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Some things we have been reading  
Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS 'genocide'
John L. Allen Jr.      Mar.13, 2015

In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican's top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the "so-called Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.


"We have to stop this kind of genocide," said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's representative in Geneva. "Otherwise we'll be crying out in the future about why we didn't so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen."


Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can't simply be a "Western approach." He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations.


The call for force is striking, given that the Vatican traditionally has opposed military interventions in the Middle East, including the two US-led Gulf Wars. It builds, however, on comments from Pope Francis that the use of force is "legitimate ... to stop an unjust aggressor."

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Vatican drops image of bound woman after complaints
Rosie Scammell      Mar.13, 2015

Following complaints, the Vatican's cultural office has removed an image of a naked female torso bound in ropes that was used to advertise a women's conference.


The Pontifical Council for Culture had chosen a photograph of the 1936 "Venus Restored" sculpture, by the late American artist Man Ray, as befitting for its Feb. 4-7 conference titled "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference."


But the choice of a sculpture bound in ropes to discuss women's emancipation was deemed inappropriate in some quarters. The Pontifical Council's president, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, initially defended the choice.   

. . . .

Both the message and the image have since been removed from the Pontifical Council's website, replaced with a 15th-century Madonna and child image. Ravasi was not available to comment on the about-face. 

Venus Restored
Original image
 Our Lady of the Dry Tree
New image

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At Lenten penance service, pope announces Holy Year of Mercy        
Cindy Wooden           Mar.13, 2015

Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church's "mission to be a witness of mercy."

. . . .

"I frequently have thought about how the church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy," he said during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016.

The biblical theme of the year, he said, will be "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful," an admonition that applies "especially to confessors," the pope said with a smile.
. . . .
Pope Francis said he asked the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to coordinate preparations for the Holy Year so that it would be "a new stage in the church's journey in fulfilling its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person." 

Pope Francis announces jubilee year
Pope Francis announces jubilee year

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U.N.:  Pope Francis will visit morning of Sept. 25
CNS       Mar.18, 2015

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcement that Pope Francis would visit the United Nations the morning of Sept. 25 to address the U.N. General Assembly.

In a statement March 18, the United Nations also said the pope would meet separately with the secretary-general and with the president of the General Assembly and would participate in a town hall gathering with U.N. staff.

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Preaching to the choir? Ahead of encyclical, global warming worries Catholics more than other Christians
Brian Roewe       Mar.12, 2015

Will Pope Francis be preaching to the choir on climate change when he releases his ecology-focused encyclical later this year?


A new study released Thursday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that Catholics are more convinced than other Christians that global warming is occurring and are more supportive of policy action.


The survey, which polled 1,275 adults from Oct. 17-28, found that 70 percent of Catholics believed global warming is happening, as opposed to 57 percent of non-Catholic Christians -- a group that included people who self-identified as Baptist, Protestant, Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon and other Christian faith. Two-thirds of all Americans polled acknowledge global warming.

. . . .

Given their higher awareness, it's not surprising that Catholics -- a quarter of the U.S. population -- are also more worried about global warming, with about two-thirds somewhat or very worried, whereas less than half of other Christian denominations and 56 percent of all Americans described themselves as somewhat or very worried.


In the summer, the pope is is expected to address climate change as part of his encyclical on ecology and human ecology.

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Pope: Pay teachers more
Carol Glatz       Mar.16, 2015

Teaching is about giving young people, especially troublemakers, values and hope, and it is "an injustice" that today's educators are paid so poorly, Pope Francis said.

. . . .

"You have to teach not just about a subject, but also life's values and habits" because when it comes to learning about a subject, "a computer is sufficient, but to understand how to love, to understand what the values and habits are that create harmony in the world, you need a good teacher," he said.

. . . . 

Addressing those in the audience as "colleagues," the pope recalled his own experience as a teacher, saying teaching "is a really beautiful job" because it lets educators see their students "grow day after day."


However, he said, it was "an injustice" and a "shame that teachers are poorly paid."

