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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-7-2013

By Catholic News Service


On the court, it's Heat, Spurs; between archbishops, it's crab, fajitas

MIAMI (CNS) -- On the court, it may be the Miami Heat's LeBron James versus Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association finals. But between two Catholic archbishops, it's Florida stone crabs and Miami hand-rolled cigars up against Texas barbecue and San Antonio fajitas with perhaps a side of corn chips. As he has done for the last three years that the Heat has qualified for the finals, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski has made a "friendly wager" with his counterpart in an NBA city. This year it's San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller. Wearing a Heat cap and surrounded by life-size posters of Heat star Dwyane Wade, Archbishop Wenski announced the bet during a news conference at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center June 6, just hours before tip-off for the first game in the best-of-seven series. "Thanks to a good friend," the archbishop said, he would be watching the first championship playoff game from a courtside seat at the American Airlines Arena. He predicted the game would be "the first night of a sweep." "I am looking forward to Texas barbecue," he said. But the Spurs took the game, beating the Heat, 92-88. The bet is this: In the "unlikely event," as Archbishop Wenski put it, the Heat lose the series, he would send Archbishop Garcia-Siller Florida stone crabs from Islamorada in the Florida Keys and a box of hand-made Cuban seed cigars rolled in Miami. Should Miami lose, San Antonio's archbishop would send his Miami colleague 20 pounds of Texas barbecue brisket and 10 pounds of fajitas. At the news conference, the archbishop also alluded to taco chips.

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Archbishops offer prayers after collapse of building in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The collapse of two buildings in Philadelphia's center city June 5 that left six people dead and more than a dozen injured drew the attention of Catholic leaders, including those at the Vatican. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, wrote a letter June 6 to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput expressing sympathy for the victims and pledging prayers. "We have just heard about the tragic collapse of the four-story building and its adjoining Salvation Army Thrift Store, in Market Street, Philadelphia, and of the loss of lives involved, and of the many injured," Archbishop Paglia wrote. "In these difficult circumstances for the city, the Pontifical Council for the Family assures you of its closeness and prayers, especially for the victims and their relatives." A vacant building at 2136 Market St. was being demolished by a construction crew June 5 when a wall collapsed about 10:30 in the morning. It caused the adjacent four-story building also to partially collapse, trapping shoppers of the Salvation Army store inside. Five women and one man were killed in the accident. One of the survivors was pulled from the rubble later that night.

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Ohio Council of Churches say mandate raises religious liberty concerns

CINCINNATI (CNS) -- A Cincinnati archdiocesan official called it an "exciting breakthrough" that mainline Protestant churches in Ohio have joined with the Catholic Church in objecting to the federal contraceptive mandate based on religious freedom concerns. The Ohio Council of Churches, which represents 18 denominations, adopted a statement May 29 saying that with the mandate of the Affordable Care Act, the government is defining what constitutes a religious belief and who has a right to that belief. "This is an exciting breakthrough. To have mainline Protestant churches in solidarity with Catholics on religious freedom sends a clear and powerful message, said Tony Stieritz, director of the Catholic Social Action office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In its statement, the council said that even the most recent proposal to implement the mandate "still narrowly applies the exemption to only 'churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order,'" and does not include religious charities, hospitals and universities. "According to the mandate, therefore, the government has now defined that these institutions are not religious enough to follow their own religious teachings in certain circumstances," the council statement said. "This mandate sets a concerning precedent for any religious institution which may find itself in a position of having values that, within reason, challenge that of the state."

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College loans revisited: Costs to go up if Congress can't reach deal

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington University, located less than four miles from the U.S. Capitol, has a strong opinion about the possibility that interest rates for student loans will increase. "Nobody wants student loan interest rates to double; that just hurts students and for a number of low-income students it may mean they may choose not to come to college at all," said McGuire, who has testified before Congress on this issue. A year ago, Congress examined federally subsidized student loans for low- and middle-income students and passed a one-year extension on their 3.4 percent interest rate. If lawmakers fail to come up with another plan by July 1, that rate is set to double to 6.8 percent. While McGuire was talking to Catholic News Service June 6, the Senate failed to take up two separate bills that would have kept the rate from doubling. When she heard this news, McGuire tweeted the Senate action and later added: "Shame on the Senate." Democratic and Republican Senators told reporters June 6 they will continue discussions to see whether some kind of deal can be reached before the July 1 deadline.

