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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-25-2012

By Catholic News Service


Former child soldier helps Sierra Leoneans struggling in poverty

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ishmeal Alfred Charles will always remember the day the helicopters saved his life. It was sometime in 1998, in the midst of Sierra Leone's civil war, and Charles, then 15, was standing in line with a group of 10 teenagers, facing mutilation at the hands of a savage band of rebels that had ravaged much of the West Africa nation for seven years and counting. Charles, like dozens of other teens, had been kidnapped by Revolutionary United Front rebels months earlier. They managed to flee once in a chaotic moment after lugging weapons and supplies for the rebels and committing atrocities on their behalf as they ravaged community after community for weeks on end on the way to overtake the capital of Freetown. The teenagers, including Charles, had been captured by the rebels again and now faced punishment for fleeing into the bush earlier. One by one the teens were losing a hand or an arm as the rebels asked the one-time child soldiers whether they wanted a "short sleeve or long sleeve." Not all survived the mutilation. Charles was second in line when the government helicopters swooped in, sending the rebel camp into pandemonium and the teens fleeing again into the thick forest. The arrival of the helicopters was a miracle orchestrated by God, Charles told Catholic News Service Oct. 24 in an interview with Washington during a two-week U.S. visit coordinated through the Healy International Relief Foundation of Lumberton, N.J. Those events set the stage for Charles to be reunited with his mother and siblings in their hometown of Wellington, near Freetown. And it set Charles on a path to assist his fellow Sierra Leoneans reconcile with each other and overcome the dire poverty that set in following the 11-year conflict that ended in 2002.

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Ruling a victory for monks, brings end to 'casket cartel,' says lawyer

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- A federal appeals court ruling in favor of Benedictine monks who had been blocked from selling their handmade caskets by Louisiana's state funeral board "is a victory for the monks as well as for free enterprise and entrepreneurs" in the state, their lawyer said. "And it puts a nail in the coffin of the casket cartel," said Darpana Sheth, an attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which represented the monks pro bono in the case. In a unanimous opinion, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 24 that a five-year battle by the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to stop the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, La., from selling handmade, cypress caskets was either unconstitutional or unauthorized by Louisiana law. The only question remaining to be determined by the three-judge appeals court panel was a legal technicality, Sheth told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese. The 5th Circuit asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to determine by January if state law authorized the state funeral board to regulate casket sales. The law requires any business selling caskets in Louisiana to be a licensed funeral home that employs a funeral director and has a casket showroom. The monks twice had gone to the Louisiana Legislature to amend the law, but those bills never got out of committee, so they filed a lawsuit in 2010. "The court, out of an abundance of caution, wanted to make sure before it rules on constitutional grounds that the state board could even regulate the sale of caskets when that's all someone (such as the monks) does," Sheth said. "In its opinion, the 5th Circuit said very strongly they can't find any reason to uphold the constitutionality of the law. The court rejected all the arguments put forward by the state board in support of constitutionality." Said Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown: "It's a win-win for us, as well as an answer to our prayers. It also confirms the feelings we've had all along that this was the right thing to do. We had a right to sell our caskets, and the courts are upholding that right."

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Archbishop Chaput: Catholic teaching trumps party loyalty on abortion

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Church teaching against abortion "requires absolute adherence" on the part of Catholic voters, who must "stand united" in opposition to the practice regardless of party affiliation, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. "(Abortion) really is a big issue today, and I think what it requires of Catholics is a loyalty to the church prior to their political party," Archbishop Chaput told Catholic News Service Oct. 20 in Rome. "We're Catholics before we're Democrats. We're Catholics before we're Republicans," he said. "We're even Catholics before we're Americans, because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us. And this has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries. That doesn't mean we're not being good citizens," the archbishop said, "because being good citizens means giving God his rights prior to the government making its claims upon us." According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, abortion is "gravely contrary to the moral law" in all cases -- a church teaching that "has not changed and remains unchangeable." Under canon law, any "formal cooperation" in abortion automatically incurs the penalty of excommunication. "If we don't stand united on this issue, we're bound to failure," Archbishop Chaput said, "not only in the area of protecting unborn human life but in maintaining our religious freedom." He said that a lack of such unity among Catholic voters had permitted support for legalized abortion to become part of the Democratic Party platform.

