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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-18-2013

By Catholic News Service


Life Runners relay aims to change US culture, promote life issues

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- By the time it is completed, the A-Cross the Country Relay for Pro-Life will have covered 4,089 miles and coincided with the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign to raise awareness of abortion and life issues. More than 300 runners signed up for the event that began Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, at simultaneous starting points -- at the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Both legs of the run will come together at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Palm Sunday, March 24. The East Coast leg goes down through Philadelphia, dips into Maryland, on to the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, then to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. The route goes through St. Louis March 10 before heading west toward Kansas City. It will then make its way north through Omaha, Neb., and on to Sioux Falls. The West Coast leg goes east from San Francisco through the northern part of Nevada and Utah and on to Denver. From there the route heads north to Wyoming, then east through South Dakota and to the final stop in Sioux Falls. Founded in 2008 by Air Force Lt. Cols. Rich Reich and Pat Castle, Life Runners is a national team that runs to raise awareness of life issues and funding for pregnancy resource centers across the country. There are approximately 947 members in 38 chapters in the United States and seven other countries.

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Church in Illinois decries state Senate vote on same-sex marriage

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The head of the Catholic Conference of Illinois decried a Feb. 14 Illinois Senate vote to permit same-sex marriage in the state, calling it "redefinition of marriage legislation. Marriage joins a man and a woman in love to meet one another's needs, to procreate and to raise children. This is the lifeblood of any human society," said a Feb. 14 statement from Robert Gilligan, executive director of the state Catholic conference. "This legislation tears at that definition with unknown consequences." The Senate's vote was 34-21 on the bill, which changes the definition of marriage in state law from "between a man and a woman" to "between two persons. This legislation callously redefines a bedrock institution of our society and deteriorates the free exercise of religion in our state," Gilligan said. The bill has yet to be considered by the state House. If it passes, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Catholic, has said he will sign it. If the bill becomes law, Illinois would become the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to permit same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington state.

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Detroit homeless organize with help from CCHD, Capuchins

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Can the homeless be organized? In Detroit, the answer is yes. And the homeless are doing it largely by themselves, with a little help from some college students, a Capuchin monastery and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which provides funding. They've taken on the name Detroit Action Commonwealth -- a swipe, with its initials, at a city institution, the private Detroit Athletic Club, which for a long time did not admit blacks or women into its ranks. "They say you can't organize the homeless. Well, we up and did it," said Clark Washington, a Detroit Action Commonwealth board member and treasurer of one of its chapters. Washington got involved when a friend came over to his daughter's house, where he was living; he was, he recalled, watching television with the remote-control "clicker" in his hand. The friend wanted Washington to join him at a meeting that was going to be held at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Washington said he wasn't that inclined to go to a meeting, but went because "I get to eat." The meeting was a "ban the box" meeting -- the box being the blank square applicants for Detroit city government jobs must check if they have been convicted of a felony. In a city where unemployment is already high, ex-felons have found it nearly impossible to get jobs if they tell the truth on their job applications, and get fired if employers find out they've lied.

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Archbishop asks House to extend conscience provision to HHS mandate

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has urged the House of Representatives to extend long-standing federal conscience protections to the Affordable Care Act's new coverage mandates for private health plans. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore made the request in a Feb. 15 letter to members of the House. Saying the tradition of conscience rights in health care "has long enjoyed bipartisan consensus, but is now under greatly increased pressure," Archbishop Lori asked in his letter to attach the conscience provision to upcoming appropriation bills for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. "I urge Congress to address this problem when it considers proposals for continued funding of the federal government in the weeks to come," he said. "While the mandate for coverage of abortion-causing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization is hailed by some as a victory for women's freedom, it permits no free choice by a female employee to decline such coverage for herself or her minor children, even if it violates her moral and religious convictions," Archbishop Lori added.

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Pope asks continued prayers in these 'unusual' days for church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling this an unusual time for him and for the church -- but not specifically mentioning his resignation -- Pope Benedict XVI thanked people for their affection and asked them to continue their prayers. A roar of applause rose up from more than 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square Feb. 17 as Pope Benedict came to his studio window to lead the Angelus prayer. People came to St. Peter's in larger numbers than normal for a Sunday Angelus because it was the first completely public, no-tickets-needed event since the pope announced Feb. 11 that he would be stepping down Feb. 28. As he does every week, he greeted groups of pilgrims in their native tongues. Addressing Spanish speakers, he said, "My heartfelt thanks ... for your prayers and affection in these days. Continue to pray for me and the next pope." And he told Polish speakers, "Thank you for your prayerful support and spiritual closeness in these days that are so unusual for the church and for me." Before leading the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict commented on the beginning of Lent and the day's Gospel reading about the temptation of Jesus. He said Lent is a time for Catholics to renew their spiritual lives and turn to God, "renouncing pride and selfishness to live in love."

