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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-6-2012

By Catholic News Service


Center helps workers with visas, presses growers on working conditions

SAN LUIS, Ariz. (CNS) -- Farmworkers line up on the Mexican side of the border at 1 a.m. They wait a couple of hours before getting into the field for a day's work. The work itself can be backbreaking. Farmworkers spend the first few hours under high-powered lighting, harvesting lettuce and other vegetables, which require constant bending and squatting. "The fields, that's the toughest work," said Demitrio Jimenez, a farmworker who gathered with about a hundred others for a Dec. 1 Farmworker Appreciation Mass celebrated by Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas in San Luis. Farmworkers get $9 an hour in the United States. They get $9 a day in Mexico. "I can't complain," Jimenez said. "That's how my family eats. I just wish they treated us with more respect." That's where the Independent Agricultural Workers Center comes in. The center -- or CITA as it's known by the acronym of its name in Spanish, Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricolas -- matches farmworkers from Mexico with legal, temporary agricultural jobs in the United States. The center helps farmworkers and growers navigate the often-unwieldy federal H-2A guest worker visa. Growers, in turn, agree to provide fair working conditions. "It's hard here, really hard," said Agustin Flores, explaining that he wouldn't think of subjecting his family to these conditions. His wife and children live in Guanajuato, Mexico. When they day is through, farmworkers return to Mexico to rest. They get up in the middle of the night to wait in line again. "I couldn't afford to live here," Flores said of the United States. "There isn't enough money to survive. Most of us return every day."

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Same-sex marriage major issue for voters, lawmakers in US, around globe

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After a string of 32 straight referendum successes in states in defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman since 1998, supporters of the traditional definition of marriage saw defeat in three states at the polls this November. On Election Day Nov. 6, voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington -- albeit by slender margins -- approved of allowing same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, a referendum bid to define marriage as that between one man and one woman also failed. Voters' action does not make same-sex marriage legal, but they cleared the way for the Legislature or courts to move to permit such marriages. Maryland and Washington voters upheld a law passed earlier in the year, and Maine voters reversed the results of a statewide referendum in 2009. The votes bring the number of states permitting same-sex marriage to nine, plus the District of Columbia. Supporters of traditional marriage said they were heavily outspent by backers of same-sex marriage in each state. In response to the referendum outcome, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said it was a disappointing day for marriage and called for renewed efforts to strengthen and protect traditional marriage and family life. "The meaning of marriage ... cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature," he said. Catholic teaching says that same-sex unions violate the authentic Christian understanding of marriage of being between one man and one woman. The legal definition of marriage in the nation's largest state, California, remained unsettled. A 2-1 majority of a three-member federal appeals court panel ruled in February that Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriages approved by voters in 2008, was unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under law. In upholding a lower court ruling, the panel said a right once given -- as the state had prior to the vote -- could not be taken away.

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Palestinian question key to Mideast peace, say Catholic leaders

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the end of a three-day meeting in Lebanon, the Catholic patriarchs and bishops of the Middle East said peace in the region will be impossible without a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 77 Catholic leaders said the greatest contribution to peace in the region would be to finally find a "just and peaceful solution to the Palestinian question," which they said is at the root of all the tensions in the region. The bishops and patriarchs met Dec. 3-5 in Harissa, Lebanon. According to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency, at the end of the meeting, they issued a pastoral statement on implementing Pope Benedict XVI's September document on the church in the Middle East as well as their appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the region. Fides said the appeal makes three main points, beginning with the urgency of finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a response to the desire of the Palestinian people to have an independent country. The second point, Fides reported, was to ask everyone in the region to work to end local conflicts and violence by putting into place projects for reconciliation and peace that "guarantee freedom for all and the safeguarding of human dignity. The appeal refers explicitly to the situation of martyred Syria," Fides said. The third point focused on the situation of Christians in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

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Vatican Nativity scene sets Holy Family in rock-hewn grottos of Matera

