Rev. King’s message of action, service remembered today

Sculpture of Rev. King at memorial in Washington. (CNS photo/ Bob Roller)

What the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “was talking and preaching about to us … is so relevant now. It’s what we as a people are fighting for now, as far as justice, peace and equality,” said Nova Nelson. She made the comments last October at the dedication of a new memorial to the slain civil rights leader in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington. Today especially, the memorial is a focal point for celebrating  Rev. King’s life and legacy. Nelson — director of the Washington Archdiocese’s Mass Choir who also directs the gospel ensemble and children’s choir at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Washington — sang the national anthem at the dedication. She later noted in an interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper, that Rev. King drew his strength from his faith. That’s an example for all those who want to carry forth his work and message today, she said.  “No matter how much he was hated or rejected, he kept going because he believed in God and believed God would make a way, and he wasn’t afraid. He had to keep pushing for what God wanted him to do. Sometimes, we get doors closed in our faces. We have to keep pushing, knowing God is walking with us every step of the way.”

17th-century Catholic bishop who was geologist makes news

The first Google doodle of 2012 was a tribute to Bishop Nicolaus Steno on his 374th birthday, Jan. 11. The bishop was a Danish anatomist and geologist famous for his “principle of original horizontality,” or the theory that layers of rock are formed horizontally — hence the rock-layer image for the Google doodle.

Google doodles — the changes made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists — typically draw attention to known and unknown figures. To date the Google team, according to their site, has created more than 1,000 doodles.

Often the doodles generate their own news stories, and this image was no exception. A story in the Christian Science Monitor points out that the bishop’s legacy, “like the mysterious stones that he examined, has since been obscured by layers of historical sediment.”

The bishop, known in Denmark as Bishop Niels Stensen, was born in 1638 and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. He is considered the founder of modern geology who also made notable discoveries in anatomy before he joined the Catholic Church and became a priest. He also formulated Steno’s law, which deals with the relationship of angles on the faces of crystals.

He not only studied rocks and fossils extensively but he also discovered that the heart is a muscle that pumps blood and that tears are formed in the eye.

A story in the Los Angeles Times blog about the doodle described the bishop as a 17th-century mythbuster who “threw it all over for God” when he became Catholic in 1667, a priest in 1675 and a bishop in 1677.

The next day the Times blog posted comments by readers who disagreed that science took a back seat to the bishop’s religion.

Readers noted that the bishop, who died in 1686 at the age of 48, continued his pursuit of science after becoming a priest by studying the brain and the nervous system.

Haiti recovery moves slowly two years after quake

Workers clean up a camp which housed people displaced by the January 12, 2010 earthquake for almost two years, in Port-au-Prince January 10, 2012. (CNS/Reuters)

Today marks two years since a powerful earthquake rocked the poor nation of Haiti. More than 316,000 people died; an estimated 500,000 people — a third of the original 1.5 million people left homeless — remain in tattered shelters in hundreds of settlements in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.

While a sizable amount of rubble from collapsed buildings has been removed, the capital still bears signs of the destruction with structures askew and little reconstruction in place. The collapsed National Palace, which housed the offices of the president, still sits silently across from Champs de Mars Park, where 20,000 people remain camped. The scene serves as a stark reminder of the perilous struggle Haiti faces.

Aid workers and other observers find any progress distressingly slow. About $2.4 billion of the $4.5 billion pledged by the world’s governments meeting in New York two months after the quake has been received, the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti reported. Even less actually has been spent.

Only four of the 10 largest construction projects -– from a $200 million wastewater treatment plant to a $224 million industrial park that is expected to add 65,000 garment worker jobs –- have broken ground. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission coordinating the distribution of funds from overseas donors has an uncertain future after its 18-month mandate ended in October because opposition Haitian lawmakers failed to act to renew the mandate for another year. Without the commission, work on future projects was halted.

Since the earthquake Haiti has encountered numerous challenges as it tries to recover. A tumultuous political battle in late 2010 and 2011 delayed the installation of a new president. When Michel Martelly finally took office in May, he was unable to move forward on his agenda for months until the Haitian Parliament approved his choice — the third — for prime minister.

In the mean time, cholera spread to every corner of the country, leading aid workers to shift gears during periodic spikes of the disease from earthquake recovery to emergency health care. In the 15 months since the disease erupted, more than 522,000 people have contracted the disease leading to more than 7,000 deaths, statistics from the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population show.

