Archive of June 30, 2014

Pope selects Michigan priest to become bishop

Lansing, Mich., Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has named Monsignor Steven J. Raica of the Diocese of Lansing to become the next bishop of Gaylord, Mich.

“In these days, as I prepare myself to serve the People of God in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as a new bishop, I offer my praise and gratitude to the Lord Jesus whose presence in my life has enabled me to experience an abundance of life,” Bishop-designate Raica said June 27.

“My gratitude also goes to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this honor and great responsibility.”

Bishop-designate Raica, 61, asked for prayers that he may “serve the Lord totally and faithfully” in his position in Gaylord.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing praised the bishop-to-be as “a good priest, a good friend, and a man of good counsel” who is “gentle, considerate, and solid in his pastoral abilities.” He said the bishop will be “an intelligent, cultured, pastoral, gentle, and faith-filled leader of the Church.”

“The entire Diocese of Lansing offers him our heartiest congratulations and prayers!” Bishop Boyea said in a statement.

Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Newark, the previous Bishop of Gaylord, welcomed the appointment. He said he has known the bishop-designate for over 25 years. The archbishop praised his “pastoral zeal, collaborative spirit, and intellectual gifts.”

“I believe that he will be an excellent shepherd – after the Heart of Jesus – for a flock that I will always remember as being incredibly loving.”

Bishop-designate Raica is currently chancellor of the Lansing diocese.

He was born Nov. 8, 1952, in Munising, Mich., to Mary and Steve Raica. In 1978, Lansing’s then-bishop Kenneth Povish ordained him to the priesthood, the Lansing diocese said. Pope John Paul II named him a prelate of honor in 1998.

He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Michigan State University in East Lansing as well as a master’s degree in divinity from St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Mich., and a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Detroit.

Bishop-designate Raica served as associate pastor or pastor at Catholic churches in Burton, Flint, Ovid, Charlotte and Bellevue. He served as co-rector of Lansing’s St. Mary Cathedral and chaplain of Olivet College in Olivet.

He was also superior of Casa Santa Maria, the North American College’s graduate studies house in Rome. He served as spiritual director and adjunct faculty at the college from 1999-2005. From 2007-2009, he was vice postulator of the sainthood cause of Servant of God Antonietta Meo, a devout Italian girl who died of cancer at the age of six in 1937.

The future bishop has worked in deaf ministry and is capable of conversing in sign language as well as Italian and Polish. He is able to read Latin, French, Spanish and German.

He is a music lover with an affinity for classical, jazz, classical organ and choral music. He enjoys reading, cooking, travel and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Diocese of Gaylord said.

Bishop-designate Raica holds both a licentiate and a doctorate in canon law from the Gregorian University in Rome. He wrote his doctorate on Canon 1529 of the code of Catholic canon law, which concerns a judge’s role in collecting evidence in canonical trials. He has served on the Lansing diocese’s tribunal as a pro-synodal judge, the promoter of justice and a tribunal judge.

He sits on the boards of several Catholic organizations, including the board of FAITH Catholic, the Lansing diocese’s publishing and communications arm.

The bishop-designate has served the diocese in several other roles. From 2005-2009 he was the Lansing diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator.

The Diocese of Gaylord is the northernmost Catholic diocese on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The predominantly rural diocese has about 60,471 Catholics in a population of about 508,000. The diocese has 80 parishes and 17 Catholic schools. It has been without a bishop since September 2013, when Bishop Hebda left for Newark.

Bishop-designate Raica noted that the announcement of his appointment fell on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He prayed that the clergy, vowed religious and Catholic faithful of the Gaylord diocese will join him “in giving vibrant witness to the love and mercy beautifully portrayed by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

He will be ordained a bishop on Aug. 28 at Gaylord’s Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral.

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Pope Francis: Church grows from the blood of the martyrs

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis focused his homily for the feast of the First Roman Martyrs on the witness of martyrdom, and prayed for all who continue to be persecuted for their faith, particularly in the Middle East.

