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Archive of May 9, 2011

Supreme Court of Brazil legally recognizes same-sex couples

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Brazil’s Supreme Court has issued a ruling making same-sex unions equivalent to marriage.

Auxiliary Bishop Henrique Soares Costa of Aracaju, Brazil said the court’s ruling was anti-democratic and shameful.

The justices unanimously ruled on May 5 that same-sex couples should receive all rights and benefits given to traditional marriage.

Bishop Soares Costa testified on May 4 before the court in defense of marriage between one man and one woman, as established by Brazil’s Constitution.

The Brazilian bishop’s legal counsel, Hugo Cysneiros, told the court “plurality has its limits.” He noted that chapter 7 of the country’s constitution explicitly states that marriage is “a stable union between a man and a woman as a family entity.”

“The Episcopate’s intention is not to bring its catechism into this place, but rather to call for reasoning based on the constitution,” he told the justices.

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More than 340,000 signed up for World Youth Day

Madrid, Spain, May 9, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Some 340,000 young people from more than 170 countries have signed up to participate in World Youth Day Madrid.

The main objective of the event, World Youth Day 2011's executive director said, is “so young people experience Madrid as a welcoming city and that their days here be unforgettable.”

Events are scheduled for Aug. 16 – 21 and include a vigil and Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

The head of this year's World Youth Day, Yago de la Cierva, said the planning phase ended in January 2011. Since then, organizers have been working with the Vatican and Madrid city officials on implementing the plans. A large contingent of full and part-time volunteers were marshaled to manage logistics.

The culture and faith of Spain will be front and center the director added, emphasizing that “everything ought to be rooted in the 20 centuries of Catholic tradition in this country.” 

World Youth Day will begin on Aug. 16 with an opening Mass followed by various events until Aug. 18, when Pope Benedict XVI will be welcomed at Cibeles Square.

The next day the Way of the Cross will be prayed and the weekend will be spent at the Cuatro Vientos airfield. A vigil will take place there on Saturday night and the closing Mass will be celebrated on Sunday morning.

Pope Benedict XVI will also meet with university professors, women religious, seminarians, volunteers, those with disabilities and the sick.

World Youth Day cultural activities will fill the streets of the Spanish capital, with more than 300 different stops available for young people. 

The traditional catechetical sessions will take place Aug. 17 and 18 at more than 200 parishes throughout Madrid, led by bishops from around the world.

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Bl. John Paul II influential in former terrorist's conversion

Lima, Peru, May 9, 2011 (CNA) - A letter John Paul II sent in 1991 to a prisoner in Lima, Peru increased the inmate's faith and inspired him “to continue his evangelization efforts while incarcerated.

Carlos Turrin Villanueva spent 10 years behind bars for the crime of terrorism at the Castro Castro Prison in Lima, Peru.

Turrin, who was released in 1999, told CNA that months before receiving the papal letter, he had written to John Paul II without expecting a response. “He was so busy and received so many letters that I never thought he would take notice of a prisoner,” Turrin said.

In his message, the Pope thanked Turrin for writing to him and offered his prayers that “through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the Lord will strengthen you in the faith and grant you continual peace and Christian prosperity.” He also bestowed an apostolic blessing on Turrin and his loved ones.

Turrin recalled the difficulties of living the Christian life and evangelizing inside the prison. At that time, “around 1989-90, the only ones who could control and manage our block in the prison was the Shining Path, and we were the enemy.” 

The Shining Path was a terrorist organization responsible for numerous anti-government attacks throughout the 1980s and 90s.

“The leaders of our small Christian communities were the targets of death threats, psychological threats, physical assaults and abuse. Almost all of us were physically and psychologically abused, but that was the cost of our conversion, and we accepted it,” he said.

The terrorist group’s displeasure with Turrin’s prison ministry grew worse as the number of members in his Christian community increased from 15 to 100.

“A time came in which prisoners were evangelizing prisoners; we assumed the leadership because at that time it was almost impossible for priests and religious to visit. Eventually, 12 Christian communities were established, one in each prison block. Each year many prisoners consecrated themselves to the Virgin Mary. We even were able organize festivals for life and peace, activities that were powerful and unheard of at that time, when we were living under a harsh regime,” he said.

