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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Aug-23-2013

By Catholic News Service


Bishop Madden urges 'culture of encounter' among Catholics, Lutherans

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Citing the words of Pope Francis, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs called for a "culture of encounter" among Catholics and Lutherans during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's churchwide assembly in Pittsburgh. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore told the assembly Aug. 13 that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 offers an opportunity to "point the way toward Christian unity" rather than focusing on what keeps the two faith communities divided. "Let the 500th anniversary of the Reformation be not a celebration of our historical and doctrinal divisions but a celebration of our dialogue even within our differences, of our unity, our mutual respect and love for each other," Bishop Madden said. "In this way, we can say we are collaborators in the work of the Lord who is always and ever 'making all things new.'" Pope Francis' words were evident throughout Bishop Madden's address. He cited the pope's repeated calls of building a "culture of encounter" during the first five months of his papacy.

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Catholic Charities agencies respond to influx of trafficking victims

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An influx of human trafficking victims seeking assistance is leading Catholic Charities agencies nationwide to develop a wider range of specialized service to enable victims to rebuild their lives. From life skills and parenting classes to helping victims adjust to a life free of coercion and mistreatment, the agencies are adapting operations so that those who have escaped a trafficking situation are not victimized again by unscrupulous traders in human lives. The new services are emerging as more trafficking victims are identified by social workers and law enforcement officers, explained Marissa Castellanos, human trafficking program manager for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky. She credited ongoing training that victim advocates and Catholic Charity workers have directed toward police, prosecutors, judges, social workers and other interested people for the rise in the number of victims being identified. Whereas in earlier years a victim may have been identified as a prostitute or as being in the country illegally, officials are better recognizing the telltale signs that someone is being trafficked. The result is that a victim ends up being sent to a reliable social service agency rather than to jail. "The education and training we're doing throughout the country is vital to identifying victims," Castellanos told Catholic News Service.

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NCR receives major grant to pursue global coverage of women religious

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co. has received a $2.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to be given over a three-year period, which will allow NCR to pursue "a groundbreaking project to give greater voice to countless of Catholic sisters around the globe," the company said in an Aug. 22 announcement. "We've been standing with sisters from the beginning, and I consider the grant encouragement to go on telling their stories," said Annette E. Lomont, chair of NCR's board of directors. NCR said it will use the Hilton Foundation grant to build a network of editors and reporters to not only write about women religious, but also help them develop their own communication skills by working with them as columnists who report their own missions and challenges. "The work of these women religious is one of the least-told stories in the church," NCR Publisher Tom Fox said Aug. 22. "It's really an exciting challenge to bring these stories and voices to greater awareness. It also recognizes the changing nature of our global church."

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China's 'apple Catholics' add spiritual activities to daily routine

BEIJING (CNS) -- Many rural villages in Shaanxi do not have a Catholic parish, and some with churches struggle with sparse attendance. But the village of Fufengxian, near the town of Baoji, has a population that is more than 80 percent baptized Catholics. When villagers are not tending to their apple orchards, they can be found attending Mass or praying at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. They call themselves "China's Hometown of Apple Catholics." The official population of Fufengxian stands at a mere 300, but many young adults have migrated to the big cities, so most of those who remain are elderly farmers and young children. About 90 villagers live there permanently, while more than 70 residents are parishioners. The church was established in 1986, as the Chinese Catholic Church was emerging from decades of communist repression. The parish currently is served by three priests and three sisters from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

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Pope asks pontifical academies to help fight human trafficking

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the request of Pope Francis, scholars and researchers belonging to two pontifical academies and representatives of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations will begin focusing on the phenomenon of human trafficking and ways to fight it. A working group from the pontifical academies of Sciences and Social Sciences and the federation will meet at the Vatican Nov. 2-3 for a preparatory workshop examining the size of the problem, its causes and steps that can be taken to prevent trafficking and to help victims, said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academies. No one can deny that "the trade in human persons constitutes a terrible crime against human dignity and is a serious violation of human rights," which is fueling increasingly complex international criminal networks, the bishop told Vatican Radio Aug. 22. In a May speech, Pope Francis said human trafficking is "a despicable activity, a disgrace for our societies, which describe themselves as civilized." Refugees, displaced and stateless people are particularly vulnerable to "the plague of human trafficking, which increasingly involves children subjected to the worst forms of exploitation and even recruitment into armed conflicts," the pope said.

