September 24, 2014

News Briefs

By Catholic News Service


Pax Christi leaders alarmed that airstrikes will aid ISIS recruiting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Expanded airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria serve as little more than a recruiting tool for the extremist group and place more innocent people in danger, the leadership of Pax Christi International said. The three top leaders of the Catholic peace organization also called upon the world, particularly the United Nations, to work together to seek nonviolent alternatives to stop the Islamic State's expansion and influence in Iraq and Syria. Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, and Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International co-presidents, and Jose Henriquez, the organization's secretary-general, suggested several steps that they believe will bring lasting peace to the violence-prone region during an interview Sept. 23 with Catholic News Service hours after a U.S.-led international coalition attacked Islamic State forces in Syria. The Catholic peace leaders proposed alternatives to war such as wide-ranging diplomacy, including direct talks with Islamic State leaders, and economic actions aimed at limiting the group's access to millions of dollars in oil revenues that fund weapons purchases. "We believe that especially the expansion of bombing is more likely to create significant recruiting bonanza for some of the extremist groups, ISIS included," Dennis told CNS. "The Islamic State, ISIS, is very well funded and steps must be taken to identify the sources of their funding and to stop them," she said.

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Oklahoma archbishop calls Holy Hour 'a powerful witness of faith'

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- Oklahoma City's archbishop called the overflow crowd at a Sept. 21 eucharistic Holy Hour "a powerful witness of faith." More than 600 people filled St. Francis of Assisi Church for the prayer service led by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. Another 1,400 people stood in overflow areas and outdoor prayer gardens to listen to his homily over loud speakers. The Holy Hour was celebrated as a response to a Satanic "black mass" held the same day in a downtown arena. The more than 2,000 Catholics at St. Francis of Assisi also participated in a eucharistic procession through the streets of Oklahoma City, led by Archbishop Coakley carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. "I was very grateful for the overwhelming support and prayers we received from all over the country, in fact, from all over the world," he said in a statement afterward. "The Holy Hour and procession at St. Francis of Assisi Parish was a very public and positive witness to the beauty, truth and goodness of our Catholic faith in the face of an unexpected challenge. No doubt great fruit and many graces will come forth as result of this ordeal," he added. In early August, Archbishop Coakley asked Catholics to offer prayer and penance to prevent the Satanic group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu from holding the "black Mass," which took place in a conference room at the Civic Center Music Hall.

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Despite 50 years of 'War on Poverty,' prosperity for many seems elusive

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- According to the Census Bureau's new statistics, released Sept. 16, poverty in the United States is down, but only slightly. The actual number of people living in poverty in 2013 is unchanged at 45.3 million, but because of continued population growth in the United States, the percentage of Americans living in poverty is down 0.5 percentage points, from 15.0 percent to 14.5 percent. So if you think prosperity's just around the corner, it's an awfully long block the nation must walk to get to that corner. "We'd expect poverty to drop now that we're in the fifth year of an economic recovery, right?" asked Gregory Acs, director of the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. Acs' comment alludes to the intractability of poverty and the long, tough slog it is trying to get tens of millions out of poverty, given that 50 years ago, then-President Lyndon Johnson declared a "War on Poverty." While some skirmishes were won in that war -- senior citizens, for instance, are far from the brink of economic disaster as they had been two generations ago -- poverty persists across all demographic groups. Even among non-Hispanic whites, the most affluent of demographic groups, the poverty rate is 9.6 percent, or close to 10 percent.

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Vatican official calls for shared responsibility in protecting planet

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- A sense of "shared responsibility to protect our planet and the human family" must influence how nations react to the reality of climate change, the Vatican's secretary of state told the United Nations Sept. 23. In a statement during the U.N. Climate Summit, Cardinal Pietro Parolin observed that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal. It is a very serious problem which ... has grave consequences for the most vulnerable sectors of society and, clearly, for future generations." He noted that from the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of protecting the environment, "which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another's detriment," Cardinal Parolin said, quoting the pope's March 2013 address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Prudence must prevail in the face of the risks and costs of the increase of greenhouse gases caused by human activity, said Cardinal Parolin said. This requires political and economic commitments by the nations of the world, including the Holy See, he added. He again quoted Pope Francis, from a general audience in May, when he said a risk lies in the "considering ourselves the masters of creation. Creation is not some possession that we can lord over for our own pleasure, nor, even less, is it the property of only some people, the few. Creation is a gift, it is the marvelous gift that God has given us so that we will take care of it and harness it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude."