The optimistic promise to “build back Haiti better” seems far from assured.

But Prime Minister Garry Conille remains optimistic. On Monday he told Parliament that 2012 would be a “year of construction” as he announced plans to enroll 1 million children in school, improve health care and plant trees to reverse erosion caused by deforestation.

Private programs encompassing small rebuilding efforts have moved forward, even if somewhat slowly. One, the Program for the Reconstruction of the Church in Haiti, or PROCHE, which means “close by” in French, is administering $33 million contributed by American Catholics designated for reconstruction. The effort was crafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services in cooperation with the Haitian Catholic Church to help rebuild the 70 parishes destroyed in the quake. The first projects are under way.

CRS also has coordinated the rebuilding of St. Francis de Sales Hospital in the center of Port-au-Prince. A new 200-bed hospital is under construction at the site where 70 people died.

Certainly, rebuilding -– or even building for the first time –- requires a strong and lasting commitment from the world. Will the world -– and more importantly, Haiti –- have the patience to see it through?

Mass in Rome memorializes Cardinal John Foley

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

ROME — Thirty days after the death of our friend Cardinal John P. Foley, his successor as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications celebrated Mass in his memory, recalling the late American prelate as a “man of God who became a man of communication.”

Archbishop Claudio Celli gives the homily during a Mass in memory of Cardinal John P. Foley in Rome Jan. 11. Cardinal Foley, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications for more than two decades, died Dec. 11 after a battle with leukemia. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Claudio M. Celli offered the traditional trigesimo Mass for Cardinal Foley at Rome’s Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, only a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square. Among his concelebrants were Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the council, and Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. Among those attending the Mass were Marian Diaz, wife of the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and numerous members of the Vatican press corps.

In his homily, Archbishop Celli recalled the late cardinal’s last visit to the council’s offices early in 2011, shortly before he left Rome for his native Philadelphia for good. Weakened by the leukemia that would ultimately kill him, Cardinal Foley nevertheless showed his usual humor, referring to a bottle of Coca-Cola as American champagne.

In that meeting, Archbishop Celli said, the late cardinal acted in the role of teacher to his former colleagues, demonstrating how “suffering has at its disposal modes of expression that not even all the new (information) technology can ever match.”

“He had come to give us the last, most important lesson,” the archbishop said, “giving his best, as a communicator of course, but all the more so as a witness and faithful servant of the Word.”

Archbishop Celli paid tribute to Cardinal Foley’s civility: “He had the tone of one who, in confrontation, saw neither enemies nor adversaries” but people to whom he could show, “through an always cordial welcome, the benevolence of the Lord.”

Cardinal Foley (CNS/Bob Roller)

The archbishop recalled some of the highlights of Cardinal Foley’s career, including his stint at The Catholic Standard and Times in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and of course his 23 years at the council, where he led the Vatican into the Internet age and presided over the publication of studies on key issues in contemporary communications, including online pornography.

Visibly moved, Archbishop Celli concluded his homily by thanking God for “this wise and generous pastor who bore witness, up to the very end, to how the essence of communication may be translated into a true and authentic reality of communion.”

Call continues at White House to close Guantanamo prison

A protester calling for the closing of the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stands silently outside of the White House in a model of a prison cell Jan. 7. (Courtesy of Witness Against Torture)

Protests outside the White House take all kinds of forms and encompass all kinds of issues. Through Wednesday, there’s a jail cell with orange-jumpsuit-clad protesters inside facing the presidential mansion.

The small cell, with protesters taking three-hour shifts inside, represents the holding pen some accused al-Qaida members were held in for a time at the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The protest, said Witness Against Torture organizer and Catholic Worker Matthew Daloisio of New York, marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison and calls for ending the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists in Cuba, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and at CIA-run sites around the world.

The cell showed up Jan. 7 and will be in place for 92 hours until Jan. 11, the day Guantanamo opened in 2002. Daloisio said about 1,000 people are expected for a rally at the White House to call upon President Barack Obama to uphold his executive order to close the prison and try the men being held there.

Among the rally’s organizers are the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International and Center for Constitutional Rights.

Obama subsequently has signed legislation that prevents the prison’s closing, disappointing the anti-torture activists.

