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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-21-2013

By Catholic News Service


Building bridges among faiths makes world better place, says archbishop

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Building bridges among people of different faiths is important, said Puerto Rico Archbishop Roberto O. Gonzalez of San Juan, because "it's important that people of faith journey together and make this world a better place for all human beings." Archbishop Gonzalez spoke with Catholic News Service about ecumenical outreach and faith in action at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington June 20. He was one of many Hispanic faith leaders who led a prayer during the breakfast hosted by Esperanza, a Philadelphia-based evangelical organization that works to strengthen the Hispanic community in America. "We need to cultivate those relationships within the ecumenical community," the archbishop said. "There's a lot that we can do to strengthen the family and marriage, promote better educational opportunities for the Hispanic community and aid those who live in poverty." The event touched on those issues and a variety of others and how they affect Hispanics. Barbie Izquierdo of Philadelphia, a mother featured in a documentary about hunger in America called "A Place at the Table," spoke about the importance of hope -- the meaning of "esperanza" -- in her struggle with poverty.

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Changing military means changing roles for chaplains

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With the U.S. military undergoing dramatic changes -- in mission, as troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in social structure with the open admission of gays, extension of combat roles to women, and focus on how sexual assault is handled -- the Marine chief of chaplains finds her job ever-evolving as well. The Rev. Margaret Kibben, a Presbyterian minister who is a rear admiral and Navy deputy chief of chaplains, supervises the deployment of 290 Marine chaplains and shares responsibility for the 840 Navy chaplains. She told Catholic News Service that chaplains have important roles to play as the military adapts to changing roles. "Our primary role is to ensure free expression of religion," Rev. Kibben said. So, regardless of how religious beliefs form someone's thinking about issues such as gays serving in the military, it's up to chaplains to ensure that "you don't feel your faith is threatened." In an interview during a military women's leadership symposium outside Washington, Rev. Kibben explained that as the Defense Department phased out its "don't ask, don't tell" approach to gays serving in the military and began openly allowing it, chaplains were among the first to receive training in how the change would affect their work.

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Diocese marks anniversary of pastoral desegregating N.C. churches

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- Sixty years ago, before Rosa Parks ushered in the civil rights movement by refusing to budge from a bus seat, and before the Supreme Court declared segregated public schools unconstitutional, one courageous bishop desegregated all Catholic churches in his state in one fell swoop. Bishop Vincent Waters of Raleigh issued a pastoral letter 60 years ago in June ordering the desegregation of all churches in what was then a statewide diocese. In "the church Christ founded," Bishop Waters wrote, "all the members, no matter of what race, what nation, what qualities of body or of mind, or with how many or how few possessions, all are in one communion if they belong to that one church. Anything to the contrary is heresy. The church, that calls itself Catholic today, because it is Catholic, still has more people of colored skin in its one communion than those who call themselves Caucasian," Bishop Waters added. "This Catholic Church has been meeting and solving by Christ's teaching race problems in all parts of the world: in India, in Africa, in Central America, in Mexico, in the West Indies, in the United States, in the North, in the East and in the West. It will also solve them in time in the South."

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New Hampshire judge rules education tax credits unconstitutional

CONCORD, N.H. (CNS) -- A New Hampshire judge has ruled that the state's scholarship program is unconstitutional, but he said it could continue if the program's funds did not benefit religious schools. In the state's tax credit program, which started last year, businesses receive tax credits for donating to a private organization that provides students with scholarships to attend private or public schools. In his June 17 ruling, Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis said that while students and their parents have the right to choose a religious education, "the government is under no obligation to fund 'religious' education." He wrote: "Indeed, the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution." A footnote in the judge's 45-page ruling said the court considers a religious school generally to be "one run by, or affiliated with, a religious sect or denomination, where an important mission is religious instruction and where teaching is generally imbued with a religious dimension." Kate Baker, executive director of the Network for Educational Opportunity, said her group would appeal the ruling with the state Supreme Court.

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Floridians asked to pray for inmate, his victims as execution is set

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill to speed up the execution process in the state, Catholics were being urged to join prayer services for a man whose execution is scheduled for June 24, as well as for the victims of Marshall Lee Gore and their families. Gore would be the fourth inmate executed in Florida this year, and the first since Scott signed the Timely Justice Act June 14. The law is intended to speed up the execution process by requiring the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days after appeals are concluded and any clemency petition is reviewed. It would limit the number of legal motions a death row inmate may file once the appeals process ends. A month earlier, the state's Catholic bishops, under the auspices of the Florida Catholic Conference, had written an open letter urging Scott not to sign the bill. Prayer services and rosaries were scheduled around the state for the day of the execution.

