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Catholic Lobby Night in Annapolis canceled

February 16th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

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ANNAPOLIS, MD. — The Maryland Catholic Conference has canceled Catholic Lobby Night due to a winter storm warning. The event was scheduled to take place today from 2:30-9:00 p.m. in Annapolis. Lobby Night is an advocacy event that gives Catholic voters the opportunity to speak in person with their elected officials about issues.

“We appreciate all those who planned to attend but out of concern for safety, we feel this is the best decision,” Maryland Catholic Conference Executive Director Mary Ellen Russell said. “Forecasters are predicting that Anne Arundel County could see 4-6 inches of snow with the storm beginning early in the afternoon.”

Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church’s public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials.

The Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. Approximately 1.2 million Catholics live in Maryland.

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Photo of the week: Portrait from Haiti, five years after quake

February 12th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — If not for the flickering flames under his blackened pot, Jean-Robert Noel might be totally missed.

The man in tattered pants and unzipped vest cooking a midday meal along John Brown Avenue was hard to see from the vehicles whizzing by.

Jean-Robert Noel, who said he was homeless, cooks his meal along a street in in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 9. Five years ago Jan. 12, a devastating earthquake rocked the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Jean-Robert Noel, who said he was homeless, cooks his meal along a street in in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 9. Five years ago Jan. 12, a devastating earthquake rocked the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Noel seemed totally oblivious to the traffic, lighter than usual Feb. 9 because of a general strike organized by transit union leaders and anti-government activists. Then the occupants of one of the vehicles stopped to chat.

“This is the first time somebody come to talk to me,” he said in Creole-accented English, his raspy voice sounding much like a motorcycle zipping by a few feet away.

“I tell you, I have no family,” the squatting, sooty-faced Noel continued, inching closer to his meager possessions: a foam pad, a large backpack and a few plastic bags filled with water bottles. “I don’t know where to sleep. I don’t know where to get money to eat. I have nowhere. I live in the street. I sleep here.”

“Here” is a narrow, dirt-encrusted berm alongside a ruddy stone wall just a few feet from the edge of the roadway.

Stenciled in blue block letters above his head on the wall is a government slogan in Creole: “Kite peyim mache.” (“Let my country move forward.”)

The slogan appears every couple of hundred feet along this stretch of the avenue, perhaps serving as a rallying cry for the beleaguered government of President Michel Martelly. John Brown Avenue is one of the main routes to the middle class suburb of Petionville, where Martelly’s support in the capital region is strongest.

Noel, 41, did not describe himself as homeless, but just without a place to stay. Pedestrians and nearby residents occasionally give him a few Haitian gourdes to buy food, which he uses at a nearby market. On this day, Noel was cooking cornmeal and beans. Other days it’s rice and beans. Meat and fresh vegetables are luxuries he can rarely afford.

Other than those brief interactions, Noel said, he is on his own.

Homelessness in Haiti is not prevalent and social services for homeless people are few. In the city, the occasional homeless person — usually identified by their ragged clothing, dirt-covered bare feet and generally unkempt appearance — is seen silently sitting against a wall with a few coins at his or her feet. Most Haitians manage to find someplace to stay rather than risk life alone on streets.

Noel did not recall how long he has been without a home. Years, he said, without being specific. He recalled that he once painted pictures and made a decent living at it, selling some of his work at a downtown gallery. He signed his name “Jean.”

That was 12 years ago.

“I have no family,” he reminded the visitors. “I got nowhere to sleep. I got nowhere to take a bath. I got nowhere to get some clothes. I don’t have no money. I don’t have no person to get me off the street.

“I’m happy that you talked with me,” he added.

 

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Church agencies help educate displaced Iraqi youth

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Catholic News Service

SHARIAH COLLECTIVE, Iraq — Young children happily sing songs in Kurdish and Arabic, play interactive games, learn to count and how to read and write under a big colorful tent. Meanwhile, teens and pre-teens study more serious subjects.

