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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-28-2012

By Catholic News Service


Creating ordinariate for Anglicans makes for a complex first year

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The slideshow on important events of the first months of the U.S. ordinariate for former Episcopalians who have become Catholic was one indication of its unusual characteristics. The photos of ordinations featured the priests' wives and children, for one thing. One photo showed a father-son pair of new Catholic priests. Another picture showed an unidentified bishop, apparently ordaining a priest, with a cartoonlike dialogue bubble asking, "What have I done?" For a presentation at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall general assembly led by a member of the conference, about activities within a dioceselike entity, it was rather an extraordinary moment. Hesitant chuckles were replaced by warm laughter as the bishops realized this was something a little different, in fact, a lot different. Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, who heads the ordinariate established by the Vatican this year, took to the podium Nov. 12 to explain to the bishops the ins and outs of setting up what is officially known as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande who became a Catholic in 2007, Msgr. Steenson is both the only nonbishop in the USCCB and its only married member. He is a full voting member of the conference and his authority includes nearly everything a bishop does. But because he is married, he cannot be ordained a bishop and he may not ordain priests. Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus" provided for the establishment of ordinariates for former Anglicans who join the Catholic Church while retaining some of their Anglican traditions, spirituality and prayer.

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New York Archdiocese announces 26 schools 'at risk of closure'

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The New York Archdiocese has announced that 26 of the 159 regional, parish and archdiocesan elementary schools are at risk of closing next June. In addition, St. Agnes Boys High School in Manhattan also is at risk of closing at the end of the current school year. The Nov. 26 announcement of "at risk" schools comes two years after the archdiocese closed 20 schools as part of a reconfiguration plan. A decision about the future of Catholic schools on New York's Staten Island has been postponed until January while the region continues to struggle with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Archdiocesan officials are meeting with local pastors, principals, administrators and elected officials for in-depth discussions on how to best serve the needs of school families. In a Nov. 28 posting on his blog, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the announcement of school closings as "very somber news. I dread this! I'd rather be opening new schools, not closing some," he said in his blog, "The Gospel in the Digital Age." Children, teachers, parents and parishes love their schools and "fight hard to make them work! Some have just settled into these schools after the previous closing of others," he added. "This is very sad." But the cardinal explained that "these tough decisions were long in coming, after over a year of study, discussion, consultation and debate by priests, parents and experts close to the scene." He also noted that this second wave of closings "should be it." Although he said he couldn't promise that more schools wouldn't close, he said he did not envision a future announcement of dozens of closings.

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When sharing the faith, keep it simple, joyful, credible, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world of hardened hearts and titillating distractions, Christians need to keep the Gospel message simple and live what they teach with love and joy, Pope Benedict XVI said. The best place to start is with one's own family, he said, learning to spend time together, listening and understanding one another, and "being a sign for each other of God's merciful love." During his weekly general audience Nov. 28, the pope spoke about the challenge of communicating the saving truth of Jesus to today's men and women whose hearts are "often closed" and whose minds are "sometimes distracted by the glitz and glam" of the material world. In his catechesis to some 5,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the pope said "it's necessary to recover simplicity, to return to the essentials." The first condition to establish is that people can legitimately talk about God because God himself speaks to humanity, the pope said. "The first condition for talking about God is, therefore, listening to what God himself has said to us," he said. "God is not a distant hypothesis about the origin of the world" and he isn't an abstract form of "mathematical intelligence," rather he is real and "is concerned about us and loves us," the pope said. In Jesus, people can see the face of God, who descended from heaven to be with humanity, "to teach us the art of living, the road to happiness, to liberate us from sin and make us children of God," he said.

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World AIDS Day: Pope highlights problem of poverty in fighting HIV

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a special appeal against HIV and AIDS, Pope Benedict XVI called for special attention to those unable to afford life-saving drugs, especially pregnant and nursing women affected by the disease. The pope, speaking before World AIDS Day Dec. 1, said his thoughts and prayers were with "the great number of children who contract the virus every year from their own mothers, despite the fact there are therapies for preventing it." AIDS has caused "millions of deaths and tragic human suffering, most markedly in poorer regions of the world, which have great difficulty in getting access to effective drugs," he said Nov. 28. The pope encouraged the many initiatives the church supports aimed at "eradicating this scourge." The Vatican has estimated Catholic agencies provide about 25 percent of all HIV treatment and care throughout the world. The World Health Organization has estimated that perhaps as much as 70 percent of all health care in Africa is provided by faith-based organizations.

