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DAILY NEWS
August 4, 2015
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How one skeptical scientist came to believe the Shroud of Turin

Rome, Italy, August 4 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Shroud of Turin has different meanings for many people: some see it as an object of veneration, others a forgery, still others a medieval curiosity. For one Jewish scientist, however, the evidence has led him to see it as a meeting point between science and faith.
FULL STORY »



Vatican

Will Pope Francis visit Kenya in November?

US

Undercover reports on fetal body parts trade face legal hurdles
Effort to defund Planned Parenthood falls short of Senate vote
Judge rules LA convent sale invalid

Americas

Enrique Shaw: the Argentine businessman whom Francis may soon beatify

Europe

How one skeptical scientist came to believe the Shroud of Turin

Asia - Pacific

After 57 years, Kiwi priests' ministry in Antarctica ends



Vatican

Will Pope Francis visit Kenya in November?

VATICAN CITY, August 4 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Uganda, Central African Republic … and Kenya? There are no details yet for Pope Francis' trip to Africa this November, but Kenyan media have announced that a Vatican delegation is expected next week to prepare for the Pope's arrival.

Initially, according to the website of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, Pope Francis was expected to travel to Africa Nov. 27-29, visiting Uganda and Central African Republic. Later the idea of Kenya was added: it borders Uganda's east, and locals are already betting on a three-day papal visit to their nation. The supposition is supported by the fact that the prefecture's website now lists the Africa trip as lasting Nov. 25-30.

The Daily Nation, a Nairobi-based paper, maintains that the precise size and dates of next week's delegation from the Vatican remain unknown. But the paper writes that the delegation will be welcomed by Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi and Archbishop Charles Balvo, apostolic nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan.

Archbishop Peter Kairo of Nyeri has said the delegation will oversee preparations for the Pope's arrival, and discuss security issues with the relevant government bodies.

According to the archbishop, the Pope's visit in Kenya should last three days – he said that “We are expecting him to arrive here on November 25 whereby he will be welcomed in the country by President Uhuru Kenyatta.”

He added that three committees are being formed at the moment, composed of archbishops and other Church figures who have previously helped in coordinating large events, such as the beatification of Sister Irene Sefani.

Fr. Peter Githinji of the Nyeri archdiocese, who coordinated that beatification, hopes Pope Francis will declare as martyrs the 75 faithful who were killed for their faith during the Mau Mau Uprising during the 1950s.

Such a celebration tie in with Pope Francis' visit to Uganda, where he is expected to canonize that nation's martyrs.




US

Undercover reports on fetal body parts trade face legal hurdles

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., August 3 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A citizen journalism group investigating abortion clinics’ procurement of organs and tissue from unborn babies has pledged to contest a court order barring the release of recordings made of an abortionists’ conference.

The Center for Medical Progress said that it follows “all applicable laws” and that it will fight “any attempts to suppress our First Amendment rights to free speech or silence the freedom of the citizen press.”

On July 31 federal judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit against the center from the National Abortion Federation.

The court order said the National Abortion Federation could suffer irreparable injury, such as “harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation,” the Associated Press reports.

The abortion federation’s lawsuit said that the journalist group created a false company to gain entry to its annual conferences in 2014 and 2015 and then recorded its members. The federation alleged that the investigators violated non-disclosure agreements the investigators had signed.

According to the abortion group, the non-disclosure agreement includes a ban on videotaping or recording the meeting. It said it only allows use of conference information “to help enhance the quality and safety of services” of its conference's participants.

The Center for Medical Progress said the lawsuit was “meritless.” It characterized the abortion federation as “a criminal organization that has spent years conspiring with Planned Parenthood on how to violate federal laws on partial-birth abortion and fetal tissue sales.”

The center has conducted a three-year investigation of abortion providers and fetal harvesting. The center’s investigators went undercover as a fetal tissue procurement company.

Beginning July 14, the organization started to release video summaries, as well as complete video footage, of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of organs from aborted babies and reimbursement for the tissue. One discussion covers the possible alteration of the abortion procedure to ensure an “intact specimen.”

Federal law generally prohibits the selling of human tissue, but allows for the donation of tissue with “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” It explicitly prohibits the sale of tissue for “valuable consideration.”

