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Faith & Parish

Vatican's justice and peace head meets with U.S. social action leaders

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WASHINGTON – Addressing more than 300 U.S. Catholic social justice leaders, the Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson urged them to keep their focus on building a just society “at a time of great financial difficulty not only for the United States but for the world.”

In working for justice “we are the reflections of the living body of Christ,” he said.

Turkson, former archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which has drawn more than 300 participants from dioceses and other Catholic organizations across the country.

In his keynote address he focused on the 120th anniversary to the first papal social encyclical, Leo XIII’s 1891 letter Rerum Novarum, on the condition of labor, and the legacy of Catholic social teaching that has grown since then.

Catholic health care plan in Arizona under review

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The Catholic hospitals in Arizona provide managed health care to qualified poor people under a state Medicaid program called the Mercy Care Plan -- a plan that is now under severe church scrutiny.

In December, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix challenged Mercy Care, saying that under it Catholic facilities are providing, or at least formally cooperating in providing, abortion and other family-planning services that are prohibited by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Facilities.”

The directives are normative for Catholic health care in the United States.

Olmsted decreed that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix can no longer call itself Catholic because in 2009 it performed an operation that he and his advisors consider a direct abortion and because he has judged that its involvement in the Mercy Care Plan over many years violates several of the bishops’ directives.

Higher education leaders commit to strengthening Catholic identity

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ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON -- Affirming and strengthening Catholic identity was the central theme of the 2011 gathering of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, held here Jan. 29-31.

From convention addresses and NCR interviews with participants, it seemed evident that the gathered presidents and administrators, coming from most of the 230-some U.S. Catholic institutions of higher learning represented by the association, were not just committed to maintaining and strengthening their Catholic identity: They were enthusiastic about it and were finding more ways to do it successfully.

The puzzle of 20-somethings

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NEW YORK -- As Jennifer Sawyer prepared the remarks she was to deliver on Jan. 29 at a Fordham University conference titled “Lost? Twenty-Somethings and the Church,” she Googled “spiritual but not religious” -- a phrase she said many of her friends use to describe themselves -- and discovered an entire Web site dedicated to the idea of seeking faith on one’s own terms. What this brought into focus for Sawyer, a 23-year-old production assistant who divides her time between three New York City parishes, was that people are looking for a spiritual connection, but not necessarily finding it within the walls of the church.

“People have difficulties trying to have a relationship with something that doesn’t seem to understand them,” Sawyer said at the conference, “especially when everybody seems to be talking about us, and not to us.”

Irish priests want new missal postponed

DUBLIN -- A group representing more than 400 of Ireland's 4,500 priests has made an urgent plea to the country's bishops to postpone the introduction of the new English translation of the missal for at least another five years.

The call from the Association of Catholic Priests came as the National Center for Liturgy in Maynooth launched a new publication aimed at explaining and preparing priests and laypeople for the changes in the missal. The new texts will be introduced Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the liturgical year.

Windows from closed church find new life

NEWARK, N.J. -- Crouched on a scaffold, Ray Clagnan gingerly tapped his hammer near Saint James' feet, hoping to set them free.

Clagnan, a stained-glass expert, worked slowly, pane by pane. Soon, he moved to Mary Magdalene, carrying away her resplendent image in four pieces.

During a break, he marveled at the level of skill displayed on the windows.

“You would never see decorations as elaborate and detailed as these anymore,” he said. “The painting in each piece, each frame, makes it special.”

Parish construction forces labyrinth removal

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Confusion over the correct classification of a well that supplies water to a Virginia parish has led to the removal of a prayer labyrinth by the parish and an outcry from the labyrinth supporters.

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Va., which is preparing to build a new parish center, had the labyrinth removed to comply with state regulations for a public well. But Candy Hayes, parishioner and original promoter of the labyrinth, said the labyrinth could have been saved, because the parish should have followed private well regulations.

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