Archive of May 8, 2013

Ethicist lauds Ireland's ruling against assisted suicide

Dublin, Ireland, May 8, 2013 (CNA) - The finding of the Irish Supreme Court that citizens have no right to assisted suicide is being welcomed by an ethicist and healthcare professional as an affirmation of the value of human life.

“It's a clear tragedy when society endorses assisted suicide...I was happy to see the supreme court decision in Ireland,” Doctor Marie Hilliard, director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA May 7.

On April 29, the supreme court of the Republic of Ireland ruled against Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis and so is unable to commit suicide. Fleming wanted to ensure that she could end her life with the help of her partner, Tom Curran.

Fleming is in an advanced stage of multiple sclerosis, and is restricted to bed much of the time and has only some effective use of her arms. She reports also having difficulty speaking and swallowing, and frequent severe pain. She cannot control her electric wheelchair, has no bladder control, and requires assistance to eat and drink, and be washed and dressed.

Ireland decriminalized suicide in 1993, but assisting another person to kill themselves is still a criminal offence. Fleming argued that there is a “right to die” and that the prohibition against assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled.

Fleming “states that she now lives with little or no dignity,” and her condition has “left her feeling totally undignified,” according to the ruling.

In its finding, the court said that “there is no constitutional right to commit suicide or to arrange for the determination of one’s life at a time of one’s choosing,” and so Fleming “has no right which may be interfered with by any disability.”

In remarks to CNA, Hilliard reflected that a right to assisted suicide “would undermine the role of physicians as healers, expose the vulnerable to abuse, and would initiate a steady slide toward euthanasia.”

“We don't kill the sufferer to kill the suffering; that's not what health care is about. And it's a societal failure too, in terms of walking with our loved ones.”

She also called the promotion of assisted suicide a “palliative care failure.” Those with diseases such as multiple sclerosis can often fear abandonment, that they won't be cared for because they “won't have the same value in our society.”

“From a medical standpoint, a nursing standpoint, and a social standpoint, it's a communal palliative care certainly we're happy to see that the Irish supreme court saw this.”

Hilliard pointed out the similarities between the Fleming case and a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Washington v. Glucksberg.

In that decision, authored by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Nixon appointee, the court found that the U.S. Constitution does not protect the right to assistance in committing suicide.

The loneliness and fear which motivate calls for assisted suicide “means we don't have good palliative and hospice care,” according to Hilliard.

To promote assisted suicide “does the opposite of what people think, in terms of developing a caring approach to end of life care.” Rather, a “holistic perspective” needs to be adopted, which integrates families, palliative care nurses, physicians, patients, and pain control.

Hilliard emphasized the difference between subjects of terminal illness and terminal illnesses themselves. Palliative care deals with “how suffering is to be alleviated, not how to alleviate the sufferer,” she said.

The ethicist said it is important for Catholics to engage in hospice care, because “we can't just say we're against assisted suicide and then let folks continue to suffer.”

“We have to have an organized way of addressing what people think is an unresolvable problem in terms of suffering at the end of life. It's not.”

The good works of palliative care, she said, “are the real alternatives that are going to spare the patient, the physicians, and society from doing down that road towards eugenics.”

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Doctor calls stem cell surgery on toddler revolutionary

Peoria, Ill., May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The doctor who helped transplant a windpipe grown from a child’s own stem cells said the procedure supports Catholic moral teaching while at the same time helping to “revolutionize medicine.”

On April 9, two and-a-half year-old Hannah Warren underwent an intensive nine hour surgery to install an artificial windpipe grown from her own bone marrow to correct a birth defect that left her unable to breathe, eat, swallow or speak on her own.

Rather than using “life-destroying stem cells” Dr. Mark Holterman of Children’s Hospital of Illinois – part of OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria – said the experimental procedure upholds the hospital’s mission of providing for the sick with the “greatest care and love” while also respecting Church teaching on the sanctity of human life.

