Omaha, Neb., Apr 11, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Nebraska have praised the state legislature’s vote to restore taxpayer-funded access to prenatal care for poor pregnant women regardless of their immigration status or whether they are imprisoned.
Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, with Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln and Bishop William Dendinger of Grand Island, applauded the passage of Legislative Bill 599.
Some unborn children are “substantially at risk” both before and after birth due to “factors beyond their control” such as family impoverishment and their mothers’ ineligibility for Medicaid, Archbishop Lucas said on April 9 in his capacity as head of the Nebraska Catholic Conference.
“The necessary response – the response that is consistent with pro-life principles emanating from human dignity – is to ensure access to prenatal health care, which is undeniably known to mitigate the risk,” he said.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, has promised to veto the bill.
He said that the state would become a “magnet” for illegal immigrants if the funding resumes. He also said it is “an issue of fairness.”
“Hard-working Nebraskans pay their taxes and obey the laws. Illegal aliens who don't pay taxes and don't obey the laws should not be receiving taxpayer-funded benefits,” he said in an April 9 statement.
Thirty senators, including 14 Republicans, supported the bill, the Omaha World Herald reports. A veto override will be necessary for the bill to become law.
Nebraska Right to Life has asked six pro-life senators who opposed the bill to support it.
The bill would restore services to about 1,100 illegal immigrants a year and about 40 legal residents who are in prison.
Archbishop Lucas said there are “legitimate concerns” about illegal immigration, which he characterized as a mainly federal issue. He said the bishops wish every pregnant woman in Nebraska was lawfully present under a “just” federal policy. However, the federal immigration system is “badly broken and in need of significant reform.”
He said unborn children are not “illegal aliens” but are “unique human beings and presumptive U.S. citizens, who will be fully citizens upon birth in this country.”
“Their health and well being must be favored in the proper balance,” the archbishop said.
Supporters of the bill have cited two research studies from 2000 and 2001 which found that immigrants decide where to live based on the job availability and the proximity of family members. The studies found that welfare benefits were not a factor in immigrants’ decisions, the Omaha World Herald says.
Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic University of America celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding on April 10, an occasion that brought “cordial good wishes” from Pope Benedict XVI.
In a letter sent to Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., the Pope commended the university community to Mary.
He also prayed that the anniversary will be an opportunity for “renewed commitment to the Catholic University’s distinctive mission at the service of the Church and American society.”
Cardinal Wuerl read from the letter during an April 10 Mass to commemorate Founder’s Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl said it is fitting that the anniversary is taking place “in the context of the Church’s great celebration” of Easter, when the Church celebrates the “grandeur and uniqueness” of the message that Christ is truly risen.
Jesus charged Peter and the apostles with making disciples of all nations, and Catholic education is one way in which the Church carries out this charge, he said.
The April 10 Mass kicked off a week-long celebration of Pope Leo XIII’s 1887 approval for the founding of The Catholic University of America as the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States.
When the university was inaugurated, it had just 46 students and 10 faculty members. Now, it educates more than 3,500 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students from all 50 states and 85 countries.
Current university president John Garvey offered his congratulations for the achievements of the past 125 years and emphasized the importance of a continued commitment to service.
Garvey had challenged the university community to perform 125,000 hours of service over the past year, a goal that was easily surpassed and nearly tripled in recent months.
Cardinal Wuerl applauded the community for 125 years “of carrying out that great, great challenge” to be a light to the world.
As the university celebrates its anniversary, he said, “we light one more candle on that great lamp stand that is The Catholic University of America.”
Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A recent study of men and women who professed perpetual vows in 2011 shows that new members of religious orders are younger and more educated than those in the past.
“We are encouraged by the report’s findings that men and women are considering a vocation at a younger age,” said Mercy Sister Mary Joanna Ruhland, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ secretariat of vocations and consecrated life.
“As the Catholics recognize their responsibility to build a vocation culture in its parishes, schools and families, children and youth are being introduced to the various vocations in the Church,” she said in an April 5 statement.
“This helps them respond to God’s love and will generously and willingly.”
A recently-released study, conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, surveyed men and women religious who were incorporated into religious communities in 2011.
The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found that the average age of women professing perpetual vows in 2011 was 39. This is four years younger than those from the previous year.
Men entering religious orders, who were included for the first time on the 2011 study, averaged 42 years in age.
In addition, respondents reported that they first thought about a religious vocation at a younger age than last year’s class. On average, survey participants first considered a vocation to religious life when they were 19 years old, although half did so at age 17 or younger.
Those entering religious orders in 2011 were also highly educated. Almost 60 percent had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and 16 percent had earned a graduate degree as well.
Sixty-five percent of survey respondents identified themselves as white, while 19 percent identified as Asian and nine percent identified as Hispanic. The U.S. bishops have recently commissioned a survey on Hispanic vocations, to determine why the group is under-represented.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said that they have been Catholic since birth, and almost 80 percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Almost half of those surveyed attended a Catholic elementary school, and nearly all said that they regularly participated in some kind of private prayer activity before entering their religious institute.
