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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Sep-13-2013

By Catholic News Service


Texas-Mexico border bishops plan pastoral letter on family immigration

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After a gut-wrenching visit with young children in the El Paso, Texas, area who are in immigration detention, the bishops of the border region of Texas and Mexico have decided to write a joint pastoral letter on how families are harmed by the current immigration system. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller told Catholic News Service in a Sept. 12 phone interview that after visiting the children who were brought to meet the bishops at an El Paso parish and learning their stories, the bishops wanted to draw attention to the family effects of the broken immigration system. He told about meeting a girl of 6 who has been in detention since her parents were deported four years ago. Apparently both her mother and father were killed soon after they were returned to Mexico and their daughter has been a ward of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ever since, as official systems of two countries have slowly churned to place the girl with another member of her family. That girl and the other children in ICE custody intensely long to be with their families, he said. "Here in this country are 11 million undocumented people. How many of their children risk losing a parent because they lack documents" and could be deported, he asked. The pastoral letter to be issued in the next month is intended to "bring some sane, rational understanding" of the many ways families are broken apart by the current immigration system, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

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Common Core: Catholic school community gives standards mixed grade

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Common Core State Standards -- expectations for students to master in each grade level -- have a love/hate/ambivalent relationship with the American public. The state-led initiative -- adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia -- has been embraced by many educators, viewed with distrust by some parents and also gone unnoticed by much of the American public. A poll released Aug. 21 by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup found that 62 percent of the American public has never heard about these standards that are changing the way students are taught almost nationwide. A number of Catholic school parents hardly fall in this uninformed category. Instead, they are very aware of the standards and not happy about them. Many have expressed outrage that Catholic schools are, or might be, implementing them and have signed petitions and joined letter-writing and email campaigns to tell school principals, diocesan school superintendents and bishops their complaints. They feel the standards will "dumb-down" Catholic schools or require them to use materials that go against Catholic teaching. They also suspect this learning approach is federally mandated and simply a tool to access students' personal data. Joe McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education based in Germantown, Md., said private schools are "all over the lot" about implementing Common Core. He said nationally the Catholic school community has included the standards' material more than other private schools. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 100 dioceses have been looking into implementing aspects of Common Core into their curriculum.

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Catholic leaders urge prayers for victims of Colorado flash floods

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) -- As much of the rest of Colorado scrambled to stay out of the path of raging floodwaters, residents of beleaguered Manitou Springs and other small mountain towns along the Highway 24 corridor gave thanks that, for now anyway, they were out of harm's way. "We're all good," a woman at the parish office of Our Lady of the Woods in Woodland Park, said Sept. 13 to The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese. Heavy rains fell across much of Colorado's Front Range for several days, and more rain -- from 6 to 10 inches-- was expected to fall through the Sept. 14-15 weekend, according to a forecast by the National Weather Service. Areas scarred by forest fires -- both in the Colorado Springs area and in northern Colorado -- were particularly vulnerable to flooding. In Colorado's northern counties, which make up the Denver Archdiocese, widespread flooding forced the evacuation of thousands of people, namely in the cities of Boulder, Lyons and Lafayette.

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Pope: Judging others kills, reflects cowardice in facing own defects

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who judge and criticize others are hypocrites and cowards who are unable to face their own defects, Pope Francis said. Gossip, too, is "criminal" as it destroys, rather than exalts the image of God present in others, he said in his early morning homily Sept. 13 at his residence of Domus Sanctae Marthae. "Those who live judging their neighbors, speaking badly of them, are hypocrites because they don't have the strength, the courage to look at their own defects," he said. "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own," he said, referring to the day's Gospel reading according to St. Luke. Every time "we judge our brothers and sisters in our heart, and worse, when we talk about it with others, we are killer Christians," imitating Cain who committed "the first homicide in history."

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German diocese promises 'transparency' after claims of extravagance

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Germany's Limburg Diocese pledged "dialogue and transparency" after a former Vatican nuncio was sent to defuse complaints of extravagance against Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo continued meeting with Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, cathedral staff, local clergy and religious order representatives Sept. 13. A diocesan spokesman, Stephan Schnelle, acknowledged that media reports about the prelate's first-class flights and his luxuriously appointed new residence "has led to difficulties among priests and people here. The bishop is aware of their concerns and wants to be in dialogue. He knows the importance of transparency in appeasing anxieties." In a Sept. 12 interview with Catholic News Service, Schnelle said Cardinal Lajolo arrived Sept. 9 in the diocese in the small western German town to seek a "solution in peace for all parties," but added that local Catholics were "generally supporting" Bishop Tebartz-van Elst. The 53-year bishop attracted media attention after his November 2008 appointment for criticizing Islam and dismissing a local priest for blessing a same-sex union.

