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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-14-2013

By Catholic News Service


Obama nominates retired CRS president as U.S. ambassador to Vatican

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama June 14 nominated Ken Hackett, retired president of Catholic Relief Services, to be U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Obama's announcement about Hackett came late in the day, along with his nominees for ambassador posts in Brazil, Spain, Germany, Denmark and Ethiopia. "It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this administration to serve the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come," the president said. Hackett retired in December 2011 after 18 years as president of CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. As U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, he succeeds Miguel Diaz, who left the post in late 2012. Diaz now is a professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton, Ohio. Hackett was appointed president of CRS in 1993. During his tenure, he established a division focusing on outreach to dioceses, parishes, Catholic organizations, and colleges and universities, and laypeople were first appointed to the CRS board of directors. Catholic Relief Services now operates in more than 100 countries, with a global staff of nearly 5,000.

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Catholics, Orthodox join to launch online-safety website

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox in the United States have collaborated on a new website to instruct Web users, primarily parents, on how youths can navigate the online world, taking advantage of its promise while steering away from its pitfalls. The site, www.faithandsafety.org, was activated in the middle of June, which is Internet Safety Month. The site's subtitle is "Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith." Even in its first days, it is loaded with news about sites that teens use, eyebrow-raising details about children's first exposure to online pornography, suggestions on how to use technology safely at home, and tips on negotiating the mobile-app scene. The site was two years in the making. Its genesis was during a brainstorming session as part of a summit meeting of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography attended by Catholic and Greek Orthodox leaders. "We were challenged to come up with actionable items as a result of the summit," said Theo Nicolakis, chief information officer for the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. "One of the items I came up with was that we were going to come up with an initiative that would give the voice of faith in regard to online and technological safety."

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Addressing U.S., global child malnutrition a top priority for advocates

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In 2008, the community dedicated to ending hunger globally was rocked when the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published its first series on maternal and childhood nutrition, showing that more than a third of child deaths and 11 percent of the rate of disease worldwide was the result of mothers and children being malnourished. "It gave the community its marching orders," said Yesenia Garcia of 1,000 Days. From the information gathered by the journal emerged an image of the vital importance and lasting impact good nutrition has on a child's earliest development. Rather than trying to reach young, hungry children, "it demonstrated that it's more effective to prevent stunting" -- underdevelopment in malnourished children -- "before age 2, or it's irreversible," said Mary Hennigan, senior technical adviser in nutrition for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. Beyond stunting, malnutrition slows children's mental growth, making them 20 percent less able to read and handicapping them so that as adults they earn on average 20 percent less than their counterparts who had a healthy diet as children.

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Report says 'witch hunt' tactics hurting CCHD's outreach to poor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty arm, should "resist efforts" that isolate Catholic-funded organizations from effective coalitions that are improving the lives of low-income citizens," according to a new report examining threats to CCHD's funding. The report also assailed what were called, in the words of the head of one CCHD-funded group that had its grant pulled, the "witch hunt" tactics by CCHD's opponents. The report was published June 11 by Faith in Public Life, which bills itself as "a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good." One recommendation in the report said: "Lay Catholics concerned about protecting the church's social justice witness in public life should redouble their commitment to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development through donations, letters of support to bishops and volunteering." The report is titled "Be Not Afraid?: Guilt by Association, Catholic McCarthyism and Growing Threats to the U.S. Bishops' Anti-Poverty Mission." It accuses such groups as the American Life League and the Reform CCHD Now Coalition of "creating a culture of fear around community organizing," based on interviews with community development experts, nonprofit directors and national philanthropic leaders. The 10,000-word report was endorsed by, among others, two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, six retired U.S. bishops, a former USCCB associate general secretary, two former CCHD directors and seven former CCHD employees. Eighteen organizations, 17 Catholic and one interfaith, also endorsed the report. Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn, N.Y., endorsed the report before he died June 7, and the report is dedicated to his memory.

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Migrant advocate flees Catholic-run shelter after death threats

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- An advocate for undocumented migrants has left a Catholic-run shelter in southern Mexico after receiving death threats, a statement from a coalition of nine Catholic and human rights organizations said. Staff at the shelter, La 72, in Tabasco state reported receiving death threats June 8 in a call advising an activist, Ruben Figueroa of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, to stop impeding the activities of organized criminal groups. The suspected caller was arrested, along with three suspects accused of kidnapping migrants for ransom, but all were released June 10, the statement said. The departure marks yet more difficulties for the shelter and its operator, Franciscan Father Tomas Gonzalez Castillo, whose work with undocumented migrants on the Mexico-Guatemala border has brought him into conflict with both criminals and government officials. It also marks more problems for migrants as they transit Mexico -- especially in southeastern Mexico, where Father Gonzalez said they are now charged at least $100 by criminals to climb aboard northbound trains. Migrants transiting Mexico are often kidnapped by gang members, who demand ransoms from relatives already living in the United States.

