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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-26-2012

By Catholic News Service


Archbishop says church won't see much change under China's new leaders

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A high-ranking Vatican official from China says he doesn't expect much to change in church-state relations with the new Chinese government. "I don't think there will be a big change in the immediate future for the religious policy in China. It's not one of the immediate priorities of the new government. They have many other things to take care of," said Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He made the comments during a visit to the Diocese of Brooklyn that was part of a six-day trip to the United States. He was in the U.S. to attend a meeting of the board of directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies at the national office in New York. China unveiled its new Communist Party leadership Nov. 15. The top ruling body, known as the Politburo Standing Committee, is composed of seven members who will take charge in March. Xi Jinping, the new president, repeatedly called for a "great renewal" in his acceptance speech. Xi, who was vice president, also was promoted to chairman of the Central Military Commission at a time when the country aspires to become a maritime power. Archbishop Hon explained that since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution in China, people have been able to freely worship. The problem, he pointed out, is with "the structure and development of the church -- especially for the hierarchy -- the control is too much." The Chinese government demands the power of approval before a bishop can be appointed by the Vatican.

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MP3 players loaded with spiritual material reach thousands of soldiers

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- American troops have a strong presence around the globe, serving in 75 percent of the world's countries, yet "one soldier told me they are starving for spiritual support," said Cheri Lomonte, founder of Frontline Faith. The Catholic nonprofit organization gives MP3 players loaded with the Mass, stories and prayers to active-duty members of the military. In the two years since its founding, Frontline Faith has distributed 30,000 MP3 players. The organization started with Lomonte, a Catholic radio host from Austin, Texas, creating a Catholic MP3 player with recordings of Mass, prayers, Scripture readings and words of encouragement to members of the military. Although the first two years of the organization brought in enough donations to cover the orders, they are left with a shortage of donation money and 1,500 requests for players they can't fill. "Americans think the war is over because they see pictures of troops coming home," Lomonte told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. "What people don't realize is there are still 60,000 troops in Afghanistan and there are more troops going out in December." Lomonte came up with the MP3 idea after learning that soldiers can go months without access to a military chaplain. The aim of the player was to be a supplement to Scripture readings in response to a lack of Catholic chaplains. Last February, at the request of a Methodist pastor, a Protestant version of the MP3 player were recorded and distributed. The players cost $24 each and are specifically for active-duty military, those preparing to deploy and those in military hospitals. The website www.frontlinefaithproject.org lists ways to help with the project, including how to follow it on Facebook, how to connect a parish to the effort and how to donate money to support it.

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Court clears path for health lawsuit; Bible publisher wins injunction

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Nov. 26 for a federal appeals court to take up a Christian college's challenge to the Affordable Care Act, reopening one of several lawsuits filed by religious and other groups who oppose elements of the law. The court ordered the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the argument of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that the health care law infringes on the Christian school's religious freedom. The court had rejected an earlier challenge by the university, made prior to the Supreme Court's June ruling upholding the health care law. The university appealed again, asking for its challenge to be considered in light of the June Supreme Court ruling. The order came within weeks of separate rulings by federal courts in Washington and Oklahoma that addressed challenges to a Department of Health and Human Services mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to include coverage for contraceptives in employee health insurance. On Nov. 16, a Washington-based federal judge granted a temporary injunction against enforcement of the contraceptive mandate in a suit brought by an Illinois-based Christian publisher. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that Tyndale House Publishers, which produces Bibles and various Christian publications, did not have to comply with the new mandate while the group's lawsuit against it moves forward. The mandate "affirmatively compels" the company to violate its religious beliefs, he said. Matthew Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Carol Springs, Ill., company, said in a statement that the judge's ruling was the right one and that Bible publishers "should be free to do business according to the book that they publish."

