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Pope Francis, soccer fan, says fun, not money should rule sports


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Soccer-fan Pope Francis urged professional athletes to always be sportsmanlike on and off the field because so many people, especially kids, look up to them.

The pope also said he wished all sports could be about celebration, not money and big business, which risk “tainting everything.”

Fiorentina’s coach Vincenzo Montella, third from left, presents a gift to Pope Francis during a special audience with soccer teams Fiorentina and Napoli at the Vatican May 2. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope made his remarks during an audience May 2 with the top two ranking Italian major league soccer teams and representatives of an Italian soccer federation.

The audience came the day before the two teams, Fiorentina and Napoli, were to hit the pitch in Rome and vie for the Italian Cup championship title May 3.

The pope, who has been a lifelong supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer team in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said he has “wonderful memories” of going to the stadium. Watching games with his family members reflected some “joyous moments on Sundays,” he recalled.

“I hope that soccer and every other popular sport could recover the sense of celebration.

“Today, soccer, too, is immersed in a world of big business, with advertising, television, etc.,” he said.

“But the economic side must not prevail over sports because it risks tainting everything at the international, national and local levels,” he said.

People at the top of the sports industry need to be proactive, “restoring dignity” to sporting events, he said.

But soccer players and other pro-athletes have enormous responsibility, too, he said.

“You are at the center of attention and many of your fans are young, very young; keep this in mind, think about how your behavior” both good and bad, speaks volumes and influences others, he said.

“Always be true sportsmen,” he added.

The pope explained that sports have important educational value because they contribute to personal growth, highlight the harmony of body and spirit, foster social development and promote the values of “solidarity, loyalty and respect.”

“May soccer always develop this potential,” he said, adding that he hoped the next day’s championship would be “a wonderful celebration.”

The delegates visiting the pope gave him soccer balls and team jerseys signed by the players.

One of the players to greet the pope was a former player on the San Lorenzo team who now plays for Fiorentina.

The future pope played basketball when he was young, and was a longtime card-carrying member of the San Lorenzo soccer team.

When he was cardinal of Buenos Aires, he lamented that the fan scene had deteriorated since his youth.

At the worst, “people would yell at the referee that he was a bum, a scoundrel, a sellout … nothing in comparison to the epithets they use today,” he said in a book of interviews titled, “Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio.”


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Most U.S. Catholics under 30 are Hispanics — Parishes that don’t do Hispanic ministry well, face uncertain future, researcher says

May 8th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Training of pastoral leaders and provision of most other resources for Hispanic ministry aren’t keeping up with the fast-approaching time when Hispanics will make up the majority of Catholics in the United States, according to a new report.

Hispanic teens and young adults who celebrated “Pascua Juvenil,” a young people’s Easter, at Our Lady of Fatima Church in New Castle, April 26-27. More than 170 Hispanic youth from the Diocese of Wilmington participated in the diocesan event that included Scripture reflections, Easter Mass at dawn, dramatic presentations, as well as songs and music. (Courtesy Office of Hispanic Ministry)

“Hispanic Catholics have reached critical mass in the church,” said Hosffman Ospino, lead author of the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry. He said 55 percent of all U.S. Catholics under the age of 30 are Hispanic and Hispanics account for 71 percent of the growth in the U.S. Catholic population since 1960.

“Ignoring the growth of Hispanic Catholics in the United States would be self-defeating for our churches and schools,” he added.

Ospino, assistant professor of theology and ministry at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, presented his findings from the first major survey of how parishes are handling the rapid demographic shift May 5 at the college.

Hispanics currently account for about 40 percent of all U.S. Catholics and their share of the population is continuing to increase. Nationwide, 4,358 parishes, almost one-quarter of the U.S. total, were identified as having some sort of organized ministry to Hispanics.

The study cited many signs of vitality in parish Hispanic ministry — including youth, a strong permanent diaconate system and thriving apostolic movements. But other areas require urgent attention, it said.

Among the “urgent dynamics” of parish Hispanic ministry that are in need of attention, it listed: disproportionately limited financial and human resources, a “disquieting gap” in Hispanic enrollment in Catholic schools, and a cohort of pastoral leaders who are approaching retirement age with too few people in training to replace them.