It’s all part of a pilot project called Child-Friendly Spaces that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas are using to help Iraq’s religious minority children heal after being traumatized by the violence and displacement experienced at the hands of Islamic State (IS) militants.

Displaced Iraqi Yezidi children greet Catholic Relief Service workers and a delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led by Bishop Oscar Cantu, during a visit to Shariah Collective, Iraq,  Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)

Displaced Iraqi Yezidi children greet Catholic Relief Service workers and a delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led by Bishop Oscar Cantu, during a visit to Shariah Collective, Iraq, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)

With most of Iraq’s displaced youth out of school because there are no places in existing institutions, CRS and Caritas staff members said the key to restoring hope is helping them resume their education.

“Of course, the people are affected greatly by the war and crisis after IS attacked and took control of their villages. They are very worried about the future,” said Omar, a project officer for the program who is among the displaced from the strategic Iraqi town of Sinjar. He and others asked that their last names not be used because of fear of repercussion from the militants against family and friends.

“The spaces are to fill the empty time, rather than have children bored or playing in the streets. Now they have a place to organize their time,” he said at one of four child-friendly spaces run by the program, about 30 minutes from Dohuk.

About 1,100 children are involved in the program, said Hani El-Mahdi, CRS Iraq country representative.

“The plan is to set up eight more child-friendly spaces. They all started with private donations. We also need to increase the scale and attract some more private funds,” El-Mahdi explained.

“Definitely the children have missed this school year, but we don’t want them to miss the next school year,” El-Mahdi added.

Islamic State militants attacked Mosul in June and its surrounding villages on the Ninevah Plain and Sinjar in August, thrusting 800,000 displaced Iraqis into the Kurdish region.

A delegation of U.S. Catholics,led by Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in conjunction with CRS, visited northern Iraq Jan. 16-20 to see international church agencies’ work among Iraq’s internally displaced Christians and other religious minorities.

A number of the displaced, such as Omar, are working with CRS and Caritas, sharing their knowledge of what people are experiencing and suggesting ways to help.

The displaced include Christians who taught at the University of Mosul and Muslims and Yezidis, who worked for the United Nations or have professional degrees and are using their expertise to help other displaced minorities.

Yasser, a Christian from the predominantly Christian village of Qaraqosh, said he owned two homes and two businesses before fleeing with his family to a tiny village outside of Dohuk. There, his family and those of his three brothers all share a small, cramped dwelling.

“IS stole everything we had,” Yasser said. “If we were to return home, we might just find walls. IS is now booby-trapping the houses so if the owner returns and opens the door, the house will explode.”

Life in a remote village is also difficult, CRS workers said, because “we don’t have hot water because the electricity isn’t good in the village.”

“But more importantly, my two children cannot continue their studies as there are no nearby opportunities. Now they just sit at home,” Yasser said.

Sarah, a Muslim from Mosul, also helps CRS. She had to cut short her studies when the militants took over Iraq’s second-largest city.

Although Mosul is best known for the Islamic State’s expulsion of Christians who had lived in the region for 16 centuries, Sarah said Muslims also suffered hardship under the group’s radical brand of Islam, and that’s why she fled.

“IS doesn’t respect anybody there, Sunni Muslim, Christian or Yezidi. We saw what they did to the people in Raqqa, where IS has its base in Syria, and we knew we had to escape while we could,” she said.

She described her future as bleak and doubted whether she would be able to return to Mosul; she said people will have become distrustful because of the violence perpetrated by the militants.

Yasser agreed.

“There is no culture of peace in the world. Instead we see the opposite,” he said. “People have changed inside. We should work for peace.”

Kevin Hartigan, CRS regional director for Europe and the Middle East, said the agency is committed to supporting education for the displaced youth.

“We will be working with all the other actors, with the U.N. agencies, the local government, the Ministry of Education, the church, church schools, partner agencies and religious congregations to try to find a number of solutions,” said Hartigan, who also was in Iraq to see CRS programs.

