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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-20-2013

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Bishops remind Congress that poor must be first in budget priorities

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The needs of poor and vulnerable Americans must remain at the top of the country's spending priorities as Congress debates the federal budget in the coming weeks, the chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committees said. Holding firm to earlier stances, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, told members of Congress in a March 18 letter that budget expenditures reflect the priorities of a nation. "As Catholic pastors, we continue to emphasize that these choices are economic, political and moral," the bishops said. "While we lack the competence to offer a detailed critique of entire budget proposals, we do ask you to consider the human and moral dimensions of these choices," they said. The letter comes as Congress prepared to debate the fiscal year 2014 budget. Contrasting proposals have risen to the forefront in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House budget, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., calls for reducing domestic spending and lowering tax rates for most income earners while growing military spending. His proposal, made as chairman of the House Budget Committee, calls for privatizing Medicare, reducing funding for Medicaid and food stamps by turning them into block grants administered by states, and abolishing the Affordable Care Act. Ryan has said such steps are necessary to balance the budget by 2023 and begin reducing the federal deficit. The Senate budget, offered by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., calls for slower growth in discretionary spending and new revenues from wealthy Americans and the biggest corporations.

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Pope's election shows Latin American church's vitality, archbishop says

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The election of Pope Francis reflects the vitality of the Latin American church, said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. Writing March 20 in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the U.S., Archbishop Gomez said the election of an Argentine as pope also "is a sign of changing times." The archbishop wrote: "The Catholic Church's center of gravity has long been undergoing a global shift. The church's growth and creative energy no longer come from Western Europe, but from Africa, Asia and most of all, Latin America." He said: Immigration from Latin and Central America is changing the face of the U.S. and the church "forever. The new papacy should awaken our memory of our country's deep Christian roots and its connections to the church's missions in Mexico and Latin America," he added. Citing Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who described Latin America as the "continent of hope," Archbishop Gomez said the new pontiff is "the face of church's new hope" and "points to the rising Latino profile" within the U.S. church. Explaining that 40 percent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America and that more than half of all Catholics 25 and younger are Latino, Archbishop Gomez said Latinos "now have a pope who is a native speaker of their language and a pope who understands their traditions and cultural realities."

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Papal nuncio prays for new pope as he faces 'great task' leading church

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Toward the end of a Mass of thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrating the inauguration of Pope Francis March 19, a brass and timpani ensemble erupted with a triumphant hymn. With hands raised, the cantor signaled for the Washington congregation to join in. "Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus, Christus imperat!" -- "Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!" The Massgoers sang along with the choir, and then almost abruptly, the instruments of the brass ensemble gave way to a quiet duet between the choir and a mezzo-piano organ. The stark contrast between the ensemble's jubilant music and the low tones of the choir and organ seemed to be a theme not only in the musical aspects of the Mass, but a reflection of the style of Pope Francis, as the new leader of a worldwide church and a man devoted to simplicity. "How is it that in the Scriptures Joseph, entrusted with such an overwhelming task, never speaks?" Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, asked in his homily. "His silence signifies humility and obedience, a constant attentiveness to the voice of God in his life. He is in awe of the one who has called him to such a great responsibility," he said.

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WORLD

Pope pledges renewed cooperation; Jewish leaders praise election

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he plans renewed cooperation to further Catholic-Jewish relations and hopes to contribute to a world where all people live in harmony with the "will of the creator." In a message to Chief Rabbi Riccardo di Segni of Rome, the pope said he "profoundly hopes to be able to contribute to the progress that Jewish-Catholic relations have seen starting from the Second Vatican Council, in a spirit of renewed collaboration." He said he also hoped to be "at the service of a world that may grow in harmony with the will of the creator." The pope sent his "cordial greetings" to the head of Rome's Jewish community the evening of his election March 13 and told the rabbi his installation Mass would be held March 19. The Vatican released a copy of the message to journalists March 15. Rabbi di Segni, who attended the Mass, said the pope's reference to continuing the work begun with Vatican II was "very, very important. There are elements in the church that have put themselves on the fringes because they don't accept the council or they accept it in a very limited way," he told the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera March 19. "To establish that our relationship cannot do without the council, which is at the foundation of (Catholic-Jewish relations), means to go forward rather than in reverse," said the rabbi.

