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Catholic Voice

 February 22, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief


Snowfall in Rome
Snow decorates a statue atop the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Feb. 12. It was the first snowfall in Rome since 1986.
CNS PHOTO/PAUL HARING
CNS graphic/Emily Thompson

New York might lose last Catholic hospital
NEW YORK (CNS) — The last surviving Catholic general hospital in New York is enmeshed in a struggle to keep its doors open and fulfill its mandate to serve the sick poor.

St. Vincent’s Hospital, a 160-year-old fixture of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, is the flagship operation of debt-burdened St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity and the Diocese of Brooklyn. Sister Jane Iannucelli, a Sister of Charity who is vice chairwoman of the medical centers, said the hospital has been a leader in caring for the neediest and “people no one else wanted,” from 19th-century cholera victims to early AIDS sufferers who were “left on our loading dock.”

More recently, the hospital earned acclaim for its care for survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and passengers plucked from the Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 landed there Jan. 15, 2009.

St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers carries $700 million of debt inherited after St. Vincent’s Hospital merged in 2000 with seven other Catholic hospitals in the metropolitan area. When most of the other facilities were closed or sold over the last decade, St. Vincent’s was left with legacy debt from the divested hospitals. It sought bankruptcy protection in 2005 and emerged from bankruptcy in 2007. It lost $80 million last year.

Bishops support Oscar Romero sainthood

SAN SALVADOR (CNS) — As the 30th anniversary of the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero approaches, El Salvador’s bishops have agreed to write a letter to the Vatican supporting Romero’s canonization. “As church, it is our great desire that Archbishop Romero be canonized as soon as possible,” San Salvador Archbishop Jose Escobar Alas told reporters Feb. 7.

Archbishop Romero was gunned down while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, shortly after a radio broadcast in which he urged Salvadoran soldiers to stop turning their weapons on civilians in El Salvador’s civil war.

In 2005, the Vatican informed the Salvadoran bishops that the cause had passed the first phase of verification. Although formal canonization is a slow process, many Salvadorans have considered the archbishop a saint since his murder. His image hangs in many churches, and there are icons of “St. Romero.”

Adequate nutrition is basic right, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Adequate food supply is a fundamental right for all people, said Pope Benedict XVI. Adequate nutrition for the most vulnerable, like children, should be a primary international concern, he said. Often, he said, in exchange for food children are “exposed to work that is inappropriate for their age” or plunged into tragic situations.

Sainthood cause opens for Venezuelan mystic

METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) — The sainthood cause has formally opened for Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchini, a Venezuelan woman believed to have seen 31 apparitions of Mary. She spread worldwide a message of family reconciliation and fraternal unity that she said Mary relayed to her.

Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski presided at a ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen to officially mark the beginning of the investigation. Bianchini reportedly first saw an apparition of Mary in 1976, but she became a world-renowned figure after Mary reportedly appeared to her and 150 others at a farm named Finca Betania in Venezuela on March 25, 1984. Mary is said to have appeared under the title “Mary, virgin and mother, reconciler of all people and nations.” Bianchini died in New Jersey in 2004 after a long illness.

Guidelines set for cruise ship chaplains

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Regional directors of the Apostleship of the Sea meeting at the Vatican ratified a document clarifying the role of chaplains who serve on board cruise ships. Among its provisions, the document stipulated that priests should not celebrate Catholic weddings on a cruise, but they should be available to offer blessings for newlyweds or couples celebrating wedding anniversaries.

It also stated that priests should offer daily and Sunday Masses, as well as ecumenical prayer services when required. Chaplains should make themselves available for pastoral care and counseling not only with passengers but also the crew, hotel staff and even the entertainers aboard ship, the guidelines said.

Chaplains are also encouraged to attend staff and employee meetings during a cruise to better understand the issues and concern of the people working on board. The new guidelines asked cruise ship companies to provide chaplains with a private cabin and all standard meals. They are also asked to provide everything necessary to celebrate Mass, including vestments and chalices, and to advertise all the public activities of the chaplain while on board.

Pope condemns ‘plague’ of abortion in Romania

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Even Catholic families in Romania and Moldova are falling victim “to the plagues of abortion, corruption, alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as birth control using methods contrary to the dignity of the human person,” Pope Benedict XVI said recently. He suggested the area’s bishops develop and train a network of parish-based educators who would prepare young couples for marriage, work with families and coordinate youth ministry.

Catholic minorities in Romania and Moldova should work with their countries’ Orthodox majorities to “defend the Christian roots of Europe and Christian values and give a joint witness on themes such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology,” he said.

South African president criticized for behavior

PRETORIA, South Africa (CNS) — Bishops in southern Africa criticized South African President Jacob Zuma’s “scandalous behavior” after he admitted fathering a child out of wedlock. In a statement issued Feb. 11, hours before Zuma gave his State of the Union address, the bishops said they were “appalled that for the second time in as many years” Zuma did not “express regret or show remorse for his adultery.”

And while they acknowledged his apology for engaging in “unprotected sex,” they said they were appalled at the “irreparable damage that such immorality has done to the nation’s efforts to slow down or even to reverse the rampant spread of HIV and AIDS.” Such behavior flouts “the norms of morality and decency, accepted and expected by the vast majority of people,” they said.

The Church teaches that polygamy goes against church teaching on marriage as an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman. Zuma, 67, has three wives and a fiancee. The child he fathered out of wedlock, with a prominent banker, is widely reported as his 20th.

Church in Mexico upset about church/state change

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Catholic leaders across Mexico expressed disappointment with the lower house of Congress’ approval of a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine separation of church and state.

Statements issued by the archdioceses of Mexico City, Guadalajara and Leon described the proposed wording as “regrettable” and a setback for religious freedom in a country with a history of contentious church-state relations.

The statements also described the change as an attempt to silence Catholics and other religious groups at a time when Mexican politicians are addressing social issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

“No one disputes the proper and healthy separation of the spheres covered by church and state,” said Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, said. “But it’s questionable if what is understood by ‘secular’ is an irrational, anti-religious attitude that is specifically anti-Catholic and attempts to regulate and subjugate the Church in regard to its evangelizing and social mission.”

To amend the constitution, the legislation still would have to be approved by the Senate, half of Mexico’s state legislatures and President Felipe Calderon.

 

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