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Cardinal suspends Chicago priest

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CHICAGO -- The saga of Fr. Michael Pfleger, the 30-year pastor of St. Sabina Church here, has reached a new crisis point. In a letter dated April 27, Cardinal Francis George suspended the priest from all ministry at his parish, largely because of remarks Pfleger had made on the nationally broadcast Tavis Smiley radio show the previous week.

On that program Pfleger declared that if he were forced to choose between accepting a high school presidency as the cardinal wished or leaving the priesthood, “then I would have to look outside the church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. … In or out of the church I’m going to continue to do that.”

Gingrich talks of journey to Catholicism

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WASHINGTON -- Tilting toward a run at the presidency, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich traced his spiritual journey from Southern Baptist to Roman Catholic at a Catholic prayer breakfast here on Wednesday.

“People ask me when I decided to become Catholic,” said Gingrich, who formally converted in 2009. “It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized that I should accept the faith that surrounded me.”

The twice-divorced former Georgia congressman has labored to assure conservative Christians of his fidelity to traditional values. Just 11 percent of white evangelicals, and 16 percent of white Catholics, favor Gingrich as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, according to a March Pew Research Center poll.

Gingrich also explained his religious conversion on Tuesday to National Catholic Register, a publication owned by EWTN, a multimedia Catholic network.

“The depth of faith and history contained in the life of the Catholic Church were increasingly apparent to me,” Gingrich said Wednesday. “Slowly, over a decade, the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass became more and more obvious to me.”

Japanese American's life dedicated to serving the poor

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A recent parish survey by the Catholic Volunteer Network revealed that 81 percent of Catholics over the age of 40 had volunteered before. While 77 percent of survey respondents volunteered for less than one week at a time, 10 percent volunteered for long periods (nine months or more).

“It takes a special person to make a lifetime volunteering commitment to serving the poor,” said Jim Lindsay, executive director of the Takoma Park, Md.-based Catholic Volunteer Network.

Ala. church bans social networking with minors

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MOBILE, Alabama -- The Archdiocese of Mobile has told staff and volunteers who work with children that electronic communication with minors must be limited to “providing information related to a ministry or event and not for socialization or other personal interaction.”

The policy, implemented on Friday (April 1), applies to faculty and staff at Catholic schools, as well as adults who work with minors and teens in youth ministry or religious education.

Israeli peace activist leaves behind legacy of creative rebellion

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APPRECIATION

A masked gunman fatally shot Israeli-Palestinian actor and peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis April 4 as he was leaving the theater he had co-founded in the Jenin Refugee Camp, located in the Palestinian Territories.

The 52-year-old director, who had just finished discussing a production of “Alice in Wonderland” with a colleague, stepped out to take his one-year-old son home with the babysitter when his assailant fired five times at close range into Mer Khamis’ vehicle, killing him and slightly wounding the babysitter. The child, sitting in his lap, was unharmed.

The murder of the much-loved Mer Khamis has shocked his students and colleagues as well as artists and peace activists around the world. That he was killed on the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a devastating irony for, like King, Mer Khamis understood freedom is essential to peace and expressed this conviction creatively and courageously.

The Anglican woman who awakened us to Catholic mystics

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What is a spiritual classic? Theologian David Tracey says it is a book that transforms the reader, who recognizes in it something essential and true. Its longevity follows from its power to inspire lives.

Christians today are fortunate to be heirs to a revival of these classics, many of which have now been translated and republished. This revival, stimulated by the Second Vatican Council, had earlier antecedents, one of which was Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness, published in London and New York in 1911.

Behind peace witness, a prophetic, transforming priest

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OMAHA, NEB. -- Fr. Jack McCaslin can't remember how many times he's been arrested.

As he sits in a brown reclining chair in his room at a retirement community here, he takes his glasses off and starts turning them over in his hands, pulling at the temples. "I don’t know how many," he says at first, pausing to consider. "About 40, I think?"

Archbishop hospitalized after mild stroke

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis suffered a mild stroke March 18 and was admitted to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

As of March 22, the archbishop remained hospitalized but was resting comfortably. He was alert and talking with his doctors and has been visiting with a few priests of the archdiocese.

According to The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop became dizzy while at home March 18 and called 911. After undergoing tests at St. Vincent, doctors determined that he had suffered a mild stroke.

The archbishop said the day-to-day operations and ministries of the archdiocese would continue as normal while he recuperates. He said he would appreciate everyone's prayers.

Archbishop Buechlein, 72, has suffered a series of health problems over the past three years. In 2008, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and underwent several weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The treatments were successful and he is cancer free.

In 2009, Archbishop Buechlein had shoulder replacement surgery and in 2010 he had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his stomach.

Chicago priest, hired Barack Obama as organizer, dies at 70

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Amidst all the controversy that has swirled around the church over the past decade, it is easy to forget the legions of men and women who have dedicated their lives to the simple idea that they had a duty to magnify the love of God by working selflessly for the wellbeing of others.

Fr. Thomas Kaminski, who died Feb. 12 at age 70, was such a man -- and one who found himself fatefully in a position to animate and applaud the efforts of a young Barack Obama as he was beginning to discover his own calling to a public life.

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April 11-24, 2014

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