“However, God allowed all of these events to take place –  as if we were free –  with prizes, contests, etc.,” Turrin said.

He said that seeing the beatification of John Paul II “was a profound experience, because deep inside I thought about how this Pope, who was kind enough to write me a letter, is today beatified.”

“I read his works in prison, and we always said among ourselves that he was a saint,” Turrin recalled.

The former inmate has continued his prison ministry at three facilities in Lima.

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Speaker Boehner names Jesuit priest as next House chaplain

Washington D.C., May 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - House Speaker John Boehner has proposed Father Patrick Conroy, S.J. to be the next chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives.

If formally elected, Fr. Conroy would become the second Catholic priest to hold the position.

Ordained in 1983, Conroy has served as a parish priest in his native Washington state and served the people of the Colville Indian Reservation and the Spokane Indian Reservation, USA Today reports. He was chaplain at Georgetown University from 1990 to 1994 and from 1997 to 2003. Between those periods, he served as chaplain at Seattle University.

At present he teaches at Jesuit High school in Portland, Ore.

Boehner said he consulted with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over the appointment.

Pelosi said Conroy will provide “guidance and comfort” while ministering to the needs of the Capitol Hill community in “an interfaith way.”

Catholic priest Fr. Daniel Coughlin, the previous House chaplain, retired last month to widespread praise.

The House chaplain position dates back to 1789, when the Continental Congress began a tradition of having the day’s proceedings open with a prayer.

The chaplain’s present duties include leading the daily prayer, providing counseling and pastoral services, coordinating the scheduling of guest chaplains and helping to arrange memorial services for House members and staff.

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Pope urges Venice to build culture rooted in the Gospel

Rome, Italy, May 9, 2011 (CNA) -

After traveling through Venice's waterways in a gondola, Pope Benedict urged citizens gathered in the city's main square to cultivate a society rooted in the “firm foundations of the Gospel.”

“Venice is called to assume important responsibilities in promoting a culture of welcome and sharing,” the Pope said, urging them to build “a culture of harmony and love that has its firm foundations in the Gospel.”

Pope Benedict's May 7 address in St. Mark's Square came during his two-day visit to Venice over the weekend. It was his first papal trip to the historic Italian city famously built upon a series of canals. The pontiff traveled on the same gondola used by Pope John Paul II in 1985 during the last papal visit to the city.

The Pope highlighted the “openness that has always characterized Venice” during his remarks to citizens and government officials. He praised the city for being “a crossroads of peoples and of communities of every provenance, culture, language, and religion.”

The pastoral visit launched on May 7 with a visit to the historic port town of Aquileia where he was met by thousands of enthusiastic Venetians.

The highlight of his 27-hour-trip came when Pope Benedict celebrated Mass before an estimated congregation of 300,000 on May 8. At the San Giuliano de Mestre Park, the Pope urged the massive crowds to give hope to modern man by “listening to and loving the Word of God.”

That afternoon, Pope Benedict went to St. Mark’s basilica to address bishops from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany as well as northeast Italy.

After greeting the 30 assembly members, Pope Benedict traveled by boat to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.

There he met with representatives from the worlds of business, politics and culture at the official opening of a new cultural center founded by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice.

“Venice has a long history and a rich human, spiritual, and artistic patrimony to also be able to offer today a precious contribution for helping persons to envision a better future and to work toward it,” he told those gathered.

The Pope referenced the city's patron, St. Mark the Evangelist, who used Venice as a first-century base for his mission to preach the gospel to surrounding nations.

Venice “should not be afraid of another emblematic element contained in the shield of St. Mark: the Gospel,” he underscored. “The Gospel is the greatest strength of transformation in the world, but it is neither a utopia nor an ideology.”

The Pope concluded his visit by greeting Venice's Jewish and Muslim communities and blessing the recently restored Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity. He also inaugurated the city's Studium Generale Marcianum Library.

The visit is the third by a Pope to Venice in the past 40 years.

