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Archive of November 7, 2012

Catholics continue Sandy relief work as second storm approaches

Camden, N.J., Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Charities affiliates are continuing to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as another storm heads for the region.

“While the storm has passed, the aftermath continues as thousands are still without power, communities face the risk of floods, and those living on the margins of society struggle to stay afloat,” Catholic Charities USA President Father Larry Snyder told CNA Nov. 6.

Kevin Hickey, Executive Director at Catholic Charities of Camden, N.J., echoed Fr. Snyder.

“Ever since Sandy hit, it’s been very cold here,” Hickey said on Nov. 6. “You can imagine folks without power. There’s some real suffering going on.”

He said that New Jersey has made “pretty good strides” in restoring power but “has a ways to go.”

Another storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to pass by New Jersey Nov. 7, bringing high wind, coastal flooding, rain and snow.

“We’re hoping that it blows further out to sea, but I gather that is not going to happen,” Hickey said.

“We’re used to Nor’easters. Clearly, this is a different issue for us given the storm we’ve just been through and the expected tidal surge.”

Hurricane Sandy’s Oct. 29 landfall killed over 110 people in the U.S. and caused more than $50 billion in damage.

Hickey said the storm caused “horrific destruction” in Newark.

Catholic Charities of Camden has opened two disaster aid distribution points on the grounds of Catholic parishes, which have provided over 1,100 people with food, water, water filters and cleaning supplies. However, the agency has decided to close the sites Nov. 7 because the incoming storm threatens to produce high winds and heavy rains.

Outside the Catholic Charities office in Atlantic City on Nov. 5 “the line was stretched around the block” for people seeking emergency supplies, Hickey reported.

Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden has announced that the diocese’s churches will take a second collection this Sunday, Nov. 11, for the Catholic Charities agency. Some of the funds will go towards emergency relief, while a significant amount will go to long-term recovery.

Hickey estimated that the Camden agency’s direct emergency relief response will last 7-10 days and consist mainly of distribution of relief supplies in partnership with Catholic Charities USA. Long-term recovery efforts to assist those who have lost their jobs or their homes will last about a year.

He asked for prayers for all those affected.

In New York, Catholic Charities is operating emergency shelters and distributing emergency food.

The national agency has relationships with the Red Cross, Feed the Children and the Salvation Army. Catholic Charities agencies are also partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fr. Snyder said that Catholic Charities has “an incredible network of service providers across the country” that supports those on living on the margins “every day.”

He said these agencies are “trusted in their communities” and understand their populations’ needs, allowing them to quickly assess the situation in times of disaster.

Donations for the relief efforts can be made at the Catholic Charities USA website www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.

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Middle East to host Catholic youth conference

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov 7, 2012 (CNA) - At least 1,500 Catholic youth from across the Middle East will gather at Abu Dhabi’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral for Arabia’s second Catholic youth conference this Nov. 15-17.

“The future of a community lies in its youth, and we have placed paramount importance in our parishes to events and activities that foster and strengthen the faith of our youth and young adults,” said Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which is based in the United Arab Emirates.

He said many youth in the region cannot participate in international gatherings like World Youth Day and Youth Arise because of the expense.

Because of the conference, he said, “we have now ensured that the Catholic youth in Arabia don’t miss out on the fellowship with other Catholic youth.”

The conference’s theme is Jesus Christ’s words from the Gospel of Mark: “All things are possible for the one who believes.” The sessions at the conference are intended to respond to the unique facing Catholic youth and young adults in the region.

Speakers include Catholic apologist Matt Fradd, Franciscan friar and musician Father Stan Fortuna of New York, Brother George Gabriel from the Philippines-based Preacher in Blue Jeans Ministry and Father Michael Senfuma of the Ugandan band Anawim.

The conference will have a musical concert called reJOYce, featuring Fr. Fortuna, Anawim and Alphons Joseph of the India music group RexBand. The local bands Light of Jesus and MasterPlan will also perform.

