Archive of January 18, 2009

Oldest Catholic U.S. pastor retires at age 97

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 18, 2009 (CNA) - After serving as the pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Olyphant, Pennsylvania for over 50 years, Monsignor Stephen Hrynuck, 97, has retired due to health concerns.


Orphaned at an early age, the Ukranian Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia reports, Msgr. Hrynuck was left in the custody of an uncle who dreamed of the boy studying at Temple University and becoming a doctor.  However, a friend of Msgr. Hrynuck’s parents instead convinced him to meet with the bishop of Philadelphia and tell him of his desire to become a priest.


Two weeks after knocking on the bishop’s door, Msgr. Hrynuck was on a plane to Italy. He was ordained in Rome over 70 years ago, on April 3, 1938.


Following his ordination, he served in Minneapolis and also several seminaries.  After a prestigious assignment in Washington, D.C., he took a humble post in a small town north of Scranton named Olyphant as pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.


Fifty-seven years later, on the first Sunday of the new year, Msgr. Hrynuck was seated in the pews with his fellow parishioners.


After over half a century, not being on the altar for Sunday Liturgy could be a shock to a preacher, but Msgr. Hrynuck explained that just not the case for him. “I will have to adjust myself, but it’s for the best.”


“I tell them (parishioners), I was trying for 57 years to bring you closer to God,” the monsignor continued. “And I hope they stay with the Lord.”


The monsignor announced his retirement a few months ago, citing problems with his health. He recently had a bad fall, something he took as a sign. Archbishop Stefan Soroka, of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the monsignor retires as one of the oldest Catholic pastors serving in the United States.

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State to take over Catholic College of Santa Fe

Santa Fe, Ariz., Jan 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Board of Regents at New Mexico Highlands University has approved plans to take control of the financially burdened College of Santa Fe (CSF), a financially troubled Catholic institution. The plans were lamented by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a group dedicated to strengthening Catholic identity in higher education.

The College of Santa Fe was established in 1859 by the Lasallian Brothers as a Catholic college. However, under the plan approved by Highlands’ regents the school will purchase and redistribute the College of Santa Fe’s land, refinance its $35 million debt and collaborate with a nearby community college.

The Highlands regents plan to incorporate Santa Fe’s emphasis on arts education into its primary focus on business and social work.

“In recent decades, the College of Santa Fe has considerably moved away from a distinctive Catholic identity, even as it declined financially,” the CNS maintained.

“Catholic institutions that wish to remain competitive in a declining economy must offer students a genuine Catholic identity—something unique and valuable,” CNS President Patrick Reilly commented in a statement. “Let this be a wake-up call to every Catholic college and university interested only in religious branding.”

The New Mexico State Legislature and the Higher Learning Commission must both approve the merger. Some lawmakers reportedly are worried that the state may not be able to afford another college.

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Religious leaders ask Obama to ban torture

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2009 (CNA) - Leaders of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), who met with officials from the Obama transition team on Wednesday, have issued a letter calling for an executive order banning torture.

The Jan. 9 letter to President-elect Barack Obama was signed by a variety of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, including Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“We appreciate and value your focus on uniting people to face the many challenges that lie ahead as your inauguration approaches,” the letter begins. “One of those challenges is to restore our nation’s moral standing in the world by rejecting the practice of torture.”

“While we represent a wide diversity of America’s faith traditions, we all believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life,” the letter continued. “Respect for the dignity of every person must serve as the foundation for security, justice and peace. Torture is incompatible with the tenets of our faiths and is contrary to international and U.S. law.”

In December the Senate Armed Services Committee released the executive summary and conclusions of its report on detainee abuse, titled “Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody.”

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the report charges. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

The report adds that following President George W. Bush’s determination of Feb. 7, 2002, “techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.”

The report also charged that legal opinions issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) “distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Committee Ranking Member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released the report on December 11.

“The Committee’s report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody,” Sen. McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, commented in a press release. “These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.”

Chairman Levin added:

“Our investigation is an effort to set the record straight on this chapter in our history that has so damaged both America’s standing and our security. America needs to own up to its mistakes so that we can rebuild some of the good will that we have lost.”

NRCAT’s letter to President-elect Obama included a “Declaration of Principles” for a proposed presidential executive order banning torture, asking that he review them and issue an executive order as soon as possible.

NRCAT’s Declaration of Principles endorses the “golden rule,” which pledges “We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.” It endorses the U.S. Army Field Manual as the “best expression” of a national standard of interrogation and treatment of prisoners.

The Declaration pledges respect for “the rule of law,” rejecting secret prisons and arguing that prisoners should have the opportunity to prove their innocence.

“The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” the declaration continues, advocating “clarity and accountability” to provide certainty to U.S. personnel that their policies are legal.

“All US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position,” the Declaration advocates.

