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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-11-2013

By Catholic News Service


Two ceremonies, three Bibles for Obama's inauguration

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When President Barack Obama takes the oath of office to officially begin his second term, he'll double up on ceremonies and use three Bibles. Because Jan. 20, the day the Constitution sets for the swearing-in ceremony, falls on a Sunday this year, the president will actually take the oath twice -- once officially on the 20th in a small, private event, and ceremonially the next day on the steps of the Capitol. The private formalities in the White House Jan. 20 will have the president place his left hand on his wife's family Bible while he swears the oath of office. For the public ceremony Jan. 21 at the Capitol, Obama will place his hand on two Bibles, stacked together -- one that was owned by Abraham Lincoln and one by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The federal holiday marking Rev. King's birthday falls on Jan. 21. The Lincoln Bible was purchased by William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court, for Lincoln's use at his swearing-in ceremony March 4, 1861. (The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, moved the inauguration date to Jan. 20.) Obama used the Lincoln Bible for his inauguration ceremony in 2009. It is part of the Library of Congress collection. The Presidential Inaugural Committee said in a Jan. 10 press release that the King Bible was used by the civil rights leader and Baptist minister when he traveled.

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Partnerships, sustainability are key in Haiti's earthquake recovery

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Soon after a monstrous earthquake devastated much of Haiti three years ago, the mantra among Haitian government leaders and a good share of relief and development agencies was "build back Haiti better." It was somewhat catchy, of course, and certainly demonstrative of the resiliency of a country battered all too often by Mother Nature. As the Jan. 12 anniversary of the quake approached, the "build back" slogan has faded from most discussions, but the work of rebuilding -- in reality building -- a country has moved ahead even if progress has been slow and difficult to measure. More troublesome is the continuing sense of frustration among Haitians --especially among the 360,000 who remain in tent camps, according to the International Organization for Migration -- who see little visible change in their lives or their surroundings. "Haiti is not going to become a middle-income country overnight," acknowledged Eileen Wickstrom Smith, deputy coordinator for assistance in the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. State Department, in a teleconference with reporters Jan. 9. Given that reality, the emphasis on development has turned to sustainability and building the capacity of Haitians from all walks of life to overcome the devastating poverty that has strangled the Caribbean nation for much of its 200-year history. Haiti's needs were overwhelming before the earthquake shook the Haitian landscape and claimed 316,000 lives while displacing an estimated 1.5 million people. The catastrophe amplified the problems: lack of infrastructure, especially water and sanitation; a shortage of safe and affordable housing; little access to health care; and poor coordination across the education sector.

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Catholic doctors oppose call for over-the-counter contraceptive pills

QUINCY, Mass. (CNS) -- Some Catholic physicians, including those who do not prescribe contraceptives, are questioning the safety of allowing oral contraceptives to be sold over the counter, as the nation's largest body of obstetricians and gynecologists recommended in December. Dr. Kathleen Raviele, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Atlanta and former president of the Catholic Medical Association, warned that because birth-control pills can raise blood pressure and cause strokes and heart attacks, such drugs should only be prescribed by a physician. "A woman (being) on a strong medication like that without a physician's supervision could be very dangerous," she said. Raviele raised the concerns after the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, through a committee opinion, recommended that birth-control pills be made available over the counter, much like allergy medicines and cough syrup. The Washington-based physicians' congress said that unintended pregnancy remains a major public health problem in the United States, accounting for half of all pregnancies. The solution, it said, is wider access to hormonal contraceptives. It did not mention that not all unintended pregnancies are unwanted or discuss the number of unwanted conceptions that occur despite the use of artificial birth control. The organization's committee stated that the risks associated with birth-control pills pose no greater risk than acetaminophen, the generic term for Tylenol. Dr. Ryan Welter, a family physician in Taunton, Mass., pointed out that acetaminophen itself poses risks when overused.

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Protests not religious, but East Belfast parish trapped by violence

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Catholic leaders say protests over the use of the U.K. flag at Belfast City Hall are not religious in nature, but one Catholic parish has found itself caught up in the thick of the city's worst violence in 15 years. Belfast Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown said protests are not sectarian in the sense of Catholic versus Protestant, but "clearly, sectarian elements have surfaced again. It is precisely because Belfast is no longer a unionist-dominated city that the problem has arisen," he told Catholic News Service in an email interview in early January. "Belfast City Council has taken a decision, and some loyalists are protesting against it," he said. Although largely self-governing, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and Protestants traditionally align themselves as loyalists. Nationalists, historically Catholic, have maintained that Northern Ireland should be part of the Irish Republic. Belfast City Hall has traditionally been seen as a bastion of unionism, or loyalists. But Councilor Tim Attwood, a spokesman for the Social Democratic and Labor Party, said the Dec. 3 vote to restrict how often the Union Jack is flown at City Hall reflects the changes in demographics of Belfast. "Belfast is now a city almost evenly divided between nationalists/Catholics and unionist/Protestants, as shown by the most recent census figures," he told CNS. "Belfast is now a hung council. There is no overall majority among the nationalist or unionist parties."