Up until recently, the South Korean-born toddler has lived in intensive care because of a rare condition known as tracheal agenesis.

Were it not for the surgery, “Hannah would have been a prisoner in a hospital bed requiring frequent suctioning of her saliva to prevent herself from drowning in her own secretions or developing pneumonia,” Dr. Holterman told CNA May 3.

The fact that she has lived this long, he said, “is a testament to the nursing care she received in her hospital in Seoul” since many patients with her condition die of “asphyxia at birth” or “subsequent pneumonia, lung damage or airway inadequacy.”

The oldest patient to ever live with this condition since birth was just six years old.

Now, thanks to the procedure performed by a team of international doctors, Hannah will be able to learn how to eat and drink through her esophagus. As she grows, the doctors plan to connect her tracheostomy to her voice box to allow her to speak and breathe normally on her own.

Because Hannah’s procedure uses her own cells, it reduces any risk of donor rejection and upholds Catholic doctrine, which is essential to the hospital’s mission, Dr. Holterman said.

“We prayed a lot on the correctness of proceeding with the risk and expense,” he said. “I believed we answered (God’s) call with obedience.”

When Dr. Holterman first met Hannah’s parents, Darryl and Lee Young-mi, on a trip to South Korea, he helped the couple get in touch with Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a Sweden-based Italian surgeon who has been involved in more than a dozen similar windpipe transplants.

However, when it was apparent that the couple could not afford the operation at Dr. Macchiarini’s Karolinska Institutein Stockholm, Dr. Holterman arranged to bring the family to Children’s Hospital in Peoria who said they would waive the fees.

“We do not feel that it is right to charge for an experimental procedure,” Dr. Holterman explained saying that they discerned the “ethical” response to the situation would be to waive the cost, though the hospital is accepting donations to help offset some of the losses.

Nearly one month after her operation, Hannah is “doing well” and her parents and four year-old sister, Dana, are “enjoying seeing Hannah explore her new world of tasting and smelling.”

Although the toddler had some complications immediately following the surgery, she is now well enough to “demand that she go to the playroom,” Dr. Holterman said.

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Controversy draws attention to military ban on 'proselytism'

Washington D.C., May 8, 2013 (CNA) - Uncertainty over what constitutes coercive “proselytism,” which is barred by military policy, has led to concern and criticism of recent statements by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization),” Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen said May 2.

Military commanders take action on complaints of religious harassment “based on the gravity of occurrence on a case by case basis,” he said in a statement.

Christensen said the Defense Department works to ensure that service members are free to practice their religion “in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline.”

The statement comes amid concerns regarding reports claiming that Defense Department policy would put Christians at risk of facing court martial for sharing their religious beliefs. The reports cited department statements banning “proselytism” without defining the term.

New 2012 rules from the U.S. Air Force say superiors must avoid “the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion,” USA Today reports.

Concerns particularly focused on an April 23 meeting between several military leaders and Mikey Weinstein, president of the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who has characterized his opponents in extreme terms.

In an April 16 opinion piece published at the Huffington Post, Weinstein said he is fighting “incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters” who force “their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation's armed forces.”

However, despite various media reports, Christensen denied that Weinstein is part of any Defense Department advisory group or a consultant on religious matters. Rather, he said, Weinstein was granted a meeting with certain officers in order “to express his concerns on religious issues in the military.”

Still, there are concerns over how differences are determined between acceptable “evangelization” and punishable “proselytization.” These worries are partly sparked by Weinstein’s comments, reported by the Associated Press, that a Christian bumper sticker on an officer’s car or a Bible on an officer’s desk can amount to “pushing this fundamentalist version of Christianity on helpless subordinates.”

The Department of Defense declined to offer further comments to CNA on what activities are considered evangelization as compared to proselytization.

Former Marine Joe Carter, who is editor for the Alabama-based Gospel Coalition, wondered about this distinction and how strictly the rules would be applied.

“We don't want your boss saying you have to go to a Bible study,” he told USA Today. “But what if he just invites you?”