“The Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom,” the Pope observed in his June 30 daily Mass.

“It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood.”

Centering his reflections on the death of the first Christians during the persecution of Nero in the year 64, Pope Francis emphasized to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse what he has said many times before: that there are more martyrs now than in the early Church.

Drawing attention to the prayer said at the beginning of Mass, the Roman Pontiff noted how it reads, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Making an analogy, he said that when hearing this we can think of the growth of a plant, as well as the words of Jesus that “the kingdom of heaven is like a seed. Someone took the seed and planted it in the ground and then went home – and whether he slept or was awake – the seed grew and blossomed.”

Observing how this seed represents the Word of God that eventually grows and becomes the Kingdom of heaven, the Pope stated that it becomes the Church only with the strength of the Holy Spirit and the witness of Christians.

“We know that there is no growth without the Spirit: it is He who is Church, it is He who makes the Church grow; it is He who convokes the Church’s community,” he noted, “But the witness of Christians is necessary too.”

“And when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses.”

However there is one condition in order for a witness to be true, he explained, which is that “there must be no conditions.”

“In the Gospel reading of the day, one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions,’” the Bishop of Rome recalled, explaining that “Your witness must be firm.”

“You must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes or no, no.’ This is the language of testimony.”

Bringing to mind the contemporary Church in Rome which grows because it is “fed by the blood of martyrs,” Pope Francis stated that “it is right that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith.”

“It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted,” he continued, “and today there are just as many.”

Noting how there are “many martyrs today in the Church, many persecuted Christians,” the Pope encouraged attendees to think “of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed.”

“Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves:’ that too is persecution,” he observed, recognizing that “there are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries.”

Concluding his reflections, the Roman Pontiff encouraged Mass participants to remember “our glorious ancestors.”

“Let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us.”

This feast marks Pope Francis' last daily Mass until the end of the summer. His daily homilies will continue in September.

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Supreme Court upholds religious freedom for Hobby Lobby

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and similar employers cannot be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the federal government had failed to prove that the mandate was the least restrictive means of advancing its goal of providing free birth control to women.

The court said that the mandate cannot be applied to closely-held corporations with religious owners who object to it. The IRS defines “closely-held corporations” as those with more than 50 percent of their stock held by five or fewer individuals.

Craft giant Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, had challenged a federal mandate issued under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

The Greens said that mandate would require them to violate their deeply-held Christian beliefs against facilitating abortion.

Failure to comply with the mandate could have resulted in fines of more than $1 million per day. In July 2013, the Greens received a temporary court injunction protecting them from the penalties until the Supreme Court ruled on their case.

Hobby Lobby has more 500 stores across the U.S. Motivated by the Green family’s Christian beliefs, the stores are closed on Sundays and the owners pay minimum wages above the national standard.

The company drew support from Christian, Jewish and Hindu groups concerned about religious freedom. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed a brief voicing opposition to any rule that would require religiously motivated business owners to “choose between providing coverage for products and speech that violate their religious beliefs, and exposing their businesses to devastating penalties.”

Over 100 members of Congress and 20 states filed legal briefs supporting Hobby Lobby, as have pro-life groups including Democrats for Life.

In the same ruling, the Supreme Court also struck down the mandate as it applies to Conestoga Wood Specialties, a company owned by a Mennonite family with religious objections to the regulation.

The decision could have a widespread impact in the more than 100 other religious freedom lawsuits filed against the mandate by more than 300 plaintiffs. 

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Hartford archbishop: receiving pallium a 'moving' experience

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - After receiving the pallium from Pope Francis on Sunday’s feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Archbishop Leonard Blair expressed that the “beautiful” moment serves as a reminder of the basics of his ministry.

Referring to the “ancient tradition of the pallium which the Pope confers on metropolitan archbishops,” Archbishop Blair explained to CNA June 29 that “in recent years it’s been done on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul here in Rome.”

