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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Aug-16-2013

By Catholic News Service

U.S.

Nun vs. nun? Two convents' CDs vie for spot atop Billboard charts

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's not exactly the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, but just as those two bands shook up the pop charts nearly a half-century ago, two convents' CDs are vying for a spot atop the Billboard classical music charts. The defending champion, for 13 weeks straight, is "Angels and Saints at Ephesus," performed by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, a cloistered convent in Missouri. Their streak marks the first time since 2006 that a CD has stayed at the top of Billboard magazine's classical traditional music chart. So far, it has kept its competition at arms' length, including a new CD by Andrea Bocelli and soundtracks based on the TV miniseries "Downton Abbey" and the fiction best-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey." But now comes the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., whose first CD, "Mater Eucharistae," was released Aug. 13. This isn't the Dominican convent's first brush with the mass media. Members of the order made it to the finals in the latest season of "American Bible Challenge."

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Speaker: Christianity has big role in world's search for new wholeness

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- The opening ceremony of the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Orlando began with a panoramic photo presentation showing images from the Hubble telescope, taking attendees on a visual journey into the universe and back to "In the beginning" from Genesis. With that backdrop of galaxies, keynote speaker Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio on the first full day of the Aug. 13-16 assembly leading her audience on a scientific and historic romp through 13.8 billion years of existence. "Unless we know where we're coming from, we can't know where we're going," Sister Delio said in an interview. She delivered her keynote address in two parts Aug. 14 to the 825 women religious gathered at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center. "It does help people to know history and the church has always been a patron of science. Our theology formed in the Middle Ages so we need a basic cosmological background. When we put it in the context of history, we see the beauty of what God is doing," she said. "It's not about us."

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Catholic parish's celebration of Assumption takes place on land and sea

HULL, Mass. (CNS) -- While many parishes and Catholic communities mark the feast day of their parish with a procession on land, one parish in the Boston Archdiocese has been celebrating by land and sea for the past three years. St. Mary of the Assumption Parish expresses its Catholic identity publicly with a procession on foot over land and with some of its members traveling by sea -- in two boats. This is how the parish celebrates the feast of the Assumption of Mary. But the festivities take place the Sunday before the Aug. 15 feast day to allow enough time for the procession and other activities attended by parishioners, residents and guests. On Aug. 11, a decorated statue of Mary arrived by boat with Father Joseph M. Mazzone, pastor, and Deacons Charles E. Sullivan and James C. Theriault at the A Street Pier in Hull. Altar servers bearing the crucifix arrived on the first boat in the procession, before hundreds joined on foot and headed toward the parish church, called St. Ann's, where more than 400 people packed into the pews for the Mass.

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New guidance refines the rules for faith-based/government partnerships

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since the creation under President George W. Bush of what is now known as the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the formal collaboration of government and religious institutions has steadily expanded, though not without growing pains. A set of guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget Aug. 2 aims to clarify some of the areas that have, at times, appeared to be a little muddy. For example, the guidance changes the term for what kind of religious activity cannot be conducted in a government-funded program from "inherently religious" to "explicitly religious" and offers examples. Melissa Rogers, director of the office, told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 15 phone interview that where the boundaries lie between religious and government activity needed to be clearer. "We found there was some confusion" Rogers said, about, for example, whether explicitly religious activities such as prayer or worship could have any part in programs funded with government money, and exactly where the boundaries between them need to be established. "We found people didn't always have all the practical guidance they needed," she said. Rogers said the guidance clarifies that just as explicitly religious activities are prohibited in federally funded projects, so too, is hostility toward religion. For example, if, in a federally funded program intended to help people with job skills, a participant cites her religious faith as helping keep her motivated and supported, that's perfectly fine. The participant should not be discouraged from such an expression, and it certainly wouldn't disqualify her from the program, Rogers said. But neither should the government-paid employees of the program be initiating a conversation about how faith in God may help someone who's looking for work.

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New Pew study shows most Americans view abortion as moral issue

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new study shows that most Americans view abortion as a moral issue but do not feel as strongly about stem-cell research or in vitro fertilization as moral issues. According to the study, released Aug. 15 by the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, 49 percent of adults consider it morally wrong to have an abortion; 22 percent consider embryonic stem-cell research morally wrong; and 12 percent view the use of in vitro fertilization as morally wrong. The findings were based on telephone interviews of 4,006 adults conducted March 21-April 18 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. The survey's results show that opinions on the morality of abortion differ widely among religious groups. Seventy-five percent of white evangelical Protestants and 64 percent of Hispanic Catholics consider having an abortion morally wrong. Fifty-eight percent of black Protestants and 53 percent of white Catholics hold this view while 38 percent of white mainline Protestants and 25 percent of religiously unaffiliated adults see abortion as morally wrong. Relatively small percentages of people in all religious groups consider it morally acceptable to have an abortion. However, among the unaffiliated, nearly equal amounts view having an abortion as morally acceptable (28 percent) and morally wrong (25 percent).

