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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-20-2013

By Catholic News Service


Ceremony marks 50th anniversary of Kennedy's historic visit to Ireland

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- In 1963, Dunganstown in County Wexford, Ireland, welcomed one of its own back to his ancestral birthplace. June 27 marks 50 years since President John F. Kennedy's historic visit to Ireland. Kennedy was the first Catholic to become U.S. president. On June 18, a commemorative ceremony honoring the president's Irish heritage was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Fire from Kennedy's graveside eternal flame was used to light a torch that was being transported to the quayside Kennedy Monument in the town of New Ross in Wexford. In a June 22 ceremony, it was also to be used to light a flame in memory of all Irish emigrants. Kevin Conmy of the Embassy of Ireland presided over the ceremony. He said the flame will be transported using Olympic technology and be delivered by an escort detail from the Irish Naval Service. "In Ireland, we like our commemorations," Conmy said in an interview with Catholic News Service. "Commemorations are very important in terms of passing on our culture and our experiences and the visit from President Kennedy in 1963 was a historic event and so that's why we're celebrating it."

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'Don't dumb down the faith,' priest tells Denver convention crowd

DENVER (CNS) -- The "dumbing down of the Catholic faith" that impacted catechesis in the mid-1960s "was a pastoral disaster of the first order," Father Robert Barron told a crowd of about 500 people at the Catholic Media Conference in Denver June 19. "That's why many people in my generation left the faith," Father Barron -- creator of the "Catholicism" television series -- told conference attendees and members of the public who came especially to hear his evening keynote address. "Don't dumb down the message." That was the second of six suggestions Father Barron gave for spreading the new evangelization. His other suggestions included "leading with beauty" and "preaching with ardor." Father Barron, who currently is rector of Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago Archdiocese, started out by noting that the convention marked the 20th anniversary of World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, where it is widely though that Blessed John Paul II kicked off the new evangelization, which urges Catholics to renew their faith and aims to re-ignite the Catholic faith in traditionally Christian countries where the people's practice of the faith has grown lax.

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Archbishop urges U.S. support, resettlement of Syrian, other refugees

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez marked World Refugee Day June 20 by asking for U.S. support and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations across the world, especially for Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country. "The conflict in Syria is worsening and it is time for the United States and the international community to do more to respond to the needs of Syrians fleeing their country for safety," said Archbishop Gomez, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He added that particularly vulnerable Syrians -- women with children, the elderly, disabled and unaccompanied refugee children -- should be considered for resettlement to the United States and other countries. "Resettlement to a safe third country should be considered, both to provide the best durable solution for vulnerable Syrians but also to take pressure off of neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan," he said. To date, the United States has resettled only 24 Syrian refugees. The conflict in Syria has gone on for more than two years.

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House rejects farm bill; Catholic advocates had called for fairness

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The House of Representatives June 20 voted down the farm bill 234-195. Catholic leaders had urged Catholics nationwide to call their representatives in the House and ask for a farm bill that does not make deep cuts into food assistance programs both here and abroad. "The bill reported by the (House Agriculture) Committee includes over $20 billion in cuts (over 10 years) to SNAP," the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps," said a June 17 letter signed by six national Catholic leaders. "These cuts should be rejected." Bread for the World, the Christian citizens' anti-hunger lobby, said the farm bill deserved to be defeated. "These cuts would kick nearly 2 million people off the SNAP program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210, 000 children without free school meals," said a June 20 statement by the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who is president of Bread for the World. The proposed cuts were five times those cuts in the Senate version of the farm bill, passed June 10. They also were the focus of a threatened presidential veto if they had passed. If the House had OK'd its version of the bill, members would have worked out differences with Senate leaders in conference and come up with a final bill. Now the House has to start over and craft a new version of the bill or as some news reports said House leaders could try to negotiate something with Senate leaders.

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Diversity of new deacons reflects universality of church, bishop says

JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop William R. Houck of Jackson became emotional as he pointed out that the three men he ordained as transitional deacons -- one born in Mexico, another in Vietnam and the third in the United States -- represent the universal church, each bringing their gifts and the gifts of their cultures to the Diocese of Jackson. Deacons Binh Nguyen of Vietnam, Jose de Jesus Sanchez of Mexico and Rusty Vincent of Pearl, Miss., took their last step toward the priesthood June 8 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Their diverse backgrounds reflect the growing diversity of the priesthood itself in the U.S. In its 17th annual survey of ordinands commissioned by the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington released a study this spring showing that three out of every 10 new priests being ordained this year were born outside the U.S. In Jackson, the three transitional deacons have very little in common, yet all heard the same call. Deacon Nguyen came to Jackson in 2009 after meeting Father Anthony Quyet, also a native of Vietnam. He credits Father Kent Bowlds, then director of vocations, for helping him come to the diocese from his home in the city of Ho Nai Bien Hoa where he was a member of Thanh Tam Parish in Xuan Loc Diocese.

