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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Sep-21-2012

By Catholic News Service


Catholics must take action to protect religious liberty, speakers urge

JAMAICA, N.Y. (CNS) -- Religious liberty is facing such grave threats in the United States that Catholics must take immediate and courageous action to defend fundamental values both in the public forum and in the privacy of the voting booth, according to speakers at a Sept 20 forum. More than 400 people assembled at St. John's University heard impassioned calls to educate themselves about the erosion of long-guaranteed rights, form their consciences to reflect basic moral issues and agitate with compassion and civility to protect religious freedom. "Our religious liberty is under assault like never before in America, in ways that are chilling, that are alien and unimagined on these shores," said Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, Ariz. "If we fail to stand, if we fail to fight, if we fail to refuse to comply, our God-given liberty ... will be but a distant memory." The forum was based on the Manhattan Declaration, a 4,700-word joint statement signed in November 2009 by more than 140 Christian leaders, many evangelical and Catholic, pledging renewed zeal in defending the unborn, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and protecting religious freedom. To date, more than 530,000 people have signed the declaration, including 52 Catholic cardinals and bishops. Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, said religious freedom was enshrined in the foundational documents of the country and guaranteed by leaders until recently. In urging listeners to sign the Manhattan Declaration he said, "We will render to Caesar what is Caesar's, but we will not render to Caesar what is God's."

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Wide-ranging study looks at views of white working-class Americans

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A majority of white working-class Catholics -- 56 percent -- think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. A smaller majority of the same category of Catholics -- 52 percent -- favors same-sex marriage, said the study released Sept. 20. In contrast, 53 percent of white working-class Protestants believe that abortion should illegal in all or most cases, while 52 percent of the same group oppose same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. Robert P. Jones, the institute's CEO, told Catholic News Service the survey was conducted to gain insight into the views of white working-class Americans on cultural, economic, religious and political topics. "One of the things we're hoping the survey will do is move the debates around the white working-class and the needs of this class or working Americans ... to the realm of facts," Jones said. The study defines white working-class people as non-Hispanic Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs. White working-class people account for about 36 percent of all Americans and 53 percent of all whites. The results are based on telephone interviews with 2,501 adults in the continental United States from Aug. 2 to Aug. 15. Of the total, 857 respondents were working-class whites. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the entire survey and 3.7 percent for working-class respondents. Twenty percent of respondents identified themselves as Catholic, while 19 percent said they were mainline Protestants and 36 percent were evangelical. The study also found that 34 percent of the working-class attend worship services at least weekly, 33 percent attend occasionally (once or twice month or a few times a year) and 32 percent seldom or never attend church.

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Third volume of pope's 'Jesus of Nazareth' expected by Christmas

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The third volume of Pope Benedict XVI's book on Jesus of Nazareth should be published before Christmas, the Vatican said. The volume, focusing on the Gospel accounts of Jesus' infancy and childhood, will be the third and final volume in the series of books the pope has written "to make known the figure and message of Jesus," the Vatican said in a statement Sept. 21. The statement announced a Vatican publishing house agreement with the Italian publisher Rizzoli to handle sales of the rights to the book in languages other than Italian and the German original. Herder, the pope's longtime German publisher, will handle the original German-language text. The Vatican's plan is to release the book simultaneously in the world's major languages, including English, in time for Christmas. The first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth," covering the period from Jesus' baptism to his Transfiguration, was published in 2007. The second volume, looking at his passion and death, came out in 2011.

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COMECE protests removal of EU research program's ethics clause

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A commission representing the European Union's Catholic bishops protested the removal of an ethics clause from a major EU research program, saying it could encourage funding of research using embryos. "The procurement of human embryonic stem cells hasn't been funded by the EU till now -- but if this program now goes ahead as proposed, this will depend on the discretion of the governing European Commission," said Jose Ramos Ascensao, legal adviser for research and bioethics for the bishops' commission, COMECE. "With many other organizations, we want greater protection for human embryos. Although the EU's member-states see it as their prerogative to fund any research they want, EU funds shouldn't be given to any projects involving embryo destruction." Members of the European Parliament are preparing to vote on "Horizon 2020," the EU's new research and innovation program, which will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of 87 billion euros ($113 billion). Ascensao told Catholic News Service Sept. 21 that research on human embryonic stem cells had raised "important ethical issues" without achieving any "significant clinical benefits." He added that the European Court of Justice had banned the patenting of inventions using embryo destruction in an October 2011 ruling, thus "clearly defining a legal standard" within the EU.

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Defending traditional marriage is prophetic, not reactionary, pope says

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Defending traditional marriage is not an expression of backward thinking, said Pope Benedict XVI, but of values essential to the future of humanity. "Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself," he said. The pope made his remarks Sept. 21 in a talk to French bishops visiting Rome to report on the status of their dioceses and meet with Vatican officials. Both France's incoming president, Francois Hollande, and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault have promised to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage and of adoption by same-sex couples. If the measure passes, France would become the ninth European nation to recognize same-sex marriage. France legalized same-sex civil unions in 1999. The family, which is the foundation of society, "is threatened in many places by a faulty conception of human nature," the pope told the group of 32 bishops. How an individual is raised and the well-being of society are interdependent, he said. "Defending life and the family in society isn't retrograde, rather it's prophetic," he said, because it helps "promote those values that permit the full development of the human person."