Signatories of the Declaration of Principles include former national security and defense officials, retired generals and admirals, and religious leaders.

Catholic clergy signatories include Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who is archbishop emeritus of Washington, DC, and Cardinal Francis George, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

John Carr, Executive Director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, spoke at a Thursday press conference organized by NRCAT, saying:

“Torture is abhorrent and can neither be condoned nor tolerated. Pope Benedict XVI has said that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstance.’

“Simply put, torture is a classic moral case of ends and means,” Carr continued. “Good ends cannot legitimize immoral means. In the context of torture, we cannot defend our life and dignity by threatening the lives and attacking the dignity of others.”

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Pope: Immigration is an opportunity for fostering peace

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2009 (CNA) - Praying the Angelus January 18th, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and encouraged Christians to look at immigration as "an opportunity for an encounter between civilizations” that can take place peacefully through prayer and action.

The Pontiff pointed out how this year, specially dedicated to St. Paul, he is choosing to point migrants’ attention to St. Paul as a model. “Saul, this is his Jewish name, was born into a family of Jewish immigrants to Tarsus, an important city in Cilicia,” the Pope explained.

“Paul grew up tricultural, Jewish, Greek and Roman, with a cosmopolitan mentality. When he converted from persecutor of Christians to apostle of the Gospel, Paul became an ‘ambassador' of the risen Christ in order to make him known to all, in the conviction that in him all peoples are called to form the great family of the children of God.”

This, the Holy Father added, “is also the mission of the Church, now more than ever in this time of globalization.” Benedict XVI exhorted Christians to strive to proclaim the Gospel, “especially to those who do not know it, or who find themselves in difficult and painful situations.”

Pope Benedict recalled the wide variety of reasons that people become immigrants: in some cases, serene and well integrated, and in others, difficult and often dramatic. "I would like to confirm," he said, "that the Christian community looks at every person and every family with attention, and asks St. Paul for the strength for a renewed effort in order to foster, in every part of the world, peaceful coexistence between men and women of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions."

Rather than an occasion for strife, the Pope exhorted Christians to strive to use the phenomenon of immigration as “an opportunity for an encounter between civilizations.” What is needed are prayer and action “so that this may always take place in a peaceful and constructive way, in respect and dialogue, preventing any temptation to conflict and exploitation," he said.

The Holy Father recalled in a special way sailors and fishermen, who suffer every sort of abuse. “In addition to the usual difficulties," Pope Benedict added, "they suffer restrictions in regard to going ashore and bringing chaplains aboard, and face the risks of piracy and the harm of illegal fishing.

“I express my closeness to them and my hope that their generosity, in activities of aid by sea, may be repaid with greater consideration."

At the conclusion of today's Angelus, Pope Benedict issued an appeal for peace in the Gaza Strip with an emphasis on helping the innocent victims of the violence. “Let us also remember today before the Lord the hundreds of children, elderly, women, the innocent victims of the unprecedented violence, the injured, those mourning their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions."

Finally, the Pontiff recalled that today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends on January 25 with the Holy Father with celebrating vespers in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

"In a special way," he said, "I address the Catholics scattered throughout the world so that, united in prayer, they may not tire of working to overcome the obstacles that still obstruct full communion among all the disciples of Christ. The ecumenical effort is all the more urgent today, in order to give our society, marked by tragic conflicts and lacerating divisions, a sign and an impulse toward reconciliation and peace."

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Benedict XVI appeals for end to violence in Gaza as cease-fire is tested

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2009 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus from the window of his study today, Pope Benedict XVI issued a plea for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip and offered his prayers for those working for peace. Although Israel declared a cease-fire early on Sunday morning, Hamas has pledged to continue its resistance.

The Holy Father began his appeal for peace in the Gaza Strip by emphasizing the suffering of innocent victims of the violence. “Let us also remember today before the Lord the hundreds of children, elderly, women, the innocent victims of the unprecedented violence, the injured, those mourning their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions."

The Pope then called for prayers for all of those trying to stop the “tragedy.”

"In this sense," he continued, "I renew my encouragement to those who, on both sides, believe that there is room for everyone in the Holy Land, so that they may help their people to rise again from the rubble and from the terror, and, courageously, return to dialogue in justice and truth. This is the only path that can truly reveal a future of peace for the children of this beloved region!"

At 2:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire, bringing more than three weeks of fighting to an end.

However, an end to the hostilities may still be theoretical. Israel has said that its troops will remain in the Gaza Strip for now and will respond with force if fired upon, a fact which was demonstrated by a skirmish with Hamas just hours after the cease-fire went into effect.

Hamas has responded to the news of the cease-fire by saying that Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the presence of Israeli troops in Gaza are unacceptable. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters that, "These constitute acts of war so this won't mean an end to resistance."

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