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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jan-23-2013

By Catholic News Service


Roe anniversary about 'untold story' of abortion's victims, says Smith

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. Rep. Chris Smith Jan. 22 struck a solemn note with an allusion to the song "Empty Tables, Empty Chairs" from "Les Miserables" during a Capitol Hill news conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. "There's a grief that can't be spoken," the song goes. "There's a pain goes on and on, empty chairs at empty tables," to which Smith added, "Empty cribs." "Now my friends are dead and gone," ends the refrain. "Forty years of victims -- dead babies, wounded women, shattered families," Smith said. "Today is about the untold story of the victims (of abortion)." Smith, a Republican and a Catholic from New Jersey, Reps. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who is also Catholic, gathered with five women who shared their experience of abortion with reporters at the Rayburn House Office Building. One of the witnesses was Irene Beltran, a mother of seven who is regional coordinator for Silent No More, an organization that according to its website "seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion." She said: "At the clinic, I was treated like livestock being herded from one step to the next. I felt like I had a number on my back and a dollar sign on my face. Women deserve better than abortion."

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Archbishop says his college years awakened him to truth of abortion

DENVER (CNS) -- Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila's own awakening "to the truth of the dignity of human life" came while he was a college student considering a career as a doctor. After starting college in 1968, he also worked as a hospital orderly, and during a couple of work shifts, he "witnessed the results of two abortions and the memory haunts me," he said. "I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that," Archbishop Aquila wrote in a pastoral letter released Jan. 22, the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion virtually on demand in the United States. "I have never been the same. My faith was weak at the time," he said in the pastoral, noting that he wasn't "even aware" some states "had approved abortion laws. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed," he continued. "My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith." Forty years of "sanctioned killing" because of Roe "has given the culture of death a firm footing and foundation in our nation," he said, and urged Catholics to commit anew to "a culture of life." Special Masses, prayer vigils and other events around the country marked the Roe anniversary.

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Journalists expect Obama to forcefully pursue legislative agenda

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Emboldened by his re-election, look for President Barack Obama to more forcefully pursue a legislative agenda that includes gun control, immigration reform and civil rights for gay people, four journalists said at The Catholic University of America. Whether he is successful will depend on his ability to carry out the key message of his inaugural address: that all Americans must work together to create a better country, the journalists said. Speaking Jan. 22, a little more than 24 hours after Obama outlined his priorities from the steps of the Capitol following his ceremonial inauguration, the journalists pointed to other concerns the president raised as well, such as climate change and protecting federal programs benefiting the poor and elderly as vital for the common good. Looming overhead though are the continuing legal challenges to the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate from religious organizations and a few companies objecting on faith-based grounds as the Affordable Care Act moves toward full implementation in 2014, said Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor. Calling Obama's inaugural address more "like his final campaign speech," Erlandson told the audience at the program sponsored by the university's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies that it is difficult to predict what the president can accomplish given the divisive nature of the political environment in Washington. Erlandson remained focused on the issue of religious liberty through much of the discussion, maintaining that Obama can expect to face challenges throughout his second term from segments of the faith-based community unless the administration's definition of a religious organization is widened under the health care reform law.

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Catholic education sways decision for religious life, new survey shows

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic education in high school and college is a significant factor for men and women choosing to enter a religious order, according to an annual survey of sisters and brothers who recently professed final vows. The survey also found an increase in the number of Asians, particularly Vietnamese, choosing religious life in the U.S. The report, "New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life" is based on a survey conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate and commissioned by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Researchers surveyed religious who professed perpetual vows in 2012, and obtained responses from 108 sisters and 24 brothers, a response rate of 85 percent of the 156 potential members of the profession class of 2012 identified for CARA by their religious superior. Major findings showed: The average age of religious of the profession class of 2012 is 39. Half of the men and women are 37 or younger. The youngest sister who responded was 23; the oldest, 66. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. Among brothers, the youngest was 25 and the oldest, 62; two professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older; the class makeup is 69 percent white, 15 percent Asian and 8 percent Hispanic. Most respondents (71 percent) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the U.S., the most common country of origin is Vietnam; about four in 10 religious (43 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, a rate similar to the U.S. Catholic adult population (42 percent). These respondents were more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (36 percent of the religious, compared to 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics overall) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (33 percent of the religious, compared to just 7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics overall).

