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Archive of December 11, 2013

Study shows importance of online giving options for young Catholics

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - New research reveals that younger Catholics are more likely to give to charitable causes through online donation options and that overall, Catholics are concerned with the needs of the poor in their area.

“The knowledge gained from this report is important for our understanding of the current patterns of giving among Catholics,” said Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ national collections committee.

“We now know that online giving to charitable institutions is rising each year. These results … will allow the Committee to assess our current systems for receiving donations. Moving forward, we will also be better equipped to implement any changes needed in order to reach Catholics, particularly young Catholics, who are giving online.”

The study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate was commissioned by the bishops' collections committee, and examined how and why working-age donors participated in online giving. The data was delivered to the bishops Nov. 10 during the bishops' annual assembly in Baltimore, Md.

The study showed that 32 percent of Catholics have given online donations at some point, and found that Catholics between the ages of 16 and 34 were more likely to feel comfortable with and use online financial platforms than respondents between the ages of 34 and 65, with 73 percent responding that they were at least "somewhat" comfortable with making payments online.

The survey also found that among Catholics who attend Mass less regularly and are not very likely to donate to a second collection, one in four would prefer to give online.

“Because respondents under 35 are least likely to be aware of second collections and less likely to be attending Mass weekly, an option to give online would very likely provide significant additional fundraising if young adult Catholics were made aware of this opportunity," the report said.

The study showed that respondents gave online because of the medium's convenience, followed by being able to respond quickly to an urgent need, and “ease of tracking gifts online."

Those who gave via offline avenues, such as mailing checks or in-person donations, cited "not feeling comfortable providing financial information online, preferring to give in person, and a concern that a donation would not get to the right charity or be used for the right purpose were most often noted as being important to their decision to give by other methods," the study said.

Median donation size was not significantly different between online and offline gifts. Religious organizations were the most popular recipients of donations, according to the study, with 46 percent of all donors giving to a religious group at least once a year, and 80 percent of weekly Mass attendees.

Other groups earning high percentages of donations were "care or health research, veterans or first responders groups, children’s groups, and domestic food aid or disaster relief."

Catholics also stated their concerns for Catholic giving and need in their parishes, noting that helping "the poor and needy in their local community" is a top priority for over 70 percent of Catholics. Other major concerns reported by respondents were the needs of "local Catholic schools" and the needs of their diocese.

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European Parliament rejects notion of abortion as human right

Strasbourg, France, Dec 11, 2013 (CNA) - Members of the European Parliament have rejected a report which suggested that abortion be defined as a “human rights and public health concern.”

The rejection of the report affirms the ability of the individual nations in the European Union to promote their own approach to sexual education and abortion policies.

"The formulation and implementation of policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on sex education in schools is a competence of the member states," stated the European People's Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, two groups within the European Parliament who presented an alternative report that passed by a vote of 334 to 327, with 35 members abstaining from the vote.

The rejected report, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, had been submitted by Edite Estrela, a European Parliamentarian from Portugal, intended to establish abortion "as a human rights and public health concern” in the E.U.

As a result of this view of abortion as a right, the report sought to expand abortion in all countries of the E.U. and restrict "obstacles to the access of appropriate services" such as conscientious objection, waiting periods, pro-life counseling, and religious hospital's ability to refuse to perform certain "sexual health" procedures such as abortion.

Estrela's report also called for the provision of "sufficient funding for the broad (sexual and reproductive health and rights) agenda in all appropriate instruments" throughout the European Union.

Currently, while 20 out of the 27 countries in the European Union already permit abortion on demand up to a certain gestational limit, seven have some restrictions on abortion, and three – Ireland, Poland, and Malta – allow abortion only within limited circumstances.

The report also called for "compulsory" standards of sexual education to be taught to school-aged children, regardless of parental objection.

This is the second time the report has been rejected by the European Parliament: in October, the bill was tabled and sent back to the Women's Rights Committee for revisions. The Dec. 10 resolution was the result of said revisions.

