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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-5-2012

By Catholic News Service


Creators say 'American Bible Challenge' fills need for family programs

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The "American Bible Challenge" has been watched by more than 2 million people in the United States every Thursday night since its debut Aug. 23, making it the most successful show in Game Show Network in history. And to the surprise of its creators, an app based on the cable TV show is doing almost as well. Stephen Croncota, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for GSN, said in an interview with Catholic News Service that he knew there was a market for the app, but not one this great. "We were hoping for 100,000 game players, now it's about a month and we have 300,000 players and over 3 million game plays," he said. The show is sponsored by the New York-based American Bible Society, a 200-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to make the Bible available and understandable to everyone. Hosted by comedian and TV personality Jeff Foxworthy, best known for his role in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, "American Bible Challenge" is a trivia game where the winners give away their prize money to a charity of their choice. "We've always believed there was a big opportunity for interactment in the show because of the number of Christians and Catholics who have a lifetime of knowledge" of the Bible, said Croncota, a former altar boy and Catholic school student himself. The app for iPhone, Android, iPad, and Facebook currently is the No.1 Bible trivia game among the top-10 free trivia games on iTunes.

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Resolved: Those presidential tilts on TV aren't debates in truest sense

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With one presidential debate down and two to go -- not to mention a debate between the two major-party vice presidential candidates -- it may be time to accept the fact that what millions of Americans are watching is not a debate, at least not in the truest sense of the word. Imagine President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney verbally jousting with each other, without prompting from a moderator, and not for just 90 minutes but for two hours. And instead of fielding a volley of questions from a broad palette -- "domestic issues," "foreign issues," "the economy" -- the candidates duke it out verbally on a single, specific topic, such as job creation policies. Were Obama and Romney to follow that format, it would look more like the kind of debates engaged in by collegiate teams throughout the country. And, since debate teams on the college level each have two members, the vice presidential picks could join in. Catholic colleges and universities have been well represented in the National Debate Tournament over the past 60 years, but this year, three Jesuit schools took top spots. Georgetown University in Washington finished first overall, its first national debate championship since 1992. Losing in the national semifinals were Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "I've never considered the presidential debates real debates," said Jonathan Paul, Georgetown's director of debate. "What they call a debate is a lot different from what a lot of academic institutions call a debate." Still, after multiple expressions of this quadrennial exercise, Paul added, "I'm numb. It doesn't anger me now." In fact, he even took part in an Associated Press taping of the Oct. 3 presidential debate.

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Archbishop is 'collaborator' in helping lead the faithful to holiness

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi in the city of St. Francis, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was installed at the ninth archbishop of San Francisco at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, and found inspiration in that patron saint to whom Jesus had said, "Francis, rebuild my house." On Oct. 4 at a Mass of installation, with some 40 other bishops from around the world and more than 250 priests and 64 deacons participating, Archbishop Cordileone began his work as shepherd to more than a half million Catholics of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. He talked about being a collaborator with 416 priests to help people get to holiness. "To you my flock here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, please know how much I am looking forward to getting to know you all and together with you crafting a vision and plan for furthering the new evangelization here and so continue the good work that has been carried on in this local church for over 150 years," said Archbishop Cordileone, who succeeds retired Archbishop George H. Niederauer. Outside the cathedral, protesters denouncing Archbishop Cordileone's opposition to same-sex marriage held forth. He is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. But the two-hour-long Mass was without interruption and the only competition for the attention of the capacity crowd was the occasional fly-over by the Blue Angels. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, was the presiding bishop. Msgr. C. Michael Padazinski, chancellor of the archdiocese, read Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter appointing the new San Francisco archbishop, transferring him from Oakland, where he had been bishop for three years. The new archbishop, with humility and a dash of self-deprecating humor, mentioned in his homily that "God has always had a way of putting me in my place with little and sometimes big ways of reminding me of my need to depend upon him and to attend to the work of my own rebuilding from within."

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Pope authorizes granting of indulgences for Year of Faith events

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics who participate in events connected with the 2012-2013 Year of Faith can receive a special indulgence, the Vatican said. Pope Benedict XVI authorized the granting of a plenary, or full, indulgence in order to highlight the Year of Faith and encourage the "reading, or rather, the pious meditation on" the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Sept. 14 Vatican decree said. The decree, which the Vatican released Oct. 5, was signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head of the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences and with matters related to the sacrament of penance. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. Pope Benedict established the Year of Faith, "dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation," to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. It begins on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, which is also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the catechism. The plenary indulgence is being offered to pilgrims who visit sacred shrines, to Catholics who participate in local events connected to the Year of Faith, and to those who may be too ill or otherwise prevented from physical participation. It can be granted on behalf of the individual petitioner or on behalf of departed souls.