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christmas in St. Peter's Square this year has a particularly southern Italian flavor with a towering tree from the Molise region and a Nativity scene donated by the Basilicata region. Jesus, Mary and Joseph will be nestled in an artistic re-creation of the picturesque rocky setting of Matera's famed "sassi" -- a U.N. World Heritage site and backdrop for recent Hollywood films about the Holy Family and Jesus. The 78-foot silver fir was plucked out of the forests of Isernia by helicopter Dec. 5 and trucked 120 miles north with an Italian police escort. The tree arrived in the square in the pre-dawn hours Dec. 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, patron saint of children and source of the Santa Claus character. Vatican workers will spend several days decorating the tree with lights and gold and silver balls before the official lighting of the tree Dec. 14. The large Nativity scene in the square will remain shrouded in mystery until its official unveiling Christmas Eve. The scene, which will be assembled by Vatican personnel, will be decorated with more than 100 terracotta figures and detailed scenery crafted by the Italian artist Francesco Artese; his enormous "presepi" have been on display in New York City and Washington, D.C. The Nativity scene, which will cover 180 square yards, will depict Matera's famed "sassi" -- cliff-clinging churches, buildings, streets and grottos carved out of the mountainside.

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New charity rules don't forbid state funding, Vatican official says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- New rules issued by Pope Benedict XVI for the governance of Catholic charities will not prevent such charities from accepting government funding, so long as the funding does not entail conditions that conflict with church teaching, said the second-highest official of the Vatican office in charge of applying the new legislation. Msgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, spoke to Catholic News Service about the pope's apostolic letter on the "service of charity," issued "motu proprio" (on the pope's "own initiative") Nov. 11, and released by the Vatican Dec. 1. The document, which has the status of canon law, emphasizes that Catholic charitable activity must not become "just another form of organized social assistance," and directs bishops to ensure that charitable agencies under their authority conform to church teaching. One section of the letter forbids Catholic charities to "receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to the church's teaching." Commenting on this, Msgr. Dal Toso said that the rule would not necessarily prevent such agencies from taking money from national or local governments that fund, promote or permit practices condemned by the church, such as abortion or contraception. Nevertheless, he added, "if there is a program that goes against the church's teaching, for example, programs promoting abortion, then we cannot accept funds for such a program or even accept funds with certain conditions that are contrary to the church's doctrine."

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Our Lady of Guadalupe's devotion extends beyond the Americas

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Ana Rita Valero received an unlikely request in 2008. Valero, an anthropologist and president of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was asked by an official with the Mexican consulate in Shanghai to send two large images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. "It was the least likely place we could have sent images," Valero said, recalling the cool commercial relations between Mexico and China at the time. But the images were well received by Chinese Catholics and were placed in the cathedrals of Beijing and Shanghai. "The Chinese population liked them and began going there to pray," she said. Our Lady of Guadalupe is intimately associated with Mexico and forms part of the Mexican identity -- even for many non-Catholics, who call themselves, "Guadalupanos." But with the approach of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 -- when millions of Mexicans will make pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in northern Mexico City -- many non-Mexicans also will mark the day. Many will be in unlikely places, far from Tepeyac Hill, home of the basilica and the site where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 to St. Juan Diego. Valero has sent images of Our Lady of Guadalupe around the world -- as far away as Australia, she said. Her organization has chapters on four continents and in countries as disparate as Canada, Slovakia and the Philippines, where she sees growing interest. "I've never seen it so strong," she said of the international interest in Our Lady of Guadalupe. "I see a boom internationally."

