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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-23-2014

By Catholic News Service


Archbishop says neither church nor courts can change nature of marriage

MIAMI (CNS) -- A Florida county judge's ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry "represents another salvo in the 'culture wars' that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification," said Miami's archbishop. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski praised Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for her decision to appeal the July 17 ruling by Judge Luis M. Garcia of Monroe County Circuit Court. The announcement an appeal will be filed automatically stayed the ruling. Across the country a day later, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld rulings that struck down Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban. Garcia's decision came in a lawsuit brought by same-sex couples in the Florida Keys who challenged a voter-approved state constitution defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The judge said the amendment, passed in 2008, violates the right of homosexual couples to marry. His ruling in Huntsman v. Heavilin applies only to Monroe County. "While Judge Garcia spoke of 'rights,' the Catholic Church speaks of 'right," Archbishop Wenski said in a July 18 statement. "Marriage, a union between one man and one woman and any children that arise from that union, is an institution that precedes church and state; therefore neither church nor state has any authority to change the nature of marriage. Since time immemorial, marriage has been primarily about the raising of children, who seem to be hardwired to be best raised by a father and a mother who are married to each other," he continued.

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Obama's order bans discrimination based on workers' sexual orientation

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama's executive order of July 21 has installed workplace rules forbidding the firing of employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity by the federal government and federal contractors -- a key provision in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act languishing in Congress. The U.S. bishops have opposed the bill, known as ENDA, which was passed by the Senate last November but was never scheduled for a vote in the House. The bill, aimed at protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, has been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994. "Today's executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. "In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination," they said in a joint statement. "With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs."

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Humanity at the heart of immigration crisis, say faith leaders

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While hundreds of children and families continued crossing the U.S.-Mexico border daily, a group of diverse religious leaders remained focused on the plight that immigrants are forced to face after they arrive in the country illegally. Faith leaders, activists and individuals representing migrant communities from around the world implored U.S. government officials to stop separating families through programs such as "secure communities" and "287(g)" during a July 22 news conference in Washington. "Secure communities" and "287(g)" are collaborative initiatives launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allow local and state police officers to help identify and arrest individuals who are currently living in the U.S. illegally. (The name "287(g)" comes from the "delegation of immigration authority" section in the Immigration and Nationality Act.) Although originally intended to apprehend immigrants engaged in criminal behavior, critics of these programs say they give police officers the authority to use small traffic violations as the means to deport hundreds of immigrants living within the country. Religious and community leaders say they are distraught by the programs' consequences, including the Rev. Carmelo Santos, a Lutheran minister, who described how they have instilled fear in the hearts of many immigrants and separated thousands of children from their parents.

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Catholic agencies study Obama order on government contract employment

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic agencies were studying President Barack Obama's executive order that expands the prohibition on employment discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender by the federal government and nonprofit agencies and corporations that receive federal contracts. The scrutiny comes because the July 21 order does not spell out a specific exemption for religious organizations that contract with the government. Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities told Catholic News Service the order continues to be reviewed. The organizations or their members currently hold contracts or have at one time contracted with the government for services. In some cases, the contracts have been worth millions of dollars. The USCCB has been the most vocal of the agencies in commenting on the executive order. A spokeswoman for the USCCB said the bishops feared the order would force the conference to abandon the possibility of applying for future government contracts because of the employment requirements. "We obviously have some trouble with the language of gender identity and sexual orientation. We feel that's very, very broad. It's ill defined," said Melissa Swearingen, adviser and spokeswoman for USCCB president, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

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U.S. AIDS official warns against stigma against gays in Africa

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- The U.S. government global AIDS coordinator praised faith-based groups for their action to combat AIDS but warned against an increase in stigma and discrimination against gays, especially in Africa. "Many of us in the United States can remember the early scenes from St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City in the 1980s of desperate and dying young men being cared for by extraordinary and compassionate medical professionals and tireless nuns, when we didn't know how to treat or what to do," the official, Deborah Birx, told Catholic and interfaith groups that had gathered separately before the July 20-25 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. "What began as an awkward relationship between the gay community and the Catholic health care system became a story of acceptance, partnership, compassion, and service that became a model for communities around the country and around the world." Although the pandemic spread to all corners of the globe, "your compassion and passion for this work continue to be the heartbeat of the response to HIV," Birx told the religious leaders July 19. She said that faith-based groups today provide 30-60 percent of the health care in countries where the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief operates, and much of that work is carried out by Catholics. "As the largest nongovernmental provider of health care services in the world, the Catholic Church has led these efforts," she said.