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Archbishop charged with concealing sex abuse quits royal commission body
Helen Davidson     Mar.18, 2015

The Archbishop of Adelaide, charged on Tuesday over the alleged cover up of child sexual abuse by a fellow priest, has stepped down from his role in a supervisory group that deals with the royal commission. 


Victims' advocates have welcomed the charge, but labelled the church's response to it "arrogant."


NSW police charged the archbishop, Philip Wilson, and issued a court attendance notice over allegations he concealed knowledge about child sexual abuse committed by a fellow priest, Jim Fletcher, in the 1970s, when the pair worked together in the Hunter region.


He is the highest-ranking church official in the world to be charged with such a crime. Wilson denies any wrongdoing and released a statement saying he would defend the charge.

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When the pope speaks, priest abuse cases get heard
Anthony Faiola       Mar.15, 2015

Diego was the shy one in Father Silverio Mura's class; a 13-year-old, olive-skinned and handsome, who spent his free time indoors watching cartoons. He walked to school alone in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, stopping first to pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary in the rose garden in front of his apartment building.


"She was my protector," he said.


But nothing and no one, Diego charged, protected him from Mura - the religion teacher who invited the then-teenage boy to the priest's small apartment on Brothers Grimm Street after class one day in 1989. There, Diego, now 39, said Mura cajoled him into a kiss. A few days later, he was asked to return, suffering the first of what he described as hundreds of incidences of sexual abuse that turned a quiet boy who wanted to be a pilot into a deeply troubled adult.


After he finally came forward in 2009, Diego's case languished. The local diocese even transferred Mura in 2012 to a school where the priest had regular access to children as young as 14. That's when Diego, who is still Catholic, made what would become a decisive move - he wrote directly to Pope Francis.

. . . .  

The pope, according to the Vatican, escalated Diego's case, prompting an official church investigation that could ultimately lead to Mura's defrocking. Given the length of such legal processes in the church, it could take a year or more to establish his guilt or innocence.


Yet even as Francis seeks to bring a forceful new tone to an issue that severely damaged the Catholic Church's reputation before his appointment, the pope is sometimes swimming against the tide. In local dioceses from Italy to the Philippines, Francis is confronting stubborn and sloth-like bureaucracies that are still committing some of the same grave errors of the past.

. . . .

"I would say the pope is very sensitive to all kinds of suffering, and certainly he is sending an indirect message," said a senior Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "These kinds of cases will not be tolerated."

. . . . 

Francis, like Benedict before him, victims' groups say, has failed to act decisively against bishops charged with hiding abuse in their diocese, and he has embraced solutions they see as little more than window dressing. They cite alarming instances, for example, in which local dioceses have left abusive priests in ministry. The activist group,  for instance, recently drafted a letter to senior church officials profiling a number of accused clerics in the Philippines who, they say, still enjoy easy access to children. Symbolism alone, critics insist, will not get the job done. 

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Don't be bitter or give up; offer world your wisdom, pope tells seniors
Carol Glatz      Mar.11, 2015

Don't pack it in or shift into cruise control, Pope Francis told his fellow seniors.

. . . .

"We, older people, can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren. We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are in love with themselves too much that there is more joy in giving than receiving," he said to those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

. . . .

Being older is certainly different, and so when it comes to finding one's new purpose in the world, seniors need to sort of "make it up" as they go along "because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to give this period of life its full worth." 

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How Pope Francis Sees the Church
Cardinal Walter Kasper       Mar.13, 2015.

. . . .

Pope Francis's style is correctly understood against the background of the theology of the people. This style is not good-natured folksiness or even cheap populism. Behind the pope's pastoral style, which is close to the people, stands an entire theology, indeed a mysticism of the people. For him the church is far more than an organic and hierarchical institution. It is above all the people of God on their way to God, a pilgrim and evangelizing people that transcends every (however necessary) institutional expression.


Ultimately, the church is rooted in the secret of the most holy Trinity. Salvation is a work of God's mercy. Out of sheer grace God draws us to himself through his Spirit and brings us together as his people. Thus, the church stands under the primacy of grace; the Lord always precedes us with his love and his initiative. Through his Spirit he draws us to himself, not as isolated individuals, but as his people. So the church must be the place of renegotiated mercy, where all can feel themselves welcomed and loved, where they experience pardon and can feel encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel.

