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Archive of November 2, 2012

Project sends spiritual relief to the frontlines

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2012 (CNA) - For more than two years, the Frontline Faith Project has worked to send MP3 players with Catholic content to U.S. troops, who may not be have regular access to a chaplain or religious services.

“The whole idea was to bring the Catholic Church to those troops who don’t have a chaplain available to them,” said Cheri Lomonte, founder of the Frontline Faith Project.

The project was initially founded in response to a shortage of Catholic chaplains in the military. Working as the co-host of Mary’s Touch radio program, Lomonte received a prayer request for a listener’s son who had been in Afghanistan for nine months without seeing a Catholic chaplain.

“I had to do something about this,” she told CNA in an Oct. 31 interview, adding that she “knew right then it was the Holy Spirit.”

Lomonte had previously been involved in efforts to give MP3 players with recorded stories to the homeless in Austin, Texas, and decided to apply this idea to the military to “make sure that they can hear a Mass and a Rosary,” even if they cannot access a chaplain.

“If we can’t bring them the Catholic Church, we have to bring them something,” she said.

She began to look for material and ask for permission to use it. She eventually assembled more than seven hours of material, including a presentation that Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave at West Point, an examination of conscience, a recording of a Mass celebrated by Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and a recitation of the Rosary.

The MP3 player also includes Church music, children reading letters that they wrote to members of the armed forces and inspiring military stories.

Soon, she said, Protestant chaplains were calling her to request a non-denominational Christian version. The result was a second set of recordings, with talks, stories, songs, reflections and letters, but without distinctively Catholic features such as the Mass and Rosary.

Since 2010, the Frontline Faith Project has sent out some 30,000 MP3 players, and Lomonte said they are “just getting started.”

The organization focuses on sending the players to those who are deployed, soon to be deployed or are wounded and in a veteran’s hospital. Unlike a book, she explained, the MP3 players do not require light to use, they are not bulky or heavy to carry around and they use technology that many members of the military are already familiar with.

In her work to assemble the recordings, Lomonte also talked to numerous military wives and saw the “huge sacrifice” made by all the members of a military family. This sparked an idea to make something for military families and eventually led to the creation of a 2-CD set entitled, “On the Home Front.”

“The responses have been pretty amazing,” she said, pointing to notes of gratitude from soldiers and family members.

Chaplains have also given Lomonte their thanks, with one referring to the MP3 player as “the best weapon they’ve ever had.”

Lomonte does not charge to send the players to the troops but instead collects money through online fundraising at the Frontline Faith Project website. Each MP3 player costs about 24 dollars to send.

In the last eight months, donations have dropped because people think the war in Afghanistan is over, she noted.

However, troops are still being deployed and “we have military all over the world,” she said, explaining that chaplains have requested hundreds of MP3 players for U.S. troops being deployed in December.

As a result, Lomonte reported that the group has “more orders than we can fill,” and “when we can’t fill them, it hurts.”

She explained that “we have these military putting their lives on the line for us. I think as Americans, we have a responsibility to them. They make sure we have our freedoms and we are safe.”

For Veteran’s Day, which is observed on Nov. 11, the Frontline Faith Project is asking Americans to join in “An American Moment,” pausing at noon local time for a moment of silent prayer - giving thanks for veterans, remembering those who have been killed in combat and praying for those who are alive.

The current Year of Faith is a good time to come together in love for God and country, said Lomonte, adding that after the bitter divisions of this election season, she hopes the effort can help “bring us all back together.”

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Washington Catholics say 'gay marriage' backers mislead

Seattle, Wash., Nov 2, 2012 (CNA) - A group of Catholic lay leaders in Washington state has asked voters to oppose the state’s “gay marriage” ballot proposal Referendum 74, warning against those who “do not accurately represent Catholic teaching.”

“As Catholics, we believe that marriage is the unique bond of love and life between a woman and a man, which is the source of the family,” three members of the group said in an Oct. 31 opinion piece in The Seattle Times.