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Pope Francis calls his predecessor, wishing him happy name day

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis telephoned retired Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Ratzinger, to wish him a happy "name day" on the feast of St. Joseph. Pope Benedict has been following the many events taking place in Rome, especially the Mass, March 19, which formally marked the start of his successor's ministry as bishop of Rome and as pope, the Vatican said. The retired pope, who has been living at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome, since Feb. 28, "has followed with strong interest the events these past days, especially this morning's celebration" inaugurating Pope Francis' ministry, the Vatican said in a written statement March 19. Pope Benedict assured "his successor of his continued closeness in prayer," the statement said. Pope Francis called the retired pope in the late afternoon March 19 to send him best wishes on the feast of St. Joseph "and show him once more his and the church's gratitude for his service," the Vatican said. The telephone conversation was "lengthy and cordial," the Vatican said.

- - -

Pope says religions must cooperate to remind humanity God exists

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For the good of all people, the care of the poor and the future of the Earth, religions must cooperate in reminding modern men and women that God exists and has a plan for their lives and their behavior, Pope Francis said. "The Catholic Church knows the importance of promoting friendship and respect among men and women of different religious traditions," he said, repeating the entire phrase twice for emphasis March 20 during a meeting with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain delegations that had come to the Vatican for his inauguration. The Catholic Church, he said, "is equally aware of the responsibility that all have for this world, for creation -- which we must love and protect -- and we can do much good for those who are poor, weak and suffering, to favor justice, to promote reconciliation, to build peace. But more than anything," he said, "we must keep alive in the world the thirst for the Absolute. We must never allow a one-dimensional vision of the human person to prevail -- a vision that reduces the person to what he produces and consumes. This is one of the most dangerous, insidious things of our age," Pope Francis told his guests from other Christian churches and other religions.

- - -

Syrian Christians turn to Turkish churches, not refugee camps, for help

ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Churches and monasteries in Turkey are struggling to shelter a rising number of Syrian Christian refugees who are reluctant to seek help at government-run relief camps because of reported Muslim extremism, said a Catholic Relief Services staffer. Sleiman Saikali, program officer for the U.S. bishops' relief and development agency, told Catholic News Service that he met Christian refugees living in and around the southeastern Turkish cities of Mardin and Midyat; some lived in churches and two ancient monasteries. "All of these are about 200 people. Other Christians are coming day after day," said Saikali, who was in the region with a CRS delegation at the end of February looking at ways to help Syrian refugees on both sides of the border. The Christians are among the tens of thousands of Syrians refugees, most of whom are Muslim, fleeing to Turkey from Syria, where pro-government forces are engaged in armed conflict with rebel groups in a war the United Nations estimates has killed 70,000 people in two years. Turkey has provided aid and shelter to more than 150,000 refugees in border camps. More than 70,000 others are living outside the camps with little government assistance, according to the U.N. Saikali said Syrian Christians told him they were afraid go to the relief camps "because (of) who is going to the camps: Muslims, but not the Muslims who were living with Christians (in Syria). They are from (Muslim) fundamentalist groups."

- - -

Philippine church welcomes court reprieve on reproductive health law

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A controversial new reproductive health law in the Philippines has been put on hold and opponents, backed by the Catholic Church, say they are glad for the temporary reprieve. On March 19, the Supreme Court ordered a "status quo ante" on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The order effectively puts off implementation of the law for 120 days, while the court looks over about 10 petitions filed against the act. Some petitions challenge the constitutionality of the new law, which provides for government-funded contraception for the poor and sex education for middle- through high-school students and mandates medical care for women who have had abortions, among other provisions. Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, and the new law remains contentious in this predominantly Catholic country. The new law was supposed to take effect March 31. Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo, head of the Philippine bishops' Commission on Family and Life, said the bishops' conference is throwing its support behind the lay groups that filed the challenges. Bishop Reyes told Catholic News Service his office was happy with the Supreme Court's decision, and he is praying the law will be abolished in the end.