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Syrian refugees need stronger international support, CRS chairman says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland's civil war deserve support from the international community in the form of food, water, shelter and education, said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. In a nationwide webcast June 20, World Refugee Day, Bishop Kicanas also called upon governments to stop the shipment of arms to the Syrian government and rebel groups. "It's a situation that cries out for our response," Bishop Kicanas said of the refugee crisis building daily in Syria's neighbors, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. "If people could be there and actually see face to face and firsthand, one couldn't possibly be unmoved to see the suffering they (refugees) are enduring. The war simply has to end and hopefully the international community can move toward a political solution and can immediately end the violence." The bishop has visited Lebanon twice in recent months -- in January and early June -- to assess the situation and observe the work of Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Lebanon. He said he met with refugees, who are not staying in formal camps but are scattered in small tent communities throughout the small nation snuggled against the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Pope calls hunger, malnutrition 'truly scandalous'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is "truly scandalous" that the global level of food production is enough to feed the planet's people, yet millions of people are malnourished and millions more "must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table," Pope Francis said. Addressing the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization conference June 20, Pope Francis said the global financial crisis obviously has made the situation worse, but it cannot continue "to be used as an alibi." Food is not simply a commodity but is a human necessity and right, he told 400 delegates from about 200 countries. "The human person and human dignity risk turning into vague abstractions in the face of issues such as the use of force, war, malnutrition, marginalization, the violation of basic liberties and financial speculation, which presently affects the price of food, treating it like any other merchandise and overlooking its primary function," the pope told the delegates. But the problems affecting agriculture, forestry and fisheries in both developed and developing countries, he said, are not simply technical and any solutions must recognize that "the human person and human dignity are not simply catchwords, but pillars for creating shared rules and structures."

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Vatican calls for copyright changes to give better access to the blind

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While church leaders repeatedly call for global aid for the poor and hungry, a Vatican official urged efforts to end another sort of hunger: the so-called "book famine." "Only 1 percent of the books in developing and least developed countries ... are available in formats accessible to blind people," said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva. The percentage in developed countries is not much higher, being just 5 percent, he said. In a June 18 address to the World Intellectual Property Organization's diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Archbishop Tomasi called for an adjustment to copyright laws to better suit the needs of the 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired, according to 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. Currently, copyright laws in many nations are barriers for making books available in formats that are accessible to the blind or visually impaired, the archbishop said in his statement, which was emailed to Catholic News Service. The goal of the copyright system is "the dissemination of creative works to enhance the common good," the archbishop said. "Copyright has never been an end in itself."

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Rio host families open homes, hearts to World Youth Day volunteers

RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) -- In 2011, Luis Martinez, 29, traveled to Madrid, almost by accident. He said it was destiny that took him from his home in Fresnillo, Mexico, as a pilgrim to World Youth Day. Someone could not go at the last minute, and he ended up taking the spot. James Kelliher, 27, was also there, visiting from London. He said his country can be "aggressively secular," something that challenges him to think about what he believes and ultimately landed him in Madrid among millions of young Catholics from all over the world. Both said the pilgrimage changed their lives, so much that they are now volunteering in Rio de Janeiro, preparing for 2 million pilgrims that will arrive in the city July 23-28 for World Youth Day. In addition, Pope Francis will make his first international trip to attend the event. Martinez arrived in Rio in January, Kelliher in February. Kelliher said he cannot get enough Guarana, one of Brazil's most popular soft drinks, while Martinez wondered how he ended up "in the only country in the world where they eat avocado with sugar and milk." He thinks it should be with salt, as served in his beloved guacamole. About 4,500 international volunteers will contribute to World Youth Day; an additional 55,500 Brazilian volunteers are lending a hand.