“So it was a very beautiful, moving experience to be with archbishops from all over the world to receive the pallium.”

The pallium is a white woolen garment that represents the traditional and peculiar sign of the metropolitan office, and is given annually to the new archbishops appointed during the year.

Archbishop Blair was one of the 24 new Metropolitian Archbishops who Pope Francis conferred the pallium to during June 29’s Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and was the only American present.

In addition to the 24 who were there, three others were absent, and will officially be installed at a later date.

Speaking of the significance of receiving the pallium, Archbishop Blair explained that “it’s an honor,” and recalled reading through the prayer used for the blessing and conferral of the pallium during the ceremony ahead of the Mass.

“What it refers to is unity and communion, the bond of charity and strength to carry out responsibilities as an archbishop,” he explained, so it represents “a sign of our communion with the Holy Father and with one another in the collage of bishops throughout the world.”

Observing how everyone faces challenges no matter what their state in life, Archbishop Blair noted that “being an archbishop requires a little extra help from heaven, we might say.”

“So this is a reminder that the Holy Father is with us in the exercise of our ministry, and we’re with him as part of the collage of bishops and the Church Universal.”

The archbishop explained that he was particularly moved by Pope Francis’ homily in that he gave “a very beautiful reflection about the basics,” stating that “I think that’s one of the themes of his papacy, is that we have to get always to the basics of the Gospel message.”

“He ended his homily somewhat dramatically with those words of Jesus to Saint Peter ‘Follow me,’” the archbishop recalled, stating that “That’s what’s important, and we can’t get distracted or bogged down by other things…I think that he communicates that very clearly and well.”

Archbishop Blair then recounted how Pope Francis came to meet the archbishops before Mass began, explaining that he greeted each of them personally, and that afterward, “we had a picture together and he went around to shake hands once more, so that was very nice.”

Explaining how this is not the first time he has met Pope Francis, the archbishop recalled how he was in Rome for a meeting at the time he received the call from the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. informing him of his appointment to the Hartford, Conn., diocese.

“The next day we had an audience with Pope Francis,” he said, so “I took the occasion to thank him for his confidence in me in naming me to Hartford.”

Archbishop Blair, 64, oversaw the diocese of Toledo, Ohio before his appointment to Hartford in October, where he replaced the 76-year-old Archbishop Mansell who had led the diocese since 2003 until his resignation after reaching the age of retirement.

He was born in Detroit in 1949 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1976 following the completion of his studies at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, as well as both the North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome.

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EWTN granted emergency relief from contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The EWTN Global Catholic Network has secured temporary emergency relief against the federal contraception mandate one day before it would have gone into effect.

“We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court,” said Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN. “We want to continue to practice the same Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.”

“As we have said repeatedly, contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization are not health care and the government should not force EWTN to provide them as part of our employer-sponsored health plan.”

Without the injunction to protect against the mandate, EWTN would have be forced to comply with its demands starting July 1, or face potential fines of more than $35,000 per day in penalties for refusing to do so.

Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the federal mandate requires most employers to either provide or facilitate employee insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

As an organization founded to uphold the Catholic faith, EWTN objects to providing or facilitating these products and practices, which violate Church teaching.

The network is among more than 300 plaintiffs that have filed lawsuits across the country charging that the mandate violates federal and constitutional protections of religious freedom.

Although an “accommodation” has been offered by the federal government to some religious non-profit groups that object to the mandate, many religious employers say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs by facilitating the coverage through an outside insurer.

EWTN initially filed a lawsuit against the mandate in early 2012; however, that suit was dismissed on technical grounds in March 2013. The current lawsuit was filed in October 2013.

On June 17, U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN, prompting an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

When the appeals court did not respond to its petition, EWTN turned to the Supreme Court for emergency relief as the July 1 deadline approached, also asking the nation’s high court to take up consideration of the full case on its merits.

However, the emergency injunction from the appeals court will now protect the network while its case continues to move forward in court.