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Belief in God leads to values that can be countercultural, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To believe in God means allowing his commandments to guide the concrete choices one makes every day, even when the values reflected in the choices are countercultural, Pope Benedict XVI said. "To believe in God makes us bearers of values that often do not coincide" with those of popular culture and which give believers criteria for judgment that nonbelievers may not share, the pope said Jan. 23 at his weekly general audience. "A Christian must not be afraid to go against the current in order to live his faith, resisting the temptation of conformity," he said. Beginning a series of Year of Faith audience talks about the creed, Pope Benedict said that "believing in God implies adhering to him, accepting his word and joyfully obeying" his commandments. Believers today, like Abraham in the Old Testament, must show trust in the God they profess to believe, even when God's ways appear mysterious, he said. Pope Benedict asked the estimated 2,000 visitors and pilgrims gathered for his audience to imagine how they would have responded to a call like that God gave to Abraham, asking him to leave his home and set out for a land God would show him only later.

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Pope Benedict has new App-titude, lets users follow live events

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican launched a new "Pope App" on the eve of the release of the pope's World Communications Day message, which is dedicated to social networks as important spaces for evangelization. The new app provides live streaming of papal events and video feeds from the Vatican's six webcams. It sends out alerts and links to top stories coming out of the Vatican's many news outlets, and carries words and images of Pope Benedict XVI. "The Pope App" went live Jan. 23 for iPhone and iPad, while an Android version is expected to be ready at the end of February. It's currently available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian. The Vatican has been stepping up its digital presence in recent years -- the latest example being the papal Twitter feed @Pontifex, which has attracted more than 2 million followers in nine languages since its debut Dec. 12. The new app will also allow people to follow live broadcasts of papal events -- such as the Sunday Angelus and Wednesday general audience -- from any mobile device or smartphone. Users will receive an alert when an event is about to begin. The app also shows views from any one of the Vatican's six live webcams. Two webcams are located on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica: one pointed at St. Peter's Square and the other at the Vatican governor's office. Others are located high on the colonnade around St. Peter's Square, taking in the basilica and papal apartments; directed at Blessed John Paul II's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica; high on the Vatican hill, pointing toward the dome of the basilica; and aimed at the gardens of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo.

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Spokesman says church condemns ivory hunters' slaughter of elephants

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has never encouraged anyone to use ivory for religious devotional objects and, in fact, teaches that animals must be treated with respect, the Vatican spokesman said in a letter to "friends of the elephants." Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, responding to questions posed in an online National Geographic editorial, said, "thinking that there is an important ivory trafficking center to uproot here (in the Vatican) in order to save African elephants makes no sense." Within the boundaries of Vatican City, "there is no store that sells items made of ivory to the faithful or to pilgrims," Father Lombardi wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to National Geographic. The October 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine featured an article titled "Ivory Worship" about how the use of objects made of ivory in the devotions of many religions -- not just Catholicism -- are contributing to the slaughter of elephants in Africa. In an online editorial Jan. 17, National Geographic said that by taking a stand against the use of ivory for religious objects, the Vatican could help slow the slaughter. The article included the personal email addresses of Father Lombardi and his secretary. Responding to the editorial, Father Lombardi said many people had written to express their concern and not all of them were "particularly kind or profound."

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Europe's baby hatches: Saving newborns or violating a child's rights?

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- On a damp street in Warsaw, not far from St. Florian's Cathedral, a tiny mattress lies on display behind a safety-glass window, installed at waist height on a dull gray wall. To the left, a door sign reads "Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto." Across the teeming thoroughfare a multistory hospital gazes down over rutted sidewalks. When the Polish capital's first "life window" was dedicated in 2006, it was one of dozens newly installed around Europe, as a safe place for unwilling mothers to leave their babies. Today, controversy is growing, as an influential U.N. committee charges that the windows violate children's rights. "We're not encouraging mothers to get rid of their children," Agnieszka Homan, spokeswoman for the Polish church's Caritas charity, told Catholic News Service. "Although newborns can be left legally in state hospitals, some are still being dumped outside in the cold. These life windows offer a facility where women who don't want to give birth in (a) hospital can leave them anonymously, without endangering their lives." Historians believe Europe's first baby hatch, life window or foundling wheel, was opened in Rome under Pope Innocent III in 1198. Most hatches were closed in the 19th century, as state social care expanded. However, they began to reopen at the end of the 20th century, as more babies were abandoned amid economic hardship and social breakdown.