The concert is expected to attract more than 5,000 people.

Bishop Hinder and Bishop Camillo Ballin of the Bahrain-based Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia will preside over the conference.

Catholics in the Arabian vicariates are mainly expatriates from other parts of the world who work in the region. The expatriates are mainly from the Philippines, Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and from Syria and Lebanon.

The first Catholic youth conference in the region took place in November 2009 in Dubai.

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Cardinal Wuerl says all Catholics called to personal conversion

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - All Catholics are called to participate in the New Evangelization by renewing their own faith so that they can witness to those around them, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

Members of the faith “have to get back to inviting people into that experience, that encounter with Christ,” he noted, because it is only once people have embraced the Risen Lord that they can embrace the Christian vision of countering social and moral problems.

On Nov. 5, Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., about his experience at the recent Synod on the New Evangelization, held Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican.

The cardinal reflected on his three weeks at the synod, which he described as “a very positive experience.”

Despite the challenges facing the Church, the bishops from around the world seemed to sense “a new Pentecost,” aiding the Church at this particular moment in history and offering “a sense of new purpose.”

He noted that he was particularly encouraged to see the number of young adults who gathered outside the synod hall, eager to live their Catholic faith to the fullest.  

Cardinal Wuerl also emphasized the strong sense of unity among synod participants as they identified problems and discussed pastoral challenges in addressing them.

It was evident that all of the bishops shared the same faith and vision of what needs to be done, he said, explaining that he saw this unity as a sign that “the Spirit continues to work in the Church.”

In addition, he said, the synod was practical and pastoral. He observed while the 2008 Synod on the Word of God strongly emphasized theory, this gathering had a very different feel. Rather than a philosophical conversation, this synod focused on the practical question of how to renew the Church's faith and energy to invite people into a personal encounter with Christ.

As General Relator of the synod, Cardinal Wuerl was responsible for presenting an opening report to his fellow bishops and guiding their discussions in the days that followed.

He explained that the New Evangelization is the Church's response to the secularism, materialism and individualism that have swept across Western culture, limited our sense of transcendence and washed away the things that had been part of the fabric of society, such as the moral order, the common good and marriage.

To respond to the current situation, he said, the Church is called to return to the simple, basic announcement of Jesus Christ that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

This task of passing on the Good News of Christ involves all Catholics and must begin with the family, Cardinal Wuerl said, explaining that the Church “begins all over every time a baby is baptized.”

Parishes also play a central role in the New Evangelization, since parish life is where we encounter Christ in the sacraments and hear his word explained, he said, observing that this concept was frequently repeated at the synod, with an understanding that “it's the renewal of parish life that's going to be the renewal of Church.”

Young people also have a special role in the task of evangelizing, he noted, explaining that young people today are open to the truth because they are left empty by the promises of the world and are longing for something more.

The process of the New Evangelization must begin with personal conversion, recognizing a need to renew our own faith, Cardinal Wuerl said.

“Personal renewal is at the heart of whatever is going to happen in the New Evangelization,” he said, emphasizing that we cannot pass on the faith if it is not alive in our own hearts.

Therefore, he explained, we need to strengthen our appreciation of our faith through study and scripture, making times in our lives for regular prayer and frequent encounters with Christ through the sacraments of the Church.

With this renewal of our faith comes “a confidence in the truth of the message,” the cardinal continued.

“We have all around us people who simply don’t know the faith,” even though they think they do, he observed.

He explained that “catechetical confusion” in the 1970s and 80s led to a problem of hesitancy about what precisely the faith teaches. The result was a generation that is distanced from the Church, not because they want to be, but simply because they lack confidence in the truth of the faith.
 
The New Evangelization is about “overcoming that hesitancy,” he said, adding that “we renew our own confidence that this is true, and there is nothing as reassuring as knowing that you stand in the truth.”

Standing firm in the renewal of our own faith, we will then be better witnesses of that faith, Cardinal Wuerl said. He observed that Catholics tend to be “reluctant evangelists,” but said that the faithful must be ready to witness in the many opportunities that come up in life.

