Today in the Diocese
Citywide meeting on drugs, Christ the King Retreat Center, 1:30 a.m.
Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3
Today’s CNS Headlines
Immigration bill stalled, not dead, backers say
WASHINGTON (CNS) — With the June 7 failure of a procedural vote intended to bring the bill to a vote, the Senate’s attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform will go back behind the scenes, though the bill’s backers in both parties vowed to bring it back to the floor. After the failure of a second cloture vote to cut off debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would take the bill off the floor to allow other legislation to move along, though without closing the door to reviving its consideration. Analysts on all sides have said that if immigration reform legislation isn’t passed before the end of 2007, it’s unlikely to get a serious shot at passage again until after the 2008 general election. Some supporters of the bill accused President George W. Bush of failing to exert enough pressure on Senate Republicans to pass the bill. The legislation itself was the product of months of behind-the-scenes negotiations by the White House, Democratic and Republican senators. While many supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the massive piece of legislation was flawed, most members of a vast alliance of faith groups, unions, civil rights groups and business organizations were urging that the bill be passed, as a starting point to fixing a broken immigration system.
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Catholic college is ‘nation’s classroom’ during debates, priest says
WASHINGTON (CNS) — With 18 presidential candidates to get to know and their 18 different platforms to consider, St. Anselm College, a small Catholic school in Manchester, N.H., became “the nation’s classroom” when it held two primary debates during the first week of June, said the college’s president. For the last 50 years or so, St. Anselm has been a “must-stop place on the campaign trail for everybody,” college president Benedictine Father Jonathan DeFelice said in a June 7 phone interview with Catholic News Service. His observation seemed to be true June 3 and June 5, when eight Democrats and then two days later 10 Republicans descended on the campus to pitch their ideas and take questions. Father DeFelice said it was important that Catholics — and Catholic institutions of higher learning in particular — be involved in the political process and active in their communities. The major candidates from each party participated in the debates, including U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois for the Democrats and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republicans.
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U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services has new headquarters
WASHINGTON (CNS) — When Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien approved plans in 2005 to move the military archdiocese’s headquarters from its location at The Catholic University of America’s Theological College, he and his staff hoped a new building would raise the profile of an archdiocese that serves one of the Catholic Church’s largest populations. The end result was moving in March to a renovated 40,000-square-foot building just blocks away from the Catholic University campus in Washington. The U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, headed by Archbishop O’Brien, serves the spiritual and pastoral needs of more than 1.2 million people. It serves military personnel and their families at 220 installations in 29 countries, patients at 172 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and federal employees serving in 134 countries. Geographically, the archdiocese is the largest in the church. Staffers hope having a new building will raise the profile of the archdiocese and give them an identity they say has eluded them since the headquarters moved from New York to the Washington area in 1985. “It’s a major step forward for us,” Archbishop O’Brien said in an interview with Catholic News Service June 4. “It gives us a major identity and roots.”
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Buffalo, nearby dioceses gear up for National Black Catholic Congress
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — During the last National Black Catholic Congress five years ago in Chicago, black Catholic leaders from throughout the United States identified eight challenges to their communities: Africa, Catholic education, HIV and AIDS, parish life, racism, social justice, spirituality, and youth and young adults. Since then, leadership commissions have been meeting to research each issue in depth. Now, with the advent of the 10th National Black Catholic Congress, scheduled for July 12-17 in Buffalo, those leadership commissions are putting the final touches on their research. Rochester resident Freida McCray, a member of the congress’ leadership commission on Catholic education and a parishioner at Rochester’s Immaculate Conception Parish, said her commission will use two sessions to present its findings. The presentation will include details on 10 funding sources that Catholic schools can tap. “Our goal is to sustain Catholic schools in the black community,” McCray told the Catholic Courier, newspaper of the Rochester Diocese. The congress will feature presentations from national and international speakers and experts. Congress participants also will explore the sacraments and how they speak to contemporary lives as part of the event’s theme, “Christ is With Us: Celebrating the Gifts of the Sacraments.” Organizers expect at least 2,500 attendees from throughout the country. Keynote speakers include Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, with special Masses celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and other black Catholic bishops from around the United States.