On July 28 a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a separate restraining order blocking the Center for Media Progress from releasing any video of leaders of the California-based company StemExpress. The company reportedly provides fetal tissue for research in partnership with Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.

The Center for Media Progress also called the StemExpresss lawsuit meritless, adding that it intends to “cover-up this illegal baby parts trade.”

The videos have renewed debate over abortion and over taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. While federal funding for abortion is generally forbidden, the government funds other services of the abortion provider.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, has asked Senators to vote to withhold federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

“It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year. This concern has rightly grown in recent years,” he said in an Aug. 3 letter.

He noted that the latest reports revealed the abortion provider’s willingness to “traffic in fetal tissue from abortions,” and that to alter abortion procedures to obtain more intact organs showed “a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.”




Effort to defund Planned Parenthood falls short of Senate vote

WASHINGTON D.C., August 3 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Senate failed to bring a bill to block federal funding of Planned Parenthood to the floor on Monday evening, in a much-anticipated vote.

Senate Republicans introduced the bill to defund Planned Parenthood on July 28. An effort to bring the bill to a vote rendered a split of 53-46, gaining support from the majority but falling short of the 60 votes necessary to end debate and bring the bill to the floor.

Two Republicans joined most of the Senate Democrats opposing the bill’s passage to the floor -- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Two Democrats joined Republicans pushing to end debate, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, had implored the Senate to block federal funds for the organization in an Aug. 3 letter to all senators.

“It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year,” he wrote.

“The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more ‘intact’ organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans,” he continued.

Planned Parenthood has come under fire recently after a series of undercover tapes were released showing top doctors within the organization casually discussing the offering of body parts of aborted babies to harvesters for compensation.

The citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress had released the videos as part of its “Human Capital” report, a three-year investigative study of Planned Parenthood and its transfer of body parts of aborted babies for money.

Planned Parenthood officials were secretly taped in conversations with actors presenting themselves as representatives of fetal tissue procurement companies, discussing the price per “specimen” for the organs from aborted babies and talking about how to change the abortion procedure to better ensure “intact” body parts.

Religious and civic leaders began calling for the end to federal funding of the organization after the initial videos were released.

Pro-life rallies to defund Planned Parenthood, entitled “#WomenBetrayed,” were held in over 60 cities on July 28, coordinated by the pro-life college outreach group Students for Life.

In a July 28 statement, Cardinal O’Malley said the practices described in the videos were further evidence of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.

The Senate’s Health and Human Services panel started an investigation into Planned Parenthood, after allegations were made that it broke federal law by selling body parts for “valuable consideration.” Two House committees are investigating the organization as well.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) announced Monday that the state was severing its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood.   

The videos have brought to light an “issue that has shaken the moral compass of our society,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) stated on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

“The phrase ‘It’s a boy’ is one we often use in celebrating new life,” she said, contrasting this with one of the videos in which a Planned Parenthood clinic worker exclaimed, “Another boy!” when examining the remains of an aborted baby boy in a petri dish.

“Protecting the most vulnerable is an important measure of any society,” Ernst continued. “Who do we want to be as a nation? Before us today is an opportunity to vote for legislation that will protect the most vulnerable and women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood affiliates receive most of their federal funding through Medicaid payments and Title X family planning grants. The 68 affiliates received over $500 million in federal funds in fiscal year 2013 – or 41 percent of its overall revenue – according to Planned Parenthood’s annual report.

If the organization is defunded, these funds would go instead to existing health care providers like federal community health centers and hospitals, the bill stipulates.

“Catholic charitable agencies and pregnancy help centers have helped countless pregnant women find life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in his letter to senators. “Our hospitals and other health facilities are second to none in providing quality health care for women.”

The bill ensures “that women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion,” he added.

Federal community health centers do not perform abortions but are required by law to provide an array of services including prenatal care, immunizations, and cancer screenings. They focus primarily on medically-underserved communities and accept payments on a sliding scale from Medicare, Medicaid, and employer’s insurance among other sources.

