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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-22-2013

By Catholic News Service


Catholics urge Mississippi to expand Medicaid to uninsured in state

JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- The state of Mississippi has a moral obligation to expand Medicaid to enable those who have no health care to get it, said Catholic leaders. "In the Gospels we see the good Samaritan story. How the good Samaritan stopped and helped the man who was waylaid, who was robbed, and bound up his wounds," said Msgr. Elvin Sunds, vicar general of the Diocese of Jackson. "This is an opportunity for us as a state to bind up the wounds of those who are hurting. Those who have no health care," he added. Msgr. Sunds and Msgr. Dominick Fullam, vicar general of the Diocese of Biloxi, spoke about Medicaid expansion as a moral imperative as well as a potential economic boon to the state at an afternoon news conference Feb. 20, the third annual Catholic Day at the Capitol in Jackson. More than a hundred Catholics from the Jackson and Biloxi dioceses participated in the special day. The timing of the event was particularly good as the Legislature in the Magnolia State is in the middle of a complicated political struggle over Medicaid expansion. A week earlier, lawmakers killed all bills that would have allowed expansion, including legislation needed to reauthorize the state's Medicaid program during the 2014 fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. The debate will continue and the issue can be resolved through a suspension of rules or in a special session before that time.

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US, Holy See cooperation often guided by pope's vision of just world

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the White House in 2008, his thoughts turned to the First Amendment and its enshrinement of the free practice of religion. He told President George W. Bush that the idea of religious freedom as expressed in the First Amendment illustrates the country's commitment to respecting diversity. Religious values helped forge "the soul of the nation" and should continue to inspire Americans as they face complex political and ethical issues, the pope said. The exchange was brief, certainly not scripted, recalled Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, who participated in the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn on a sunny spring morning. "How incredible is that to have the pope standing on the White House lawn quoting the First Amendment?" Rooney observed. That story, as recalled to Catholic News Service Feb. 21, illustrates how Pope Benedict holds the United States in high regard. While the Holy See during Pope Benedict's eight years of service and the U.S. did not always agree on every policy matter (such as abortion, peace in the Holy Land or the Iraq War), both recognized the importance of addressing common concerns to bring about a more just world.

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Archbishop backs end to death penalty, says it offers 'tragic illusion'

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's objection to the death penalty comes from its consistent teaching that life must be protected from conception to natural death, said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. "At the core of all of (the church's) public witness is an evident consistency that reflects our reasoned belief that every human life is sacred and to be protected, because every life comes from God, and is destined to return to God as our final judge," he said. Archbishop Lori said that view compels him to advocate against Maryland's death penalty. He testified Feb. 14 to support a proposed repeal of Maryland's death penalty at back-to-back committee hearings in the state's Senate and House of Delegates. His testimony followed Gov. Martin J. O'Malley, who also spoke in support of the repeal bill he introduced. Other Maryland officials also testified as part of the governor's panel. Late Feb. 21, the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 6-5 to send the measure to the Senate floor. It was the first time in many years that the committee advanced repeal of the death penalty to a full Senate vote passed the bill and was to be taken up by the full Senate the next week. The state House of Delegates was to consider the measure in coming weeks.

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Eleven congressional Republicans file brief opposing HHS mandate

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Eleven Republican members of Congress filed a brief supporting conscience provisions in one lawsuit fighting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate. In their friend-of-the-court brief, filed Feb. 21, the congressmen invoked the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in supporting the Hobby Lobby craft store chain in its bid for an exemption from the mandate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed 20 years ago -- unanimously in the House, and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate --- to prohibit the federal government from substantially restricting a person's religious freedom, except when it can demonstrate "a compelling government interest" and that the government's action is "the least restrictive means" of furthering that interest. All 11 lawmakers filing the brief had voted for the bill, known as RFRA, in 1993; it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law was passed to counter a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that the religious rights of two American Indians to smoke peyote during a religious ceremony were superseded by an Oregon state law making the hallucinogenic substance illegal. "One of the primary reasons Congress enacted RFRA in the first place (was) to prevent those charged with implementing the law from picking and choosing whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not," the lawmakers' brief says.