“We need to look at every way we can be useful to the different local actors that are trying to expand education so it might be improving physical infrastructure, buildings, training teachers, providing funding for the creation of new schools and equipping of them,” he told Catholic News Service.

Providing curricula in both Kurdish and Arabic poses another challenge to the agencies. The displaced Christians mainly speak Arabic, while a number of Yezidis and other religious minorities speak Kurdish.

“We have to be open to everything,” Hartigan said. “We will take the lead of the local government and the church to decide how to manage these issues and will support whatever solution or consensus the Iraqis come to.”

 

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Commentary: Time for all people and nations to repent and live the Gospel

February 12th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

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“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

With these two compelling sentences recorded in the Gospel of Mark Jesus inaugurates his ministry and sums up what his mission is about: to break the shackles of sin that enslave humanity, to put us on the path of liberation from all oppression, and to teach us how to unconditionally love one another .

But what does it mean to repent? Read more »

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Catholic schools battle each other in girls basketball

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For The Dialog

 

The state’s biggest girls rivalry is on the schedule as the regular season winds down.

Tuesday

St. Thomas More (5-9) at Red Lion (3-13), 6 p.m.

Charter (15-1) at Archmere (8-8), 6:15 p.m. Archmere seeks a signature win as it fights for a playoff spot. Charter is playing for postseason seeding.

St. Mark’s (6-10) at Padua (10-5), 7:15 p.m. The Pandas honor their seniors and look to sweep the Spartans.

St. Elizabeth (12-5) at Ursuline (16-1), 7:15 p.m. The top-ranked Raiders host No. 3 St. Elizabeth in one of Delaware’s best sports rivalries. Ursuline has won 11 straight, including a 59-40 win over the Vikings on Jan. 5, but St. E is playing much better basketball. Expect a full house.

Wednesday

St. Thomas More at Conrad (3-11), 3:30 p.m.

Thursday

Sussex Central (12-3) at St. Mark’s, 7:15 p.m.  This is the second of three top-10 opponents this week for St. Mark’s. Central is ranked fourth in the state; its only in-state losses this season have come to Ursuline and St. Elizabeth.

Friday

Archmere at Wilmington Christian (8-7), 5:30 p.m.

Saturday

Padua at Dover (12-3), 10 a.m.

St. Thomas More at St. Andrews (8-8), 1 p.m.

Ursuline at St. Mark’s, 7:15 p.m.

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U.K. House of Commons OKs genetic manipulation, including ‘three-parent’ in vitro fertilization

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Catholic News Service

The British House of Commons voted to legalize a genetic process to fight the transmission of mitochondrial diseases, such as muscular dystrophy.

If the legislation is approved in the House of Lords, Britain would become the first country to allow scientists to alter the human germ line in trying to defeat incurable diseases.

A culture vessel is injected with culture liquid at a Leipzig, Germany, center for assisted reproductive technology in this July 2011. The House of Commons has approved an IVF method that will use genetic material from three "parents." (CNS/EPA file)

A culture vessel is injected with culture liquid at a Leipzig, Germany, center for assisted reproductive technology in this July 2011. The House of Commons has approved an IVF method that will use genetic material from three “parents.” (CNS/EPA file)

The two procedures covered by the regulations are highly controversial because they are not permitted in any other country in the world, with international scientific opinion divided over their effectiveness.

Catholic leaders and organizations expressed concern about the Feb. 3 vote on regulations governing the practice, saying that the process involves the destruction of human embryos.

After a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons, members voted 328-128 to approve the unamendable legislation.

Afterward, Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster issued a statement on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“Whilst the church recognizes the suffering that mitochondrial diseases bring and hopes that alternative methods of treatment can be found, it remains opposed on principle to these procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process,” he said.

