Archive of June 9, 2011

Father of nine preparing to be ordained Catholic priest

Plymouth, England, Jun 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - There can’t be many Catholic priests who have a wife and nine children present at their ordination. But that’s exactly what awaits Deacon Ian Hellyer next week.

“I’m currently experiencing a funny combination of peace and excitement – with just an occasional moment of fear,” says the 44-year-old from Devon in England who, until a few months ago, was the Anglican vicar of five rural parishes.

“Over the past 10 years, though, I’d increasingly felt uncomfortable in the Church of England and found myself questioning more and more of its decisions and the direction it’s going in,” he told CNA June 9.

Just before Lent this year, Hellyer made an announcement to his Anglican parishioners – he was leaving to become a Catholic.

“They were somewhat shocked, not least because my Anglican bishop wouldn’t let me warn people about the announcement beforehand.”

Hellyer is just one of 68 former Anglican clergymen being ordained this month into the Catholic Church’s Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was established by Pope Benedict XVI earlier this year as a “Roman home” for Anglican converts within the Catholic Church.

“I was amazed when the personal ordinariate was announced, amazed at its generosity and the respect it gave to the authentic traditions of Anglicans. It came out the blue. So I said to myself, ‘How could I not respond to that?’”

For Hellyer, though, that decision has meant more than simply a change of religion. It also means giving up a salary, a house and a pension plan. The sacrifice of the move is made all the more obvious by the size of his family: he has a 3-month-old baby girl, four other daughters and four sons.

“My wife Margaret has supported me all the way. She’s always said that if this is what God wants, then we’ll be looked after. It’s an attitude that’s amazed many of her friends. They tell her that they simply couldn’t be that brave. But Margaret is a great woman of great faith.”

Recent media reports in the U.K. have suggested that some English Catholic bishops are giving a rather grudging welcome to the Ordinariate clergy. Hellyer, however, says he’s only met with generosity from both his Catholic bishop and even his former Anglican superiors.

“The Church of England is allowing us to stay in our vicarage until the end of August. At present, we’re also looking at moving to a Catholic presbytery in Plymouth. Hopefully it can be adapted for our use - most presbyteries weren’t built with nine children in mind.”

Interestingly, all of Hellyer’s children are already being raised Catholic since his wife is a cradle Catholic.

“So, at domestic level I longed for unity because I longed for unity with my children, so that we could be around the same altar each Sunday,” says Hellyer whose family, in various ways, seemed to have helped him to make up his mind.

“I remember a few months ago over Sunday lunch, it had just dawned on my second daughter, Theresa, that there were some married priests in the Catholic Church. So she turned to me in an instant and said, ‘Well dad, why aren’t you doing that?’”

Pope Benedict’s visit to England last September also played its part in Hellyer’s story of conversion, in particularly the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

“Myself and Margaret went to the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham on the Sunday morning. We both really got a sense that the journey Blessed John Henry made was also the way that God was leading us.”

This next Friday, June 17, Hellyer will be ordained a Catholic priest at Plymouth’s cathedral. He says he doesn’t know quite how he’ll be put to use after his ordination but mostly likely he’ll end up splitting his time between Ordinariate duties and helping the local diocese, perhaps in chaplaincy work at a school or hospital.

“I think that the new Ordinariate is very much part of the ‘new evangelization’ of the western world that Blessed Pope John Paul II outlined. And I think the Catholic Church is waking up to the need to reach out to people and re-evangelize in a way that’s most appropriate in our age.”

Despite the fact that he’s leaving, Hellyer is receiving good wishes from his former Anglican parishioners, many of whom “are watching what happens very closely.” That includes keeping an eye on Hellyer’s online blog where he’s been charting his conversion story.

“So our work is quite missionary, really,” he says.

“And it’s the mission that I find most exciting!”

