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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-12-2013

By Catholic News Service


Theologians say Pope Francis gives 'new traction' to Catholic teachings

MIAMI (CNS) -- The new papacy of Francis has thus far been inspiring, challenging and accessible and is giving "new traction" to Catholic social teachings, according to a cross section of distinguished scholars on hand for a convention of theologians. Members and guest presenters of the Catholic Theological Society of America met June 6-9 in Miami for their 68th annual convention, where they explored the conference theme of "conversion" during workshops and keynote speeches. Several members of the organization and presenters gave their personal opinions about the early papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his impact on the church just a month or so before his first trip abroad as Pope Francis for the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil. The idea of a Latin American who entered into the office of the papacy by saying essentially, "I am a bishop, you are a people and we are on a journey together," set a welcoming and necessary tone given all the challenges facing the church," said Peter Casarella. A professor of Catholic studies at DePaul University in Chicago, Casarella is also director of the university's Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology.

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Obama administration drops fight to limit age restrictions on Plan B

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. Catholic officials expressed disappointment with the June 10 announcement that the federal government will comply with a judge's ruling to allow girls of any age to buy the morning-after pill without a prescription. The decision reversed recent course of action by the federal government. On May 1, the Justice Department announced that it would appeal a ruling by a federal judge in early April that said the Food and Drug Administration must make emergency contraceptives available to all ages by May 6. In a June 10 letter to U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, N.Y., department officials said they will submit a plan for compliance with his ruling and will drop their appeal. The letter also said the FDA has advised the drug's manufacturer to submit an application to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter without restrictions. News reports June 11 said the Justice Department also told the judge it will not make available over the counter the two-pill Plan B product, which it described as being significantly different from the one-pill version. Two-pill generic versions of Plan B would remain behind store counters and require a prescription and ID for those under the age of 17.

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Theologian urges church to give Holy Spirit more 'breathing room'

MIAMI (CNS) -- Although the Second Vatican Council called on the Catholic Church to mirror the life of the Trinity, the church is still far from being converted to that vision, a leading Australian theologian said June 8. "The major issue is that the Holy Spirit is given very little institutional breathing room," Father Ormond Rush said in a plenary address to the annual convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America in Miami. Father Rush said the 1983 Code of Canon Law does not mention the Holy Spirit and provides no structures for discerning the Spirit, a process that was critical in New Testament times. "Ecclesial conversion cannot take place if the very divine agent of conversion is not given opportunities to convert the church," said Father Rush, an associate professor of theology at St. Paul's Theological College at Australian Catholic University in Banyo. He is the author of "Still Interpreting Vatican II." The topic of his address was "Ecclesial conversion after Vatican II: Renewing 'the face of the church' to reflect 'the genuine face of God.'" The council, he said, sought to change the face that the church presents to the world. "Vatican II wants to stop the scowl and give a smile; and even shed a tear."

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Catholics must grow in love of God, neighbor, pope says at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians have "far to go" if they seek to be known primarily for their love of God and neighbor, Pope Francis said. The first law governing the church as the "People of God" is love, he said, which means "recognizing God as the only Lord of life and, at the same time, welcoming others as true brothers and sisters, overcoming divisions, rivalries, misunderstandings and selfishness." At his weekly general audience June 12, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the creed, looking at what Catholics believe about the church. With more than 50,000 people gathered for the audience in St. Peter's Square on a hot spring day, the pope lamented that brotherly love does not reign in the world, and often not even in Catholics' communities, neighborhoods, workplaces or even their homes, "because of jealousy and envy. We must ask the Lord to help us understand his law of love," he said. "How good, how beautiful it would be if we loved one another as real brothers and sisters."

