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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-18-2013

By Catholic News Service


Life Runners via Facebook 'gathers' members to pray for Boston victims

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Jeff Pauls qualified for the Boston Marathon during a successful run at the Rock and Roll Marathon last October in St. Louis. The 117-year-old marathon -- the nation's oldest and most celebrated race -- has strict qualifying standards, and earning a spot in the race is considered the highest honor for a dedicated marathon runner. Pauls, a member of the national Life Runners team from Belleville, Ill., was planning on participating in the race, but his qualifying race came too late -- registration for the Boston run had already filled to capacity not long after his October run in St. Louis. When the news broke that two bombs went off near the finish line of the April 15 Boston Marathon, Pauls and his fellow Life Runners responded immediately, coming together to pray. Founded in 2008 by Air Force Lt. Cols. Rich Reich and Pat Castle, the national Life Runners team is dedicated to raising funds and increasing prayer and awareness for pro-life issues through running events, primarily marathons. Castle, who is president, said Life Runners had at least two teammates participating in the race -- Chris Odinet from Lafayette, La., and Diane O'Sullivan from Randolph, Mass. All had been accounted for and were safe, he said. LIFE Runners leaders immediately called the entire team to prayer through a request on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/liferunners413. The team has 1,239 members and 45 chapters across the United States and nine other countries.

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Boston interfaith service stresses city's grace and strength in tragedy

BOSTON (CNS) -- In an April 18 interfaith prayer service, religious and political leaders emphasized the enduring strength of the people of Boston and urged them to find consolation and healing in their continued support of one another. Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley welcomed the congregation that packed the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and told them the service was offered in solidarity with those who lost their lives or were injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon April 15. "We must overcome the culture of death and promote a culture of life," he said, stressing that the blueprint for doing so was found in the passage on the beatitudes read during the prayer service. The only way for people to "repair our broken world" is not as individuals but as a community and as a family, he said, noting that the tragedy provides "a challenge and an opportunity for us to work together with a renewed spirit of determination and solidarity and with the firm conviction that love is stronger than death." The cardinal, who returned to Boston April 16 after a retreat in the Holy Land, said the tragic event "shakes us out of our complacency and indifference and calls us to focus on the task of building a civilization that is based on love, justice, truth and service."

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Texas responds to blast that casts wide destruction in small town

WEST, Texas (CNS) -- Emergency personnel were carefully combing through blocks of wreckage in this town of 2,900 a day after a chemical fertilizer factory caught fire and exploded with the force of a small earthquake April 17, injuring perhaps hundreds and killing others. Dozens of homes were destroyed in the explosion at West Fertilizer Co., a while after a fire of undetermined origin was reported. The shock wave was felt at least 50 miles away. By the afternoon of the next day, authorities still had not given more than vague estimates of casualties -- perhaps five to 15 people killed and at least 160 injured, at least 60 homes damaged or destroyed. Hospitals in Waco, a mid-size city about 20 miles away, reported receiving as many as several dozen victims each. In a town with a strong Czech and German immigrant history, the 120-year-old Church of the Assumption Catholic Parish is one of the largest communities in West, with about 1,300 registered families. Located about a mile from the blast site, the property and its adjacent school, St. Mary's, were undamaged. The property was being used by emergency personnel as a command center. Father Ed Karasek, the pastor of 24 years, posted brief notes on the parish website, noting that "we have lost several folks dear to us and many, many more have lost a portion of or all of their possessions." He also told Vatican Radio that in the close-knit town, everyone was coming together. "Everybody is related to each other, and they are all supporting each other," he said.

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Pope calls for prayers for victims of Texas factory explosion

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims of a deadly explosion in Texas. In a short message sent from his @Pontifex Twitter account, the pope told the more than 2.3 million followers on his English account to "Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families." A massive explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant about 75 miles south of Dallas the evening of April 17, killing at least five people and wounding more than 160 others. The number of casualties was expected to rise, authorities said. The blast leveled dozens of homes nearby and seriously damaged other buildings, including a nursing home. Nearly half of the town's 2,800 residents were forced to evacuate over fears that another fertilizer tank might explode and because of the danger posed by the chemicals' noxious fumes.

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Pope: God is real, concrete person, not mysterious, intangible mist

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Christian faith teaches that God is a real, concrete person, not some intangible essence or esoteric mist like "god-spray," Pope Francis said. In his homily April 18 at an early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis said many people say they believe in God, but what kind of God do they believe in exactly? God is a real person -- a father -- and faith springs forth from a tangible experience of an encounter with him, the pope told his listeners. The congregation was made up of members of the Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican -- a special unit of the Italian police that provides security and law enforcement in St. Peter's Square, and guarantees and coordinates all armed escorts for the pope when he leaves the Vatican. "We believe in God who is Father, who is Son, who is Holy Spirit," Pope Francis said. "We believe in persons and when we talk to God we speak with persons" who are concrete and tangible, not some misty, diffused god-like "'god-spray,' that's a little bit everywhere but who knows what it is." This faith in the real presence of Jesus is a gift from God himself, the pope said, and when he gives this gift of faith "we must continue on this path," rejoicing.