The injunction was granted just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other closely-held corporations cannot be required to abide by the mandate if their owners have religious objections to it.

While noting that “the Hobby Lobby decision did not directly resolve EWTN’s case” as a non-profit, Warsaw said that the Supreme Court’s decision was “a great affirmation of the constitutional right to freedom of religious expression.”

“This has been a very good day for religious liberty in America,” he stated.

“The Hobby Lobby decision recognizes that business owners don’t give up their religious freedom when they start a business,” Warsaw said. “The fact that the Supreme Court believes that the government has an obligation to use the least restrictive means of accomplishing its goals is very helpful to the EWTN case. EWTN has raised similar arguments with regard to the government’s ‘accommodation’ scheme for faith-based organizations.”

“We are both relieved and encouraged by the action taken by the courts today and look forward to making our case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the coming months.”

“On the same day as the Hobby Lobby decision, the Eleventh Circuit protected religious ministries challenging the same government mandate,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the non-profit, public-interest law firm that is defending EWTN in court.

“It’s time for the government to stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor, and start respecting religious freedom.”

“EWTN joins the 80 percent of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom,” the Becket Fund noted, calling the injunction “a resounding victory for religious freedom.”

Established 33 years ago, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world, reaching over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories.

The network includes television, radio and a publishing arm, along with a website and both electronic and print news services.

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Pope says communists stole Christianity's concern for poor

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a new interview about moral and material poverty, Pope Francis has stressed that care for the poor is ultimately Christian, suggesting that communists have “stolen” this from Christianity.

“I must say that communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian,” he said.

“Poverty is the center of the Gospel. The poor are at the center of the Gospel. Let’s take a look at Matthew 25, the protocol through which we will be finally judged: I was hungry, I was thirsty, I have been imprisoned, I was sick, naked…Let's take a look at the Beatitudes, another flag.”

“Communists say that all of this is communist. Yes, 20 centuries after… So, when they speak, we could respond them: you are Christians,” the Pope told the Roman daily Il Messaggero June 24.

Pope Francis' comments responded to the accusation that he is close to communist ideas. His comment comes in the fourth interview that he has granted to a newspaper. The interview was published June 29, on the occasion of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome.

Pope Francis underscored his fears of both moral and material poverty, condemning political corruption and encouraging lawmakers to govern their country well.

“Always safeguarding the common good: this is the vocation for any lawmaker. It is a broad issue, which includes, for instance, the safeguarding of human life (and) its dignity.”

According to the Pope, “the real problem is that policies have been undervalued, ruined by corruption, by kickbacks.”

Pope Francis recapped two recent homilies on the topic of corruption. These homilies responded to the mid-June daily Mass readings from the Old Testament Book of Kings about Naboth’s Vineyard.

Naboth possessed a vineyard that King Ahab wanted to acquire, but he refused to sell it to the king. The king’s wife Jezebel plotted to kill Naboth through a sham trial, and then sent Ahab to take possession of the vineyard. While the king was in Naboth’s vineyard, the prophet Elijah went to visit and condemn him.

Pope Francis explained that his homilies examined “the phenomenon of corruption.”

“I spoke about the end of corrupt people,” he told Il Messaggero. “Anyway, a corrupt person has no friends, he only has accomplices.”

In Pope Francis view, “corruption is a world issue.”

“I came to conclude that many evils are an outcome of the change of an era,” he added. “We are living not an era of changes, but the change of an era.”

These changing times “feed moral decay, not only in politics, but also in social or financial life.”

Asked whether he is more fearful of the material or the moral poverty of a city, Pope Francis said that he is fearful of both.

“For instance, I can help a hungry person not to be hungry anymore, but if he has lost his job and he cannot find a new one, this is another kind of poverty.”

“He is not dignified anymore,” the pontiff continued. “He can maybe go to (the relief agency) Caritas and bring back home a pack of food, but he is experiencing a very grave poverty, which ruins his heart.”

