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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-3-2012

By Catholic News Service


Fund offers matching grants to projects helping West Virginia's poor

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- A new matching grant fund established by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston aims to help address "the grief and anguish of the poor among us," especially the children living in poverty, said Bishop Michael J. Bransfield. Announcing the fund at a Nov. 29 news conference, he said it will provide matching grants for parishes, schools and agencies in the diocese that wish to implement local programs and outreach to address issues he identified in a pastoral letter he issued in early November. The fund was established, the bishop said, to help new and existing ministries meet the needs of the poor in communities across the state. Pastoral guidelines for the fund will be distributed in December by a grant committee. "It is my hope to speak to the grief and anguish of the poor among us, especially the experience of our children and families in poverty, and offer to them a compassionate message of joy and hope," Bishop Bransfield said. "At the same time, I want to invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in compassionate care for the poor and continual solicitude on their behalf," he added. He spoke about his pastoral letter, titled "Setting Children Free: Loosening the Bonds of Poverty in West Virginia," and the issues he covered in the document, his fourth pastoral since he became bishop of the statewide diocese.

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Property given to ordinariate for chancery called 'incredible blessing'

HOUSTON (CNS) -- A five-acre piece of property has been given to the Catholic Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, to be used as the site of its future chancery. Purchased by anonymous donors for $5 million, the five-acre property is contiguous with Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church, the seat of the ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI almost a year ago in response to requests by Anglicans seeking to become Catholics. Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, who heads the ordinariate, announced the donation of land Dec. 2. "This will be the future home of the chancery of the ordinariate as well as serve future expansion needs of this wonderful, growing parish," he said during Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham. "It is an incredible blessing, and I know you all will want to say with me: To God be the glory." Joining parishioners at the Mass were a number of Anglican priests from throughout the United States and Canada who are applying to become Catholic priests for the ordinariate. Planning for the chancery design was to begin later in December. Additional donors will be sought for the construction of the building, according to a press release. The property also includes a shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham. The ordinariate currently has a small office at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston, with most of the small staff located in other cities across the United States.

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Use of Louisiana state funds for school vouchers ruled unconstitutional

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called it "wrong-headed" and a "travesty" that a state judge ruled Nov. 30 that a voucher program passed by the Legislature last spring is unconstitutional. State District Judge Tim Kelley said the state cannot use funds set aside for public education to pay for children in failing schools to attend nonpublic schools. The Legislature passed the program -- known formally as the Louisiana Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program -- during its 2012 legislative session, held from March to June. Kelley's decision is a "travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education," Jindal said. "That opportunity is a chance that every child deserves, and we will continue the fight to give it to them," he continued. "The opinion sadly ignores the rights of families who do not have the means necessary to escape failing schools. This ruling changes nothing for the students currently in the program. All along, we expected this to be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court." Jindal vowed to appeal the ruling handed down by Kelley in a 39-page decision following a three-day trial. The suit was filed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana School Boards Association, and 143 local school boards against the state Department of Education and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Currently, more than 4,900 Louisiana children attending 117 nonpublic schools receive state-issued tuition vouchers.

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Judges in 'VatiLeaks' case say computer tech was hard to believe

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Explaining why they found a Vatican computer technician guilty of aiding and abetting the papal butler who stole private papal correspondence, Vatican judges said they found much of his testimony hard to believe. The Vatican court Nov. 10 found Claudio Sciarpelletti, 48, a computer technician in the Vatican Secretariat of State, guilty of obstructing the investigation into the leak of Vatican documents. The court gave Sciarpelletti a two-month suspended jail sentence. As is the normal practice at the Vatican and in Italy, the judges released a detailed explanation of their findings and of their sentence weeks after the verdict was delivered. The 11-page explanation of the Sciarpelletti decision was published Dec. 1, the same day that Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, announced that Sciarpelletti's lawyer had dropped his request for an appeal of the guilty verdict. Neither the defense nor the court contested that a file folder with a sealed envelope, marked with the butler's name and containing papers related to the leaked documents, was found in Sciarpelletti's desk at the Secretariat of State. However, the judges' described Sciarpelletti's trial testimony and his earlier statements to investigators as to how he had obtained the envelope and whether he knew what was in it as "not credible" and "not truthful." Questioned in May, Sciarpelletti originally told investigators the butler, Paolo Gabriele, gave him the envelope. The next day, he said it came from his superior, Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani. At the trial, he admitted changing his story, saying he'd had the envelope so long he couldn't remember where it came from.

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Under the big top, traditional values thrive, are shared, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Circuses, street musicians, clowns, magicians and other itinerant performers not only bring people joy, but their traditional lifestyle is an example of hard work, sacrifice, strong families and real respect between people of different generations, Pope Benedict XVI said. "You are called to give witness to the values that are part of your tradition: love for the family, tenderness toward children, attention to those with disabilities, care for the sick and the valuing of the aged with their wealth of experience," the pope told an estimated 8,000 performers and carnival workers. The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers sponsored a "people of the traveling show" pilgrimage to the Vatican as part of its Year of Faith activities. The pilgrimage participants, who came from 15 countries, met the pope Dec. 1 after parading down the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square and watching a short performance by jugglers, clowns and acrobats in the Vatican audience hall. The pope personally greeted several of the performers and fluffed the furry coat of a lion cub. A clown gave him a Nativity scene set under a circus tent. "The happiness of your performances, the joy of playfulness, the grace of your choreography (and) the rhythm of music are immediate means of communication for entering into dialogue with young and old, giving rise to feelings of serenity, joy and camaraderie," the pope said. Pope Benedict said the values and sacrifices that itinerant performers traditionally have embodied -- including courage, generosity and a focus on the needs of the family -- "are not always appreciated in modern society," but they have molded generations of circus workers.