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Former papal butler begins 18-month sentence in Vatican prison cell

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Paolo Gabriele, the pope's former butler who was found guilty of aggravated theft, was to be transferred from house arrest to a Vatican prison cell to begin his 18-month sentence. Because the Vatican's prosecutor decided not to file an appeal, Gabriele would immediately begin serving his prison sentence by order of a Vatican court, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. "The order will be carried out before the end of the day," he said Oct. 25. Gabriele, who worked at Pope Benedict XVI's side as his assistant since 2006, will not be allowed to seek any employment at the Vatican in the future, the spokesman said. Gabriele's violation of the trust of the pope and the privacy of so many people underlines his "incompatibility" with employment at the Vatican, he added. While the Vatican has begun the necessary paperwork for terminating Gabriele's employment, the Vatican will proceed "with humanity and attention," Father Lombardi told Catholic News Service, saying it will take into consideration the fact that the 46-year-old Italian was supporting a family with three children in an apartment on Vatican property. He will be detained in one of the recently refurbished prison cells inside the Vatican police barracks. In a communique issued the same day, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said Gabriele's crime caused great damage to the pope and to the universal church. By stealing private correspondence to and from the pope, and other sensitive documents, and by leaking them to an Italian journalist, Gabriele committed "a personal offence against the Holy Father," the cardinal wrote.

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Cardinal Burke: Vatican II betrayed by breakdown of church discipline

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Abandonment of internal church discipline over the past half century has undermined the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, said the American cardinal who heads the Vatican's supreme court. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and a former archbishop of St. Louis, made his remarks Oct. 23 in a written submission to the afternoon session of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. The cardinal said that a secular version of "antinomianism" -- the belief that grace exempts Christians from obedience to moral law -- is "among the most serious wounds of society today," responsible for the legalization of "intrinsically evil" actions such as abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, and for the denial of conscience exemptions and other infringements of religious liberty. "This antinomianism embedded in civil society has unfortunately infected post-council ecclesial life," he said. "Excitement following the council, linked to the establishment of a new church which teaches freedom and love, has strongly encouraged an attitude of indifference toward church discipline, if not even hostility," he said. "The reforms of ecclesial life which were hoped for by the council fathers were, therefore, in a certain sense, hindered if not betrayed." The cardinal's remarks to the synod echoed a much longer address he delivered Aug. 30 in Nairobi, to the Canon Law Society of Kenya. In that speech, the cardinal linked a breakdown in internal discipline with theologians' interpretations of Vatican II as a radical break with church tradition -- an approach that he said encouraged contempt for canon law.

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Cardinal-designate says pope appreciates diversity of Indian church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The 53-year-old head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church said Pope Benedict XVI's decision to make him a cardinal is a sign of the pope's appreciation for Indian Catholics' "unity in diversity." Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of Trivandrum, spiritual leader of the Eastern Catholic Church, was attending the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization when the pope announced Oct. 24 he would make the archbishop and five other churchmen cardinals in late November. Wearing a typical bishops' black cassock and magenta sash, the cardinal-designate stood out from the synod crowd of bishops because of his masanapsa -- a gold-trimmed black hood marked with white crosses. Addressing the synod Oct. 13, he focused on the need for the church to give a practical witness of Gospel values and to ensure that its liturgies are true experiences of prayer. "Our dear Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata brought to the world, especially to India, a very practical means of evangelization: a witnessing model," he said. "She became the most effective missionary in a land where Christians are only less than 3 percent of the population. Mother Teresa witnessed Jesus everywhere," he said, telling synod members that encouraging Catholics to be witnesses must begin with "you and me." The cardinal-designate also told the synod that Jesus' promise of abundant life places an obligation on Christians to defend human life, human dignity and human rights.

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Church workers say Latin America important to US foreign policy

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The third presidential debate promised a foreign policy focus, but after participants paid scant attention to Latin America, church workers there spoke of the region's importance to U.S. foreign policy. "U.S foreign policy has a lot to do with Mexico" and Latin America, said Father Oscar Enrique, director of the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center in Ciudad Juarez. He listed trade -- which is booming as companies bring back manufacturing from Asia to the Mexico-U.S. border region -- as a top issue. Father Enriquez also mentioned problems such as a flow of U.S. guns into Mexico and drug consumption in the United States, both of which feed Mexico's cartel and organized crime violence. A crackdown on organized crime and drug cartels, along with turf wars over trafficking routes to the United States, has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since 2006 -- 10,000 of those in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas. "The United States has to be co-responsible for the situation in Mexico," said Father Enriquez, who wants U.S. support for security projects in Latin America to be conditional on human rights being respected. Neither President Barack Obama nor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney mentioned the murderous situation in some Latin American countries, including Honduras, where the homicide rate is more than 80 per 100,000 residents. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, supplanted Ciudad Juarez as the most murderous city in the world. "Honduras is seeing the drug war at its highest," said Juan Sheenan, country director for Catholic Relief Services in Honduras, which has become a transit country for cocaine flowing northward out of South America.