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Canonist explains 'rigid, highly formal' rules for electing pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The voting by cardinals to elect the next pope takes place behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, following a highly detailed procedure that underwent major revisions by Blessed John Paul II and a small, but very significant change, by Pope Benedict XVI. Under the rules, secret ballots can be cast once on the first day of the conclave, then normally twice during each subsequent morning and evening session. Except for periodic pauses, the voting continues until a new pontiff is elected with at least two-thirds of the votes. Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, reviewed the rules with reporters at the Vatican Feb. 22. Introducing Bishop Arrieta, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Pope Benedict at any minute might be signing a document with minor changes to the law, but the changes would make sense only if one knew the general laws for a conclave. Many observers had expected Pope Benedict to clarify that the cardinals have the option of beginning the conclave once all the cardinals are in Rome, even if that occurs sooner than the law's required 15 days after the beginning of the "sede vacante," literally the vacant see, left by the pope's resignation. Bishop Arrieta told reporters that in his opinion the cardinals could make that decision on their own, without a change to the law, since the law was "clearly written with a 'sede vacante' because of death in mind." However, he also said that as the church's supreme legislator, Pope Benedict, before leaving, also could set the date for the conclave, "although I have no information that he would do so."

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Pope Benedict changes rituals for new pope's inauguration

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has ordered several changes to the Masses and liturgies that will mark the inauguration of the next pope's pontificate. Rites and gestures that are not strictly sacramental will take place either before a Mass or in a ceremony not involving Mass, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told the Vatican newspaper Feb. 22. One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public "act of obedience" in which each cardinal present at the pope's inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance. When Pope Benedict celebrated his inaugural Mass in 2005, 12 people were chosen to represent all Catholics: three cardinals, a bishop, a diocesan priest, a transitional deacon, a male religious, a female religious, a married couple and a young man and a young woman recently confirmed. Msgr. Marini said Pope Benedict personally approved the changes Feb. 18; they include offering a wider choice of traditional Mass prayers in polyphony and chant, rather than the new musical repertoire composed for the 2005 book. After having personally experienced the liturgical rites drafted by Msgr. Marini's predecessor -- and approved by Pope Benedict immediately after his election -- the pope suggested "a few changes aimed at improving the text" of the rites for the beginning of a pontificate, formally known as the "Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi."

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Papal biographer: Fixing Vatican bureaucracy is a top job for next pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Threats to religious freedom around the world, the human costs of globalization, media transformed by the revolution in information technology -- these are some of the challenges that the next pope is bound to face in leading the church. According to one highly informed observer, the next pope will also have an urgent task at home: reforming the Roman Curia, the church's central administration at the Vatican. "The curia not infrequently caused acute embarrassment to (Pope) Benedict XVI, putting obstacles in the way of his evangelical, catechetical and pastoral efforts, and ill-serving the pope's attempts to reframe the global agenda of debate on the crucial issues facing humanity," writes George Weigel in his new book, "Evangelical Catholicism." The author, a biographer of Blessed John Paul II and a well-known commentator on Catholic issues, paints a picture of an inefficient bureaucracy where incompetence often goes unpunished and all too many players serve their own ambition rather than the interests of the church. "Things are in fact worse now, in my view, than they have been in perhaps 40 years," Weigel told Catholic News Service. "Everyone who does not have a vested interest in the status quo understands that a major task in the early going of the next pontificate is going to be not only to change structure but to change attitude."

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Vatican official: German bishops' rule on 'Plan B' for rape acceptable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has long accepted the possibility of preventing ovulation in a woman who has been raped, but withdraws that option if there is a possibility that ovulation may have already occurred, said the president of Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life. A recent statement by bishops in Germany saying it was acceptable to use medication that hinders conception after rape reflects an "unassailable rule" that has been proposed by the Catholic Church the past 50 years, said Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula. "To consider the possibility of using a drug whose active ingredient is a contraceptive in the case of a woman who has been raped seems acceptable to me," he told "Vatican Insider," the online news supplement to the Italian newspaper La Stampa. The church, however, refuses the administration of an abortive drug in all cases, he said on the sidelines of a workshop, Faith and Human Life, sponsored by the academy Feb. 22. "In the case of rape, one can do what is necessary to avoid a pregnancy, but you cannot terminate it," the bishop said. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and a member of the pontifical academy, told Catholic News Service that "you are not violating the teaching on contraception by seeking to stop ovulation or fertilization." Rape "is not an act of unitive love, it is an act of violence (and) the woman has a right to defend herself against this attack," he said.