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Pope makes new rules to strengthen charities' Catholic identity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Warning that Catholic charitable activity must not become "just another form of organized social assistance," Pope Benedict XVI issued new rules to strengthen the religious identity of Catholic charities and ensure that their activities conform to church teaching. The pope's apostolic letter on the "service of charity," issued "motu proprio" (on his own initiative), directs bishops in overseeing charitable works in their dioceses. The document, dated Nov. 11, was released by the Vatican Dec. 1. Charities approved by the church or supported by church funds "are required to follow Catholic principles in their activity and they may not accept commitments which could in any way affect the observance of those principles," the pope wrote. The staff members of such charities must therefore "share, or at least respect, the Catholic identity" of their agencies, and exemplify "Christian life" and faith. Bishops are to provide these employees with "theological and pastoral formation" through special courses and "suitable aids to the spiritual life." Catholic charities are forbidden to "receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to the church's teaching," or to "accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the church's teaching." To ensure that the church's charitable agencies reflect "Christian simplicity of life," each bishop is to set their salaries and expenses at levels "in due proportion to analogous expenses of his diocesan curia."

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With @Pontifex, pope reaches out to new kind of followers

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To celebrate the launch of his new Twitter account, Pope Benedict XVI will tweet the answers to a handful of questions from his followers. The pope's rare question-and-answer exchange on the social media site shows the church doesn't just want to teach the truth, but also to listen to others, said Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The archbishop and other Vatican officials spoke at a news conference Dec. 3 to reveal the pope's new Twitter account @Pontifex. Starting Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the pope will send messages in eight languages, including Arabic, from eight different Twitter accounts. @Pontifex is the English feed while the other language accounts use an extension of the main handle. For example, the Spanish feed is @Pontifex_es. The handle "Pontifex" was chosen because it means "pope and bridge builder," said Greg Burke, media adviser for the Vatican's Secretariat of State. The name suggests "reaching out" and bringing unity not just of Catholics "but all men and women of good will," he said. Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the communications council, said the pontifex name also "refers to the office more than the person," that is, it highlights the leader of the church and the Catholic faithful. A more practical consideration was that numerous permutations of the name Pope Benedict XVI were already taken by other people not affiliated with the pope, whereas the handle "Pontifex" was available.

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Pope calls for world authority as 'moral force'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world authority envisioned by two popes as a way to ensure global peace and justice would not be a superpower, but primarily a moral force with limited jurisdiction, Pope Benedict XVI said. The pope made his remarks Dec. 3 to a plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which was scheduled to meet for three days to discuss the theme of "political authority and global governance." In his address, Pope Benedict recalled that Blessed John XXIII had called for the "construction of a world community, with a corresponding authority," to serve the "common good of the human family." The pope also cited his own 2009 encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," in which he called for a "true world political authority" to ensure international cooperation, peace and environmental protection. The church offers "principles of reflection, criteria of judgment and practical guidelines" for such an organization, but no concrete legal or political recommendations, Pope Benedict said in his address. Yet the pope stipulated that the proposed body would not be a "superpower, concentrated in the hands of a few, which would dominate all peoples, exploiting the weakest." The authority in question, he said, "must be understood, first and foremost, as a moral force, a power to influence in accordance with reason, that is, a participatory authority, limited by law in its jurisdiction." The council's president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, told Vatican Radio that the agenda for the plenary session would include the topic of global financial governance as a response to the world financial crisis. In October 2011, the council called for establishment of a "central world bank" to regulate the global financial industry and the international money supply as a step toward the world authority envisioned by Blessed John and Pope Benedict.

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Faith-based groups seek protection for countries hit by climate change

DOHA, Qatar (CNS) -- Representatives of faith-based development networks participating in the U.N. climate change conference urged governments to put aside national interests and protect the common good, especially those most vulnerable to climate change. Emilie Johann of the international alliance of Catholic development agencies, CIDSE, said the arrival of government ministers Dec. 4 should add some political leadership to the climate negotiations. "So far, we have neither seen commitments to deeper emission cuts, nor money on the table to support communities which are most affected by increasingly extreme weather," she said after a week of the conference. Government officials were to help firm up agreements prepared throughout the year and based on the outcomes of last year's climate summit in Durban, South Africa. This year's round of global climate talks, organized by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is part of preparations for a new global climate deal by 2015. Isaac Kabongo, executive director of the Ecological Christian Organization in Uganda, said getting clarity about climate finance is important "not only to help Uganda cope with a changing climate in the short term, but also to build more resilient communities, a more resilient economy, and a more resilient society for the future. Putting money on the table is the first step," he said. "But we must also ensure that finance mechanisms respond to the needs of the people who are most affected by climate change, making sure communities have access to funds to support their adaptation efforts."


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