property sits across Cardinal Avenue from the university's campus along City Avenue. "Acquiring this adjacent property presents an opportunity that will be integral to the university's long-term strategic planning," said St. Joseph's president, Jesuit Father C. Kevin Gillespie. "As we look to the future, this opens exciting possibilities for the university community, and it will further enhance our students' experience for decades to come." Father Gillespie said the university has no immediate plans for development on the property and will evaluate its possible short-term use for administrative offices. St. Joseph's officials expect to sign the agreement of sale within the next several weeks. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the most recent Philadelphia archbishop to reside in the home after Cardinals Justin Rigali, Anthony J. Bevilacqua, John J. Krol, Gerald P. O'Hara and Dennis J. Dougherty, will now live at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, located 5.3 miles south.

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Cardinal urges seminarians to rely on authentic Catholic teaching

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a letter to seminarians of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged them to rely on authentic Catholic teaching in their preparation for the priesthood, so that they will be able to share the truth of the church's teachings with the people they will one day serve. He urged them to look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a sure guide on what the church teaches. "Your need to be well grounded in authentic Catholic teaching is important, first for your own participation in the great, living teaching tradition of the church," the cardinal said in his Sept. 3 letter to the archdiocese's 74 seminarians. "One reason why you are required to take so many courses in Catholic teaching, history and philosophy is so that you are not only aware of the immense gift of the great Catholic tradition, but that you are also well prepared to access it, understand it, appropriate it and share it," he added. The cardinal titled his letter "Faith Seeking Understanding in the Life of the Seminarian." He said that as priests, they will be ministering to people in a materialistic, secular world who, in their worldly culture and by alternative voices claiming to be Catholic, have been taught things that are counter to church teaching, especially in the area of sexual morality. The cardinal noted that Pope Benedict XVI has warned of college and university theology teachers who have presented "teachings that were never accepted as part of Christ's Gospel," as new teachings "in the 'spirit'" of the Second Vatican Council, and those theologians' false teachings have been amplified in the secular mass media. Cardinal Wuerl likewise warned of theology teachers, even at Catholic institutions of higher learning, who are "reproposing Christ, his church and his teaching."

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Water from Isaac still hampering residents' recovery from storm

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It doesn't really matter whether Isaac was classified as a hurricane or a tropical storm when it hit certain points of Louisiana. What matters is the rain dumped on the region -- as much as 20 inches from the slow-moving weather system -- as it churned and curled its way around the Gulf Coast, into the Plains states and toward the Eastern seaboard before it finally dissipated. Five deaths were attributed to Isaac, which many had feared would be a repeat of Hurricane Katrina seven years earlier, which caused 1,827 deaths. But the relentlessly pounding rains left hundreds of people in shelters more than a week after the storm came through because their homes were still flooded. One similarity to Katrina: After the 2005 hurricane, much of coastal Louisiana breathed a huge sigh of relief, thinking the area had dodged a bullet -- and then the levees broke. With Isaac, residents felt much the same, according to Carol Spruell, communications director for Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge. But "a day or so after the hurricane the bayou started to rise. The people here pitched in, sandbagging," Spruell said, "but they said they'd never seen water get so high before." One big difference between Isaac and Katrina, according to Father Larry Snyder, executive director of Catholic Charities USA: "In the last seven years we have tried to put together a network of having local dioceses and local Catholic Charities (affiliates) having a disaster plan, so that when a storm of this magnitude comes everybody was prepared. That was missing in Katrina. In our assessment, this worked, and it worked well."

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Ten Commandments are God's recipe for a good life, pope says

ROME (CNS) -- The Ten Commandments are a gift from God to help people live a correct relationship with God and with others, Pope Benedict XVI said. "God gave us the commandments to educate us about true freedom and authentic love so that we could be truly happy," he said in a video message played Sept. 8 in Rome's Piazza del Popolo. The big public square in Italy's capital was the site of the launch of "Ten Piazzas for the Ten Commandments," a project of the Italian charismatic renewal movement, the Italian bishops' conference and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The project -- evenings of reflection, music and dance -- will focus on a different commandment in a different city each month. Pope Benedict said people may ask what sense the Ten Commandments have today in cultures heavily marked by secularism and relativism. The answer, he said, is that the commandments are "a sign of the love of God the Father (and) his desire to teach us the correct discernment between good and evil, true and false, just and unjust." Those who ignore the precepts taught in the Ten Commandments not only move away from God, but they move away from lasting happiness, he said.

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Mary is model of mature Christian faith, pope tells Marian scholars

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Mary, the Mother of God, represents a "full and mature" Christian faith, one that all believers should imitate, Pope Benedict XVI told Marian experts attending an academic conference in Rome. People can look to Mary as an example of living according to God's will with confidence and joy, he said Sept. 8, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. The pope said he put the upcoming Year of Faith under Mary's protection because she is "an exemplary model of the faith" and is "blessed because she believed." He voiced hope that the year, which begins Oct. 11, would be "a true moment of grace in which Mary's faith precedes us and accompanies us as a bright beacon and as a model of fullness and Christian maturity." The pope asked that people continue to trust in Mary as they draw from her "enthusiasm and joy to live our vocation as children of God with ever greater commitment and consistency." The pope made his remarks to about 350 participants in the Sept. 4-9 Mariological Marian International Congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Marian International Academy. In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the congress focused on the impact of Vatican II on Marian devotion and studies.

