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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-18-2013

By Catholic News Service


Keeping with tradition, Colbert lobs good-natured barbs at Smith dinner

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Laughingly describing himself as America's most famous Catholic who as an 11-year-old altar boy put in his time "with the uppin' and the downin', the crissin' and the crossin'," Stephen Colbert headlined the 68th annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation held Oct. 17 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, followed the tradition of the charity event by lobbing good-natured barbs at Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and other religious, political and philanthropic leaders who shared the three-tiered dais at the charity event. Addressing 1,000 guests in formal wear, Colbert said it "looked like we all showed up at the same Halloween party dressed as the Monopoly guy. I have great respect for Cardinal Dolan, though I do have to say, sir, it's not easy when you're wearing that outfit. In that cape and red sash, you look like a matador who's really let himself go." Cardinal Dolan responded with a huge grin. The Al Smith dinner honors the memory of the former governor of New York, who was raised in poverty and was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States. Proceeds from the $1,500-a-plate event help needy children in Greater New York. The foundation distributed $1.8 million in grants after last year's dinner, including $800,000 to organizations aiding victims of Hurricane Sandy.

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Faith leaders welcome government reopening, point to unfinished work

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Religious leaders welcomed the congressional deal of Oct. 16 that reopened the federal government after a 16-day shutdown, but some cast wary glances at the unfinished business of Congress as well as the circumstances that brought about the shutdown in the first place. "The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period," said an Oct. 17 statement by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. "With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place," Bishop Blaire said. The bishops had hoped that the deal that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling into early 2014 would have included a provision granting a wider exemption to the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate required of most employers, but no such provision was in the package. "The bishops have pressed for legislative relief from the HHS mandate since its inception more than two years ago," said an Oct. 17 statement Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. "Church efforts to protect rights of conscience will continue despite this temporary setback."

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Call to 'ask not ...' still resonates in commitment to public service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president who admonished Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country," didn't live to see how it played out, but there are plenty of people trying to keep his vision alive. That starts with President John F. Kennedy's own relatives -- many of whom appear to treat public service as the family business -- and extends to entire generations of people who have been brought up with the expectation that they have an obligation to make the world a better place. Kennedy's inaugural address in 1961 launched a new approach to public service, helped along by his creation of the Peace Corps, VISTA and other organizations that provided an institutionalized way to volunteer in developing countries and among the poor and disadvantaged in the U.S. "We are just now realizing the full fruits of that call," said Mathew Johnson, an associate professor of sociology at Siena College in New York, and director of its VISTA program (Volunteers in Service to America, a domestic anti-poverty program now paired with AmeriCorps.). Today's young adults were brought up by baby-boomers who were the first to step up to Kennedy's call to service, he told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 phone interview.

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Pope says Mass translations promote unity, understanding of faith

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- English translations of Latin liturgical texts have promoted unity in the faith and helped millions of Catholics better understand the sacraments they share, Pope Francis said. "The fruits of your labors have not only helped to form the prayer of countless Catholics, but have also contributed to the understanding of the faith, the exercise of the common priesthood and the renewal of the church's missionary outreach," the pope said during a meeting Oct. 18 with representatives of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. The representatives were meeting in Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the commission, established in 1963 to develop unified English translations of the prayers used at Mass, for the celebration of the sacraments and other liturgies. ICEL is made up of 11 bishops' conferences: the United States, Canada, Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland, southern Africa (South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana), India, Pakistan, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

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Pope, at Mass, encourages people to visit retired priests, nuns

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling homes for retired priests and nuns "sanctuaries of holiness," Pope Francis asked Catholics to visit those who spent their lives sharing the Gospel and caring for others. In his morning Mass homily Oct. 18, the pope described retired clergy and religious as "good priests and good sisters, aged and bearing the weight of solitude, waiting for the Lord to knock on the doors of their hearts. Let's not forget them," he said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, according to Vatican Radio. Pope Francis spoke about how Moses, John the Baptist and St. Paul all endured suffering, but the Lord never abandoned them. They were filled with energy when they began their service, he said; then challenges came and eventually the end of life. Pope Francis said when he thinks of the closing days of St. Paul's life, "My heart remembers those sanctuaries of apostolicity and sanctity, rest homes for priests and sisters."

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Catholic media bring church closer to people, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic media are important not only as means of documenting church events, Pope Francis said, but especially as means for bringing the church and the Gospel closer to people. Catholic media professionals must report news and share stories, "dialoguing with a world that has a need to be listened to and understood, but also needs to receive the message of true life," the pope said Oct. 18. In a message to employees of the Vatican Television Center, which was marking its 30th anniversary as a producer and distributor of Vatican and papal video, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church needs the best communications media available, but they must be used as a service to the church and part of its evangelizing mission. "We live in a world in which there is almost nothing that doesn't have something to do with the universe of the media. Increasingly sophisticated instruments reinforce the almost pervasive role of communications technologies, language and forms in daily life, and not only among the young," the pope said. In the midst of all those words, sounds and images, he said, it is not easy to recount events related to the life of the church, "which is a sign and instrument of an intimate union with God and is the body of Christ, the people of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit."

