Thursday, 31 May 2012 11:45
Church offers aid to people left homeless by earthquake
BOLOGNA, Italy (CNS) — Church agencies stepped up efforts to support local parishes providing assistance to nearly 5,000 people left homeless by a magnitude 6 earthquake in northern Italy.
Caritas Italy, part of the Catholic church’s international aid network, was among the first agencies to respond May 20 by sending staff to the affected communities about 22 miles north of Bologna.
The Italian government was assessing damage May 21 and considered declaring a state of emergency.
At least seven people were killed in the disaster, which struck one of Italy’s most historic areas. Two of the people died in a factory, which collapsed as workers arrived for the early morning shift.
Francesco Soddu, director of Caritas Italy, traveled to the region hours after the earthquake caused homes and buildings to collapse in the pre-dawn hours, according to a posting on the agency’s website.
“We’re close to the people in prayer and to particular the families of the victims. We will support the local church in providing aid,” he said.
Federal lawsuits by Catholic dioceses, groups seek to stop HHS mandate
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions filed suit in federal court May 21 to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.
“Through this lawsuit, plaintiffs do not seek to impose their religious beliefs on others,” said one of the suits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, diocesan Catholic Charities, St. Anne Home and Retirement Community, Franciscan Alliance, University of St. Francis and Our Sunday Visitor.
“They simply ask that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of their religious beliefs,” it added.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, whose archdiocese is among the plaintiffs, said the lawsuits were “a compelling display of the unity of the church in defense of religious liberty” and “a great show of the diversity of the church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate.”
“We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix,” the cardinal said.
Obama ‘accommodation’ offers church no fundamental change, USCCB attorneys say
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the Obama administration’s proposed “accommodation” for religious employers to the mandate that contraceptives and sterilization be included in most health plans “may create an appearance of moderation and compromise,” it does not change the administration’s fundamental position, attorneys for the U.S. bishops said in comments filed May 15.
“We are convinced that no public good is served by this unprecedented nationwide mandate, and that forcing individual and institutional stakeholders to sponsor and subsidize an otherwise widely available product over their religious and moral objections serves no legitimate, let alone compelling, government interest,” said the comments filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Signed by Anthony R. Picarello and Michael F. Moses, general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the 21-page comments were in response to the administration’s “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” published March 16 in the Federal Register, which proposed new ways for religious organizations that have moral objections to providing free contraceptives to their employees to comply with the requirement.
Among the administration’s suggestions are having the costs covered by a “third-party administrator” of a health plan or “independent agency” that receive funds from other sources, such as rebates from drug makers.
The USCCB comments said the proposed changes would still require “conscientiously objecting nonexempt religious organizations … to provide plans that serve as a conduit for contraceptives and sterilization procedures to their own employees, and their premiums will help pay for those items.”
“As a practical or moral matter, none of (the approaches proposed by the administration) will solve the problem that the mandate creates for nonexempt religious organizations with a conscientious objection to contraceptive coverage,” the attorneys added.
The USCCB comments repeated several times that the best solution to their objections to the mandate would be its complete rescission.
“We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful — it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem,” the USCCB attorneys said.
“These moral and legal problems are compounded by an extremely narrow exemption that intrusively and unlawfully carves up the religious community into those that are deemed ‘religious enough’ for an exemption, and those that are not,” they added.
The USCCB submission noted that HHS had not asked for comments on whether contraceptives and sterilization should be among the mandated preventive services for women under the health reform law or on the four-pronged definition of religious organizations that could be exempt from the requirement.
• The HHS mandate would force almost all private health plans to pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortion.
• If we are not free in our conscience and our practice of religion, all other freedoms are threatened.
Pope condemns massacre in Syria, urges prayers
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI joined the international community in condemning a massacre in Syria, and he called for Christian and Muslim leaders in the country to guide their faithful in prayer and collaboration to restore peace and calm.
The massacre in Houla May 25-26 left about 108 people dead, including 49 children and 34 women.
The U.N. Security Council May 27 condemned the massacre of civilians and, while not pinning all the blame on the Syrian government, it accused the government of inappropriately using heavy weapons in a residential area.
Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI
Here are Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions for this month.
Christ, Present in the Eucharist. That believers may recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of the Risen One who accompanies them in daily life.