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Aid workers: Icy temps mean more funds needed to help Syrian refugees

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Snow, driving rain and howling winds in early January compounded the already desperate situation for Syrians caught up in 22 months of civil war seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. Now, the extremely frigid temperatures have put both those internally displaced inside Syria and refugees fleeing to neighboring countries in even greater danger. Aid workers in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon say they are stretched to the limit because they need additional funds to provide food supplies and other basic necessities to the refugees in such freezing weather. The United Nations said Jan. 11 that the new enemy for about 600,000 Syrian refugees who escaped to these countries is the bitter winter. Omar Abawi heads the emergency response unit for Syrian refugees in Jordan for Caritas, the Catholic Church's humanitarian nongovernmental aid agency. He said the group has concentrated its efforts in Jordan on Syrian refugees sheltering in towns along the northern border with Syria and those in the capital, Amman, where the majority of an estimated 300,000 Syrians in Jordan live. The U.N. and a Jordanian relief agency handle about 50,000 of that number who sheltering in the nearby Zaatari camp. "We are reaching out to help Christians, Muslims and the minority Alawites," Abawi said of the Syrians who share the apartments -- normally three families in each apartment in frontier towns such as Mafraq, Irbid and Ramtha.

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Archbishop involved in peace deal for Central African Republic

BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNS) -- One of the country's leading Catholics helped mediate between the Seleka rebel alliance and government leaders, resulting in a peace agreement to end fighting that left a Catholic journalist dead. Father Dieu-Beni Mbanga, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Bangui, confirmed that Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga represented civil society and helped mediate at the talks in Libreville, Gabon. The two sides announced a peace agreement and plans for a unity government Jan. 11. The rebel alliance, which had hoped to overthrow the government of President Francois Bozize, began its drive in the North Dec. 10 and captured about a dozen towns. During the occupation of the city of Bambari, rebels looted a diocesan-run radio station and killed journalist Elisabeth Blanche Ologio. Renee Lambert, head of the Catholic Relief Services program in Central African Republic, said the agency's staffers remained safe, but CRS programs in the country's southeast were delayed. For instance, she told Catholic News Service in early January, the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service temporarily suspended its flights in the country, so agencies were not as easily able to travel or assess the impact of the fighting. "One important thing to note is that, while we're still gathering information on the extent of the humanitarian impact of this current situation, the humanitarian situation before this crisis had already been classified as a forgotten emergency," she said. "Poverty levels are some of the highest in Africa. Health statistics, when they exist, are alarming. And there is little to no road infrastructure to develop market access.

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Vatican doctrinal chief says politics that ignore God are bound to fail

ROME (CNS) -- Politicians who want to act as if God did not exist and as if there was no such thing as objective moral truths are bound to fail in their efforts to promote the common good, said the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "The politics we have today in Europe and North America without ethical foundations, without a reference to God, cannot resolve our problems, even those of the market and money," said Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The archbishop, coordinator of the project to publish the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI, said one of the key teachings of the pope is the importance of faith and reason going hand in hand. Speaking Jan. 11 at a Vatican bookstore in downtown Rome, Archbishop Muller said, "Faith and reason are like two people who love each other deeply, who cannot live without each other, and who were intimately made for one another, so much so that they cannot be considered separate from one another and cannot reach their goals separately." He quoted Pope Benedict XVI's speech to diplomats Jan. 7: "It is precisely man's forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence. Indeed, once we no longer make reference to an objective and transcendent truth, how is it possible to achieve an authentic dialogue?" Archbishop Muller said that in the current run-up to Italian elections he has heard that some politicians want the Catholic Church to "talk about love, charity and mercy of God," but not insist that the truths it preaches be upheld.

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Monica Dodds, longtime CNS and Catholic press journalist, dies

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. (CNS) -- Author, editor and longtime columnist for Catholic News Service Monica Dodds died Jan. 6 at her home in Mountlake Terrace. She was 60 and had battled uterine cancer for nearly three years. With her husband of 38 years, Bill, she had been a columnist for CNS since 1991, focused on family issues such as life with aging parents. Together, the Doddses also wrote columns for the Knights of Columbus magazine, Columbia; wrote books ("The Joy of Marriage" and "Encyclopedia of Mary"); edited My Daily Visitor magazine; and founded Friends of St. John the Caregiver, which offers resources and support for and about family caregivers. In her last months, Dodds wrote with hope and optimism about what lay ahead, tried to comfort her family and occasionally let loose with a frustration, according to excerpts from her prayers and other notes shared by her husband. In a piece titled "What will Heaven be Like?" she predicted: "Everyone can see, even short people." And, "I'll see the Blessed Mother. Her face will be so beautiful. She'll have a great big smile on her face, not the plain one we see pictured. I think she'll clap her hands and run to see me and then she'll say, 'That's my son.' And then we'll giggle together." Another day, she wrote: "Buggers ... what more can I say!" Tony Spence, CNS director and editor in chief, noted that "Monica has been providing practical advice to families on a whole host of topics, from how not to spoil a child to how to care for an aging parent, for more than two decades. Her faith-filled advice has proved invaluable for readers of the Catholic press."


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