“We have to be prepared to share our faith,” he stressed.

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Americans share same hopes for future, President Obama says

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his victory speech after being elected to a second term on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said that Americans are united in their values as a nation.

“Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future,” he said Nov. 6.

“We want our children to live in an America not burdened by debt, weakened by inequality...that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. We want to pass on a country that's safe, and respected, and admired around the world.”

A country “built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being,” the president added. “We believe in generous, compassionate, tolerant America.”

President Obama's victory in the battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday put him over the 270 electoral vote mark needed to win the election.

Despite winning the electoral college, he failed to win a strict majority of votes, being elected with only 49.4 percent of the popular vote.

President Obama swept the swing states, winning Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his Catholic running-mate Paul Ryan won the swing state of North Carolina.

As of late Tuesday evening, the Florida vote was leaning towards the president but remained too close to call.

The status quo in Washington was maintained, with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, and the Republicans holding the House of Representatives.

In his concession speech Tuesday night, Romney encouraged fellow Republicans to join him in praying for President Obama “and for this great nation.”

“We look for our pastors, priests, rabbis, and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family,” he said.

“We look to our parents, for in the final analysis, everything deptends on the success of our homes … I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to a new greatness.”

The Catholic vote was divided much as was the rest of the nation's voters, leaning slightly in favor of Obama. A final Gallup poll, reflecting tracking from Nov. 1 to 4, showed Catholics favoring Obama by 52 to 45 percent.

“The Catholic vote, like any number of votes, does have the potential to make an impact,” said Gregory Smith, a senior researcher who specializes in Catholic politics at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

While they do not vote as a unified group, Catholics are significant in elections because of their large numbers, making up approximately one in four U.S. voters, he told CNA in a Nov. 5 interview.

Smith said it is difficult to pinpoint what effect the contraception mandate and religious freedom issues are having on the Catholic vote this year.

The Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires that virtually all employers, even religious ones, provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, despite any moral or religious objections.

Under the mandate, Catholic organizations, such as schools and hospitals, are included under with only churches as exempt from the new rule.

The HHS mandate has already been challenged with more than 34 lawsuits and over 100 plaintiffs.

The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation for religious employers, but the details are not yet clear. It has opposed congressional efforts to provide a broad religious exemption to the mandate.

Numerous bishops have urged their faithful to vote with informed Catholic consciences in the weeks leading up to the election.

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Pope, Cardinal Dolan urge Obama to respect life and religious freedom

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic leaders are calling on President Barack Obama to respect the fundamental American principles of life and religious liberty after he won a second term in office.

“We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a letter congratulating Obama on his re-election, Cardinal Dolan noted the “great responsibility” with which the American people have entrusted the president and assured him of the prayers of the U.S. bishops.
 
“In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant,” the cardinal said.

“We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone,” he added.
 
Cardinal Dolan’s commitment to defending life, marriage and religious liberty was echoed by other Catholic groups following Obama’s Nov. 6 win at the polls.

The U.S. bishops have clashed with the Obama administration over religious liberty issues in recent months.

At the center of the conflict is a new federal mandate that requires employers – including religious hospitals, schools, and charitable agencies – to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious freedom. More than 100 plaintiffs, including numerous Catholic dioceses, universities and charitable organizations, have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The importance of religious freedom was also emphasized in Pope Benedict XVI’s message to Obama.

In the letter, which was sent through the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., the Pope offered best wishes to Obama and promised prayers for the president in the coming years.

The pontiff also said he hopes that the American founding ideals of freedom and justice may hold a prominent place in the nation’s future.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, noted that "the U.S. president has an immense responsibility, not only in his own country but also towards the rest of the world, given the role the U.S.A. plays at an international level.”

"For this reason we hope that President Obama will respond to his fellow citizens' expectations,” he said, “serving law and justice for the good and development of all people, and respecting essential human and spiritual values while promoting a culture of life and religious freedom."