Ron Crews, a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel who heads the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, asked that more attention be paid to service members’ rights to share and live their faith.

“Saying that a service member cannot speak of his faith is like telling a service member he cannot talk about his spouse or children,” Crews said in a statement on the group’s website.

“The Air Force cannot ban personnel from protected religious speech, and I certainly hope that it is willing to listen to the numerous individuals and groups that actually live out and protect military religious liberty, all without demonizing other service members.”

Christensen said the Defense Department places “a high value” on the rights of service members to observe their religious tenets, including the right to hold no beliefs. He added that the Defense Department will never “single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution” and makes “reasonable accommodations” for all religions.

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Vatican, US sign anti-money-laundering memo

Vatican City, May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican continued its efforts to update its financial standards by signing an agreement with the United States to allow the two countries to exchange information to prevent money laundering and terrorism funding.

“This is a clear indication that the Holy See and the Vatican City State take international responsibilities to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism very seriously and that we are cooperating at the highest levels," said René Brülhart, director of the Vatican Financial Information Authority.

The Memorandum of Understanding was agreed upon with the American Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which came into being after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The agreement allows the two states to exchange information that will help them prevent criminal financial activity from taking place and was signed in Washington, D.C. on May 7.

The financial developments take place against the backdrop of the Vatican working to show it is making every effort to bring its financial standards up to speed.

Brülhart said that the arrangement with the U.S. demonstrates that the Vatican “is a credible partner internationally and has made a clear commitment in the exchange of information in this fight.”

The Vatican has already inked deals with Belgium, Spain and Slovenia, but the U.S. agreement is clearly the most important one to date.

The Financial Information Authority is currently pursuing agreements with more than 20 other countries and it expects to finalize several of those this year.

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God's living water satisfies deepest desires, Pope reflects

Vatican City, May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Spirit is the “living water” that fulfills our lives because he tells us “we are loved by God,” Pope Francis proclaimed.

“The living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches our lives because it tells us that we are loved by God as His children, that we can love God as his children, and that by his grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus,” the Pope said May 8.

The pontiff offered his reflections on the Holy Spirit to the estimated 70,000 pilgrims who filled St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, which took place on a sunny day with mostly clear skies.

As he made his way through the crowd he got out of the popemobile several times before reaching a section of children with Down Syndrome near the front of the square. Pope Francis made his way up the length of the aisle, shaking hands, kissing the disabled and occasionally blowing a kiss.

He then walked up the steps to his chair and began his address to the throng by noting that the Church is currently living in the season of Easter, which is the “time par excellence of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis has been reflecting on different phrases from the Nicene Creed at his Wednesday audiences, continuing a course of teaching that was initiated by Benedict XVI for the Year of Faith.

Today he looked at the statement, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,” emphasizing that the Spirit is “truly God” and the “third Person of the Blessed Trinity.”

“But I would like to focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us,” the Pope explained as he launched into the substance of his address.

“Man is like a traveler who, crossing the deserts of life, has a thirst for living water, gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty and peace.

“We all feel this desire!” Pope Francis exclaimed.

“And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and who Jesus pours into our hearts,” he said.

The Pope recalled the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, whom he told that he would give “eternally abundant ‘living water’” to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us.”

The living water, who is the Holy Spirit, makes it so that “our life may be guided by God, may be animated by God, may be nourished by God.

“When we say that a Christian is a spiritual man, this is what we mean: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit,” the Pope explained.  

Pope Francis finished his meditation by delving into how the Holy Spirit can “quench our deep thirst.”

“The ‘living water,’ the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Risen One who comes to dwell in us, cleanses us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us by rendering us partakers of the very life of God who is Love,” he responded.

The Holy Father taught that the “precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts” is “the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of familiarity, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God.”

This new life within believers has the effect of giving them a “new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved,” he said.

“That’s why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches our lives because it tells us that we are loved by God as his children, that we can love God as his children, and that by his grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus.”