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Will Pope Francis have a short papacy? Don't bet on it
David Gibson      Mar.18, 2015

In a wide-ranging interview he gave Friday for the second anniversary of his election, Pope Francis touched on a variety of topics, from his concern about bad homilies to his upcoming U.S. visit to his one real wish: to go out for a pizza without being recognized.


But leading most of the news coverage were his remarks suggesting that he expects his papacy to be short, perhaps lasting no more than another year or two.

. . . . 

But a closer reading of Francis' remarks and analysis from those who know the pope say that's not what he meant at all.


For example, while Francis said Benedict was "courageous" for retiring and "should not be considered an exception, but an institution," he also said that perhaps Benedict "will be the only one for a long time."


Francis also rejected the idea of a fixed age limit because that "creates a sensation that the pontificate is at its end and that would not be a good thing."


Moreover, after Francis voiced his suspicions about the length of his own time on St. Peter's throne, he confessed that it was merely "a feeling" and "a somewhat vague sensation."


"Maybe it's like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won't be disappointed, and if he wins, is happy," Francis said.

Clearly, say those familiar with the pope's thinking, he is enjoying himself and is willing to go on as long as God sees fit.

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San Francisco Saint Mary's Cathedral Drenches Homeless With Water To Keep Them Away
Doug Sovern       Mar.18, 2015

KCBS has learned that Saint Mary's Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral's doorways.


The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.


"They actually have signs in there that say, 'No Trespassing,'" said a homeless man named Robert.


But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings. 


The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings .

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A homeless man uses an umbrella to hold off the water. (CBS SF).
Where'd Milwaukee's cemetery money go? asks priest who wants $7.8 million accounted for
Marie Rohde       Mar.16, 2015

A retired Milwaukee priest who is also a certified public account is asking the FBI to investigate why the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Cemetery Trust Fund spent $7.8 million in a four-year period during which the cemeteries' operations generated net profits each year.


The priest, Fr. James Connell, told NCR that he contacted the archdiocese with his questions before sending his letter to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley, who is handling the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition the archdiocese filed more than four years ago.


Connell, also a former vice chancellor for the archdiocese, said archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski responded to his email saying that the funds were used solely as they were intended, "but he gave me no explanation for where I was wrong or what I missed in their statements." 

. . . . 

In December, Connell was one of three priests who sent an open letter to Pope Francis asking for an investigation into the way clergy sexual abuse survivors have been treated in the bankruptcy action. He said he was told that the letter was referred to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up by Francis to make recommendations for changes in how clergy sex abuse is being handled. The commission is headed by Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and met last month.


Connell said he sent a second letter to Francis on March 7, saying that the "disturbing financial reality of the Archdiocese [of Milwaukee]" lends credence to the call for an investigation. In that letter, Connell noted that the financial statement filed by the archdiocese with court on Feb. 13 indicate that as of Jan. 31, liabilities exceed assets.

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Bishop asks collar-wearing clergy to rally at city meeting
Dennis Coday      Mar.14, 2015

The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., who hopes to raze a former parish school and build a faith-based dormitory on that ground, has invited all the priests and deacons of his diocese to appear at a city planning meeting to show support for his plan.


"If you attend it would certainly be appropriate for you to wear your collar," Bishop Robert Finn tells the clergy in a letter dated March 13 and sent as an attachment to emails on Friday.

. . . . 

Members of St. Francis Xavier Parish tell a slightly different story. They had hoped to work with neighborhood groups to take advantage of the existing building and its location, seeing it as an opportunity to unite the east and west sides of Troost Avenue, a street considered a racial and economic dividing line in Kansas City's urban core. 

. . . .

"For a project that is supposed to be about ministry, worship, and a refuge of light in a world of sin, it is surprising that there is so little consideration given to the needs of the church next door," said Les Cline, president of the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition.


"What few people on the other side of this debate don't appreciate is that we community people have worked very seriously, earnestly and sincerely with the four criteria the bishop set about this project," he added. "We agreed to these principles. Now, I want to tell the bishop to live up to his own standards. We are holding fast to them."