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Pope cancels delegation to Syria, focuses on aid work

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A delegation of bishops from the recent synod on the New Evangelization will not go to Syria as violence continues to ravage the country, Pope Benedict XVI announced Nov. 7.

“As a sign of my own solidarity and that of the whole Church for the Syrian people, as well as our spiritual closeness to the Christian communities in that country, I had hoped to send” a delegation, the Pope said.

The delegation would have consisted of seven prelates, including New York’s Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

The cancelation was due to an unspecified “variety of circumstances and developments,” explained the Pope, who lamented “the tragic situation of violence in Syria.”

He said he is continuously praying for those in Syria and appealed to all the parties in the conflict to work for the good of Syria and find a political solution because “one day it may be too late.”

In lieu of the delegation, Pope Benedict has sent Cardinal Robert Sarah as his emissary to Lebanon. Cardinal Sarah is in charge of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” for Promoting Human and Christian Development, which provides humanitarian relief in the Pope’s name.

Cardinal Sarah will be in Lebanon Nov. 7-10, where he will deliver $1 million in aid from the Pope for victims of the violence. His mission includes meeting with leaders of the different Churches present in Syria, as well chairing a meeting of Catholic charitable agencies in order to coordinate their efforts to aid Syrians.

Michael LaCivita, the communications director for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association,  told CNA Nov. 7 that the “idea of coordinating efforts is a very good idea because there’s strength in doing that as opposed to having competing efforts.”

The association is an agency of the Holy See that is running relief efforts on the ground in Syria. It is working directly with the different Churches in that multi-confessional country, the Catholic Latin and Melkite Rites as well as the Syrian Orthodox.

“It’s local Churches that help us determine what needs are, and so we work to empower them to do so,” LaCivita said.

He welcomes the Pope’s decision to focus on coordinating relief efforts from outside Syria rather than sending a high-profile delegation into the embattled country to spread good will and gifts.

“Our concern was that the trip could be easily manipulated by either side, and we don’t want the Church, the Holy See in particular, being compromised, though they had the very best intentions,” LaCivita remarked.

If they were staying in Damascus, they would run the risk of being manipulated by the government of Bashar al-Asad, he said. And if they were going outside Damascus to rebel-controlled regions, “who would they be meeting with and could their security even be guaranteed?”

One member of the would-be delegation would have stuck out like a big red thumb for any would-be terrorist: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chairman of the board of the welfare association.

“He would have been a significant target,” LaCivita said of the Archbishop of New York.

An estimated 30,000 people have died in Syria’s 18-month-old uprising. A variety of rebel groups, including radical Muslims allied with al Qaeda, are trying to topple the secular government of President Bashar al-Asad, which has been historically protective of the country’s Christian minority.

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Pope reflects on finding faith in a secular world

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of teachings on faith by observing that although secularism is on the rise, everyone has a desire for God, and this can be seen in the experience of love.

“Even in today’s secularized society, this desire for God continues to make itself felt, above all in the experience of love,” he told thousands of pilgrims assembled in St. Peter’s Square for the Nov. 7 general audience.

The Pope quoted St. Augustine’s famous words about hearts remaining restless until they rest in God. And love, he noted, is the way to begin satisfying that longing, which finds its fulfillment in faith in God.

Love by its very nature means encountering another, the pontiff said, noting that this can be in another person or in God himself.

The essence of love is “seeking the good of the other,” he noted, and by loving we “find ourselves by giving ourselves away.”

Pope Benedict explained that when people go beyond themselves it nurtures their built-in sense of a greater reality beyond them, even beyond fellow human beings.

“Thanks to this innate religious sense, we can open our hearts to the gift of faith which draws us ever closer to God, the source of all good and the fulfillment of our deepest desire,” the Pope said toward the end of his remarks.

Noting that this is the Year of Faith, he invited Catholics to pray for all sincere seekers of the truth, “that they may come to know the joy and freedom born of faith.”