“In union with our church and our bishops, we are voting to reject Referendum 74. We urge other Catholics and people of goodwill to join us.”

Catholic theologian Pia de Solenni was one of the essay’s three authors. Together, they represented the informal group Catholics for Traditional Marriage -- Washington State, which has launched a Facebook page of the same name.

Their essay responded to an Oct. 28 Sunday newspaper ad in several major Washington newspapers, including The Seattle Times. The ad listed the names of over 1,000 Catholics who endorse “gay marriage.”

The Oct. 31 piece from Catholics for Traditional Marriage countered the impression left by the ads by noting that the Catholic Church teaches marriage is “between one man and one woman” and is “a bond that is set apart because it unites the couple in a way that no other bond does.”

It noted the state is involved in marriage not to regulate sexual activities but because marriage “generally involves children” through spousal intimacy and union.

“As such, the family becomes the basic unit of society and thus deserves special protection,” they said.

Referendum 74 could “directly affect” First Amendment rights like the freedom of religion and freedom of speech for those who do not believe in "same-sex marriage.”

“We would be forced to accept a legal definition of marriage that signifies a genderless institution,” they said.

They noted that in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., laws and rules accompanying the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages have barred Catholic organizations from providing adoption services.

Referendum 74 lacks provisions addressing these freedom of conscience concerns, they said.

Supporters of the statement include Gonzaga Law School professor David DeWolf, Sacred Heart Radio President Ron Belter, writer Mark Shea and Kathleen Tansey of the Seattle Archdiocesan Council of Women. Knights of Columbus State Deputy Don McBride, who heads the over 17,000 knights in his state, is another supporter.

Political figures supporting the essay include Democratic State Rep. Mark Miloscia, Republican State Rep. Judy Warnick and Republican State Sen. Michael Padden.

The Catholic group joins its voice to those of the Washington State bishops, who issued a pastoral statement on the referendum through the Washington State Catholic Conference.

“Our support for traditional marriage is not born of bias or intolerance toward anyone. Instead, our purpose is to support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in order to promote the common good,” the pastoral statement said.

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Cardinal Dolan sees heartbreak, hope in Sandy's wake

New York City, N.Y., Nov 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive passage across the East Coast, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York expressed his “solidarity in love and prayer with so many who are suffering.”

“What do you say? Our hearts are broken when you see the loss of life, the grieving families, the devastation, the ruination,” Cardinal Dolan told Fox News co-anchor Martha MacCallum Oct. 31.

“But throughout all of it, too, you begin to see a glimmer of light and hope: people coming together.”

He said that people can become “selfish” and “violent” or they can “pitch in, in solidarity and community, to help one another, to help rescue one another.”

“Thanks be to God, that’s what’s happening throughout Connecticut, New Jersey, and throughout our beloved New York,” the cardinal said. “The best, the most noble sentiments of people are coming out.”

The storm killed at least 80 people across the U.S. and 38 people in New York City alone after making landfall Oct. 29. Hundreds of thousands of people in New York City remain without access to power, water, heat and transportation.

Cardinal Dolan said Catholic Charities and Catholic health care facilities are in action and are helping those in need. He plans to visit some of the affected areas.

An iconic photo of a lone statue of the Virgin Mary in front of a destroyed home in the fire- and flood-ravaged Queens neighborhood of Breezy Point caused him particular concern.

“I love Breezy Point,” he said, describing its local pastor Msgr. Michael Curran as “a very close friend.”

“I’m worried because I can’t get in touch with him,” said the cardinal, who added that the priest had told the cardinal he would stay in the area “with my people.”

“I just trust he’s well,” the cardinal told Fox News.

On Nov. 1 Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn also commented on the storm.

“Hurricane Sandy has left her trail of death and destruction across our city and region,” he said in his diocese’s newspaper The Tablet.

“We all pray first and foremost for our fellow New Yorkers and their families who perished. While things may always be replaced, we are all mindful of how important our homes are in our lives and so our thoughts and prayers turn to those whose property was destroyed or damaged.”

