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Archive of January 5, 2013

Hanukkah celebration honors legacy of Pope John Paul II

San Antonio, Texas, Jan 5, 2013 (CNA) - For the 11th year, Catholics and Jews gathered together for a special joint Hanukkah celebration that has become a unique San Antonio tradition.

On Dec. 13, about 500 members of both faiths filled the tables at San Fernando Cathedral’s AT&T Community Centre, welcomed by San Fernando’s rector, Father Tony Vilano, to “this Hanukkah celebration that has been going strong every year,” with Alice Viroslav, president of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, extending a “happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and Merry Christmas to our Christian friends.”

A choral presentation of Hanukkah songs by the Providence High School Choir, led by Elaine Bir, was followed by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller’s opening prayer asking God that “the flame of these candles always shine brightly so that we may see a glimpse of your glory in each other.” Father Vilano noted that honorary chairpersons for the event were Msgr. Lawrence Stuebben, Sister Charlene Wedelich, CDP, Charles Martin “Marty” Wender and Robert Aguirre.

Msgr. Stuebben, in introducing guest speaker Wender, related that when he and Sister Charlene were asked to serve as coordinators for the San Antonio visit of Pope John Paul II 26 years ago, no one — themselves included — had any idea how to go about such an unprecedented undertaking here. They learned the visit was to include an outdoor Mass and San Antonio’s largest facility at the time was Alamo Stadium, which could only hold 25,000 people. A crowd of 500,000 was expected.

There was a recession going on at the time, Msgr. Stuebben recalled, and they quickly learned in making land inquiries that they were talking with owners from as far away as Chicago and Switzerland. The pontiff was coming in September of 1987, and by December of 1986 they still did not have a location in place for the Papal Mass.

“You can imagine that we were getting pretty nervous,” he said, “and then word came to me that a certain guy named Martin Wender, whom I didn’t know, thought that he could help us.” The coordinators went to his office and soon learned Wender was a man who “doesn’t beat around the bush.”

Msgr. Stuebben remembers Wender telling his lawyer, “I want this to happen,” and within a week papers were signed for use of 144 acres in Westover Hills, with Wender’s people clearing the land, using planes to seed the field and taking papal visit coordinators for other U.S. cities on helicopter rides to show them what the San Antonians were doing in their preparations.

“We ended up having the largest Mass of major cities in the United States,” noted Msgr. Stuebben, with 350,000 persons attending. “It was a fantastic experience, the visit,” he said, “and he (Wender) was right at the heart of it.”

Wender noted that he originally had not gotten involved when he heard that the archdiocese was looking for land for the papal Mass, feeling sure there would be a land owner “to whom this would mean the world.” When no one stepped forward though and his secretary announced one day that two priests and a nun were there to talk with him, he found himself involved — especially after learning that if a place for the Mass could not be found within a week, the Mass would be moved to Houston. Not wanting the people of San Antonio to lose this significant event, he showed the coordinators several potential locations, the site was chosen and they were off and running.

A TV reporter’s comment that a Jew was donating the land for a Catholic Mass led to its being referred to as an ecumenical event, and Wender recalled Jewish schools being let out to take part in the papal visit. The most important factor that came out of all this, he noted, was the special relationship of the two  faiths coming together out of love and respect for one another.

Wender then shared why the Jewish people were so fond of Pope John Paul II. Quoting from Rabbi Emeritus Samuel Stahl’s tribute to Pope John Paul II, given at Temple Beth-El at the time of the Pope’s death, Stahl had noted that while the great synagogue of Rome is located only two miles from the Vatican, no Pope had ever set foot in it until John Paul II in 1986. When he did, “he hugged the rabbi as if he were family,” Stahl related — one of the pontiff’s numerous gifts that put an end to a past history of hostility by the church toward Judaism.

Noting the Pope’s consistently demonstrating extraordinary compassion and understanding towards Jews, Stahl had then pointed out the Pope’s having close Jewish friends when growing up in Poland. Pope John Paul II had also experienced firsthand the horrors of the Nazi terror, and a holocaust survivor had related that in 1945, as a starved 13-year-old just liberated from a Nazi death camp, she was sitting on street corner too weak to walk when the future pontiff, then-Father Karol Wojty?a, a parish priest, brought her hot tea with bread and cheese. Learning she wanted to go to Krakow but was too weak to walk, she reported the priest hoisted her onto his shoulders and carried her three to four miles.

The Pope further showed his compassion for the Jews when he refused to baptize a Jewish child who had been given for safekeeping to a Catholic couple by parents who had gone to their death in a concentration camp. When questioning the child’s guardians, Father Wojtyla learned the parents had requested that, should they not return, the child be told of his Jewish origins and returned to the Jewish people.

