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Archive of August 21, 2010

Catholic dissenters back Empire State Building’s refusal to honor Mother Teresa

New York City, N.Y., Aug 21, 2010 (CNA) - In another development in the dispute over the Empire State Building’s refusal of a request to honor the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa in its lighting scheme, a coalition of Catholic dissenters has issued a statement affirming the decision and characterizing advocates of the honor as serving “the radical right.”

The head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights responded by noting the variety of people who support the honors, including some bishops of India.

The Catholic League had asked the building to light up the skyscraper in the blue and white colors of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, but the operating company of the building declined the request.

Led by the Catholic League, objectors to the decision pointed to the landmark’s previous lighting scheme honors for the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution in China, the 125th anniversary of the Salvation Army, and the deaths of Cardinal John O’Connor and Pope John Paul II.

Now backing the Empire State Building management is a coalition of dissenting Catholic groups including Catholics for Choice, Call to Action, DignityUSA, the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), New Ways Ministry, and the Women’s Ordination Conference.

The group praises Anthony E. Malkin, head of the company which operates the building, for opposing what the letter calls “the bullying tactics” of the Catholic League and its president Bill Donohue.

“The Catholic League serves as an attack dog for the radical right, helping to promote its misogynist and homophobic agenda,” the letter claimed, accusing Donohue of seeking publicity.

The letter claimed that Mother Teresa rarely celebrated her birthday and would be “appalled” to hear it had become a source of controversy.

Donohue responded to the letter in a Friday statement, claiming the membership of the coalition’s organizations was so small their members “would easily fit into a phone booth” if gathered together.

“No matter, these ex-Catholics are so pro-abortion that they are now on record of wanting to deny Mother Teresa a tribute on the 100th anniversary of her birthday,” he charged.

Donohue reported that a rally on behalf of Mother Teresa would proceed outside the Empire State Building on August 26. He also claimed support from people “all over the world” and from all religions.

The Catholic League president also noted that he would meet with Bishop A.A.S. Durairaj of Khandwa, India. “Like all the other bishops from India that have contacted us, he supports our campaign to honor Mother Teresa,” Donohue remarked.

“Even those who are not pro-life are on our side, which just goes to show how extreme the dissenters are,” his Friday statement concluded. “But as long as they remain marginalized, they are of no historic moment.”

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Pakistani officials 'overwhelmed' in efforts to feed refugees, provide shelter

Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug 21, 2010 (CNA) - As Pakistani citizens and government officials attempt to cope with the worst flooding in the country's history, many survivors of the disaster are encountering shortages of food and shelter after fleeing their homes. On Friday, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) described the chronic difficulties in the aftermath of floods which have displaced over 400,000 people and submerged a fifth of the country.

ACN's head of projects, Regina Lynch, explained that while the government is sending internal refugees by train to the western city of Quetta, a priest in the city has reported that the supplies and accommodations there are not sufficient for the number of flood victims.

“Thousands of miserable families,” the priest said, are being “brought by train by the government-- but not followed up by concrete and immediate help.” The church in Quetta is attempting to make up for the shortfall itself, by distributing a month's worth of basic food supplies: “One sack of flour, cooking oil, lentils, tea, and sugar.”

“Most of the families,” the Quetta priest said, “desperately need food and medicines.” Flooding in many areas of Pakistan has resulted in widespread disease outbreaks, under chaotic conditions with poor sanitation. ACN also reported on Friday that many of the flood refugees are sleeping in tents or outdoors due to a shortage of room in community buildings such as schools and hospitals.

According to ACN, Pakistan's Christian minority is more directly dependent upon the local and international church for their relief, compared with other groups who are turning to the U.N.   Lynch said the bishops are “still wading through the water, in order to get a complete picture of the situation.”

“After the flood,” she noted, “there will still be much rebuilding work to be done-- entire villages were swept away by the flood in northern Pakistan.” Her agency stated that it is committed to the long-term work of rebuilding home and churches there.

Earlier this week, bishops of the Catholic Church in Pakistan appealed to their country's Catholics, along with all Pakistanis and the international community, for increased prayer and charitable aid to those affected by the unprecedented floods.

“In this critical moment of national tragedy,” the bishops of Pakistan said in the joint statement, “it is our Christian duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim and Hindu brethren and face the common calamity with courage and determination.” The bishops underscored their intention “to mobilize our limited resources in doing what we can to alleviate the sufferings of the many displaced persons.”