The Estrela report was presented even though the  European Union has no ability to determine laws on abortion, as such matters concerning abortion are left up to individual countries in the European Union.  

The alternative report submitted by members of the European People's Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group affirmed this currently-standing policy.

Recently, a citizen-led initiative called "One of Us" received 1.8 million signatures on a petition to reinforce the E.U.'s inability to determine abortion policies by preventing the funding of abortion and embryo destruction by the European governing body.

John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, called the Estrela report "one of the most concerted recent attempts to get the European Parliament to exceed its competence and try to impose abortion on European Union member-states," and celebrated the alternative proposal adopted by the legislature.

"Today's rejection of the Estrela report proves that peaceful and prayerful grassroots lobbying by pro-lifers can have a real positive impact in the political arena," Smeaton said, thanking pro-life "supporters at home and our colleagues in Europe for saving lives today."

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Funding for adult stem cell research increasing, report finds

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent report has found that research on ethically-sourced adult stem cells is rising in popularity, leaving advocates pointing to its advantages – in both ethics and outcome – over embryonic stem-cell research.

The views of the scientific community are shifting with the realization that “the best hope for rapid medical advances lies with morally unproblematic alternatives,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, to the Washington Times for a Dec. 3 article.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the research branch of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. Recent reports by the institute have shown significant shifts in research funding from embryonic stem cells to more successful and ethically acceptable adult stem cells.

“Money also talks,” said one of the two reports detailing the changes in funding, adding that “what the money is saying is that those viable alternatives exist and it is with them that the real therapeutic promise of regenerative medicine lies.”

Stem cell research has been the source of much controversy, both over its potential for regenerative and potentially life-saving therapies, and over the ethical questions in how the cells are obtained.

Stem cells taken from human embryos require the destruction of new human life. In the past, researchers have advocated their use because they have the potential to grow into nearly any type of tissue, making them a kind of “master cell.”

However, in clinical trials and treatments, it has been difficult to coax the cells to turn into a specific type of tissue. In addition, therapies relying on embryonic stem cells have shown a tendency to turn into tumors and cancers following treatment.

In contrast, adult stem cells come from a variety of tissues found in newborns and adults, including the placenta, umbilical cord, bone marrow and other bodily tissues. Their extraction does not require the destruction of a human life.

While they naturally grow into a more narrow set of tissues than embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells have also been induced to form other kinds of tissues outside of their natural range. In some cases, the stem cells can also be harvested from the patient himself, nearly eliminating the chance of the body's rejection of the treatment.

To date, embryonic stem cells have failed to yield any successful treatments, while adult stem cells have been used to treat more than 100 diseases and conditions.
Amid concerns over the ethics of stem cell sourcing, President George W. Bush in 2001 restricted federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to cell lines that already existed.  

Supporters of embryonic stem cell research in California reacted with a voter initiative pledging $3 billion in funding over 10 years only to research on embryonic stem cells, to be distributed through grants by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

By 2012, however, funding at the institute had shifted, with a majority of grants – totaling $50 million – going towards research on non-embryonic stem cell projects and only $19 million in funding awarded to embryonic research.

A similar shift in funding has taken place at Maryland's Stem Cell Research Commission, according to a Lozier Institute report from October. In 2007, the organization funded 11 embryonic stem cell research projects and four non-embryonic ones. Now, it is supporting one embryonic stem cell project and 28 non-embryonic ones.

Grants in Maryland “can also serve as an important bellwether for the direction stem cell research is taking,” the report added, “given that the state is home to one of the nation’s most prominent sites for stem cell research, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.”

Dr. David Prentice, senior fellow for the Family Research Council and a researcher in cell biology, stated that researchers were told for years “that embryonic stem cells were the 'only' stem cells for treatment as well as lab research.”