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Saying 'our Father' means seeing others as brothers, sisters, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Christians address God as "our Father" they acknowledge that God created and loves them, but they also recognize that all people are their brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said. "We have a Father who is very close to us, who embraces us," the pope said June 20 during the homily at his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. Commenting on the Gospel of Matthew's presentation of the Lord's Prayer, Pope Francis said it begins with a recognition of the God who created each person, loves each one and knows what each one needs. "To whom do I pray? To 'almighty God'? No, he is too far away" and remote, the pope said. And the nebulous "cosmic God" who seems so popular today is not personal enough. "You must pray to the Father. 'Father' is a strong word," the pope said. "You must pray to one who generated you and gave you life." At the same time, he said, Christians don't say "my Father," but "our Father because I am not an only child, none of us is." Pope Francis said people cannot think they are coming honestly to God in prayer and addressing him truly as "our Father" if they are angry or are holding grudges against someone.

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Calling Syria conflict 'great tribulation,' pope asks for prayers, aid

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling the Syrian conflict "a great tribulation," Pope Francis said tensions throughout the Middle East must give way to dialogue and reconciliation. "Once again, from the depths of my heart, I appeal to leaders of nations and international organizations, to believers of every religion and to all men and women of good will to put an end to the suffering, all the violence and every form of religious, cultural and social discrimination," the pope said. "Conflict that sows death must give way to encounter and reconciliation, which bring life," the pope said June 20 during a meeting with two dozen Catholic charitable and funding agencies that assist the Eastern Catholic churches and Catholics throughout the Middle East. The groups, which include the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in the United States and Canada, the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and Aid to the Church in Need, meet twice a year under the auspices of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The June 18-20 meeting focused on Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the Holy Land.

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Swiss Guard service: Good preparation for cop job or priesthood

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having "Former member of the Swiss Guard" on one's resume would be perfect for breaking into a career as a police officer or security specialist. But it turns out that being a papal protector is also a great gateway into the priesthood. "I don't think I would have become a priest if I hadn't served here" as a Swiss Guard, said Father Ruedi Heim, an episcopal vicar in the Diocese of Basel, Switzerland. The 46-year-old former guardsman studied medicine for two years in college before heading off to complete mandatory Swiss military service. He then turned his studies to theology, "but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do" with the degree, he told Catholic News Service during a recent visit to Rome. His indecision didn't last long once he came to the Vatican in 1991 to serve as a Swiss Guard under Blessed John Paul II. Spending long hours guarding walkways, doorways, corridors, naves and aisles, a guardsman meets a large number of religious, priests, bishops and cardinals who are visiting or working at the Vatican. "I got to know a good number of priests who have been good examples for me," he said. The prelates "put the right questions to me," like what was he going to do with his theology studies and what was his goal in life, and they made him think seriously about joining the priesthood, he said. Steadily, one or two former Swiss Guards are ordained into the priesthood or enter a religious order every year.

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UK archbishop calls for wider recognition of fathers in family life

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The love a husband demonstrates for his wife serves as an example of respect to the couple's children, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales said. "Committed, faithful fathers are good for their children, for their educational achievement, psychological well-being and their social behavior," said Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in a June 19 speech in London. He said one of the best examples a father could give to his sons and daughters is to love their mother. "To a significant degree, a father influences his children through the quality of his relationship with the mother of his children," he said in his speech at the Citizens UK Summit for Civil Society Leaders at Queen Mary, University of London. "When he enjoys a healthy relationship with her, he's probably going to spend greater time with his children," he said. "A mother who is genuinely loved and valued by her children's father shares this affirmation with her children," the archbishop continued. "Evidence indicates that fathers who treat the mother of their children with respect, and deal with conflict in an adult and appropriate manner, are more likely to have sons who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion towards them. Girls with respectful fathers involved in their upbringing learn how they should expect men to treat them," he said.

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L'Arche founder Jean Vanier to receive Pacem in Terris Award

DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, an international federation of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together, will receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. For the first time in its history the Davenport-based award is being taken overseas, to France, where Davenport Bishop Martin J. Amos will present the award to Vanier July 7 in the village where he founded L'Arche in 1964. The award honors Pope John XXIII and commemorates his 1963 encyclical letter "Pacem in Terris" ("Peace on Earth"). Previous award recipients include John F. Kennedy (posthumously), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Sister Helen Prejean and Lech Walesa. "As (the late) Bishop Gerald O'Keefe said, 'We don't honor them, they honor us,'" noted Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a founder and recipient of the award established in 1964 by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council.


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