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Catholic, Baptist leaders seek passage of health care conscience act

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic and Southern Baptist leaders heading up their respective denomination's efforts on religious liberty issues, have written to members of Congress seeking passage of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. "As many people are being forced -- and many others will soon be forced -- to either follow what the government compels or suffer for their faith, now is the time to pass legislation that protects our God-given freedom," said the June 21 letter, signed by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, head of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and the Rev. Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. One immediate concern they noted was the federal Health and Human Services mandate for nearly all private health plans to cover sterilization for women "and all FDA-approved 'contraceptive' drugs and devices. Despite assurances to the contrary, HHS's accommodations to protect the rights of religious freedom and conscience under the mandate remain inadequate," they said. "Countless nonprofit and for-profit organizations must either obey the government's mandate in violation of their beliefs, or follow their consciences and incur massive fines or the loss of their ministry. This is unacceptable."

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Pope: Let your restless heart seek God, not worldly treasures

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Don't be fooled by worldly treasures that seduce people but leave them tired, loveless and empty, Pope Francis said. Seek out and gather divine treasures like "love, charity, service, patience, goodness and tenderness," he said June 21 during the homily at morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. In his own version of the common saying, "You can't take it with you" when you die, the pope said, "I've never seen a moving truck following behind a funeral procession. Never." While material possessions will remain here on earth, there are treasures that "we can bring with us" to heaven, he said. However, they are not the things "that you have saved up for yourself, but rather those you have given to others," which is the gift and presence of "Jesus Christ in us," the pope said. In his homily, the pope commented on the day's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, which says not to store up treasures on earth, "but store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."

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Pope tells nuncios to help him find new bishops who are meek, merciful

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Tracing the characteristics he wants to see in candidates to serve as bishops, Pope Francis said they must be "pastors who are close to their people, fathers and brothers, who are meek, patient and merciful." A good prospective bishop will "love interior poverty as freedom for the Lord" and live that externally with a simple lifestyle, and he won't have the "mindset of a prince," the pope said June 21 during a meeting with nuncios and apostolic delegates. The 108 papal representatives to nations and international organizations, along with 40 retired nuncios, were making a two-day Year of Faith pilgrimage to the Vatican and were scheduled to dine under the stars that evening with Pope Francis in the Vatican gardens. The majority of the Vatican diplomats are nuncios or apostolic delegates to one or more country; Pope Francis said one of the most important tasks they have is studying the needs of vacant dioceses and helping him find appropriate candidates for the ministry. "It's a delicate task," the pope said. "Beware of those who are ambitious, who seek the episcopacy."

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Society of St. Vincent de Paul sends provisions north to Arctic Circle

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- Vowing that no Canadian child would ever go hungry, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has sent more than $200,000 worth of food and supplies to help hungry children in the Canadian Arctic. Three communities in Canada's North will benefit from the aid, which includes dry food, clothing, freezers, sewing machines and even bicycles. The project began in spring 2012 after the society learned of urgent needs in the Arctic. "I was shocked to learn there were some hungry children in the community of Paulatuk (Northwest Territories) in the Arctic Circle," recalled Peter Ouellette, president of the society in Western Canada, which covers Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. "My commitment and our commitment with St. Vincent de Paul is we will not have hungry children in Canada and in the Arctic Circle," he said. Until recently, the main focus of the society's Arctic outreach had been in the Northwest Territories community of Tuktoyaktuk, where truckloads of supplies are regularly sent. The most recent truck arrived in April.

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Education, fair wages, support for families said key to development

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Education is essential for young people to become contributing adults who are able to thrive in a work environment, said the Vatican's representative to the United Nations. "Decent work, social protection and education for our youth" were a few of the major themes that Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt addressed June 18 at a U.N. General Assembly session on sustainable development goals June 18. He explained that when it comes to educating young people, the family plays a crucial role. "As the fundamental unit of society, the family provides the first lessons of the interpersonal relationships, transmits cultural, ethical, social and spiritual values as well as many of the skills which serve to promote the common good of society," said the archbishop, who is the permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. Parents are the first educators of their children, he said, and as such, they should strive to support educational institutions that are important for giving young people the training needed to improve their knowledge and skills. The right to an education also should also be a priority of governments, world leaders, and international communities and "at the very center" of all sustainable development efforts, he said. Archbishop Chullikatt stressed that a lack of employment opportunities has become a prevalent issue for people of all ages and races around the world. The burden has only emphasized the importance of work and its relationship to human dignity, he added.

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Cleanup underway as floodwaters receded at Lourdes shrine

TOULOUSE, France (CNS) -- Work crews rushed to clear mud and remove debris June 21 after a massive flood inundated sections of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes so that tourists could return to the popular pilgrimage site. Much of the shrine complex was under water for two days as floods swamped much of southwestern France. Mathias Terrier, who is in charge of communications at the shrine, said the complex sustained millions of dollars in damage. No date for reopening has been set. It was the second time in eight months that the normally placid Gave de Pau River overflowed its banks, forcing officials to close the shrine. Flash floods in October caused an estimated $3 million in damage. "The damage is much more significant than in 2012," the shrine reported on its website. Terrier told news media that the grotto had been under five feet of water and the vast subterranean church was inundated. The grotto is where Mary is reported to have appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

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Brazilian bishops support peaceful protests as World Youth Day nears