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Pope decries 'real slavery' of children forced to work

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Many of the hundreds of millions of child laborers around the world work under conditions of "real slavery," Pope Francis said. Marking the World Day Against Child Labor June 12, the pope told people at his weekly general audience that he hoped the international community could find more effective means to stop the exploitation of boys and girls in jobs that are often dangerous and in situations where they are subjected to all kinds of abuse. "These people, instead of letting them play, make them slaves," the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience. "This is a plague." At an audience where, as usual, he kissed dozens of babies and young children, accepted drawings from several and flipped through the sketchbook of one, the pope said, "All children have a right to play, study, pray and grow within their own families in an atmosphere of harmony, love and serenity. It is their right and our obligation." For 2013, the International Labor Organization, which sponsors the World Day Against Child Labor, focused on the estimated 10.5 million children who do domestic work -- cleaning, ironing, cooking, collecting water, looking after other children or caring for the elderly -- in other people's homes.

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Zambian bishops want new constitution to stress human development

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- The Zambian bishops' conference added its voice to a growing civil movement in calling for a new constitution to promote development as a step toward improved social services and bettering the lives of the country's impoverished residents. "A good constitution would see medicine in hospitals and food on people's tables," Father Cleophas Lungu, secretary general of the Zambian Episcopal Conference, said June 11 during a meeting of nongovernment organizations reviewing progress toward a new constitution. He welcomed the group's agreement to develop an outline of minimum standards for the constitution to be given to members of the technical committee reworking a draft of the document. The group also discussed a plan of action if the constitution was not finished on time. "We need to remain vigilant and alert," Father Lungu said. "Past experience has shown that we cannot entrust the whole process in the hands of the politician. Remember all it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to remain silent. I would like to believe that those of us who are gathered here are good people who mean well for this country," the priest added. "Because of our deep-rooted love and passion for our people, we refuse to stay idle and simply watch and pray that we have a constitution one day. We have therefore gathered today, in order to exchange some ideas and share some pertinent strategies of ensuring that a popular constitution is enacted in Zambia."

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Pope is a 'spiritual success' who will emphasize change, rabbi says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An Argentine rabbi who is a close friend of Pope Francis said he thinks the pope is "wonderful" as leader of the universal church and is also "a spiritual success." Rabbi Abraham Skorka, an Argentine biophysicist and rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary was in Rome in mid-June for a four-day interreligious gathering organized by the Focolare movement. He and two dozen other participants -- rabbis, Jews and Catholics from the United States, Italy, Argentina and Uruguay -- attended the pope's weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square June 12. Rabbi Skorka told reporters after the audience that the pope looked "very well" and was "wonderful" as pope. However, "you don't need my opinion," the rabbi said. "You can see with your own eyes the success, the spiritual success," he has achieved through his words, manners and even "revolutionary acts," presumably including the pope's decision not to live in the Apostolic Palace. The rabbi said he is not at all surprised with the new pope's popularity. Not only will Pope Francis continue on in the same vein, the rabbi predicted, but he will be "emphasizing changes, accepting challenges more and more, undoubtedly with God's help and God's blessings."

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Cardinal Monsengwo sees church's pastoral work helping stabilize Congo

MONTREAL (CNS) -- The Catholic Church, through its pastoral work and the promotion of justice, can help bring stability and peace in violence-torn Congo, said a cardinal who once helped guide the country from dictatorship to democracy. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, told Catholic News Service June 10 that the church would step back from having a direct political role. In Montreal to meet with the Congolese community and consecrate the new Our Lady of Africa Parish, the cardinal expressed disappointment that the country has not achieved the peace envisioned in the 1990s as a new constitution was written and democratic elections were instituted. Back then, Cardinal Monsengwo, a human rights champion, was intimately involved in building up democratic foundations in Congo. In 1991 as archbishop of Kinsangani, he was appointed to lead the Sovereign National Conference, which helped lead the transition to democracy. He went on to become president of the High Council of the Republic and was nominated as speaker of the transitional parliament in 1994. Two decades later, the cardinal lamented that the chance for long-term peace was squandered. "We did a marvelous job," the cardinal, 73, recalled of the period in which dialogue and social inclusion led to a new constitution and the country's first democratic elections. "But what we put together was never applied," he said referencing the constitution and the legal principles of the transition.


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