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Celebrating church's universality, pope creates new cardinals

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recalling that Christ's mission transcends "all ethnic, national and religious particularities," Pope Benedict XVI created six new cardinals from four different continents, representing the Latin rite of the Catholic Church as well as two Eastern Catholic Churches. The churchmen who joined the College of Cardinals Nov. 24 were U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, 63, former prefect of the papal household; Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Indian Archbishop Baselio Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan , 68, of Abuja; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, 70, of Bogota; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle, 55, of Manila. "I want to highlight in particular the fact that the church is the church of all peoples, so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents," the pope said during the hour-long service in St. Peter's Basilica. "Amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God." The six new cardinals later stepped up to the pope, who was seated before the basilica's main altar, to receive symbols of their office: a ring, the "zucchetto" skull cap and the three-cornered hat called a biretta. The headwear was colored scarlet, like the cardinals' robes, to symbolize the blood they risk shedding in service to the church. The new Eastern Catholic cardinals received modified versions of the biretta, consistent with the distinctive clerical garb of their churches. Cardinal Rai received the turban-like Maronite tabieh, and Cardinal Cleemis a head covering in a shape reminiscent of an onion dome.

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Cardinal O'Brien visits Holy Land with message of solidarity, peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of his first trip to the Holy Land as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien said he hoped to encourage the region's Christian minority with a message of solidarity from Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholics in the West. "The church in the Holy Land has been under unfriendly domination throughout the centuries, and the fact that we still exist there is almost a miracle," Cardinal O'Brien told Catholic News Service Nov. 24. "We have to do everything we can as a Catholic people to encourage them and to let them know that we are one with them in their struggle." The cardinal, a former archbishop of Baltimore whom Pope Benedict named to lead the chivalric order in August 2011, left Rome Nov. 26 for a weeklong pilgrimage whose itinerary was to include Jerusalem; Bethlehem, West Bank; and Amman, Jordan. He was scheduled to meet with Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, who serves as the order's grand prior, and other Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim leaders. The cardinal also planned to visit a few of the more than 100 institutions that the knights support in the region, including parishes, schools and Bethlehem University. Cardinal O'Brien was not planning to visit the Gaza Strip and said he did not expect the recent fighting there to affect his visit, which was planned almost a year ago. But he noted that Patriarch Twal has been on the "front lines" in aiding victims of the violence there.

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New CRS program helps provide normalcy for Syrian refugee children

ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Many Syrian families fleeing war in their homeland and stranded in Turkey are desperate to provide a sense of normalcy for their children despite the chaos and upheaval of war, said the head of an emergency mission of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services. "Both fathers and mothers' biggest concern (is) that their children are scared and have seen terrible things ... and need something to do," Jennifer Poidatz, head of the agency's Syria emergency response team, told Catholic News Service. Poidatz was in Turkey to launch a million-dollar project focused in part on providing hundreds of Syrian refugee children with urgently needed social outlets. Poidatz said assessments carried out in November showed that a primary concern of refugee parents on the border was that their uprooted and troubled children were spending long hours in cramped and crowded temporary homes with nothing to do. "Kids are withdrawn and not sleeping. This is what parents are concerned about," said Poidatz. She said that, in response, CRS was working to establish child-friendly spaces where the children can spend time with each other under the guidance of trained staff and volunteers at facilities providing social activities, including art, theater, dance, sports, reading and games. "Parents want the best for their kids. Despite having to leave their country, they want normalcy and safety" for children "who need a safe place to go," Poidatz told CNS Nov. 24 from Turkey's Hatay province, which borders Syria. CRS's announcement of the child-friendly spaces coincided with the publication in a newspaper of the results of a Turkish university psychological survey showing that thousands of Syrian refugee children in the country were facing "severe psychological problems."