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Foster care: Providing a loving home to children in need

Denver, Colo., May 9, 2011 (CNA) - When visiting their Brighton, Colo. home, Francis Huiras was quick to point out the “little guy” in recent family photos prominently displayed in the living room.

“He’s a little honey,” added wife Tracy.

The little guy they’re referring to is 3-year-old Matthew (not his real name), a child placed with them for 4 months through Catholic Charities’ foster care program—a program they have been affiliated with since 1998.

Francis and Tracy—along with their two adopted children, Adriana and Logan, both 12—opened their home to this vulnerable little boy when contacted by longtime friend Sister Michael Delores Allegri, S.C.L., another foster parent with Catholic Charities.

Including Matthew in a family photo was just one way they could help him feel included; to let him know that he is loved.

“We want him to see that he is part of our family whenever he wants to be,” said Francis who spent time in foster care himself as a child, as his father struggled with alcoholism, then his mother suffered from mental illness.

“My father … wasn’t around mostly,” Francis shared. “(My mother) did the best she could … but she never did get back to her old self.”

His experience was significantly different than the care he and Tracy aim to deliver.

“(Foster care) wasn’t that great of an experience for me, so I always felt like we could have children and do better than the way I was treated,” he said. “I always felt odd, I guess. I knew I was different, and they made sure I felt that way.”

He did not want Matthew to feel the isolation he felt.

“That’s exactly a situation I could’ve been in when I was a kid,” he said. “They would’ve taken their family picture and I wouldn’t have been included. That would ‘leave a mark.’”

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. There were nearly 9,000 children in the foster care system in Colorado according September 2003 figures. Most children are placed in temporary foster care due to parental abuse or neglect.

“Children are placed into foster care at no choice of their own—they’re scared and traumatized,” said Melissa Maile, director of child welfare services for Catholic Charities. “Imagine being in their shoes and think about what you would need at that point in time to feel better.”

Enter foster families.

“(They’re) courageous, generous, kind and patient families,” Maile said. “They’re very special folks who put these children’s needs above their own to help children feel comfortable, cared for and supported during a very difficult process—for however long they are in their home.”

Catholic Charities has 13 families certified for foster care, and 10 more in the process. They have about 18 children in the program, from newborn to 18 years old.

“We get referrals every day that we have to turn down,” she said. “These are referrals of real children who can’t remain with their biological families due to safety concerns. They need and deserve to be cared for, loved and supported until a more permanent plan is determined.”

Reunification with family is the goal for foster care, though it is not always possible. Colorado statistics showed 58 percent of children that left the system in 2003 were unified with birth parents or primary caregivers. Of children adopted through state agencies, 58 percent were adopted by non-relative foster parents and 31 percent by relatives.

The Huiras’ first foster child was a 4-year-old girl that lived with them from 1998 through 2001. She was ultimately reunified with her grandparents.

“We would’ve adopted (her),” Francis said. “That was a hard struggle when they came to us and said the grandparents were interested in taking her. But it was my decision that she go with the grandparents—because no matter how bad my home life was, I still would’ve rather gone home.”

At 16, she still lives with her grandparents and is doing well.

When Tracy is asked how she does it; how she “lets them go,” she responds: “How can you not help them if they need a home? How can you turn them away?”

In early 2002, 2-year-old Adriana came to live with Francis and Tracy—a situation they believed would be temporary. At the same time they were considering adopting Logan, another foster child, also 2.

“I always felt like we should adopt rather than have our own, then I guess by the grace of God, he wouldn’t let us have our own anyway,” Francis said.

The same week the county approved Logan’s adoption; Adriana’s mother surrendered her parental rights.

“So, we had two!” said Tracy with a laugh. “They’re only six months apart—it’s very much like having twins.”

She can’t imagine life any differently.

“To me now, it’s like they’ve never been anywhere else,” she said.

Catholic Charities has two full-time staff members and a part-time therapist to support foster families. They provide training, respite care for children when full-time foster parents need a break, support groups and other resources.

“If you have ever considered foster care, that seed has been planted in your heart for whatever reason,” Maile said. “Explore, educate, ask questions and talk to other families … even if you’re not ready yet, it’s important to spread the word that children in Colorado need help.”

Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.

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