SAO PAULO (CNS) -- Leaders of the Brazilian bishops' conference announced their support for the massive demonstrations sweeping across South America's largest nation, but declined to say how they might affect World Youth Day activities and the visit of Pope Francis in July. The support was expressed in a document distributed to journalists in Brasilia by Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, bishops' conference president. The document said the conference "declares its solidarity and support to these demonstrations, as long as they are peaceful, and which have taken to the streets persons of all ages, especially the youth." Missing from the document was any mention of World Youth Day, set for Rio de Janeiro July 23-28. But Archbishop Assis told reporters it was the government's responsibility to guarantee the safety of the pilgrims. He conceded that the events of the recent few days may discourage foreign pilgrims from attending World Youth Day. Earlier, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro said in a separate statement that the protests would not affect World Youth Day, nor the planned visit of Pope Francis. The demonstrations are, he said, "in some ways similar to the spirit of WYD -- the desire to work together for a new world, for a new life, a new society."

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Finney says working in Catholic press one of his greatest blessings

DENVER (CNS) -- Peter Finney Jr., executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese, received the St. Francis de Sales Award June 21 during the annual Catholic Media Convention in Denver. The award, presented during a luncheon, is the highest honor given by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, which co-sponsors the convention with the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals. Finney was honored for his combination of "professionalism and strong faith" and his "clear, concise and unbiased reporting." In his remarks, Finney said he was humbled and honored and accepted the award on behalf of the staffs of the Clarion-Herald and other Catholic newspapers in Louisiana and Mississippi. "I'm a recovering sports writer," he joked, but added that serving with the Catholic press was his greatest blessing outside his family. Finney recalled when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi eight years ago. "In the midst of it all, God was visibly present," he said.

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USCCB media relations director receives academy's President's Medallion

DENVER (CNS) -- Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, received the President's Medallion from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals June 21 in Denver. The medallion is the highest membership honor given by the Catholic Academy. It was presented at a luncheon during the annual Catholic Media Conference in Denver, sponsored by the academy and the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. In presenting the medallion to Sister Walsh, Sally Oberski, president of the Catholic Academy, director of communications and public relations for the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, said this year's award was "long overdue recognition to someone who has served for many years and continues to serve in an outstanding manner." One nomination noted that Sister Walsh's position as USCCB media relations director requires "a multitude of skills," not just journalism. Sister Walsh in accepting the award said she often described Catholic communicators' job as godfather duty, joking, "God, Father, you didn't say that."

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Anglican pastor, German layman awarded 2013 Ratzinger Theology Prize

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The 2013 Ratzinger Prize for Theology will be given to an Anglican minister and to the lay German theology professor who is helping publish the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI. The Rev. Richard A. Burridge, an Anglican professor of New Testament at King's College London is the first non-Catholic to receive the prize. The other winner, Christian Schaller, is vice director of the Benedict XVI Institute in Regensburg, Germany, which is publishing critical editions of the pope's writings. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the scientific committee of a foundation established to promote the study of the retired pope's theological work, announced the prize winners June 21 during a Vatican news conference. The event also included the announcement on plans for a three-day conference in Rome in October to focus on the retired pope's "Jesus of Nazareth" books. The theology prize and conference, along with scholarships, are funded by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which the pope established in 2010 using royalties from the sale of his books.

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Former CNS Rome bureau chief, North Dakota bishop receive media awards

DENVER (CNS) -- John Thavis, former Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, has received this year's Clarion Award from the Catholic Academy of Communications Professionals. Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarck, N.D., is this year's winner of the Bishop John England Award from the Catholic Press Association. Both awards were announced at a June 20 luncheon during the two organization's joint Catholic Media Convention in Denver. The Clarion Award recognizes "a timely contribution to Catholic communicators through organizational service; through creativity in a communications effort or product; through service to a diocese, institution or religious order; at a personal or career milestone; through excellence in communications leadership, ecumenical cooperation or industry collaboration." Thavis retired from CNS in January 2012. He joined CNS in 1983, and in 1996 was named the news agency's Rome bureau chief, a post he held until his retirement. The England award is named for the Irish-born bishop of Charleston, S.C., who founded The Catholic Miscellany, the oldest Catholic newspaper in the U.S. in terms of continuous publication. Presented annually, the award recognizes publishers in the Catholic press for the defense of First Amendment rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It is the CPA's highest award for publishers.

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Bishop Folda ordained as new bishop for Diocese of Fargo, N.D.

FARGO, N.D. (CNS) -- Bishop John T. Folda was ordained and installed as the eighth bishop of the Fargo Diocese during Mass June 19 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis ordained the new bishop, whose episcopal motto is: "The Word became flesh." Bishop Folda had been seminary rector at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb., in the Diocese of Lincoln since 1999. In Fargo, he succeeds Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who was named to head the Denver Archdiocese in May 2012. "Although I never expected to become a bishop or to leave this (Nebraska) diocese, I feel great joy at the opportunity God has given me to serve him in a new way," he said in a statement after he was appointed. "I am thrilled to go to Fargo. ... I also am quite aware of my own limitations, so I'm a little apprehensive about taking on the responsibilities of a bishop." But he added that he trusted God to "lead me and give me the grace I need to carry out the office of bishop."


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