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Fear of Egyptian violence does not interfere with nuns' hospital work

CAIRO (CNS) -- It was lunchtime at Cairo's Italian Hospital, and some of the nuns who reside there were watching state television's latest announcements on Egypt's "war on terror," the expression used by the country's military and its supporters to describe the nationwide crackdown on Islamists. "It is the first time I am afraid to go out, really afraid," said Italian Comboni Sister Pina De Angelis, who has been in Egypt for 28 years. The Egyptian army's takeover in early July and its ensuing pursuit of people it claims are Muslim militants have led to deadly clashes throughout the country, including within ear-reach of the century-old hospital where Sister Pina and six other nuns from five different Catholic orders live and work. But fears of what is outside the hospital gates -- including a spike in attacks on the country's Christian institutions -- appeared to interfere little with the sisters' chores inside the historic medical facility built by Egypt's one-time vibrant Italian community. Turning from the news on TV, Sister Pina reported that, as usual, she got up at crack of dawn and was often not in bed till well after midnight, in her role as coordinator for the hospital's other six nuns who serve as nurses alongside a much larger medical staff made up of mostly Muslims.

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Court rules Malaysian government can appeal ruling on use of 'Allah'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNS) -- The Malaysian government has won the right to continue its appeal against a court ruling that allowed non-Muslims -- including a Malay-language Catholic newspaper -- to use the word Allah. In a case that has sparked nationwide debate over which religion has exclusive rights to the word Allah, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the government's efforts to ban the use of the word in Christian publications will continue. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10, reported ucanews.com, an Asian church news portal. Christians argue that "Allah" is the only word for God in the Malay language. The case dates back to a dispute over the re-registration of the publishing license, for The Herald, a national Catholic weekly, following criticism from the Home Ministry over political articles that appeared in its pages. In 2009, the Malay edition of the Herald received an injunction to cease publication. The Herald and the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur successfully sued for the right to continue, but the government then lodged an appeal against the High Court ruling, which stated that Muslims did not have exclusive ownership of the word Allah.

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Canadian nun: Egyptian Muslims protected church buildings after threats

CAIRO (CNS) -- Churches and other Christian properties around Egypt had already been looted, so when Catholics in Berba were tipped off that their southern village could be next, they acted fast. They and other Christian leaders got on their phones and called their Muslim friends, neighbors and colleagues who all had the same message: "They were told, 'Don't be afraid, we will guard your churches,' and that is what happened," said Sister Darlene DeMong, a Canadian member of the Congregation of Notre Dame de Sion who has worked and lived in Egypt since 1978. She was in Berba at the time the warning came Aug. 16. When she and two other sisters left the parish convent to stay with village families, "groups of (Muslim) village men showed up to guard it" Sister Darlene told Catholic News Service Aug. 22. The men positioned themselves in front of the Catholic church and its development center, as well as in front of Berba's other Christian facilities, Sister Darlene said from the order's Cairo residence. She was set to fly from Egypt to Jordan with a novice Aug. 23 on a previously scheduled trip.

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'Mystery priest' hopes media hype won't obscure message of God's love

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- An unlikely chain of events made him not only a national celebrity but a stand-in for every priest who has ever ministered to the faithful in an emergency. But Father Patrick Dowling -- who was dubbed a "mystery priest" and a "guardian angel" after praying with a woman trapped in a wrecked car in northeastern Missouri -- hopes all the hype surrounding his simple deed won't overshadow the real message. "God loves us, he is here close to us, and when we're in trouble, he's there," said Father Dowling. That, he believes, is why God gave him, a priest of the Jefferson City Diocese, a chance Aug. 4 to minister to 19-year-old Katie Lentz while first-responders worked to free her from her mangled car on Highway 19 near Center. "I try to be a priest, not a hero," he stated. "And I did what a priest does. And every priest that I know, if they would pass by an accident, they would stop and do what I did." Father Dowling encountered a line of stopped cars and flashing lights while traveling between Sunday Mass assignments. He asked a local sheriff's deputy for permission to approach the car and pray with its occupant. The deputy at first said no, thinking the sight of a priest would scare Lentz. But after asking her, he told Father Dowling to go ahead. "The rescue workers are people of faith and prayer," Father Dowling told The Catholic Missourian, the diocesan newspaper. "They were all praying. I have no doubt that the Most High heard their prayers, and I was part of his answer ... but only one part."

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Scottish archbishop says cardinal blocked plans for abuse investigation

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- A disgraced Scottish cardinal halted a plan to allow independent investigators to examine church child abuse files, said a retired archbishop. In a letter to the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, retired Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said that Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who earlier this year admitted to acts of sexual misconduct, prevented case files from being reviewed. Archbishop Conti's letter, published online Aug. 23, was responding to an editorial in the weekly, which had criticized how the Scottish Catholic Church has dealt with clerical abuse cases. Archbishop Conti defended the record of the Scottish bishops, beginning with the introduction of robust child protection guidelines in 1999. He then explained that as the response of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland developed over the past decade, all conference members -- except one -- agreed to a review of historical abuse cases. "It was the intention of all but one member of the bishops' conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results, but this was delayed by the objection of the then-president of the conference," he wrote.


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