The study pointed out that the oldest Catholic parishes under the flag of the United States were and continue to be Hispanic.

In the Southwest, a vibrant Catholic Church existed long before the United States acquired parts of Mexico, making for Hispanic-dominated parishes that predated the development of “national” parishes. National parishes were created in the 19th century to minister to European immigrants such as Germans, Italians and Poles, intended to be a temporary system for helping newcomers maintain their faith connections while they integrated.

As the study notes, “when absorbing the annexed Mexican territories, long-standing Hispanic parishes were typically treated as ‘only’ national parishes,” although many different nationalities fall under the cluster of Hispanic.

The report is a summary of the findings of a national study, conducted by the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate of Georgetown University. Several future reports will delve into angles such as education and leadership training, Ospino told Catholic News Service.

The study is based on responses to surveys sent to diocesan and parish leaders who work in Hispanic ministry. Parishes were counted as offering Hispanic ministry if they offer Mass or religious education in Spanish, for example, even if they don’t formally have a Hispanic ministry program, Ospino said.

Other elements in the report include discussion of leadership structures and leadership development; apostolic movements such as Cursillo and Communion and Liberation; and programming and education for children, youth and adults

In an event at Boston College where the study was released, Mark Gray, of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, said one conclusion he draws from the study that should catch the attention of church leaders is “if you don’t do Hispanic ministry well, then you face an uncertain future.”

Unlike past generations of immigrants, he said, people today have many more choices in where they can go to worship, whether another Catholic parish that offers something different, a non-Catholic Christian church that is welcoming or even the growing phenomena of dropping all religious affiliation.

“We call them drive-bys,” Gray said, because people will drive by a church that doesn’t offer what they need and go elsewhere.

Timothy Matovina, a University of Notre Dame professor of theology and executive director of that school’s Institute for Latino Studies, pointed to some of the study’s findings he thinks are significant: that two-thirds of the pastors doing Hispanic ministry are not Hispanic; that most of them got any training they have in Hispanic ministry on their own; and that just 13 percent said they received relevant training in Hispanic ministry in the seminary.

Matovina also observed that the immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean who are adding to the surge of Hispanics in the church are arriving to find a different sort of church than did earlier waves of immigrants.

“A hundred years ago, immigrants arrived to an immigrant church,” he said. “Now they are arriving to a middle-class church.”

It will be important to the future of the church for the more established parts of the church, where there is more money and power, to think of the growing sector of less-wealthy Hispanics as deserving of their support as part of the same church, Ospino said.

Ospino told a story to illustrate how that’s relevant to meeting the pastoral needs of a working-class or poor group of newcomers.

He described a parish with a high level of immigrants that was in financial crisis. The parish was administered by a religious order that also ran three wealthier, nonimmigrant parishes in the same region. The religious order leaders went to the three wealthier parishes asking for support to keep the immigrant parish open. “They said no,” Ospino said.

In a subsequent interview, Ospino said perspectives such as that of the nonimmigrant parishes in that story illustrate a basic flaw in how many American Catholics think about the growth of Hispanics toward dominance in the church.

“We need to shift the language in the church,” Ospino said. “We can’t simply treat Hispanics as a subgroup of the church anymore. In many parts of the country, to speak about Hispanic Catholics is to speak about the majority of the church.”


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Pope: New attitude of ‘evangelical service’ must take hold at Vatican

May 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis told his new economic oversight council that it must be “courageous and determined” in its critical role of helping the church not waver from its real mission of bringing the Gospel to the world and helping those most in need.

The church has a duty to use its assets and manpower responsibly in promoting its spiritual mandate, and “a new mentality of evangelical service” must take hold throughout the Vatican, the pope said May 2.

The pope’s comments came the same day the new Vatican Council for the Economy met for the first time since the pope established the council in February. Read more »

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Cardinal O’Connor’s mother was convert from Judaism, research shows

May 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,


Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Cardinal John J. O’Connor, who as archbishop of New York cultivated and cherished his strong ties with the Jewish community, was born of a mother who was born Jewish.