“But even in states previously devoted exclusively to embryonic stem cell and cloning research, the majority of grants now are going to ethical, successful adult stem cell studies,” he commented in a statement.

“This latest news simply emphasizes what advocates of ethical stem cell research have said for years - adult stem cells are the true gold standard for stem cells. They are certainly golden for patients; more than 60,000 people a year around the world are currently treated with adult stem cells.”

Adult stem calls research has shown “tremendous progress,” while embryonic stem cell research “relies on the destruction of young human life” and has had limited success, Prentice observed.

This offers a clear choice to researchers and investors who are looking for results, he said. “Adult stem cells save lives.”
 

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Pope: Final Judgment brings comfort, despite our fears

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his general audience Pope Francis reflected that the reality of the Final Judgment allows us to trust in God even if we are afraid, emphasizing also that our judgment begins each day through the way we live.

“Dear brothers and sisters, reflecting on the final judgment – despite that it instinctively raises a certain fear in us – gives elements of comfort and trust,” the Pope said in his Dec. 11 Wednesday audience.

The Pope’s weekly discourse was given to the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to Saint Peter’s Square in order to hear the pontiff speak.

Turning to the final article in the Creed in which believers proclaim their belief in “in life everlasting,” Pope Francis stated that “at Christ’s coming in glory as judge of the living and the dead, we will be held accountable before God for the good we have done or failed to do in this life.”

Although we have the tendency to “regard this final judgment with a certain trepidation,” he noted, “the Church invites us to see it as a source of consolation and joyful hope.”

Recalling how the early Christians communities used the Aramaic expression “Maranatha,” or “come, Lord!” in their liturgies, the Pope emphasized that this “encourages” us think about the final judgment as a time when “we will be considered worthy to be clothed with glory and to enter the wedding feast with Christ, the Bridegroom.”

Using the phrase “Maranatha” to “invoke Christ’s return,” continued the pontiff, expressed the early Christians hope for “the great wedding feast of a humanity reconciled with God.

Looking to the moment when each of us will face our own judgment, Pope Francis affirmed that “we will not be alone,” and that this gives us a reason to be consoled because “Jesus, our advocate with the Father, will be at our side, together with all the saints.”

In that moment, he stated, “we will be able to count on the intercession and benevolence of so many of our brother saints, who have preceded us in the path of faith.”

Another element that allows us to be comforted “is the idea that the judgment starts now through the way which we live, through our existence,” the Pope highlighted.

“God’s judgment takes place in our lives each day,” he said, “by the way in which we respond to Christ’s teaching and imitate him in serving our brothers and sisters.”

“Jesus constantly gives us so we can be filled with the Father’s mercy, and we have the responsibility to open ourselves up to that grace or, on the contrary, be closed and exclude ourselves from communion with God.”

“Let us prepare, then,” encouraged the Pope, to meet our judge with confidence and joyful trust in his promises.”

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Mary’s 'embrace' shows unity of the Americas, says Pope

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis reflected on tomorrow’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, extending his greetings to all on the American continent.

“Mary’s embrace showed what America – North and South – is called to be: a land where different peoples come together,” the Pope explained after his Dec. 11 general audience address.

Following his discourse given Saint Peter’s Square on the last part of the Creed in which believers proclaim their belief in “the resurrection of the body,” the Pope drew special attention to the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, taking place tomorrow.

“I would like to greet all my brothers and sisters on that continent, and I do so thinking of the Virgin of Tepeyac,” he stated.

“When Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego, her face was that of a woman of mixed blood, a mestiza, and her garments bore many symbols of the native culture,” reflected the Pope.

“Like Jesus, Mary is close to all her sons and daughters; as a concerned mother, she accompanies them on their way through life,” and “shares all the joys and hopes, the sorrows and troubles of God’s People, which is made up of men and women of every race and nation,” the pontiff observed.

“When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego,” the noted the Pope, “it was the prophesy of an embrace.”