“This is about a human life with potential, arising from a father and a mother, being used as disposable material,” he added. “The human embryo is a new human life with potential; it should be respected and protected from the moment of conception and not used as disposable material.”

Mitochondria are the biological power packs that give energy to nearly every cell of the body. Genetic defects can leave the cells starved of energy, causing muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases. It is estimated that, each year, defective mitochondrial defects affect one in every 6,500 babies in the United Kingdom.

Two procedures were covered by the regulations.

The maternal spindle transfer technique involves the extraction of the genetic material from a mother’s egg, which is then inserted into a donor egg in which the maternal spindle has been removed and discarded. The reconstituted egg then is fertilized by the father’s sperm before implantation in the mother. The procedure is known as “three-parent IVF.”

The second technique, pronuclear transfer, involves up to four parents. Potential parents would go through the procedure for in vitro fertilization with the embryo from the parents seeking a child to be combined with parts of a donor embryo. The process requires that both embryos be destroyed while the mother’s embryo is effectively cloned and repackaged before the cells begin to multiply and grow into a baby.

During the House of Commons debate Jane Ellison, public health minister, told politicians they had nothing to fear.

“This is a bold step for Parliament to take, but it is a considered an informed step,” she said. “This is world-leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime and, for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”

After the vote, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, said the proposed techniques fail on ethical grounds.

“They destroy human life, since in order to construct a disease-free embryo, two healthy ones will have to be destroyed. The technique is not a treatment, it does not cure anyone or anything, rather it seeks to remove anyone affected by certain conditions from the human gene pool. Destroying those who have a particular disease and presenting it as a cure or as progress is utterly disingenuous and completely unethical,” he said.

The practice “distorts the natural process of fertility,” Bishop Keenan said.

“It is surprising that a society which increasingly favors and supports natural and environmentally friendly products and services should countenance the genetic modification of human beings. How can we object when scientists genetically modify plants, but not when they do the same with people?” he asked.

Helen Watt of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, an Oxford-based institute serving the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland, called the vote’s outcome “a disaster.”

“We can only hope that the House of Lords will take a more skeptical approach,” she said. “No one will be treated by these techniques, which transfer nuclear DNA out of and into eggs or embryos in the course of producing genetically modified babies.

“Children born and their descendants may be harmed in ways we are currently unable to predict,” she said. “This is human experimentation, to say nothing of the embryos destroyed — in the case of one procedure, two embryos destroyed every time that procedure is performed.”

During the House of Commons debate, Fiona Bruce, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told members they were being asked to authorize experiments on children, adding that “the implications of this simply cannot be predicted.”

“But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the genie is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorize today go ahead, there will be no going back for society,” Bruce said.

The proposed technologies are prohibited by the European Union, opposed by the United Nations, and have been questioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has stated that the “full spectrum of risks … has yet to be identified.”

Among those concerned is Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, who told Catholic News Service Feb. 3 that he was “very disappointed” by the vote.

“With all the science that has been done on this it is still being portrayed as mitochondrial manipulation,” he said. “It is not, it is nuclear manipulation.”

Newman said he had no doubt the procedures amounted to the genetic modification of human beings.

“It’s basically the creation of a being from the bits and pieces of cells from different people,” he said. “Scientifically, it you try to put together an organism from fragments of cells, it’s going to mostly not work. Frequently it will look normal, but there will be things wrong with it. That has been shown experimentally.”

He said it was dangerous because it disrupted the “evolutionary compatibility” between the nucleus of a cell and the mitochondria of the cell.

“It is going to lead to children with conditions which, in some cases, will probably be worse than the conditions they are trying to avoid,” he said.

 

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Martyrdom is not a thing of the past, pope says at Mass

February 6th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Reading the Gospel account of St. John the Baptist’s death on the feast of St. Paul Miki and other Japanese martyrs, Pope Francis said his thoughts naturally turn to those Christians being persecuted and killed today because of their faith.

“When I read this passage, I muzst confess, I get emotional,” the pope said Feb. 6 during the morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.