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‘Surfing Madonna’ graffiti gets Calif. beach city talking

Encinitas, Calif., Jun 9, 2011 (CNA) - Corrected June 9, 2011 at 8:57 MDT. Removes description of St. Juan Diego being on the surfboard.

A mosaic of the Virgin Mary riding a surfboard in Encinitas, Calif. has won admiration from many residents and prompted some concerns about whether the display is irreverent.

But city officials may have the last word: they say the “Surfing Madonna” was installed illegally and has to be taken down.

The artwork shows the Virgin of Guadalupe riding a cresting blue wave. Her hands are clasped in prayer and her green robe billows from the wind. 

One side of the mosaic reads: “Save the Ocean.”

The 10-by-10-foot rock and glass mosaic was affixed to a wall under a train bridge in April by unidentified artists disguised as construction workers.

Thousands of people have come to see the work. Some brought flowers and lit votive candles. Supporters have created Twitter and Facebook accounts to support the work, calling her the “Surfing Madonna.”

The work is technically graffiti that should be removed, according to the city law.

Encinitas Mayor James Bond said the mosaic’s use of religious imagery has drawn some complaints in the southern California beach town.

Some say the artwork blurs the line between church and state while others consider it sacrilegious to depict Mexico’s patron saint surfing.

“We can't just go around saying, `Well, when someone slaps up something nice, we like it and it can stay.' Or, ‘Oh, we don't like it, so we've got to take it down,'” Bond told the Associated Press. “We can't do that with art because people always love and hate the same piece of art. So it's a slippery slope.”

He expects moving the mosaic will be costly but local businesses are raising funds to cover the city’s expenses and several people have offered to buy the work.

Art consultant Andrew Smith said removing the mosaic without destroying it will not be easy and might not even be possible.

Smith is part of the team evaluating the work, which the city hired at a cost of just under $2,000, the local newspaper The North County Times reports.

The mosaic appears to have been extensively bolted or screwed into place and not simply affixed with a high-strength glue, as initially suspected.

Workers reported that they saw a name under the mosaic’s colorful glass but they didn’t know if it belonged to the artist.

Those who created and installed the mosaic have not come forward.

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Cathedral in Nigeria destroyed by extremist attacks

Maiduguri, Nigeria, Jun 9, 2011 (CNA) - An extremist Islamic group is being held responsible for a series of recent attacks in Nigeria, which have left 16 dead and destroyed the Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick in the northern capital city of Maiduguri.

“St. Patrick’s Cathedral was seriously damaged, windows and doors destroyed, the whole building was shaken to its foundations by the violence of the explosion,” said Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri.

On June 7, an armed group suspected to be members of Boko Haram set off a bomb at the cathedral as well as two police stations. The damage is the latest in a series of coordinated attacks by Boko Haram, which claims to seek a more widespread application of sharia (Islamic law) in Africa's most populated nation.

The extremist group – with a name that translates to “Western education is a sin” in the Haussa language –  has carried out almost daily attacks in and around Maiduguri in recent months. Its targets have been politicians, law enforcement, and religious and traditional rulers opposed to its ideology.

“The situation in Maiduguri is very tense,” Bishop Doeme told Fides news on June 8, recalling that only “two weeks ago, another Catholic church was the target of an attack with explosives, as well as a secondary school.”

On June 6, an Islamic religious leader, who opposed the cult, was killed in an attack in Biu, a town south of Maiduguri. The group also claimed responsibility for bombs that killed at least 16 people hours after President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in on May 29.

The recent violence adds to the civil strife which broke out across the predominantly Muslim north when the results from the April 16 presidential election showed President Jonathan, a Christian from the south, had won.

Many in the north believe someone from their region should be in power because the elected Muslim president died last year before he could finish his term.

Riots have killed at least 500 people in Nigeria after the April elections, with the two northern states of Kaduna and Bauchi states being the hardest hit by violence. An estimated 40,000 people have fled those areas in recent months.