“An auxiliary bishop of Rome told me of many people who go to Caritas and secretly bring back food,” the Pope said. “Their dignity is progressively impoverished, they live in a state of humiliation.”

Pope Francis also stressed that the Gospel cannot be understood “without understanding real poverty, taking into account that there is also a beautiful poverty of spirit, i.e. being poor in front of God, because God fills you.”

Pope Francis remarked that the Gospel speaks about poverty and wealth.

“It is not condemning riches, if anything (it condemns) riches when they become idolized objects: the god of money, the golden calf…”

Pope Francis also remarked upon the missionary drive of the Church.

“The Church must be in the streets: search for people, go to the houses, visit families, go to the peripheries. It must be not only a Church receiving, but offering.”

Pope Francis emphasized “we are in a moment of mission.”

The Pope is attentively looking towards Asia.

“I will go there twice in six months. In August, in Korea, to meet the young Asians. In January, in Sri Lanka and Philippines,” he said. “The Church in Asia is a promise.”

“Korea represents much, it has a wonderful story. There had not been priests there for two centuries and Catholicism was spread thanks to laymen.”

Asked about China, Pope Francis called the country “a huge cultural challenge.” However, he cited “Matteo Ricci’s example,” referring to the Jesuit missionary who evangelized China in 17th century.

Ricci “did very well,” the Pope said.

Asked where Pope Francis’ Church is going, the Pope responded: “Thank God, I have no Church, I follow Christ. I have not founded anything. I had not changed my style that much since I was in Buenos Aires. Yes, somewhat, because it is needed, but changing my age would have been ridiculous.”

Speaking about his papacy’s program, the pontiff said that he is following “what cardinals have asked during the General Congregations before the Conclave.

He noted that the Council of the Cardinals, an eight-member external body advising the Pope, is “an outcome of the pre-conclave meetings,” Pope Francis noted.

“It had been requested because it would help to reform the Curia,” he said, referring to the administration of the Vatican.

Reform of the Curia is not simple, Pope Francis explained, because “once a step is made, the need of doing this and this emerges, and if there was a dicastery before, after the discussion there are four.”

The Council of Cardinals will gather in Rome for their fifth meeting July 1-4.

On the day of St. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis also spoke about his relation with the city of Rome, which he admits he does not know.

“Just think that I saw the Sistine Chapel for the first time when I took part in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI in 2005. I have never been in the Vatican museums.”

“When I was cardinal, I was not used to coming here and visiting Rome so often. I know the Basilica of St. Mary Major, since I used to go there, (and) the Church of San Lorenzo outside the walls, where I went for confirmation when Father Giacomo Tantardini was there. And I know Piazza Navona, because I always stayed right behind there.”

Yet even if his family is originally from Piedmont in northern Italy, Pope Francis is “starting to feel Roman.” He underscored his willingness to “go and visit the territory, the parishes. I am discovering this city little by little.”

According to Pope Francis, Rome is “a beautiful, unique metropolis, with the problems of the big metropolis. A small town has an almost unique structure, while a metropolis encompasses seven or eight imaginary towns overlapped on multiple layers.”

Among the problems of Rome, the Pope underscored that of child prostitution.

Pope Francis said he is aware of the underage prostitutes that line up the city streets. He recounted his discovery that 12-year-old girls were working as prostitutes in Argentina during his years there as archbishop.

“This hurt me,” he said. “But even more so the sight of large cars pulling up driven by old men. They could have been their grandfathers. For me the people who do this to children are pedophiles,” he said.

“It also happens in Rome,” he lamented. “The Eternal City that ought to be a beacon in the world is a mirror of the moral degradation of society.”

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Hobby Lobby ruling lauded as 'big win for freedom'

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Religious liberty advocates are applauding a Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal contraception mandate for some for-profit companies, while asking that protection be ensured for non-profit groups as well.

Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby, said that she and her family were “overjoyed” at the news of the June 30 decision.

“Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” she said. “The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith.”

Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby and the Green family in court, said that the “landmark decision” will help “protect people of all faiths.”