He announced a second collection in his diocese’s parishes to fund Catholic Charities’ relief efforts for those affected in Brooklyn and Queens, most of whom are middle class or working poor.

Bishop DiMarzio said that the response of faith to natural disasters is “not so much about the question why is there evil but the conviction that the power of God always conquers sin and evil.”

“The deep has come to us in this storm, but we must always be ready to meet the challenge and put out into the deep to meet the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves,” he said. “Please be as generous as you can to help those who are in such great need.”

Both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio dispensed with Catholics’ normal obligation to attend Mass on the Feast of All Saints in their dioceses.

Catholic Charities agencies are performing damage assessments and are reaching out to parishes to offer support. The agency is working closely with government and other disaster relief partners.

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Knights of Columbus aid Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

New Haven, Conn., Nov 2, 2012 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus is making an immediate $100,000 donation to assist with Hurricane Sandy relief, dividing it equally between the state councils of New York and New Jersey.

“Knights have a long tradition of providing disaster relief, and this is no exception,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

“Our communities need our time, our help, and our financial assistance, and we are going to do all that we can – working closely with our local and state councils – to help those most in need as a result of this storm.”

The donation is being made by the Knights' Supreme Council, in conjunction with state and local councils in the northeast of the United States.

In addition to the $100,000 donation, the Knights have started an online donation drive. They are accepting contributions from both Knights and the general public, with one hundred percent of the proceeds going directly to relief efforts.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the U.S. on Oct. 29 and proceeded to sweep through the northeast, killing more than 80.

Around 4.5 million remain without power in their homes. Hundreds of thousands will not have power restored until at least next week.

Transportation has been crippled in the region. Swaths of the New York City subway are still out of commission, and Amtrak does not plan to resume its train service in the area until Nov. 2. Boardwalks on the coast have been swept away in many areas.

In West Virginia, Sandy collided with an arctic blast, leaving as much as five feet of snow on the ground.

Eqecat, a catastrophe risk modeling firm, estimates the costs of the storm could cost up to $50 billion in economic losses.

Catholic Charities agencies along the East Coast are assessing the damage left by Hurricane Sandy and respond to the needs of those left in its wake. The agencies will be setting up distribution sites in the region to provide for whatever needs arise.

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Cuban officials slammed for jailing dissident's disabled son

Havana, Cuba, Nov 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Rodriguez has denounced the local government for imprisoning her mentally impaired son as retaliation for her refusal to leave the opposition.

Rodriguez's son, Yosvany Melchor, is a 29-year-old man with psychiatric problems and no criminal background.  

However, since 2010 he has been serving a twelve-year prison sentence after being convicted of human trafficking in trial his mother characterized as “a stage show.”

Rodriguez, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, told CNA on Oct. 30 that two years ago she had been ordered by Cuban state police to quit her association with the movement.

“I refused, and they tried to blackmail me,” she said, adding that days later her son was detained.

The indictment against her son listed his mother as a member of the opposition and a signer of the Varela Project – a document that calls for peaceful democratic change in Cuba.  

“Who is on trial?” Rodriguez asked. “Me or my son?”

She said her youngest daughter, who just finished high school, has also been the target of government reprisals and is being forced to choose a major in college that she does not want.

Rodriguez said her son Yosvany is “not well” emotionally, “because his situation is not easy. He is kid who has never been in trouble with the law.”

“He's not having any issues with the prisoners because they see that he is not a criminal and everyone loves him. He has no conduct issues either, but his health is suffering, with arthritis and swelling in his lungs because of the humidity in his cell.”

However, she noted, prison officials cannot transfer him “if the State Security does not authorize it.”

Rodriguez said that because of the media coverage her son has received internationally, her sister has also begun receiving threats from the Communist government.

Despite the difficulty, Rodriguez said she remains a member of the Christian Liberation Movement. She recalled her friendship with dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, adding that “more and more people are unhappy and are signing petitions for peaceful change.”

“Now there are more people who are no longer afraid,” she said.

