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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-1-2013

By Catholic News Service


Catholic, other religious leaders decry U.S. government shutdown

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Anticipating the worst, religious leaders gathered the day before the federal government shut down to denounce what they called "political brinkmanship. Shutting down the government will do real damage," said the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister and president of the Christian citizens' anti-hunger lobby Bread for the World, at a Sept. 30 news conference. "Risking our nation's creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy." The chairmen of three committees of the U.S. bishops weighed in Oct. 1, saying in a joint letter to Congress: "A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly." The government shut down its nonessential operations Oct. 1, the start of a new federal fiscal year, furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers. At issue is a dispute between the Republican-controlled house and the Democratic-run Senate.

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Eucharistic congress celebrates 'youth, vitality' of Knoxville Diocese

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Knoxville celebrated its 25th anniversary in grand fashion by holding its first eucharistic congress, which drew about 5,000 Catholics from throughout Tennessee and around the country to gather in prayer and song, fellowship and worship. "My wife, Karen, and I attended this conference and were just blown away by the sea of love and affection for our Catholic faith in east Tennessee. A great experience it was," said Allen Martin, who traveled from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Ione, Calif., to attend the congress. A lineup of Catholic luminaries shared their theological insight and Christ-filled inspiration during the congress, held Sept. 13-14 at the Sevierville Convention Center. Guests attending the congress asked how such a small mission diocese in east Tennessee attracted such big-name speakers. They included New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops' conference; Cardinal Justin Rigali, former archbishop of St. Louis and Philadelphia who has served on two Vatican congregations and is currently in residence in Knoxville; Father Robert Barron, currently rector of Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago Archdiocese, who created the "Catholicism" television series; and Scott Hahn, best-selling author and theology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

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Cardinal sees religion's soul, head, heart embodied in three popes

RYE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The three most recent popes exemplify the soul, head and heart of religion, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York told an interfaith group Sept. 29. "All religions come to look to the pope for spiritual guidance and example," he said. "Every religion, faith, church, organization, family needs a soul, a head and a heart." Cardinal Dolan addressed more than 600 people at the 35th annual conference of the Rye Women's Interfaith Council, convened at the Church of the Resurrection in Rye. He acknowledged that the program was postponed from March to accommodate "my flimsy excuse of having to be in Rome to elect a new pope. Thank you for your patience." Blessed John Paul II was a "particularly gleaming example of the primacy of the soul," Cardinal Dolan said. Despite the challenges he faced in war-torn Poland and throughout his life, the cardinal said, Blessed John Paul lived by the words he spoke to the pubic when he was elected pope in 1978: "Be not afraid. The primacy of the spiritual, the essence of the soul," he said, was demonstrated during the pope's June, 1979 visit to Poland, when 1.5 million people gathered for Mass chanted spontaneously for 17 minutes: "We want God!"

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Players say injuries a concern, but joy of game, teamwork outweigh risk

LAUREL, Md. (CNS) -- St. Vincent Pallotti High School senior Rudolfo Garcia said, despite having two concussions back-to-back, he never thinks about the possibility of becoming injured before stepping out on the football field to play. "You don't think of being scared," Garcia, 17, said. "If one man is going 100 percent and you're going only 50 percent, you're probably going to get hurt." Because of the increase in the number of sports-related concussions, 49 states -- all but Mississippi -- have passed the Lystedt Law to educate parents, coaches and athletic trainers about the symptoms of a concussion as well as to keep players suspected of having a concussion from returning to their game or practice the same day. Many high schools, such as St. Vincent Pallotti in Laurel, also have a certified athletic trainer on staff to care for athletes. Courtney Courtemanche, head athletic trainer at the Catholic high school in the Washington Archdiocese, said she has seen the most concussions among soccer players and football players. Garcia, who plays tight end, defensive end and outside linebacker for St. Vincent Pallotti, said Courtemanche evaluated him after he suffered his first football-related concussion during a tackling drill sophomore year. Garcia said the concussion felt "like a dream. Everything felt different and looked different," he told Catholic News Service in an interview. "It's hard to understand."

