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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-14-2014

By Catholic News Service


Survey shows Pope Francis has influenced giving by U.S. Catholics

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While any increase in church attendance prompted by the pope's appeal isn't quite yet measurable, a new survey shows Pope Francis has made an impact on Catholic giving in the year since his papacy began. Results of the survey, released March 13 by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, found that of the 1,003 Catholics polled, one in four have increased their giving from last year. Of those who did, 77 percent said Pope Francis inspired their giving to some degree. Forty-two percent said his influence on their decision was "significant. It is clear that Pope Francis and his message of mercy and joy, and a special concern for the poor, are inspiring U.S. Catholics in their giving," Alexia Kelley, president of FADICA, said in a March 13 press release. FADICA is a nonprofit network of nearly 50 private philanthropists supporting Catholic-sponsored programs. The network commissioned Zogby Analytics to do the survey, which was conducted online from March 7 to March 10. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The survey also showed a growing motivation among Hispanic Catholics specifically. Hispanics, it said, are the group most likely to have increased their giving in the past year.

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U.S. lawmakers invite pope to address joint meeting of Congress

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A bipartisan invitation to Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress if he comes to the U.S. in 2015 recognizes "the importance of the qualities" the pontiff embodies that resonate with people around the globe, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington. Those qualities include "a desire for peace, care for the poor, and an ability to bring people together to address the needs of the suffering and marginalized," the cardinal said in a statement March 13, the first anniversary of the pope's election. "These are values that our broken world is so in need of at this moment in history. I am grateful to Congress for acknowledging the universal appeal of Pope Francis' message with this invitation," he added. Earlier in the day House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a formal, open invitation to the pontiff to address a joint meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a visiting head of state. "(It) would honor our nation in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic institutions," Boehner said in a statement. "It would also offer an excellent opportunity for the American people as well as the nations of the world to hear his message in full." There has been speculation that Pope Francis will come to the U.S. in September 2015 to attend the last day of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, but there has been no official confirmation the pope will be there. Past popes have attended the final day of the gathering.

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Bill would continue programs that help inmates with life after prison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Clevelander Alease Fleming is no stranger to prison. Having served three sentences totaling six years plus for theft, robbery and burglary by the time she was 34, she got to know what life is like on the inside and harbored plenty of anger at the world on the outside. But it was sometime during her last prison term -- three years for burglary, a crime committed to support a nasty crack habit -- that Fleming began to consider her future. Watching women who were in their 60s and 70s across the prison pod, Fleming thought she did not want to be like them. "I was looking at them and thinking, 'I don't want my grandbabies to see me in prison,'" she told Catholic News Service. A flier introducing a case management program posted on the wall of the Northeast Pre-Release Center in Cleveland, where inmates are sent a few months before their sentences are finished, convinced Fleming it was time to seek the assistance she needed to stabilize her life and escape the drugs-crime-prison cycle. Fourteen months after her January 2013 release, Fleming, 35, said she owes great gratitude to the Comprehensive Case Management Services program operated by Community Re-Entry, a nationally known program of Cleveland's long-standing Lutheran Metropolitan Services.

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Pope says it's important to keep hope alive, have a sense of humor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the end of his Lenten retreat, Pope Francis said he and his closest collaborators at the Vatican "want to follow Jesus more closely, without losing hope in his promises and without losing a sense of humor." The pope and 82 members of the Roman Curia, who left the Vatican by bus March 9 to travel the 20 miles to the Pauline Fathers' retreat and conference center in Ariccia, returned to the Vatican by bus March 14. Before they left the retreat house, Pope Francis thanked Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, the pastor of St. Mark's parish in the center of Rome, whom he had chosen to guide the Lenten retreat. "We are returning home with a good seed -- the seed of the word of God," the pope told him. "The Lord will send the rain and that seed will grow. It will grow and bear fruit. We thank the Lord for the seed and for the rain he will send, but we also want to thank the sower." Pope Francis said Msgr. De Donatis really knew what he was doing. "He threw some seed here and he threw some there without knowing it -- or pretending not to know -- but he hit the mark." The 10 meditations offered by the monsignor focused on "the purification of the heart."

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Biggest downside of being pontiff is the paperwork, Pope Francis says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The thing Pope Francis dislikes most about his job as pontiff is the paperwork, he told residents of an Argentine slum in which he used to minister. "Paperwork, office work, it's the thing I always struggled with," the pope said in response to the question, "What's the thing you like least about your mission as pope?" The pope's remarks came during a pre-recorded televised video message to the residents of Village 1-11-14 -- a Buenos Aires' shantytown inhabited mostly by South American immigrants. Members of the community radio station, Radio FM 88 of Bajo Flores, conducted the interview with the pope at the Vatican before he left for a Lenten retreat outside of Rome March 9. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published small portions of the interview March 14. The station broadcast the question-and-answer interview for residents on large screens after a March 13 Mass celebrating the one-year anniversary of the pope's election.

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In Argentine shanties, priests live like the sheep they shepherd

JOSE LEON SUAREZ, Argentina (CNS) -- The doors used to stay shuttered on Our Lady of the Miracle chapel in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, opening only on Saturdays for catechism classes and Sundays for a single, sparsely attended service. Nowadays, the chapel opens early and stays late, offering everything from a safe place for kids to play soccer to packed Sunday services. It also provides a community center and spiritual home for often-stigmatized shanty dwellers, whose neighborhoods are known as "Las Villas de Miseria," or "Misery Villages." "It embarrassed me to go to church," said Sebastiana Solabarrieta, who volunteers in the chapel's Caritas clothing bank. "Now, everyone is here." Churchgoers like Solabarrieta credit Father Jose Maria di Paola, pastor at the chapel, with bringing people back to Catholicism over the past year in Villa La Carcova, where evangelical groups had gained ground and problems like poverty and drugs persist. But Father di Paola -- famous in Buenos Aires as "Padre Pepe" for his work with the downtrodden and drug addicts -- and his fellow "curas villeros" (shanty priests) provide an example of the "poor church" of which Pope Francis speaks, in which priests leave their parishes to provide pastoral attention to people on the periphery. The priests have become an institution in metropolitan Buenos Aires, where former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio made them his foot soldiers in implementing his vision of a church serving society and priests being "shepherds living with the smell of sheep."

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Nun raped in India in 2008 finds victory in court's conviction of three

NEW DELHI (CNS) -- A trial court in Cuttack has convicted three men for an August 2008 incident in which a nun was raped and paraded around semi-naked. Six of those charged in the incident were acquitted for lack of evidence. The nun, a member of the Congregation of Handmaids of Mary, described the court verdict as "a victory for the church and the suffering people. Yes, the (court) verdict has proved that it (rape) is true. Truth has been upheld," she told Catholic News Service. "For more than five years, I have been going to the court. I am happy the painful trial is over and fruitful. We have been craving for justice. We are happy," she said. The widespread anti-Christian violence in which the incident occurred was triggered by the murder of a Hindu leader. The violence left more than 100 dead, nearly 300 churches desecrated and 6,000 Christian houses looted and plundered in Orissa state's Kandhamal district. The nun, then 28, and Father Thomas Chellan, director of the pastoral center in Kandhamal, were pulled from a Hindu house where they had taken shelter; the nun was raped in a burned church building before both of them were paraded, semi-naked, along the road in police presence.


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