Paya's death in an alleged car accident this year has been the subject of intense scrutiny by local dissidents as well international human rights leaders.

Some claim that Cuban officials are responsible for the wreck that killed Paya, and fellow dissident Harold Cepera, on July 22 in the southeastern province of Granma.

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Pilgrims arrive in Rome to celebrate Latin Mass permission

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In honor of the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that any priest can celebrate the Mass according to the pre-Vatican II rite in Latin, a number of pilgrims have come to Rome to offer thanks and celebrate.

“I gladly accepted to celebrate (tomorrow’s) Mass for pilgrims who came to thank the Pope for the gift of the motu proprio ‘Summorum Pontificum’ because it is a way to make others understand that it is normal to use the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite,” said Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

He will say Mass in the extraordinary form on Nov. 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

This is significant because liturgical reforms do not do away with traditional forms of the liturgy.

American priest Father John Zuhlsdorf came to Rome to participate in the pilgrimage, which includes liturgical rites as well as talks about the importance of the Mass which was universally used before the Second Vatican Council.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, better known as “Fr. Z,” engages in the New Evangelization via his award-winning blog, which reaches Catholics around the world.

Speaking of the Pope’s 2007 document on the extraordinary form of the Mass, he told CNA on Nov. 2 that it aids the Church in embracing a form of liturgical worship wrongly neglected after the Second Vatican Council.

“The Holy Father … is bringing us back into continuity with the way that Catholics have worshiped for centuries,” Fr. Zuhlsdorf said.

“After the Second Vatican Council there was a rupture in ritual, of our worship of Almighty God. There was an artificial imposition of the liturgy after the mandates of the Second Vatican Council. We didn’t actually get what the Second Vatican Council mandated. And it caused a rupture in how we worship as Catholics.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf noted that liturgical innovations applied by “selective readings of the council documents” led to certain aspects of them being “de-emphasized while very important aspects were entirely ignored.”

The way liturgical rites, particularly the Mass, were re-interpreted following the council did not take into account the natural life of the faithful’s worship.

Before he was elected Pope, said Fr. Zuhlsdorf, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described certain liturgical reforms after the council “as an artificial thing” in that they didn’t “grow organically out of previous forms. Instead, they were artificial developments that grew more out of scholars at their desktop rather than something that grew out of the praying Church.”

This, in turn, caused a rupture in the Church’s worship that jarred many Catholics.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf noted that in contrast, Pope Benedict’s mandate allowing worldwide use of the extraordinary form encourages the faithful to embrace the faith of their forefathers, lending a “continuity of tradition.”

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Bishops' delegation says international support critical for Syrian refugees

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2012 (CNA) - A delegation from the U.S. bishops’ conference that recently visited the Middle East believes that the Syrian refugee crisis is getting worse and that without increased aid to surrounding countries it could become a disaster.

“It was clear to all of us on the delegation that the Syrian refugee crisis is worsening and that more international support will be needed if the conflict in Syria continues,” said Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock.

He noted that this is the second major refugee crisis in area in the past 10 years, following the Iraqi refugee crisis, so “the resources of neighboring countries are already stretched.”

“Without more support, neighboring countries may be unable to support and protect the refugees going forward, leaving the most vulnerable at high risk,” he said.

At a Nov. 1 press conference call, members of a delegation from the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services warned that the Syrian refugee crisis is growing worse and could become a major humanitarian crisis if it’s not quickly addressed.

Bishop Taylor, a member of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, headed the delegation, which visited Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt from October 7-20 to observe the situation of refugees in those countries.   

The bishop explained that as many as 700,000 refugees are predicted to leave Syria by the end of the year, driven by escalating violence in the nation, and that number will likely increase drastically over the next year.

As the number of refugees grows, the most vulnerable are at risk and unable to get protection, he said.