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Anglican leader says he and pope discussed their spirituality, prayer

ROME (CNS) -- Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said his private conversation with Pope Francis was "very personal," with the new leaders of the Catholic Church and of the Anglican Communion discussing how their positions have influenced their prayer lives. The new spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion traveled to Rome June 14 for his first meeting with the new pope; they both were installed in March. In addition to delivering speeches and praying together, the two spent more than 30 minutes speaking privately and later had lunch together in the pope's residence. Speaking to reporters later, Archbishop Welby said he was returning to England with an impression of Pope Francis as a pope with "an extraordinary humanity on fire with the spirit of Christ. We discussed a whole range of issues," the archbishop told reporters during a briefing at Rome's Venerable English College, a Catholic seminary. "But most of the conversation one-to-one was really about spirituality and prayer and how we conduct ourselves before God" in their new jobs.

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Pope: Don't pretend to be sinless; preaching Gospel demands humility

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When boasting of having Jesus Christ as one's savior, people shouldn't pretend they aren't guilty of sin, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. The sincere and humble admission of one's weaknesses, of having "a sliver of Satan in my flesh," shows that the power of salvation comes from God, not oneself, the pope said at Mass June 14 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; those in attendance at the Mass included members of the clergy office. The pope highlighted the day's reading from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians in which the apostle said, "We hold this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." In fact, the only way to truly receive the gift of salvation is in "an earthen vessel," that is, in recognizing one's own sinful nature with real humility, the pope said. "The dialogue of salvation" happens between Christ and people exactly "as we are," he said.

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Anti-drug policies need new, comprehensive approach, says nuncio

ANTIGUA, Guatemala (CNS) -- Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, discussed the Holy See's commitment to formulating a new, comprehensive approach to anti-drug policies in the Americas during a three-day session of the Organization of American States' General Assembly in Antigua. Current policies surrounding drug abuse, addiction and related crimes must be transformed to hold perpetrators responsible and encourage individuals and communities to make better decisions, he said. "The global illicit drug problem has become a multidimensional challenge demanding a comprehensive approach that will assist those victimized and those who victimize," he said in his address during the June 4-6 meeting. Archbishop Chullikatt emphasized the relationship between drug users, their families and the community, explaining that those who abuse drugs often need ample family support to overcome their addictions. Family support also can help individuals avoid drug addiction altogether.

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Jesuit magazine can help heal rift between Gospel, culture, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said his fellow Jesuits can help heal the rift between the Gospel and today's cultures. "This ministry is typical of the mission of the Society of Jesus," he said, urging the editors and staff of a Jesuit journal to continue offering the world "your reflections and your in-depth analyses" of cultural and social trends and transformations, including hot button topics. The pope met June 14 with the editors and staff of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit-run magazine founded by Pope Pius IX in 1850. The Rome-based biweekly journal continues to be reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication. Pope Pius entrusted the magazine to the Jesuits whose charism, Pope Francis said, includes looking for God in all things. "One treasure of the Jesuits is spiritual discernment, that seeks to recognize the presence of God's spirit in human and cultural experiences," said the Jesuit pope. But he also told the staff that "fidelity to the church demands still being firm against the hypocrisies (that are) fruit of a closed, sick heart."

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Pope, Anglican leader meet, pledge to continue search for unity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, pledged to support each other with their prayers and to continue the search for full unity between their communities. Meeting at the Vatican June 14, praying together in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace and eating lunch together in the papal residence, both remarked on the fact that Pope Francis' inaugural Mass was celebrated March 19 and Archbishop Welby's installation was March 21. "Since we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer," Pope Francis said. He also thanked the new Anglican leader for praying for him during his installation at Canterbury Cathedral. Archbishop Welby told him, "I pray that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve the reconciliation of the world and the church." The two spent more than 30 minutes meeting privately, with an interpreter, before giving their speeches, exchanging gifts and joining about 100 Catholics and Anglicans from Rome for the prayer in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel.


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