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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-16-2014

By Catholic News Service


Archbishop says 2015 family meeting will be important to U.S., world

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia's visit to Philadelphia May 13-14 as part of the preparation for the September 2015 World Meeting of Families was in his view a success. "Philadelphia is magnifico," said the archbishop in a telephone interview. After a quick stop in the Wilmington, Delaware, area, he was en route by automobile to New York City, where he addressed the United Nations May 15, the 19th annual observance of the International Day of the Family. Of his final day in Philadelphia, he said that "it was interesting spending the morning at the seminary and the schools and meeting with the government officials. We started to organize the World Meeting of Families. I think the event will be very important to the United States and the world." The newly announced theme of the Sept. 22-27, 2015, meeting in the city is "Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." The archbishop is very familiar with Philadelphia, tracing back to his student days at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in the 1960s. That was the time of the Second Vatican Council, and as a young seminarian he assisted then-Archbishop John Krol of Philadelphia with translations of some of the documents. The two remained friends in the years that followed. Archbishop Paglia is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which sponsors the World Meeting of Families every three years in a different city.

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Studies point to possible pitfalls as church becomes more Hispanic

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two reports on Latinos and religion released the first week of May paint a picture of the U.S. Catholic Church at a potentially precarious point with its fastest-growing demographic. One risk: Hispanics will soon constitute a majority of the U.S. church, but the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry suggests outreach to that population has not kept up with the growth. Another risk highlighted by a Pew Research Center report on Latinos and religious practice is a 12 percent drop in just four years in the number of Latinos who describe themselves as Catholic. In 2010, 67 percent of U.S. Hispanics told Pew they were Catholic, while in 2013, 55 percent said they were Catholic. "We need to get our act together as a church," said the parish studies' principal author, Hosffman Ospino, Boston College assistant professor of theology and ministry, in a May 6 interview with Catholic News Service. While he repeatedly described the shifting demographics as an exciting time, he said the church must stop thinking of different groups as "them. We need to come to terms with our diversity," he said. "The Catholic Church needs to start thinking of whatever happens to Latinos not as a 'Latino issue' but as something that happens to all of us." The study of 5,100 Latinos for Pew, interviewed in summer of 2013, found about 24 percent consider themselves "former" Catholics. The largest declines came among foreign-born Latinos who are Catholic -- down by 15 percent in four years -- and people under 50, with declines of 14 and 15 percent for the age brackets 30-49 and 18-29, respectively. By comparison, Pew found net gains in the number of Latinos who describe themselves as Protestant, up by 8 percent, or "unaffiliated," up by 10 percent.

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Pope cuts meetings because of cold, need to rest before Holy Land trip

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Because he has a bit of a cold and wants to rest up for his May 24-26 trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has postponed several scheduled appointments. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters May 16 that Pope Francis had celebrated his morning Mass that day with guests invited to the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives. Vatican Radio's coverage of the morning Mass includes several clips of Pope Francis' homily, delivered in a slightly hoarse voice. Because he was not feeling well and his agenda included meetings that easily could be postponed, the pope decided to "consolidate his rest" and take the remainder of the day off, Father Lombardi said. Already May 15, Father Lombardi had announced that the pope decided to postpone a planned May 18 pastoral visit to Rome's parish and Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love to rest up for his visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel later in May. However, the pope kept a packed schedule of meetings with ambassadors and with Mexican bishops making their "ad limina" visits May 15.

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Church in India not 'unduly concerned' about Hindu nationalist victory

THRISSUR, India (CNS) -- Amid Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide victory in Indian elections, the secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said "the church should not be unduly concerned. We should not be alarmed or be scared," Archbishop Albert D'Souza of Agra told Catholic News Service after votes were counted May 16. The BJP won a clear majority of 284 seats from the 543 parliament seats at stake, while the National Democratic Alliance it heads with other parties totaled 334 seats. Polling occurred in nine phases from April 7 to May 12. On the other hand, the Congress party, which has ruled India for a decade, claimed only 47 seats compared to the 206 seats it had won in the 2009 election. "This result shows the maturity of the Indian electorate. The people have given a decisive verdict for a change," Archbishop D'Souza said. Explaining that the church has a "prophetic role" to play, the archbishop added that "the challenge before the church is to take a stand and remain alert to ensure that the sanctity of the constitution is upheld."