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History may hold clues in divining impact of resignation, expert says

ROME (CNS) -- The halls of history might hold some clues as to what kind of impact Pope Benedict XVI's resignation will have on the church and how to navigate a smooth transition, said a U.S. scholar. "All these problems surrounding how to treat Benedict, what to call him, how he will be dealt with in his life after the papacy, how his death will be dealt with, all of these are new" questions, said Joshua Birk, a fellow at the American Academy in Rome and expert in medieval Mediterranean history. To find some answers or at least some guidance, "we sort of have to go back to these medieval cases (of papal resignation) because we literally have nothing else" to go by, he told Catholic News Service Feb. 15. There's not much in the annals to sift through, however. Papal resignations are extremely rare with only four in the past 1,100 years, he said. And almost every case involved popes who were pressured to step down. Only the voluntary resignation of St. Celestine V in 1294, he said, can offer relevant parallels to help the church make sense of the free and willful resignation of Pope Benedict. The case of Pope Celestine also resulted in some innovative changes that he brought with his decision to resign, he said.

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Pope Benedict saw Jews, Muslims as allies in defending belief in God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In trying to help people understand how belief in God is a natural part of life and provides grounding for the values that protect human dignity and peaceful coexistence, Pope Benedict XVI saw Jews and Muslims as natural allies. But in the almost eight years of his pontificate, his relations with the Jewish and Muslim communities were marked by alternating tensions and new initiatives. During his pontificate, Pope Benedict visited synagogues in three countries and mosques in three others. However, despite his efforts to promote new forms of dialogue with the followers of Islam, in the field of Catholic-Muslim dialogue, many people remember Pope Benedict primarily for remarks about Mohammed in a 2006 speech. His relationship with the world's Jewish communities was not always smooth either, primarily because of his decision in 2009 to lift the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust. As recently as last October, Pope Benedict affirmed the church's teaching about the importance of dialogue with and respect for Jews, Muslims and members of other religions, but he did so with a caveat.

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Italian cardinal holds center stage by leading Lenten retreat for pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Italian cardinal leading Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten retreat was tweeting and podcasting his reflections, signaling that detachment from the outside world doesn't have to mean a total media blackout. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, began the spiritual reflections Feb. 17 by describing Pope Benedict's future role in the church after his resignation as being a presence "like that of Moses, who climbs the hill to pray for the people of Israel." A contemplative presence whose role will be one of "intercession and interceding (while) we remain in the valley, that valley where Amalek is, where's there's dust, fear, terror, nightmares, but also hope, where you stayed with us for eight years," the cardinal said. The pope and top officials from the Roman Curia suspended their normal schedules to gather each morning and afternoon in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel for common prayer, eucharistic adoration and 17 meditations that are offered by a different guest preacher each year. The pope chose Cardinal Ravasi, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, for this year's weeklong retreat. Cardinal Ravasi was offering brief "tweets" from his talks on his Italian and English Twitter accounts: @CardRavasi and @CardRavasi_en. And Vatican Radio was posting the audio of the cardinal's complete meditations in Italian at http://www.radiovaticana.va/rss/italiano.xml.

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Barrier's extension would separate West Bank monastery, convent, school

BEIT JALLA, West Bank (CNS) -- Just over the ridge, not far from where Father Ibrahim Shomali celebrated Mass on a recent Friday afternoon, is the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo. Nearby, across the Cremisan Valley, is Gilo, another Israeli settlement. It was built decades ago on land that was part of Beit Jalla, a largely Christian Palestinian town six miles south of Jerusalem and three miles west of Bethlehem. Israelis consider Har Gilo and Gilo neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Between the two settlements, hidden behind trees, is a 150-year-old Salesian monastery. The monks there run the West Bank's only winery, the Cremisan Cellars. Not far away is the convent of the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan, who operate an elementary school and after-school programs for 400 children. As near as they are, the monastery and the convent may end up on opposite sides of an extension of the Israeli-Palestian separation barrier. On Feb. 12, the Israeli Supreme Court heard Israel's appeal to extend the barrier, a series of cement slabs, barbed wire fences and security roads snaking across part of the valley. It would effectively separate Beit Jalla from the two Israeli settlements, creating a contiguous strip of land that could be used for expansion and their eventual joining. If built according to one option proposed by the Israeli army, the wall would isolate the monastery on the Israeli side of the wall, separating it from the convent and Beit Jalla. It would surround the village of Wallajah, where many of the students live.