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Furthering transparency efforts, Vatican bank publishes annual report

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As part of its continuing efforts to promote transparency and to demonstrate its stability and adherence to industry standards, the Vatican bank published its annual report for the first time in its history. The Institute for the Works of Religion, as the bank is formally known, released its independently audited report Oct. 1, publishing the 100-page document on its website: www.ior.va. In his introduction to the report, Ernst von Freyberg, president of the institute, said, "2012 was a successful year for the IOR and for our clients. The IOR posted earnings of 86.6 million euros (about $117 million), which allowed us to contribute 54.7 million euros toward the budget of the Holy See, while transferring 31.9 million euros to our general operating risk reserves." The bank's earnings for 2012 were more than four times greater than the 20.3 million euros it earned in 2011, mainly due to an increase in the value of the securities it invested in, the report said.

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Humility, service attract people to church, not power, pride, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As a series of consultations aimed at the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy began, Pope Francis told his group of cardinal advisers that humility and service attract people to the church, not power and pride. "Let us ask the Lord that our work today makes us all more humble, meek, more patient and more trusting in God so that the church may give beautiful witness to the people," he said Oct. 1 during morning Mass in his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The strength of the Gospel "is precisely in humility, the humility of a child who lets himself be guided by the love and tenderness of his father," he told the cardinals. The pope was concelebrating the Mass with the eight cardinals he chose in April to advise him on reforming the governance of the Roman Curia. The group's first formal meeting was to be held Oct. 1-3, with the first day of deliberations falling on the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux -- a saint the pope is particularly devoted to. He once told journalists, "Whenever I have a problem I ask the saint, not to resolve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it."

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Interfaith hospital on Turkish border helps Syrians save themselves

KILIS, Turkey (CNS) -- Ali Ahmad was walking with his young son one evening after dark. It was after they had fled Aleppo, Syria, and begun their lives as refugees in southern Turkey. It was a clear, starry night. "He looks up at the stars and he says, 'Dada, are they coming to bomb us?' I, I...." Ahmad could not finish the sentence. Even if his English was better, how could a father explain that his son is afraid of the stars? "All of us Syrians, we need psychologists. All of us. We have seen our houses destroyed, all kinds of things," Ahmad said over lunch with the staff at Malteser International's new joint project with the International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation in Kilis. The two international aid organizations -- one German Catholic and the other Turkish Muslim -- have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees. Ahmad is head nurse at the mobile hospital, which officially opened Sept. 13. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital are all Syrian. They all left Syria reluctantly, fleeing the fighting that began in 2011. They saw the hospitals where they worked bombed, homes where they lived destroyed and sniper fire in Aleppo picking off one or two random civilians per day.

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Children make up half the Syrian refugee population

KILIS, Turkey (CNS) -- Fifteen-year-old Abdullah Haji Mustafa wants to fight. He has been living in a refugee camp in Turkey for a year, since his family fled Tall Rifat, an embattled Syrian town just north of Aleppo. "Who wants not to go back?" he asks, standing between the gates of the camp and a steady stream of refugees passing through the Turkish border control. "I want to be a fighter. I will go to make freedom." Asked whether he really thinks fighting can bring peace, he responded: "I want peace. A soldier is the maker of peace." Abdullah is one of more than a million Syrian children living as refugees outside of Syria. He's not alone in Kilis; there are children everywhere. Kids offer to help refugees with their bags, wait for relatives to return from trips back into Syria or try to sell fruit to travelers passing by. Children make up about half of the Syrian refugee population. There are about 740,000 refugees under the age of 11. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports significant numbers of unaccompanied Syrian children crossing the borders with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. At least 7,000 Syrian children are among the 100,000 casualties of the 32-month-old civil war. Abdullah's town was under siege by Syrian security forces in 2011. In 2012, a council of Islamic scholars and former Syrian army officers took over administration of the town, ruling by Islamic law. As the Syrian army has pushed to retake Aleppo, it has bombed Tall Rifat from the air, hitting civilian targets.