“John Paul forcibly rejected the pre-Vatican II view that Judaism was obsolete,” noted Wender. “He insisted the Jews are irrevocably the beloved of God. He spoke eloquently about close ties with Judaism and Christianity.” This was further seen in his empathy praying at a monument honoring Jewish martyrs at Auschwitz and in the moving prayer he placed between the stones in the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In the words of Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, Wender said in closing, “Pope John Paul II fundamentally changed two thousand years of a legacy between the Church and the Jewish people.” Wender added, “Our hope is that we all honor that legacy by building on it for future generations.”

Rabbi Leonardo Bitran of Congregation Agudas Achim, filling in for the ailing Rabbi Emeritus Samuel M. Stahl of Temple Beth-El and Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of Rodfei Sholom, noted he considered Wender’s explanation of the Pope’s visit a miracle in the sense that a miracle is “when we do something ourselves first, before we pray to God for help,” such as took place in the parting of the waters for the early Israelites. Calling the day’s celebration “a phenomenal, phenomenal example of camaraderie among religions,” Rabbi Bitran performed a blessing in Hebrew over the Hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah), followed by the blessing given in English by Father Vilano.

After Rabbi Bitran and Father Vilano’s lighting of the shamash or “helper” candle, the following Catholic/Jewish pairs stepped forward to light the Hanukkiah’s eight candles: Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and Rabbi Bitran; Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú and Richard Alterman; Sister Margaret Doyle, CSB, and Joy Cutler; Father Richard Wosman, SM, and Leslie Komet Ausburn; Msgr. Michael Yarbrough and Andy Fagen; Msgr. Lawrence Stuebben and Robbie Jalnos; Sister Kathleen Coughlin, CCVI, and Josh Sutin; and Mona Mengler and Elliot Weser.

Rabbi Crystal noted that in Jerusalem, after the lights of Hanukkah are kindled at the Western Wall, people find their way home, first by the menorahs lit outside homes in the Jewish quarter and then, in the Christian/Armenian quarter, by the lights of Christmas trees.

“It is truly a miracle to see the way that light brings us together and unifies our world,” he said. Thanking God for all the miracles of the season and the miracle of San Antonio’s interfaith community, he added, “May we be inspired by the legacy of Pope John Paul II to see the miracles all around us, know that we are partners with you in caring for each and every living being as a child of God.”

Posted with permission from Today’s Catholic, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas.

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Tens of thousands pledge support for Hobby Lobby

Washington D.C., Jan 5, 2013 (CNA) - More than 64,000 people throughout the U.S. have signed up to support Hobby Lobby on Jan. 5 for risking millions of dollars in profit to follow its Christian principles.

A Facebook page dedicated to supporting the arts and crafts retailer called on “all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS Mandate's unfair impositions” to support the company on Jan. 5 by shopping at either their local Hobby Lobby store or online.

The national arts and crafts retailer could face fines of $1.3 million per day for following its owners’ religious beliefs, which conflict with a federal mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception – including some drugs that can cause early abortions – and sterilization.

The Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby holds moral objections to facilitating any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills.

Although the mandate includes a narrow exemption for a small percentage of religious organizations, no conscience protection has been extended to non-religious companies such as Hobby Lobby that are owned by Christian individuals wishing to put their faith into practice.

More than 100 plaintiffs – including Hobby Lobby and its owners – have sued over the mandate, arguing that it violates the constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom.

The company was recently denied an injunction to temporarily block the mandate by both a district and appellate court, as well as by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has jurisdiction over emergency requests from the circuit where the lawsuit originated.

Having exhausted its legal recourse for an injunction, the company may proceed to argue its case in court but is not protected from the possibility of massive of fines while the lawsuit is pending.

Kyle Duncan, an attorney representing Hobby Lobby in court, said the company will continue providing employee health insurance without paying for the abortion-inducing drugs.

Founded in an Oklahoma garage by Evangelical David Green, Hobby Lobby has expanded to include 500 stores in over 40 states. However, despite this growth, it has remained a family business since its conception in 1972.

The Greens have previously explained that their Christian faith influences every aspect of their life, including their business decisions.

Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sundays – sacrificing millions of dollars in profit – in order to allow employees to rest and worship with their families.

Motivated by Christian principles, the company also donates significant amounts to charities around the world, provides minimum wage levels that are considerably above the federal requirement and takes out full-page newspaper ads on Christmas and Easter.

When the lawsuit was first announced, Green stated that his family “simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

Individuals who signed up to support the company showed enthusiasm about protecting religious liberty.

One participant encouraged Americans to be “proactive in the fight to retain religious freedom.”