Pope Francis leads his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 4. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis leads his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 4. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope gave two reasons why he is so moved by the passage from Mark’s Gospel about Herod ordering St. John the Baptist’s beheading: first, because of the situation of persecuted Christians today; and second, because it is a reminder that everyone, even the great prophets, will die.

“I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of today, those men, women and children who are persecuted, hated, chased from their homes, tortured and massacred,” he said. “This is not something from the past; it is happening today. Our martyrs are ending their lives under the corrupt authority of people who hate Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis said it is important to remember the modern martyrs and those facing persecution. Feb. 6 is the feast of St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were killed in Japan in 1597, the pope said. The stunning thing is that such persecution continues “in 2015!”

The pope told the small congregation in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives that the Gospel passage also reminds him that everyone is on the same path toward “the ground, where we all will end up.”

“I, too, will meet my end,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “No one can buy life. Whether we want to or not, we all are on the path toward the existential end of our lives. This, at least for me, makes me pray that at the end I will resemble, as closely as possible, Jesus Christ and his end.”

 

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Tatnall overwhelms Ravens in girls basketball, 58-36

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Tatnall and St. Thomas More were tied just once, at 2-2, before the Hornets broke things open in a 58-36 win in girls basketball Thursday afternoon at Tatnall. The Hornets snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 6-10 on the season.

The game started off a bit helter-skelter, as St. Thomas More committed several turnovers that Tatnall was not able to turn into points. The Hornets’ Michaella Moore opened the scoring 70 seconds in with a short jumper, but that was it until Kelsey Huffman answered with STMA’s first bucket nearly two minutes later. Read more »

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Broadcasting the Good News on Eastern Shore

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Bishop Malooly thanked officials at MTS Broadcasting Feb. 4 for years of broadcasting Catholic programming during a visit to the company’s offices in Cambridge, Md.

Bishop Malooly presents a certificate of appreciation to Shane Walker (left0, operations manager, and Troy Hill, general manager of MTS Broadcasting in Cambridge, Md., on Feb. 4 (Bob Krebs/Diocese of Wilmington).

Bishop Malooly presents a certificate of appreciation to Shane Walker (left, operations manager, and Troy Hill, general manager of MTS Broadcasting in Cambridge, Md., on Feb. 4
(Bob Krebs/Diocese of Wilmington).

The bishop presented a certificate of appreciation to Shane Walker, operations manager, and Troy Hill, general manager of MTS.

The four radio stations that are owned and operated by MTS have been airing programming produced or distributed by the Office of Communications of the Diocese of Wilmington for many years.

Currently, Catholic Forum airs on WAAI-FM 100.9 on Sunday mornings at 9:05 a.m. and Country Roads airs Sunday mornings at 6:05 on WCEM-FM 106.3, at 6:30 a.m. on WAAI-FM 100.9 and at 8:30 a.m. on Radio 1240 WCEM-AM.

During the bishop’s visit to the stations, he was interviewed by Hill for his Good Morning Mid-Shore public affairs program.

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Maryland governor supports education tax credit bill

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ANNAPOLIS, MD. — In his first State of the State address, Gov. Larry Hogan announced his support for the Maryland Education Credit. The legislation is dedicated to ensuring that every K-12 student in Maryland has access to high-quality, diverse, and affordable education opportunities.

The Maryland Education Credit will provide a tax credit to businesses that donate to nonprofit organizations that support public and nonpublic school students.

“We are grateful that Gov. Hogan mentioned the education tax credit issue during his State of the State address,” Maryland Catholic Conference Executive Director Mary Ellen Russell said. “We understand there are challenges in the budget but the tax credit will leverage private business support for the education of poor kids in both public and nonpublic schools. We look forward to working with the House and Senate to find funding for all students.”

For more information, visit educationmaryland.org.

Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church’s public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. Approximately 1.2 million Catholics live in Maryland.

 

 

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