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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-16-2013

By Catholic News Service


Bishop echoes Vatican spokesman's comments on Catholic-Jewish relations

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs agreed with the Vatican spokesman that derogatory comments about Jews by the head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X were "unacceptable" in a letter to members of the USCCB Catholic-Jewish dialogues. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore said in his letter Jan. 15 that comments by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, who called Jews "the enemies of the church," were contrary to church teaching. "I wish to assure you as both colleagues and friends that the Holy See and the USCCB find the statements of Bishop Fellay both false and deeply regrettable. His remarks are not only prejudiced, but also hurtful. Comments that cause pain to our Jewish partners are painful to us as well," Bishop Madden wrote. Bishop Fellay's comments were posted on YouTube Dec. 30. They were made during a nearly two-hour talk Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario. Bishop Fellay said that Jewish leaders' support of the Second Vatican Council "shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the church's." The Society of St. Pius X has rejected the Catholic Church reforms that emerged from Vatican II including the document "Nostra Aetate," which described Christians and Jews as having a common heritage and a profound spiritual bond, and denounced any form of contempt of the Jews.

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Fellowship aims to bring Christ to all with help of college students

MELBOURNE, Fla. (CNS) -- For Andrew Davis, what he saw at the Seek 2013 Convention at Walt Disney World "doesn't compare or match anything I've ever seen before. Seeing what's said being practiced has touched me the most," he said about the annual gathering sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. The conference came at a perfect time for Davis, a student at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Va., who is in the initiation process to enter the Catholic Church. He was one of more than 6,000 young adults who gathered Jan. 2-6 at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista. "The church wants to invite every person -- every man, woman and child to experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ," said Curtis Martin, the fellowship's founder and member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. "Many have not personally encountered Jesus Christ. We need to reach the entire world and the way to do it is to reach American university students. "They're going to become leaders and we need people who know Christ to be the ones exercising that authority in our culture," he told Catholic News Service. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students, known as FOCUS, originated at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in 1998. Its fellowship's missionaries are present on 74 college campuses and there is a new online Digital Campus to connect with students not on FOCUS campuses. The missionaries befriend students and help them develop a personal relationship with Christ, then send them forth to evangelize others. There are now more than 5,000 fellowship alumni; the program has fostered nearly 400 vocations. "I love Christ," said Robert Frank, a 2010 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a fellowship missionary. "This is a way to come together as young Catholics, part of his church to put Christ at the center of life and witness others doing so as well."

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Federal court panel dismisses ACLU challenge of USCCB trafficking grant

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A federal appeals court dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts legal challenge to a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying the case had become moot because the contract had expired. In a unanimous ruling Jan. 15, the three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals also vacated an earlier ruling by District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns upholding the ACLU's claim that the contract violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. "It's good that the decision is vacated," attorney Henry C. Dinger, representing the USCCB, told Catholic News Service Jan. 16. The decision leaves unanswered the legal question of religious accommodation in the delivery of services under a federal contract. "It doesn't resolve anything on the merits (of the ACLU's claim)," Dinger said. "The important thing to emphasize is that Judge Stearns' decision is now vacated and no longer has any effect." Stearns ruled March 23 that HHS officials improperly delegated to the bishops' conference the decision on which services to offer or not offer to foreign-born victims of human trafficking under a federal contract. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, USCCB director of media relations, said the dismissal represents a legal victory for the bishops' conference, but only in a limited way because the core issue of whether the conscience clause in the contract with HHS violated the Establishment Clause. "The court also didn't reach the more peripheral, but still important, question of whether ACLU alone has standing to challenge the contract solely as an interested association of taxpayers," she added.

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Flu epidemic prompts some churches to stop offering Communion chalice

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- This year amid the raging flu epidemic in the United States, several dioceses have issued recommendations for receiving Communion, offering the sign of peace and even attending Mass. According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season started earlier than usual this year. As of Jan. 16, 47 states were reporting widespread influenza activity, up from 41 states the previous week. The report also stated that the flu was beginning to subside in some areas, especially in the Southeast, where it first appeared. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted on its Facebook page and blog the recommendations it offered in 2009 regarding the flu and church practices. The recommendations stressed that the diocesan bishop should always be consulted regarding any changes or restriction of options in the celebration of the liturgy. It also noted that in localities where outbreak of influenza was high, "bishops have introduced several liturgical adaptations in regard to such practices as the distribution of holy Communion and the exchange of the sign of peace in order to limit the spread of contagion." The recommendations urged the use of common sense and basic hygiene stressing that priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion should "always wash their hands before Mass" and that the "the faithful should be instructed not to receive from the cup if they feel ill." In mid-January, several Catholic dioceses posted guidelines on their websites about liturgical practices during flu season. Guidelines posted online by the Washington Archdiocese stressed that "no one is ever under an obligation to shake hands during the sign of peace" and that a statement, bow or other gesture is appropriate.