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New immigrants are changing the face of Chile's parishes

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- It was getting dark in Quilicura, a poor industrial zone in the northern area of Santiago, the capital of Chile, when a car with three young men pulled up to St. John Paul II Church. After exchanging some words in the Creole language, the language of Haitians, one of them got down and rushed to the church, holding an empty Coca-Cola bottle. Only a handful of parishioners were in the church at that hour on a Friday evening and the man asked one of them if any holy water was available. A middle-aged woman led him to a font, where the Haitian filled the half-liter bottle. He left looking much more relieved. "We use holy water to bless our homes, but Haitians use it way more often than us," one of the parishioners said. "Sometimes, when they don't find any, they wait for one of the fathers to bless some water for them." Luis Desseix did not hear the comment. He has been in Chile for six years since leaving Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, seeking a country to continue his studies after high school. He thought Chile could be that place. "Before I came, I called a friend who was already in Chile," Desseix said. "He told me it was a good place. I came to study, but when you arrive to a country, you really don't know the way things work, especially if you don't know the language."

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Conference attendees agree that the family must be valued by everyone

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- The first Asian Conference on the Family closed with a message from the 551 attendees emphasizing that the family is precious to God and must be "highly valued" by everyone. Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr. of Novaliches in northern metro Manila read from a declaration adopted May 16 by conference attendees. "Because the family is so valuable and because God wants the future of humanity to pass through the human family, we must safeguard, foster, protect and promote the family," he said at the conclusion of the four-day conference. "We, each one of us, all of us, must individually and together, do this, for what is at stake is the future of humanity." The conference explored the challenges that traditional families face with the growing acceptance worldwide of same-sex marriage and the ready availability of contraceptives and legalized abortion. Hosted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the gathering gave participants the opportunity to discuss the Charter of Rights of the Family and its impact on Asia 30 years after its promulgation by the Vatican in 1983. Young adults, including a Philippine basketball star, also weighed in on what they value about their families and shared the positive contributions they have made to help keep a "happy home." For basketball point guard Chris Tiu, 28, it was giving time to his family. "When I was in college ... I would enjoy so much the company of my friends, we would go out at night, party. ... As I got older, after I got married ... I felt a shift. After a long day of work, I always looked forward to having meals with the family," Tiu said.

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In Holy Land, Pope Francis will focus on unity, not ignore conflict

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On Pope Francis' first trip to the Holy Land, May 24-26, his agenda will focus on the search for Christian unity, particularly between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. But inevitably, in a region so rich in history and so fraught with conflict, he will address other urgent issues, including dialogue with Jews and Muslims, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the plight of the Middle East's shrinking Christian population. The Vatican has emphasized that the pope's main purpose on the trip is to meet in Jerusalem with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, considered first among equals by Orthodox bishops. The official logo for the papal visit is an icon of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, patron saints of the churches of Rome and Constantinople, joined in a fraternal embrace. Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew are scheduled meet four times during the pope's three-day visit. Their private meeting May 25 will mark the 50th anniversary of the encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, which opened the modern period of ecumenical dialogue. At an ecumenical service that evening, representatives of the three churches who share custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- Catholic, Greek-Orthodox and Armenian -- will pray together at the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection. The event will be "extraordinarily historic," according to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, since the three communities normally observe strict separation when they worship in the church.

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Suspended Puerto Rico priest arrested; faces abuse, trafficking charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- A suspended priest of the Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico, was arrested May 13 by federal authorities for allegedly transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and sexual trafficking of minors. Father Israel Berrios, 58, was arrested at his home in Naranjito without incident, according to a May 14 press release by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit, which conducted the investigation. The Associated Press reported that Father Berrios has been accused of sexually abusing an altar boy from the time he was about 8 until he turned 17, according to Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda. If found guilty, he could face at least 10 years in prison, and as much as a life sentence if convicted on all charges. In a May 14 statement released to Catholic News Service in Washington, Bishop Ruben Gonzalez Medina of Caguas called the abuse of a minor "unjustifiable, intolerable, reprehensible" and a criminal act that "cannot, in any way, go unpunished." He asked for forgiveness "especially from the youth involved" and his family and from "all those who in one way or another have been affected by the actions that led to the arrest and imprisonment" of Father Berrios. He urged others who may be victims of abuse to come forward.

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Opus Dei priest helped many see God calls all to holiness, says author

BOSTON (CNS) -- Father Joseph Muzquiz, an Opus Dei priest who is a candidate for sainthood, "helped countless people discover that we can encounter Jesus in the midst of our work and everyday lives," said the author of a book about the priest's life. "(His) eventual canonization would be especially significant because as a priest of Opus Dei he both practiced himself and taught many other people the message of St. Josemaria Escriva that God calls all of us to holiness," said John Coverdale. St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer founded Opus Dei in 1928 in Madrid. Father Muzquiz joined in the 1940s and established the organization in the United States, working for many years in the greater Boston area. He died in 1983. Coverdale's comments came about a week before Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley was scheduled to preside over a May 22 ceremony to close the archdiocesan phase of the priest's cause for canonization. The process will then move to Rome. "This is a great step," Coverdale said in a statement. "The Archdiocese of Boston has carefully examined Father Joseph Muzquiz's life and decided that there is enough evidence of his holiness that the Vatican should take up the question of his possible beatification and canonization."


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