September 24, 2013

News Briefs

By Catholic News Service


Agencies stretching to meet needs of Syrians displaced by civil war

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Governments and nongovernmental agencies are struggling to keep up with the needs and pressures created by the displacement of nearly a third of Syria's population because of the country's civil war. Assistance to the refugees and displaced people is coming from around the world, although resources are thinly stretched. Representatives of several Catholic agencies that are involved at various levels told Catholic News Service that their programs include helping make sure children can go to school and get help dealing with psychological trauma, as well as providing the basics for survival, such as food, water, housing and medicines. Resettlement agencies, including Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, are preparing for the possible need for new permanent homes in other countries for thousands -- or maybe hundreds of thousands -- of Syrians who may decide they can't go home. Witnesses from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development told a House hearing Sept. 19 that almost one-third of Syria's 22 million people have been displaced by the civil war, including an estimated 2 million who have fled the country -- typically referred to as refugees -- and about 5 million who have been forced from their homes but remain in Syria -- generally called "internally displaced." That makes the Syrian displaced population the largest in the world, and it has grown at a dramatic pace, said Anne C. Richard, assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

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Pope Benedict challenges atheist, says he never hid abuse cases

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a letter to an atheist Italian mathematician, retired Pope Benedict XVI defended his own handling of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and politely criticized the logician's total reliance on scientific facts for meaning. "I never sought to conceal these things," the pope said of cases of clerical abuse, and lamented the scholar depicting the church as the only place where such "deviation" and "filth" occur. The publication of the retired pope's comments Sept. 24 to an atheist scholar came the same month a written letter by Pope Francis to an Italian journalist concerning dialogue with nonbelievers was published. Both letters were published, with the two popes' permission, by the Italian daily La Repubblica. The paper released long excerpts of Pope Benedict's original 11-page response to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, a prolific science writer who authored the book, "Dear Pope, I Write to You" in 2011. The book, presented as a letter to Pope Benedict, proposes the superiority of a worldview in which belief should stem only from things that can be understood and empirically known over worldviews that include belief in things that cannot be fully understood or known.

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As migration rises worldwide, pope calls for international cooperation

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called for greater international cooperation to improve conditions for the world's rising numbers of migrants and called on the media to combat prejudices that make immigrants unwelcome in their new countries. The pope's words came in his annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated Jan. 19, 2014. The message was released by the Vatican Sept. 24. "Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history," the pope wrote. According to the United Nations, 232 million people, representing 3.2 percent of the world's population, are currently international migrants, up from 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990. A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center listed Mexico as world's largest source of emigrants, and the U.S. as the most popular immigration destination.

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Canadian bishops turn focus to people living on society's margins

SAINTE-ADELE, Quebec (CNS) -- Canada's Catholic bishops have responded to Pope Francis' call to minister to people on the margins of society while making efforts to ensure the Catholic Church is not marginalized. "In virtue of our Gospel mandate, the church willingly goes to people on the margins to affirm their dignity and foster their full inclusion in society," Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Sept. 23, the opening day of the bishops' plenary assembly. "Yet as we go to the edge, many seek to keep us there, even push us over. The trends we see are worrying, yes, but hardly surprising," Archbishop Smith told the more than 80 bishops from across Canada. Archbishop Smith said he visited Kiev, Ukraine, in August for the consecration of a new cathedral of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The event commemorated the 1,025th anniversary of the baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir, who declared Christianity the official religion in Kievan Rus, lands now making up parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

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Philippine bishops call for release of hostages as gunfights rage

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Bishops in southern Philippines have condemned rebels' use of hostages as human shields in gunfights with government troops. The gunfights have escalated since Sept. 9 after hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front fighters reportedly attacked government troops who were securing five coastal districts in Zamboanga. The military reported Sept. 13 that at least 18 people had been killed, 11 of them rebels and the rest were soldiers, policemen and two civilians. A Philippines Army official reported that 28 soldiers, six policemen and 18 civilians had been wounded in clashes in Zamboanga and in Basilan province, where the fighting had spread. Among the more than 100 hostages held by the rebels was Father Michael Ufana, who was visiting family members in Santa Catalina when the MNLF members arrived. Msgr. Crisologo Manongas, administrator of Zamboanga Archdiocese, reported over church-run radio Veritas 846 that the rebels had freed Father Ufana Sept. 13. However, the rebels continued to hold his father and scores of other hostages. The priest's mother and two siblings escaped during gunfights Sept. 12, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines reported.

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Pope names Bishop Hebda of Gaylord to be Newark coadjutor archbishop

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Bernard A. Hebda of Gaylord, Mich., 54, to be coadjutor archbishop of Newark, N.J. As coadjutor, he would automatically succeed Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, 72, upon his retirement or death. Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope at age 75. Archbishop Myers has headed the archdiocese since 2001. Archbishop Hebda, a native of Pittsburgh, was ordained bishop of Gaylord Dec. 1, 2009. The appointment was announced Sept. 24 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. A Mass of welcome for Archbishop Hebda is to be celebrated Nov. 5 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. Archbishop Myers introduced his coadjutor at a gathering of local journalists and archdiocesan employees and guests at the Newark Archdiocesan Center. "Considering some major projects to be implemented in the archdiocese, and the fact that three of us bishops in Newark are in our 70s, I had requested a coadjutor archbishop some time ago," he said.

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Connecticut bishop urges Catholics to be builders of spiritual bridges

TRUMBULL, Conn. (CNS) -- Bridgeport's new bishop used a famous image of his hometown -- the Brooklyn Bridge -- to describe how, like a physical bridge, a "spiritual bridge" pulls communities together and draws Catholics closer to God, the Gospels and one another as members of the body of Christ. "On my first day of my ministry in your midst, I ask you to join with me hand in hand, heart to heart, to become builders of spiritual bridges with the help and grace of the Lord and his Holy Spirit," said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in a homily during his installation Mass Sept. 19 at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull. "I believe with all my heart that when God's mercy is offered to anyone who is afflicted, burdened, lonely or lost, such a person will leap forward and take the hand of the Lord and cross the bridge with his grace," the bishop continued. "Let us have no fear for the Lord will give us all that we need to be the best of bridge-builders to his honor and glory." About 1,200 people packed the church for the Mass when the former auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., officially succeeded Archbishop William E. Lori, now archbishop of Baltimore, as the fifth bishop of Bridgeport.

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Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux retires; New Orleans auxiliary is successor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, La., and appointed as his successor Auxiliary Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of New Orleans. Bishop Jacobs, who has headed the diocese since 2003, is 75, the age at which bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignations to the pope. Bishop Fabre, 49, has been a New Orleans auxiliary since 2006. The changes were announced Sept. 23 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The installation Mass for Bishop Fabre is scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma. "I believe that he is the right person at this time of the life of this great diocese," Bishop Jacobs said at a news conference. "I am grateful to God for my 10 years as shepherd of this diocese. I have been blessed in many ways by the ministry and cooperation of the priests, deacons, religious and laity."


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