New Orleans, La., Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - As the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts prepare to lock horns in the Super Bowl, CNA spoke with the Archdiocese of New Orleans about the Saints and discovered that the team has a significant Catholic history as well as a strong presence in the local Catholic community.
“In recent years, as Mr. Tom Benson has owned the team, the Saints organization has been very involved with the local Catholic Church and Catholic Charities,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said on Friday. “Mr. Benson is a major donor to our PACE Center (Program for all-inclusive care for the elderly) and our first center was named the Shirley Landry Benson PACE Center at St. Cecilia in memory of his deceased wife.”
“His granddaughter, the team’s executive Vice President, chaired the 2009 Archbishop’s Community Appeal to raise funds locally for the work of Catholic Charities,” she added.
The communications director also commented on the involvement of the team members within the archdiocese.
“Throughout the years, players have been involved in different programs and school visits – recently, Drew Brees visited one of our elementary schools; Reggie Bush has donated several hundred thousand dollars to Holy Rosary Academy and High School, and Scott Fujita, who is adopted, has been an active spokesperson for our adoption services of Catholic Charities,” the archdiocesan spokeswoman said.
“Additionally, Coach Sean Payton, who is Catholic, sends his kids to one of our Catholic schools and appeared in a PSA for the archdiocese on racial harmony.”
The Catholic connections to the New Orleans Saints will be in evidence on the day of the big game as well. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, retired Archbishop Philip Hannan and two Dominican sisters from Cathedral Academy in New Orleans will be attending the Super Bowl this year as guests of the Bensons.
Even the name “Saints” has a Catholic genesis. According to the New Orleans archdiocesan paper, the Clarion Herald, in 1967, the owner of the team approached then-Archbishop Hannan and asked if using the word “Saints” for a football team was sacrilegious. Archbishop Hannan not only loved the idea but wrote an official prayer for the team within that year.
One line of the prayer reads “...Our Heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the 'saints by faith conquered kingdoms...and overcame lions,' grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants, and even those awesome people in Green Bay... .”
However, the Colts also have Catholic boosters of their own, including Archbishop Daniel Buechlein of Indianapolis, who called New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond to make a bet about the gridiron match. If the Saints win, Archbishop Aymond will receive southern Indiana pork chops, but if the Colts win Archbishop Buechlein will have gumbo on his dinner table.
When asked if prelates often bet on sporting events, Archbishop Aymond told CNA that “As far as our friendly wager, we cannot say whether it is a norm, but it is all in good fun.”
“The Archbishop of Indianapolis called us to offer the wager, and I look forward to enjoying the pork chops!”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - According to a recent poll carried out by the Sensus firm at the request of the National Confederation of Transportation in Brazil, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians oppose the legalization of abortion and the death penalty.
Carried out January 25-29 and published on February 1, the poll reveals that 73.5 percent of the country is against the legalization of abortion.
“Despite the pro-abortion lobby,” the report explains, the poll confirms “that Brazil does not want abortion to be legal in the country.”
Likewise, the poll shows that 55.2 percent of Brazilians oppose the death penalty, with 41.2 percent in favor. Those percentages have remained more or less unchanged over the past ten years.
Atlanta, Ga., Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - A thriving parish in Georgia is relocating an entire historic church over 900 miles south from Buffalo, New York, rather than construct a new building for their community.
With over 750 families and counting, Mary Our Queen in Norcross, Georgia recently outgrew its current building and is in dire need of additional facilities.
On the other hand, St. Gerard Church in Buffalo, N.Y. was forced to close in early 2008 after the number of parishioners dropped to an unsustainable level. The parish was built in 1911 and modeled after the famous Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
When asked what sparked the notion to transport an entire church, the pastor of Mary Our Queen, Fr. David Dye, said that the concept “sort of developed from the idea using statues, altars, stations of the cross etc. from closed churches.”
“We did that in our temporary (church) to give it a 'traditional' historic feel. Out of that when we came across St. Gerard’s we thought of using parts and the parts were so wonderful we just said why not just move it as it is,” he explained.
