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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Nov-22-2013

By Catholic News Service


Dallas marks JFK assassination anniversary with prayers and solemnity

DALLAS (CNS) -- Under cloudy skies and blustery winds, thousands of people gathered Nov. 22 at the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago to the day, a tribute to his legacy and a ceremony many local officials also hoped would finally wipe the stain away from Dallas' darkest day. The gathering at Dealey Plaza was a stark contrast to Nov. 22, 1963, a sunny day that allowed the president, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife, Nellie Connally, to travel through downtown Dallas in an open limousine greetings thousands of people on the streets. The memorial ceremony, across the street from the building from where the fatal shots were fired, had been in the planning stages for a year. In 1963, many civic leaders were critical of the president and anti-Kennedy propaganda and sentiment had been spreading prior to his arrival. When he arrived in Dallas, thousands of people had lined the streets from Love Field through downtown Dallas and to the Dallas Trade Mart. As his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza, on the western edge of downtown, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Warren Commission later determined, fired three shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Two of those struck the president. Connally was wounded by shrapnel. Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital, his body hastily placed in a casket and loaded onto Air Force One. There, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office and the plane headed to Washington.

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For mother of prisoner, death penalty issue in 'forefront of our lives'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Terri Steinberg said she never thought about the death penalty until her son was put on death row. Steinberg said her son Justin Wolfe spent 12 years on death row in the state of Virginia, after initially turning himself in to the police to clear his name from murder charges. But he was convicted. That conviction was vacated in late 2012, but he remains in jail and faces retrial on the charge of capital murder. "I never thought about it (the death penalty) before," Steinberg told Catholic News Service in an interview. "Now, it's the forefront of our lives." The death penalty took the spotlight most recently with the execution of convicted murderer Joseph Franklin in Missouri. Despite a plea for clemency in a Nov. 15 letter from the state's Catholic bishops and leaders of other religious and human rights organizations, Gov. Jay Nixon refused to stop the execution. Franklin, convicted for the murder of Gerald Gordon in 1977, spent more than two decades on death row. He was executed by the state of Missouri at midnight Nov. 20. Rita Lindhardt, a senior staff member at the Missouri Catholic Conference who works on death penalty issues, said although Franklin also had committed a series of hate crimes, he suffered from mental illness. From the perspective of the Catholic Church, Lindhardt said, capital punishment violates the sanctity and dignity of human life. "It was a tragedy that Mr. Franklin was executed," she told CNS in a phone interview. "It's very sad for a state to spend so much time and energy to execute a person with mental illness."

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Archbishop Cordileone criticizes Illinois legalizing same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said the action by the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn to legalize same-sex marriage "does not alter the natural reality that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman." Speaking as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, the archbishop also said in a statement distributed by the bishops' media office that some legislators took steps to "manipulate" the words of Pope Francis to gain support for the measure. "Marriage redefinition is a serious injustice," Archbishop Cordileone said. "The law exists to safeguard the common good and protect authentic rights, especially the right of children to have a married mother and father." The law takes effect June 1. Same-sex marriage now is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The statement quoted Pope Francis' first papal encyclical, "Lumen Fidei" ("The Light of Faith"), in which the pope said that family life is best supported by the "the stable union of man and woman in marriage."

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Baptism sets up life of 'fulfillment, purpose,' speaker tells youths

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- When Stevie Wonder wrote his hit single "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" in 1970, he likely never imagined the words would form the theme of a national Catholic gathering for youths. But the words reinterpreted through the lens of faith formed a clear message to the 21,000 youths gathered for the National Catholic Youth Conference: Signed -- by the waters of baptism. Sealed -- by the Holy Spirit. Delivered -- from death into life. The rain that fell outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov. 21 proved appropriate, with the opening general session focusing on baptism. Through that rain, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis processed with the Eucharist from St. John the Evangelist Church across the street to the Indiana Convention Center. Xander Eisert of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., age 15, described the scene. "We were in the lobby of the convention center. (Priests and seminarians) started walking in, group after group, and they were singing in Latin. Everyone was down on their knees, our hats were off. It was a really cool experience. I didn't expect that on the first day."

