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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-12-2012

By Catholic News Service


Vice presidential candidates outline abortion views in debate

DANVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- In a vice presidential debate full of tangling between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican candidate, the topic of abortion got the same treatment. Both candidates are Catholic, a first in major-party history. Biden, who supports keeping abortion legal, said Oct. 11: "I accept my church's position on abortion" that "life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life," before adding, "But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews." Ryan said: "You want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science." Ryan added, "The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother." The Catechism of the Catholic Church says church teaching on "the moral evil of every procured abortion" remains "unchangeable." "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. ... The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation," it says. Biden said: "I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that -- women they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and (that of) the Supreme Court, I'm not going to interfere with that." Ryan, responding to a follow-up question from debate moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News, said, "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination."

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Caring for the poor part of US Catholic Church's history, says cardinal

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Catholic Charities USA "has helped shape the service of God's love into an essential part of American culture," the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum said in an address in St. Louis. Since the beginnings of the Catholic Church in the U.S., Cardinal Robert Sarah said, Catholics in this country have always been inspired by Christ's love to serve the poor. But now "the church in America and Catholic Charities face challenges that threaten this heritage" from "an aggressive secularism ... (which) seeks to set up a culture without God," he said. The cardinal, who was making his first trip to the U.S. as head of the Vatican's charity promotion agency, spoke during the recent national convention of Catholic Charities USA in St. Louis, which was attended by more than 500 members of Catholic Charities agencies nationwide. "Gateway to Opportunities and Justice" was the theme of the gathering, drawing on the agency's mission and the city's nickname, "Gateway to the West." It also marked the centennial of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Cardinal Sarah brought greetings from the Vatican and during his talk discussed "caritas" or charity worldwide, drawing heavily from Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"). He cited current attacks on freedom of religion in the U.S., pointing to pressure put on Catholic Charities' adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples or withdraw from adoption care.

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Priest recalls 'insider' role to bring church closer to other religions

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 2,540 bishops processed into St. Peter's Basilica to begin the Second Vatican Council Oct. 11, 1962, Paulist Father Thomas F. Stransky remembers Pope John XXIII looking directly at him and his two colleagues from the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, smiling at them and raising his hand in blessing. Ascending to the basilica's high altar, Blessed John XXIII began to pray an ancient prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blessed!" The council's opening began "an unknown journey and unpredictable outcome," Father Stransky told an audience at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall Oct. 11 during a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. "Unlike those who celebrated the opening, today we celebrate Vatican II because we do know its outcome," Father Stransky continued. "But we still lack consensus about its meanings and intents and the ongoing enfleshments of perennial renewal and reform." Wisconsin-born Father Stransky spent 45 minutes in an occasionally humorous but sincere reflection of his work as a Vatican "insider" in preparing for the Vatican council as one of four staff members of the secretariat under the direction of Cardinal Augustin Bea. The cardinal, a German Jesuit, shepherded Blessed John's vision of a unified Christian community and improved relations with other religions through the council's four sessions. He recalled how in 1960 then-Msgr. Johannes Willebrands, a pioneer in ecumenism, invited him to join the secretariat. The Dutch churchman later would become cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the secretariat's successor.

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Pushing the envelope? Religious image stamps part of holiday tradition

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its new Christmas stamp Oct. 10 featuring an image of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt, there was no uproar about religion in the public square, or in this case, rectangle. "We didn't get a single phone call or email from anyone who took exemption to the stamp," Roy Betts, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said Oct. 11. "And with the speed with which people can respond today, they would have if they wanted to," he added. He said he thought people were more concerned with other things such as the presidential election. He also said the post office doesn't "really get comments" about the holiday stamps in general, most likely because of the diversity of stamps -- besides stamps with Christian imagery, there are those that commemorate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Muslim festivals. As an aside, he said one year the Postal Service inadvertently left out the image of its Eid stamp -- commemorating the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha -- from a poster about its holiday stamps. The Postal Service heard about it, and then some, and within 24 hours, he said, new posters were displayed that included all the holiday stamps. As he put it: "People are passionate about this (issue)." But right now, he added, "they're not complaining." The diversity in stamps, which may have quelled the naysayers, is fairly new. The first U.S. Christmas stamp debuted in 1962 with a wreath, two candles and the words "Christmas 1962." Four years later the postal service issued what became more of the traditional Christmas stamp featuring a Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child. By contrast, the other holiday stamps took longer to get their corner of the market. The Hanukkah stamp marking the eight-day Jewish festival of lights debuted in 1996. The Kwanzaa stamp for the African-American holiday first appeared in 1997 and the Eid stamp was not issued until 2001.