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Vatican laments European Court denial of conscientious objection right

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While applauding the European Court of Human Rights' recognition of the right of a British airline employee to wear a cross on her uniform, the Vatican lamented the court's denial of the full right of conscientious objection in other cases claiming religious discrimination in the United Kingdom. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, said the cases demonstrate how "questions relating to freedom of conscience and religion are complex, in particular in European society marked by the increase of religious diversity and the corresponding hardening of secularism." No matter how complex the questions, though, "regarding morally controversial subjects, such as abortion or homosexuality, freedom of consciences must be respected," the archbishop said in an interview Jan. 16 with Vatican Radio. The archbishop was commenting on the European court's ruling Jan. 15 on four claims of religious discrimination against English Christians. The court found that Nadia Eweida, 60, a Coptic Christian, suffered discrimination when she was told by British Airways, her employer, to stop wearing a cross on her uniform. But the court dismissed the cases brought by Gary McFarlane, a relationships counselor fired after he said he had a moral objection to offering therapy to same-sex couples; Lillian Ladele, a registrar who objected to presiding over civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples; and Shirley Chaplin, 57, a nurse who said she was forced from her job for wearing a cross in breach of uniform policy.

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Everyone, even atheists, has human desire to know who God is, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The desire to see and know God is innate in everyone, even nonbelievers, Pope Benedict XVI said. But it's especially important people don't just seek God when they need him, but make room for him throughout their busy lives, he said during his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall Jan. 16. At the end of the audience, the pope also greeted U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was raised Catholic. The brief encounter came during the so-called "baciamano," that is, the moment when the pope offers a select group of prelates and special guests a brief handshake one-by-one rather than a private audience. The pope spoke at length with the former CIA director, who was smiling and gently holding both of the pope's hands, and gave him one of the medallions reserved for special guests. Panetta, who was stepping down as Pentagon chief, was in Rome as part of a Europe-wide tour to meet with European defense ministers to discuss the conflicts in Afghanistan and Mali. During his catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith, the pope said, "The desire to really know God, that is, to see the face of God, exists in everyone, even atheists." It can even be an unconscious desire to simply know "who is he, what is he for us?" the pope said.

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Vatican official: Armstrong's misdeeds reflect 'rotten' cycling world

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong's admission to doping is just the tip of the iceberg, since high-stakes commercial interests pressure almost every professional cyclist into the illegal practice, said a Vatican official. "It's a world that is rotten, all of cycling, even soccer," said Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture's "Culture and Sport" section. Pro-sports "have become a commodity that are subordinate to the free market and, therefore, to profit," he told Catholic News Service Jan. 16. Instead of sports being an activity that builds important values, respects human dignity and helps shape the whole human person, "it has reduced people to merchandise," he said. The monsignor's comments came the same week Armstrong appeared on U.S. television to admit that he had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. Armstrong, who won the famed "Tour de France" for a record-breaking seven consecutive times, was stripped of his titles in 2012 after he was accused of using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs. He was also banned from professional cycling for life.

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Eloquence, humility lead to homilies that are delightful, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- In learning to preach, seminarians should look to the homilies of the fathers of the church, where they will discover how eloquence and humility lead to "beauty and delight," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. "If we could get at least part of this demeanor in our preaching and homiletic activity," the cardinal said, referring to a homily by St. Augustine, "the very energy of the Word of God will find a place in our lives of ministry and make our ministry a harmony of doxology and wisdom." The cardinal delivered the annual Carl Peter Lecture on Preaching Jan. 13 at the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. bishops' seminary in Rome. Earlier in the day, he instituted 55 NAC seminarians into the ministry of lector, a step on their way toward ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. In the lecture, Cardinal DiNardo said he wanted to offer practical, pastoral observations as a preacher and one who loves the great early church theologians. Almost all of the theologians recognized as fathers of the church were bishops who preached regularly, the cardinal said, and scholars continue to study their sermons today. "There is great vitality in their homilies," he said. "The only exception I can think of being St. Cyril of Alexandria who is very repetitious, a practice that is wearing.