- - -

Vendors offer increasing numbers of items with papal image

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- New papal merchandise made its debut soon after the words "Habemus papam" rang through St. Peter's Square March 13. The next morning, photos of the smiling Pope Francis -- hastily printed and attached to simple rosaries -- could be found near the Vatican, and the papal items grew more creative in the week leading up to the pope's inauguration. Vendors lining the street in front of St. Peter's Square offer items ranging from pencils to candles with the pope's image on them, and customers could find magnets of "Papa Francesco" nestled between pictures of retired Pope Benedict XVI and "I love Roma" bracelets. The smell of ink from newly printed postcards with quotes from Pope Francis' first speech permeated the stores, and pilgrims sorted through bins of religious medals with images of the pope's face, looking for the perfect reminder of this historic time in Rome. During the conclave, some online religious stores offered customers the option of pre-ordering images of the new pope, either as a formal portrait or "as he arrives on the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica and greets the crowds below, most likely with arms raised in greeting and rejoicing." Buttons, key chains and desk plaques were recommended to those who wanted to display the new pope in their homes and offices. Phone case covers, pillows and bumper stickers with pictures of the pope also are making their way into online stores.

- - -

PEOPLE

Brazilian president says pope will visit Rio, Aparecida in July

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Pope Francis confirmed he would be in Rio de Janeiro in July for World Youth Day and, she said, he also told her he intended to visit Brazil's National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope and Rousseff spent 15 minutes speaking alone March 20 before the dozen members of her delegation joined them. Pope Francis gave the president a copy of Latin American bishops' 2007 Aparecida document, which was drafted during a meeting at the Marian shrine, Father Lombardi said, but he said Pope Francis' travel plans were not firm and he would release no information about them. "Invitations (to visit) came from practically every delegation" of government representatives attending Pope Francis' inauguration March 19, he said. More than 130 countries sent delegates. Father Lombardi said the World Youth Day events in Rio were a primary topic for the pope's talks with Rousseff and that is one visit he does expect the pope to make.

- - -

Irish prime minister offers words of encouragement for Brooklyn parish

FAR ROCKAWAY, N.Y. (CNS) -- Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told the Irish Catholic community of Breezy Point he was there with them because "I think it's important to be able to demonstrate solidarity with a people who have come through a difficult time. We hope that the community in Breezy will continue with its heart and soul and that in years to come, it will rebuild even stronger than ever before," he said. Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, along with the Irish Catholic community, welcomed Kenny on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Kenny joined members of Blessed Trinity Parish for Mass at St. Thomas More Church, serving as lector. The church is a worship site of the parish. Earlier this year, to help with recovery efforts from October's super storm, professional athletes from the Gaelic Athletic Association, in collaboration with the Irish government, traveled from Ireland to Breezy Point. In fewer than 10 days, the athletes completely renewed the parish's Msgr. Connelly Parish Center. Parishioners now have a clean and modern place to gather for social events. It affords them a sense of normalcy as they struggle to restructure their lives after the Sandy. Parishioner Jennifer Lineghan, who is still unable to return to her home, said the athletes have given the community more than just a physical building. They also brought a reassuring and caring presence. "We were hurt over seeing our community so badly destroyed that it was nice knowing -- that they came to help," she said. It was, in part, for such generosity that Msgr. Michael Curran, pastor, was pleased to welcome Kenny. "It was an honor for the prime minister to come so we can welcome him and through him to thank all the people from the Irish community in Ireland who have been so generous to us," he said.

END


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