“And us? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit who tells us: God loves you? Do we really love God and others as Jesus did?” he concluded.

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Pope to sisters: living with Jesus outside Church is absurd

Vatican City, May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis told leaders of women’s religious orders today that their vocations can only be recognized within the fold of the Church.

“Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church's journey and it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church,” he told around 800 female superiors general on May 8.

The International Union of Superiors General has been meeting for its general assembly in Rome since May 3.

Present this year were more than 150 American sisters, some of whom also belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since it was required in April 2012 to undergo reform.

Bishop Leonard Blaire of Toledo carried out a four-year review and found “serious doctrinal problems” and the need for the LCWR to undergo renewal.

The assessment of the leadership conference expressed concern over “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that were in some presentations sponsored by the conference.

One such address discussed religious sisters “moving beyond the Church” and beyond Jesus.

In addition to highlighting the need for the organization to provide adequate doctrinal formation for its members, the report also voiced concern over letters from LCWR officers suggesting “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics such as the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.

Pope Francis seemed to address this history during today’s meeting. He told the sisters about the “‘feeling’ of being with the Church,” given to them through baptism.

It is a “feeling,” he said, “that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the pastors and Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, visible sign of that unity.”

To be otherwise, he said, would be against their vocation.

“It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church,” he stated.

“Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your institutes in sound Church doctrine, in love of the Church, and in an ecclesial spirit,” Pope Francis added.

The Vatican’s doctrine department put Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle in charge of working with the sisters to reform the organization for a period of up to five years.

On May 5, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, made waves when he told the sisters gathered in Rome that he was not consulted about the doctrine department’s decision on reforming the LCWR.

His words drew a rare May 7 statement from the doctrine office, which aimed to dismiss the idea of a “divergence” between the doctrine and religious congregations.

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Without evangelization, Church is barren, says Pope

Vatican City, May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - If the Church does not have the “apostolic courage” that led Saint Paul to evangelize, she becomes a “stalled Church … without fertility,” Pope Francis said in his May 8 homily.

“Paul teaches us this journey of evangelization ... because he is sure of Jesus Christ and does not need to justify himself, to seek reasons to justify himself,” the Holy Father said during Mass at the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican.

“When the Church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled Church, a tidy Church, a Church that is nice to look at, but that is without fertility, because she has lost the courage to go to the outskirts, where there are many people who are victims of idolatry, worldliness of weak thought, (of) so many things.”

The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and was attended by employees of the Vatican's general services of the governorate, tribunal chancery, and the floreria, which cares for the state's furniture and decorations.

Pope Francis upheld St. Paul at the Greek Areopagus as a model of apostolic courage and evangelization. At that time, St. Paul sought dialogue with the Greek philosophers, saying their altar “to the unknown God” was a sign of the one true God.

“Paul does not say to the Athenians: ‘This is the encyclopedia of truth. Study this and you have the truth, the truth.’ No! The truth does not enter into an encyclopedia,” said Pope Francis.

“The truth is an encounter - it is a meeting with Supreme Truth: Jesus, the great truth. No one owns the truth. We receive the truth when we meet it.”

St. Paul's willingness to dialogue follows in the footsteps of Christ, who “spoke with everyone,” shunning neither sinners and tax collectors nor teachers of the Jewish law, he said.

“The Christian who would bring the Gospel must go down this road: he must listen to everyone.”

The Roman Pontiff said that as a child, “one would hear in Catholic families, in my family, ‘No, we cannot go to their house, because they are not married in the Church.’ It was as an exclusion. No, you could not go. Neither could we go to the houses of socialists or atheists.”

He said that one benefit of the last 50 or 60 years has been a change from this attitude.

“Now, thank God, people do not say such things, right? (Such an attitude) was a defense of the faith, but it was one of walls: the Lord made bridges … Christians who are afraid to build bridges and prefer to build walls are Christians who are not sure of their faith, not sure of Jesus Christ.”