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Battle with the devil: Pope Francis frames the fight in Jesuit terms

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the teaching of Pope Francis, the devil has a more dastardly agenda than just convincing people to break one of the Ten Commandments; "the enemy" wants them to feel weak, worthless and always ready to complain or gossip. In his first month in office, Pope Francis continually preached about God's love and mercy, but he also frequently mentioned the devil and that sly dog's glee when people take their eyes off of Jesus and focus only on what's going wrong around them. In the book "On Heaven and Earth," originally published in Spanish in 2010, the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said, "I believe that the devil exists" and "his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe he doesn't exist. His fruits are always destruction: division, hate and slander," he said in the book. As pope, his comments about the evil one reflect pastoral knowledge of the temptations and injustices oppressing people, but they also echo the Ignatian spirituality that formed him as a Jesuit, said one of his confreres, U.S. Jesuit Father Gerald Blaszczak, secretary for the service of faith at the Society of Jesus' headquarters in Rome. "Francis comes from a tradition -- the Jesuit tradition -- where the presence of the evil spirit or 'the enemy of our human nature' is mentioned frequently," Father Blaszczak said.

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Drop debate over arming Syria; forge efforts for peace, says patriarch

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Unless western nations immediately find ways to bring peace to Syria instead of debating whether to arm opposition forces, the country will continue to be in turmoil and a victim of the West's indecision, said a Syrian patriarch. "It's truly a pity, a great pity to not think in terms other than 'to arm' or 'not to arm,'" said Syrian-born Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus. "No one is talking about more serious, more realistic, and more effective efforts for peace," he told Vatican Radio April 18. The patriarch had a private audience with Pope Francis earlier in the day, and he said he told the pope about the suffering in Syria. According to the United Nations, more than 70,000 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed and more than 3 million Syrians have been displaced inside the country since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began two years ago. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. "We are dying, every day we are victims of chaos, we run the risk of being kidnapped, ending up victims of some explosion as simple bystanders, an explosion of a school, factory, university or church," he said. "There is a gross injustice in the consideration, evaluation of the situation" of Syria by western nations who seem to limit their options to whether they should arm the opposition against Assad's regime when the real problem is "how to bring peace," he said.

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Vatican office works to create community of 'one heart'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Traveling deep into the Amazon basin in a canoe filled with medicine, food and young missionaries to visit remote villages sounds like an extraordinary adventure, but for Father Peter Bui, it was part of a journey to share the love of Christ with the poor. Born in Vietnam in 1971, Father Bui moved to the United States at the age of 6 with his parents and nine siblings "as boat people," part of the mass flow of refugees following the Vietnam War. Father Bui said his strong family ties helped him discern a call to priesthood, which led him to South America where he worked with high school students. He returned to the United States to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix, which he describes as "the perfect calling," and was called to join the staff of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum in 2011. According to Father Bui, someone from Rome must have asked one of his acquaintances, "'Can you think of someone that could really work here and help us love the poor?' That person proposed me." The council was established by Pope Paul VI in 1971. He said the name "Cor Unum," meaning "one heart," reflected the council's purpose to be "a heart that beats in rhythm with the heart of Christ, whose pity for the hungry multitudes reaches them even in their spiritual hunger."

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Bishop Hurley of Grand Rapids retires; Cleveland priest named successor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Walter A. Hurley of Grand Rapids, Mich., and appointed Father David J. Walkowiak, a Cleveland pastor, as his successor. Bishop Hurley, a former Detroit auxiliary bishop, has headed the Michigan diocese since 2005. He is 75 years old, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation. Bishop-designate Walkowiak, 59, has been pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, since 2006. He was ordained a priest for the Cleveland Diocese in 1979. The changes were announced April 18 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-designate Walkowiak will be ordained to the episcopacy and installed as bishop of Grand Rapids during a June 18 Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. He turns 60 the same day. Bishop Hurley will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese until then. "I am grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this apostolic office as bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids," he said in a statement.

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Beyond medical help, physician-runner says spiritual help needed, too

BOSTON (CNS) -- Though events at the 2013 Boston Marathon included mayhem and the need for swift action, the father of a heroic runner slowed down to reflect in prayer at a Catholic shrine the next day. After experiencing firsthand the events as two bombs exploded April 15 at the finish line, Dr. Joseph Stavas, 58, stopped at the St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in Boston's Back Bay the following day to pray and reflect on the crisis. The physician had planned on taking a flight home to Chapel Hill, N.C., where he works at University of North Carolina's Center for Heart and Vascular Care, but stayed in town to support his daughter, also a physician, in media appearances later in the day. "I said we just need to stop and pray about this and get some inspiration from the Lord to help us work through this, because I think this is where many people come back to search for answers, which there may not be any, for peace, which we pray for, and a better understanding of how this all fits together," he told The Pilot, Boston's archdiocesan newspaper. Even with the training of a doctor, the strength of a seasoned runner, and the power of his faith, nothing prepared him for the events he experienced April 15. He ran with his daughter, Dr. Natalie Stavas, 32, as he has three previous marathons. As soon as she sensed a crisis, she ran toward the sounds of the blast to help victims.

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Rwandan genocide survivor becomes American citizen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At the end of a process that has taken her 15 years to complete, world-renowned Rwandan genocide survivor and peace advocate Immaculee Ilibagiza became an American citizen the morning of April 17 in New York City. "I was completely in tears," she told Catholic News Service in a phone interview April 18. "To be accepted in this country ... was like receiving a gift. ... I hear my father saying, 'now you have the right to be here, you don't have to worry." An estimated 800,000 people -- including most members of her family -- were brutally murdered during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In the early stages of the conflict, Ilibagiza was sent to hide with a member of another tribe at the behest of her father. "I am here today ... because my father had trust in the man from that tribe," she told an audience of 50 other immigrants who received their citizenship at the same ceremony. A Catholic, the then-college student endured 91 days hiding in a bathroom from the "killers" who were looking for her. In her book "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust," she wrote: "They were ... right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls. In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. 'I have killed 399 cockroaches,' he boasted. 'Immaculee will make 400.'"


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