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Pope calls for less 'Vatican-centric,' more socially conscious church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his latest wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis said that he aimed to make the Catholic Church less "Vatican-centric" and closer to the "people of God," as well as more socially conscious and open to modern culture. He also revealed that he briefly considered turning down the papacy in the moments following his election last March, and identified the "most urgent problem" the church should address today as youth unemployment and the abandonment of elderly people. The pope's remarks appeared in a 4,500-word interview, published Oct. 1 in the Rome daily La Repubblica, with Eugenio Scalfari, a co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Scalfari, an avowed atheist, publicly addressed the pope in a pair of articles on religious and philosophical topics over the summer, and Pope Francis replied in a letter that La Repubblica published Sept. 11. The journalist reported that the two met in person at the Vatican Sept. 24. Their conversation touched on a range of topics, including economic justice, dialogue between Christians and nonbelievers, and reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

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Syria's Armenians risk a winter without food, shelter in ancestral home

YEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) -- Thousands of previously middle-class Syrians now stranded in Armenia are rapidly running out of resources and could soon have no shelter, food or medicine, said an international aid group official. "There is a big need on the humanitarian side: food, shelter, medical needs," said Walter Hajek, head of international disaster management for Austria's Red Cross. "The highest influx (of Syrian Armenians) was in early summer of last year, and those were mostly of middle-class status, and they came here thinking it would be temporary, and that was obviously not the case," he said. Hajek said the Armenian government was helping Syrian Armenians with work permits and Armenian passports, free medical care at government hospitals and clinics, free schooling at government-run schools, and free space at several government shelters, but this aid was not enough. "If you go to the hospital, they treat you for free, but (buying) medication afterward is a problem for them," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 28. He said he had seen urgent cases of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart conditions, medication for which was too expensive for many of the Syrians to buy.

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Croatian priest killed during 1947 anti-church violence beatified

PULA, Croatia (CNS) -- A young priest who was murdered by communist partisans during a wave of anti-church violence in 1947 was beatified as a martyr in Croatia. Father Miroslav Bulesic, 27 at the time of his death, was portrayed as a victim of a hate crime during a time of upheaval in post-World War II Croatia by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, during the Sept. 28 ceremony. "All hate crimes are an abomination against religion, but the circumstances of the murder of Father Miroslav Bulesic were particularly loathsome," Cardinal Amato told hundreds of priests and 20,000 Catholics at the beatification Mass. "Human wickedness was vented on a helpless priest, and the wolf tore the lamb apart. Hatred extinguished a human life, which is always precious but was twice as priceless this time as the life of a good man," the cardinal said. He said honoring the priest expressed the church's "reverence and gratitude" for martyrs and should also encourage faith "in a world of transient ideologies."

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Newly resigned U.S. surgeon general takes public health chair at Xavier

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Sister Grace Mary Flickinger has been a teacher at Xavier University of Louisiana for "only 46 years," but she fought back tears as one of her former students, Dr. Regina Benjamin, the 18th U.S. surgeon general, returned home to run the university's newly created Department of Public Health Sciences. "I'm fighting tears because I'm so proud," said the Sister of the Blessed Sacrament about Benjamin. "She's not just good -- she's fulfilling St. Katharine Drexel's mission. I'm sure St. Katharine Drexel is smiling down on a young woman who is living the mission of Xavier University." Benjamin stepped down from her surgeon general's post in July, and one of the first telephone calls she received came from Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University, who said: "You know, Regina, you can come home. It was a very good feeling," Benjamin said Sept. 13 to an audience on the third floor of Xavier's University Center in New Orleans. "As I looked at other opportunities, they were very good opportunities, but there's none better. It's good to be home."


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