Christians are called, like St. Paul, to “build bridges and to move forward,” he said.

“A Christian,” Pope Francis said, “must proclaim Jesus Christ in such a way that he be accepted: received, not refused – and Paul knows that he has to sow the Gospel message. He knows that the proclamation of Jesus Christ is not easy, but that it does not depend on him. He must do everything possible, but the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the truth, depends on the Holy Spirit.”

“Let us today ask St. Paul to give us this apostolic courage, this spiritual fervor, so that we might be confident,” concluded the Holy Father.

“'But Father,' you might say, 'we might make mistakes' ... 'Well, what of it,' I might respond, 'Get on with you: if you make a mistake, you get up and go forward: that is the way. Those who do not walk so as not to err, make the more serious mistake.'”

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Colombian community grieves local priest's murder

Bogotá, Colombia, May 8, 2013 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia lamented the “atrocious” murder of Father Jose Antonio Valle Bayona, whose body was found in a ditch in rural area of Barranquilla.

In a statement issued today, the bishops recalled that 48 year-old Father Valle was pastor of Christ the King Parish in the Archdiocese of Barranquilla.

Police have offered an $11,000 reward for anyone providing information about the identity and location of those responsible for the May 6 killing. The priest had been stabbed 17 times, mostly in the face and neck.

The Archdiocese of Barranquilla, led by Archbishop Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve, said in its message that the entire community and all of its members “repudiate this atrocious act that took the life of Father Valle Bayona, causing profound sorrow in the heart of the Church and in the communities where he worked as an ordained minister of the Lord.”

This crime “shows once again the difficult situation our society is facing” and the widespread violence that is causing “an alarming number of victims in the country.”

However, the archdiocese said, the March for Life scheduled to take place on May 19 in Barranquilla will take on even greater meaning and importance in light of the killing.

The fundamental goal of the demonstration “is the rejection of every kind of violence that threatens human life,” it said.

“We thank the police and all authorities for their support and we invite the perpetrators to sincere repentance in faith that will bring them to the merciful forgiveness of God,” the archdiocese said.

Archbishop Jaramillo Monsalve presided at the funeral for Father Valle at the Cathedral of Mary Queen of Heaven in Barranquilla.

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Pope Francis marks Argentina's Our Lady of Lujan feast

Vatican City, May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis commended Argentina to the protection of its patron saint Our Lady of Lujan, bringing white flowers to her statue and pausing in prayer ahead of his Wednesday general audience.

“This is the day in which we celebrate Our Lady of Lujan, heavenly Patroness of Argentina,” the Pope said at his general audience May 8.

“I wish to send to all the children of these beloved Argentine lands my sincere affection while I place all their joys and worries in the hands of the Most Holy Virgin.”

He asked Argentine pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to give a round of applause for the Virgin of Lujan.

“Stronger. I can’t hear it. Stronger!” he encouraged the crowd which broke out in cheers.

Our Lady of Lujan is a terracotta image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which is about 14 inches tall. It has been venerated in Argentina since 1630.

That year, a Portuguese ranch owner tried to take the statue from Buenos Aires via caravan to his ranch.

After three days of travel, the oxen pulling the statue’s cart stopped moving near the Lujan river about 42 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. After much failed coaxing, the ox driver unloaded the image and found the oxen would again move. The caravan took this as a sign that the Virgin Mary wanted the statue to be venerated at that place.

Many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Lujan’s intercession. Prayers honor her as the foundress of the city of Lujan.

Pope Leo XIII honored the statue in 1886 with a papal coronation. Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Lujan to be the patroness of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in 1930. The statue is now housed in the Basilica of Lujan.

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New pro-life campaign for moms sees strong response

Austin, Texas, May 8, 2013 (CNA) - A new campaign from pro-life group Heroic Media has found considerable support from busy moms seeking to get more involved in promoting abortion alternatives.