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Pennsylvania Senate approves abortion opt-out for federal exchanges

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill June 5 that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in the federal health care exchanges. Gov. Tom Corbett has promised to sign the bill, which passed in the state House of Representatives in April. Corbett announced last December that Pennsylvania would not set up a state health exchange under the 2010 health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Because of that, Pennsylvanians choosing health care as required by the law may choose from the federal exchanges, which include abortion coverage. The law allowed for state legislation to ban abortion funding in the federal exchanges for residents of the state, which the bill, H.B. 818, accomplished. The new state bill also prohibits funding for abortion in private health care plans that include a federal subsidy. Pro-life advocates were pleased with the Senate's passage of the bill. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia praised passage of the bill. "Pennsylvanians can be pleased that House Bill 818 has passed the full state Senate and is headed to Governor Corbett for signature," he said. "The legislation wisely prohibits taxpayer-funded insurance plans created by the federal health care exchange from covering elective abortions.

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Resort owner buries Infant of Prague statue before G-8 summit

DUBLIN (CNS) -- A hotel owner is placing his trust in an Irish Catholic tradition, hoping to guarantee good weather as some of the most powerful leaders in the world prepare to check in as guests. The Group of Eight summit -- which brings together leaders of the wealthiest countries in the world -- will be held June 17-18 at the Lough Erne Resort, on the shores of Lough (lake) Erne in Northern Ireland, near the border with the Irish Republic. After the coldest spring in 62 years, Ferghal Purcell, general manager of the resort, dug a hole in the grounds of the hotel and buried a replica of the 16th-century Infant of Prague statue. In traditional Irish Catholic devotion, the burial of this particular statue is said to seek God's blessing of fine weather for special occasions. Brides eager to have a sunny day for their wedding frequently bury the statue in their garden. "We are hoping for a little divine intervention to ensure the sun shines down on the resort for the duration on the summit," Purcell said.

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Pope nixes 'boring' practice of reading text to students, uses Q&A

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis ditched a 1,250-word prepared speech to students saying it would be "a tad boring" to read out loud and opted instead to just quickly hit the high points and spend the rest of the time answering people's questions. "Would you like that?" he asked as some 9,000 students, alumni and teachers from Jesuit-run schools and associations in Italy and Albania yelled "Yes" with cheers and applause. Then over the course of 30 minutes, Pope Francis answered 10 questions, including how to deal with doubt, how to live with hope in a troubled world and whether Christians should be politically active. The special event in the Vatican's Paul VI hall June 7 was an occasion for young people, parents and educators to highlight the Jesuit charism, particularly in the field of education, and to celebrate the election of the first Jesuit pope in the church's history. The pope is well-versed in the field since when he was Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he spent a number of years teaching literature, psychology and other subjects at Jesuit-run schools in Argentina. The event's presenters seemed hesitant about the pope's request, saying no questions had been prepared in advanced and warning him that the students from elementary, middle and high school would just be "winging it."

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French Catholic leader urges continued opposition to same-sex marriage

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A French Catholic campaigner urged church leaders not to give up opposition to same-sex marriage, despite the spread of laws allowing the practice across Europe. "The message from France is the campaign isn't over -- these laws rely on a big lie, and no lie can survive," said Antoine Renard, president of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe. "Our own government has succeeded in its goal of dividing opinion in the Catholic Church, so the church's authorities need to be prudent. But there's a lot of teaching to be done, and I hope our pastors will provide it," he told Catholic News Service June 7. France's same-sex marriage law, which allows gay and lesbian couples to marry and adopt children, was signed by French President Francois Hollande May 18. Renard said Catholic groups would step up their campaign against the law before municipal and European Parliament elections in early 2014 and would try to block the government's "gender-based reforms" in education and family life. "Although this law has been adopted, we can still fight against its application and pressure political parties to show stronger commitment," Renard said. "Although it will be difficult to repeal or revise it, we're determined to try and will be encouraging campaigners in other countries to do the same."


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