“There was hope for some change as Obama took office,” Daloisio told Catholic News Service. “All of that hope is essentially lost when it comes to issues of civil liberties and accountability.

“When we began this work we never imagined that 10 years later we would be continuing in this way,” Daloisio said.

He also expressed concern that American citizens now can be detained indefinitely under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by the president Dec. 31. Obama issued a signing statement explaining, however, that no American citizen will be held indefinitely without charges while he is in office.

After Wednesday’s noontime rally, some protesters will stay at the White House while others make their way to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Justice Department to press their demands.

The protests began Jan. 2 with a daily presence at the White House. About 100 people nationwide, including 50 in Washington, are engaged in a liquids-only fast through Jan. 12.

Fourteen Witness Against Torture members, including some long-time members of the Catholic Worker movement, faced trial last week for their verbal protest June 23 in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives. Four people — Judith Kelly of Arlington, Va., Brian Hynes and Carmen Trotta, both of New York, and Mike Levinson of New Rochelle, N.Y. — were found guilty of unlawful conduct and disruption of Congress in a jury trial in the District of Columbia Superior Court Jan. 5. One person was acquitted and charges were dropped again nine others.

The group was protesting an appropriations bill being debated in Congress at the time because it included provisions that made it virtually impossible to close the Guantanamo prison.

List of 22 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Here is the list of the 22 cardinals-designate, in the order in which Pope Benedict XVI announced them today:

– Italian Archbishop Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 65.

– Portuguese Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 73.

– Spanish Archbishop Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of Basilica of St. Mary Major, 76.

– Italian Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who turns 74 Feb. 3.

– Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State, 69.

– Italian Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Interpreting Legislative Texts, 73.

– Brazilian Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 64.

– U.S. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, 72.

– Italian Archbishop Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, who turns 69 Feb. 3.

– Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Versaldi, president of Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, 68.

– Indian Archbishop George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, 66.

– Canadian Archbishop Thomas C. Collins of Toronto, who will be 65 Jan. 16.

– Czech Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, 68.

– Dutch Archbishop Willem J. Eijk of Utrecht, 58.

– Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence, 64.

– U.S. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who will turn 62 Feb. 6.

– German Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, 55.

– Chinese Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong, 72.

–Romanian Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, major archbishop of the Romanian Catholic Church, 80.

– Belgian Father Julien Ries, expert on history of religions, 91.

– Maltese Augustinian Father Prosper Grech, biblical scholar, 86.

– German Jesuit Father Karl Josef Becker, retired professor of dogmatic theology, 83.

Bishop Zavala resigns after disclosing he is father of two children

Bishop Gabino Zavala (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Click here for updated story.

VATICAN CITY — Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after disclosing to superiors that he was the father of two children.

The Vatican announced the bishop’s resignation today in a one-line statement that cited church law on resignation for illness or other serious reasons.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced the “sad and difficult” news in a letter to Catholics in the archdiocese. He said Bishop Zavala, who was auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, had informed him in early December that he was the father of two minor teenage children who live with their mother in another state.

Bishop Zavala told Archbishop Gomez that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Since that time, Bishop Zavala has not been in ministry and “will be living privately,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family’s identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy,” Archbishop Gomez said. He asked prayers for all those affected by the situation.

Here is the text of Archbishop Gomez’ letter:

January 4, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I have some sad and difficult information to share with you. Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, informed me in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state.

Bishop Zavala also told me that he submitted his resignation to the Holy Father in Rome, which was accepted. Since that time, he has not been in ministry and will be living privately.

The Archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family’s identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy.

Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other as we reflect on this letter.

May the Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, grant you peace.

Most Reverend José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles

New appreciation for martyrdom is Nigerian priest’s only consolation

A Nigerian priest who ministered to the dead after the Christmas bombings in Madalla, Nigeria, said he gained new insight into martyrdom.

In a first-person piece for The Catholic Register in Toronto, Father Emmanuel-Mary Mbam said:

In my agony of ministering to the dead I gained insight into why the Church calls the day a person is martyred one’s birthday. These people were martyrs; they died for their faith. As Christ was born into the world, they were born into heaven. This is my only consolation. The past year saw an upsurge in religious violence in Nigeria as a determined Islamic sect intensified efforts to impose Sharia law on the country. Incidents of devastation and death are now common.

Read the whole story here, in The Catholic Register.

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