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Bishop in Mali says people in hiding, afraid to enter churches

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in war-torn Mali whose diocese lies in the path of Islamic insurgents said "people are hiding in their homes, unable to venture out." Bishop Augustin Traore of Segou, Mali, told Catholic News Service by telephone: "Although our churches are still intact, people are becoming afraid to enter them. Our entire Catholic culture will clearly be in danger if this conflict drags on. "Until the havoc caused by the French bombing ends and the hostilities cease, no one will be in a position to know what has happened," he said after noting that the country's churches could face destruction if conflict continues. Bishop Traore spoke to Catholic News Service Jan. 16 as French combat troops prepared to engage government rebels at Diabaly, 90 miles north of Segou. Meanwhile, Helen Blakesley, regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services, said more than 200,000 Malians had migrated to the south since a March 2012 military coup, while a similar number had fled to Niger, Burkina Faso, Morocco and Algeria. Blakesley said a tradesman from the rebel-held town of Tombouctou, or Timbuktu, a world heritage site, was renting rooms with 40 members of his extended family in Mali's capital, Bamako, helped by CRS cash donations. She said the man told her more family members were arriving weekly. She added that the tradesman, Ibrahima Diallo, had been robbed by armed rebels during the five-day truck drive to the capital, which he had made with his blind sister and five small children.

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Vatican to enlist Christian all-stars to help scandal-ridden sports

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to flex its moral muscle in the professional sports arena, the Vatican has invited top-tier Christian athletes Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin to help bring ethical values back to a scandal-ridden world of sports. The Pontifical Council for Culture is planning to host an international conference on re-instilling values in sports this spring, inviting representatives from top world governing bodies like FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football), the International Cycling Union and the Italian National Olympic Committee. Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the council's "Culture and Sport" section, told Catholic News Service Jan. 16 that pro sports "have become a commodity that is subordinate to the free market and, therefore, to profit." Instead of sports being an activity that builds important values, respects human dignity and helps shape the whole human person, "it has reduced people to merchandise," he said. U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong's admission to doping was just the tip of the iceberg, he said, since high-stakes commercial interests pressure almost every professional cyclist into the illegal practice. The world of cycling and soccer is "a world that is rotten," he said. "We want to work with the big sports bodies to give new value to sports" and the upcoming conference -- titled "We Believe in Sports" -- will be one way to get that initiative started, the monsignor said.

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Pro-lifer says activism has shown her 'despair' in abortion 'mindset'

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- Pro-life activist Lila Rose was a just child when she first became aware of the tragedy of abortion. Growing up in San Jose, Calif., the third of eight children, "we were taught from a young age to love and respect human life," she told more than 150 pro-life advocates gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington for a mini-retreat. Rose, a 24-year-old Catholic convert, officially became involved with the right-to-life movement at 15 when she founded Live Action, a pro-life nonprofit specializing in investigative journalism. But at age 9, Rose, a prolific reader, stumbled upon a book on abortion. She went to her mom and asked, "Is this real?" Hearing the affirmative answer, Rose, stunned and uncomprehending, began reading everything she could find on the topic. "I began to see and realize that even though I was safe, there were other children (who) were not safe," she said in her talk Jan. 12. "As I learned more of these things, my heart began to seek out an answer to the question: 'What can I do? ... Isn't there something to be done?'" Rose prayed to the Lord for him to use her in whatever way he knew was best. "It's very dangerous to ever ask God to use you ... because he will," she said. "Give him an inch and he'll take a mile. He's a gentleman, so he'll wait for you to pray and for you to offer yourself. But then he wants all of you."

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Saint 'a guiding star' who brought Christ's healing to those in despair

KALAUPAPA, Molokai (CNS) -- Hawaii held its final major event celebrating the canonization of St. Marianne Cope in the same place she practiced her inexhaustible charity, mostly unseen, for three decades. On Jan. 12 in Kalaupapa at Bishop Home, the former destination of scores of women and girls with Hansen's disease and Mother Marianne's home from 1888 to 1918, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Molokai's second saint with a Mass, music, a luau, a play and an abundance of camaraderie. A member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Mother Marianne succeeded St. Damien de Veuster in ministering to leprosy patients. The Belgian priest, who died in 1889, was Kalaupapa's first saint. He was canonized in 2009. At the celebration, special guests of Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva included Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse, N.Y., where St. Marianne lived the first half of her life. All three bishops had attended the canonization of Mother Marianne Cope by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome Oct. 21. None of them had ever before been to Hawaii. Also present was Bishop Peter Yelesuome Angkyier of Damongo, Ghana. The week of rain and gusty winds that preceded the event ended early on the morning of the celebration, leaving the Kalaupapa settlement uncommonly green, wet, refreshed and still. Small planes made 17 flights delivering outside guests, mostly from Honolulu, nine passengers at a time, to the tiny airport over a span of three hours. At the airport terminal, a large hand-painted banner displayed the words "Celebrate St. Marianne."


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