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Pope: Calling folks is no big deal, media reports just tip of iceberg

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Picking up the telephone and calling people out of the blue is no big deal for Pope Francis, according to a Vatican official. Msgr. Dario Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Center, said the pope told him that the many calls the journalists have brought to light are just the tip of the iceberg: "Good thing they don't know about all the ones I have made!" the pope reportedly said. In an interview Sept. 13 with Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian Catholic magazine, Msgr. Vigano said that during a recent meeting with the pope, he asked the pontiff about the media frenzy over reports of papal cold calls. The monsignor said the pope looked at him amazed and said, "Tell the journalists that my calls are not news." According to Msgr. Vigano, the pope said, "That's the way I am; I've always done this, even in Buenos Aires," where he served first as auxiliary bishop beginning in 1992 and archbishop from 1998 until his election as pope this past March.

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Displaced Christians in Lebanon experience a life in waiting

BEIRUT (CNS) -- The misery experienced by Mariam and husband, Ephrem, and their three young children is just one example of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Middle East, displaced by wars in which they are not participating. The family's place of transition is a single room in a run-down building in Beirut. It is a building full of people like them who have fled the war in Syria, all attempting to eke out an existence. A glimmer of hope momentarily appears in the eyes of Mariam's neighbors congregating on the stairwells when a stranger accompanies Ephrem to the family's room on the third floor. That's likely a reflection of their dream that someday, someone can arrange to rescue them from their misery. The refugees requested that only their first names be used to protect their identities. At first, just Ephrem, Mariam and their children lived in the room. But as the situation in Syria worsened, more of Ephrem's family fled to neighboring Lebanon. Now, seven adults and five children are crammed into the small space.

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Under Pope Francis, liberation theology comes of age

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' Sept. 11 meeting with Dominican Father Gustavo Gutierrez was an informal one, held in the in the pope's residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and not listed on his official schedule. Yet the news that Pope Francis had received the 85-year old Peruvian priest, who is widely considered the father of liberation theology, has excited interest far beyond the Vatican's walls. During the 1990s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith conducted a lengthy critical review of Father Gutierrez's work, and required him to write and rewrite articles clarifying some of his theological and pastoral points. But within a single week in early September 2013, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published an interview with Father Gutierrez, an article by the theologian himself, and two articles praising his work -- one of them by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller. Following years of Vatican criticism of liberation theology under Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, these events might seem to indicate a reversal of policy under Pope Francis. It would be more accurate to say they represent the fruit of a long and painful process, through which the church has clarified the nature of its commitment to the world's poor today.

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Central African Republic conflict risks breakup of country, priest says

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A senior Catholic priest in the Central African Republic has warned of growing clashes between Christians and Muslims, and urged the international community to act "within weeks" to prevent the country's breakup. "The Christian population has set up self-defense groups to stop the pillaging and violence, and since some Muslims have been killed, this has brought deadly reprisals against Christians in turn," said Msgr. Cyriaque Gbate Doumalo, secretary-general of the county's bishops' conference. "We deplore the international community's inertia. People are in total despair, and we'll witness our country's permanent partition if it doesn't intervene immediately," he said. His comments came as fighting continued in the eastern town of Bossangoa between forces of the ruling Seleka alliance and groups loyal to the country's ousted president. In a Sept. 13 interview with Catholic News Service from the capital, Bangui, he said all transport and communication links with Bossangoa had been cut, including contacts with Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia. However, he added, refugee accounts suggested most Christians had fled the town to surrounding villages to escape attacks by the mostly Muslim Seleka.

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Philippine bishops call for release of hostages as gunfights rage

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Bishops in southern Philippines have condemned rebels' use of hostages as human shields in gunfights with government troops. The gunfights have escalated since Sept. 9 after hundreds of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters reportedly attacked government troops who were securing five coastal districts in Zamboanga. The military reported Sept. 13 that at least 18 people had been killed, 11 of them rebels and the rest were soldiers, policemen and two civilians. A Philippines Army official reported that 28 soldiers, six policemen and 18 civilians had been wounded in clashes in Zamboanga and in Basilan province, where the fighting had spread. Among the more than 100 hostages held by the rebels was Father Michael Ufana, who was visiting family members in Santa Catalina when the MILF members arrived. Msgr. Crisologo Manongas, administrator of Zamboanga Archdiocese reported over church-run radio Veritas 846 that the rebels had freed Father Ufana Sept. 13. However, the rebels continued to hold his father and scores of other hostages. The priest's mother and two siblings escaped during gunfights Sept. 12, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines reported.


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