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Ukrainian Catholic bishops discuss next steps in vibrant-parish plan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (CNS) -- Ukrainian Catholic bishops from around the world gathered in Canada to discuss how to make their parishes more vibrant -- especially through the involvement of laypeople. How they do that requires solutions as varied as the parishes that represent more than 4 million Ukrainian Catholics on four continents. "We have parishes that are growing" and need pastoral, financial and structural support, said Canadian Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, who heads the Ukrainian Catholic Church's implementation team for its strategic plan, "Vision 2020." Some urban parishes have an aging population and declining numbers, and synod members must decide how to support the parish priest who spends so much time visiting the sick and officiating at funerals, said Bishop Nowakowski. At the other end of the spectrum, the bishops must consider how to help keep priests in busy, large parishes from burning out. The vibrant parish initiative was approved by the synod in 2011 when the bishops met in Brazil. Their first steps have included making sure that clergy understand the plan and representatives of each of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchies, or dioceses, designated a priest-representative to help introduce the plan within the diocese.

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Preparing for Lebanon trip, Pope laments 'anguish' of Middle East

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Less than a week before traveling to Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI voiced solidarity with victims of war in the Middle East and called for continuing efforts to bring peace to the region. "I understand the anguish of the many Middle Eastern people who are every day immersed in sufferings of every kind," the pope said Sept. 9, after praying the Angelus with pilgrims at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, 18 miles southeast of Rome. The pope expressed concern specifically for those who, "in search of a peaceful place, leave their family and professional life and experience the precariousness of being exiles. We must not resign ourselves to the violence and aggravation of tensions," the pope said. "Commitment to dialogue and reconciliation should be a priority for all the parties involved, and should be supported by the international community." Pope Benedict will visit Lebanon Sept. 14-16 to present his document of reflections on the 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to Christians in the Middle East. He will also meet with representatives of local Christian and Muslim communities, and address political and cultural leaders. The visit occurs against the backdrop of unrest in neighboring Syria, where soldiers have been battling forces seeking an end to the rule of President Bashar Assad, leaving thousands of civilians dead and displacing hundreds of thousands of refugees since March 2011. The pope's remarks in Lebanon are likely to mention, or at least allude to, other regional conflicts as well.

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Religion's role in Arab Spring is promoting dignity, official says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Religious communities can assist the North African and Middle Eastern pro-democracy movements by upholding human dignity and not trying to claim power for one religion or one movement within a religion, a senior Vatican official said. Comboni Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, represented the Vatican at a conference in Istanbul Sept. 7-8 on "The Arab Awakening and Peace in the New Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives." He told participants at the conference, sponsored by Marmara University in Istanbul, that democracy presumes respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of religion and worship. "In the growing efforts to enable democracy to take hold in the fabric of society in the Arab world, the hope is that it will lead to greater consideration of these basic rights," Father Ayuso said. A hopeful sign, he said, was the publication in January of a "bill of rights of basic liberties" by Muslim scholars at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The document encouraged recognition of the freedoms of worship, opinion, scientific research and art and creative expression in new constitutions throughout the Arab world. The 2011 Arab Spring movements led to democratic elections in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt where Islam-inspired political parties won the most votes. The risk with democracy, Father Ayuso said, is that it "potentially could be used to legitimate extremist and fundamentalist ideologies," which would make life difficult not only for the Christian minorities, but also for moderate Muslims.

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Catholic social programs foster Christian-Muslim understanding in Egypt

AL-MUKHALFA, Egypt (CNS) -- On a recent summer evening, the local representative of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood party paid a visit to the almost entirely Coptic Catholic village of Al-Mukhalfa, known as "Little Rome" deep in Egypt's south. "When you are threatened, we are threatened," party representative Yusuf Sherif told an audience of about 80 people who were crowded into the small courtyard of St. George Coptic Catholic Church. A quarter of them were teenage girls from the church choir, on standby to sing. "When a Christian girl is harassed by a Muslim, we defend the girl," Sherif said. "Our church is open to all those who need it," responded Coptic Catholic Bishop Youssef Aboul El Kher of Sohag, Egypt, when it was his turn to speak. "We have many ministries for social good, such as women's health and combating illiteracy. We are in the service of everyone," he told the crowd. Then the teenagers burst into a song praising Egypt "everyone loves." The Muslim-Christian exchange was part of an initiative established by the local Coptic Catholic Church to help Egypt recover from years of authoritarian rule and the turmoil that overthrew it in January 2011. Such church-related initiatives and programs are providing sorely needed social, education, medical and economic help to Egypt. They serve as important platforms for understanding between the country's Christians and Muslims, especially now, at a time when tension and insecurities are high, say those involved in the Catholic aid efforts.

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Pakistani court grants bail to girl accused of blasphemy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy was granted bail Sept. 7 after three weeks in police custody. The judge, who ordered the girl's release on a bail of about $5,282, said there was insufficient evidence to justify continuing to hold Rimsha Masih in jail. However, the case against her was not dismissed. Investigations continue both into accusations that Rimsha burned pages of the Quran -- a violation of Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws -- as well as into the actions of Khalid Jadoon Chishti, a Muslim cleric, who was taken into police custody Sept. 2 after being accused of planting the pages of the Quran and burned pieces of paper in the girl's bag. Rimsha had been in police custody since Aug. 18. Her parents said she is 11 years old and has Down syndrome; a court appointed physician reported she was about 14 and is developmentally delayed. Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio the bail was high for Pakistan and certainly beyond the means of Rimsha's family, but donations were expected to cover it. The girl was released Sept. 9. Granting bail was "not a charitable gesture" on the part of the court, he said, and the simple fact that "for three weeks a child was kept in custody" raised questions about the Pakistani justice system.


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