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'Simple Wisdom' two-book series offers Pope Francis' homespun messages

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Communications Department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released two brief books on the "Simple Wisdom of Pope Francis." They are the first books of the pontiff's words since his election in March, and the brief messages "make for easy, daily reading," says a release announcing the books' publication. The slim volumes -- subtitled "Hold on to Hope" and "The Joy of Evangelization" -- include papal remarks that have garnered worldwide media attention. The series of two books is available for $11.95 plus shipping, in individual and bulk copies. More information can be found at www.SimpleWisdomSeries.com. The books are published in English in conjunction with the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The "Hope" volume is 66 pages long and "Evangelization," 73 pages. In conjunction with their publication, the books will be used as a giveaway for Catholics who participate in a USCCB Facebook effort to have Catholics share how they observe Advent and prepare for Christmas. At www.facebook.com/usccb -- beginning Dec. 1, the first Sunday of Advent -- Catholics will be asked, "How do you prepare for Christmas?" and they will encouraged to share photos. A copy of the two-book series will be given away daily to a winners chosen at random. To enter the contest, users should visit www.USCCB.org/Advent.The site also features the USCCB interactive Advent calendar packed with daily tips and videos to help people prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

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Asking God 'why' attracts his fatherly love, pope tells Filipinos

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the midst of a disaster, it is natural and perfectly healthy to ask God why, Pope Francis told members of Rome's Philippine community. Referring to the death and destruction Super Typhoon Haiyan caused in the central Philippines in early November, Pope Francis said, "Why do these things happen? It can't be explained. There are many things that we cannot understand." The Philippine community had gathered in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 21 to formally place a mosaic of St. Pedro Calungsod in the grotto under the church. The ceremony, planned months ago, turned into a prayer service for the deceased and the survivors of the typhoon. Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila led the prayers, speaking not only of the sorrow and suffering the mega-storm caused, but also of the faith, love and solidarity evident in its aftermath. Joining the pilgrims, Pope Francis thanked the cardinal for his "words full of faith, full of pain, full of hope."

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Pope: Social doctrine keeps finance from falling prey to idol of profit

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world where profit reigns over human dignity, solidarity has become a "dirty word" and risks being removed from the dictionary, Pope Francis said. "Whoever works in economics and finance is surely attracted to profit, and if they are not careful, they will put themselves at the service of profit and becoming slaves to money," he said. The pope's comments came in a video message aired Nov. 21 at a meeting on Catholic social teaching being held in Verona, Italy, Nov. 21-24. The third "Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church" focused on preventing inequality and preserving diversity in a globalized world. In his message, the pope said Catholic social doctrine "is a great point of reference" and is a very useful guide "for not losing oneself" in a profit-driven economy. The church's many teachings on social doctrine offer important reflections and hope, and are "able even today to guide people and keep them free" from becoming slaves to money, he said.

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Churches must first be places where God is adored, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Temples and churches are places people gather for many reasons, but if a place of worship is not primarily a place where God is adored, then it can't really be called a temple or a church, Pope Francis said. "I think, and I say this with all humility, that we Christians have lost some of the sense of adoration," the pope said Nov. 22 during morning Mass in the chapel of his residence. Gathering at church as brothers and sisters "is good, it's beautiful," he said, but the church "is where God is and we adore God. The temple is the place where the community goes to pray, to praise the Lord, to give thanks, but most of all to adore the Lord," he said, according to Vatican Radio. At a Mass or other liturgy, the pope asked, "What is most important? The songs, the rites, everything beautiful? Adoration is most important: the entire community gathered, looking with adoration toward the altar were the sacrifice is celebrated." Pope Francis said St. Paul also wrote about people being the temple of the Holy Spirit, which means, "I am a temple. The spirit of God is in me."

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Christian churches on front lines, fighting climate-change damage

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- When representatives of Catholic development organizations arrived in Warsaw to lobby for action at an intergovernmental conference on climate change, many also urged greater involvement by their own church. But Christians worldwide are already at the forefront in combating climate-change damage, which is being felt by many local church communities. In India, widely considered one of the world's most vulnerable countries, the church's Caritas charity runs projects promoting agricultural and maritime regeneration, as well as new livelihoods in the face of rising sea levels, temperature changes and extreme weather. Caritas is active in poor states such as Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, where tribal Catholic communities are affected, and has persuaded 3,600 farmers nationwide to sign up for initiatives to improve soil productivity and crop nutrients. "Although there's plenty of land here, it's often dried up because of declining water irrigation, forcing people to migrate," Father Frederick D'Souza, Caritas India's executive director, explained during the Nov. 11-22 Conference of Parties of the U.N Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Polish capital.