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'Unaffiliated' numbers in study said to point to evangelization needs

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pew study on the increase in the number of religiously unaffiliated people and a sharp decline in the number of those who consider themselves Protestant may show no drop in numbers of Catholics, but analysts say it's still a cautionary tale for the church. The "'Nones' On The Rise" study released Oct. 9 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life needs to be taken by the church as guidance to focus more on the basic teachings of Jesus, said several people who work in shaping leaders in Catholic ministry. The study found that in four years, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as unaffiliated with any religion grew from just more than 15 percent to just less than 20 percent. It found that a third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation, compared to 21 percent of the next older age bracket, 30-49, 15 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 9 percent of those over age 65. Most of those who said they are "nothing in particular" or otherwise unaffiliated with a faith (including atheists and agnostics), apparently previously identified as white Protestants, whose numbers were down to 48 percent nationwide from 53 percent in 2007. Black and "other minority" Protestant churches showed no decline in the same period. The number of self-identified Catholics has remained relatively constant, changing from 23 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2012. Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic polls and a research associate at Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, said that while most of Pew's data fits with what CARA has found, he disagrees with one oft-repeated explanation for the unchanged percentage of Catholics in the country. Pew senior researcher Greg Smith said the percentage of Catholics is likely unchanged because immigrants are balancing out those who leave the church. But Gray said the math for that assumption doesn't add up. The rate of immigration has leveled off, he said. So as the overall population rises, if the number of Catholics was dependent upon immigration, the percentage of Catholics in the country would be showing more of a decline. Instead, Gray said "reverts," or Catholics who return to the church after a time away, account for some of the steady numbers. He also thinks that Catholics who don't practice the faith regularly may be more reluctant than Protestants to identify themselves as unaffiliated.

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Synod members look at challenge, potential of interreligious dialogue

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics, especially those who live in multireligious societies, must have a clear understanding of their own religious identity, but they also must recognize the spirit of God at work in others, said the Vatican official in charge of interreligious dialogue. French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told the Synod of Bishops Oct. 10 that new evangelization is needed to equip Catholics not just to live their faith, but also to effectively engage in dialogue with others. The need for interreligious dialogue, the challenges faced by Christian minorities in predominantly Muslim countries, and lessons that could be learned from other religions were topics mentioned in several speeches to the synod Oct. 10-12. Cardinal Tauran told the synod that interreligious dialogue "always begins with the assertion of one's own convictions," so Christians who are ignorant of the content of their faith are not capable of real dialogue. The church must make it a priority "to form coherent Christians capable of demonstrating their faith with simple words and without fear," he said. The church "must denounce with great vigor the violence" that sometimes is committed in the name of religion and it cannot stand idly by in the face of persecution, Cardinal Tauran said.

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Vatican II's call for renewal did not break with tradition, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council's call for "renewal" did not mark a break with tradition or a watering down of the faith, but reflected Christianity's lasting vitality and God's eternal presence, Pope Benedict XVI said. Christianity is always young and in "perpetual bloom," he said during an audience Oct. 12 with 15 bishops who participated in Vatican II between 1962-65. The private audience also included the patriarchs and archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches and presidents of the world's bishops' conferences, who were attending the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. Pope Benedict fondly recalled the council, saying it was a time that was "so vivacious, rich and fruitful." He praised Blessed John XXIII's usage of the term "aggiornamento" or "renewal" for the church, even though, he said, it's still a topic of heated and endless debate. "But I am convinced that the insight Blessed John XXIII epitomized with this word was and still is accurate," he said. "Christianity must never be seen as something from the past, nor lived with one's gaze always looking back, because Jesus is yesterday, today and for all eternity," Pope Benedict said. "This 'renewal' does not mean a break with tradition, rather it expresses a lasting vitality," he said.

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Canadian bishop tells synod that church must respond to abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Canadian bishop whose diocese was rocked by clerical sex abuse crises told the Synod of Bishops that the new evangelization must address the reality of distrust and disappointment the scandal left in its wake. With the sex abuse crisis, Catholics have experienced "a great disorientation that leads to forms of distrust of teachings and values that are essential for the followers of Christ," Bishop Brian J. Dunn of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, told the synod Oct. 12. The Diocese of Antigonish has sold hundreds of properties in an effort to raise the money necessary to cover legal settlement and sexual abuse lawsuit costs from before Bishop Dunn's appointment. In 2011, the previous bishop, Raymond Lahey, pled guilty and was jailed on charges of importing child pornography. The former bishop was laicized by the Vatican in May. The Catholic Church cannot ignore the need to find a way to "evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse," Bishop Dunn told the synod. One possible way forward, Bishop Dunn said, is to look at the story of the disciples, disillusioned by Jesus' death, who are met by the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Christ walks with them and listens to them, the bishop said. Dioceses must have real structures in place for listening to victims and coming to appreciate "the depth of hurt, anger and disillusionment associated with this scandal," he told the synod. At the same time, the church needs to investigate the causes of the sexual abuse crisis and ensure measures are in place to protect children and vulnerable adults.

