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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-30-2013

By Catholic News Service


Explosion-shattered town buries victims, picks up pieces

WEST, Texas (CNS) -- The town of West all but shut down April 25 as most of its 2,800 residents headed to Baylor University in Waco, 20 miles south, for a memorial service for the first responder victims of an April 17 factory explosion. A dozen flag-draped coffins accompanied by photos of the lives they represented lined the front of the university's Farrell Center for a public memorial service attended by President Barack Obama. Visiting Waco after attending the dedication ceremony in Dallas for the presidential library of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, Obama first flew by helicopter over the blast site in West to see the damage. After tributes to the emergency workers who made up the majority of the 15 people killed, Obama offered his condolences and words of hope to the people of West and the thousands more who filled the sports arena. "I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that what makes West special, isn't going to go away," Obama said. "Instead of changing who you are, it's revealed who you always were." In West, the weeks after a massive blast at West Fertilizer Inc., had been filled with a series of funerals. At least eight funerals were scheduled for the town's sole Catholic church, Assumption Parish.

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Becoming worldly, weak is church's biggest threat, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The biggest threat to the church is worldliness, Pope Francis said in his daily morning Mass homily. A worldly church becomes weak, and while people of faith can look after the church, only God "can look evil in the eye and overpower it," he said April 30. The pope celebrated the Mass with members of the Vatican's investment agency in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. The day's reading from the Gospel of St. John recounts Jesus telling his disciples, "I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming;" but Satan "has no power over me." The pope said, "If we don't want the prince of this world to take the church in his hands, we have to entrust her to the only one who can defeat the prince of this world. Entrusting the church to the Lord is a prayer that makes the church grow" and is an act of faith because "we can do nothing. All of us are poor servants of the church," he said.

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Israeli president invites pope to visit Israel, 'the sooner the better'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel, telling the pope "the sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace." The Israeli president's remarks were reported in a statement released by the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican after Peres met Pope Francis April 30. The statement said Peres told Pope Francis about efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, mentioning specifically the meeting April 29 in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of the Arab League. Peres also told the pope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "is a genuine partner for peace," the statement said. Peres left the meeting at the Vatican telling the pope, "I am expecting you in Jerusalem and not just me, but all the people of Israel." Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters, "The pope would be happy to go to the Holy Land," although there are no concrete plans for the trip. The Vatican said that during their half-hour private conversation, the pope and the president discussed "the political and social situation in the Middle East, where more than a few conflicts persist."

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Philippine lay coalition endorses slate of pro-church senators

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A coalition of lay religious groups dominated by Catholic conservatives has endorsed Senate candidates it says would oppose legislation that would "destroy the foundation of society." The so-called White Vote movement, made up of 41 organizations, came together following passage of a reproductive health law after more than a dozen years of being shot down by lawmakers who had strong support from the church. The coalition said April 30 it is picking candidates it believes will oppose proposals that it says would destroy the family, society's cornerstone. Twelve of the 24 Philippine Senate seats are being contested May 13, and so far the group has endorsed nine candidates. White Vote member Aurora Santiago, president of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, spoke at a regular weekly meeting hosted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. Santiago is an attorney and has been involved in vetting the candidates. "They were asked to sign a covenant," she said, "that they will prevent the passage of any anti-life, anti-family, anti-church and anti-religion bills in congress."

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Vatican official says curia reform needs time, dismisses bank rumors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid widespread speculation about a complete and quick reorganization of Vatican departments and rumors in the Italian media that Pope Francis was going to close the Vatican bank, a top Vatican official told everyone to calm down. "It's a bit strange; the pope still has not met the group of advisers he chose and already the advice is raining down," said Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the substitute secretary for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page interview April 30 with Archbishop Becciu, whose job is similar to a chief of staff. Asked about rumors that Pope Francis intended to close the Institute for Religious Works, commonly called the Vatican bank, Archbishop Becciu said, "The pope was surprised to see attributed to him phrases that he never said and that misrepresent his thought." Vatican bank employees joined the pope April 24 for his morning Mass; in his homily the pope said the story of the church is part of the story of God's love for humanity and human beings' love for God; Pope Francis said bureaucracies, structures and offices -- like the Vatican bank, for example -- must never get in the way of living and sharing that story of love. "In the context of a serious call to never lose sight of the essence of the church," the pope's reference to the Vatican bank was simply an acknowledgment that some of the employees were present, the archbishop said.

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Canadian brother murdered in Haiti had worked in trying regions

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- Marianist Brother Richard E. Joyal, who was murdered in Haiti after withdrawing money at an ATM in late April, was a dedicated missionary who had worked in trying circumstances around the world, according to fellow members of the Society of Mary order. Brother Joyal, 62, was shot three times in the back in an apparent robbery April 25. He had just withdrawn $1,000 from a bank in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, when two men approached him on a motorcycle, stole his backpack and shot him. Police said they had arrested a suspect in the murder, but they declined to identify him. Brother Joyal traveled to Haiti to help close the Society of Mary mission there. He was due to return to his native Canada May 3. "It's a pity, a real pity," Father Gerard Blais, who oversees the Marianist missions in Canada and Haiti, said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service April 30. "We knew the dangers there. He knew the dangers there." Brother Joyal was helping secure visas and passports for 10 young religious Haitian men who were being sent to Marian properties in other countries as part of the closure of the Port-au-Prince mission.

