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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-23-2012

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

US has been religiously diverse since its beginnings, say panelists

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The foundations of America rest not on one religion, but many, according to historians at a panel discussion about a new PBS documentary on religious freedom. Although contemporary Americans tend to think of the founders as being of one or a handful of Protestant faiths, "in the 18th century we had a seemingly religiously diverse country," said Jon Butler, professor of American studies at Yale University. He spoke as part of a three-member panel that also included Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University, and Charles Haynes, senior scholar and director of the First Amendment Center. The panel discussion followed a 27-minute preview of "First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty," a documentary airing on PBS stations Dec. 18, about the Founding Fathers' faith and religious freedom's historical role in America. The Religion Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center hosted the event Oct. 18. "We have become a more secular society, but religion still matters," said Brinkley. "There is an open-mindedness in most Americans today." He said Thomas Jefferson was individualistic in his religious views, though he was far from the atheist that some have suggested. Rather, Brinkley said Jefferson was more like today's "religiously unaffiliated." The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported in a study "Nones on the Rise," released Oct. 9, that about a third of adults under age 30 do not think of themselves as belonging to a particular faith. That compares to about 10 percent of people age 65 and older and 21 percent of people ages 50-32.

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US leaders urged to put respect for human dignity at center of issues

DENVER (CNS) -- The Secular Franciscan Order urged U.S. business leaders and government officials, including the next U.S. president, to approach economic and political issues with the "foundational premise" that "all of creation, especially human life, has dignity and value." Such an approach "sets the stage for recognizing that: people with disabilities have value, disabilities are a normal part of life, we should assume people with disabilities want to be meaningfully engaged in society, and their participation contributes significantly to the fabric of society," the order said in a statement released Oct. 19 during a meeting in Denver. The order's national body -- representing 13,400 secular Franciscans across the country -- unanimously endorsed the statement and pledged prayer and action over the next year. "This vision," the statement said, "seeks to preserve the dignity of a wide range of people -- persons such as those with Down syndrome or other disabilities, victims of human trafficking, elderly persons in declining health, the poor among us, refugees who come across the border, homeless children everywhere." Recognizing people's value is an issue of justice that goes beyond charity and runs counter to "today's cultural notion that some people are disposable," the order said. Some "are despised because they're costly, inconvenient or requiring too much time. This involves everything from aborting babies thought to be less than perfect ... to organ donation pressure ... to so-called compassionate death."

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WORLD

Trial set for second Vatican employee; report issued on butler's trial

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Claudio Sciarpelletti, the Vatican Secretariat of State computer technician accused of aiding and abetting the pope's butler in stealing confidential Vatican correspondence, will go on trial at the Vatican Nov. 5. The Vatican announced the trial date Oct. 23. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that Sciarpelletti's trial on the "minor charges" of aiding and abetting was expected to be brief. Also Oct. 23, the Vatican released a 15-page document from the three-judge panel that found the butler, Paolo Gabriele, guilty Oct. 6 and sentenced him to 18 months in jail. After criminal trials in Italy and at the Vatican, the judges publish a detailed explanation of how they arrived at their verdict and how they determined the sentence. Father Lombardi said a Vatican prosecutor will study the document and has 40 days to decide whether he will file an appeal, something usually done to request a harsher sentence. Gabriele, who also had a chance to appeal his conviction, declined to do so; he remains under house arrest until the prosecution decides about its appeal, Father Lombardi said. Pope Benedict XVI also could pardon his former butler. Father Lombardi said that if the pope does not pardon the 46-year-old Gabriele, Vatican judicial officials plan to have him serve his sentence in a 12-foot-by-12-foot cell in the Vatican police barracks and not in an Italian prison.

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Trip of papal delegation to Syria postponed

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The visit of a papal delegation to the capital of war-torn Syria, previously announced for late October, has been postponed indefinitely, and the delegation's membership, which was to have included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, will be changed. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, made the announcement Oct. 23 at the morning session of the world Synod of Bishops. The statement came exactly one week after the cardinal announced that Pope Benedict XVI had named a delegation of six bishops and a priest to visit Damascus, in the name of the pope and the synod, to express solidarity with the victims of the civil war and encourage peace negotiations. Syria's civil war has left thousands dead and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since March 2011. Cardinal Bertone said that the idea of a papal delegation had received a "positive reception" in Syria and internationally, and that preparations for the visit had continued "notwithstanding the tragic episodes that have taken place in the region in the last few days." The Oct. 19 assassination of a top Lebanese security official, in a bombing widely blamed on the Syrian government, was followed by fighting in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, which left 11dead. "Considering the gravity of the situation," the cardinal said the delegation's visit would probably be postponed until after the synod ends Oct. 28. And because of the bishops' other commitments, he said, "there will be some changes to the composition of the delegation."