European Christians. That Christians in Europe may rediscover their true identity and participate with greater enthusiasm in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Intentions provided by the Apostleship of Prayer, www.apostleshipofprayer.org.
Pope likens world to latter-day Babel at Pentecost Sunday homily in Rome
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The modern world is a latter-day Babel, where arrogance inspired by technological progress leads people to play God and sets them against each other, a predicament from which people can escape only through divinely inspired humility and love, said Pope Benedict XVI.
The pope made his remarks during his homily May 27, Pentecost Sunday, during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Acknowledging that communications media and modern transportation have brought the world’s people “closer to one another than ever before,” Pope Benedict lamented that true “understanding and communion” is “often superficial and difficult.”
“Imbalances remain and not infrequently lead to conflict, (and) dialogue among generations is problematic,” he said. “We daily witness events which seem to show that mankind is becoming more aggressive and quarrelsome; understanding one another seems too arduous an undertaking, and we prefer to remain within ourselves and focus on our own our interests. … Men are nursing a sense of diffidence, suspicion and reciprocal fear, to the extent that they have even become a danger to one another.”
The pope observed that these social pathologies come amid unprecedented advances in human knowledge.
“Thanks to scientific and technological progress, we have acquired the power to dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to fabricate living beings, almost going so far as to fabricate human beings,” he said. “In such a situation, praying to God seems outmoded and useless, because we ourselves can construct and achieve anything we want.”
Egypt’s Christians support candidates who would check Islamists’ power
CAIRO (CNS) — Egyptian Christians voting in their nation’s historic presidential election were throwing much of their support behind candidates who aimed to check the power of the Islamist parties.
Although no official statistics on the Christian vote were reported, in the days before and during the election, many of Egypt’s Christians said they would support candidates who served under ousted President Hosni Mubarak and said the ideals of the 2011 revolution might have been too ambitious.
“For me as a Christian I have only a few choices — the other side is Islamic, I can’t choose them,” said a man identified only as Rami, 45, a worshipper at the Catholic basilica in Cairo’s Heliopolis district.
Christians like Rami said they would support former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq or former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who also served as secretary-general of the Arab League for 10 years. On May 28, the Egyptian election commission said Shafiq would face the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi in a June 16-17 runoff for the nation’s first freely elected president.
In the days before the May 23-24 presidential election, Rami told Catholic News Service, “Even if Shafiq and Moussa are from the old regime, they offer security and freedom to live the way we want. Around our communities these are the choices, although there are some with the revolution who spent time on Tahrir Square and will go with (Hamdeen) Sabahi,” a former opposition leader.
Pope appoints North Dakota bishop to Denver, Maine bishop to Buffalo
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, N.D., as the new archbishop of Denver and also named Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine, to head the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y.
The pope also accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, who is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.
The changes were announced in Washington May 29 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vagano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Aquila, 61, succeeds Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was named to head the Philadelphia Archdiocese last July. The new archbishop has headed the Fargo Diocese since 2002. Bishop Malone, 66, has been Portland’s bishop since 2004.
Archbishop Aquila, a native of California who was ordained a priest for the Denver Archdiocese in 1976, was named coadjutor bishop of Fargo in 2001 and became bishop of Fargo in 2002, when his predecessor, Bishop James S. Sullivan retired for health reasons. Bishop Sullivan died in 2006.
Samuel Joseph Aquila was born Sept. 24, 1950, in Burbank, Calif. He studied at what was then Vincentian-run St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, where he earned a master’s degree in theology, and at San Anselmo University in Rome, where he earned a licentiate in theology.
As a Denver priest, he served the archdiocese in several posts, including as co-director for continuing education for priests, as an adviser to the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, and as assistant secretary for Catholic education before being named secretary, a position he held from 1995 until 1999.
He also was the first director of the archdiocese’s St. John Vianney Seminary, and chief executive officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute.
When Bishop Malone was appointed to head the Diocese of Portland in 2004, he was an auxiliary bishop of Boston, ordained in 2000. Prior to becoming a bishop, he taught theology at the Boston archdiocesan seminary and had served as director of campus ministry at Harvard University.
17 former Anglicans ordained Catholic deacons
MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Seventeen former Anglican priests were made deacons in one of the largest group ordinations in the modern history of the Catholic Church in Britain.
All the deacons will serve in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which in January 2011 became the first ordinariate to be set up under “Anglicanorum coetibus,” the apostolic constitution issued by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2009.