Community health centers already vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics, particularly in states where there are only one or two clinics.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, the health centers serve almost eight times the number of women per year that Planned Parenthood does. There are over 9,000 community health centers in the U.S. but only 700 Planned Parenthood clinics.

For example, in Alabama there are 131 service sites for community health centers but only two Planned Parenthood clinics. Even in California where there are 115 Planned Parenthood clinics, there are still over ten times as many sites for community health centers – 1,247 in total.

Despite the legislation being blocked, pro-life advocates remained hopeful.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, noted in an Aug. 3 statement that Senate support for defunding Planned Parenthood has grown significantly since the last effort to do so in 2011.

“The Center for Medical Progress has released less than half of its damning evidence of brutality and callousness at Planned Parenthood and, as more videos are made public, outrage will surely grow,” she said.
 




Judge rules LA convent sale invalid

LOS ANGELES, CALIF., August 3 (CNA) .- Los Angeles County Superior Court James Chalfant ruled July 30 that the contested sale of the former convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters to restaurateur and urban developer Dana Hollister is invalid.

The judge also confirmed that the eight-acre, villa-style hilltop property located in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles is Church property under the oversight Archbishop José H. Gomez.

“I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future,” the archbishop said in a recent statement.

The archdiocese initiated legal action June 19 to protect the sisters by seeking to nullify the “unauthorized” transaction with Hollister. In a recent deposition, Hollister confirmed that she took possession of the Waverly Drive property for $100,000 (of which the sisters received only $44,000), and the balance of $9.9 million in a non-recourse promissory note, with no payments for three years.

The archdiocese contended that the sale violates the California law protecting the elderly from transactions that are not in their best interest — the five surviving Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters are between 77 and 88 years of age.

Because the loan is non-recourse, it does not require payment after the three years, the archdiocese explained in a recent statement. As such, if Hollister were unable to pay the remaining $9.9 million, the only remedy to get the property back would be foreclosure and the sisters would have to pay the related legal costs.

Other points of contention include the archdiocese’s lease of the buildings on the property for the priests’ house of prayer, which has a remaining term of 77 years, and Hollister’s reported plan to convert the villa property into a boutique hotel.

Judge Chalfant set another hearing for Sept. 15 and ordered the lawyers to prepare proposals detailing possible remedies that would most benefit the five sisters. He said that Hollister may remain in possession of the property pending the hearing, but ordered her to pay $25,000 a month rent and stipulated that she cannot sell, lease or modify the property in the interim.

“The care and well-being of all five sisters has always been our primary concern,” said the archdiocese in a statement released shortly after the July 30 court ruling. “We were forced to take legal action to protect the sisters from the Dana Hollister transaction, which allowed Hollister to take possession of their property away from them. We are grateful that the judge found the sale to Hollister to be invalid, and that he agreed that this was a ‘bad deal’ for the sisters.”

Most of the sisters agree.

During July 29 interviews, three of the five sisters — Jean-Marie Dunne, Marie Christine Muñoz Lopez and Marie Victoriano — reiterated their unequivocal support for the archbishop. All three sisters had previously signed declarations stating that they agree that the institute may not sell the property without the written approval of leadership in the archdiocese, as outlined in the institute’s amended articles of incorporation.

Further, the activities of the sisters are overseen by the archdiocese under orders issued in 2005 and 2013. Father Thomas Anslow was appointed as the legal agent authorized to act in all civil matters on behalf of the institute.

The remaining two sisters, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, disagreed and opted to move ahead with the sale to Hollister. At the time of the unauthorized transaction, the archdiocese had already accepted an alternate offer from pop star Katy Perry, which was supported by Sisters Jean-Marie, Marie Christine and and Marie Victoriano, for $14.5 million — $10 million in cash and $4.5 million for an alternative property for the house of prayer (to be owned by the sisters).

Due to continued litigation, the sale is now in limbo, but all proceeds from any future final sale will be dedicated to the care of the sisters, according to the archdiocese.

“I am sad, frustrated and disappointed, because I feel this shouldn’t have happened; the sisters have no right to sell the property,” said Sister Marie Victoriano. “And I have never, never thought that the archbishop ever took advantage of us. ... I would like to see the situation resolved as soon as possible.”

