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Faith & Parish

More departures than baptisms, a first for Germany

BERLIN (RNS) -- For the first time since membership records have been kept, more Germans departed the Roman Catholic Church than were baptized into it in 2010, according to new data from Germany’s Catholic Conference of Bishops.

The new statistics, which were released with little analysis or comment, showed 170,339 baptisms for the year, and 181,193 departures from the church. However, 3,576 new members, and more than 7,400 returning Catholics, joined the church last year.

Nevertheless, the long-term prognosis does not look good, with overall church membership shrinking, year-on-year, from 24.9 million in 2009 to 24.6 million. Church attendance figures also dipped slightly.

Catholic church leaders across the country reported officiating at 252,965 funerals and 48,524 weddings.

Monuments not the only sites drawing tourists

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the nation's capital, Washington has been visited by millions since its official founding July 16, 1790.

With sites such as the Washington Monument, White House, the Capitol, Library of Congress, the National Archives, Smithsonian museums, and countless monuments and cultural happenings, tourists from across the world come to Washington for a taste of U.S. history.

Lesser known perhaps, but no less fascinating, are the Catholic historical sites around the city that attract pilgrims.

Catholicism in the U.S. was born in the Washington region, and the area still plays a vital part in the U.S. Catholic Church. The District of Columbia is home to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, seminaries, religious houses of prayer, and three prominent Catholic universities -- The Catholic University of America, Georgetown University and Trinity Washington University.

Diocese bids $50 million for Crystal Cathedral

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ORANGE, Calif. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Orange has made a formal bid of $50 million to buy the Crystal Cathedral complex in Garden Grove, once the home church of the Rev. Robert Schuller, a noted television preacher.

The cathedral property was put up for auction earlier this year as part of the cathedral ministries bankruptcy proceedings.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries founded by Rev. Schuller, who is now retired, filed for bankruptcy last October. It was facing debt amounting to more than $50 million.

Cardinal criticizes contraceptives in health plans

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. cardinal expressed strong opposition July 19 to a recommendation that all health plans be required to cover any contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration without a patient co-payment under the new health reform law.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the recommendation from an Institute of Medicine panel showed that "there is an ideology at work ... that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children."

The institute's Committee on Preventive Services for Women made public July 19 its list of recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with deciding which health services will be mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In addition to recommending screenings for gestational diabetes and HIV, breast-feeding support and supplies and counseling for domestic violence, the 16-member panel said all women of reproductive age should have access to "the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling."

New Savannah bishop introduced to diocese

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- The Conventual Franciscan pastor who will become Savannah's bishop Oct. 18 observed at his introduction July 19 that it will take a helicopter to reach the far-flung ends of the diocese.

Bishop-designate Gregory John Hartmayer was introduced that morning by retiring Bishop J. Kevin Boland at a news conference in Layfayette Square, opposite the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

In the shady square, Bishop Boland placed a magenta bishop's zucchetto atop his successor's head, symbolically transferring the diocese to Bishop-designate Hartmayer on the 161st anniversary of its creation.

He joked about "naively" wondering that morning as his retirement became official, whether angels would come down and transfer responsibility.

"I am now like an automobile running out of fuel and I want to get the very last value out of the moment," he said of his last official act as bishop.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation July 19, the same day he named his successor. Bishop Boland is 76; he turned in his resignation at age 75 as required by canon law.

Judge allows Catholic foster care to continue

WASHINGTON -- Two Catholic bishops praised an Illinois judge's ruling late July 12 that the state's termination of its contracts with Catholic agencies providing foster care and adoption services risks causing "irreparable injury" to the nearly 2,000 children involved.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., said he was encouraged by Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt's "recognition today of the grave harm that would result if Catholic Charities was forced out of its long-standing mission of serving children in foster care and adoption."

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield said he was grateful "for the sake of the children in our Catholic Charities foster care program" that the services will be allowed to continue.

Schmidt issued a temporary injunction allowing Catholic Charities agencies in the dioceses of Peoria, Springfield, Joliet and Belleville to continue providing state-funded foster care and adoption services, despite July 8 letters to each agency from Erwin McEwen, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, effectively canceling those contracts as of June 30.

Bishop to Catholics: Suspend support for cancer fund

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WASHINGTON -- Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, has told Catholic institutions and schools in the Diocese of Toledo to suspend fundraising efforts for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation that supports breast cancer research, and instead direct such donations to a local group of Catholic-run cancer centers.

In a July 5 letter to Catholics, Bishop Blair cited Komen's contributions to Planned Parenthood and noted the foundation does not exclude the possibility of funding research that uses embryonic stem cells as reasons Catholic entities should not support the nonprofit organization.

"While we want to do everything possible to support the search for a cure (for cancer), sadly the landscape of medical research today is sometimes marred by the erroneous belief that research is not bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason, as reflected in the teaching of the church," said Bishop Blair.

He acknowledged Komen does not currently fund research using embryonic stem cells, but said its "policy does not exclude that possibility."

Vatican asks bishop to assess Ohio diocese

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CLEVELAND -- The Vatican has asked a retired New Jersey bishop to visit the Diocese of Cleveland and assess the leadership of Bishop Richard G. Lennon at the Ohio bishop's own request.

"While I am confident that I am faithfully handling the responsibilities entrusted to me, I personally made this request earlier this year because a number of persons have written to Rome expressing their concerns about my leadership of the diocese," Bishop Lennon said.

He made the comments in a July 11 statement announcing that Bishop John M. Smith, who headed the Diocese of Trenton from 1997 until his retirement last December, was to spend a week in Cleveland beginning the day the announcement was made.

"This visit will be an opportunity to gather extensive information on all aspects of the activities of the diocese and will allow for an objective assessment of my leadership," Bishop Lennon said. "I ask for prayers that this process will support the vibrancy and vitality of our diocese going forward."

Oakland bishop, parishioners to meet on leadership issues

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BERKELEY, Calif. -- After a month of Sunday demonstrations in front of their church, members of Save St. Joseph the Worker Church have been invited to meet with Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone on July 25 to discuss their concerns about leadership at the parish.

Since early June, in addition to the demonstrations, more than 250 parishioners have sent letters about a growing crisis in the parish and at least two dozen parishioners joined in a one-hour phone blitz to the bishop's office on July 7. In an email the following day, leaders of the group were told that Cordileone would meet with them, a request they have been making for more than a year.

At issue are grievances about the leadership of Fr. John Direen, who took over as pastor two years ago. These include disbanding the pastoral council, limiting participation of El Consejo Latino (the Spanish-speaking advisory council), turning a conference room adjacent to parish offices into a religious book store without parish consultation, and dismissing from the rectory of a long-serving priest who was undergoing cancer treatment.

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August 15-28, 2014

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