Members of the Class of 2011 come from a variety of backgrounds and have overcome various challenges to make their perpetual vows.
Sr. Emma Calvo, OP, said that she “felt the desire to belong totally to God” since she was eight years old, while Sr. Wanda Szymanko was engaged to be married when she “re-experienced the call to religious life.”
Sr. Roseli Oliveira overcame the challenge of initially lacking the support of some her family members in her vocation, while Br. Damien Evangelista experienced a “crisis of faith” and stopped practicing his faith for several years in his mid-20s before finding his way back to Christ.
The newly-professed men and women will now use their diverse talents to serve God and his people in a variety of ways.
“Religious sisters, priests and brothers are treasured by the Church, and we support their sacred commitment to be poor, chaste and obedient in imitation of Christ and at his service,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis.
The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, explained that the religious help us “set our heart’s goal not on this life, but on eternal life.”
“In a world where human frailty is acutely felt, they remind us of God and bring Christ’s redemptive love to all they meet,” he said.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Apr 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict grieved the death of Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico, who passed away at the age of 89 on April 10 – the same day he was ordained to the priesthood 62 years earlier.
In a message to local Church leaders on Wednesday, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened” by the news. He reflected that the late cardinal showed “great love for God and the Church” and lived immense “dedication to the cause of the Gospel.”
Cardinal Aponte had been seriously ill for some time and was hospitalized for over a month in the Puerto Rican capital. The archbishop emeritus of San Juan was the first Puerto Rican native to be ordained a bishop and the first to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.
Governor Luis Fortuno has declared five days of mourning for Cardinal Aponte and ordered flags be flown at half-mast at public buildings until Saturday. The cardinal will be buried at the Cathedral of San Juan.
Fortune, a close friend of the cardinal, recalled when he was given the red hat on March 5, 1973, noting that he was the only Puerto Rican to participate in the two conclaves of August and October of 1978, which elected John Paul I and John Paul II. He also attended the conclave of 2005 which elected Benedict XVI, although he was not eligible to cast a vote.
“With his life, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez chiseled blessings into the history of our country, and we hope his testimony of faith and charity will be a living example for the generations of today and the future.”
“Puerto Rico is in mourning, but we are certain that His Eminence’s dream has finally been fulfilled...to embrace Our Lady of Providence, whom he loved and was devoted to, and her Son Jesus,” the governor said.
Vatican City, Apr 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Believers in Christ can look to his resurrection as a source of fearless confidence, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at his first general audience of the 2012 Easter season.
Jesus' victory over death, the Pope said on April 11, “transforms our lives; it frees them from fear, gives them firm hope, and infuses them with something that provides existence with full meaning: the love of God.”
The Pope traveled by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to deliver his general audience in St. Peter's Square. After blessing a mosaic image of the Holy Family for next month's World Meeting of Families in Milan, he taught over 25,000 pilgrims about the strength and courage found in the resurrection.
This freedom from fear was first experienced by Christ's disciples, who felt anxiety and uncertainty after his death and the discovery of his empty tomb.
As the Pope recounted, “this situation of anguish changed radically when Jesus arrived. He entered through the closed doors, was among them and brought them peace.”
Jesus also displayed the wounds of his death, thus “confirming the new reality of the resurrection.”
“Thus, in the shining light of Easter, in the meeting with the risen one, the disciples came to understand the salvific meaning of His passion and death. Then sadness and fear became overwhelming joy.”
During the same encounter, Jesus declared to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” According to Pope Benedict, this was more than a simple greeting.
“It was a gift, the gift the risen one made to his friends. At the same time it was a commission: the peace which Christ had bought with his blood was for them, but it was also for everyone else, and the disciples would have to carry it throughout the world.”
Jesus also breathed upon the disciples, declaring: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Pope described this gesture as “the sign of a new creation. With the gift of the Holy Spirit which came from the risen Christ, a new world began.”
“Today too the Risen One enters our homes and hearts, although sometimes the doors are closed,” he reflected.
Christ enters “bringing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth.”
Jesus offered this same gift of hope in his appearance to two disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus. At first, they did not understand the reality of the resurrection, nor did they recognize Jesus as he walked with them.
The Pope recounted how Jesus traveled and spoke with them, explaining why it was that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised from the dead. Eventually, Jesus revealed his identity to the travelers as he celebrated the Eucharist with them.
“This episode,” the Pope said, “shows us two privileged places in which we can meet the Risen One who transforms our lives” – the Eucharist, and the word of God in Scripture.
When the two disciples returned to Jerusalem, “their enthusiasm for the faith was reborn, their love for the community and their need to communicate the good news. The Master rose, and with him all life resurges. Bearing witness to this event became an irrepressible need for them.”
Today, Pope Benedict said, the risen Christ remains present through the Eucharist – strengthening believers just as he did in the Church's first Easter season.
“In communion Jesus nourishes us with his body and his blood, becoming present in our lives, making us new and animating us with the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Following this teaching, Pope Benedict greeted different groups of pilgrims in several languages, including a delegation from the NATO Defense College and a newly-ordained group of deacons from the Pontifical Irish College.