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Expulsion of Christians a 'crime against humanity,' Mosul bishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Backed up by death threats and property seizures, the expulsion of the entire Christian community from Mosul is "a crime against humanity," said an archbishop from Mosul. Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona said the Islamic State, which took control of Iraq's second-largest city in early June, is carrying out "religious cleansing. It's an ugly word, but it is what happened and is happening," he told Vatican Radio July 22. Iraq's Christian leaders are tired of people making appeals and declarations about their plight without backing up their words with real action, the archbishop said. "Words do nothing today," he said. Support and prayers are needed, he said, but "we also expect all Christians to show solidarity with concrete action" and "without being afraid to talk about this tragedy." Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said: "We need action first. The world is not bothering with what is happening to Christians in Mosul."

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Stop targeting civilians, archbishop tells Israelis, Gaza fighters

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council urged the Israeli military and fighters in the Gaza Strip to stop targeting civilian areas. "As the number of people killed, wounded, uprooted from their homes, continues to increase in the conflict between Israel and some Palestinian groups, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the voice of reason seems submerged by the blast of arms," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said July 23 during a special session of the council in Geneva. Since hostilities exploded in early July, he said, most of the victims have been civilians, "who by international humanitarian law should be protected. The United Nations estimates that approximately 70 percent of Palestinians killed have been innocent civilians. This is just as intolerable as the rockets and missiles directed indiscriminately toward civilian targets in Israel," said the archbishop, who serves as the Vatican's permanent representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva. The text of Archbishop Tomasi's remarks to the council was distributed by email.

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Bomb damages door of historic church in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- A bomb exploded at the front of historic Santa Ana Church early July 22, causing damage to the front door but no injuries. Police officials said the bomb -- made of gas cylinders, a bottle with fuel and a timer --was planted by unknown people who left the mechanism inside of a trash bag. Police found pamphlets mentioning two Chileans imprisoned in Spain last year for leaving a bomb in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza. "Our insurrectional action is a supportive gesture to our buddies Francisco Solar and Monica Caballero, kidnapped in Spain," said the flyer. Solar and Caballero also were convicted of planning an attack against the monastery of Montserrat, in the Barcelona region. Father Lionel de Ferrari, a priest at Santa Ana, called the attack against the church "an irrational act. I can't imagine what is going on inside of the head of those people." The church, built in 1806, was declared national monument in 1970. Hours after the explosion at Santa Ana Church, Chilean police deactivated another explosive device in downtown Santiago, near a kindergarten and close to the house of an official of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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French Catholic leaders condemn anti-Jewish violence

PARIS (CNS) -- France's Catholic leaders condemned anti-Jewish violence in Paris by rioters protesting Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip. "Synagogues have been attacked, shops owned by Jewish people looted and anti-Semitic slogans chanted right here among us," bishops from the Ile-de-France region, around Paris, said July 21. "Like the great majority of French people, we are shocked. Such acts cannot be justified in any way by the international situation, and we demand that the government to do everything to maintain order in our republic." The statement said France should be setting an example, amid violence and injustice worldwide, "that coexistence is possible between people, whatever their culture, religion and origin." The bishops appealed to all French citizens to uphold a spirit of "mutual respect, dialogue and encounter," and said special prayers for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be held in churches July 27. French religious leaders, including the president of the bishops' conference, issued a statement after meeting to discuss the violence with French President Francois Hollande. "After so much violence, rending people apart and causing so many victims, we reaffirm our wish to see justice and peace established," Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille said in a July 21 statement with France's Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist leaders.

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Jerusalem patriarch: Don't punish all Gaza Palestinians because of Hamas

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It is impossible for Israeli military to target Hamas missiles without hitting civilians in the Gaza Strip, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. People might not agree with Hamas, which controls Gaza, but "we cannot punish all the population because you do not agree with Hamas," he told Catholic News Service in Washington July 23. "We have hundreds and hundreds of killed people, innocent people, 80 percent innocent," he said, noting the deaths of "mothers, children, students. In Gaza, when (Israelis) strike, there is no shelter," he said. "The Israeli people are happy to have bomb shelters, and they can go escape when they want," he said, referring to the rockets Hamas has been firing into Israel. "Meanwhile, in Gaza, we have nothing. No shelters, and they (people) are in the street." Patriarch Twal emphasized that the church "absolutely condemns" the firing of Hamas rockets. "But remember these rockets: They make noise, they make fear, they never killed one person," he said. The patriarch was visiting the United States July 17 when Israel began its ground campaign into Gaza in response to a string of escalating events that began with the kidnappings and deaths of Israeli and Palestinian teens. Israel began airstrikes July 8 and by July 23, the Israeli death toll stood at 32 soldiers and three civilians; the Health Ministry in Gaza said more than 660 Palestinians had been killed and more than 4,120 wounded.

