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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-29-2013

By Catholic News Service


Catholic Charities, Notre Dame studying how well local programs work

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Charities USA and researchers at the University of Notre Dame are joining together to study which local social services work best in moving people out of poverty. The effort, which the two organizations describe as an alliance, will identify local programs that might be duplicated elsewhere in the drive to help people and families move toward self-sufficiency. "The bottom line is that we want to make sure what we're doing is really beneficial to people and give them the skills to become self-sufficient and in many cases to leave poverty behind rather than keep them in a maintain mode," said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. Initially the arrangement will find small teams of researchers, working through Notre Dame's recently established Lab for Economic Opportunities, visiting agencies to collect and analyze data about individual programs to determine how people have benefited. Economic professors William Evans and James Sullivan, who started the lab, told Catholic News Service the effort broadens a partnership the two organizations had built during the last nine years which saw local Catholic Charities staff enrolling in training programs at the university. "(Catholic Charities USA) wanted to know what programs work and what programs don't work," Sullivan said.

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Same-sex marriage cases may not provide game-changing rules

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Georgetown University law professor Michael Gottesman put it, the people who lined up outside the Supreme Court for days to be able to watch a legal argument about the validity of same-sex marriage must have been surprised to find half the court's time devoted to debating legal standing, jurisdiction and states' rights versus federalism. Gottesman opened a March 27 panel discussion at the Georgetown Law Center about oral arguments in two cases related to same-sex marriage heard at the court that day and March 26 by observing that both cases may well be decided over legal questions unrelated to marriage. That was surely surprising, Gottesman said, to the people who camped out for days to get seats at the arguments and the thousands of people on either side who rallied outside the courtroom. They may have been somewhat puzzled that what the public sees as the core issue -- should same-sex couples have a uniform right to marry -- barely come up at all. Instead, in Hollingsworth v. Perry the court may rule on California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, on the basis of whether it was proper for the people who put the 2008 initiative on the ballot to appeal the federal District Court ruling that said the law is unconstitutional. Before Prop 8 passed in November 2008, about 18,000 same-sex couples got married, after the state Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 they had the right to do so. Because California's governor and attorney general declined to argue in support of Prop 8, the District Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Dennis Hollingsworth and other proponents of the ballot measure to make the legal challenge.

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In efforts to sell church, Berlin Archdiocese uses eBay

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The Berlin Archdiocese is continuing to try to sell unused churches and even listed a church on eBay. "Virtually every diocese in Germany has sold churches over the past decade, so this is nothing special," said Stefan Forner, spokesman for the Berlin Archdiocese. "The parish in question was helped by professionals, who advertised it online so it appeared on eBay, but this doesn't mean it's being auctioned off cheaply," he added. After it did not sell on eBay, efforts continued to find a buyer for St. Bernhard Church in Brandenburg-Havel, one of numerous churches recently put on the market in the face of falling Mass attendance. Forner told Catholic News Service March 28 that 22 Catholic churches had been sold or given to other Christian denominations by the Berlin Archdiocese, compared to 90 in the Diocese of Essen. However, he added that some Berlin churches had already been converted into residential buildings and were subject to restrictions barring commercial use. "We're not talking about churches like St. Peter's Basilica or Cologne cathedral," Forner said.

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Cardinal urges Kenyans to accept court verdict on election

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Nairobi Cardinal John Njue urged Kenyans to maintain peace as the Supreme Court decides on the nation's disputed presidential election. He also urged Kenyans to accept the court verdict, expected March 30. Speaking during a Mass at Holy Family Basilica March 28, the cardinal said no matter what the verdict, the country must remain united. He encouraged peace during the Easter season. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga filed a petition with the Supreme Court to challenge election results after his opponent, Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared the winner in the first round of elections March 4. All the members of Parliament and the senators elected were sworn in, but the president was not, pending the court verdict. "I urge you to remain peaceful and united during this festive season. We must remain as one family of God's people," Cardinal Njue said. "People should not be pessimistic about the ruling." Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect William Ruto were accused in connection with post-electoral violence in Kenya after 2007 election. The two are facing charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

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Looking out for No. 2: Who will be Vatican secretary of state?

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Of the several widely acknowledged priorities in the run-up to the conclave that chose Pope Francis, including the challenge of secularism and the growth of the church in the global South, none was more prominent than a need to reform the Roman Curia, the church's central administration in the Vatican. The College of Cardinals extensively discussed corruption and mismanagement sensationally documented in the 2012 "VatiLeaks" of confidential correspondence, which were also the subject of a detailed report that Pope Benedict XVI designated exclusively for the eyes of his successor. The new pope has already given signs of his intention to reform. According to his personal notes for his pre-conclave speech to fellow cardinals, subsequently published with his permission, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio denounced the "self-referentiality" of a church "living within herself, of herself, for herself." Although his main target seems to have been a "theological narcissism" that saps evangelical zeal, the future pope's words were also an implicit rebuke to the inward-looking mindset of a pre-modern royal court, which still characterizes the Vatican in the 21st century. Since his election, Pope Francis' many gestures of humility and accessibility -- such as praying at the back of the chapel where he celebrated Mass for Vatican maintenance workers -- not only underscore his avowed desire that the church be close to the poorest and least powerful; they also set an example for higher-ranking officials.

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Pope leads Good Friday liturgy, begins rite in silent prayer, adoration

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lying prostrate on the floor before the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion. The pope presided at the service March 29 to commemorate Christ's death on the cross. He began the rite after a silent procession down the central nave under dim lighting, which underlined the solemnity of the ceremony. Then he rested his forehead on a red pillow while lying face down in front of the altar in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. After the homily, during the veneration of the cross, the pope removed his red chasuble and, in a sign of penance, placed a red stole over his shoulders, bowed three times and kissed the cross. Following tradition, the homily was delivered by the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. Pope Francis was scheduled to speak briefly later that night at the end of the Stations of the Cross in Rome's Colosseum. At the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope and thousands of faithful stood as three deacons and the Sistine Chapel Choir chanted the account of the Passion from the Gospel of St. John. In his homily, Father Cantalamessa said the church must have the courage to return to the simplicity of its origins and rid itself of all "impediments" that block the Gospel message from reaching the world.

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West Virginia bishop urges governor to expand Medicaid in state

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston urged West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to support the expansion of Medicaid coverage in West Virginia. In a March 22 letter to Tomblin, the bishop said that in his eight years as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, he has been deeply concerned with the health and well-being of the people of the state and their access to adequate and affordable health care. "Our national and state health care policy must protect human life and dignity, not threaten them, especially for the voiceless and vulnerable," Bishop Bransfield said in the letter. "Coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good and moral imperative. For decades, Catholic bishops in the United States have consistently taught that access to decent health care is a basic safeguard of human life and an affirmation of human dignity from conception until natural death," Bishop Bransfield added. The bishop also noted that the expansion of coverage would only increase the state's spending on Medicaid by 3.2 percent. "Such an effort underscores West Virginians' tradition of concern for the dignity of all," Bishop Bransfield said. "It reflects the teachings of our Savior, who in his own life and work reached out to heal the sick and care for the poor."


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