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Pope names longtime US Vatican diplomat to be apostolic nuncio

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI named U.S. Msgr. Michael W. Banach, a Vatican diplomat, to be an apostolic nuncio, which will carry with it the title of archbishop. The Vatican diplomat will have the rank of an ambassador while working in the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Vatican made the announcement Feb. 22. Archbishop-designate Banach served as the Vatican's representative to several international agencies based in Vienna. The 50-year-old archbishop-designate has served in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1994. Born in Worcester, Mass., Nov. 19, 1962, he was ordained to the priesthood July 2, 1988, for the Diocese of Worcester. After earning his degree in canon law, he entered the Vatican diplomatic corps and served at Vatican embassies in Bolivia and Nigeria before moving to the Secretariat of State, where he served in the section for relations with states. In Vienna, he served as the Vatican's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; the U.N. Industrial Development Organization; and the local United Nations office.

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Milan cardinal's theological expertise is focused on culture, family

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan is a tweeting, intellectual archbishop deeply concerned about the negative impact modern culture is having on the faith lives of Christians. He also is convinced that Christian values have the potential to build societies that are more virtuous and more respectful of the rights of all. Almost any discussion about potential new popes includes the 71-year-old, who is the most prominent head of an Italian diocese. Milan is the country's largest see and the archdiocese led by both Popes Pius XI and Paul VI before they were elected to the papacy. Before being transferred to Milan in 2011, Cardinal Scola was the patriarch of Venice, once the archdiocese of Blessed John XXIII. Cardinal Scola has made social and cultural involvement in the civic life of both cities a key part of his pastoral ministry. The son of a truck driver, he has tried to rebuild Italian parishes in an attempt to restore their traditional role as a spiritual and social meeting ground. In an interview in 2005 with Catholic News Service, he said the "crisis of Christianity today is that our communities are fragile, and the sense of belonging is weak, because the people are lost. Why are the people lost? Why is the community weak? Because I think we have forgotten a little about the basic elements of the human being -- his emotions and desires, how he lives concretely, how he experiences work, marriage, the family and his neighborhood," he said.

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Catholic scholar named head of Canada's new religious freedom office

MAPLE, Ontario (CNS) -- With a nod to slain Pakistani Cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti, Prime Minister Stephen Harper inaugurated Canada's Office of Religious Freedom by appointing a Catholic scholar and former public servant as its first-ever ambassador. Andrew Bennett, a graduate of St. Paul University's Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies and dean of Augustine College in Ottawa, Ontario, has accepted the job. In announcing the new office, Harper linked it to Bhatti, the Pakistani Catholic politician murdered for trying to modify his country's blasphemy laws. "He worked tirelessly to defend the vulnerable," Harper said. "He did so knowing it put him at risk." Harper met with Bhatti in February 2011, three weeks before his assassination, and 22 months ago made the campaign promise to set up an Office of Religious Freedom. Harper said the office exists to defend and promote fundamental Canadian values. "There is a crucial and historic link between respect for religious freedom and the development of democracy itself," Harper said. "Governments that violate religious freedom are also prone to impose themselves in every other sphere of life."

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Bishop Dorsey, 83, retired bishop of Orlando, Fla., dies of cancer

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey, a music composer who headed the Diocese of Orlando during a 14-year period when the Catholic population nearly doubled to 400,000, died Feb. 21 after a long bout with cancer. He was 83. Funeral arrangements were pending. In the midst of the growth, Bishop Dorsey gathered 11,000 people for the first diocesan-wide celebration of the sacrament of confirmation in 1996 at the Orlando Arena. He became bishop of Orlando in 1990 and served until his retirement in 2004. Prior to that, he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Miami for four years, serving as vicar general and as executive director of the Ministry of Persons. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who served as coadjutor bishop of Orlando for a year before Bishop Dorsey's retirement, said the late prelate's service to the church and ministry as a bishop exemplified his episcopal motto, "Love is Ingenious," taken from the Rule of the Passionist Congregation. "In the years he spent in Miami, he made a special effort to reach out to priests to affirm them in their ministry and was very close to them," the archbishop said. "He is still well regarded and remembered by the Miami clergy for this. ... Having known him was a great grace for me."


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