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Notable Brazilian Catholic doctor dies in Haiti

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SAO PAULO, Brazil
Dr. Zilda Arns Neumann, 75, a pediatrician who founded the Brazilian bishops' children's ministry, was among those who died in the Jan. 12 Haitian earthquake.

She was in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, to participate in missionary meetings and to help the Caribbean country consolidate its children's ministry and create a methodology to combat malnutrition.

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Sao Salvador da Bahia, who helped her create the children's ministry in 1983, said Neumann lived a life dedicated to others.

Neumann was known throughout Brazil for her dedication to improving the health and quality of life of children.

She was the sister of Sao Paulo's retired archbishop, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns. In an interview with Agencia Estado news agency, Cardinal Arns was quoted as saying that his sister died a "beautiful death, because she died for a cause she always believed in."

Mother of five and grandmother of 10, Neumann was a member of the Brazilian bishops' permanent council, Brazil's National Health Council and the National Economic and Social Development Council.

Catholic University philosopher builds bridges

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WASHINGTON -- In 40 years of quiet work, Oblate Fr. George F. McLean has traveled the globe -- China, India, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America -- promoting intercultural dialogue and understanding on basic human and social issues among thinkers in scores of countries.

“We had 10 meetings behind the Iron Curtain before the [Berlin] Wall came down in 1989,” McLean said, referring to seminars he arranged during the Cold War years involving Western philosophers and leaders of academies of science in communist countries.

US astronomers honor Jesuit astronomer

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Veteran astronomer Jesuit Father George V. Coyne was honored by the American Astronomical Society for his work in building a Vatican-sponsored summer school for young astronomers and promoting discussions on the intersection of religion and science.

Coyne, retired director of the Vatican Observatory, received the George Van Biesbroeck Prize at the opening of the society's 215th general meeting Jan. 4 in Washington. The honor included a citation and a cash prize.

NCR editor Tom Fox interviewed Coyne in May 2007 for an NCR podcast. Listen to the podcast: Fr. George Coyne: Science, Faith and God

In presenting the honor, society president John Huchra cited Coyne's work with the Vatican Observatory Summer School, which brings 25 graduate students to the observatory's headquarters in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, every two years for a month of intensive research.

Huchra also said Coyne's efforts to bring scientists and religious leaders together to discuss the intersection of religion and science has led to greater understanding in both fields.

Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx dead at 95

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The Belgian-born Dutch Dominican theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, died Dec. 23 at the age of 95 in Nijmegen, Netherlands, where he lived and taught for more than five decades. He wrote well into his 90s.

He died of natural causes.

Precious Blood Fr. Robert Schreiter, considered the leading U.S. expert on Schillebeeckx, said his legacy will live on, principally for several major contributions. He was the first Catholic scholar to take seriously all the historical research on Jesus that had been done in the 19th and 20th centuries and present it in an intelligible way.

"Anyone who ignores that will not be taken seriously today," said Schreiter, a professor of theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Schillebeeckx also pioneered the idea of examining "the historical backgrounds of what seemed to be infallible truths and relating their real meaning" in an intelligible way, he said. "He insisted that normal people ought to be able to see a measure of reasonableness in Catholic teaching and be able to link their experiences with the revelation traditions of the Christian faith."

Lesbian bishop aware but undaunted by controversy

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Since becoming the first lesbian to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal church Dec. 5, the Rev. Mary Glasspool has been hailed as a gay rights pioneer and maligned as the straw that will finally break the back of the Anglican Communion.

Glasspool “wavered two or three times” before agreeing to be nominated as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, she said in an interview Dec. 9. But friends and spiritual counselors reminded her to follow her own preaching.

“Look, you believe in the Holy Spirit,” she said they told her. “You’ve always said the Holy Spirit is in charge. Your job is to follow where it leads.”

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Update: March 17, 2010

Second gay bishop OK’d for Episcopal Church

A lesbian priest has been confirmed as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, making her the Episcopal Church’s second openly gay bishop and potentially widening its breach with Anglicans overseas.

Through illness, mother keeps poet son's legacy alive

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BETHESDA, MD. -- It’s standing-room only at the Borders bookstore here, where Jeni Stepanek is talking about her new book, Messenger. The book is about her son Mattie, the New York Times-bestselling inspirational poet who died five years ago at the age of 13 after battling a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

It’s the same disease that now confines Jeni Stepanek to a wheelchair.

In his short life, Mattie wrote six books of poetry and a collection of essays that he collaborated on with Jimmy Carter. He became a friend to the rich and famous and touched millions of people around the world with a message of hope and peace.

Bringing Hildegard back

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NEW YORK -- Many actors talk about their work as a calling. Few, if any, feel that call came from someone who died 900 years ago. But Linn Maxwell does.

She has no recollection of how she first heard of Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th-century German abbess and writer. She only knows she couldn’t say no to her. “I’m convinced Hildegard stayed on my case,” she says. “I didn’t choose to do it. She chose me.”

Bringing passion to what the world most needs

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20th in the "In Search of the Emerging Church" Series.

Patrick Keenan, 26, Formation Director at Hopeworks ‘N Camden, was born and raised in Western New York, just south of Buffalo and went to St. Bonaventure University, an institution run by the Franciscans.

It was through St. Bonaventure’s that he connected with the St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, one of the older soup kitches in Philadelphia. The kitchen is open 365 days a year and on average serves about 400 meals a day to homeless, elderly, those who have lost jobs or families having difficulty making ends meet.

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