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February 17, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

New stem-cell method offers an alternative to embryonic research

A mouse embryo formed with cells created through a process called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, is seen in this image released by RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology.
Haruko Obokata/
RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, cns

BALTIMORE — A new method of creating versatile stem cells from a relatively simple manipulation of existing cells could further reduce the need for any stem-cell research involving human embryos, according to leading ethicists.

Although the process has only been tested in mice, two studies published Jan. 29 in the journal Nature detailed research showing success with a process called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP.

Scientists from Japan's RIKEN research institute and Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston were able to reprogram blood cells from newborn mice by placing them in a low-level acidic bath for 30 minutes. Of the cells subjected to such stress, 7 percent to 9 percent returned to a state of pluripotency and were able to grow into other types of cells in the body.

"If this technology proves feasible with human cells, which seems likely, it will offer yet another alternative for obtaining highly flexible stem cells without relying on the destructive use of human embryos," said Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. The Catholic Church opposes any research involving the destruction of human embryos to create stem cells.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said if the new method were used to create stem cells so versatile that they could form placenta tissue and make human cloning easier, "then we would have serious moral problems with that." But there is no indication so far that the scientists could or would do so, he added.

Inspecting Philippine relief efforts
Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, talks with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of Catholic Relief Services, as they inspect a shelter in Barangay Cabarasan Guti, a community in Tanauan, Philippines, Feb. 6. They were part of a U.S. delegation looking over the long recovery process after Typhoon Haiyan devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, Nov. 8, killng at least 6,201 people. The Diocese of Oakland reported parishes collected $448,000 to forward to Catholic Relief Services to aid in its typhoon disaster response efforts. A check for $359,000 was sent to CRS in late December last year and with more money collected, another check for $89,000, will be sent.
Tyler Orsburn/cns

Saints to be canonized
Blessed Jose Anchieta, a Jesuit known as the Apostle of Brazil, and Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation, known as the Mother of the Canadian Church, are expected to be canonized this year. Pope Francis is expected to waive certain requirements to expedite both their causes and canonize them this year.

Nuncio recognized
Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, is the recipient of the 2014 Harry A. Fagan Award from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors. Archbishop Chullikatt was honored for his defense of the poor and vulnerable and his work to help forge international agreements on the environment and on nuclear weapons.

Abbey making ale

SPENCER, Mass. — Spencer Trappist Ale, brewed at the Spencer Brewery at St. Joseph's Abbey here went on sale for the first time in January. Until now, Trappist ale was brewed only in Europe.

Prayers for Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, capped a weeklong visit to the United States by asking all people of goodwill to join Ukrainian Catholics in prayer to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine. Each night at 9 p.m. — 11 a.m. PST — Ukrainians pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intention for a peaceful and nonviolent resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Bishop installed

JACKSON, Miss. — Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, ordained and installed Feb. 6 to head the Diocese of Jackson, told the congregation at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle that his prayer is "not only to share the Gospel, but to share my very life as bishop. I hope to know you and the state of Mississippi so well that the Northeast and the Deep South will be one in my heart," he said at the conclusion of Mass.

Pope stirring things up

BALTIMORE — U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien doesn't know what will come out of the Synod on the Family set for October, but the former archbishop of Baltimore believes it will be significant. "Hold onto your seats," Cardinal O'Brien told a gathering of seminarians and faculty at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. "I think Pope Francis wants to stir things up and allow people to raise questions. I don't think we're going to see a change in doctrine, but we will see a change in tone, and we might see some disciplinary modifications."

Pundits discuss pope

WASHINGTON — Two political pundits accustomed to sparring with each other on television took the stage Feb. 5 at a gathering of Catholic social justice leaders to discuss issues near and dear to them: faith and politics. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, commentators on the PBS program "News Hour," spoke at the closing session of the four-day Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington about poverty, the popularity of Pope Francis, immigration and world peace.

Catholics take stand

WASHINGTON — Human trafficking is "an extremely lucrative enterprise. The risks are quite low," said Limnyuy Konglim, education and outreach coordinator for the anti-trafficking program of the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services. One reason for the low risk, according to Pope Francis, is that "many people have blood on their hands because of their silent complicity." In a Feb. 3 human trafficking presentation during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, Konglim said new immigrants are vulnerable to exploitation because of debt they incur by paying smugglers who try to take them across borders; their lack of immigration status; the needs of family back home; language barriers; fear of law enforcement; and in some cases the insular nature of their ethnic community.

Strategies to help poor

WASHINGTON — While poverty is one of society's most intractable issues, methods have been found to chip away at some of the structures that keep poor Americans down. Some of those strategies were explained at a Feb. 5 session at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Barbara Budde, director of the social concerns office for the Diocese of Austin, Texas, noted how payday lenders have long preyed on workers who cannot save enough money from paycheck to paycheck to even open a bank account.

Georgetown a model

WASHINGTON — Georgetown University's approach to labor relations was promoted as a model of putting Catholic social teaching into practice that all Catholic universities could follow. The Jesuit-run university in Washington, the nation's oldest Catholic university, has had to endure some slippery steps over the past 15 years, but it appears to be at a point where university officials, students, workers and even contractors are on the same page. The Georgetown model was touted during a Feb. 1 meeting of the Catholic Labor Network, which held its annual meeting in Washington prior to the Feb. 2-5 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

— Catholic News Service


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