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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-26-2013

By Catholic News Service


A new constitutional amendment? Even if it fails, it may work

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The process to amend the U.S. Constitution can be a long and winding road that may have no end. Just ask those who have been working for the Human Life Amendment since shortly after abortion was legalized in 1973. The closest any of various proposals to protect the unborn came to amending the Constitution was the Hatch-Eagleton Amendment in 1983, introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Thomas Eagleton, D-Mo. It was the only such amendment to get debated on the floor of either chamber of Congress. But it garnered only 49 votes -- far less than the 67 needed to reach the required two-thirds majority in the Senate; a two-thirds majority in the House is also required. Even so, those who have backed a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade have seen in the succeeding years a string of successes, however small, that partially achieve the amendment's aims. Pro-lifers also point to polls showing growing public support for protecting fetal life and less support for abortion. Consider the Equal Rights Amendment, with its own rocky history. First introduced in Congress in 1923, it wasn't until 1972 when both the House and the Senate gave it the requisite two-thirds support. But after an initial flurry of ratifications in state legislatures, it stalled out at 35 states, three shy of the needed 38 to signal three-fourths acceptance -- even after Congress passed a controversial bill extending the ratification deadline another three years.

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Venezuelan-Americans warn of future exodus if unrest at home continues

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- After a four-year labor of love, Valentina Peraza is almost finished creating a 7-foot-tall painting of St. Charbel, the Maronite monk and beloved saint of Lebanon, which she hopes to present to the parish of her childhood in Venezuela's oil-rich state of Monagas. She has plenty of concerns about getting the painting to Venezuela; obtaining a copyright and assuring safe transportation of her work are among them. Peraza, who works as a retail clerk in Winter Park, Fla., also is concerned about returning to her homeland following a bitterly contested April 14 national election for president and subsequent violent protests that led to nine deaths and 78 injuries. "I have to go there, although I was thinking of shipping there even by plane out of concern for my own safety," Peraza told Catholic News Service. Her concerns are not just for Venezuela's soaring inflation, product shortages, human rights abuse charges and the highest crime rate in Latin America. She, like others, had high hopes that things would be different when socialist Hugo Chavez became president in 1999 with promises of a more socially just response to people's needs. Chavez died March 5 of complications from cancer, opening the door to the elections. Venezuelans elected a Chavez protege, Nicolas Maduro, by a slim 50.8 percent to 49 percent margin, according to the National Election Commission. The outcome led to five days of protests, which quelled after the election commission announced a monthlong audit of voting boxes hours before Maduro's inauguration April 19.

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Ban on religion forced Albanians to pray in secret: one woman's story

TIRANA, Albania (CNS) -- Almost every evening at 6, the sounds of the organ resonate in the brick Catholic church on Kavaja Street. The hymns may vary, but the organist, Maria Dhimitri, is always the same. It has been that way for nearly 23 years and could have been double that, Dhimitri said in a recent interview, if it had not been for a brutally enforced ban on religion in her country in southeastern Europe from 1967 to 1990. "They banned all religious practice," the 76-year-old musician told Catholic News Service from an annex of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Her smile belied the "long" and "painful suffering" that she agreed to talk about one recent Saturday in April. "They said God didn't exist. I couldn't come to church or pray or speak of God at all," she said of the communist regime that came to power in her country soon after World War II. The regime made worshipping increasingly difficult and finally imposed a ban on religion in the country in 1967, making Albania the first and only constitutionally atheist state. Dhimitri was teaching piano at one of the country's top conservatories for music in the capital, Tirana, and was married with two small children when the ban went into effect.

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Christian life is a time to prepare to enjoy heaven, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Christian life is about allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to prepare each person to truly see and enjoy the beauty of eternal life, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily. Some may say, "'But, Father, I see well. I don't need glasses.' But that's a different type of vision," he said April 26. "Think about those who suffer from cataracts and need an operation. They see, but after the procedure, what do they say? 'I never thought I could see like this.'" In the same way, Pope Francis said, people's eyes "need to be prepared to see the marvelous face of Jesus" and their hearts need to be prepared "to love, to love more." Members of the Vatican police and fire department, staff from the Vatican labor office and employees from the Vatican printing press joined the pope for the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives. In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel reading from the 14th chapter of John, in which Jesus tells the disciples he is about to die, but he will go to heaven and prepare a place for them.

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Corruption is worse than sin because heart hardens to God, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Corruption is worse than any sin because it hardens the heart against feeling shame or guilt and hearing God's call for conversion, Pope Francis said. "Situations of sin and the state of corruption are two distinct realities, even if they are intimately linked to one another," he said when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The future pope's comments come from a small booklet that was originally published in 2005. Titled "Corruption and Sin: Reflections on the Theme of Corruption," the booklet was based on an article he wrote in 1991 in the wake of a scandal in which local authorities in Argentina tried to whitewash the death of a teenage girl because the murderers' fathers were linked to local politicians and the governor. In the booklet's introduction, the future pope said he wanted to republish the article because the problem of corruption had become so widespread a decade later that people began to almost expect it as a normal part of life. While many sins can lead to corruption, sinners recognize their own weakness and are aware of the possibility of forgiveness, he said. "From there, the power of God can come in." People who are corrupt, on the other hand, have become blind to the transcendent, replacing God with their own powers and abilities, he said.

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South Africa's bishops say state secrets bill fails to promote openness

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said it regrets that South Africa's parliament passed a bill expanding protection for state secrets April 25, noting that the country needs more openness, not more secrecy, to fight corruption. The bishops urged President Jacob Zuma, who must sign the Protection of State Information Bill before it becomes law, to refer it to the Constitutional Court for deliberation in order to protect the democracy that "we all cherish." The bill "lacks a full public interest defense and will thus make the fight against corruption more difficult," they said in an April 26 statement, signed by conference president Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town. "The penalty clauses provide that severe punishment (up to 25 years in prison) can be imposed if someone discloses a secret that the person 'knows or ought reasonably to have known' would benefit a foreign state. This, in effect, creates an excessive penalty for a possible negligence crime," the bishops said. Referring the bill to the Constitutional Court will help to avoid "a prolonged and expensive court battle," they said. Opposition parties and civil society organizations have said they intend to launch a legal challenge should Zuma sign the bill.

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New auxiliary bishop ordained for Archdiocese for the Military Services

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Not every bishop gets, at his episcopal ordination, a color guard from both the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. military. Nor do they get both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "The Navy Hymn" sung at the ordination Mass. But when you are newly ordained for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, as Bishop Robert J. Coyle was April 25, you get that and a lot more -- like being told by his new boss, Archbishop Timothy M. Broglio, that he'll be working in "a global archdiocese." Bishop Coyle's appointment was announced Feb. 11, the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his intent to retire from the papacy. In Bishop Coyle's remarks at the end of the two-hour, 45-minute ordination Mass, he said that alone would be enough to make it a memorable occasion. The new bishop spoke of his great affection for both Pope Benedict and his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II. He also referred of one of Archbishop Broglio's predecessors, the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York, as one of his heroes. In their respective military chaplaincies, both had served on Okinawa. "He had served in the 3rd Marines as well," Bishop Coyle said, adding that he once got a letter from the late cardinal, recommending that the priest "stay close to him (Jesus). He will never fail."


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