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Efforts to get assisted suicide in California abandoned for this year
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) — A coalition that includes the California Catholic Conference and other Catholic groups welcomed the news that the issue of physician-assisted suicide is dead in the state Legislature this year. Facing a June 8 deadline for action on bills by legislators and reportedly lacking sufficient support, sponsors decided not to bring AB 374 to a vote on the Assembly floor June 7. The bill, similar to an Oregon assisted-suicide law, would have allowed patients with less than three months to live to request and ingest medication to kill themselves, after meeting certain conditions. Members of Californians Against Assisted Suicide — a coalition of disability rights groups, medical professionals, civil rights organizations, bioethicists and others — praised the decision to shelve the bill. “I think legislators understand the devastating impact assisted suicide would have on the disability community in California,” said Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund.” Anyone should see a huge red flag over this bill when you consider the wide collection of disability rights organizations opposed to this legislation,” she added. Carol Hogan, communications director for the California Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops on public policy matters, said the coalition owes “a huge debt of gratitude to the ‘grass-roots’ volunteers, many of them Catholic parishioners” for defeat of the bill.
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New Jersey Catholic leaders to learn signs of postpartum depression
NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) — In the first effort of its kind by any faith group in the state, the New Jersey Catholic Conference has launched an initiative with the statewide Maternal and Child Consortia to educate clergy, religious and lay professionals in New Jersey’s 684 parishes to recognize the warning signs of postpartum depression. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said he was proud to be a part of this new venture, which he hopes will be a model for other religious groups in the state and across the nation. Postpartum depression is estimated to affect 11,000 to 16,000 women in New Jersey annually. Following pregnancy, hormonal changes in a woman’s body are believed to sometimes trigger clinical depression, marked by feelings of guilt, loneliness, fatigue and despair. The great fear is that, as a result of the depression, women may do harm to their babies or themselves. Today, through research, education and outreach, the disease is better understood and more effectively treated, while the stigma associated with it is being eliminated. Mariann Moore of the Hudson County Perinatal Consortium in Jersey City, the lead planning agency for maternal and child health services in Hudson County, said she is grateful for the efforts of the church to address this issue. Along with printing fliers to insert in parish bulletins, the training for priests, deacons and pastoral associates will include information about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and resources for referring mothers to treatment.
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Old virtues needed to fight climate challenges, USCCB official says
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The “old-fashioned” virtues of prudence, the pursuit of the common good, and the duty to stand with the poor and vulnerable are needed to address the issue of climate change, U.S. bishops’ official John Carr said in testimony June 7 before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Carr, secretary for social development and world peace for the U.S. bishops’ conference, said ingenuity, creativity, entrepreneurship and economic markets can help develop the knowledge, technology and measures to make progress against climate change and limit its damage. “This is a crucial time to build up the common ground for common action to pursue the common good for all of God’s children and creation,” Carr said. Carr was one of seven panelists, all of whom represented religious denominations or organizations, testifying at the hearing, which was titled “An Examination of the Views of Religious Organizations Regarding Global Warming.” “We do not have to know everything about global climate change to know that something significant is occurring,” Carr said. Quoting the U.S. bishops’ 2001 statement “Global Climate change, A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good,” he said, ‘We know that when a problem is serious and worsening, it is better to act now rather than wait until more drastic action is required.” A “concerted and persistent effort” is required to pursue the common good on climate change with an attitude of “we are all in this together,” Carr added. He said he had been to three statewide gatherings, most recently in Alaska, that brought together leaders in various fields on the issue. “Such gatherings can create an environment of dialogue and common ground for common action on climate change,” Carr said.
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In Australia, debate over Catholic politicians and cloning heats up
PERTH, Australia (CNS) — The debate over Communion and Catholic politicians who vote for therapeutic cloning initiatives has heated up in several Australian states. In an interview with The West Australian newspaper June 6, Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth said Catholic lawmakers who vote to legalize cloning should not receive Communion. “Catholics who vote for the cloning of embryos destined for destruction are acting against the teaching of the church on a very serious matter, and they should in conscience not vote that way but, if they do, in conscience they should not go to Communion,” he said. When The West Australian asked Archbishop Hickey if he would consider excommunicating legislators who vote for the legislation, he said: “I would have to wait and see whether this works first. I would rather it be solved voluntarily by the people themselves. “If that doesn’t work, of course, the other thing is in reserve. There could be cases when I would have to,” he added. However, after harsh criticism from legislators, the archbishop’s spokesman told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, that Archbishop Hickey had not and was not threatening anyone with excommunication or with withholding Communion. “All he did say was that Catholics would have to deeply examine their conscience before presenting themselves for Communion, and that they would not be refused Communion if they approached the sacrament,” the spokesman said.