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Albanian Catholics to excommunicate participants in blood feud

SHKODER, Albania (CNS) -- Albanian Catholic leaders warned they would excommunicate anyone involved in the traditional "gjakmarrja," or blood feud, after complaints of worsening violence. "People kill without hesitation in this bloody, barbaric system of revenge, often justifying their actions from a centuries-old tradition," Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkoder told a Sept. 18 news conference to present a pastoral letter against the blood feud. "They attach more importance to human tradition than the law of God, and through their murderous behavior trample on the Gospel of Life and Cross of Christ," he said. The pastoral letter was to be read in parishes the weekend of Sept. 22-23. Archbishop Massafra said church leaders were alarmed at priests' reports of an upsurge in murders during 2012, as well as of worsening "domestic violence, (use of) force in relations between people and acts of revenge." He said they decided to issue the excommunication decree after the killing of a 17-year-old girl. "The church's doors will remain open to those who repent and help calm the hearts of people," said Archbishop Massafra, whose statement was carried Sept. 19 by Albania's Shekulli daily. "But every person of the Catholic faith who kills for motives of vendetta will be excommunicated. They will be unable to participate in church services, attend confession, receive communion or be buried in a church cemetery." Catholics traditionally make up 15 percent of Albania's population of 3.5 million, 70 percent of which is nominally Muslim, although no new figures have been compiled since a 24-year communist-era ban on religious practices was lifted in 1991.

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Pope names new bishop for Orange; Bishop Clark of Rochester retires

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, 61, to be bishop of Orange, Calif., and accepted the resignation of Bishop Tod D. Brown, 75, who has headed the diocese since 1998. The pope also accepted the resignation of Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, N.Y., 75, and named Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse, N.Y., 69, as apostolic administrator of the Rochester diocese until a successor to Bishop Clark is named and installed. The appointments were announced in Washington Sept. 21, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Clark celebrated 33 years as Rochester's bishop and the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination at a special Mass Sept. 16 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. When he turned 75 July 15, he submitted his resignation, as canon law requires for all bishops. Bishop Vann is to be installed in Orange in December. The date for his installation was not immediately released. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said he welcomed Bishop Vann's appointment to Orange, saying he "possesses the pastoral sensitivity and leadership skills to serve the faithful of the diocese ... well into the future." The Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Orange Diocese are not only "geographic neighbors," he said in a statement, but both "are blessed with similarly dynamic, diverse and large Catholic populations. ... I look forward to collaborating together with him for the good of the faithful in both of our local churches."

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Cardinal Baldelli, retired head of Vatican court, dies at 77

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI offered his condolences for the death of Italian Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, retired head of a Vatican court and a former Vatican diplomat, who died Sept. 20 in Rome at the age of 77. In a telegram Sept. 21 to the cardinal's brother, Pope Benedict said the deceased was appreciated everywhere for his "apostolic zeal and his fidelity to the Gospel." A funeral was scheduled for Sept. 22 in St. Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, was to preside over the Mass. Cardinal Baldelli had spent 43 years serving in the Vatican's diplomatic corps before Pope Benedict chose him in 2009 to head the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with the most sensitive matters of conscience as well as with the granting of indulgences. In his telegram of condolence, the pope prayed that through the intercession of Mary and of St. Francis of Assisi, God would welcome him into "the eternal kingdom of light and peace." Born in Valfabbrica, in Central Italy, he was ordained a priest in 1961 for the Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino. After earning a graduate degree in canon law, he entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1966, serving at Vatican embassies in Cuba and Egypt. He worked for several years in the Vatican Secretariat of State before being named the Vatican's observer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.

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Female VP at West Bank university says her new role inspires ambitions

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) -- Thirty-five years after the first class graduated from Bethlehem University, one of its members became the first woman and Palestinian to hold the Catholic school's highest academic position. "No one ever imagined this position not being held by a (Christian) brother," said Irene Hazou, newly appointed academic vice president. "My appointment has had a very positive impact on the faculty and staff at Bethlehem University because the more we have local people in high positions in the administration, the more they feel the university is deeply rooted in this culture and this country," she told Catholic News Service. "It gives them a sense of belonging and that this position can be reached; there need not be any limit to people's ambitions here at the university. I think that says a lot to many people." Bethlehem University, the first university established in the West Bank, was founded in 1973 through the joint efforts of Palestinian educators, community leaders, the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who today run the university. Hazou joins two male Palestinian colleagues who hold the positions of executive vice president and administrative vice president. The university's fourth vice president, for development, has traditionally been held by a De La Salle Christian Brother. Hazou said the words of support and encouragement she received from her colleagues gave her a "deeper sense of responsibility," she said.

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Felician Sisters in South Carolina win Lumen Christi award

KINGSTREE, S.C. (CNS) -- The Thorne Avenue neighborhood in Kingstree was known for poverty, crime and hard luck when the Felician Sisters first arrived in 1992. Twenty years later, their work has touched countless lives, transformed the neighborhood and the small Williamsburg County town, bringing races and different denominations together. It also earned the three Felicians the 2012 Lumen Christi ("Light of Christ") Award from Catholic Extension. The annual award is given to a priest, religious or layperson who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities. The first award was given 35 years ago to another Kingstree resident, Florence Kaster, who overcame racial barriers to teach members of the black community about the Catholic faith. Sisters Mary Susanne Dziedzic, Mary Johnna Ciezobka and Mary Jacqueline Benbenek were honored for the ministries they provide alongside a group of dedicated volunteers at the Felician Center, including an after-school program, emergency food pantry, monthly meals for people in need, and a clothes closet. The center also offers assistance with medical bills and utilities, and popular programs such as the Kid's Cuisine cooking and nutrition classes for children. The sisters were honored by more than 300 people at a Sept. 12 ceremony that drew local and state officials, their fellow sisters from around the country and from overseas, and Kingstree residents who have benefited from their efforts and worked with them. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, who nominated them for the award, concelebrated Mass Sept. 13 with Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston. "I'm absolutely inspired by these sisters and everything they've done to build up the faith here in Kingstree, to see the life of the church being lived so powerfully," Father Wall said. "Their way of living life and being present for those they serve has transformed the whole community."


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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