This embrace, continued the pontiff, envelops “all the peoples of the vast expanses of America – the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come,” and shows what the American continent “is called to be.”

It is called, he explained, to be “a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age. A land of generosity.”

“That is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it is also my message, the message of the Church.”

“I ask all the people of the Americas to open wide their arms, like the Virgin, with love and tenderness,” encouraged the pontiff, adding that “I pray for all of you, dear brothers and sisters, and I ask you to pray for me!”

“May the joy of the Gospel always abide in your hearts. May the Lord bless you, and may Our Lady be ever at your side.”

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Pope Francis proclaimed TIME's 2013 'Person of the Year'

New York City, N.Y., Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On this morning's episode of “Today Show” Time Magazine announced their choice of Pope Francis for the 2013 “Person of the Year,” stating that he is changing the “tone and perception” of the Church.

Reacting to the news, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a comment Dec. 11, calling it “unsurprising considering the resonance and very widespread attention given to the election of Pope Francis and the beginning of his pontificate.”

“It is a positive sign that one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in the field of the international press has been attributed to one who proclaims spiritual, religious and moral values in the world,” he said, and “who speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice.”

The Pope, Fr. Lombardi stressed, “does not seek fame and success, since he carries out his service for the proclamation of the Gospel and the love of God for all.”

However, noted the spokesman, “If this attracts men and women and gives them hope, the Pope is content.”

“If this nomination as 'Person of the Year' means that many have understood this message, at least implicitly, he will certainly be glad.”

According to Today News, the recipient of the annual award is chosen by Time’s editorial staff as an individual that has “had the most impact on the world and the news – for better or worse – over the past year.”

During the announcement of the pontiff’s award, Time's managing editor Nancy Gibbs said that the Pope stood out “as someone who has changed the tone and perception and focus of one of the world largest institutions in an extraordinary way.”

“So much of what he has done in his brief nine months in office has really changed the tone that is coming out of the Vatican,” Gibbs noted.

“He is saying, 'We are about the healing mission of the church, and not about the theological police work that had maybe been preoccupying us.'"

“It was a very interesting choice this year.”

Beating out other heavy-hitters in this year’s line-up such as American President Barack Obama and singer-rock star Miley Cyrus, Pope Francis marks the third pontiff in history to receive this award.

Previous pontiffs who have received the award, which was first given to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 with the title “Man of the Year,” are Popes John the XXIII in 1962, and Bl. John Paul II in 1994.

Coming in behind Pope Francis was Edward Snowden, who ranked second on the list due to his leaking of thousands of top-secret documents surrounding U.S. surveillance programs.

Among the others ranked in the top five were Edith Windsor, whose victory in the Supreme Court led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, Syrian President Bashar Assad for his role in the country’s civil war, and the Tea Party’s Sen. Ted Cruz.

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Man with disfigured face recalls warmth of encounter with Pope

Rome, Italy, Dec 11, 2013 (CNA) - Oreste Tornani, a man with a severely disfigured face who was blessed by Pope Francis at a recent General Audience, says he felt very close to the Holy Father at their encounter.

The two met briefly on Nov. 20 following the Pope's address in St. Peter's Square, as the Roman Pontiff spent several minutes greeting the sick who were in attendance.

“The Pope speaks very simply, cordially and with a warm voice, and it's nice to hear him,” Tornani told CNA Dec. 9.

“When I met him, he asked me how I was, how things were going, if I had any problems, and where I was living.”

During their encounter, Pope Francis kissed him and gave him a blessing, making a gesture towards heaven.

Tornani explained that he was working as a mechanic in a manufacturing plant at the age of 30 when he was shot in the face. Although he survived and underwent numerous surgeries, his face was left completely disfigured.

Now 60 and unemployed, he receives assistance from the Maria Cristina Ogier Association, a Catholic center in Florence which helps the poor and needy.

Pope Francis' embrace of Tornani was not the first time such an act of his drew widespread attention.