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Iraqis living in Jordan desperately need aid, says church worker
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The thousands of impoverished Iraqis spilling into Jordan each year are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, said the head of Caritas Jordan. However, Jordanian government officials are reluctant to let international nongovernmental organizations offer assistance to Iraqis “because they don’t want to have a repeat of what happened with the Palestinians,” when the Palestinians, fleeing violence from the war of 1948, stayed, said Wael Suleiman, executive director of Caritas Jordan. His agency is a local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an umbrella organization of Catholic aid agencies. Suleiman noted that Jordan had allowed the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees, 1.5 million of whom currently live in refugee camps in the country. While today the Jordanian government “accepts the Iraqis as guests,” it is hesitant to give them legal or refugee status, he said. Through two projects Caritas Jordan runs with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Caritas Jordan recently succeeded in helping 27,000 Iraqis get approved as registered refugees, Suleiman said. He added that Caritas Jordan hopes to have 65,000 Iraqis registered by the end of the year. Only a few humanitarian organizations can assist the approximately 1.5 million Iraqis living — often illegally — in Jordan, he said.
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Chinese parish shares well water, raises environmental awareness
WUXI, China (CNS) — In the midst of a water crisis, a parish in a lakeside city in eastern China is sharing its clean well water with others and raising public awareness about the need for environmental protection. Blue-green algae covered a large area of Taihu Lake, a scenic spot in Jiangsu province. The algae not only made the water smell bad but also polluted tap water in Wuxi, north of the lake. Bottled water was in short supply. Father Joseph Gu Jiachang, parish priest of St. Joseph Church in Wuxi, told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, that the water crisis appears to be coming to an end, as water quality has improved. But people are still afraid to drink tap water and use it only for washing clothes and showering, he said June 6. For drinking and cooking, many of the 2.3 million Wuxi residents have had to rely on bottled water or on well water, which is still available on some old properties, such as St. Joseph’s Church. “We pump clean groundwater from the well in the church yard into three large vats,” Father Gu said, “and welcome whoever needs it.” The vats are usually used for holy water for baptisms.
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Pope says policies, social structures not enough to fight injustice
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Fairer and more humane policies and social structures are not enough to fight poverty and injustice in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said. Humanity’s “deepest needs” for dignity, overall well-being and spiritual salvation must also be satisfied, he said in an address to hundreds of Caritas representatives from all over the world. The pope met privately June 8 with 350 officers and delegates attending the 18th general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based international network of Catholic relief, development and social service agencies. The Caritas confederation is called to help the church’s mission “to spread throughout the world the love of God,” he said. The pope said his encyclical, “God Is Love,” underlined the theological significance of charitable action so that charity would not be a sterile gift of material aid, but a transformative act imbued with love. “The heart of Caritas is the sacrificial love of Christ, and every form of individual and organized charity in the church must always find its point of reference in him, the source of charity,” he told his audience.
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Australian cardinal says he regrets vote for therapeutic cloning
SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) — Cardinal George Pell of Sydney said he regrets the passage of a therapeutic cloning initiative by the lower house of the New South Wales state parliament. Noting that the church supports adult stem-cell research, especially for medical reasons, Cardinal Pell expressed hope that lawmakers would be better informed in the future. “In our democracy Parliament legislates. I regret the vote of the NSW (New South Wales) Legislative Assembly (lower house) on cloning and hope that the Legislative Council (upper house) will be better informed,” he said in a statement June 7, the same day the lower house passed the initiative. “Certainly the Sydney Catholic Life Office is prepared to offer information and advice to any person who wishes to understand the pro-life position better,” he said. At a June 5 press conference, Cardinal Pell said he did not think “any Catholic politician, any Christian politician, any pro-life politician who has properly informed his or her conscience should vote for these changes.” The cardinal noted that there would be “consequences for their life in the church” for Catholic politicians who voted for legislation that would allow the use of therapeutic cloning in Australia’s most populous state.