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Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Sisters of Mercy gather at Buffalo assembly to unite as new community
BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNS) — Festive singing, cheering, the raising of joined hands, the ringing of bells and sisters swaying to music greeted the emotional proclamation July 20 of the newest community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Mercy Sisters and associates based in Buffalo; Erie and Pittsburgh, Pa.; Rochester, N.Y.; and the Philippines — a community founded by the Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo — have united to form The New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community. The new community will become official Jan. 1. Some 300 Sisters of Mercy, including 22 from the Philippines, met at an assembly in Buffalo July 17-22 to form the new community, adopt a plan for governance, elect leadership and set new goals. Forty-two lay associates also attended the assembly. “We have new energy, a new life, and we benefit from the sharing of gifts we have among us,” said Mercy Sister Nancy Hoff, newly elected president. “Wonderful things are going to happen and we can do more together than we could have ever done separately.”
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Alabama Catholic school chosen for Chinese language, cultural program
SPANISH FORT, Ala. (CNS) — St. Benedict Catholic School in Elberta has been selected to host a native Chinese teacher for the 2007-08 academic year as part of a new effort to bring the Mandarin language and Chinese culture to young Americans, according to school principal Kendall McKee. The teacher, Wang Zhenghai, is expected to arrive Aug. 12. “We are excited about the coming school year with all its new possibilities, and honored to be chosen as the first Catholic elementary school in the nation and the only school in Alabama to be selected by the College Board for this innovative exchange,” said McKee, at a July 12 press conference in Spanish Fort. St. Benedict faculty and school board members and Benedictine Father Howard Moussier, pastor at St. Bartholomew Church in Elberta and chaplain of the school, joined McKee and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley for the announcement. In a short statement, the governor underscored the importance of the program as a significant aid to expanding relationships with China.
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Franciscan monastery in Washington offers glimpse of Holy Land
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Since 1899, a Franciscan monastery in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington has been a popular stop for pilgrims who want a glimpse of the Holy Land. The grounds of the monastery feature dozens of replicas of significant Christian sites from Europe and the Holy Land, including many surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The friars of Mount St. Sepulcher Franciscan Monastery and Commissariat of the Holy Land represent the Christian interest in the Holy Land, and it shows in the beauty of their church and the surrounding gardens. Brother Maximilian Wojciechowski, a friar of the monastery since 1994, said the places surrounding Jesus’ life can sometimes seem surreal when they appear in Scripture. He said the monastery brings new life to the Gospel. He said the appeal of the Holy Land to Christians is that “it’s actually where Christ was born and died and raised.” The church is the dominant structure on the grounds. It is not a replica of any one structure found in the Holy Land. Within, beneath and around the church are full-size reproductions of Holy Land sites, including churches, memorials, shrines, tombs and monuments.
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‘Psalms by the Sea’ brings people to water’s edge for reflection
LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CNS) — As waves crashed on the beach, sea gulls flew by and a family set up fishing poles, a dozen people sat on beach chairs to talk about the Book of Psalms. Carol Doherty, pastoral associate of St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside, organized “Psalms by the Sea” at Long Beach on the first Fridays of June, July, and August. The program is sponsored by Tabor Retreat Center, also in Oceanside, which offers retreats, workshops and programs for spiritual development. “The psalms are prayers that involve every emotion and many facets of the human experience,” Doherty told The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, during the July 6 gathering. “We want to help people make the psalms their own.” Gerri Campbell, a St. Anthony’s parishioner, said, “I love the psalms and this is a great place to reflect on them. I feel close to God here.”
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Pope meets privately with priests, discusses wide range of topics
AURONZO, Italy (CNS) — Faith and reason, mercy and the defense of the truth, dialogue and evangelization were just some of the topics Pope Benedict XVI touched on when he responded to questions posed by the priests of two northern Italian dioceses. After meeting privately with about 400 priests July 24, Pope Benedict told the crowd waiting outside, “We spoke about God, about the church, about humanity today and, mostly, about the fact that we are the church and in this journey we must all collaborate.” Nearing the end of his vacation in the Diocese of Belluno and Feltre, at a villa owned by the Diocese of Treviso, Pope Benedict thanked his hosts by spending two hours praying with and answering questions posed by the dioceses’ priests. Reporters were allowed into the Church of St. Justina in Auronzo for the gathering’s opening prayer, but had to be content with a briefing and short clips of the pope responding to 10 questions posed by the priests. The Vatican said its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, would publish a transcript of the pope’s remarks at a later date.
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Bishop says Turkey’s poll results should be good for Catholics
ROME (CNS) — An overwhelming victory for Turkey’s ruling Islamic-oriented party should be a “positive thing” for the nation’s Catholics, said Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic administrator of Anatolia, Turkey. “The relationships the prime minister has built up with Europe over the past years are such that it is difficult to imagine (there would be any) fundamentalist involvement” in shaping future Turkish policies, Bishop Padovese told the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero July 24. Bishop Padovese said he thought “Catholics might also demand” some of the reforms many moderate Muslims are asking for, such as greater freedom of expression. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party secured more than 46 percent of the votes at the end of general elections July 22. The win gave the center-right, conservative party an absolute majority in the new parliament, with 341 of the 550 legislative seats. “Erdogan will continue his platform of reforms,” Bishop Padovese said.