During World Youth Day, the Pope blessed a newborn baby girl suffering from anencephaly, a condition in which part or all of the brain is not developed.

And on Nov. 6, also following a General Audience, the Holy Father greeted Vinicio Riva, whose neurofibromatosis has covered his body with painful growths.

Riva told the Daily Mail later that month that being hugged by the Pope was “like paradise … he didn't even think about whether or not to hug me. I'm not contagious, but he didn't know that. But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.”

Such warmth has contributed to Time Magazine's choice of Pope Francis as 2013 “Person of the Year”; the publication said he is changing the “tone and perception” of the Church.

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Catholics joyful at Pope's 'Person of the Year' recognition

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics from around the U.S. have welcomed Pope Francis' selection as Time Magazine's 2013 “Person of the Year,” the third pontiff to win the American magazine's yearly honor since its start in 1927.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in a Twitter post after the Dec. 11 announcement that he was “delighted” by the news.

He elaborated in a statement on his blog, saying that Pope Francis “clearly radiates the joy that comes from loving God and caring for his people,” through his actions and lifestyle.

“There could be no finer choice for 'Person of the Year.'”

Pope Francis was chosen “for presenting the Church’s timeless truths to today’s world,” the cardinal said.

He noted that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was largely unknown to the world before his election as Pope, but “since he first appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica on that chilly, wet evening of March 13, Pope Francis has captivated the world.”

Through his work, the cardinal continued, Pope Francis “preaches the Gospel and shares its messages of the love and mercy of God, our responsibility to care for our sisters and brothers in need, and the ever present invitation of Jesus and His Church to ‘come and see.’”

Pope Francis was chosen as Person of the Year from a group of prominent names. Runners-up for the 2013 recognition included Edward Snowden, the source responsible for the leaks of top-secret National Security Agency intelligence and policies; Edith Windsor, whose victory in the Supreme Court led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act; Syrian President Bashar Assad for his role in the country’s civil war; and the Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

In recent years, winners have included United States President Barack Obama; former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke; the “protestor”; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II have also been named Person of the Year, in 1962 and 1994, respectively. The iconic title has also been given to world figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.

Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of Time Magazine, explained that the publication chose to recognize Pope Francis for his ability to capture public attention and renew interest in the Church.

“Churches report a 'Francis effect' of lapsed Catholics returning to Mass and confession,” she said in the Dec. 11 piece, noting that the increased public interest gives the Pope an additional opportunity “to magnify the message of the church and its power to do great good.”

Gibbs added that the Pope's frank style of proclaiming Catholic teaching that does not fit neatly into either “liberal” or conservative” ideologies also differentiates him from many other public figures.

“These days it is bracing to hear a leader say anything that annoys anyone,” she commented. “Now liberals and conservatives alike face a choice as they listen to a new voice of conscience: Which matters more, that this charismatic leader is saying things they think need to be said or that he is also saying things they’d rather not hear?”

Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., head of the U.S. Jesuit order, congratulated the Holy Father – who is the first Jesuit Pope in Church history – on “the singular honor.”

“Pope Francis is a man with a deep connection to the poor and marginalized,” Fr. Smolich said in a Dec. 11 statement, pointing to the Pontiff’s ability “to translate what is in his heart into actions” that touch people around the globe.

“He desires to lead a Church that unifies rather than divides, and he gives both believers and seekers a reason to be proud.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA used social media to congratulate the Holy Father, as did the Archdiocese of Baltimore – the nation’s oldest diocese – which utilized Twitter to reference the Pope’s words about viewing “the church as a field hospital after battle.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia offered his congratulations to Pope Francis “with joy.”

“Our Holy Father has a remarkable way of uniting people of all cultures,” the archbishop reflected. “He is a man deeply engaged in contemporary issues with an ability to speak to the modern heart.”

“Pope Francis is a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time,” he continued.

“May God grant him courage and joy as he continues to spread the Good News throughout the world.”

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