Sister Jean-Marie Dunne agrees.

“The archbishop has counsel … and we feel that he knows more about selecting between the two [buyers],” she explained. She emphasized that her opinion isn’t being “suppressed” or coerced; rather, she agrees with the archbishop in part because Perry’s cash offer for the property versus “an I.O.U. [is] a no-brainer.”

“And according to the decree … the archbishop can’t sell [the property] without us, and we can’t sell without him,” continued Sister Jean-Marie. “So all this wasting of money on lawyers, and wasting of everybody’s time — it’s just ridiculous.”

According to Sister Marie Christine, her position is very simple and straight-forward: she stands firmly with the archdiocese and Archbishop Gomez.

“As I say all the time, I am with [the archbishop], always with him,” she said.

The sisters vacated the villa in 2011.

Despite having fond memories of her years in residence at the villa — feeding the squirrels outside, having educational retreats and celebrating her mother’s 90th birthday — Sister Jean Marie said she doesn’t feel a sense of loss nor overly sentimental at the prospect of selling the property.

“People are more sacred than the ground of the villa,” she said.

For Sister Marie Victoriano, who is enjoying her 60th year of consecrated life, living at the villa made her feel “as if I was near God, because it is a very peaceful place.”

“As I would take a walk in the morning, I would watch the sun rise from the east … it’s an incentive to praise God,” she said, adding that she hopes the property will be sold to a buyer who will love it and “enjoy the beauty around them.”


This article originally ran in LA's Angelus, The Tidings Online.




Americas

Enrique Shaw: the Argentine businessman whom Francis may soon beatify

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, August 3 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Pope Francis’ desire to see the late Argentine businessman Enrique Shaw raised to the altars could be close to fruition, according to the postulator of Shaw's cause for beatification.

Juan Navarro Floria told CNA the diocesan phase of the cause has been completed.

“This process began when Pope Francis was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in that capacity he was the one who asked Rome to open the process,” he related.

The diocesan process was closed in 2013 under Archbishop Mario Poli, and everything was passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which this year declared the juridical validity of that phase of the process.

In an interview conducted in March with the Mexican TV station Televisa, Pope Francis said, “I’ve known rich people and I’m moving forward with the cause for beatification over there [in Argentina] of a rich Argentine businessman. Enrique Shaw was rich, yet saintly. A person can have money. God gives it to him so he can administer it well. And this man administered it well. Not with paternalism, but by fostering the [personal] growth of people who needed help.”

Shaw's cause for beatification is now following its course in Rome, with the postulator Silvia Correale. Correale is working with the rapporteur to draft a positio, which in addition to the testimonies of witnesses, includes the main aspects of Shaw's life, virtues, and writings.

Shaw was born in 1921, and joined the navy while still young. He started his business after the Second World War, and founded in 1952 the Christian Association of Business Executives. He also was among the founders of the Catholic University of Argentina and the Christian Familiar Movement, and served as president of the Argentine Catholic Action.

In 1955, he was a victim of the anti-Catholic waves that took place in the first phase of Juan Peron's administration. According to Navarro Floria, the postulator of the cause of beatification, even after his arrest he proved altruistic, giving other inmates the mattresses his family brought to him, as well as food.

Shaw established a pension fund and a health care system to provide the 3,400 industry’s workers medical service, financial support in case of illness, and loans for important life events such as marriage, birth, and death.

In 1961, the industry led by Shaw was sold to an American trust fund which decided to fire 1,200 people. Shaw was already suffering an advanced cancer that was to lead to his death the following year, but he strongly opposed the layoffs and proposed a recovery plan that was to retain all the workers.

Sara Shaw, one of Enrique's daughters, told CNA that what she remembers most about her father was “how he enjoyed coming home. He would come in whistling. We kids would come running, and the whole atmosphere changed because it was like a party when he came home from work … he really enjoyed his family.”

“He would have problems but he never unloaded them on us, not in the way he looked or what he said. Certainly he would talk with my mother, but we kids always saw him looking happy,” she added.

Sara added that several people have commented to her that many times her father did not accept dinner invitations from friends. He used to say he had a very important prior commitment. “And it seems the most important commitment was to come home in the evening to have dinner with his children,” she emphasized.