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Push for same-sex rights led by political minority, says English bishop

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The push for gay marriage rights is being driven by politicians who are following their personal agendas rather than the actual demands or expectations of the gay community, said Bishop Kieran Conroy of Arundel and Brighton, England. "Very often" some social policies, such as requiring church-run adoption agencies to consider same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents or proposals to legalize same-sex marriage, "are politically motivated in terms of vote-catching and representation of politicians as standing up for human rights," he said. Such proposals are not necessarily coming from the gay community, he said during a briefing with journalists at the Vatican press office Oct. 23. Bishop Conry is one of hundreds of bishops attending the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. People advocating such policies seem to be "some other small group" that is not personally invested in the issue, but rather is motivated by defending human rights in very general, broadly sweeping way, he said. Brighton "is regarded as the gay capital of the United Kingdom," and the bishop said members of the gay community he has spoken to "respect the right of the churches to have their own rules" on issues. The Equality Act 2006 prohibited discrimination against homosexuals in the provision of goods and services. It required all adoption agencies, including church-run groups, to not discriminate against and to assess same-sex couples as potential adopters and foster caregivers. Almost all of the 13 Catholic adoption agencies in Britain were forced to either sever ties with their dioceses or close down because of the laws.

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PEOPLE

Catholic scientist at Stanford shares Nobel Prize for work in chemistry

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (CNS) -- Who could have predicted that a student from St. Mary's Grade School in Little Falls would one day win a Nobel Prize? But that's what Dr. Brian Kobilka accomplished. He's one of two scientists awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry Oct. 10 for their work on cell receptors. "It's a great honor for me," Kobilka told The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud. He made the comments in a telephone interview from his lab in the department of molecular and cellular physiology and medicine at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. Kobilka, 57, physician and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, shares the prize with his onetime mentor Robert Lefkowitz, professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Since 1984, the pair has worked to identify and isolate a particular family of cell receptors, called G-protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, which carry signals from outside stimuli to cells of the human body. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences website includes an essay on the winners' work, "Cells and sensibility," as general background for the science. In their introduction: "In our eyes, noses and mouths, we have sensors for light, odors and flavors. Within the body, cells have similar sensors for hormones and signaling substances, such as adrenalin, serotonin, histamine and dopamine. As life evolved, cells have repeatedly used the same basic mechanism for reading their environment: G-protein-coupled receptors. But they remained hidden from researchers for a long time." Their essay further described the two scientists' persistence in trying to capture an image of the receptor, a goal believed unattainable by most of the scientific community, and their groundbreaking discoveries in mapping how the GPCR family of receptors works.

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Fashion designer's success helping women rescued from human trafficking

DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- The carpet of the Harbor Room at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque served as fashion runway for Elegantees, designer Katie Martinez's clothing line. Walking to the beat of pop music, women of all shapes and sizes proudly displayed the shirts Martinez of sells with 100 percent of the profits going to help rescue women from sex trafficking in Nepal. While most runway models are serious and straight-faced, the models in the Elegantees show Sept. 26 smiled as brightly as the colors of what they were wearing. After all, the shirts they sported are more than just shirts: They are hope to women in Nepal. One fan of Martinez's designs is cousin Emily Roling. "My fall wardrobe contains all but two shirts of Katie's," said Roling with a smile. Roling was one of several family members assisting Martinez that evening by walking as a model in her show. "I'm really proud of her," Roling told The Witness, newspaper of the Dubuque Archdiocese. "I'm older, but I look up to her." Martinez, a Catholic, is a native of Sherrill, Iowa, and her family has much to be proud of. When she was previously featured in The Witness in 2010, she had just launched her Elegantees line. "If I have these gifts and I can start a company and if I can make it prosper, why not have the dividends go to this cause," she said of her venture. At that time, the shirts she designed were manufactured in New York City, with the hope that someday they would be sewn by women rescued from trafficking. Her hopes have now become a reality. Since launching her line, she's expanded her efforts and recently partnered with the Nepali Rescue Project out of Virginia Beach, Va., to help set up a sewing shop for Elegantees in Kathmandu, Nepal.

END


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