Iraqis who fled the war in Iraq and are now residing in Syria are in a particularly precarious situation, Bishop Taylor reported. They are being denied entry into neighboring countries as they seek to flee again Syria and are told that they must return to Iraq before they can enter Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

The bishop also said that Syrian Christians, both those who are fleeing and those remaining in Syria, are at great risk. Christian communities are already subject to threats, and they could face “targeted and sustained persecution” if the conflict dissolves into an ethnic and sectarian war, he warned.

Bishop Taylor also revealed that the delegation discovered “refugees from Eritrea and other African countries are being trafficked” by tribes in the Sinai desert, where they are tortured, held for ransom and sometimes killed.

“This brutality must be stopped,” he said.

Despite the grave situation in the Middle East, Bishop Taylor said that he was “heartened by and proud of the work that Church agencies are performing to help those in need” in the region.

These groups need more aid to continue their valuable and life-saving work, he emphasized.

Anastasia Brown, director of resettlement services for the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, also spoke on the conference call. She stressed the high number of vulnerable women and children and the severe medical needs of many of the refugees.

“In many instances, people we saw had been shot coming across the borders,” she said.

Efforts to offer support must focus not only on refugees in camps, but also on those in urban areas and the surrounding rural areas, she explained, and those giving aid must realize that “this is not a short term situation.”

Kevin Appleby, director of the bishops’ office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, outlined policy recommendations to respond to the refugee crisis.

More international support for refugees will be needed as the conflict in Syria continues and intensifies, he said, citing local concerns that the conflict could be long-lasting.

The United States needs to “show leadership” in offering aid and also “encourage our allies to provide support,” he added.

Appleby recommended that the U.S. urge nearby countries to protect religious minorities and Iraqi refugees fleeing Syria, aware of the special concerns that these groups have.

“Vulnerable African refugees in Cairo who are unable to integrate and remain at risk of harassment and attack should be considered for resettlement,” he stated. The U.S. government, Appleby advised, should also work with the Egyptian government to stop the kidnapping and trafficking of Eritrean refugees in the Sinai peninsula. 

“As a proclaimed leader in anti-trafficking efforts around the world, the U.S. needs to step up to the plate and halt this horrific practice,” he said.

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Pope celebrates Feast of All Souls in papal crypt

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As Catholics around the world on Nov. 2 remember those who have passed away, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Vatican Grottoes to pray for his predecessors on the feast of All Souls.

In remarks made in St. Peter's square Nov. 1 anticipating  All Souls day, Pope Benedict said the feast “helps us to reflect on the double horizon of humanity, which we symbolically express with the words 'earth' and 'heaven.'”

He noted on Thursday that All Souls should remind Catholics of the reality of the communion of saints – a reality uniting all believers, living and dead.

“The earth represents the journey of history, heaven eternal, the fullness of life in God,” he said. “These two dimensions are united by the reality of the 'communion of saints': a reality that begins here on earth and that reaches its fulfillment in heaven.”

The feast of All Souls is celebrated throughout the entire Catholic world with particular zeal in country's animated by the heritage of Spanish Catholicism.

In the Philippines, families traditionally celebrate the feast by camping in cemeteries and often spending the night near relatives' tombs, playing card games, singing, and dancing. Tombs are also cleaned or repainted, flowers are offered and candles are lit.

In Mexico, the Day of the Dead – “Día de los Muertos” – is a national holiday centered around the Feast of All Souls and the Feast of All Saints, celebrated the day before. It is traditional to build altars in honor of the dead and adorn them with the deceased's favorite foods and beverages as well as sugar-candy skulls and marigolds.

Msgr. Peter Fleetwood of the Archdiocese of Liverpool in the U.K. remarked that the feast of All Souls is a time for remembrance as well as the natural reaction of sadness.

“To have a special time in the year when you can dedicate time and prayer to the memory of your dear departed,” he told Vatican Radio, “that responds to a very deep need in all of us.”

“You do get used to missing someone but you never really get over it,” he added.

“I think the fact of the church adopting a day when Masses are offered for the souls of the faithful departed – and in fact a whole month where such things happen – is simply recognizing how real that need is and how important is is to respect the name, the person, the mortal remains and the memory of those who have died.”

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