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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-1-2014

By Catholic News Service


At border Mass, bishops call for compassion, immigration reform

NOGALES, Ariz. (CNS) -- With the backdrop a few feet away of the rusted iron slats of the 30-foot wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and a dozen other bishops from three countries prayed April 1 for compassion and for a return to ideals that welcome immigrants. More than 300 people formed the outdoor congregation on the U.S. side of the border and hundreds more participated on the Mexico side, receiving Communion pressed into hands that stretched between the slats, illustrating that, as one teenage member of the choir put it, "we are all one community -- we are all bilingual and bicultural." Referring to a visit by Pope Francis last summer to the Italian island of Lampedusa where migrants from the Middle East and Africa try to enter Europe illegally, Cardinal O'Malley in his homily quoted the pope's comments about the "globalization of indifference." Pope Francis said: "We have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the good Samaritan." Cardinal O'Malley quoted Pope Francis further: "The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people." The Mass at the intersection of International Street and Nelson capped a two-day experience of the border region for bishops from as far away as Atlanta and Guatemala. Beginning with a Mass the day before at San Xavier del Bac Mission outside Tucson, which dates from when the entire region was part of Mexico, the bishops then walked along rough desert paths used by migrants.

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Two church leaders urge Senate to pass Smarter Sentencing Act

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders called on the U.S. Senate to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reform rigid sentencing policies for certain nonviolent drug offenders. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said in a March 27 letter to senators that tough minimum sentences "are costly, ineffective and can be detrimental to the good of persons, families and communities." They called the bill a "modest first step in reforming our nation's broken sentencing policies." The bill would cut minimum existing sentences by half and allow judges to use discretion when imposing jail terms against lower-level offenders. The legislation also would permit crack cocaine offenders to seek lighter sentences if they were jailed under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The bill's supporters tout it as a necessary first step to reduce overcrowding in prisons and begin whittling down the massive cost of incarceration.

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Neocatechumenal Way to send mission teams to Philadelphia parishes

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Two teams of missionary families with the Neocatechumenal Way -- a parish-based faith formation program -- will work in Philadelphia parishes starting in June at the request of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. The mission teams will be based at St. Charles Borromeo and St. Michael parishes. Both parishes have seen a decline in the number of active parishioners in recent years. St. Charles had a 35 percent drop in weekend Mass attendance from 2008 to 2012, even as the parish's population rose 24 percent. St. Michael similarly had a 22 percent drop in Mass attendance while the parish population increased by 53 percent. The family mission teams, called "Missio ad Gentes" (mission to the nations), will include a priest and two families. While the traditional pastoral work of the parishes will continue, it will be aided by the families, who will move into the areas and meet in the homes of residents of the community to evangelize them. There are 95 "Missio ad Gentes" teams around the world including six in the United States: one in Brooklyn, N.Y., three in Boston and now two in Philadelphia. Currently there are about 1,000 Neocatechumenal Way communities in the U.S., each with an average of 40 members, according to Emanuele Contini, who supervises the communities in southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington and Virginia. There are seven Neocatechumenal Way parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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High court declines to give groups' HHS appeals preliminary review

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court's March 31 decision not to consider preliminary appeals in lawsuits brought by several Catholic groups against the federal contraceptive mandate "means that the cases will proceed, without prejudice, in the lower federal court," according to Priests for Life. Besides Priests for Life, the groups include the Archdiocese of Washington, The Catholic University of America and Thomas Aquinas College. Their cases are currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. According to Priests for Life, the groups used a special provision that allows an appeal to the Supreme Court, even while a case is in a lower court, provided the "case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court." Once the appeals court rules on the cases either the plaintiffs of the defendants can still seek a review by the Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the cases are scheduled for May 8 at the appeals court. "We are working with our attorneys to present the strongest possible case to the Court of Appeals, and at the same time are urging the public to stand with us, just as they are standing with Hobby Lobby," Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement. He was referring to the arts and crafts chain, a for-profit secular company whose Christian owners object on moral grounds to complying with providing all of the contraceptive coverage the mandate requires. The high court March 25 heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case and a case filed by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., whose Mennonite owners similarly object to being forced to provide the coverage for their employees.

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Pope asks Curia to find ways to implement 'Joy of Gospel' in its work

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called together the heads of all Vatican offices to discuss how they could integrate into their work the teaching of his apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"). The Vatican said the meeting, held April 1 inside the Apostolic Palace, lasted two and a half hours. The subject of the meeting was "a reflection on 'Evangelii Gaudium,'" said Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office. He said the pope wanted the group to talk about how the papal document, which calls on Catholics to be living examples of joy, love and charity, "can influence the work of the Curia." Those attending the meeting discussed their "reflections on and reactions" to the pope's apostolic exhortation and "the prospects that are open for its implementation," the Vatican said in a brief statement issued at the end of the discussion. Pope Francis held a similar meeting last September when he called together top Vatican officials to hear their questions and suggestions about his ongoing reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

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Jeremiah Denton, Navy officer who survived torture as Vietnam POW, dies

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (CNS) -- Retired Rear Adm. Jeremiah Denton, who as a young Navy flight captain was captured in 1965 during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than seven-and-a-half years, died March 28. He was 89. He was in a hospice in Virginia Beach and died of heart problems, according to The Washington Post. Details of funeral arrangements were not immediately released. A Catholic, Denton often talked about how his faith sustained him during his years as a prisoner of war and helped him survive the torture he endured at the hands of his captors. "Sometimes I wonder how I survived. It was by the grace of God that I am still here," he told The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., in a 1999 interview. It was his Catholic faith in the end, he said, that provided him the strength to survive his imprisonment, which included four years in solitary confinement. Born July 15, 1924, in Mobile, Ala., Denton was a graduate of Jesuit-run Spring Hill College in Mobile and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. He also pursued advanced studies at the National Defense University, the Naval War College and George Washington University. Over his 34-year Navy career, Denton received numerous military citations, including two Air Medals, two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Combat Action Ribbon. He retired from the Navy in November 1977 with the rank of rear admiral. In 1980, he won election as a U.S. senator from Alabama, serving one term. He was the first Republican since Reconstruction to represent Alabama in the Senate.

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Portraying saint a chance to share message of God's mercy, says actress

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Besides the challenge of portraying St. Faustina, actress Maria Vargo said she also was drawn to the role by the opportunity to share "the message of God's mercy for every soul. I have had a devotion to Divine Mercy and have been praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy for a long time," Vargo explained. "I have experienced and continue to experience God's mercy personally and I understand the great gift that it is." Vargo travels the country portraying St. Faustina in a multimedia drama, "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy." The saint had a special devotion to God's divine mercy. The chaplet is a series of prayers focusing on the gifts of his mercy, especially shown through the passion of Christ. Vargo was in Sioux City in mid-March to perform the one-woman drama, which is directed by Leonardo Defilippis of St. Luke Productions, based in Battle Ground, Wash. St. Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in 1905 to a large peasant family in Poland. After a vision from Jesus encouraged her to become a nun, the young woman entered the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She took Maria Faustina as her religious name and spent the rest of her life doing menial labor at the convent. In 1930, Sister Faustina began having mystical visions. Jesus appeared to her in a white garment, with rays of white and red light emanating near his heart. He asked her to paint his image with the message, "Jesus, I trust in you." That was the beginning of a mission that turned into a devotion for the church -- the Divine Mercy.


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