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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-18-2012

By Catholic News Service


'Sacramental sense' of priest's response after shooting called powerful

RYE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The "sacramental sense" of a Catholic pastor's outreach after the horrific violence that took place at a Connecticut elementary school "has brought the church to bear in the most intimate and powerful way," said the director of communications for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. "It's hard to sum up how powerful his witness and testimony have been, both locally and nationally," Brian D. Wallace told Catholic News Service in describing Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. "He has brought a sense of God and the beginning of healing to everything he has done under considerable stress," Wallace said in a telephone interview Dec. 17. "He was the first clergy present at the school, before the world knew what happened. He kept his composure and he worked with families." Wallace said Msgr. Weiss was "stunned by the faith of the parents who lost children. People who lose the most sometimes give the most." He added the courage, openness and determination of the parents is a gift to the priest. Msgr. Weiss, his two priest associates, and men and women from the parish staff have "brought tremendous comfort to families," Wallace said. Efforts by CNS to reach parish staff members for interviews have been unsuccessful. St. Rose of Lima has taken center stage in the aftermath of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14, which left 20 children and seven adults dead. Parishioners and community members gathered for a prayer vigil the night of the shootings and flocked to Sunday Masses seeking solace. They looked to Msgr. Weiss and his staff and other Catholic leaders for pastoral outreach in the aftermath of the violence.

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More security isn't answer to prevent shootings, say Catholic educators

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Catholic education officials have primarily focused on providing administrators with the resources they need for teachers and parents to help students cope with the horrific tragedy. The U.S. bishops' education secretariat, the National Catholic Educational Association and the Council for American Private Education, quickly posted guidelines on their websites about how to talk to children about violence. These guidelines emphasized the need to assure children of their safety, keep explanations appropriate for children's ages and limit exposure to television coverage of the event. Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, said the next step is to provide resources for schools to tap into available programs that help students find peaceful solutions and help teachers identify students who are isolated and without peers. Ristau told Catholic News Service that information would be more useful than "having more locks on the doors." Dominican Sister John Mary Fleming, head of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Catholic Education, said the guidelines' advice that parents should assure their children they are safe in school has raised questions among those who said this was no longer true. In response, Sister John Mary, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tenn., said that children should be assured that the adults in their lives "are doing everything possible to keep them safe."

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Philippine bishops consider Supreme Court appeal for reproductive law

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Philippine Catholic leaders said they would appeal to the Supreme Court if the Reproductive Health Bill -- versions of which have passed the House and Senate -- gets signed into law. During a news conference Dec. 18, Msgr. Joselito Asis, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said if President Benigno Aquino signs the legislation into law, the bishops would support an appeal by Catholic lawyers who claim it is unconstitutional. "The RH bill is against the goodness of family, the stability of marriage," Msgr. Asis said. He explained that in other countries the ready availability of contraceptives had resulted in "promiscuity, premarital sex and extramarital affairs." In the Philippines, contraceptives are widely available, but they are not supplied by the government. The Senate and House have come together on bills that call for a number of provisions, including government-sanctioned family planning education for adults as well as middle and high school-age youth, and contraception for the poor to be fully covered by government health insurance. While abortion is illegal in in the Philippines, the bills mandate that hospitals and clinics give medical care to women who have had abortions. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, vice president of the bishops' conference, said in a statement that "conscience was stifled" during the final votes. "If the president will sign this into law, he will give us a moral time bomb wrapped as a gift to celebrate Christmas," he said. "This law will open more doors to abortion and more crimes against women."

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European youths to usher in New Year with Taize songs, silence in Rome

ROME (CNS) -- The simple songs using phrases from the Psalms repeated over and over form a frame around the 10 full minutes of absolute silence that lies at the heart of the Taize ecumenical community's prayer. As monks from the community, based in France, and volunteers prepared to welcome more than 30,000 European young adults to Rome Dec. 28 for the annual "pilgrimage of trust," they gathered each afternoon for several weeks at the Basilica of St. John Lateran to pray. The young people and the monks will share their prayer with Pope Benedict XVI as well. Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told Catholic News Service that the pope will join the young people for Taize prayer Dec. 29 in St. Peter's Basilica. Henry Burow, 21, a volunteer from Germany who plans to study Lutheran theology, said he first went to Taize with his parish six years ago because he had no other plans for his Easter break. "When the silence began, I thought someone forgot to read his text. It took a while to realize they did it on purpose." Now, he said, the big chunk of silence in the community's three daily prayer sessions "helps me to get quiet. If something is troubling me, usually it gets better." Brother John, a Philadelphia Catholic who joined the Taize community 38 years ago, said even in the summer when 5,000 young people fill the Taize church, "you can hear a pin drop." The community was founded by Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, in 1940. After World War II, his vision was for the monastery to be a place of welcome and reconciliation, especially between Christians of different denominations. The community now has about 100 monks from 25 different countries; about half are Catholic and half are Protestant.