One of the family’s devotional practices was praying the Rosary. “He taught each one of us how to lead a decade, taking turns, and he used to tell us to mention our petitions out loud … and we used to walk to church on Sundays to get to Mass early.”

“After Communion he gave us all a hug and had us pray the Anima Christi … that was very beautiful and a many people remember how he had us recite this prayer in thanksgiving after Communion.”

Commenting on the Christian life their father led in the business world, Shaw’s daughter recalled that he had a lot of contact with his co-workers, including those from his navy years. “They remembered him very well. What struck them was that even though he was so quiet, he stood out by the way he acted, and by his faith.”

Fernán de Elizalde, himself a businessman and member of the Christian Association of Business Executives, is also vice postulator of Shaw's cause for beatification.

He told CNA he is "convinced Shaw was a man of outstanding holiness. We’ll probably have in the future the first businessman saint in the world."

“I’m a businessman like he was, and I wanted to take on this role of vice postulator to the extent that I could, to prove that this man had organized a business really in keeping with the social teaching of the  Church … and it took me about two years to establish that, but once I discovered it in depth, by visiting many of the businesses where he worked, where he was a stockholder, where he was the director or a board member, I found a wonder of a person.”

de Elizalde recalled a moving anecdote about Shaw that reflects the affection he had for his workers, and vice versa. “During his last days he received a blood transfusion donated by the workers from his main factory. People at that hospital were wondering who had been admitted there because they couldn’t believe there were so many workers standing at the door, getting in line to donate blood – all the more so for an employer. They thought he must be a  union member, but they never thought he was their employer.”

“One of Enrique’s last words as he was dying, was that he was happy that at this moment the blood of his workers was coursing through his veins.”




Europe

How one skeptical scientist came to believe the Shroud of Turin

ROME, ITALY, August 4 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Shroud of Turin has different meanings for many people: some see it as an object of veneration, others a forgery, still others a medieval curiosity. For one Jewish scientist, however, the evidence has led him to see it as a meeting point between science and faith.

“The Shroud challenges (many people's core beliefs) because there's a strong implication that there is something beyond the basic science going on here,” Barrie Schwortz, one of the leading scientific experts on the Shroud of Turin, in an CNA.

Admitting that he did not know whether there was something beyond science at play, he added: “That's not what convinced me: it was the science that convinced me.”

The Shroud of Turin is among the most well-known relics believed to be connected with Christ's Passion. Venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Jesus, it has been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image.

The image on the 14 feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide cloth is stained with the postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured and crucified.

Schwortz, now a retired technical photographer and frequent lecturer on the shroud, was a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project which brought prestigious scientists together to examine the ancient artifact.

As a non-practicing Jew at the time, he was hesitant to be part of the team and skeptical as to the shroud's authenticity – presuming it was nothing more than an elaborate painting. Nonetheless, he was intrigued by the scientific questions raised by the image.  

Despite his reservations, Schwortz recounts being persuaded to remain on the project by a fellow scientist on the team – a NASA imaging specialist, and a Catholic – who jokingly told him: “You don't think God wouldn't want one of his chosen people on our team?”

And Schwortz soon encountered one of the great mysteries of the image that still entrances its examiners to this day.

He explained that a specific instrument used for the project was designed for evaluating x-rays, which allowed the lights and darks of an image to be vertically stretched into space, based on the lights and darks proportionately.

For a normal photograph, the result would be a distorted image: with the shroud, however, the natural, 3-D relief of a human form came through. This means “there’s a correlation between image density – lights and darks on the image – and cloth to body distance.”

“The only way that can happen is by some interaction between cloth and body,” he said. “It can’t be projected. It’s not a photograph – photographs don’t have that kind of information, artworks don’t.”

This evidence led him to believe that the image on the shroud was produced in a way that exceeds the capacities even of modern technology.

“There's no way a medieval forger would have had the knowledge to create something like this, and to do so with a method that we can't figure out today – the most image-oriented era of human history.”

“Think about it: in your pocket, you have a camera, and a computer, connected to each other in one little device,” he said.