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In election season, churches reminded of campaign do's and don'ts

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With a new election cycle approaching, churches are reminded of what they can and cannot do under a decades-old congressional amendment that prohibits political campaigning in such institutions. The Johnson amendment to the tax code was enacted in 1954 to prevent tax-exempt organizations under the Internal Revenue Service from participating in political campaign activity. It has drawn criticism from religious institutions and nonprofit organizations for restricting their constitutional right to free speech. According to section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code, charities, churches and other organizations that are not required to pay a federal income tax cannot "participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." They can, however, engage in nonpartisan activities such as administering voter education guides, conducting voter registration drives and holding nonpartisan educational forums. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, has launched a campaign called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." What the group calls a "strategic litigation plan" encourages religious leaders to preach on moral, social and governmental issues to their congregation. The way it works is that pastors agree to give a politically motivated sermon suggesting a specific candidate to vote for, and then send a record of their sermon to the IRS in the hopes of triggering the enforcement of the Johnson amendment.

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Send prayers, needed aid for those hit by Ebola, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called for prayers and concrete help for the thousands of people affected by the deadly Ebola virus. "I hope the international community may provide much-needed help to alleviate the sufferings of our brothers and sisters," he said in an appeal at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square Sept. 24. Before leading the 30,000 people in the square in a prayer to Mary, the pope said he had been praying for those hit by this "terrible disease" and epidemic in West Africa. It was the second time in the past 24 hours that the pope spoke about the outbreak. The pope highlighted the church's valuable work in helping deal with the disease, during an address Sept. 23 to bishops from Ghana. The bishops were at the Vatican for their periodic "ad limina" visits. "I pray for the repose of the souls of all who have died in this epidemic, among whom are priests, men and women religious and health care workers who contracted this terrible disease while caring for those suffering," the pope said in the written address.

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Pope: Albania proves to world that diverse religions can live in peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People of different religious beliefs can and must live together in peace, Pope Francis said. The Muslim majority and Christian minorities in Albania cooperate beautifully for the common good and prove to the world that it can be done, he said. "I could see, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people and communities belonging to different religions is not only beneficial, but is concretely possible and practical. They put it into practice" in Albania, he said. During his general audience in St. Peter's Square Sept. 24, Pope Francis reviewed his one-day trip to Albania Sept. 21. He told the more than 30,000 people in the square that he wanted to visit a country where people of different religious traditions were peacefully living and working together, despite suffering decades of violent oppression "by an atheist and heartless regime. I thought it seemed important to encourage them on this path" of religious respect and to urge them to never give up looking for ways to benefit the common good, he said. Catholics make up only about 16 percent of Albania's 3 million inhabitants; about 65 percent are Muslim and 20 percent Orthodox.

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For Marquette University's first lay president, faith comes first

MILWAUKEE (CNS) -- Being in an environment where faith is a visible part of daily life is something Michael Lovell, the first lay president of Marquette University, welcomes. In his short time at the university, he said he has delivered more faith-related speeches than ever. "It all has to do with being at a place where I can practice my faith in professional life. For a while I at least contemplated being a priest, and being able to talk about my faith publicly is something I could not do in my previous role, but I've had more speeches in my time at Marquette about my faith, religion than I've had in my entire career. That is something I've always longed to do," he said. Faith also is the center of family life, according to his wife, Amy, who also described her husband as a devoted father who "somehow manages to connect with all his kids every day." The couple has four children ranging in age from 11-19 and they are actively involved at Holy Family Parish in Whitefish. Lovell, inaugurated Sept. 19 as Marquette's 24th president, holds three academic degrees in mechanical engineering, including a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. A researcher, his work has led to several technological breakthroughs and he holds seven patents and 14 provisional patents.


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