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Holy Land tour operators scramble to help pilgrims after flight ban

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- With most international airlines canceling their flights into Israel's Ben Gurion airport after several Hamas missiles were launched toward the area July 22, Anton Mousallam has only three words on his mind: cancellation, cancellation, cancellation. The Bethlehem Catholic tour operator said four large pilgrim groups scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks canceled, and he had Palestinian customers who were scheduled to fly out on family vacations to Europe but were unable to do so. Though their airline tickets might be refunded, most of their reservations at hotels and attractions in Europe were nonrefundable, he said. Mousallam said he was scrambling to try to find his customers flights out through Jordan or one of the few airlines still flying out of Ben Gurion, but everything was booked. "Today there are no flights abroad (available). I don't know what will happen," he told Catholic News Service July 23. "This is difficult; all the deposits have been paid and we have to reimburse our customers. We are praying for peace for all people. Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel Aviv ... families are suffering all over. It is not good for anybody. But we are optimists and know peace will reign on earth someday." The House of Abraham (Maison d'Abraham) guesthouse supported by Caritas France has been empty since the start of Israeli airstrikes in early July, said financial director Johnny Awad. Three groups of 150 people who were scheduled to arrive have canceled, and he only has reservations for October.

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Retired Toledo auxiliary dies; recalled as 'wise, wonderful shepherd'

TOLEDO, Ohio (CNS) -- Retired Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. Donnelly of Toledo died July 21 at his home in Toledo at age 83. Afternoon visitation was scheduled for July 28, to be followed by an evening vigil at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo. Morning visitation and a rosary July 29 was to take place before a noon funeral Mass at the cathedral. Committal was to be at Resurrection Cemetery in Toledo. "Bishop Donnelly was deeply loved and respected by his fellow priests. His selection as our auxiliary bishop in 1984 was received with great rejoicing," said Father Charles F. Ritter, diocesan administrator since late 2013, when now-Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was installed to head the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. "Members of those parishes in which (the late bishop) ministered remember him fondly as a gentle, caring and wise man, a wonderful shepherd," the priest said. "The Diocese of Toledo is as impoverished by his passing as we have been enriched by his ministry among us and his friendship with us all." Known for his gentleness and humility, Bishop Donnelly directed Renew, a diocesan-wide small-group spiritual renewal program, from 1981 until 1985. While he was serving in that capacity, he was ordained auxiliary bishop for Toledo May 3, 1984.

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Along the border: Agent has keen eye for signs of people on move

NOGALES, Ariz. (CNS) -- A shirtsleeve waved from the top of the border fence like a signal flag. "Someone came over here recently," said Border Patrol Agent Bryan Flowers pointing to the shirt and rubber-sole skid marks left on the 20-foot-tall rusted steel fence. Flowers has a keen eye for spotting signs of people on the move. He can make out fresh footprints in the dry desert sand and easily spot newly discarded water bottles, backpacks or clothing. A former teacher, he is among the 4,100 agents in the Tucson sector of U.S. Border Patrol charged with security along 262 miles of linear border extending from Arizona's Yuma County to the New Mexico state line. The agents make daily arrests. Among those taken into custody are people looking for a better life, those seeking jobs or to be with family and hardened criminals, including drug smugglers, human smugglers and traffickers. Flowers, a public information officer, recently gave Catholic News Service a tour of Border Patrol operations in southern Arizona. "This border area is safer today than it's ever been," he said, outlining infrastructure improvements the agency has made over the last decade.

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Korean priest says homeland needs to hear pope's message of simplicity

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Father Jong Ki Kim is excited that Pope Francis's first major trip to Asia will be to his home diocese, Daejeon, South Korea, and that he and 23 others from Hawaii's Korean Catholic Community will be there. Father Kim is the head chaplain for the Korean Catholic Community based at St. Pius X Parish in Manoa. He is a priest of the Diocese of Daejeon. He and the Hawaii delegation are scheduled to make the 15-hour flight Aug. 11 to be in their home country for the pope's Aug. 14-18 visit. The pope will attend Asian Youth Day in Daejeon and preside over the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs in Seoul. No other countries are on the itinerary. It's "amazing ... a miracle," Father Kim said, that the pope said yes to an invitation from his bishop, Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik, to attend the sixth Asian Youth Day, sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences. Organizers of the event had originally planned for 2,000 to 3,000 attendees from 30 countries. A lot more people will be coming now, Father Kim predicted.


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