The new campaign, 1000 Moms, was launched last year and has already “seen a very positive response,” executive director Joe Young of Heroic Media told CNA May 7.

By engaging mothers in prayer, networking and giving, the group aims “to help build a culture of life within our communities.”

One of the most important ways mothers are involved in this process is through prayer, Young explained, “Not just for Heroic Media, but for the women we’re reaching through our life-affirming media campaigns.”

Mothers are also asked to “be a champion of life” in their communities by educating themselves on sanctity of life issues, such as abortion and euthanasia, so that they can be “ready to present a pro-life position in the conversation.”

Young said moms are encouraged to share Heroic Media’s message in their social media networks as well.

Finally, members are asked to commit to a $1,000 donation annually to help fund pro-life media campaigns in their local communities.

By supporting the group financially, “They can ensure that this message of hope and help is given through their community and it points back to their local service providers in their area.”

So far, local media campaigns have helped make “significant progress” in connecting women facing an unplanned pregnancy with alternatives to abortion.

“This year, we’ve had more than 65,000 women connected to life-affirming resources,” Young said.

In addition to helping support pro-life ad campaigns, the 1000 Moms initiative is “all about celebrating the heroism of motherhood,” by recognizing the daily sacrifices of local moms.

“Motherhood is such an important job in this country, one that has been downplayed or even demonized in some circles and we really want to celebrate the heroism of motherhood,” Young said.

“Moms play critical role in child development and we just want to celebrate that and allow them to give back to new moms now.”

More information can be found at:

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Wyoming Catholic mourns student killed on hike with family

Lander, Wyo., May 8, 2013 (CNA) - Wyoming Catholic College is grieving the loss of freshman Christine Allen, who died on May 7 after falling during a hike with her family in Utah.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” college president Father Robert Cook said in a statement Wednesday.

“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathy are with the Allen family, and we ask you to keep them in your prayers.”

Nineteen-year-old Allen fell during an evening hike with her family on Tuesday around 8 p.m. in San Juan County, Utah, about 15 miles southwest of Moab.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the young woman reportedly tumbled around 20 feet and died after a boulder came loose, causing rock to fall on her. She passed away at the scene shortly after surrounded by her family members.

The Allen family was returning from Lander, Wyoming to their home in San Luis Obispo in California after Christine had completed her freshman year.

A Mass will be offered for Christine and her family at 5:30 p.m. May 8 at Holy Rosary Catholic Parish, in Lander.

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US bishops oppose re-routing of Israel-Palestine separation wall

Washington D.C., May 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have criticized an Israeli plan to re-route a separation wall through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank, claiming such a move would harm both Christian families and religious orders.

Protesting “in the strongest terms” and in “solidarity with our brother bishops in the Holy Land,” Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, voiced his opposition to an Israeli tribunal’s decision to move the wall and confiscate the surrounding area.

Bishop Pates, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a May 6 letter.

He warned that the “Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Cremisan Valley is located in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. A recent decision by the Israeli Special Appeals Committee has approved a proposal to move the Israeli-Palestinian separation wall through the valley.

Bishop Pates wrote that re-routing the wall would harm the Christian community in the valley, separating a Salesian monastery from its sister convent. Both will be parted from their lands, which will be confiscated for the barrier.

“At the same time the route will harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods depend on these lands,” the bishop added.

He explained that continuing with the re-routing “will cut families off from agricultural and recreational lands, other family members, water sources and schools – including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers.”

Reiterating the U.S. bishops’ support for “a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Bishop Pates called for a reversal of the Cremisan Valley decision, as well as other policies “that undermine a just resolution of the conflict.”

Re-routing the wall, he cautioned, would “put Israeli citizens at risk and weaken initiatives for reconciliation and peace.”

The bishop explained that moving the wall “and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence.”

“As the wall moves and constricts more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future two-state resolution becomes less likely,” he warned.

Bishop Pates’ comments echoed those of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who has responded to the Israeli decision by saying that “the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and does not strengthen the position of the moderates.”

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