After acknowledging groups of pilgrims from different countries in their native tongues, with huge delegations of flag-waving Poles and Croats enthusiastically responding to his words, the Pope sung the Our Father in Latin.

A group of 34 pilgrims from St. Mary’s Church in Nutley, N.J., lingered a while afterward, holding bags of blessed Rosaries, crucifixes and holy medals.

“It’s just truly amazing to be here, even though I only caught some of what the Pope said in English,” said Lily Tremari. “My niece is receiving her confirmation next Tuesday, and I’ll be giving her a crucifix blessed by the Pope.”

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Spain's high court upholds 'gay marriage' law

Madrid, Spain, Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Spain's Constitutional Court upheld a “gay marriage” law which passed seven years ago under the Socialist government and was challenged by the People's Party under current President Mariano Rajoy.

On Nov. 6, eight of the court's 11 judges voted in favor of the legislation amid tense opposition from traditional marriage supporters in the country.

“From a social point of view, we have been witnessing the harassment and atrocious demolition of marriage and the family,” said Ignacio Arsuaga, head of the local civil rights group HazteOir.org.

Arsuaga called the ruling a fierce “attack” against “an institution without which, for example, social unrest in times of crisis would be much more troubling.”

Spain's Congress initially passed the same-sex “marriage” law on June 30, 2005. Within months, the People's Party filed suit with the high court, challenging the law's constitutionality. Throughout the last seven years, however, some three to four thousand gay “marriages” have taken place annually in the country.

Arsuaga said the local rise in same-sex unions as well as divorce have already lead to a destabilization of Spain's legal, social and economic structure.

“It is incredible that amidst an economic crisis, an aging population and instability in the foundations of our social security system, there is support for social models that, far from offering a positive contribution, are actually a hindrance.”

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Boston cardinal lauds rejection of assisted suicide bill

Boston, Mass., Nov 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston applauded the defeat of a Massachusetts ballot measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide, calling for more compassionate care of those who are seriously ill.

“It is my hope and prayer that the defeat of Question 2 will help all people to understand that for our brothers and sisters confronted with terminal illness we can do better than offering them the means to end their lives,” said the cardinal in a statement responding to the vote.

He said that the results show that “the people of the Commonwealth recognize that the common good was best served in defeating Question 2.”  
 
The so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative on the Nov. 6 Massachusetts ballot would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who were given six months or fewer to live.

Proponents of the measure conceded defeat early on Nov. 7. With 96 percent of precincts counted, the initiative was rejected by a 51-49 percent margin.

The ballot measure had been vocally opposed by Cardinal O'Malley, who led a Twitter campaign against it. He warned that the proposal failed to value and respect the lives of those who are severely ill.

The initiative was also opposed by disability rights groups, the Massachusetts Medical Association and the Boston Herald, as well as major newspapers in numerous other cities.

Critics of the measure argued that it would devalue human life and could create a “slippery slope.”

Rather than extending a compassionate and helping hand to the suffering, legalizing physician-assisted suicide could pressure those who are terminally ill to end their lives, feeling that they are a burden on society, they said.

Opponents also voiced concerns that the measure did not require family notification or the presence of a doctor. Nor did it require a psychiatric evaluation for treatable problems such as depression.

Furthermore, critics said, the initiative would weaken palliative care efforts. They also noted that terminal diagnoses are often wrong and warned that the law could be abused by family members seeking to inherit property or money.

Cardinal O'Malley thanked all of those who worked to help share information about the problems behind the ballot measure.

“The Campaign Against Physician Assisted Suicide brought together a diverse coalition from medical, disability rights and interfaith communities, all dedicated to ensuring that our residents were well informed about this issue,” he explained.

The cardinal stressed that society must cooperate with hospice organizations and palliative care providers to improve the compassionate care offered to those who are terminally ill.

“Patients are best served when the medical professionals, families and loved ones provide support and care with dignity and respect,” he said.

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