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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-3-2013

By Catholic News Service


Oregon Catholic man bares his soles in solidarity with world's poor

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Every step Roberto Santiago takes -- on numbing winter sidewalks, sharp-edged gravel pathways and feathery grass fields -- he walks in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. For six years, the member of Holy Family Parish in Portland has gone without shoes. "It's just a very small act of solidarity," Santiago told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. "It gives me a little bit of a way to stay connected and be appreciative for what I have." The World Health Organization reports that more than 25,000 children in developing countries under the age of 5 die every day from illness or malnutrition that could have been prevented with just a few dollars' worth of food or medicine. When Santiago heard that startling statistic six years ago, it troubled him. The summer that year had been warm, and he'd been in the habit of kicking off his shoes while puttering around the house. Then one day he felt a strong calling that he shouldn't put those shoes back on. In its infancy, the calling's complete meaning eluded even Santiago, but over time he has come to understand why his act of solidarity is important. Personally, he sees it as a reminder to be ever thankful and humble. Publicly, he hopes his message helps raise awareness about the abject poverty experienced by people in developing countries all over the world.

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School-choice movement gains slow but steady momentum

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- School-choice initiatives -- akin to the quiet students in the back of a classroom -- have kept a relatively low profile in recent years while steadily working their way to the front. The movement was given a big boost in late March when the Indiana Supreme Court upheld one of the country's most comprehensive school-choice programs. The state court backed a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said that because school vouchers primarily benefit families, they could not be viewed as an unconstitutional state support for religion. Currently, there are 30 school-choice programs in 17 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 250,000 students. School-choice programs -- primarily vouchers and tax-credit scholarships -- have continued to grow since 1990, when the first school-voucher program started in Milwaukee, followed close behind by similar programs in Ohio and Florida. In the past two years, five new states have added school-choice legislation, while other states have expanded programs already in place. But for all the steps forward, there are still school-choice programs that do not get approved, including a recent voucher proposal in Kansas. Congress also has not been keen on voucher legislation. Recently, the Senate voted down more than $14 billion in federal money for school vouchers for low-income families in an amendment to a spending bill. John Schoenig, director of the University of Notre Dame's Program for Educational Access, acknowledges that the "pace may be slow" with school-choice initiatives, but he also thinks the movement is seeing a positive turn.

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License laws, court ruling left in place please immigrant advocates

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court April 29 let stand a lower-court ruling that tossed out restrictive provisions of an Alabama immigration law. Later in the week, three jurisdictions acted to make it easier for people without legal immigration status to get driver's licenses. Without comment, the court rejected Alabama's appeal of an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that blocked key provisions of a broad immigration law that took effect in 2011. Justice Antonin Scalia noted that he disagreed with the decision not to take the case, but he did not explain further. Two days later, the governors of Maryland and Oregon signed laws creating a driver's license for people who lack legal immigration status but who pass the tests and meet other criteria for state residency. And Washington Mayor Vince Gray proposed an ordinance to create a similar type of license in the District of Columbia. Catholic and Protestant bishops in Alabama had sued to block parts of that state's immigration law, out of concern for how certain provisions might affect churches' ability to minister to people in need, said Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham in a phone interview May 3 with Catholic News Service. Though their lawsuit was dismissed, Bishop Baker said the bishops feel vindicated that the block on the bill stands.

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R.I.'s same-sex marriage law is 'serious injustice,' archbishop says

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) -- The legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island May 2 was described as a "serious injustice" by the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. "The meaning of marriage cannot be redefined, because its meaning lies in our very nature. Therefore, regardless of what law is enacted, marriage remains the union of one man and one woman -- by the very design of nature, it cannot be otherwise," said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, sub-committee chairman. Rhode Island became the 10th state to allow same-sex marriages after Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law May 2 following a final 56-15 vote in the House. The law will take effect Aug. 1. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., expressed his opposition to the legislation in a letter to the state's Catholics posted on the website of the Providence Diocese May 2. The letter will appear in the May 9 edition of the Rhode Island Catholic newspaper.

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Pope: People have guts to be ambitious; instead, be courageous for God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People are courageous in pursuing their careers, personal ambitions and jealousies, but they really should be using that courage to believe in the resurrected Christ, pray to him and spread the Gospel, Pope Francis said. When the church loses courage, it is enveloped by a "tepid atmosphere," with "lukewarm Christians without courage. This hurts the church so much," he said in his daily morning Mass homily May 3. The pope celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, for members of the Swiss Guard, including their commander, Col. Daniel Anrig. Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, concelebrated with the pope. In his homily, the pope said a lack of courage causes the church harm "because tepidness draws you inside, and problems arise among us; we have no horizons, we have no courage, neither the courage to pray toward heaven nor the courage to proclaim the Gospel. We are lukewarm."

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Pope signs decrees in sainthood causes, including for an Italian queen

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis recognized the miracles needed for the beatifications of a 19th-century Catholic queen and a 20th-century Italian mystic. The pope signed the decrees May 2, according to a Vatican statement the next day. The dates for the beatification ceremonies were not announced. The two decrees were for: Maria Cristina of Savoy, the wife of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, died in 1836 at the age of 23 from complications of childbirth; she was known and venerated in Naples for her faith and charitable work; and Maria Bolognesi, was born in 1924 to a poor family in northeastern Italy; because she was needed to help care for her siblings and work in the fields, she managed to complete only the first two years of elementary school. Known as a mystic, she was often sick and died in 1980 at the age of 56.