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Christian persecution around world has intensified, study finds

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The persecution of Christians around the world has intensified over the last two-and-a-half years, according to a review of religious freedom in 30 countries. Not only are Christians in the Middle East and Africa suffering increasingly from Islamist terror attacks, but they continue to endure severe persecution and hardship in Communist, Marxist or post-Communist states, said a 192-page report by the United Kingdom branch of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Christians also are persecuted by religious nationalists in some countries where they find themselves in a minority, said the report, which was published Oct. 17. John Newton, a co-author of the report, told Catholic News Service Oct. 18 that the plight of Christians had deteriorated since early 2011, when the last biennial report on the global problem was published by the charity. "Given that in so many countries we have seen a worsening of conditions, I would say that, yes, on balance there has been a worsening of persecution in the last two-and-a-half years," he said. "Out of the 30 countries that we have assessed, in 20 of them, the situation has worsened in some way, but in some of these where there has been no change the problems were already extreme any way," Newton explained.

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Pope Francis prefigured: Discovering the real John Paul I

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "May God forgive you for what you have done," the newly elected pope told the cardinals who elevated him to the highest office in the Catholic Church. Later, he recounted the critical moments of voting in the Sistine Chapel: "As soon as the danger for me had begun, the two colleagues who were beside me whispered words of encouragement." With such expressions and other disarming shows of informality, the new pope almost instantly earned a global reputation for humility. Although Pope Francis made very similar remarks after his election in March, it was actually his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who spoke these phrases in September 1978, thus introducing a new, down-to-earth style into the papacy. Interest in Pope John Paul I, remembered for his winsome grin and death after only 33 days in office, has been rising since Pope Francis' election. That makes "A Passionate Adventure" (Tau Cross), a newly published compilation of essays and speeches by the "smiling pope," of both contemporary and historical relevance.

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Celluloid heaven: how popes took church, Gospel to the big screen

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter in 2012 and Pope Francis appeared on Instagram the following year, media watchers may have thought they were witnessing a Vatican revolution. In both cases, however, the pontiffs were merely following in a long tradition. The Catholic Church has a history of taking on major technological innovations that promote mass communication, such as the printing press in the 15th century and radio and television in the 20th. In fact, one of the very first motion picture films ever made was an 1896 reel of Pope Leo XIII. The brief black-and-white silent movie shows the elderly bespectacled pope sitting with guards and attendants at his side, adjusting his skullcap and blessing the camera. In another scene, the pope gets off a horse-drawn carriage and walks slowly with his cane to a bench, where he takes off his sun hat, adjusts his glasses and again blesses the camera with long, liquid movements of his frail hand. It was a blessing, not just to the world, but perhaps also to the birth of this new means of mass communication, said Claudia Di Giovanni, manager of the Vatican Film Library, whose rich collection includes the film of Pope Leo.

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Pope's chief of staff gives behind-the-scenes talk on media, reform

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican's online access to official papal texts and speeches free people from relying on media coverage that may be manipulative or biased, said a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State. People can go directly to the @Pontifex Twitter feed and the news.va aggregator site to see exactly what the pope has said so "you can make your own conclusions, because his words are often very different than the way they are presented by certain media outlets," U.S. Msgr. Peter B. Wells, assessor for general affairs, said Oct. 18. The monsignor's remarks came in a rare Q-and-A encounter when he spoke in a frescoed hall of the apostolic palace in front of an audience of more than 300 benefactors of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. The benefactors, most from North America and Great Britain, were in Rome for a weeklong celebration of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Patrons, whose network of local chapters raises money to preserve and restore the museums' priceless collections. Msgr. Wells gave brief introductory remarks explaining his and his office's duties, then took questions from seven people in the audience. The questions covered topics such as the curial reform process and managing the pope's message. Msgr. Wells is part of a new five-person pontifical commission that is reviewing the activities and mission of the Vatican bank and is president of a new Financial Security Committee, whose members share responsibility for preventing and countering money laundering and terrorism financing.

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Late bishop a 'humble priest' whose spirituality touched thousands

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CNS) -- The "humility, sense of humor and, above all, spirituality" of retired Auxiliary Bishop James J. Daly of Rockville Centre, who died Oct. 14, "touched thousands and thousands of the faithful in a very deep and personal way," said the head of the diocese. Bishop William F. Murphy said the late auxiliary bishop, who was 92 years old, was "truly a trailblazer and visionary during the early formative years of this diocese." A funeral Mass was celebrated for Bishop Daly Oct. 18 at the Cathedral of St. Agnes, followed by burial at St. Boniface Cemetery in Elmont, N.Y. Bishop Murphy was the main celebrant, and concelebrants included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and several priests. The homilist was Msgr. James M. McNamara, episcopal vicar of the diocese's central vicariate and pastor Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Point Lookout. In an Oct. 15 statement, Bishop Murphy noted that "so many of the people of God of this great diocese" experienced the late bishop's "witness as humble priest and later as auxiliary bishop." Bishop Daly "was always a calm, peaceful and reassuring presence," he added.


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