“During this Easter season,” he urged the English-speaking pilgrims, “let us resolve to walk in the company of the risen Christ and allow our lives to be transformed by faith in him and by the power of his resurrection.”
The Pope gave his apostolic blessing and sang the “Our Father” in Latin, before returning to his residence at Castel Gandolfo.
Brasilia, Brazil, Apr 11, 2012 (CNA) -
Organizers for World Youth Day Rio 2013 have launched a new app allowing users to track the WYD Pilgrim Cross and Icon of the Virgin Mary as they make their way around Brazil.
Both the cross and the icon have been in Brazil since Sept. 18 of last year and are visiting each diocese in Brazil as well as dioceses in the surrounding countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay in preparation for the event next summer.
The free app, called “Follow the Cross,” is available for iPhones, iPods, iPads and Android phones. It was created by the Information Technology Department of the Catholic communion Cancion Nueva and allows users to interact with the friends on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Denver, Colo., Apr 11, 2012 (CNA) -
The recently-formed Catholic Voices USA organization is seeking volunteers to defend Church teachings, in response to Pope Benedict XVI's recent call for an effective witness in public life.
At a January 2012 meeting with U.S. bishops in Rome, the Pope said that “articulate and well-formed Catholic laity” were needed to “counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church's participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”
In order to fulfill this call, Catholic Voices USA is seeking members of the Church in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, who are less than 45 years old and can commit to a schedule of training sessions as well as public appearances.
Applications for its upcoming training session, which will take place May 19-21, are being accepted until April 20.
Volunteers will take part in what Pope Benedict called “a primary task” of the U.S. Church, as they learn to offer “a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society” in different public forums.
Catholic Voices USA is based on a U.K. program that began in the run-up to Pope Benedict's 2010 visit to England and Scotland.
That initiative's first goal was to ensure that the Church and its beliefs were presented accurately in the British media. But organizers say it has since grown into “a school of a new Christian humanism” and “the laboratory of a new kind of apologetics.”
Founders of the U.K. Catholic Voices initiative are working in collaboration with organizers of the new U.S. program. In Mexico, two Spanish-speaking coordinators of the British program recently trained 20 speakers who made a total of 54 media appearances to discuss the Pope's March 2012 visit.
For more information please visit: www.catholicvoicesusa.org
Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As Rick Santorum ends his bid for president, political analysts are suggesting that his campaign may significantly affect the national discussion of morality.
Dr. David Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, told CNA on April 11 that the “intriguing link” that Santorum drew between morality and economics has the potential to “change our national discussion.”
On April 10, Santorum announced that he was suspending his campaign, shortly after he took time off to be with his youngest daughter, Bella, who was hospitalized for the second time in recent months.
After thanking his followers for their support and prayers, Santorum concluded his campaign by reiterating his often-repeated argument that in order to have a strong economy, America needs “strong families and a strong moral fiber.”
The announcement drew statements of gratitude from those who believe that the former Pennsylvania senator’s contributions to the presidential race will be ongoing.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said that voters were attracted to Santorum “because he passionately articulated the connection between America's financial greatness and its moral and cultural wholeness.”
In an April 10 statement, Perkins said that Santorum has energized Americans who realize that solutions for the nation’s problems must begin with “an understanding that the economy and the family are indivisible.”
“With great vision and passion, Rick Santorum reached the hearts of pro-life voters and allowed them to show the strength of their voting bloc,” added Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
She said that the “political muscle of the pro-life movement will be critical to defeating President Obama in November.”
Santorum had surprised political analysts across the country as he gained a strong following in recent months, becoming front-runner Mitt Romney’s top competitor and ultimately winning 11 states before exiting the race.
“What Rick Santorum became was the single candidate in the party who could rally the social conservatives,” political scientist Campbell said.
But he was “not simply a cultural warrior,” he added, explaining that Santorum was intriguing because of the way in which he linked “the cultural and moral issues to the economic issues.”
It was in this realm that the former Pennsylvania senator showed himself to be firmly “grounded in Catholic tradition,” he said.
At the same time, Campbell pointed out that Santorum’s message was not as widely disseminated as the presidential contender would have liked, and due to fracturing within the Republican Party, he was ultimately unable to gain traction with other groups.
But as Santorum exits the race, it remains to be seen whether Romney – who is now the presumptive Republican nominee – will adopt some of Santorum’s talking points, a move that Campbell said has some precedent.
“The jury is still out on that,” Campbell said, adding that it “will be interesting to watch the rest of the campaign.”
Romney has largely avoided the social issues thus far, perhaps partly because doing so may raise questions about his Mormon faith and his record on social issues.
Campbell suggested that adopting Santorum’s approach may allow Romney to “talk about those issues by linking them to the economic issues,” on which he is stronger.
But despite what happens going forward, he explained, Santorum’s bid has “undoubtedly” already reminded Romney of “the potency of the social conservative base in the Republican party.”
As he moves into the general election, Romney would be wise to remember this base and to work to “tap into their energy and ability to mobilize,” Campbell said.