It is not known whether he knew that his mother, Dorothy Gumple O’Connor, was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism before she met and married Thomas O’Connor, the late cardinal’s father.

Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s sister, told Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese, that her mother never spoke about having belonged to another faith. Read more »

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Parish installs Marian shrine to bring comfort to those with addictions


Catholic News Service

DARBY, Pa. (CNS) — Just about every Catholic Church has at least one and often several images of Mary, and that is certainly the case at Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Darby.

It is an old church, built in 1930, but one shrine to Mary is new. It was installed just last October and is unique among the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s 235 parishes.

A large icon painted especially for the church was executed by celebrated artist Brother Michael (Mickey) O’Neill McGrath, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who also gave a reflection at the parish. It is titled “Our Lady of Light, Help of the Addicted.” Read more »

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Opinion: Where have all the kind people gone?

May 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


Catholic News Service

I don’t know what’s going on — maybe it’s the long, lingering winter or the rising gas prices — but everyone seems testy and rude, visiting nastiness and annoyance on their fellow human beings: The guy in line yesterday at the sandwich place who called the new kid behind the counter an “idiot” or the woman who growled “get a job” to the homeless person panhandling on the corner this morning.

Sure, when you’re annoyed, frustrated or angry, it’s hard to be nice. It’s easier to listen to the fight-or-flight response that calls us to bite and scratch. But we don’t live in the annals of prehistory: This is 2014, and we should have learned by now that being kind is the way to go in life. Read more »

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Vatican statistics report church growth remains steady worldwide

May 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests, permanent deacons and religious men all increased in 2012, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics.

The number of candidates for the priesthood also showed its first global downturn in recent years. Read more »

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Seton Center celebrates 30 years of helping people

May 1st, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


Dialog Editor

PRINCESS ANNE, MD — One way to tell the story of Catholic Charities’ Seton Center here, is through numbers.

The multi-purpose community center was founded by the Sisters of Charity 30 years ago in Somerset County.

At its 30th anniversary event on April 25, Bishop Malooly counted the numbers of people helped by Seton Center since he has led the Diocese of Wilmington:

“Just in the six years since I arrived in the diocese, over 12,700 households have received assistance through our basic needs program, which includes financial assistance and food distributions; over 3,000 households received some type of family strengthening help, and 470 individuals came for behavioral health counseling. Many of these individuals would have nowhere else to turn for help, if not for the Seton Center.” Read more »

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Catholic Charities agencies helping storm-damaged southern U.S.


Catholic News Service

Catholic Charities agencies were on the ground assessing damage after a series of storms with deadly tornadoes and massive floods swept through the southern United States April 27-29.

Patsy Reno searches through the rubble of her home for mementoes April 30 in Vilonia, Ark., after a tornado swept through the area April 27. Catholic Charities agencies were on the ground assessing damage after a series of storms with deadly tornadoes and massive floods swept through the southern United States April 27-29, killing at least 35 people. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

The storms killed 35 people and left thousands without power while razing homes and businesses.

Arkansas and Mississippi were the hardest hit, but deaths also were reported in Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama and Tennessee. Georgia residents lost power, and the Carolinas and Florida experienced flash floods.

In areas hit by tornados, thousands of people forced out of their homes sought temporary shelter while the National Guard, local police and residents sifted through the rubble searching for victims.

Patricia Cole, communications director for Catholic Charities USA, said its disaster response operations team has been coordinating with local Catholic Charities agencies in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama “where conditions on the ground are changing by the hour.”

She said Catholic Charities USA had received requests for grants for financial assistance and is staying in close contact with Catholic dioceses and agencies in the damaged areas as they assess the needs in their communities.

Patrick Gallaher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas, posted updates on the agency’s website, noting that the search and rescue phase of the relief effort finished April 30. He also said the overflow of donations made it impossible to store any other contributions until new collection points were established.

“The immediate need of survivors is being met,” he said.