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Faith-science dialogue takes center stage at synod on evangelization

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The dialogue between faith and science will take center stage during the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, when a Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist addresses some 250 bishops from around the world. Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, briefed journalists on plans for the Oct. 7-28 celebration of the 13th general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." The archbishop told reporters Oct. 5 that Swiss microbiologist Werner Arber, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology, will address synod members as a special guest Oct. 12, offering "reflections on the relationship between science and faith." Arber, a Protestant and head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, "sees the relationship between faith and reason as Blessed John Paul II did: like two wings that bring people toward God," the archbishop said, referring to the late pope's 1998 encyclical, "Fides et Ratio" ("Faith and Reason"). Answering a reporter's question about whether the synod organizers had considered inviting agnostics or non-believers, as the Vatican has done at events intended to promote cultural dialogue, Archbishop Eterovic said no, because the synod's goal is revitalizing and strengthening the faith of those who have been baptized. Space in the synod hall is limited, he added, and organizers preferred to concentrate on how "a renewed dynamism in the church" can attract those who have "strayed" from God and help them "rediscover the joy of faith."

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Dominicans recall 75th anniversary of Parsley Massacre

DAJABON, Dominican Republic -- Jesuit Father Regino Martinez paused as the solemn candlelight procession of hundreds of Dominicans wound through the streets of this border town toward the river that separates it from Haiti. "Tonight we are breaking the silence," said the head of Solidaridad Fronteriza, a Jesuit organization that works on migration and human rights issues. "Tonight, we lose the fear." His words during the Oct. 4 event came as the Dominicans commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Parsley Massacre. The procession ended at the aptly named Massacre River. Over five days in early October 1937, Dominican soldiers slaughtered thousands of Haitians, many of them born in the Dominican Republic, under orders from President Rafael Trujillo, the strong-arm dictator who ruled the Caribbean nation from 1930 to 1961. Observers and historians believe Trujillo ordered the campaign to rid the country of Haitians and people of Haitian descent, especially along the border regions. What exactly prompted the killings remains unclear. Between 9,000 and 30,000 people died in the violence, historians have estimated. It was largely forgotten, however, leaving many unaware of an important event that scholars say has helped shape the tense Dominican-Haitian relationship. Soldiers were deployed to the area in northwest Dominican Republic to hunt down anyone that looked Haitian. They used machetes, knives and rifles to kill them.

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Church leaders hope Colombian talks end conflict in war-weary nation

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Negotiations between the Colombian government and the country's largest guerrilla force, set to start in mid-October, offer new hope for peace to war-weary Colombians. Despite widespread optimism, observers say plenty of possible stumbling blocks remain along the way to a lasting solution to the decades-old armed conflict. "It is important to take advantage of this opportunity," said Luis Guerrero, director of the Center for Research and Popular Education/Peace Program, a Jesuit-run nonprofit organization in Bogota, the Colombian capital. He told Catholic News Service, however, that there was "no reason to be highly optimistic or highly pessimistic" about the outcome of the talks. Church leaders welcomed President Juan Manuel Santos' announcement in early September that negotiations would begin with leaders of the guerilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. "Violence or war can never be the way to resolve conflicts and achieve peace," Bogota Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez said after the announcement. "As church, we have always said that the armed conflict in Colombia must end through dialogue and consensus in order to achieve true and lasting peace." This will be the fourth attempt at peace negotiations since the 1980s. The most recent effort, under then-President Andres Pastrana, broke down 10 years ago, after a long series of negotiation. The failure of those talks left a bitter taste and led to the election of Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, who took office in 2002 with a harder line against the FARC and the country's other guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army.

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Carr plans project to guide laity to take bigger role in public arena

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After spending most of his career representing the U.S. Catholic Church in the public policy arena, John Carr is taking a brief break, spending time in academia this fall and then launching a new project aimed at guiding lay Catholics into taking a greater role in the public arena. Carr stepped down this summer after nearly 25 years at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, most recently as the executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. Before he left to begin a one-semester visiting fellowship at Harvard University's Institute of Politics, Carr, in an interview with Catholic News Service, recalled the many highlights and a few struggles of his career and what lies ahead. His successor at the USCCB will be Jonathan Reyes, president and CEO of Catholic Charities and Community Services of the Archdiocese of Denver since 2009. He is expected to begin his new job in December. After decades of representing the church's interests with everyone from U.S. presidents and foreign leaders to parish activists and celebrity advocates such as rock musician Bono, Carr spoke in hopeful terms. Even when mentioning the frustrations of working in a highly politicized Washington, he pointed to ways of working outside the politicized realm. "What I won't miss is the polarization: in politics and, sadly, in the church," Carr said, "It's just getting in the way of the Gospel and the mission." Growing up in a bipartisan family, with a diehard Republican mother and a diehard Democratic father, "I learned at an early age that we could express our values in different ways," he explained. "I'm somebody who's strongly pro-life and deeply committed to social justice. I don't see those things as opposing. I see them as part of the same root and values. I find the polarization, the assumption of bad will, the questioning of people's motives and tactics very discouraging," Carr said. "We should be different. Civility is a civic virtue, but respect for one another and how we seek to carry out the faith, ought to mark who we are."


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