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Damage in Philippines from typhoon looks like tsunami hit, CRS rep says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The destruction from Typhoon Bopha in portions of Mindanao in the southern Philippines is worse than feared as rescue workers continued to discover bodies under knee-deep mud, said a Catholic Relief Services official coordinating the agency's storm response. "It looks like a tsunami hit. It's just complete and total destruction. Whole hillsides were washed away in flash floods," Joe Curry, CRS country representative, told Catholic News Service Dec. 6. "The staff there have been through a half dozen typhoons and floods in the Philippines, and they say this is probably the worst," Curry added. "I've heard the same from other seasoned people from other donor organizations." Typhoon Bopha made landfall on the east coast of Mindanao north of Davao Dec. 4, lashing the island with 120-mph winds and torrential rains, before sweeping inland. Witnesses reported that the rain turned normally placid rivers and streams into raging torrents that inundated the fertile Compostela Valley. The accompanying winds destroyed banana plantations in the fertile valley. Curry said that a CRS team reached New Bataan, a city of about 80,000 in the Compostela Valley, Dec. 6 and found much of the community under mud and without electricity. He said local officials reported that at least 240 people had died in the city alone while hundreds more were swept away in flash floods. The government confirmed Dec. 6 that 370 people were dead throughout Mindanao. "The town had a lake on the top of a hill, and the rain caused the lake to come down like a waterfall and wash everything out," Curry said.

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Bioethics institute: Liverpool protocol in line with church teaching

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- An internationally respected Catholic bioethical institute has expressed support for a controversial end-of-life protocol that critics say is operating as a "euthanasia pathway." David Jones, director of the Oxford-based Anscombe Bioethics Centre, said the principles that underpinned the Liverpool Care Pathway "are fully in accordance with Catholic moral theology and with a Catholic understanding of a good death." The pathway, a framework for treatment of patients during the final hours of life, can involve heavy sedation and the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment, which under British law may include food and fluids. In recent months, it has been severely criticized by bereaved families and some doctors, who claim that it is being used to hasten the deaths of terminally ill and elderly patients who are not imminently dying. At present, the abuses are the focus of a government inquiry. But Jones, who since 2009 has served on the National LCP Reference Group, working with palliative care professionals who have designed the protocol, said it was not the pathway that was flawed but the way it was sometimes implemented. In a Dec. 6 statement, he said Catholic teaching supported even the withdrawal of clinically assisted hydration in some cases. "The LCP is an approach to improving standards of end-of-life care and is not, either in intention or in practice, where it is followed adequately, a form of euthanasia," said Jones in a statement posted on the Anscombe Centre website.

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Pope names new archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Murray Chatlain of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, to be the new archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba. Announcing the new assignment Dec. 6, the Vatican said the pope also had asked the archbishop to serve as apostolic administrator of Mackenzie-Fort Smith until a new bishop is named. Archbishop Chatlain, who will turn 50 in January, was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Saskatchewan before entering St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ontario. Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Saskatoon in 1987, he ministered at parishes in the diocese as well as parishes in northern Saskatchewan that are part of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. According to the Canadian bishops' conference, he also studied the Dene language at La Loche, Saskatchewan., which is in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. Pope Benedict named him coadjutor bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in 2007 and he became bishop of the diocese a year later. Since 2008, he has been a member of the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Bishop dedicates chapel described as 'soul' of new Catholic high school

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- The Chapel of St. Joseph is considered by many to be the crowning touch on a Catholic high school building completed just in time for the current school year. "Finally we have the school's soul," said Father Terry Coonan with a smile. The priest is the chaplain at the new St. Joseph High School in South Bend. "It's built at the center of campus for a reason. Now it feels like home!" While students flowed through the doors of the school at the end of August, construction workers continued work on the chapel, located in the heart of campus. At a special Mass Nov. 28, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend blessed the chapel and dedicated its altar, saying "Christ truly is present in that sacred place and that is the reason why St. Joseph High School exists." Principal Susan Richter, like many in attendance, showed emotion as she gathered her thoughts after Mass. "I said when the students came into the building it would become our home, but now we truly are home because we have this at the center and the heart of our school," she told Today's Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. "Our students can begin using it and we can have Mass there daily. They can go in and pray and worship." Because the chapel seats about 100 people, a group of students, parents, teachers and staff represented the St. Joseph family at the blessing. Many gasped as they entered the chapel, taken in by the religious artwork and classical architecture.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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