St. Joseph Church in Conway, Ark., initially was used as an American Red Cross shelter, but the shelter was closed April 29 because not enough people were using it. Parishes in the Little Rock Diocese have been conducting their own drives to mobilize and collect donated materials.

Gallaher said the local Catholic Charities agency continues to coordinate with other agencies to provide support during the cleanup phase and is gathering case managers for the rebuilding effort that will come in the months ahead.

“The long-term relief effort will take months as we assist people in obtaining replacement housing, furniture, clothing and counseling,” he said. “As needs crystallize, we shall seek help from among our parishes.”

Greg Patin, executive director of Catholic Charities in Jackson, Miss., told Catholic News Service April 30 that staff members would begin to assess local needs May 1 after the first responders were finished their work.

Once needs are assessed, he said, “we will begin to provide what assistance we can,” but he also noted that the agency has limited staffing resources and will need volunteer assistance.

The agency has reached out to the Knights of Columbus for help and is looking for monetary donations because it cannot accept donated goods at this time.

To support Catholic Charities’ disaster relief effort, visit their website at https://support.catholiccharitiesusa.org, call 1-800-919-9338, or mail a donation to Catholic Charities USA P.O. Box 17066, Baltimore, Md., 21297-1066.


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Atlanta archbishop to restrict Georgia’s ‘guns everywhere’ law in Catholic churches, schools


ATLANTA — Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta pledged to restrict the presence of guns in Catholic institutions in response to a new Georgia law that would allow licensed gun owners to carry arms into schools, churches and other locales.

Set to take effect July 1, the law was opposed by the Georgia Catholic Conference.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (CNS/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Writing in his column in the May 1 issue of the Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Atlanta Archdiocese, the archbishop said he regrets the enactment of the new law “more than I can possibly express.”

“Before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us, and those who are duly authorized law and military officials,” Archbishop Gregory explained.

“The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by children and the vulnerable,” Archbishop Gregory wrote.

Previously in Georgia, licensed gun holders were not permitted to carry a firearm into a house of worship.

The law continues to prohibit weapons in houses of worship “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.”

However, the law diminishes the penalty for carrying weapons in a house of worship to a $100 fine with no arrest permitted for a licensed gun holder. A person carrying a weapon without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Safe Carry Protection Act April 23, saying it strengthened the rights of gun ownership as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Critics have dubbed the legislation the “guns everywhere bill.”

Episcopal churches in central and north Georgia also announced a ban to firearms in an April 28 directive from Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. The only exception to the policy will be for on-duty law enforcement officers.

When the bill passed the legislature in late March, Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, said he was confident the bishops and pastors of Georgia would take appropriate action to protect people entering churches.

“The version of gun control that passed really offers churches no real protection, other than a fine for those licensed holders who might bring a weapon,” Mulcahy said.

Archbishop Gregory, in his column, said, “Churches and other places of worship are intended to be sanctuaries, holy sites where people come to pray and to worship God.

“In this nation of ours, they have seldom been the locations where violence has disrupted the otherwise peaceful atmosphere. Yet even those occasions, rare as they may be, are not sufficient reasons to allow people to bring more weapons into God’s house,” he said.

The archbishop said that he did not mean to suggest restricting firearms in “places where they are needed to protect one’s home and property or to defend the public by officials who are entrusted with our protection.”

“Yet this new legislation de facto makes firearms more available in places where they may allow violence to escalate,” Archbishop Gregory said.

The law is wide ranging and, among numerous provisions, will allow carrying weapons in bars, in any government building not restricted or screened by a security officer and also in school safety zones if permitted by a duly authorized officer.

The law provides a judicial licensing process for those judged mentally incompetent or not guilty of certain crimes by reason of insanity; prohibits local governments from regulating gun dealers or gun shows; protects those who claim to have inadvertently entered restricted parts of commercial airports; prohibits law enforcement from requiring production of a carry license when someone is carrying a weapon; and provides that defense of self and others is an absolute defense of any violation of weapon regulation.

Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah, Ga., had issued fervent pleas for lawmakers not to adopt the law and were joined by other faith groups and individual churches in their opposition to the legislation.

— Nichole Golden

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