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European bishops' commission welcomes news of Nobel Peace Prize for EU

BRUSSELS (CNS) -- German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, welcomed the news that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union Oct. 12. "I'm extremely glad that, especially in these times of crisis, the EU is honored with the Nobel Peace Prize," Cardinal Marx said in a statement from headquarters of COMECE, as the commission is known. "It is a clear sign that Europe can contribute to a better world, in the words of Jean Monnet," he added, referring to one of the founders of the European Union. "Despite all the problems we are now confronted with in Europe, this prize reminds us what a great contribution to a peaceful development of the continent the European integration project has achieved, and what a great share politically engaged Christians have made to this achievement." In awarding the prize, the Nobel committee cited the European Union's more than six decades of work for "the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

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Bishop in Belfast dismayed about planned opening of abortion clinic

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop said he is dismayed that one of the world's largest family planning organizations is scheduled to open the first abortion clinic on the island of Ireland. Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, whose diocese includes Belfast, expressed dismay that Marie Stopes International was scheduled to open a clinic in Belfast Oct. 18. "The opening of this facility further undermines the sanctity and dignity of human life in our society where the most vulnerable and defenseless human beings are already under threat," Bishop Treanor said. He noted that Oct. 7 marked the launch of the church's "Choose Life" appeal. "Not only must we show compassion for women who find themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy, but we should support them to explore avenues which provide care while respecting the life of their child in the womb. We should enable them to respond to such situations in a life-affirming and positive way," he said. The clinic will offer only medical, not surgical, abortions and will only terminate pregnancies up to the first nine weeks of pregnancy, as per Northern Irish law. Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, where abortions can be performed up until the 24th week of pregnancy, the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply in Northern Ireland -- instead, abortions may only be conducted where three doctors separately agree that there is an immediate risk to the life of the pregnant mother or where there is a long-term or permanent risk to her physical or mental health.

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Synod members focus on family as primary agents of evangelization

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, said any evangelization he's done has always and only been a matter of building on the evangelization already begun within the family. "My pastoral work is simply an addition to what the family has already built," he said Oct. 10 during a speech to the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. Credit for the flowering of new vocations also lies with the family because it is "the first school of faith and truly encourages a personal encounter with Christ." Cardinal Puljic said that in his own life, as well as in his ministry as a bishop, he also recognizes the family as "the first seminary. The family transmits the faith with its heart, life and practice," the cardinal told the synod. During the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, he said, half the Catholic families of Bosnia-Herzegovina were forced to flee, and "thanks to the games of local and international politicians," many still have been unable to return. After the breakup of the communist Yugoslavia, he said, the newly independent countries adopted democracy, but that brought with it relativism and a weakened appreciation for the traditional family. "The new evangelization will succeed if it manages to restore the sanctity of marriage," on which the family is founded and graced to become a "domestic church." Strong Catholic families become "the strong drivers" of parishes that are alive and active in evangelization, he said.

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Fifty years later, a bishop remembers Vatican II

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It was Oct. 11, 1962, and the bishop of Inchon, Korea, was walking in a procession of more than 2,200 other bishops into St. Peter's Basilica on the opening day of the Second Vatican Council. "Every light was on in the basilica because of television," he said. "Literally, my mouth dropped as I walked in and looked up. Because I was used to little tiny chapels, small churches in Korea. This was unbelievable. I thought I was at the gate of heaven," said Bishop William J. McNaughton, speaking about his first visit to Rome. Fifty years later to the day, the U.S.-born bishop was back, one of 15 council fathers -- out of the 70 still alive -- who made it to an outdoor Mass in St. Peter's Square marking the golden anniversary of that momentous event. Bishop McNaughton, 85, attended all four sessions of Vatican II from 1962 to 1965, missing only two days because of illness. He said the council's "greatest highlight" was the approval of "Lumen Gentium," the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "a magnificent document" that dedicates an entire chapter to the subject of the "people of God." That term has sometimes been interpreted as a reference to the laity, the bishop said, but a reading of the constitution should make it clear that it refers to everyone in the church, including the pope and the bishops. Bishop McNaughton speaks with regret of other instances of ignorance or misunderstanding of the documents of Vatican II. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," authorized moving the tabernacle that houses the Eucharist to a separate devotional chapel, he said, but many pastors simply shunted it off to the side of the main sanctuary. "I thought that was a big mistake," the bishop said. "People today do not have a full understanding of what the tabernacle means, and it's that Christ is present in the Eucharist in the tabernacle."

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New Mexican archbishop, known for serving poor, faces challenges

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The new archbishop of Monterrey, Mexico, is known for putting an emphasis on social ministries and serving poor populations -- most recently in the southern state of Chiapas as archbishop of Tuxtla Gutierrez. The spokesman for the Mexican bishops' conference, Father Manuel Corral, said Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez is also known as a no-nonsense administrator, for "showing leadership within the conference" and "not searching for a media profile." Archbishop Cabrera will take those characteristics to northern Mexico and a region being ripped apart by crime and corruption, having been tapped Oct. 3 by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Archdiocese of Monterrey. The archdiocese is considered one of Mexico's most important, and its leader is often elevated to the position of cardinal. It is an important industrial key where society is known for its conservative mores. But it's a city suffering through some of the worst of Mexico's drug and organized crime violence, the result of warring between the Los Zetas and the Gulf cartels, whose leaders took up residence alongside polite society in an area considered the richest in Latin America. The cartels also recruited disaffected youth from marginalized areas and carried out some of the country's worst crimes, including an August 2011 attack on a casino that killed 52 employees and patrons. Repairing the social fabric -- and not simply serving the comfortable classes -- should be a top priority, say church officials and observers.


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