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Benedictine University to offer minor in Chinese language and culture

LISLE, Ill. (CNS) -- China has the second-largest economy in the world and is one of the United States' largest trading partners, and one-fifth of the world's population speaks Chinese. Students who hope to prosper in such an environment must have more than just a passing familiarity with Chinese language and culture, say officials at Benedictine University in Lisle. To help students prepare for "an increasingly China-centric global community," the university announced it will offer a minor in Chinese language (Mandarin) with an option for a Chinese culture track, beginning with the fall semester. "Our students are wonderfully prepared in the sciences, education and the arts, but now they will have a very distinct advantage when they enter the workforce," said William J. Carroll, Benedictine University's president. "They will have the added benefit of assimilating the university's relationship with China into their own unique expertise." Through grant funding, Benedictine University's College of Liberal Arts began offering limited courses in Chinese language and culture during the 2009-2010 academic year. However, after increased demand from students, university officials said they sought to establish a program minor. The program will help students "connect specific issues in Chinese culture and history to current trends in Chinese society" and allow them to consider more study-abroad opportunities in China.

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Boston College gets grant to foster entrepreneurship in urban schools

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant to a team of Boston College faculty and community-based organizations to foster entrepreneurship in urban high school students by using various technologies to grow produce to sell at neighborhood farmers' markets. Boston Public School students will use hydroponics, aquaponics, solar panels, windmills and other technologies to power and cultivate indoor fruit and vegetable gardens, then sell their produce at neighborhood markets, according to G. Michael Barnett, associate professor of education. Called "Seeding the Future: Creating a Green Collar Workforce," the project will work with approximately 1,000 students and 40 to 60 teachers at 20 schools. It is being funded through the foundation's Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program.

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WORLD

Coptic bishop: No civil war in Egypt; foreign powers keep out

CAIRO (CNS) -- A Coptic Catholic bishop who served as a member of the assembly that drafted Egypt's 2012 constitution said his country will not have a civil war, and foreign powers -- including the United Nations -- should not interfere. In a wide-ranging interview with Arab West Report, Bishop Youhanna Golta of Alexandria, Egypt, also said people must view Egypt as a whole and not just be concerned about Coptic Christians. He discussed the history of Islam and asked for patience for Egyptian democracy, reminding people that European democracy took four centuries to evolve, and Egyptians have only had two or three years. "Civil war is when a part of the country turns against the other part. This is not the case in Egypt," the bishop said Aug. 15, the day after more than 600 people were killed and several thousand injured after a police crackdown on people protesting the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi. "In Egypt, the people are united against a certain group that doesn't represent more than 2 percent of the country," he said, referring to extremists within the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs. "This cannot be called a civil war; these are called (acts of) terrorism. With respect to the burning of the churches, I said today in the Akhbar newspaper that 'burning of the churches makes us (Christians) proud, because we are contributing to the liberation of Egypt,'" said the bishop, who serves as an assistant to the Coptic Catholic patriarch.

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PEOPLE

Ethicist, scholar, author Jean Bethke Elshtain dies at age 72

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Jean Bethke Elshtain, an ethicist, scholar and author, died Aug. 11 in Nashville at age 72. Earlier in the summer, she had suffered what was described as a major cardiac incident. Elshtain, who had been on the faculty of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, also taught at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the University of Massachusetts, Baylor University and Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington, specializing in social and political ethics. Raised a Lutheran, Commonweal magazine reported in an Aug. 12 blog posting on her death that Elshtain became a Catholic in 2011. A funeral Mass for Elshtain, a Colorado native, was scheduled for Aug. 19 at the Blessed John XXIII University Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Elshtain had written, spoken, taught and lectured for more than 40 years. In a 1972 article, she spoke about her relationship with the Catholic Church as a Lutheran. "Well, it is something which is always there: one secure point of reference in a fragmented and apparently random world," she said. "I know what I expect of it in a time of pervasive despair: There are hungry to be fed, trembling to be clothed, homeless to be housed, frightened to be comforted. There are systems of oppression and exploitation to fight and to condemn."

END


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