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Lebanese church agency helps refugees from Syria navigate UN system

BEIRUT (CNS) -- When Syrian refugees arrive in Lebanon, help begins with a phone call to the U.N. refugee agency -- if they can get through. In most refugee areas, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has no fixed office; its staffers make only sporadic visits for which refugees make appointments over the phone. It's that phone call that is the problem. "We have called UNHCR several times, but they never answer the phone, and there's no permanent office to go to," said Ghaziya al-Houmaydan, a refugee who, six months ago, fled bombing in her hometown of Homs, Syria, and who now lives in a tent in the Bekaa Valley. Hessen Sayah, project manager for Syrian refugees for Caritas Lebanon, the local church's charitable agency, said she hears about the problem all the time. "People call our Caritas hotline to ask for help with calling UNHCR, saying it's always busy or no one answers. We tell them to call again. And we take their names to tell UNHCR about them, especially the most vulnerable or urgent cases, like people who need medical assistance," Sayah told Catholic News Service. "And once you get UNHCR on the phone, it can take up to two or three months to get registered," she said. "But if a family has needs now, Caritas is here to help them." No one is sure how many refugees from Syria have already arrived in Lebanon. According to the UNHCR, more than 131,000 Syrian refugees were either registered in Lebanon or had made appointments to be registered as of Nov. 16. The UNHCR said nearly 316,000 additional Syrian refugees have registered or have registrations pending in other neighboring countries.

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Cardinal O'Brien meets seminarians, students during Holy Land visit

BEIT JALLA, West Bank (CNS) -- After a morning of visits to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and a local Catholic parish, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien was overcome with emotion during his meeting with seminarians at the Latin Patriarchate seminary. "I can't think of a more encouraging moment than this," he told the young men who had gathered in their common room to greet him. The cardinal, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, said that, having served as a seminary rector for 12 years, he was "well aware of the work and sacrifices involved in creating the goodness I see here. What better place to be formed than here?" he said. "There is a lot of energy in this room, and I am grateful and enriched by your presence and young enthusiasm." He said the seminary was a "hopeful sign." Though Jesus' formation was very different than the young seminarians, the base of "selfless, dispossessive love of people" was the same, he added. "Dispossessive love is unique for Christians and should be unique for priests," he said. "You are going to set the standards for our good people for selfless love. You will make saints in this area." The cardinal, a former archbishop of Baltimore whom Pope Benedict named to lead the chivalric order in August 2011, arrived in the Holy Land Nov. 26 for a weeklong pilgrimage. His itinerary included Jerusalem; Bethlehem, where he inaugurated the education department of Bethlehem University, which is supported by the knights; Nazareth, Israel, and the neighboring village of Rameh, where he was to inaugurate the parish school. He was also scheduled to visit Catholic parishes and holy sites in Jordan before returning to Rome.

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Catholic transplant pioneer, Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Murray dies

BOSTON (CNS) -- Joseph Murray, the Catholic surgeon who conducted the world's first organ transplant, died Nov. 26 at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the same hospital where he performed that groundbreaking surgery. Murray, who won a Nobel Prize and a Laetare Medal among his many honors, was 93 years old. He had suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., Murray could have pursued a career in athletics. He had excelled at football, baseball and hockey in high school. Once at Holy Cross, though, he found that baseball practice and lab schedules conflicted, so he dropped baseball. Murray also enjoyed tennis, biking and swimming. Murray later attended Harvard Medical School. After graduating, he joined the Army and studied surgery at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania, where he treated soldiers wounded in World War II. It was while in the Army that he became interested in skin grafts for wounded soldiers as well as organ transplants. His first successful organ transplant was a kidney transplant in 1954 from one brother to his identical twin. Murray reportedly knelt in prayer with his family before the operation. The patient lived eight years with his brother's kidney; he died from the renal failure that necessitated the transplant. Murray also performed the first successful allograft -- a transplant involving unrelated individuals -- and also the first kidney transplant using a cadaver's kidney.


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