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Retired Pope Benedict set to return to Vatican May 2

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to move into a remodeled convent at the Vatican May 2, the Vatican spokesman said. The spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said Pope Benedict would arrive at the Vatican in the early evening by helicopter, "weather permitting." Pope Benedict has been living at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, since Feb. 28, the date his resignation took effect. Pope Francis traveled to the villa March 23 to talk, pray and eat lunch with the retired pope. Father Lombardi said a group of Vatican officials would welcome Pope Benedict at the Vatican helipad, but he would not specify further. Pope Benedict will live in the remodeled Mater Ecclesiae Monastery with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, his secretary, who also serves Pope Francis as prefect of the papal household; and with four laywomen who are consecrated members of the Memores Domini group, Father Lombardi said.

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Longtime Maryknoller named to head order's global concerns office

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A longtime Maryknoll lay missionary has been named director of the organization's Office for Global Concerns. Gerry Lee, who served from 1984 to 1994 as a lay missioner in Venezuela, along with his wife and three daughters, most recently has been involved in community and urban farming. He fills a vacancy that has stood since longtime director of the office, Marie Dennis, stepped down early in 2012 to devote more time to her work with Pax Christi International, which she serves as co-president. Lee worked with Maryknoll through 2006, including several years on the leadership team of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. He told Catholic News Service he stepped down from Maryknoll to better attend to family matters from his home in Philadelphia. "I've had a long career in social justice," he said. In Philadelphia, that led him to focus on food justice, particularly the problems many poor urban residents have with getting good quality healthy food. He developed an urban farm in West Philadelphia, growing produce to sell locally.

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Benedictine Father Kevin Seasoltz, 82, noted liturgist and author, dies

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (CNS) -- Benedictine Father R. Kevin Seasoltz, former rector of St. John's Seminary in Collegeville and a noted liturgist and author, died April 27 in the retirement center on the Benedictine Abbey grounds after a brief battle with cancer. He was 82. A funeral Mass was scheduled for May 2 at the abbey chapel, with burial following at the monastic cemetery. Father Seasoltz was rector of the Benedictine seminary at Collegeville from 1988 to 1992. He served as a theology professor there from 1972 to 2008, originally only during the summer until 1987, and then on a full-time basis for 20 years before retiring. Prior to teaching at Collegeville full time, he was on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington for 25 years. Born Robert Joseph Seasoltz in Johnstown, Pa., Dec. 29, 1930, Father Seasoltz was ordained a priest in 1956 for his home diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. However, drawn to the monastic lifestyle, he professed his first vows as a Benedictine monk in 1960, taking the name Kevin.

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Cardinal Dolan receives Wilberforce Award for religious liberty efforts

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan's efforts to promote religious liberty, support traditional marriage and advocate for life has earned him the William Wilberforce Award from the evangelical Chuck Colson Center for Christian World View. In accepting the award in a ceremony April 27, Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the increased cooperation and stronger collaboration developing between the Catholic Church and evangelicals on issues of common concern. "Today, though, thanks be to God, evangelicals and Catholics are together, co-workers in the vineyard, especially in bringing the light of the Gospel to a culture often in the dark on noble issues, such as the defense of innocent vulnerable life, the protection of marriage as revealed by God's word, instilled in reason and natural law, antecedent to any church or government, and the advocacy to our first and most cherished freedom," he said in accepting the award from the evangelical organization. Cardinal Dolan's also addressed pro-life concerns in his presentation.

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Retired Bishop Arthur J. O'Neill of Rockford, Ill., dies at 95

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Arthur J. O'Neill of Rockford died April 27 at his residence. He was 95 and recently celebrated 70 years in the priesthood. He was appointed bishop of Rockford Aug. 19, 1968, becoming the first native-born priest of the diocese to serve as its bishop. He served in the position for more than 25 years until retiring in 1994. Rockford Bishop David J. Malloy said in an interview on a Rockford radio station that Bishop O'Neill's tenure as bishop occurred during a time of social upheavals and challenges in American society. Bishop O'Neill has been "impacting our spiritual and, in a particular way, our family lives," he said. "It is greatly to his credit that he kept everyone on the same page (and those benefits have) passed on to Bishop Doran and, frankly, to me, and I'm very, very grateful for that." Retired Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford recalled meeting Bishop O'Neill, then a young priest, for the first time as a first grader in St. James School about 70 years ago. He described him as having a great influence on his life and as a priest. "He was a valued friend in my years of priesthood (and) our lives were intertwined in that way for seven decades," he said.

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Jack Shea, Catholics in Media co-founder and TV director, dies at 84

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Jack Shea, a respected television director who, with his wife Patt, co-founded Catholics in Media Associates, died April 28 in Los Angeles at age 84. Patt Shea said her husband died of complications from Alzheimer's disease. Jack Shea, twice nominated for an Emmy Award, also served nearly five years as president of the Directors Guild of America. Shea also was a former member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Communications. Born Aug. 1, 1928, in New York, John Francis "Jack" Shea Jr. grew up in Manhattan, attending Regis High School and Fordham University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 1950. That year, Shea began his TV career working as a stage manager for NBC in New York, working on "Philco Playhouse" and other programs. Shea's TV career went into the 1990s. He got his break directing an episode of the game show "Truth or Consequences." As a director at NBC, Shea helmed episodes of "The Jerry Lewis Show," "Death Valley Days" and "The Bob Hope Show."


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