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Pope, Lebanese president appeal for aid for Syrian refugees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting at the Vatican May 3, Pope Francis and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called on the international community to offer concrete aid to Lebanon and other countries hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria. Aides to Sleiman told reporters the president was unable to come to the Vatican for Pope Francis' installation Mass March 19, but wanted to congratulate and speak with the new pope as soon as possible. According to a statement released by the Vatican after the meeting, Sleiman's discussions with the pope and, afterward with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, focused particularly on the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than two years. "The enormous number of Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon and neighboring countries was a matter of particular concern," the Vatican said. In late April, the United Nations said more than 440,000 Syrians -- greater than 10 percent of Lebanon's population -- were registered as or were awaiting registration as refugees. In mid-March Sleiman said that when the number of Syrians who were staying with relatives in Lebanon was counted, their number exceeded 1 million, placing an enormous burden on the country.

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Mexican court upholds states' amendments that life begins at conception

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexico's Supreme Court upheld two states' constitutional amendments that say life begins at conception. The court ruled 5-4 May 2 against a challenge to the amendments brought by municipalities in the states of Oaxaca and Guanajuato; the court ruled that local governments have no jurisdiction over health matters. A similar constitutional amendment from the state of Queretaro was invalidated April 29 by the court due to irregularities in how it was approved, the newspaper Reforma reported. Only two of the state's 18 municipalities approved the amendment, short of the 12 municipalities necessary. The court previously upheld a 2006 law decriminalizing abortion in Mexico City -- technically a federal district and not a municipality -- by saying that states could set rules regarding abortion. Eighteen of Mexico's 31 states subsequently passed constitutional amendments either restricting access to abortion or declaring that life begins at conception.

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St. Mary Major: monument to Mary as protector of the church

ROME (CNS) -- The first of Rome's four major basilicas to receive a visit from Pope Francis after his election March 13 was not the closest one, St. Peter's, which sits under the "Loggia of the Blessings" from which the new pontiff first appeared to the world. Instead, at 8 the next morning, in a gesture not indicated by papal protocol, Pope Francis rode two-and-a-half miles across town from the Vatican to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the oldest church in the West dedicated to the mother of Jesus. The pope was scheduled to return to the basilica May 4, to pray the rosary in observance of May as the traditional month of Mary. The first church on this site on the Esquiline Hill was built during the pontificate of Pope Liberius (352-366). According to legend, its construction was inspired by a miraculous snowfall here in the early morning hours of Aug. 5. That event is commemorated every year on the same date when, during Mass, white rose petals fall like snow from an opening in the coffered ceiling. St. Mary Major's most famous relic, under the main altar, is wood believed to come from the "Holy Crib" that held the infant Jesus.

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Jesuit named to head Diocese of Oakland

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Jesuit Father Michael Barber, director of spiritual formation at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., as bishop of Oakland, Calif. The appointment was announced May 3 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-designate Barber, 58, is a member of the Jesuit Province of California. He succeeds Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who was named head of the San Francisco Archdiocese July 27, 2012. He is the first Jesuit named to the U.S hierarchy by Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope. "I'm keeping my eyes on Pope Francis and seeing what he did in his first days as pope," Bishop-designate Barber said May 3 in Oakland at an introductory news conference. Asked why he thought the pope had chosen him, Bishop-designate Barber replied, "I would think maybe he saw in my file or in the consultations done on me something he wants to do as pope. Picking bishops -- it's one of his biggest powers as a pope. Maybe he thought I could do in Oakland what he wants to do for the whole church. That's why I'm watching him very carefully, and that's why I'd like to imitate him. ... He had to start somewhere, too, when he was a bishop."

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Harrisburg Bishop McFadden dies attending bishops' meeting in Pa.

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg died May 2 in Philadelphia where he was attending a meeting of Pennsylvania's Catholic bishops. According to a Facebook posting from the diocese, Bishop McFadden awoke at the rectory where he was staying and felt ill. He was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead at about 7:40 a.m. No cause of death was immediately available. He was 65 and had been the bishop of Harrisburg for three years. He was also chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Catholic Education. A funeral Mass was to be celebrated May 8 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. Bishop McFadden was born May 22, 1947, in Philadelphia, the only boy of three children. He went to Catholic schools his whole life.

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Newark priest resigns after banned contact with minors discovered

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- A priest of the Archdiocese of Newark resigned from active ministry May 2 after reports surfaced of his being with minors in apparent violation of a court's memorandum of understanding that forbids him from contact with underage people. The resignation of Father Michael Fugee, 53, was accepted by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark. Calls have continued for Archbishop Myers to resign for having allowed Father Fugee to return to active ministry in 2009 despite his past. Father Fugee had been convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual contact. He was accused to the inappropriate contact with the boy four times in 1999 and 2000 while engaging in wrestling sessions in the boy's home. The priest appealed the conviction, saying he had lied to investigators about inappropriately touching the teen in order to return home more quickly. The conviction was vacated on other grounds, but the memo of understanding calls for Father Fugee not to have any unsupervised contact with children as long as he remained a priest. The memorandum arose from a court-ordered sex offender program he underwent to avoid retrial.


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