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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-12-2013

By Catholic News Service


Economist urges closer look at intersection of social thought, economy

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The tension in U.S. economic life is between "wealth creation" and "wealth capturing," according to an economics professor who delivered a keynote address Feb. 11 at the 2013 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. According to Charles M.A. Clark, a senior fellow at the Vincentian Center for Church & Society at St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y., and an economics professor at the university, wealth creation allows those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder to acquire money either for spending, saving or entrepreneurship. But wealth capturing creates economic inequality, leading to the contentiousness seen in Congress and elsewhere, Clark said in his address, "Catholic Social Thought and Our Current Economic Policy Challenges. Fake issues" take up space in the policy debates, Clark charged. One such issue, he said, deals with the size of government. "It was almost impossible to get aid to the hurricane victims in New York and New Jersey," he said, because some in Congress were "arguing things that should have been settled a long time ago." Other fake issues cited by Clark included the notion that government will run out of money, that government spending crowds out private money, that taxes are too high to create jobs, that deficits will cause interest rates and inflation to rise, and that "government is like a household."

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Pope Benedict has made 24 trips outside Italy during pontificate

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although traveling the globe was a hallmark of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, who when elected was not expected to do too much traveling, logged a lot of miles during his own pontificate. The pope, who announced his resignation Feb. 11, made 24 trips to six continents outside Italy in his eight years as pope. Pope John Paul made 104 trips over a 27-year span. Pastoral visits to Catholics worldwide, a key aspect of the pope's role as shepherd of the church, were taxing. According to the pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope's doctors had advised him to discontinue transatlantic trips. "His age is weighing on him," Msgr. Ratzinger told The Associated Press Feb. 11. "At this age, my brother wants more rest." Pope Benedict will turn 86 in April. In announcing his resignation, the pope said: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry." In October 2011, Pope Benedict began riding a mobile platform in liturgical processions. At the time, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it was "solely to lighten the burden" of processions, although he acknowledged the pope had been experiencing the kind of joint pain normal for a man his age.

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Social ministry advocates express surprise, concern over resignation

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Surprise was by far the overwhelming first reaction to news that Pope Benedict XVI had announced his resignation. Delegates to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington barely had time to contemplate the news the morning of Feb. 11 before they were expected in a hotel ballroom for a morning-long plenary session. While the impending change was a jolt, delegates interviewed by Catholic News Service said they wanted to see what a change in popes could bring, hastening to add that they had no arguments with Pope Benedict's pontificate. "I'd say I was surprised," said Marco Raposo, from the Diocese of El Paso, Texas. After hearing the news, he said he wondered, "Where is God leading us? What's up with that?" Raposo noted that Pope Benedict had been present at the Second Vatican Council -- then-Father Joseph Ratzinger was a "periti," or expert, with a role at the council -- and added his hopes that the pope's successor would hew to Vatican II's spirit. "I was surprised. I was shocked, I guess, but I'm sure he has some good reason," said Alicia Blessington, a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Pope Benedict cited health as his reason for stepping down effective Feb. 28. The Vatican said the pope was not ill but had made the decision because of his declining strength due to his age and waning energies. Whatever the reason, Blessington told CNS, "he did it for the betterment of the church."

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'This is our house': Parishioners help snowbound churches dig out

BURLINGTON, Mass. (CNS) -- After the Blizzard of 2013 dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New England Feb. 8 and 9, Catholic parishes in the region were among those facing the challenge of digging out after the storm. That weekend, the Archdiocese of Boston lifted obligations concerning Mass, because of a travel ban in Massachusetts during the storm. "In the event that roadways are not clear for travel on Sunday, the faithful are reminded that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation," a statement from the archdiocese said. Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston saw heavy snowfall. When the storm cleared, Catholics came out to help their parishes in the aftermath. At St. Malachy's Parish in Burlington, parishioners brought shovels, brooms, a snowblower -- and even a pair of snowshoes to dig out -- the afternoon of Feb. 10. "We had a whole bunch of parishioners. Every age, I would say, from about say 50s down to elementary school came and helped shovel the side of the church," Father John M. Capuci, St. Malachy's pastor, told The Pilot, Boston's archdiocesan newspaper. At a Sunday morning Mass, the church announced the need for help removing snow from the building because of the unique shape of the church. "Our entire building is all roof, because we are kind of almost a half-circle kind of building and the snow drifts went up about 9 feet," he said.

