July 15, 2014

News Briefs

By Catholic News Service


Voters in two states to consider legalizing recreational pot in 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- When someone close to Teresa Miller developed an addiction to prescription pain medication in 2009, the Florida mom was so distraught she enrolled herself at the University of South Florida. Miller emerged three and a half years later with a master's degree in mental health counseling. Miller said she wanted to do everything she could to understand the addiction dilemma and to accompany a loved one -- and eventually other parents and families in the community -- in navigating what is a daunting crisis. Miller joined various local and national drug task force projects and advocacy volunteer groups such as Drug Free America Inc., to promote addiction awareness. "I had gone to three different marijuana summits, and so when (medical) marijuana got put on the ballot in Florida, I was dumbfounded and shocked," said Miller, who is a member of Christ the King Parish in Tampa and part of a state now evenly split in its views on legal usage of medical marijuana for residents with a doctor's prescription. Nationally, Florida may be on track to be the first Southern state to permit even wider use of medical marijuana if voters approve the Amendment 2 constitutional ballot initiative in November. Lawmakers had already approved this year the so-called Charlotte's Web strain of pot developed for patients with seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms and cancer but the medicine is low in the mind-altering chemicals found in marijuana.

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Bishops urge 'no' vote on Senate bill to respond to Hobby Lobby ruling

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Senate bill responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has the potential to affect "all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom" when it comes to health care mandates, said the chairmen of two U.S. bishops' committees. In a July 14 letter to U.S. senators, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, urged the lawmakers to oppose the measure. Known as the "Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014," or S. 2578, the measure was co-written by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado. Murray introduced the bill July 9. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, scheduled a vote for July 16. Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Lori told senators: "Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court's narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision. ... We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it." The high court, citing the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, ruled June 30 that closely held for-profit companies cannot be forced to abide by the federal Health and Human Service's mandate that requires nearly all employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, elective sterilizations and contraceptives to their employees free of charge if the individual or families that own these businesses have religious objections to the mandate.

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Organizations suggest ways to help unaccompanied minor migrants

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With six weeks of steady reporting about the influx of Central American children and families crossing the U.S. border and no quick solutions being presented for what will happen to them, many people are asking their churches and dioceses what they can do to help. Unlike what would happen if a natural disaster generated a similar flow of migrants -- more than 57,000 children on their own and 39,000 families since the beginning of the fiscal year in October -- these people are at least temporarily the responsibility of the federal government, because they were apprehended by or turned themselves in to the Border Patrol. In the short term, that ensures that the migrants' immediate needs for shelter, medical care and food are being met, even if that sometimes is under less-than-desirable conditions such as Border Patrol warehouses designed to hold adults for a few hours at most. But it also creates extra layers of procedure that complicate how people who want to help can do so. For example, organizations that have attempted to provide various kinds of assistance in the Border Patrol's temporary holding areas have been rebuffed in several parts of the country, told that security concerns make any kind of outside efforts unwelcome. Children who arrive alone are required by federal law to be cared for by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement under Health and Human Services, which manages their care after the Border Patrol initially processes them.

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Vatican bank issues detailed report, including where it stores its gold

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- One week after publishing highlights of its 2013 financial statement, the Institute for the Works of Religion -- commonly called the Vatican bank -- released a 107-page, detailed financial report for the year. The first statement, released July 8, said the institute's net profit for 2013 was only 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) compared to 2012 net profits of 86.6 million euros ($117.7 million). The detailed report released July 15 and published on the institute's website -- www.ior.va -- is packed with charts, tables and explanations of the institute's focus, its investment policies, the division of its assets and detailed information about its expenses, including contributions to employee pensions. It also contains some curiosities: The main depository for the Vatican's gold is the U.S. Federal Reserve, while medals and precious coins (valued at close to 9.9 million euros) are kept in IOR vaults. A "significant decline" in the price of gold meant that the value of the Vatican's gold fell to 20 million euros in 2013 from almost 28.3 million euros in 2012; The bank's officers have almost 3.2 million euros in four funds set up for charitable purposes, including one to support religious orders in missionary work. Only the "Fund for Holy Masses" reported distributing money in 2013; it gave out 59,000 euros.

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Vatican official praises Camillians' service, meets Irish religious

KILLUCAN, Ireland (CNS) -- The head of the Vatican's congregation that deals with the world's religious paid tribute to the Camillian Fathers' commitment to caring for the sick and the elderly over the past 400 years. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said July 13 that his two-day visit was to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Camillus de Lellis. He also met privately with 60 superiors of religious orders July 12. After celebrating Mass at the Camillian provincial headquarters in Killucan, Cardinal Aviz met elderly and sick residents at the nursing home run by the order. The cardinal was accompanied by his secretary, Italian Camillian Father Donato Cauzzo. In his homily at the Mass, the cardinal reminded people, "We are called to give our personal services to others in the community. I have met sons of Camillus who give their lives to care for others. In doing so, they serve the Lord -- this is the service to the widows, the orphans, the stranger but above all to the sick," he said.