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Cardinal tells Vatican officials money must be used carefully

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican obviously needs money to pay its personnel and coordinate worship, education, health care and charity around the world, but it also has a serious obligation to ensure it is using the donations it receives carefully and for the Lord's work, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal, who as Vatican secretary of state is the pope's top aide, met Dec. 18 with the heads of Vatican congregations, councils and offices at the beginning of a workshop designed to familiarize them with new regulations of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. The prefecture, established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, has functioned mainly as the Vatican's central accounting office, consolidating the budget forecasts and the year-end budget reports of Vatican offices. However, Cardinal Bertone said, the office always was intended to have broader responsibilities of guiding the budgeting process, planning and coordinating the economic activities of Vatican offices and entities. In February, the cardinal signed a new set of regulations for the prefecture. The work of the prefecture, he said, "must be seen through and framed in the broader context of the role temporal goods have in the mission of the church," he said. The church needs and has a right to economic autonomy so it can carry out its activities in freedom. At the same time, he said, as a religious institution at the service of the Catholic Church around the world, the Vatican must ensure that "every economic exchange, every investment, every administrative activity has as its ultimate point of reference the Lord and his kingdom."

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Irish government announces plans to legalize abortion, with limits

DUBLIN (CNS) -- The Irish government has announced plans to legalize abortion in limited circumstances, but Minister for Health James Reilly insisted his plans will take "full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child." The announcement contradicts a 2011 campaign promise by Prime Minister Enda Kenny that his government would not introduce abortion in the predominantly Catholic country. In practice, abortion has been illegal in Ireland under 1861 legislation. However, a 1992 Supreme Court judgment -- known as the X case -- found that there is a constitutional right to abortion where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the risk of suicide, up to birth. Successive governments have not acted on the issue. However, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Ireland must clarify when women can access abortion under the 1992 ruling. After a Cabinet meeting Dec. 18, Reilly announced that the government would introduce legislation to allow abortion where there is a risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide. He also confirmed that the government intends to decriminalize abortion in these circumstances. Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Reilly said the legislation would clarify "what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman's life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care, while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child," he said.

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In Holy Land, Christmas traditions include family, parades and Mass

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The simmering smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in Catholic parishes across the West Bank and Israel heralds the start of the Christmas season in early December as families prepare burbara, the special wheat pudding eaten to mark the feast day of St. Barbara, known as Eid El-Burbara in Arabic. According to local Christian tradition, St. Barbara, who was beheaded by her pagan father because of her Christian faith, was held and tortured in a tower that stood in the nearby village of Aboud. At a special Mass Dec. 4 at St. Joseph Parish in Jifna, the parish hall was laden with the homemade puddings presented in festive plates and decorated with chocolate Santa Claus bars, colored candies, sugared almonds sprinkled with cocoa. Families send bowls of the fragrant pudding studded with dried fruit and nuts to Muslim and Christian friends and neighbors. "Normally we begin our Christmas celebrations after St. Barbara," said Father Firas Aridah, pastor. Families begin decorating their homes and Christmas trees after the feast, he said. On Dec. 15 parishioners begin a novena, marking the nine days before Christmas, in a community-wide celebration when the village Christmas tree is lit and all the parishioners light their home decorations. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts lead a festive procession around the village, and the three priests from the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches come together to celebrate and greet one another at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

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Kerala bishops sack youth commission priest charged with trafficking

COCHIN, India (CNS) -- The Catholic Bishops' Council of Kerala dismissed the secretary of its youth commission, who has been charged as part of a human trafficking ring. Father Stephen Alathara, spokesman for the council, also said Nov. 17 it would conduct an investigation into the priest's activities, reported the Press Trust of India. In November, police included Syro-Malabar Father Jaison Kollannur as part of a five-person ring that allegedly tried to traffic 42 young Indians to Houston under the pretext of attending a student exchange program. The Asian church news agency UCA News said the five, including Father Kollannur, faked certificates to say the Indians were experts in education. "It's most unfortunate that the priest misused his official position," Father Alathara said. Kerala Home Minister Thiruvanchiyur Radhakrishnan said he had directed the director general of police to make a detailed probe into trafficking networks in Kerala. "We will be taking action against those found guilty," he said. "I warn people not to fall into the trap set by these networks." A police official said the case was flagged when the U.S. consulate in Chennai told police that seven people taking part in visa interviews did not have the required educational qualifications.


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