“I don't need anything from Hobby Lobby but I'll be there and I'll be purchasing something,” said another.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee threw his support behind the grassroots event, promoting it on his Facebook page and website.

“Hobby Lobby is a respected and very successful business that is privately owned by a family who have sought to honor God in their personal lives and in their business,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 3.

“Their generosity to missions, to the relief of poverty around the world, to Christian education, and to their employees is legendary and exemplifies the kind of business principle that should be applauded and appreciated,” Huckabee said. “Instead they are having to fight in court for the most basic American rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”

The former governor encouraged Americans to show their support for the Hobby Lobby and its owners, warning that “we will either stand together or fall together.”

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Alabama and Notre Dame bring faith to football showdown

Miami, Fla., Jan 5, 2013 (CNA) - As Alabama and Notre Dame prepare to face each other in college football’s Bowl Championship Series, both teams will also have the chance to spiritually prepare for the big game.

Father Gerald Holloway, who has been the pastor at the parish attached to the University of Alabama for nine years, explained to CNA that he says Mass for the Catholic members of the team before every game.

Alabama and Notre Dame will play their championship game on Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time in Miami, Fla. Notre Dame is ranked number one, and Alabama is number two. If Alabama can win the game, it will be the first team to win consecutive Bowl Championship Series.

Alabama has won two of the last three national championships for college football, and Notre Dame has not won the championship since 1988.

Alumni and fans from both schools will be involved in a service project in an inner-city area of Miami the day before the game. They will be spending a few hours building an urban garden with the group Roots in the City.

“We are thrilled to partner with our friends from Alabama and the wonderful people at Roots in the City to roll up our sleeves to build a garden for the Overtown community,” said Dolly Duffy, director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association.

The Crimson Tide's coach, Nick Saban, is a devout Catholic, and provides for the spiritual needs of both his Catholic and Protestant players.

Fr. Holloway said that in addition to Mass, there is a service provided for Protestant players at Alabama.

Notre Dame is perhaps the nation’s most well-known Catholic school, and is operated by the Holy Cross Fathers.

Father Paul Doyle, who is among Notre Dame's chaplains, told the National Catholic Register that Mass is said before every game the Fighting Irish play.

“We’ve had Mass for the team on game days since the 1920s at least, and the medals have been a part of it for as long as I can remember. We give inexpensive oxidized medals of a different saint to the players and coaches before every game, along with a short catechesis on the saint,” he explained.

Just about half of Notre Dame's players are Catholic, but Fr. Doyle said all the players appreciate the saints' medals, and hear about the relevance of each saint in today's times.

Another expression of the Catholic faith on display at Notre Dame home games takes place after the final whistle sounds and the players gather in the end zone to sing “Notre Dame, Our Mother.”

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Time magazine says pro-life advocates are winning

New York City, N.Y., Jan 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new Time magazine cover story contends that pro-life advocates have been “winning the abortion war” through legislative successes, changes in public opinion and new ultrasound technology that shows the unborn baby.

“Pro-choice activists have been outflanked by their prolife counterparts, who have successfully lobbied for state-based regulations that limit access,” writer Katie Pickert said on the Time website Jan. 3. “The pro-life cause has been winning the abortion war, in part, because it has pursued an organized and well-executed strategy. But public opinion is also increasingly on their side.”

Pickert made her case in the Jan. 14 Time cover story “What Choice?” The magazine cover says: “40 years ago, abortion rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade. They’ve been losing ever since.”

“In many parts of the country today, obtaining an abortion is more difficult than at any point since the 1970s,” Pickert said.

Fewer doctors are willing to perform abortions and the number of abortion clinics has declined from 2,908 in 1982 to 1,793 in 2008. The venue for abortions has shifted from hospitals to specialized clinics, which are easier targets for pro-life advocates and legislators.

In Pickert’s reckoning, pro-life legislative successes include various requirements including mandatory counseling, ultrasounds and waiting periods for women considering abortion; parental notification requirements for minors; and new regulations on what clinics and abortionists may perform abortions.

In 2011, a record 92 bills that regulate abortions passed in 24 state legislatures.

Pickert cited surveys that report about 75 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in some or all cases, but most Americans also support state regulations and only 41 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-choice.”

“In a dynamic democracy like America, defending the status quo is always harder than fighting to change it,” she said.

She said there is a “generational divide” with young pro-abortion rights feminists not joining the feminist organizations that advanced legal abortion. However, she said these activists have an advantage over their elders in being more adept at internet activism and being more relatable because of their age.

Pickert’s article said that pro-abortion activists are expanding their work beyond the term “pro-choice,” which some of them say is limited and outdated. They are now joining legal abortion to a broader agenda that includes child care, health insurance and economic opportunity, as well as contraception access and homosexual rights.

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