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Turkish court sentences driver for 2010 murder of bishop

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Turkish court sentenced Murat Altun to 15 years in prison for the 2010 murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia. Altun, now 29, had been the bishop's driver. He was arrested and confessed almost immediately after the murder, although in the months after his arrest, he gave several different explanations for why he stabbed and almost decapitated the bishop. At the end of his trial Jan. 22, Altun said he was sorry for his actions and said Bishop Padovese was "the last person I would have ever wanted to harm." Altun's lawyers tried to argue that their client was mentally ill, according to AsiaNews, a Rome-based Catholic news agency. However, the agency said, the court accepted the findings of a panel of doctors who examined Altun in 2011 and said he was capable of understanding his actions and their consequences.

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Sri Lankan Oblate Balasuriya, 88, praised for theological legacy

THRISSUR, India (CNS) -- Church officials and social activists in Sri Lanka praised Oblate Father Tissa Balasuriya, 88, a prominent theologian who died Jan. 17 in Colombo. "Let us bury only the bones and the flesh of Father Balasuriya, but let us keep his words and deeds," said Bishop Norbert Andradi of Anuradhapura, secretary-general of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, at the Jan. 19 funeral. Father Balasuriya incurred excommunication in 1997 for statements about Mary, original sin, Christ's redemptive role, revelation and papal authority in his book, "Mary and Human Liberation," but the excommunication was revoked a year later. "Father Tissa leaves behind a big legacy for the church and the society," Oblate Father Rohan Silva, provincial of Colombo, told Catholic News Service Jan. 23. "He was a visionary educationist. One of the pioneers of contextual theology, he influenced the outlook of many theologians," Father Silva said. "Father Tissa was able to highlight the dignity of the human person when the society branded people according to their ethnicity and faith. His influence on the church and the society was evident at the funeral."

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Redemptorist superior says he regrets Irish priest's actions

DUBLIN (CNS) -- The head of the Redemptorist fathers in Rome said he deeply regrets the actions of an Irish member of the order who accused the Vatican of subjecting him to "frightening procedures reminiscent of the Inquisition." Redemptorist Father Michael Brehl, the order's superior general, also confirmed in a statement that Father Tony Flannery, 66, is under Vatican investigation for alleged ambiguities "regarding fundamental areas of Catholic doctrine, including the priesthood, the nature of the church and the Eucharist." Father Flannery told a Dublin news conference Jan. 20 that he was "threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church for suggesting that, in the future, women might become priests and calling for this and other matters to be open for discussion." The Irish Catholic newspaper reported that the investigation of Father Flannery -- a founder-member of the Association of Catholic Priests -- was triggered by a 2010 article in a religious magazine. In the article, Father Flannery wrote that he no longer believed that "the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus" or that Jesus designated "a special group of his followers as priests." Father Flannery wrote: "It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community, who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda."

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Texan killed in Algerian plant attack recalled as ultimate family man

NEDERLAND, Texas (CNS) -- A former parishioner of a Catholic parish in Nederland, Victor Lovelady, was one of the three American civilians killed at the Ain Amenas gas plant in Algeria during a four-day siege by al-Qaida. At a news conference early Jan. 22, Lovelady's daughter, Erin, described her father as the ultimate family man. She recalled her father spending every weekend supporting her and her brother, Grant, in sports while they were at Nederland High School. A former member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Victor was a 57-year-old project manager for the Houston-based energy firm ENGlobal Corp. While his son, Grant, was still in high school, he had a chance to work in Houston. Instead of uprooting his son, he chose to travel back and forth from Houston, and it was that job that took him to the gas-production complex deep in the Sahara in Algeria. He was one of at least 23 workers taken hostage by Islamist militants early Jan. 16 and killed when the Algerian Army carried out a final assault that ended the four-day siege. Besides the three Americans, workers from Britain, France, Japan and other countries were among the dead. Mike Lovelady, Victor Lovelady's brother, hosted the news conference, and said he is determined to stay on top of his younger brother's death. "These were just civilians doing a job to support their families. It's just brutal and uncalled for," he said, adding that "we're just hoping our government can catch" who is responsible for their deaths.


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