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Pope Benedict shows signs of aging, but Vatican reports no illness

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the moment he was elected pope at the age of 78 in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has kept a schedule that appeared light compared to that of Blessed John Paul II, but busy for a man who already had a pacemaker and who wanted to retire to study, write and pray when he turned 75. Announcing Feb. 11 that he would resign at the end of the month, Pope Benedict, 85, said, "I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry." Speaking to reporters after the pope's announcement, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters the pope was not ill, but made the decision because of his declining strength due to his age. The pope recognized his limits with "a lucidity and courage and sincerity that are absolutely admirable," Father Lombardi said. Meeting reporters again Feb. 12, Father Lombardi confirmed that Pope Benedict had gone to a private health clinic in Rome about three months ago to have the batteries changed on his pacemaker. It was a simple, routine procedure and had not influence on the pope's decision to resign. Father Lombardi said the pope had had the pacemaker put in several years before his election. A Vatican reporter, who had followed the career of the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said the pacemaker was put in the 1990s at Rome's Gemelli Hospital.

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Pope to live in Vatican monastery established by Blessed John Paul

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican monastery where Pope Benedict XVI intends to live began its life as the Vatican gardener's house, but was established as a cloistered convent by Blessed John Paul II in 1994. When Pope Benedict, 85, announced Feb. 11 that his age and declining energies prompted his decision to resign effective Feb. 28, the Vatican said he would move out to the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo while remodeling work was completed on the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens. Pope Benedict said it was his intention to "devotedly serve the holy church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer." Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Feb. 12 he did not know when the remodeling work would be finished and Pope Benedict could move in. He said, however, that because the monastery is small, the pope would be joined by a small staff, but another community of cloistered sisters would not be moving in. The monastery -- a building of about 4,300 square feet -- had 12 monastic cells and a chapel. The complex, mostly hidden from view by a high fence and hedges, includes a vegetable garden. It occupies about 8,600 square feet on a hill to the west of the apse of St. Peter's Basilica. Over the past 19 years, different orders of cloistered nuns have spent fixed terms of three-five years in the monastery. The first community was Poor Clares, then Carmelites, Benedictines and, most recently, Visitandine nuns. The Visitandine community left in November, and by early December the Vatican press office had told Catholic News Service that the monastery would be remodeled before anyone else moved in.

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Before mortal remains of St. Valentine, couples pledge unending love

TERNI, Italy (CNS) -- Holding hands as they processed into church, 101 couples approached the mortal remains of St. Valentine, invoking his protection and promising that their upcoming weddings would bind them to one another forever. The couples, all of whom live in Italy and have scheduled a church wedding in the coming year, gathered Feb. 10 in the Basilica of St. Valentine for the annual "promise Mass," celebrated the Sunday before the feast of St. Valentine, the third-century martyred bishop of Terni. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, presided over the Mass and told the couples that "in a world that no longer understands love and marriage and family," their promises are an affirmation that true love is forever and that marriage involves an openness to having children. After the homily, all of the men, then all of the women said to each other: "I promise to give myself in love to you and ask you to give yourself to me, promising me your love, because we are about to celebrate and live the sacrament of matrimony in the name of the Lord." Maria and Pasquale, two 33-year-olds from Rome, said they heard about the promise Mass late last year when their parish priest, who was leading their marriage preparation class, brought the whole class to the basilica for their final session. "It's beautiful to make a promise here, before St. Valentine," said Pasquale, who, like many Italians, identified himself only with his first name.

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St. Valentine: The stuff of legend is matter of prayer in Italian town

TERNI, Italy (CNS) -- The liturgical feast of St. Valentine, removed from general church calendar in the late 1960s, continues to be celebrated with special Masses, a marathon and fireworks in Terni, which claims the saint as its former bishop. While the Catholic Church remains convinced there was a third-century martyr named Valentine, a lack of specific information and the possibility that there may have been more than one St. Valentine led to the removal of the liturgical feast from the church's general calendar. But the feast still appears on the calendar of some local churches, particularly the Diocese of Terni, Narni and Amelia in Italy's Umbria region. The diocese says it has hard evidence that the martyred Bishop Valentine was known and venerated in Terni, about 65 miles north of Rome, as far back as the seventh century. And history books report that Pope Zachary met Liutprand, king of the Lombards, at the Basilica of St. Valentine in the mid-700s. The first Basilica of St. Valentine was built in the fourth century on burial grounds just outside the Terni city walls and, according to the diocese, a body believed to be that of St. Valentine was found there in the early 1600s. "The head was separated from the torso, confirming that the death was by decapitation," says the diocese's history. The relics -- not a complete body -- were kept in the diocesan cathedral for a time, but were moved to a newly constructed Basilica of St. Valentine in 1618.

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Benedict will be prayerful presence in next papacy, spokesman says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even though Pope Benedict XVI will spend his retirement near Rome and then inside Vatican City, he will not play any role in the upcoming election for a new pope, and he will not interfere with the responsibilities and decision-making activities of the new pontiff, the Vatican spokesman said. Rather, the new pope will have the prayerful support and empathy of someone who understands "more than anyone in the world" the burden and responsibilities of being a pope, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. The spokesman also confirmed that Pope Benedict has a pacemaker and has had it "for some time." He said the battery recently was changed, but that the procedure had nothing to do with the pope's decision to resign. Father Lombardi made his remarks Feb. 12, the day after the 85-year-old pope announced that, because of his age and waning energies, he was resigning effective Feb. 28. The Jesuit spokesman described as an "indiscretion" a report in the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, which said Pope Benedict had gone to a private Rome clinic three months ago for a small "procedure" to change the batteries in his pacemaker. The spokesman confirmed it was true and said it had been a "normal" and "routine" procedure.