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With document on evangelization, pope makes real authorial debut

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), which the Vatican has scheduled for publication Nov. 26, Pope Francis finally makes his real debut as papal author. Popes through the centuries have issued their most important written messages in one of 10 classic forms, ranging from encyclical to "chirograph," a brief document on a highly limited subject. But most of these are typically formulaic texts that do not express the distinctive voice or charism of the man who issues them. Pope Francis has already published an encyclical, traditionally considered the most authoritative form of papal writing. But in the opening paragraphs of "Lumen Fidei," released in July, he explained that the text was essentially the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to whose words Pope Francis had merely "added a few contributions" of his own. By contrast, Pope Francis has made clear that "Evangelii Gaudium" is very much his own work. Apostolic exhortations are often based on deliberations of synods of bishops, and this one takes into account the October 2012 synod on the new evangelization. But last June, Pope Francis informed the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops, which is normally responsible for helping draft post-synodal apostolic exhortations, he would not be working from their draft.

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Jesuit-run soup kitchen mirrors growing economic gap in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) -- On a rainy morning, not far from the upscale shopping strip of Santa Fe Avenue with its abundant window displays and name-brand stores, the blue door of the Works of San Jose opened for the second seating of its daily breakfast. In the dining room some 80 homeless and working poor, mostly men, had finished their breakfast and, reluctant to venture out into the rain, were milling about in the entry and hallways of the building belonging to the Jesuit Fathers. Eighty more were getting ready to sit down for the second seating. Though the Argentine government likes to tout a decrease in the poverty level in this resources-rich country, community workers say the opposite is true. The gap between the haves and have-nots are increasing, they say, and while some segments of society enjoy economic wealth, others from the lower and middle classes are finding themselves left out of the government's self-proclaimed prosperity. In Buenos Aires alone there are at least 20,000 homeless people. Some are homeless due to drug abuse, but more people from interior provinces have come to the nation's capital in search of work, only to find themselves facing unemployment and life in the streets. "With the economic crisis of the country, people began coming (to Buenos Aires) from the provinces and have become garbage scavengers," said Jesuit Father Salvador Veron, spiritual coordinator for the Works of San Jose. "We are seeing an increase in street people due to a combination of lack of work and also a disintegration of the family due to the influence of drugs and alcohol."

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Father Alec Reid, known for role in Northern Ireland peace talks, dies

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Redemptorist Father Alec Reid, the 82-year-old priest praised for his role in ending a decades-long sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, died Nov. 22 in a Dublin hospital. During the 1980s, he secretly acted as a conduit between the paramilitary Irish Republican Army and politicians in Northern Ireland. He was instrumental in bringing about a 1994 cease-fire that led to peace talks and served as one of the witnesses who confirmed the decommissioning of IRA weapons in 2005. Father Reid is remembered as the priest who gave the last rites to two British army corporals, David Howes and Derek Wood, who were killed after they drove into a republican funeral. In a BBC documentary earlier this year marking the 25th anniversary of that period of killings, Father Reid recalled, "When I was lying between the two soldiers, I remember saying to myself, 'This shouldn't be happening in a civilized society.' That motivated me or encouraged me to keep trying to get away from this kind of society where this kind of thing could happen." The image of Father Reid praying over the stripped soldier stretched out in crucified form became one of the most powerful and harrowing images of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

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Young people weary of 'culture of death,' says founder of Live Action

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CNS) -- Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action, said the organization's mission is to protect those who can't protect themselves, but it's also to expose "a truth." The work of Live Action -- www.liveaction.org -- involves investigative and undercover journalism, national and international media outreach, and youth education programs to spread the pro-life message. Its videos have shed light on illegal and unethical practices in the abortion industry. A typical undercover investigation involves a young woman posing as a teenager who is seeking an abortion. The object is to see if all laws are followed by the abortion facility. "What we're doing is trying to protect those who have no way to protect themselves, and not just that, but we're actually exposing a truth," Rose said in a recent keynote speech at a Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation banquet in Cranberry Township, near Pittsburgh. "We're holding up a mirror by presenting real-world situations to abortion workers of what they are dealing with every day, and we hold up a mirror to see how they really respond to expose that to the world and to, in effect, the abortion worker," she said. "And it helps them to see the evil they're involved in."


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