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Archbishop calls for support for those living with autism

VATICAN CITY -- The church needs to address the alienation often surrounding those living with autism, especially children and young people, by coming to the aid of those affected, said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.

The archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said those who draw near to people with autism can help break down the barriers of silence and join in them in solidarity and prayer.

The archbishop made his comments in the council's message for Monday, the Fifth World Autism Awareness Day.

"The church sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people -- children and young people in particular -- and their families, if not to break down these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering," the archbishop said.

Along with suffering often come frustration and resignation, especially from the families of those affected, said the archbishop. Families experience repercussions and are often "led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalizes and wounds," he said.

Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize; has 'universal voice of compassion'

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WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. -- The Dalai Lama was named Thursday as the winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize.

A statement from the John Templeton Foundation, which selects the winner, said his "long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science and with people far beyond his own religious traditions has made him an incomparable global voice for universal ethics."

The prize, which includes an award of about $1.7 million -- the monetary award must always be larger than those offered in the Nobel Prizes -- will be presented to the Dalai Lama in London May 14.

"With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world's problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer," said a March 29 statement by John M. Templeton Jr., foundation president and chairman. "The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being."

Man behind 'Rapture pets' rescue admits it's a hoax

The owner of a business who claimed he would provide atheist rescuers for Christians' pets left behind in the Rapture now says his service was an elaborate hoax and never had any clients.

Bart Centre, who lives in New Hampshire, came clean after the state Insurance Department delivered a subpoena because he appeared to be engaged in "unauthorized business of insurance" through his Eternal Earth-Bound Pets business.

"Eternal Earth-Bound Pets employs no paid rescuers," Bart Centre wrote in a blog post March 16. "It has no clients. It has never issued a service certificate. It has accepted no service contract applications nor received any payments -- not a single dollar -- in the almost three years of its existence."

Centre's business was reported widely by Religion News Service, NPR, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, CBS News, the BBC, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Huffington Post and other media outlets in the last year.

Romero's message resonates with new generation of Catholics

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WASHINGTON -- Each spring, the doors of the small church near Candler, close to Asheville in North Carolina, are flung open to let in the burgeoning number of congregants.

Seats fill fast on or around March 24, said Edith Segovia, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church. Increasingly, she sees younger churchgoers arriving to celebrate the life of a man who died before many of them were born.

Retired Catholic Relief Services leader to receive 2012 Laetare Medal

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Ken Hackett, who retired in December after 18 years as president of Catholic Relief Services, will receive the University of Notre Dame's 2012 Laetare Medal.

Holy Cross Fr. John I. Jenkins, university president, announced the honor Sunday. Given annually since 1883 to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity," it will be presented at Notre Dame's 167th commencement ceremony May 20.

"Ken Hackett has responded to a Gospel imperative with his entire career," Jenkins said in a statement. "His direction of the Catholic Church's outreach to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and unsheltered of the world has blended administrative acumen with genuine compassion in a unique and exemplary way."

Why is it so hard to do religion in prime time?

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Many TV network executives, advertisers and producers would sell their souls to get the kind of audience God has. But giving religion a starring role in prime time? Not so much.

Religion, God and spirituality have made cameos across the dial from "The Sopranos" to "The Simpsons" -- though usually as a prop or walk-on role. But shows where religion is a central part of the premise are rare, and the ratings are generally far from heavenly.

Doctor who championed 'death with dignity' dies at 83

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Peter Goodwin, the first doctor in Oregon to campaign publicly for the terminally ill to obtain medical help in ending their lives, died shortly after exercising the right he fought to secure. He was 83.

Goodwin's four adult children and their spouses surrounded him in his apartment when he took a planned overdose of a prescribed drug Sunday.

He died less than 30 minutes later, said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices of Oregon.

Goodwin, a retired professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, was diagnosed six years ago with a rare neurological disorder called corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, which is similar to Parkinson's disease but has no treatment or cure.

He spent his last weeks talking on the phone with friends and accepting brief visits from longtime comrades. He said the Death with Dignity Act was his most significant public legacy because passage prodded medicine to improve palliative and hospice care of the dying.

Friends praised Goodwin as a brave public figure who took up a cause that in the early 1980s drew fierce criticism from Oregon's doctors, clergy and politicians.

Priest who denied lesbian woman Communion suspended for other reasons

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- Two weeks after Fr. Marcel Guarnizo reportedly denied Communion to a lesbian woman at her mother's funeral, the Washington Archdiocese suspended him from priestly ministry -- but for other reasons, said Fr. Thomas LaHood, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg, where Guarnizo had been parochial vicar for the past year.

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