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In WYD message, pope calls on youths to evangelize, be missionaries
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When adults have so much difficulty bringing young people to faith, it probably is a sign that God is calling youths to evangelize their peers, Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for World Youth Day 2008. The struggle adults have in making the faith convincing “could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves,” the pope wrote in his message, released in English July 24. Pope Benedict also said he hoped a huge crowd of young people would join him in Sydney, Australia, for the July 15-20 international gathering, which will include a renewal of the promises made at baptism and confirmation. “Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the church and for humanity in the third millennium,” the pope said. The theme of World Youth Day 2008 is: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.”
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More than a year after mine disaster, Mexican families seek justice
SAN JUAN DE SABINAS, Mexico (CNS) — On the 19th day of every month, a group of widows, orphans and family members convene for a Mass at the mouth of the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in San Juan de Sabinas, where a February 2006 explosion claimed the lives of 65 of their loved ones. Some 650 miles to the south, in Mexico City, a smaller group of families from the region also regularly gathers for a Mass outside the corporate offices of Grupo Mexico, the mine’s owner. More than 16 months after the disaster, the affected families are still searching for justice, answers and a resolution to the tragedy. Only two of the 65 bodies have been retrieved from the mine as the company halted recovery efforts earlier this year, citing safety reasons. Although each family received compensation offers — which all but one widow accepted — a small group, working with the Diocese of Saltillo and the Mexican bishops’ labor ministry, is pressing Grupo Mexico to resume efforts to recover bodies from the mine and is petitioning the Mexican government to revoke the company’s coal mining permit at Pasta de Conchos.
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Franciscans offer Chinese Bibles in Braille at Hong Kong book fair
HONG KONG (CNS) — Franciscans in Hong Kong have offered the first set of Chinese Bibles in Braille. Franciscan Father Linoel Goh, director of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Hong Kong, told Catholic News Service July 23 that the Bibles were the first in Cantonese Braille. The Mandarin Braille Bibles were still in the planning stages, he said. A different Braille system is used in Hong Kong and mainland China because of the different pronunciations of Cantonese, spoken mainly in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese communities, and Mandarin, spoken mostly in mainland China. “It is the only Braille book in this fair,” Father Goh said at a mid-July commercial book fair. “We would like to share with the visitors that books have several formats. The blind can read also.” The Franciscan priest said the Studium Biblicum started the Bibles for the Blind Project in 2001 and decided to take an active role in producing less expensive and greater quantities of Braille Bibles for Catholics in China.
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American-supported foundation rebuilds Christian housing in Holy Land
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — For 32 years, Afifeh Toshieh has cooked meals for her family of six in a kitchen with no oven or working sink and an asbestos ceiling. The lack of proper ventilation leaves the room with an overpowering stench of mold and mildew. It is here that she washes clothes by hand and where the family takes showers. “God knows how we suffered. In the winter the rain leaks in. In summer it is as hot as an oven,” said her youngest daughter, Claude, 21, who studies chemistry at Bethlehem University. “I never invited friends over because I was embarrassed for them to see how we lived.” Afifeh said she hasn’t wanted to leave her home in the center of the Old City of Bethlehem because of its proximity to the Church of the Nativity, where she has gone to pray every day of her married life. This summer their two-room home is being renovated and the kitchen upgraded to livable conditions with the aid of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, which is supported by American Christians dedicated to helping Palestinian Christians. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem serves as a member of its advisory board.
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Jerusalem’s coadjutor says Christians must remain in Holy Land
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — The coadjutor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said it is important for Christians to remain in the Holy Land. “Our vocation is to remain despite our small number in the land where Jesus preached, redeemed humanity and founded the church,” said Coadjutor Archbishop Fouad Twal. “Together with your support, we will continue to stay and to keep our faith. Our mission is to be witnesses of the Gospel of love and reconciliation, being a bridge amid a Muslim and Jewish majority,” said the archbishop, who was on his first visit to Ireland since becoming coadjutor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2005. Archbishop Twal was in Maynooth for Mass July 21 celebrating the investiture of new members of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, an organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.
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Pope offers prayers for Polish victims of bus crash in France
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI offered his prayers and condolences for victims of a bus crash near Grenoble, France, that left 26 Polish pilgrims dead and 14 others seriously injured. In a telegram sent to Polish Archbishop Zygmunt Kaminski of Szczecin-Kamien, the pope offered his prayers for those killed in the accident and their families, and for the “quick and complete recovery” of those injured. The Vatican released to journalists July 24 a copy of the telegram, which was written on behalf of the pope by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. The tour bus, carrying 47 pilgrims, two drivers and a guide, had come from the Szczecin area of northwestern Poland and had been stopping at well-known shrines and sanctuaries in France, Spain and Portugal. After visiting the Marian shrine of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, south of Grenoble, the bus traveled along a steep Alpine road usually banned to heavy vehicles. The bus July 22 plowed through a guard rail, dove into a ravine below, and burst into flames, killing more than half of the passengers.