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Pope appeals for peace in Mideast, greets pilgrims from four continents

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Greeting hundreds of Christians from Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged their presence in the Middle East and launched a fresh appeal for peace in the region. "The church encourages every effort aimed at bringing peace to the world and the Middle East," he said, adding that real peace must be "based on an authentic respect for each other. I wish to encourage the life and presence of Christians in the Middle East where they should be able to live their faith freely and to launch once again an urgent appeal for peace in the region," he said. The pope made his remarks during an audience with six new cardinals and their family and friends in the Vatican's Paul VI hall Nov. 26. The informal gathering came after a weekend of ceremonies that saw the creation of six new members of the College of Cardinals: U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, former prefect of the papal household; Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai; Indian Cardinal Baselio Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja; Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota; and Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila. A large contingent of Lebanese pilgrims at the audience cheered loudly and often, and waved their nation's flag each time the pope greeted Patriarch Rai. "My heart is flying in the sky," said Rola Rai, daughter of one of the patriarch's cousins.

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Vatican says it will promote religious liberty in Saudi-backed center

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican addressed concerns about its participation in a new Saudi-backed interfaith center, insisting that it would use the forum to press for the religious liberty of Christians in Muslim lands. A Vatican delegation was scheduled to join U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other dignitaries in Vienna Nov. 26 for the inauguration of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center, which is named for and financed by the king of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion except Islam, even in private. Groups of liberal Muslims and members of the Austrian Green Party protested the center in the days leading up to its inauguration. "Some questions have been raised regarding the motives and the meaning of the Holy See's adherence to this initiative," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, in a statement Nov. 23. He noted that the Vatican is officially a "founding observer" of the center. Father Lombardi said the center's purpose is "to foster dialogue among religions and cultures," which he called a "basic and an urgent need for the humanity of today and tomorrow." He noted that Austria and Spain, "which have centuries-old Christian traditions," are co-founder states of the center along with Saudi Arabia.

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Pope names US archbishop, Benedictine abbot to advise Vatican offices

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI named U.S. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and U.S. Benedictine Abbot Christopher M. Zielinski to help manage the staff of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The Vatican announced the appointments Nov. 24. Archbishop Gomez, 60, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, is also a member of the Synod of Bishops' special council for the Americas and an adviser to the Congregation for Bishops' Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Archbishop Gomez is the third council member from the U.S. and Canada. Others are Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Thomas C. Collins of Toronto. Consultors or advisers to the council include Tony Spence, director and editor in chief of Catholic News Service; Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor; Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus; and Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Television. Abbot Zielinski, a native of Ohio, was appointed to be one of three chiefs of staff in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, where he already served as an adviser. The Benedictine also serves as vice president of both the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology. He is a member of the Congregation for Clergy's special commission handling cases of dispensation from the obligations of the priesthood and deaconate.

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After Macy's parade, Catholic school band entertains Sandy victims

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Ever since Kenley Cadena picked up a flute to perform in the band at her Catholic grade school in Nashville, she knew what she wanted to do. "I wanted to be at the top," she said. "Ever since then, it's been a passion, and I love it so much." On Nov. 22, Cadena and fellow members of the Father Ryan High School Marching Band were at the very top, performing the highest profile gig of their lives -- at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. For the first time in school history, the band performed in what has become a traditional kickoff for the holiday -- seen by more than 3 million spectators lining the streets and watched by another 50 million on TV. Father Ryan was one of only 11 marching bands selected to participate out of more than 150 applicants from around the country. After the parade, the Nashville band headed to Far Rockaway in the New York borough of Queens to perform as part of a Thanksgiving celebration for more than 800 residents in one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. After the hurricane hit, school administrators and the band community had donated money to the Macy's/American Red Cross Relief Fund -- more than $5,000 from a fundraiser held for the fine arts program. But the school wanted to do more, and contacted Macy's to see if there might be a New York-area community hit by Sandy that might want a special performance. A day later Macy's received a call from a Far Rockaway minister asking about if a band might be available. Macy's put the two together and "lifted the spirits of the community." Interviewed before their New York trip, Cadena and her band mates were laser-focused on perfecting their 1-minute, 15-second Macy's routine, which will be taped live and broadcast into millions of homes on Thanksgiving morning. In addition to the choreographed routine performed for the television cameras, the Father Ryan band were preparing to entertain the crowds as they marched through the streets of Manhattan.


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