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Labor board denial of Catholic university's exemption could endanger religious freedom

Chicago, Ill., Jun 9, 2011 (CNA) - A labor board ruling has denied St. Xavier University’s religious exemption from federal organizing rules on the grounds that that the Catholic university is not sufficiently religious. Critics said the ruling, the second of its kind this year, may endanger the religious freedom of Catholic institutions.

“It’s a clear violation of religious liberty for a federal agency to even be asking the question of whether an institution is sufficiently Catholic. That’s a question for the Church to answer, not the National Labor Relations Board,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society.

He responded to the decision with a call for “a vigorous public and legal defense of the religious liberty of Catholic institutions” and “the complete and honest renewal of Catholic identity at colleges and universities.”

“Every Catholic needs to be engaged in this fight,” said Reilly, whose organization aims to renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education.

The Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board on May 26 determined that St. Xavier University in Chicago “functions as a secular educational institution or university” for several reasons.

The board acknowledged the involvement of the Sisters of Mercy in the school and the Conference for Mercy Higher Education’s role as the university’s religious sponsor. However, it said the conference is not involved in the administration of the university “in a manner that creates a significant risk of constitutional infringement” and the university is not dependent on the Sisters of Mercy or the conference for funding.

The board cited the lack of any religious requirements or constraints on faculty and claimed that “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, leaves faculty “unfettered with regard to imbuing… students and curriculum with Church doctrine or religion.” The board also cited the university’s mission to educate students irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Rejecting an exemption for the university on religious grounds, the board approved the petition from the St. Xavier University Adjunct Faculty Organization of the Illinois Educational Association-National Education Association, which sought to organize a union for adjunct faculty.

The university disagreed strongly with the ruling.

“The issue is whether the Catholic Church and the bishops get to determine our Catholic identity – or whether the NLRB gets to determine our Catholic identity,” St. Xavier University president Christine M. Wiseman said in a statement provided to CNA.

“This is an issue that could impact all religious institutions, and many of us are concerned,” she said.

Wiseman objected to the labor board’s attempt to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds it is an “undue burden” on the school’s free exercise of religion. She also noted disagreement between the labor board and the courts about the appropriate standard to determine whether the board has jurisdiction over a religiously-sponsored institution.

Wiseman argued that the labor board decision could affect all religious institutions, citing Illinois Education Association organizer Tom Suhrbur’s remarks.

Suhrbur told the publication Inside Higher Ed that if the decision stands it would open up “a lot of opportunities” not only at Catholic colleges but at all kinds of institutions that have ties to various churches.

The case is the second this year. In January the board approved a unionization effort at Manhattan College in New York City on the grounds the school was insufficiently religious.

Reilly said the case is “extremely important” because the labor board has twice been instructed by the federal appeals court to stop ruling that colleges are not sufficiently religious.

While the affected Catholic colleges should be able to win the decision on appeal, Reilly noted that the process is expensive and does not end the labor board’s “violation of religious freedom.” He suspected these cases will have to go to the Supreme Court to force the labor board to act “in a constitutional manner.”

Discussing the general state of Catholic academia, Reilly said it is not surprising that Catholic colleges and universities are getting pressure “on all sides” for “trying to be both secular and Catholic depending on the audience.”

“We’ve seen the pressure from the bishops to be more Catholic and now we’re seeing the pressure from the secularists to stop claiming exemptions as a religious institution if they’re not going to be really Catholic.”

According to Reilly, restrictions on religious schools have been “greatly exaggerated” by all sides in the debate on Catholic identity.

Those who defend secularization have wrongly argued that the process is necessary in order to receive federal funds and fairly compete with Catholic schools, while those who shun any federal aid have said the same.

While secularization measures may be “helpful” for obtaining state aid, this is “clearly not necessary with regard to federal funding,” he said.

Reilly said that the institutions praised in “The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College” are “fully Catholic” and have no difficulty obtaining funding or participating in these programs, though he granted that there may be potential problems in the future “if strings are attached to federal aid.”

