National Catholic Reporter

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Identity pressures at heart of Caritas ferment


A rare excursion from the Vatican train station kicked off a May 22-27 General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, an apt gesture for the main umbrella group of Catholic charities around the world. The last time a train moved along the world’s smallest international rail line was in 2002, when John Paul convoked a summit of religious leaders in Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace and justice.

The train ride was symbolically fitting in another sense, however, because it’s the kind of trip one normally makes with baggage.

Canada's new Catholic House speaker

OTTAWA, Ontario -- The newly elected speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, 32, has never hidden his Catholic faith from public life.

But the Saskatchewan representative's stands on issues have not given him a reputation for divisiveness. Instead, his record helped him make history as the youngest man to be elected to the leadership role that comes with huge responsibilities and accompanying perks.

Scheer was elected June 2 after seven hours of voting on a field of eight candidates. The speaker only votes on issues in the event of a tie.

"I have often said that we are all motivated by the same thing," Scheer told the House after the final ballot. "We may disagree fundamentally on issues and ideas, but we all do sincerely want Canada to be the best country it can be. I have come to appreciate that on a personal level with each and every member."

Campaign Life Coalition has rated him pro-life and pro-family based on his voting record and public statements.

Philippine prelates criticize Congress' decision to delay Mindanao vote


MANILA, Philippines
Church leaders have criticized Congress' decision to postpone August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"The law is not respected, and we, here in Mindanao, are not given the opportunity to choose our own leaders," said Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela, in Basilan province.

"We want the elections and not the imposition of leaders," the prelate said. His remarks were reported by the Asian church news agency UCA News.

On June 7, the Philippine Senate and House agreed to postpone the elections in the region to coincide with Philippine midterm elections in 2013. Proponents of the legislation said this allowed more time for the government-rebel peace process as well as allow time for reform in the region, site of decades of fighting by Muslim separatists.

The Commission on Elections stopped preparing for the elections while it waits to see if the Supreme Court upholds or overturns the congressional decision.

Auxiliary Bishop Jose Bagaforo of Cotabato said the principle of autonomy was violated with the vote and the decision would fuel protests in the region.

US Catholic health care is a treasure



The American Catholic bishops appear to have a grudge against Catholic health care.

In December, the bishop of Phoenix pronounced St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center no longer Catholic. Earlier he declared the sister of Mercy who was responsible for assuring the hospital fulfilled its Catholic mission had automatically been excommunicated because she participated in a decision to permit removal of the placenta from a pregnant patient dying of pulmonary hypertension.

With faith, insight, Joe Feuerherd held all to account


The untimely death of Joe Feuerherd is much regretted. Just a few weeks ago I had the benefit of Joe's writing in an April 8 column entitled "Kmiec takes friendly fire." The column presented Joe's analysis of an event that should otherwise not have been newsworthy: namely, a routine Office of Inspector General report that found my then-Embassy in Valletta, Malta to be accomplishing, even exceeding, its mission goals.

Pessimism couples hope for change in Haiti


PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- If President Michel Martelly’s vows of change for Haiti are to come true, they’re going to have to be felt by young people like Mikency Jean.

Jean, 22, a native of the city of Cap Haitien, came to the capital of Port-au-Prince at age 11 to work as a domestic servant (or restavek) for her aunt. Jean does not like to dwell much on that work -- there is little to say about 12-hour days cleaning and cooking without pay.

Palestinian Christians wary about Obama's proposals

JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Barack Obama's call for Israeli and Palestinian states based on Israel's 1967 borders met with a largely wary response from Palestinian Christians.

While the Palestinians welcomed Obama's proposal -- which includes mutually agreed-upon land swaps -- in May 19 and 22 speeches, they doubted that Israel would easily back away from Palestinian territory it has occupied for nearly 44 years.

Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a promoter of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, called Obama's proposal "symbolic."

"It was like every other president, he pushes the envelope a bit more than the previous president. That's not enough," he said.

Awad added that the plight of Palestinian refugees must be recognized and solved.

As an activist, Awad also expressed disappointment that Obama failed to acknowledge what he believes to be a growing Palestinian nonviolence movement that seeks to challenge Israeli policy.

With a thousand Anglican converts, ordinariate gets going



Not for nothing has the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome been known as the “Suprema.” It does not specialize in consultation with other bodies, whether within the Vatican or elsewhere. This mindset was spectacularly exhibited with the abrupt unveiling of a new supra-territorial Roman Catholic church structure titled a “Personal Ordinariate,” with its doors open to groups of disaffected Anglicans throughout the world who were invited to move collectively to Rome, bringing their Anglican patrimony with them. This explosive device had been secretly laid below the surface of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations by a small party of doctrinal congregation sappers, encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI. In press conferences on Oct. 20, 2009, it was detonated.

African bishops seek help forming flourishing vocations


WASHINGTON -- Although African vocations are flourishing, the continent needs people to form those vocations, and African bishops visited Washington looking for such help.

Tanzanian Cardinal Polycarp Pengo said the major regional seminary in his city, Dar es Salaam, has 192 students and only 10 formators.

"Of course, the formation cannot be that good," the cardinal told Catholic News Service in an early May interview. "For me, this (formation) is the greatest need we have."

Cardinal Pengo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, said he would like to see U.S. seminary professors spend time teaching in Africa. He said he would like to send seminarians to the United States, where some could remain for a while after graduation while others would return to Africa to teach.

English, Welsh bishops reintroduce meatless Fridays

LONDON -- Catholics in England and Wales will be obliged to abstain from meat every Friday under a new rule brought by the bishops.

The "act of common witness" will take effect Sept. 16, the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain.

The rule, announced at a news conference in London in mid-May, reverses a relaxation of the Friday penance regulations introduced in England and Wales in 1984. This allowed Catholics to choose their own form of Friday penance -- such as offering additional prayers, attending Mass or abstaining from alcohol.

But critics have said that the end of a tradition in which Catholics ate fish or eggs instead of meat on Fridays led to a loss of common identity, with many Catholics today abstaining from meat only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The return to an obligation to abstain from meat was a key resolution of the bishops' May plenary meeting held in Leeds, England, May 9-16.

"Every Friday is set aside by the church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of Our Lord," said the bishops' resolution.


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February 27- March 12, 2015


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