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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-13-2012

By Catholic News Service


People try to make sense of shooting; prayers urged for victims, gunman

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- People all over the Portland area are trying to make sense of a Dec. 11 tragedy caused by a gunman opening fire on a mall busy with shoppers. Educators at La Salle College Preparatory, located less than a mile from Clackamas Town Center, helped students focus their prayer on those affected by the shooting. After a masked man killed two people, injured another and then turned the gun on himself, La Salle was notified almost instantaneously by students and parents who were shopping and working at the mall. "As soon as we got the information, we locked down the perimeter," said Tom Dudley, principal of the Catholic school. Some students at the school witnessed different parts of the events, and most want to remain anonymous. Gary Hortsch, director of campus ministry, began a school liturgy by addressing the tragedy. "No less than a mile away from where we are gathered, people's lives were forever changed," he said. "Slowly we have started the process of telling our stories of where we were as we try to make sense of violence that ensued. Some members of our community were at the mall when the chaos erupted. "Others of us had family members and loved ones we knew either working or visiting at the mall. All of us knew that there was the potential for this tragedy to directly impact the people we hold dear to our hearts as we contacted each other to be sure everyone was safe," he added.

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Groups ask FTC to protect children's online privacy rights

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of more than 50 organizations asking the Federal Trade Commission for more stringent safeguards to protect children's online privacy rights. Although the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, was passed by Congress in 1998, more advanced online tracking techniques have been developed that threaten those protections. Under that law the FTC is charged with establishing the rules for online privacy. It issued its first rules in 2000, and is now considering updating them. "Today's young people are growing up in a complex media environment, connected to a vast array of mobile devices, online games, personal computers, social networks, and real-time interactive marketing services," said the organizations in a Dec. 13 letter to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz and the commissioners. As a result, the letter added, "data collection and marketing practices have become increasingly sophisticated and much less transparent, undermining the ability of parents to make meaningful decisions for protecting their children's privacy and safety." Rule changes, the letter said, "are not only essential, but also urgent, addressing a variety of techniques that are swiftly becoming commonplace, including: 'cookies' and other 'persistent identifiers' for following a child online, mobile and geo-location tracking, facial recognition software, and behavioral advertising."

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Speakers say US sisters were at forefront of implementing Vatican II

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In responding to the Second Vatican Council's call to universal holiness, American women religious have been both beacons and lightning rods for the church, according to speakers at a Dec 11 forum. Religious sisters were in the forefront of Vatican II's call for church renewal, and their vibrant lives and ministries are still shaped by the council's documents, panelists. "It is sisters, as much as anyone, who have shaped the face of the church in the world today," said James P. McCartin, director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Other panelists cited examples of how the response of sisters to church renewal focused on living their lives on the front lines of modern day issues and debates across society in response to the call by Vatican II's participants to engage the world. That call led religious communities to transform old institutions to meet new needs, which continues today through efforts such as the new evangelization, the speakers said.

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Oil companies help fund Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Oil giants such as Total and Shell and other companies operating in southern Italy's petroleum-rich Basilicata region footed the expenses for this year's Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. The regional government offered to donate to the Vatican a 1,615-square-foot artistic representation of Christ's birth, resulting in "very significant savings" for the Holy See, Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, secretary-general of the Vatican governor's office, said during a news conference Dec. 13. Basilicata officials launched a fundraising appeal to the surrounding business community, which ended up covering "95 percent to 100 percent" of the project's expenses, said Vito De Filippo, president of the Basilicata region. The total cost was about $117,580 and included expenses such as the lighting system, transport costs, insurance coverage and "food and lodging" for the artist, Francesco Artese. The Vatican was to spend about $28,460 in personnel and labor costs in assembling the scene, which will place Jesus, Mary and Joseph in an artistic re-creation of the picturesque rocky setting of the ancient cave city of Matera, where "sassi" -- stone houses carved into caves -- are located. The scene was to be unveiled Dec. 24.

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Aging adults: Latin America's demographic earthquake

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Latin America is facing a demographic earthquake, and older adults are at the epicenter. The shape of the population graph for the region is turning from a broad-based, pointy-tipped pyramid into a vase as the traditionally young population ages and fertility rates plummet. "The population is aging at a rapid rate. What took 50 or 80 years in Europe is taking just a few years here," said Dorothea Schreck of Caritas Germany, who coordinates a regional program for senior citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean. "We are going to have a completely different social composition." Although Schreck points out that aging is not necessarily synonymous with poor health, most Latin American countries lack sufficient specialized health services for older adults. Geriatric medicine is a fairly new field in the region. In addition, many of those people also face the last decades of their lives with no steady source of income. Only 23 percent of Peruvians over age 65 have pensions, according to the International Labor Organization. The figure is 44 percent in Panama, 52 percent in Chile and 69 percent in Argentina, with Brazil the highest at slightly more than 71 percent.