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Bishops’ Congregation to decide on Milan recommendation today

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The recommendation for the next Archbishop of Milan will be decided at a meeting in the Vatican this morning, June 9, according to the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli.

“At nine o’clock this morning, in a room in the Apostolic Palace, the ‘congressa’ (conferences) are meeting, called to discuss the three ‘provviste’ (supply lists), i.e. to consider nominations for the leadership of three dioceses,” Tornielli wrote in La Stampa newspaper this morning.

There has been speculation in the U.S. media over the past several days that one of the other dioceses being considered is Philadelphia. The present leader, Cardinal Justin Rigali, tendered his resignation last year when he turned 75. One name being floated for Philadelphia is Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

As for Milan, Tornielli says the trio of Italian clerics in the running are Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, Bishop Francesco Lambasi of Rimini, and Monsignor Aldo Giordano, the Vatican’s representative to the Council of Europe.

After the Thursday morning meeting, Tornielli says that the head of the Congregation of Bishops, the Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, will present the group’s recommendations to Pope Benedict over the weekend. It will then be up to the Pope to make any final decision. An official announcement is not expected until later this month.

The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Milan is the most populous in Italy and one of the most influential in the Catholic Church. In the 2oth century, two holders of the office have gone onto the papacy – Pope Pius XI and Pope Paul VI. Being a metropolitan see, it also has jurisdiction over nine other dioceses in the north of Italy.

The present head of the archdiocese, Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi, is 77-years-old and due for retirement.

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Strong faith, prayer help in young girl's cancer recovery

Greenville, R.I., Jun 9, 2011 (CNA) - With quiet confidence Sydney Khoury climbs each step of a metal ladder as she positions herself to place a crown of flowers atop a statue of the Blessed Mother at St. Philip Church in Greenville, R.I.

It’s a bit of a reach for Sydney, but with determination, the nine-year-old extends her arms, carefully placing her tribute atop the head of the Mother of Jesus.

A short distance away, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I.  watches admiringly as the St. Philip School second-grader successfully overcomes yet another obstacle in her young life. Three years ago, Bishop Tobin also witnessed Sydney overcome one her greatest challenges. At that time, as she lay in the Intensive Care Unit of Hasbro Children’s Hospital with her life hanging in the balance, the bishop prayed over her with a relic of Mother Teresa.

Sydney’s parents say the prayerful intervention yielded results nothing short of miraculous.

In November 2007, Sydney was diagnosed with a Stage 3 malignant tumor on her kidney. Two days later, doctors removed her kidney and started her on a treatment regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. The overall success rate of the treatment was only 42 percent they were told.

For nearly three months, her condition was stable. Then, a robust round of chemotherapy quickly took its toll on her.

“She started five days of chemo. It hit her so hard,” recalls her mother, Michele.

Sydney went into what is known as a neutropenic state, as her white blood cell count dropped to zero, severely limiting her body’s ability to fight off infections.

“She was home for three days; on the fourth, she caught a fever,” Michele said.

Sydney was immediately brought into the hospital where she spent nearly all of February 2008 in the Intensive Care Unit.

She was intubated twice to maintain an open airway, and also became paralyzed for 12 hours during that time.

On Feb. 20, Michele and Ken Khoury received news that no parent ever wants to hear.

“They couldn’t tell me if she’d make it,” Michele said. “The doctor said, ‘I can’t guarantee anything over the next 48 hours’.”

Two days later, Sydney received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick from Father Peter J. Sheahan, the assistant pastor at St. Philip Church.

On Feb. 27, with Sydney’s condition not improving, doctors performed a lung biopsy.

“Her lungs were just collapsing,” her mother recalls.

The next day, with doctors about to have a discussion with the family about their wish to fit Sydney with a tracheal tube to help her breathing, Bishop Tobin visited Sydney in the hospital.