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Pope proclaims seven new saints, including St. Kateri, St. Marianne

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming seven new saints -- including St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope from North America -- Pope Benedict XVI said they are examples to the world of total dedication to Christ and tireless service to others. In a revised canonization rite Oct. 21, the pope prayed for guidance that the church would not "err in a matter of such importance" as he used his authority to state that the seven are with God in heaven and can intercede for people on earth. An estimated 80,000 pilgrims from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, Germany and Madagascar filled St. Peter's Square for the canonization of the holy women and men who ministered among their people. The pilgrims applauded the proclamation of the new saints, who included: Kateri, an American Indian who was born in the United States and died in Canada in 1680; Mother Marianne, a Sister of St. Francis who traveled from Syracuse, N.Y., to Hawaii to care for people with Hansen's disease and died in Molokai in 1918; and Pedro Calungsod, a teenaged Philippine catechist who was martyred in Guam in 1672. The other new saints are: French Jesuit Father Jacques Berthieu, martyred in Madagascar in 1896; Italian Father Giovanni Battista Piamarta, founder of religious orders, who died in 1913; Sister Carmen Salles Barangueras, founder of a Spanish religious order, who died in 1911; and Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman, who died in 1925.

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Cardinal-designate 'Chito' known in Philippines for theology, humility

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Filipino cardinal announced Oct. 24 is widely lauded for his theological gifts and his humility. Cardinal-designate Luis Tagle, 55, of Manila, Philippines, "really takes care of people ... he's so simple and generous and there's no class structure when he deals with people; everyone is equal in his eyes," said Nemie Anciado, a longtime custodian at the cathedral in Imus, Philippines, where the cardinal-designate was bishop from 2001 to 2011. Anciado spoke to Catholic News Service in October 2011, after his bishop was named archbishop of Manila. One year later, Pope Benedict XVI announced he would make him a cardinal in a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 24. Cardinal-designate Tagle told CNS Oct. 24 that the month of October, which is the month of the rosary, "is big for me." He was informed in October 2001 that he would become a bishop and was told he'd be transferred to Manila in October 2011. "And now it's October again," he said, laughing. Describing to CNS what it was like to hear the announcement that he was being elevated Oct. 24, Cardinal-designate Tagle fought back tears. "Listening to the text of the pope's letter being read out to me, I also felt like -- here it comes," he said. "It felt like someone far greater than I am is here. Very near." Admirers have widely lauded the theological gifts of the archbishop known as "Chito."

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US Cardinal-designate Harvey has worked close to popes for 30 years

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate James M. Harvey has spent 30 years working at the Vatican in positions requiring great discretion and bringing him into daily contact with the pope, the world's most powerful government leaders and millions of Catholic faithful. Pope Benedict XVI announced Oct. 24 that he would induct Archbishop Harvey, a native of Milwaukee, into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24 and that he would appoint him archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the major basilica built over the presumed tomb of St. Paul. As prefect of the papal household since 1998, Archbishop Harvey has arranged the daily meetings, first, of Pope John Paul II and, now, of Pope Benedict. He coordinates with the pope's personal secretary and other members of the "pontifical family" -- those who work in the papal apartment and have been shaken by the actions and conviction of Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler, on charges of aggravated theft. When heads of state make official visits to the pope, it is Archbishop Harvey who greets them first and escorts them to the pope. And when the pope meets small groups or holds his large weekly general audiences, Archbishop Harvey is at his side. At a July 2011 prayer service in Cardinal-designate Harvey's home archdiocese, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee introduced him as "the second most photographed person in the world." Cardinal-designate Harvey, 63, was one of the three Vatican officials closest to Blessed John Paul, coordinating his audiences and public appearances as the pope aged and became increasingly debilitated by Parkinson's disease.


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