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Iraqi nuns, orphans kidnapped in June released safely

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Two Iraqi nuns and three orphans kidnapped in late June have been released safely, according to the Christian rights group Middle East Concern. The group, citing Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, said the five were released July 14 without anyone paying ransom. They are reported to be in good physical health. They also said they were treated well during their abduction. There has been no official statement on who kidnapped the nuns and orphans in Mosul, an area of Iraq that was overrun in June by Islamist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The extremist group has taken over vast swathes of territory across five Iraqi provinces north and west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The kidnapped Chaldean Daughters of Mary, Sister Miskintah and Sister Utoor, and three orphans disappeared June 28. They went missing around the time the militants shelled Christian villages outside of Mosul, including Qaraqosh, forcing more than 40,000 Christians to flee, many with just the clothes on their backs. The majority of Qaraqosh's 40,000 inhabitants are Syriac Catholics. The nuns live and work in an orphanage attached to the Chaldean monastery in Mosul. The orphans were identified as Hala Salim, Sarah Khoshaba, and Aram Sabah.

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Legendary journalist recalled for lifetime commitment to social justice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- John Seigenthaler, a legendary journalist, close friend and aide to Robert Kennedy, a fierce fighter for civil rights and one of Tennessee's most prominent and well-known Catholics, was recalled during his July 14 funeral Mass as a man who when confronted with injustice was compelled to respond. In his eulogy, Charles Strobel, the founder and director of the Room In The Inn homeless shelter in Nashville and a longtime friend of Seigenthaler, quoted from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "Our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. I believe this was John's driving purpose," Strobel said. Seigenthaler died of cancer July 11 at his home in Nashville, surrounded by family. He was 86. He was "a deeply spiritual man," Strobel said. "As long as we're concerned about the injustices of the world, we're concerned about God. ... Live this proposition as John did, that all women and men are created equal." The funeral Mass drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 people to the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, where Seigenthaler had been baptized, grew up, attended school and was married.

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Papal astronomer wins recognition for excellence in communication

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A papal astronomer won recognition for his ability to communicate accurately and clearly the discoveries of planetary science to the general public. U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, a planetary scientist and meteorite expert at the Vatican Observatory, was awarded the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal for "outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist," said the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, which chooses the annual prize winner. In addition to significantly contributing to the public understanding of and enthusiasm for planetary science, Brother Consolmagno "occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief," the division said in a press release July 2. Through his many books, public lectures, interviews and multimedia presence, Brother Consolmagno "has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can coexist for believers," it said. A native of Detroit and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Jesuit astronomer has been at the Vatican Observatory since 1993, where he is now coordinator for public relations.

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Muralist says inspiration of Holy Spirit drives her creativity, artwork

SYLVANIA, Ohio (CNS) -- Looking over her latest work, Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak picked up a piece of hardened clay depicting the face of St. Joseph and began touching up pinkish tones of glaze that will transform into a glossy flesh-colored finish once fired and cooled. Satisfied with the final coat, the 84-year-old Sister of St. Francis of Sylvania carefully placed the face among the other pieces that will comprise the saint's image, including hair and beard. When a piece is removed, she takes care to return it exactly to the appropriate numbered spot on the 4-foot diameter mural, alongside images of Mary and Jesus of the Holy Family. "Joseph is easier to do than Mary," explained Sister Jane Mary, wearing a pink flowered housecoat over her religious habit. "She has one whole face and you can't divide her face very well. With Joseph I can cut off at the beard, I can cut off part of his hair. But with Mary there's no place you can really divide it. Mary has to be all one piece. Sometimes it's dangerous to do a whole piece because it can crack in the kiln," she said, drawing from nearly four decades of mural-making experience. The mural of the Holy Family for Sandusky Central Catholic Elementary School is one of four that Sister Jane Mary has most recently been commissioned to create.

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Only God can satisfy deepest desires of human heart, speaker says

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Christopher West's overarching message to attendees at the 2014 International Theology of the Body Congress was that man is created by God and for God, and thus only God can satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart. "Man has this insatiable desire for something. God put it there, and it's a desire for God," he told a crowd of hundreds. More than 700 people gathered in Philadelphia July 9 to 11 for the congress. Laypeople, clergy and religious attended panels, discussions and keynote addresses that examined the meaning and relevance of St. John Paul's theology of the body, and how to incorporate it into a new evangelization. Drawing from that theology, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the words of Pope Francis, West's evening keynote speech July 9 addressed how to proclaim the joy of the Gospel with theology of the body. St. John Paul's first major teaching project of his pontificate was a series of short talks given between September 1979 and November 1984 focusing on the meaning of the human body, authentic love, sexuality and marriage in light of biblical revelation. West, who co-founded the Theology of the Body Institute in 2004, is the author of numerous books and audio programs about the late pope's theology and travels the country spreading its message to people of all ages.


Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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