“It also was within 10 percent of what we had designed to be built. That blew the mind of the architect. Not only is it 90 percent of what we needed in terms of space etc. But it looked almost exactly like the renderings that the architect had done,” Fr. Dye said.
Besides the historical and architectural benefits, Fr. Dye explained that a year-long feasibility study found significant engineering and cost advantages.
“We get a church that is far more beautiful than what can be built for the same amount of money,” he said. “Fifteen million to do St. Gerard’s and it would cost $40 million to reproduce it today new and the quality would be difficult to reproduce. The stain glass is American and there is not a lot of stain glass made here now.”
On the need for his community to have additional space, Fr. Dye told CNA that his parish is “very active.”
“We have a higher than average participation in activities and programs,” he explained. “Our first priority is the Mass, Adoration and spiritual devotion and life, then education of our young people – we have a very active youth group. We need to build the church so that the present temporary church can become our parish hall and our present parish hall which is way (too) small for our needs can become our youth center.”
Fr. Dye also noted that there “is actually a revival of interest in classical church architecture,” particularly within his own diocese. “Most of the new churches that have been built in the Archdiocese of Atlanta in the last 10 to 15 years look like Catholic churches and use all the elements traditionally associated with churches – traditional stained glass, marble altars, statues, organs – structures that are undoubtedly churches – steeples, vaulted ceilings, arches, and floor plans that focus on the sanctuary.”
A website dedicated to the relocation effort, www.movedbygrace.com, spoke about the amount of support the initiative has gained, stating,“The 'preservation through relocation' of the magnificent basilica-style structure has received support from both communities and from the outside, including the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Bishop of Buffalo, the Archbishop of New York, local and national preservationists, architects, builders, former St. Gerard’s parishioners and present parishioners of Mary Our Queen.”
Mary Our Queen is still seeking the financial funds to complete the move, having raised $3 million out of the $15 million that they need.
Freiburg, Germany, Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - Population aging and the Church’s response to it will be the focus of a one-day workshop at the upcoming plenary assembly of the German bishops.
The assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) will take place in Freiburg February 22-25.
The workshop, titled “The aging of society as a challenge for the Church,” will analyze the consequences of demographic change. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, the DBK President, will attend the workshop with Peter Neher, President of Caritas Germany, and other bishops and experts.
Population decline is projected to seriously affect the sustainability of many countries because it reduces the economic and tax bases of nations.
Other topics at the assembly include the deployment of German troops in Afghanistan, pastoral care for vocations, assistance to the population in Haiti, and the treatment of sex abuse cases.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father accepted the credentials of the new ambassador to the Holy See from Guatemala, Mr. Alfonso Roberto Matta Fahsen, on Saturday morning. In his message to the diplomat, the Pope addressed the importance of protecting the vulnerable in the country and reinforcing their strong values.
Pope Benedict referred to the centuries-long history of the Gospel in the country of Guatemala, throughout which the people have demonstrated a "very rooted faith in God," devotion for the Virgin and a "faithful love" for the Church and the Successor of Peter.
As he addressed the current environment of faith and life in the country, the Pope expressed his "affection and spiritual closeness" for those in Guatemala who suffer from malnutrition and poverty due to "climactic phenomena" that make drought more intense and destroy crops.
He recognized those institutions and individuals who dedicate themselves to alleviating the difficulties of those in need and expressed his gratitude to those who "are doing everything possible to mitigate the scarcity in broad sectors of the population," especially the "beloved children of the Church of Guatemala," including priests, religious and lay faithful.
Pope Benedict stressed the "basic right" of every person to adequate nutrition and vocalized the importance of providing more than material and administrative assistance. Working towards this goal requires "men and women with feelings of compassion and solidarity," which should be combined with charity.
"Working in this direction is promoting and dignifying the life of all, especially that of the most vulnerable and unprotected," Benedict XVI added, citing the effects of malnutrition on the mental and physical states of children.