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Study finds that marriage could reduce stress

Chicago, Ill., Aug 21, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Being married or in a relationship reduces the level of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, according to a study by the Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. The research tested more than 500 master’s degree students and was published in the journal, Stress.

The study surveyed 348 men and 153 women with an average age of 27 at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. About 40 percent of the men and 53 percent of the women students were married or in a relationship.

During the study, the subjects played a series of computer tests that measured their economic potential, while saliva samples were taken to check levels of cortisol. In order to make the test even more “stressful,” each business student was told their score would have “a very huge impact on their professional future,” the authors of the study explained.

The study found cortisol concentrations increased in all student but females experienced a higher average increase than males.

"We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals," the researchers reported. "Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives -- what we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new."

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Cardinal Bagnasco: God's truth is weapon against dominant culture

Genoa, Italy, Aug 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "No one is exempt" from the influences of the world which push for conformity to the dominant culture, according to prominent Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. In this atmosphere, he told the Vatican's newspaper, prayer serves as a weapon against the prevailing mentality and leads people to the truth of God and man.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa and the president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, spoke to the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano during a celebration for the 155th anniversary of Blessed Fr. Antonio Rosmini's death. Fr. Rosmini was a passionate philosopher and ardent promoter of social justice.

Asked if Catholiics today, like Fr. Rosmini over a century ago, are called to face a crisis of values, Cardinal Bagnasco answered that they hear this call from the Pope himself. Benedict XVI "calls the faithful back to a greater awareness," he said, in an atmosphere affected by "certain dominant cultural forms" that influence everyone, believers and non-believers alike.

"No one is exempt from this climate of possible contamination that could impoverish the faith, but especially the very behavior of Christians ... "

He cited Jesus' words that people should not be "of the world" but "in the world," explaining that "being in the world means being exposed to all of the pressures and tensions and proddings that we know."

Responding to the question of whether prayer remains a "weapon" against conforming to the dominant mentality, as Fr. Rosmini taught, Cardinal Bagnasco said "Prayer is contact with God, and God is truth.

"Certainly we need to dedicate time to prayer, each according to his own vocation, and draw close to those means that the liturgy and especially the Lord have put at our disposal: the Gospel, the book of Psalms and all of the other practices of piety ... "

Each of these, he said, are ways "that help us to find the truth of God and of man."

And, he concluded, "if we truly believe, totally, that God loves us, it's clear that we will live the personal and universal story with a perspective and, at times, with a more responsible, more positive attitude.

"We need to truly believe that God loves us: (a truth) which holds the power to change our life."

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Bridge-building bishop works for peace in Africa

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 21, 2010 (CNA) - In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, Bishop Nicolas Djomo is a bridge builder. Whenever the funds are available, he calls for the construction of a new bridge in the Diocese of Tshumbe, which he has shepherded since late 1997.

In a country in which infrastructure has been given short shrift amid internal and regional conflict, these efforts address a need that governmental leaders have proven unable to satisfy.

But more significantly, Bishop Djomo is also a bridge builder in a figurative sense.

As a diocesan bishop as well as president of the national bishops’ conference, he has actively promoted peace in a country still reeling from the Second Congo War.

The war, which began early in Djomo’s second year as bishop of Tshumbe, raged on from 1998-2003 with the Congo being one of eight African nations embroiled in the conflict.

“The first five years [as bishop], it was very, very tough because the diocese is isolated; it’s remote,” Bishop Djomo said.

Early in the war, he said, the Tshumbe region was cut off from the capital city of Kinshasa, requiring the Church to serve as the primary provider of education, health care and other essential services, as well as a safe haven for women.

During the war, while hostilities between Congo, Rwanda and Burundi were still ongoing, the bishops conferences of those three countries met with one another and delivered messages of peace to each country’s president.

According to the best estimates, Bishop Djomo said, at least five million people died during the war, which also produced two million refugees and resulted in one million internally displaced.

The after-effects of the conflict are still being felt today.

“Because of the war, the poverty is huge,” Bishop Djomo said, “so most of the population [is] living with less than one dollar a day.”

He said there is also a large number of orphans and street children, for whom the Local Church is working to provide shelter and schooling.