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Cardinal Arinze: Pope's resignation was a 'surprise, like thunder'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign the papacy was a "surprise, like thunder that gives no notice that it's coming," said one of the cardinals who was in the room when the pope announced his decision Feb. 11. "We were about to get the blessing and he said, 'Please sit down. I have something to say important for the church,'" said Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship. From the very first words of Pope Benedict's statement, which he delivered in Latin, Cardinal Arinze said he began to fear that it would mean the pope's resignation, he told Catholic News Service. As the pope's meaning became unambiguous, the cardinals looked at one another "in silence, in surprise," Cardinal Arinze said. "At the end there was silence." After the pope left the room, "we did not go away," the cardinal said. "We got together in little groups, as it were, each one asking, 'What has happened?' But there was no doubt about esteem for the Holy Father, for his courage and his love for the church. It may well be that his health is not as strong as I thought," Cardinal Arinze said. "He loves the church so much that he thinks it's better for the church that he leave and another person take over this heavy burden. I haven't any doubt about his wisdom," the cardinal said. "He doesn't rush. He is not rash. He is gentle. But he's also clear-headed and firm." Cardinal Arinze said he hoped that Pope Benedict's decision to resign would "help many to get more mature in our faith ... help all of us to be deeper in our faith, to be also, let us say, less sentimental."

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Cardinal, bishop encourage social justice work at annual meeting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With stories of Dorothy Day, Rep. Wilbur Mills, Pope John Paul II, Flannery O'Connor and Cardinal Francis Spellman, as well as the humble saga of a poor immigrant from El Salvador and a mission parish in Papua New Guinea, Boston's cardinal called Catholic social ministry workers to be mentors and examples in living out the Gospel. As the Feb. 10 plenary speaker at the annual Catholic Social Ministries Gathering in Washington, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley laced his remarks of encouragement in mission with tales of figures large and small, many of whom he has encountered in his years as a seminarian, priest and bishop. "We need mentors," he said, observing that "we live in a world obsessed with celebrity ... celebrities have replaced heroes." That means that often for all the talents of people like those in the room who work with the poor and marginalized, much of society goes through life self-absorbed. In one of his stories, Cardinal O'Malley related the lifelong quest of Dorothy Day for a simple life in a supportive community. Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement whose sainthood cause is progressing through the Vatican, was shaped for life by the community that she observed as a child after a devastating earthquake, he said. Whole neighborhoods of people around her family's home in California were forced to live in tents for weeks after the earthquake, he said. Former strangers pooled their resources and went to great lengths to help each other in the tent communities. But once people returned to their homes and life got back to normal, their interactions with each other reverted to their previous individualistic ways.

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Cardinal O'Brien says pope's resignation is teaching moment

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of a new pope "is a unique moment for teaching about the role of the papacy and the individual involved," said U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien. "This is an important world event, and I hope we can use it as a teaching moment and a moment of grace," said the cardinal, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The cardinal, former archbishop of Baltimore, said his prayer is that "hucksters don't derail" the news about the pope's resignation by trying to fit the papal transition into a story about "liberals and conservatives" or by trying to invent scandals and conspiracies. Especially during the Year of Faith, he said, a papal transition is an occasion to help Catholics and others understand the church and its structure. "The timing is for a reason," he told Catholic News Service. Cardinal O'Brien was present Feb. 11 when Pope Benedict, speaking in Latin, told cardinals living in Rome that, after much prayer, he believed his age and diminishing energy meant he should retire for the good of the church. "I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it," he said.

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Ex-ambassador to Vatican lauds pope's grace, courage, wisdom, humility

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign Feb. 28 "was taken with much grace, courage, wisdom and humility," said the most recent U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz. Diaz, now the University of Dayton's professor of faith and culture, told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 11 phone interview that he hopes that in this period before a new pope is elected, the entire church will pray about and discuss the possibilities presented by a change in the top leadership of the Catholic Church. Diaz recalled fondly his meetings with Pope Benedict while he served as ambassador from August 2009 until last November. A replacement for the post has not yet been named. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both issued statements of appreciation for the pope's leadership and recalled their meetings with him. Diaz said he and the pontiff's shared personal history as theologians who were called to service outside their chosen professions made for a bond between them. That they are both returning to their theological work now feels like another point of commonality, he said. "I always found him to be very personable," Diaz said, adding that the two of them also enjoyed switching their conversation among the several languages that they both speak. "And he always responded to my kids." The pope's decision to resign because of weakening health "has put a more human face to the papacy," Diaz said. "It was a courageous decision to step down."


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