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Biographer: In past six months, pope was 'exhausted and disheartened'

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI was "exhausted and disheartened" well before his Feb. 11 resignation announcement, according to his German biographer, Peter Seewald. In an article, "Farewell to my pope," in the Feb. 18 issue of Germany's Focus weekly, Seewald said he had held several Vatican meetings with the 85-year-old pontiff over the six months while preparing a new biography. He added that he had "never seen Benedict XVI so drained of energy" and "deeply disheartened" as when he met him in last summer. Asked what could still be expected of his pontificate, according to Seewald, the pope answered: "From me -- not much now. I'm an old man and I've lost my strength. I think I've done enough." The 58-year-old Seewald, a fellow-Bavarian and former editor of Germany's Der Spiegel weekly, has published several interview-based books on Pope Benedict, including a biography in 2006 and 2010 best-seller, "Light of the World." He said the pope told him the third volume of his "Jesus of Nazareth," published in November, would be his last book.

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Pope asks cardinal to lead financially troubled religious order

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has entrusted the leadership of the financially troubled Sons of the Immaculate Conception to Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. The religious order, which has about 400 priests and brothers, runs a major hospital in Rome specializing in diseases and cancers of the skin. Its members also work in North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. After an apostolic visitation of the order, Pope Benedict "decided to entrust the governance" of the order to Cardinal Versaldi, said a statement from the Vatican Feb. 18. The cardinal "will have the task of guiding the religious institute and leading the health care structures it operates toward economic renewal if possible." The statement added that Vatican funds would not be used to rescue the order's Italian hospital group, IDI Healthcare.

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With huge diocese, Brazilian cardinal uses variety of media to teach

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, 63, heads Brazil's largest diocese and ministers in one of the most populous cities in the world. In the city of more than 11 million people -- more than 80 percent of whom are Catholic -- the cardinal oversees parishes that struggle with high poverty rates, crime, youth unemployment and lack of basic services like running water. On his archdiocesan website and in newspapers, Cardinal Scherer regularly offers Catholic-based commentary on issues making the news in Brazil. He also has a very active Twitter account with more than 20,000 followers, which he uses to provide short reflections on Sundays and holy days, but also to respond to people's questions and comments. The cardinal has not shied away from controversial topics, including criticism of some of the Pentecostal churches that have been acquiring growing numbers of adherents in Brazil, which remains the country with the world's largest Catholic population. In a column published on his archdiocesan website, he said the explosion of new religious communities in Brazil is a sign that people do, in fact, still yearn for God. But, he said, too often people's longing for God is "exploited as a source of profit and an excuse to take people's money." In an early February column titled "How Much Does the Bishop Earn?" Cardinal Scherer tried to respond to an uproar in Brazil caused by a news investigation into the amount of money Brazilians donate each year to churches and other religious organizations.

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Homilist: Life of prayer at core of Bishop D'Arcy's 'priestly heart'

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- At the core of the late Bishop John M. D'Arcy's "priestly heart" was the "intimate dialogue that is the life of prayer," said the homilist at the funeral Mass of the former head of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. "Prayer, daily, intimate conversation and communion with the Lord Jesus, the heart of the life of any believer, was central to (the) bishop's preaching, his work as a spiritual director, and his devotion to spiritual development and parish mission work," said Msgr. Michael Heintz. Bishop D'Arcy, who had headed the diocese for 25 years before he retired in 2010, was remembered for his love of the priesthood and the love he had for the people of the diocese. His funeral was celebrated Feb. 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He died Feb. 3 at age 80. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, current head of the diocese, was the main celebrant of the funeral Mass. Other bishops from across the country and state who concelebrated were Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, retired Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., a former Fort Wayne-South Bend auxiliary bishop. "How many times, at the end of a long day, would he come over from his office to this beautiful cathedral he restored, to spend some quiet moments in prayer, alone, in silence, finding here, in the presence of the One he knew loved him, both solace and strength?" Msgr. Heintz recalled of the late bishop.


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