The Holy Father encouraged Guatemelans to fight those things that "deteriorate the Guatemalan social fabric" including drug trafficking, violence, illiteracy and loss of moral references for new generations, by looking to the "numerous human and evangelical values" that bless the people of Guatemela such as love of the family, respect for elders, a sense of responsibility and trust in God.
Initiatives that are meant to "protect and increase this inestimable wealth," he said, must be creative to reverse the effects of poverty and "cooperate in the ‘dignification’ of all human beings."
The Holy Father also recognized the need to constantly work for "democratic strengthening and political stability” in the nation, which will in turn advance a "true, integral development of the person." He also praised Guatemela for its Constitution that protects life "from conception to natural death."
The Pope concluded by offering the "complete availability" of his collaborators to the ambassador's mission and prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Ambassador Matta Fahsen has been Guatemala's lead diplomat to Colombia, Russia, the Netherlands and Great Britain in the last 20 years and has seven children.
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) - As controversy continues to surround the 10 relief volunteers who tried to take Haitian children out of the devastated country without paperwork, the heads of five major Catholic agencies serving earthquake victims have outlined steps to ensure the protection of unaccompanied Haitian children.
Their recommendations came in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The letter was signed by the leaders of Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the International Catholic Migration Commission.
Citing their own experience in caring for unaccompanied children, they advocated that certain processes be put into place before Haitian children are brought to the U.S. and placed in adoption proceedings.
The Catholic leaders urged the establishment of “safe havens” in Haiti to provide proper care and security for children.
“Such arrangements for the security and material support of these children, who might otherwise be subject to kidnapping and human trafficking, should be the highest priority, and will permit the appropriate screening processes to proceed without delay,” they said.
The letter did not mention the attempt by 10 Baptist volunteers to take Haitian children out of the country. That effort resulted in the volunteers’ detention by the Haitian government.
The signers of the letter said child welfare experts should be assigned to determine each child’s best interest, and family tracing efforts should work to reunite children with their parents and families.
“Family reunification is an important goal and must be protected to the greatest extent possible, while placement with a guardian within Haiti will sometimes prove to be the appropriate course,” they wrote.
Consideration for children’s international placement should take place only with a “careful, individualized assessment of what is best for each of them.”
Their letter added that children whose best interest is relocation to the U.S. should be placed in foster care with refugee benefits. Further, U.S. citizens or permanent residents with minor children in Haiti should have expedited consular processing, as should those with approved petitions for family reunification.
The Catholic leaders concluded by voicing appreciation for the response of the U.S. government and voiced hope for cooperation in protecting vulnerable children and other quake victims.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2010 (CNA) -
On Saturday at the Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict met in audience with a group from a local Italian municipal agency. Speaking with them, but also to the international community, Holy Father stressed the importance of "social responsibility" in the business environment “to promote the good of all.”
Meeting with directors and personnel of the Roman branch of ACEA, a company that specializes in providing energy and water services to Italy, the Holy Father expressed his hope that the development model that has brought the world to its present economic crisis would be rethought so that man with his “capacity to produce, innovate, think and build the future” is placed at the center.
It’s important, he continued, to increase consciousness for “the necessity of a broader ‘social responsibility’ in business, that strives to hold in just consideration the expectations and needs of workers, clients, producers and the entire community, and to pay special attention to the environment.”
“In this way,” added Pope Benedict, “the production of goods and services will not be tied exclusively to the search for economic profits, but also to the promotion of the good for all.”
The Holy Father praised ACEA for measures it has taken to protect and reduce the negative impact of their business activities on the environment. “But it is equally important to promote a human ecology that is intended to bring about work environments and interpersonal relations deserving of man.”
Pope Benedict XVI summed up his message by saying that “the protection of creation… implies also the protection of those sentiments of kindness, generosity, correctness and honesty that God has put in the heart of every human being, created in his ‘image and likeness.’”
He concluded by saying that it is through the example of Christ that we should act “to be able to grow in humanity and so realize a City with an always human face, in which each is considered a person, a spiritual being in relation with others.”
The Pope also thanked the agency for its efforts “in the illumination of the monuments that make Rome unique in the world,” among them St. Peter’s Basilica.