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Marianite health center targets crippling malnutrition in Burkina Faso

YALGO, Burkina Faso (CNS) -- During a famine, babies starve because their malnourished mothers cannot produce breast milk. It's even worse with twins. Nata Ouedraogo, who has three sets of twins, knows the perils of malnutrition all too well. She is receiving nutritional help from the recently constructed Blessed John Paul II Center, a medical facility run by Marianites of Holy Cross, a religious order headquartered in New Orleans. Ouedraogo gets practical advice about food and how to make nutritious porridge for her children. Mothers receive corn flour, fish, spinach, milk and pasta flour. They learn different recipes for couscous. Oranges and eggs have vital nutrients, the sisters explained. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 27 percent of Burkinabe children younger than 5 are malnourished. That's the 10th-worst rate in the world. The center is just getting started, thanks to support from Caritas Spain, which constructed the buildings, and the local parish, Holy Family of Nazareth. Catholic Relief Services kicked in another $5,000 from private sources.

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In age of social networks, young need real education, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With young people increasingly absorbed in online social networks and anxious for ways to make a living amid the global economic crisis, parents and governments have an ever greater obligation to educate the young in proper values, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Examining the many challenges of our day, education occupies a prominent place," Pope Benedict told new ambassadors to the Holy See from Guinea, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zambia. Welcoming the new ambassadors to the Vatican Dec. 13, the pope said the countries' people and cultures are filled with human values that are important to the future of their societies, but which risk being totally ignored in an age marked by global communications and the new culture they are forming. True education, to which each child in the world has a right, is not simply a matter of transferring information and technical knowledge; education worthy of the name helps form a human person capable of thinking, judging right from wrong and acting on it, the pope said.

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Philippine House passes reproductive health bill over church objections

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- The Philippine House of Representatives passed legislation that will promote artificial contraception as a family planning method, despite fierce opposition by Catholic bishops and religious groups. House members voted 113-104 to approve the Reproductive Health Bill, which had languished in Congress for 14 years. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the measure Dec. 17. Members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines attended the House session that ended past 2 a.m. Dec. 13. Some 5,000 priests, nuns, seminarians and laypeople rallied outside Congress earlier in the day to urge legislators to vote against the bill. Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila called the bill's passage "unfortunate and tragic" but not a defeat and said "truth shall prevail, especially the truth about human life, marriage and family." Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos pledged to carry the church's fight against the measure "in the executive, the Supreme Court, and at the level of individual conscience."

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Bishop wants Israel to heed vandalism against Christian sites

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Israeli government must be more attentive to incidents of vandalism against Christian institutions, said Auxiliary Bishop William H. Shomali, chancellor of the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate. In the fifth such incident this year, vandals targeted Christian institutions, slashing the tire of a car and writing anti-Christian graffiti on it and on the walls at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Cross in central Jerusalem. The vandals also sprayed anti-Christian graffiti on the gates of the entrance of the Armenian cemetery. Speaking to Catholic News Service following a Dec. 13 meeting with representatives of the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem, Bishop Shomali said the acts do not physically threaten the Christian community but are meant to harm them morally and psychologically. "These acts are a fact of being a minority, (but) the government has to be more attentive and try to find (the vandals') footprints," he said. He said the attacks also were detrimental to the government, which is meant to protect the rights of all the residents of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the acts "revolting."

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The good, bad, ugly: Church can't shy away from Twitter's Wild West

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With Pope Benedict XVI's new presence on Twitter, people from all over the world can now post papal messages with just the push of an on-screen button. While many have welcomed the pope's foray into the virtual world, his @Pontifex handles and "reply-able" posts have also meant that rude and crude comments have come with the mix. Twitter is "an open communications platform," and the Vatican has readily embraced what the full-fledged exercise of freedom of speech entails, said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which organized and runs the pope's eight language-based Twitter accounts. "We knew there would be negative stuff," he told Catholic News Service Dec. 13, the day after the pope first tweeted more than 1 million "followers." The number of followers of the pope's multi-language accounts nearly doubled to more than 1.7 million just 24 hours later. The Irish-born Msgr. Tighe said that in sifting through the feedback, "what stuck with me most was all the lovely stuff," the positive and genuine comments and queries in the midst of the ugly.

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Bishop Walter Sullivan, vocal supporter of peace, justice, dies at 84

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Walter F. Sullivan of Richmond, Va., a resilient advocate for world peace and the dignity of poor Appalachian coal miners, poverty-stricken urban residents and migrant workers working under exhausting conditions alike, died of liver cancer Dec. 11. He was 84. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated Dec. 18 at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Richmond with internment in the cathedral crypt. From peace rallies to vigils outside Virginia's execution chamber during the hours before a convicted murder was put to death, Bishop Sullivan could be found adding his voice and presence to support activists, grieving family members and victims of societal indifference. Friends and colleagues recalled Bishop Sullivan as a man who lived out the Gospel call to love and respect all people, especially those who were often forgotten or even ignored by society. "A man of the Gospel, he sought 'To Unite All in Christ,' which was his episcopal motto, the diocese said in a statement. "(He) was a priest who stood for justice, compassion and peace. 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Inherit your master's joy.'"


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