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'Reverts' return to their childhood faith

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Bruce Boling was set to celebrate Easter Sunday among Southern Baptists, just as he did when he prayed at a tiny Kentucky church where his family filled half the pews.

After decades away from faith, "I slowly began to see what I was missing was the relationship with God that I could find in my church," said Boling, 45, who has settled in with a little Baptist congregation in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Catholic Charities moves on childhood obesity

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Theologians who study Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body might consider adding a new chapter to that work, a chapter the late, athletically inclined pope would no doubt approve, a chapter for the too many Americans in deep, deep trouble. The wrong kind of calories and not enough exercise have created an unprecedented childhood obesity epidemic in the United States.

Symposium discusses future of Catholic health care

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As Catholic health care systems struggle to survive in a competitive industry, some leaders of the traditionally nonprofit organizations are considering the for-profit model as an alternative.

But how would a change in corporate structure impact the Catholic mission and identity at the core of these organizations?

The question came up again and again as experts in health care, finance and law met with others interested in the future of Catholic health care at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, N.J., March 26-27 to study the issue at a symposium titled, "Is for-profit structure a viable alternative for Catholic health care ministry?"

Cuban-born priest renowned for his ministry in US declared venerable

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NEW YORK -- The Vatican has declared as venerable Fr. Felix Varela, a 19th-century Cuban priest who worked in New York for many years and also lived in Florida.

Both the New York and Miami archdioceses, where there are many proponents of Varela's sainthood cause, announced the declaration Easter Sunday.

It recognizes the priest lived heroic Christian virtues and is the first official step on the priest's path to sainthood.

The second step is beatification, and the third is sainthood. In general, each of those steps needs a miracle to be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint.

During Pope Benedict XVI's March 26-28 visit to Cuba, he praised Varela as "'a shining example' of the contributions a person of faith can make in building a more just society," noted Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski in a press release posted by the archdiocese. "Varela in his own words reminds us that 'there is no authentic fatherland without virtue.'"

An 'invitation to lunch' pastoral theology

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Perhaps it is just a sign of the times that Catholics would be jolted reading that a cardinal, facing a difficult pastoral situation, would publicly acknowledge having asked himself: “How would Jesus act?”

That’s the question that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, asked when considering whether he should let stand a pastor’s decision to prohibit a gay man in a registered domestic partnership to serve on a parish council.

Catholic college disinvites Vicki Kennedy as commencement speaker

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At the behest of Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass., a small Catholic college in his diocese has rescinded its invitation to Victoria Reggie "Vicki" Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to receive an honorary degree and to be its commencement speaker this May.

Anna Maria College in Paxton, a small town just northwest of Worcester, apologized to Kennedy in its March 30 announcement that her invitation to address this year's graduating class has been withdrawn.

Vicar sentenced for conducting sham marriages

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LONDON -- A Church of England vicar has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for conducting hundreds of bogus weddings and illegally pocketing more than 30,000 pounds ($48,000) in fees.

The Rev. Brian Shipsides was convicted and sentenced Tuesday for carrying out a "meticulously planned and orchestrated" immigration fraud over a 2 1/2 period at All Saints Church in east London.

Authorities said the vicar conducted the fake marriages of non-Europeans, mostly Nigerians, to European partners to try to obtain immigration rights to stay in Britain.

Shipsides' conviction comes about 18 months after a similar marriage fraud case, in which another Anglican vicar, the Rev. Alex Brown, was sentenced to four years for conducting 360 sham weddings in southern England.

Shipsides was tried and convicted at the Inner London Crown Court, where Judge Peter Grobel described his actions as "a disgraceful abuse of your calling as an ordained minister of the church."

"There really is no mitigation in respect of this type of offending," Grobel added.

South the most religious part of the nation, says Gallup poll

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PRINCETON, N.J. -- The South is the most religious region of the United States, according to a yearlong poll by Gallup.

Mississippi qualified as the most religious state in the nation, with 59 percent of its residents claiming to be "very religious." Next on the list was the only non-Southern state among the top 12: Utah, where 57 percent of its people say they are very religious.

Placing third overall was Alabama, with 56 percent of its residents claiming to be very religious. The only state in the top 12 with a significant Catholic population was Louisiana, ranking fourth in Gallup's poll, with 54 percent in the state saying they are very religious.

Ranking fifth through 12th were Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Kentucky. The percentage of those who said they were very religious in these states ranged from 54 percent for Arkansas to 47 percent for Kentucky.

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.

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December 5-18, 2014

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