“The shroud has become one of the most studied artifacts in human history itself, and modern science doesn’t have an explanation for how those chemical and physical properties can be made.”

While the image on the Shroud of Turin was the most convincing evidence for him, he said it was only a fraction of all the scientific data which points to it being real.

“Really, it's an accumulation of thousands of little tiny bits of evidence that, when put together, are overwhelming in favor of its authenticity.”

Despite the evidence, many skeptics question the evidence without having seen the facts. For this reason, Schwortz launched the website www.shroud.com, which serves as a resource for the scientific data on the Shroud.

Nonetheless, he said, there are many who still question the evidence, many believing it is nothing more than an elaborate medieval painting.

“I think the reason skeptics deny the science is, if they accept any of that, their core beliefs have been dramatically challenged, and they would have to go back and reconfigure who they are and what they believe in,” he said. “It’s much easier to reject it out of hand, and not worry about it. That way they don’t have to confront their own beliefs.”

“I think some people would rather ignore it than be challenged.”

Schwortz emphasized that the science points to the Shroud being the burial cloth belonging to a man, buried according to the Jewish tradition after having been crucified in a way consistent with the Gospel. However, he said it is not proof of the resurrection – and this is where faith comes in.

“It’s a pre-resurrection image, because if it were a post-resurrection image, it would be a living man – not a dead man,” he said, adding that science is unable to test for the sort of images that would be produced by a human body rising from the dead.

“The Shroud is a test of faith, not a test of science. There comes a point with the Shroud where the science stops, and people have to decide for themselves.”

“The answer to faith isn’t going to be a piece of cloth. But, perhaps, the answer to faith is in the eyes and hearts of those who look upon it.”

When it comes to testifying to this meeting point between faith and science, Schwortz is in a unique position: he has never converted to Christianity, but remains a practicing Jew. And this, he says, makes his witness as a scientist all the more credible.

“I think I serve God better this way, in my involvement in the Shroud, by being the last person in the world people would expect to be lecturing on what is, effectively, the ultimate Christian relic.”

“I think God in his infinite wisdom knew better than I did, and he put me there for a reason.”




Asia - Pacific

After 57 years, Kiwi priests' ministry in Antarctica ends

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, August 4 (CNA/EWTN News) .- New Zealand's Diocese of Christchurch has operated an Antarctic Ministry at McMurdo Station, the largest community in Antarctica, since November 1957. But a declining numbers of churchgoers has brought the program to an end.

“There is a gradual decrease in religiosity, there is also a decrease in the number of people working at McMurdo Station and the South Pole and budget cuts so all of these factors have led to the decision that only one chaplain is necessary,” Fr. Dan Doyle, who coordinates the diocese's Antarctic ministry, told Radio New Zealand July 26.

McMurdo Station is a US research center on Ross Island, which has some 1,000 residents during summers and is operated by the National Science Foundation.

Peter West, a National Science Foundation spokesman, told the BBC, “There are Catholic chaplains available through the US military, so it's not as if practising Catholics will not be able to avail themselves of services and a Catholic priest. But this particular programme we cannot accommodate any longer.”

The first New Zealander priest to serve at McMurdo was Fr. Ronald O'Gorman, who assisted a US Navy chaplain in 1957. Since then, the diocese has managed to assist in providing priests for the station's summer, from October to February.

The priests serving at McMurdo have been based at the interreligious Chapel of the Snows.

When McMurdo station was being built, there was not originally a plan to build a church. However, while working on other buildings, volunteers collected extra lumber and supplies to build the chapel, and its construction was completed even before the rest of the base was finished.

The original Chapel of the Snows burned down in 1978, and was replaced with a new temporary chapel. The current chapel was dedicated in 1989.

Fr. Doyle explained that at its heyday, McMurdo Station would be home to 2,000 people during the summer. He also added that improved communications technology has helped residents to feel less isolated while working in Antarctica.

McMurdo Station will continue to be served by chaplains for the US military, and other Catholic chapels remain elsewhere in Antarctica. Argentina has several chapels at its bases, including one dedicated to Our Lady of Lujan at Marambio Base.

There are also several Eastern Orthodox chapels located in Antarctica.





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