And even today, seven years after the Second Congo War officially ended, violence and atrocities continue in the eastern part of the country, where armed groups profit from the sale of gold, coltan, wolframite and cassiterite mined by locals under inhumane conditions. Such “conflict minerals” are often used in the manufacturing of cell phones, computers and other products.

Bishop Djomo, while visiting the Diocese of San Diego and other California dioceses in May, urged support for U.S. legislation requiring companies to disclose the source of their minerals. The goal is to discourage the purchase of minerals from mines that are tied to human rights abuses and armed conflict.

Closer to home, Bishop Djomo has launched several peace building initiatives within the Congo.

He was among the participants in the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which met in October 2009 at the Vatican. The synod’s theme was “The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.” Its purpose, he said, was to discuss how the Church could further the cause of peace in Africa.

Bishop Djomo said the synod concluded with a call for all African Catholics to sow the seeds of peace in their daily interactions with others, for Catholic schools to educate toward “a culture of peace,” for each diocesan bishop to make peace building a pastoral priority and for Catholic political leaders to govern according to the dictates of their faith.

Current peace building efforts in the Congo include plans for a peace studies institute at the Catholic university in Kinshasa, as well as cultural exchanges between Catholic youth from the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

This October, Bishop Djomo said, a major regional meeting of Church leaders will take place in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, to further discuss “the contribution of the Church for a lasting peace in central Africa.”

Reflecting on the recommendations of last year’s synod, Bishop Djomo said, “That every Catholic be a peace instrument, everywhere in Africa, that is our goal.”

Printed with permission from the Southern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of San Diego.

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Nebraska attorney general declines to defend state's pro-life law

Omaha, Neb., Aug 21, 2010 (CNA) - Last week, a law restricting abortions in Nebraska was permanently blocked from taking effect. The law, which was passed earlier this year in the state, would have required a health screening for any woman planning to have an abortion.

On Wednesday, Nebraska’s Attorney General Jon Bruning said he agreed to a permanent injunction against the new law, reported the Washington Post. The law was challenged by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and had already been prohibited from taking effect by a temporary ruling earlier this year.

Spokeswoman Shannon Kingery for the attorney general's office told the Washington Post that Bruning did not think the law had much chance against a lawsuit. "Losing this case would require Nebraska taxpayers to foot the bill for Planned Parenthood's legal fee," said Kingery. "We will not squander the state's resources on a case that has very little probability of winning."

However, if a second state abortion law is challenged, the pro-life organization, Nebraska Right to Life, is confident the attorney general will defend it.

The law, scheduled to take effect on October 15, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation based on research which says fetuses can feel pain at that point. The law would preempt current legislation which limits late term abortions only to those infants whose lives outside the womb aren’t deemed viable.

According to the Washington Post, the Center for Reproductive Rights has suggested that they may challenge the ban.

"Any suggestion that Attorney General Bruning is shirking his responsibility to defend pro-life legislation is not shared by Nebraska Right to Life," said Julie Schmit-Albin, the organization’s executive director. “We are confident that the attorney general will vigorously defend any attack on that law,” should that law be taken to court.

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Pontifical Council for Laity organizes evangelization congress in Asia

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2010 (CNA) - Ten days from now, hundreds of representatives from Catholic organizations in Asia will descend on the capital city of Korea for a congress to examine evangelization on their continent.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL) has announced that the Congress of Asian Catholic Laity will be held in Seoul, South Korea from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5 under the theme "Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today.” The congress will bring 400 hundred people together, including representatives and bishops from 20 countries from within the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and delegations from 35 different Asian Catholic lay associations, movements and communities.

According to a statement distributed through the Holy See's Press Office, the PCL initiative aims to strengthen local Church ties with Rome.

"The decision to focus on Asia expresses a missionary concern for a continent that ... is now emerging as a key player in an age of immense transformation," the statement said.

The Council for the Laity noted that the choice to host the congress in Korea "manifests the Church's pastoral attention for Asian lay Catholics who are called to witness to Jesus Christ in communion with their pastors, and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ as a universal gift of salvation."

The congress will place a special focus on the history of the Church in Asia as well as current challenges to evangelization in the region. Addresses, panel presentations and extensive discussions will examine many elements from within this framework. Some of the topics to be covered include the formation of laity, Christian witness in society, religious freedom and the role of women in the Church.

The experiences of movements and communities on the forefront of evangelization will also be presented during the congress.

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