As he prayed over her, he held in his hand a relic of Blessed Mother Teresa. It was a gift from a priest friend back in his native Pittsburgh who had obtained it in Rome where he worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Blessed Mother Teresa.

What happened next was remarkable.

Both of Sydney’s parents and Bishop Tobin witnessed the young girl’s body convulse during the prayers for her recovery.

“Very quickly after that, she got well,” Michele said of her daughter’s health. “He did the blessing and she didn’t need the tracheotomy.”

While he is cautious about attributing Sydney’s recovery solely to divine intervention, Bishop Tobin says the day he visited her in the hospital was a powerful day indeed.

“I always tend to be skeptical of these divine interventions, but it is very clear to me that something very special happened that day,” Bishop Tobin said.

“When she was blessed with the relic, her body reacted and she opened her eyes,” the bishop recalls.

In order to ensure any possible recurrence of cancer is treated immediately, Sydney must undergo an MRI every three months. Her most recent test showed that she is still in remission.

“Her spirits are great,” Sydney’s dad, Ken, said of his daughter.

In addition to the unwavering support of family and friends throughout, the Khourys say they cannot thank the St. Philip school and parish community enough for helping the family navigate through their crisis, as well as the continual support they give.

“Our family and friends had one of Sydney’s hands, and the school and the church had the other,” Michele said.

“The way they got involved, it was like they were doing it for their own families,” Ken said of the St. Philip community.

Students and teachers held a 24-hour vigil for Sydney.

“It brought the whole community so close,” said kindergarten teacher Diane Ahern. “She’s a gift from God.”

Principal Darlene Walsh said she was proud of the way the students and staff rallied around Sydney and her family in their time of need.

Linda Audet, a school librarian who was one of several staff to spend hours by Sydney’s hospital bedside, is still amazed by what she witnessed.

“She was so sick, and she’s come such a long way,” Audet said.

For the Khoury family, there is no underestimating the impact that prayer can have on a life.

“The amount of prayers got God’s attention,” Michele said. “I really feel that through the power of prayer she has been healed,” Michele said. “It’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”

Printed with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.

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Bishop urges parents to enroll children in religion classes

Santander, Spain, Jun 9, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Bishop Vicente Jimenez of Santander, Spain has issued a pastoral letter calling on parents to enroll their children in Catholic religion classes.
The right to educate their children “according to their own convictions” is a “fundamental parental right” recognized by the Spanish Constitution, said the bishop.
Classes in Catholic religion and morality provide a benchmark for understanding human existence in light of the Christian faith, the bishop stressed.
The Church teaches by responding to “the problems and deepest questions of students, while at the same time laying the foundation and giving reasons for the loftiest of values, such as love, justice, freedom and forgiveness,” he continued.
Bishop Jimenez said his message was aimed particularly at Christian teachers, but also “at all those teachers who, although they do not confess our faith, nevertheless value the good that it promotes and contributes to the comprehensive formation of students.”
He expressed his trust that school administrators “will apply the corresponding legislation” to the area of Catholic religion and morality so that parents and students “can exercise this fundamental right.”
He also urged students to “regard religious teaching as essential for their personal, intellectual, social, and above all, spiritual growth.”
“The Lord gives young people reasons for believing, hoping and loving, and his presence in your growth is the best gift you will find in your lives,” he told them.
“The heart” of religion classes is Jesus Christ, he said, “who is a continual example of life, love and hope with his words, works and his very person.”
Jesus Christ is “not only an example,” the bishop said. “He is also strength for students in time of weakness; mercy and forgiveness in times of sin; love and understanding in times of loneliness; and above all, he is a gift, as he gives us his Life so that we might have eternal life.”

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Pope Benedict calls for 'clean energy'

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The governments of the world should back “the exploitation of clean energy sources,” Pope Benedict XVI said June 9.

The Pope made his remarks in an address to a group of ambassadors at the Vatican. His comments came on the same day Switzerland voted to phase-out its nuclear energy program.