“The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” she explained, adding that the court “has strongly signaled that the mandate is in trouble in the non-profit cases, too.”

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the both the Green family, evangelical Christians who own and operate the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, and the Hahn family, the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties.

Both families objected to certain provisions of the federal contraception mandate. Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs and devices that can cause early abortions.

The Greens and Hahns both say the mandate would require them to violate their religious beliefs by funding and facilitating abortion drugs.

In the majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the high court ruled that “(t)he contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates” federal religious freedom laws.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy added, “Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion.”

The court ruled that the mandate cannot be applied to closely-held corporations with religious owners who object to it. The IRS defines “closely-held corporations” as those with more than 50 percent of their stock held by five or fewer individuals.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Hahn family, explained to CNA that the Supreme Court’s ruling affirms that “religious freedom belongs to everyone in every area of their lives.”

“I think a win for religious freedom is going to raise the tide across the board,” although there are still questions about how this ruling will affect other challengers to the government mandate, he said.

“This fight is going to continue in the non-profit cases.”

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, said that “today’s decision is a big win for freedom in America.”

Rienzi, who is also a law professor at The Catholic University of America, argued that deciding what does and does not violate a person’s beliefs are “decisions for religious people, not for the government, to make.”

The ruling was also welcomed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

“In this case, justice has prevailed, with the Court respecting the rights of the Green and Hahn families to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines,” they said in a June 30 statement.

Numerous Catholic non-profit groups including charities, hospitals and schools are also challenging the contraception mandate. While many non-profit groups have been granted an “accommodation” for religious freedom, some say the modified regulation still require them to facilitate the coverage in a way that violates their beliefs.

Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Lori observed that the “Court clearly did not decide whether the so-called ‘accommodation’ violates” religious freedom laws in these situations.

“We continue to hope that these great ministries of service, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others, will prevail in their cases as well,” they said.

George Mason University law professor Helen Alvare, called the day’s decision good “for the political left and the political right.”

Amid the contraception mandate debate, Alvare co-founded the group Women Speak for Themselves to give voice to more than 40,000 women who oppose the regulation on religious liberty grounds.

She explained that the ruling is good news regardless of political affiliation “because no matter what administration is in power, our religious freedom cannot be violated.”

“Religious freedom is not just a private matter, it is a freedom to serve,” she emphasized.

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Vatican grieves deaths of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi released a statement voicing Pope Francis' condolences over three kidnapped Israeli teenagers found dead on Monday outside a Palestinian town.   

“The news of the death of three young Israelis that had disappeared is terrible and tragic,” the June 30 statement read.

“The murder of innocent people is always and abominable and unacceptable crime, and an important obstacle in the way of peace, for which we must continue to work restlessly and for which we need to pray.”

“Violence only begets more violence and feeds the deadly circle of hate,” it added.

Three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel – both 16 –  and Eyal Yifrah, 19, disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking near the West Bank city of Hebron.  

Their disappearance sparked one of Israel's biggest manhunts in recent years.

On Monday, Israeli security sources confirmed that the bodies of the three young men were found in shallow graves, covered by few rocks, not far from where they were last seen.

The Vatican statement noted that “Pope Francis unites to the indescribable pain of the families affected by this homicidal violence and to the pain of all persons affected by the consequences of hate, and prays for God to inspire in all sentiments of compassion and peace.”

Since the search to find the three teenagers started, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian organization Hamas for their disappearance. Although Hamas has joined the coalition that rules the Palestinian territories, it is considered as a terrorist group by the U.S. government.

International observers fear that the murder of the three young students, one of which had U.S. nationality, will spark a new wave of violence between Israel and Hamas.

During his address to the cabinet after the bodies were found, Netanyahu said the youths had been “kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts,” and said that “Satan has not yet invented vengeance for the blood of a small child. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”

The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the abductions and murders, but has requested the Israeli government to present proof that Hamas was involved in the crimes.

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