“The first half of this year has been marked by many tragedies that have affected nature, technology and people,” the Pope said in reference to the March earthquake in Japan that triggered radioactive leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

At the same time, the Pope cautioned, “Man, to whom God has entrusted the safeguarding of nature, cannot be dominated by technology or become its object.”

The Pope said this awareness should lead all countries to “reflect on the short-term future of the planet” and “their responsibilities with regard to our life and technology.”

“Human ecology,” he stressed, “is an imperative.”

“We must adopt a lifestyle that respects the environment and support research and the exploitation of clean energy sources, respectful of the heritage of creation and harmless to humans, these must be our political and economic priorities.”

The Pope’s comments carry a particular political significance for many western countries currently questioning the future of their nuclear industries. Today’s vote in the Swiss parliament follows an identical decision in Germany last month. Pope Benedict’s homeland will now phase out nuclear power by 2022.

The Pope said we all have to undergo a “change of mentality” so as to arrive at “an overall lifestyle that respects the balance between man and nature.”

“All governments must commit to protect nature and help it fulfill its essential role in the survival of humanity,” he said, suggesting that the United Nations seems to be the obvious forum to achieve this.

Pope Benedict also critiqued the way that technology is sometimes used without any ethical consideration.

He warned that when societies believe that technology is the “exclusive agent of progress or happiness” they make embark on a road that “leads to blindness and misery.”

He told the assembled ambassadors that putting too much trust in “an all powerful and ultimately uncontrolled technology” deprives man of his humanity. The antidote to this, he said, was for governments to “promote a humanism that respects the spiritual and religious dimension of man.”

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KC bishop responds to concerns with independent investigation

Kansas City, Mo., Jun 9, 2011 (CNA) - Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn is implementing a plan to improve his diocese's response to cases of suspected abuse, following the recent arrest of a priest on child pornography charges.

“These are initial steps,” Bishop Finn explained, announcing the diocese's initial five-point plan on June 9. “Other actions are forthcoming.”

The plan involves the appointment of Todd Graves, a former co-chair of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group, to conduct an independent investigation of recent events and diocesan procedures.

Graves will issue a public report on his investigation, scheduled to conclude within 30 to 45 days. Bishop Finn said the review would “help us to determine the effectiveness of diocesan policies and procedures in a very troubling situation.”

An independent public liaison and ombudsman will begin fielding and investigating reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior. Bishop Finn said this step would “ensure all concerns are addressed confidentially, respectfully, promptly and appropriately.”

The diocese will also undergo an independent review of its current code of ethics and sexual misconduct policy, while reviewing its staff's familiarity with those policies.

Bishop Finn reaffirmed his commitment to the safe environment training programs that have been in place since 2006.

“The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent wrongdoing,” he said. “We believe that, when adults who interact with children increase their awareness of child sexual abuse, they form a shield that protects children.”

Finally, the diocese has pledged to continue cooperating with local law enforcement.

Diocesan policies already require removing clergy and laypersons from service, pending a full investigation, when there is a credible accusation of abuse.

Fr. Shawn Ratigan, former pastor of St. Patrick Church, was arrested May 19 and charged with possessing child pornography. Five months before, he had been removed from ministry and placed under restrictions after a technician found suspicious, but not illegal, photographs on his computer.

Since then, it has emerged that Msgr. Robert Murphy, Bishop Finn's vicar general, received a report on Fr. Ratigan's “inappropriate behavior with children” in May of 2010, a year before his eventual arrest. The priest reportedly assured the vicar general that he would stop the behaviors in question.

Bishop Finn says he did not read the letter recounting the concerns about the pastor of St. Patrick's. Instead, he relied on Msgr. Murphy's  “brief verbal summary” of the report and his subsequent talk with Fr. Ratigan.

The bishop apologized to the faithful of his diocese on June 3, saying he took “full responsibility for these failures.”

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