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Kansas City commission unanimously rejects bishop's plan for faith-based dormitory
Soli Salgado      Mar.18, 2015

The City Plan Commission of Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday unanimously voted against the construction of a faith-based dormitory, a project Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn had supported and neighbors of the site overwhelmingly opposed.


More than 100 people attended the hearing, with more than 80 representing the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition. Eleven women religious and one priest attended alongside Finn after he sent a letter inviting diocesan clergy to attend the hearing in support of his plan.

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ANALYSIS: 7.5 million Americans lost their religion since 2012
Tobin Grant      Mar.12, 2015

A new survey shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.

. . . .

1. More Americans prefer "no religion."

When asked their religious preference, nearly 1 in 4 Americans now says "none." Up until the 1990s, the percentage who were in this group known as "nones" hovered in the single digits.  

. . . .

2. Americans aren't going to church like they used to.  

Over a third of Americans (34 percent) never attend a worship service (other than weddings and other ceremonies). This is a 3-point increase from just a few years earlier.

. . . .  

3. More Americans say they never pray.

 Is this just a departure from organized religion? Even with people no longer identifying with religion or attending worship services, they still pray. Nearly one-in-six Americans never prays. 

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Inquiry Into Rape of Indian Nun Is Sent to Federal Agency
Hari Kumar       Mar.18, 2015

With no arrests yet in the rape of a nunand the robbery of a convent school last week in the Indian state of West Bengal, the state's leader on Wednesday delegated the case to the federal investigating agency.


Mamata Banerjee, the state's chief minister, said on Twitter on Wednesday that the robbers, whose faces were captured on closed-circuit camera footage, might have escaped across the Indian border, presumably to nearby Bangladesh. Ms. Banerjee faced angry protests when she visited Ranaghat, the city where the rape and robbery took place.


The nun, who is in her 70s, was raped by one member of a group of robbers who ransacked the Convent of Jesus and Mary on Saturday.

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Largest Presbyterian Denomination Gives Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage
Laurie Goodstein      Mar.17, 2015

After three decades of debate over its stance on homosexuality, members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Tuesday to change the definition of marriage in the church's constitution to include same-sex marriage.


The final approval by a majority of the church's 171 regional bodies, known as presbyteries, enshrines a change recommended last year by the church's  General Assembly.  The vote amends the church's  constitution to broaden marriage from being between "a man and a woman" to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."

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Over 60 nations sign statement in support of Middle East's Christians 
Catholic World News       Mar.16, 2015

The United States has joined over 60 other nations in signing a joint statement of support for the Middle East's beleaguered Christians.


Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's leading diplomat at UN offices in Geneva, said that "a core group composed of the Russian Federation, Holy See, and Lebanon" drafted the statement.


Citing atrocities committed by the Islamic State, the statement noted that "there are more and more reasons to fear seriously for the future of the Christian communities that have more than two thousand years of existence in this region, where Christianity has its full place, and began its long history."

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Bishop Robert McElroy to San Diego, Adds to Intellectual Heft of U.S. Dioceses
Mary Ann Walsh      Mar.2, 2015

If an academic pedigree is an indication, the hierarchy of the U.S. bishops took a big step forward with the promotion of Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Francisco to Bishop of San Diego on March 3. News of the appointment was broken by blogger Rocco Palmo, March 2.


The 61-year-old prelate holds a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard University (he finished summa cum laude in three years), a master's degree in history from Stanford University and a doctorate from Stanford in political science. Then there are the church degrees: a licentiate in sacred theology from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkley, California, while at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California, and a doctorate in moral theology from Rome's Gregorian University.

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Pope Francis names new bishops for Spokane, Lexington dioceses
Elise Harris      Mar.12, 2015

Thursday the Vatican announced that Bishop Thomas Anthony Daly has been tapped to lead Spokane's Catholic population, while Fr. John Stowe O.F.M., Conv. will take the reins in Lexington.


Bishop Daly was born in San Francisco, Cali., in 1960 and until now has served as auxiliary bishop for the diocese of San Jose.
. . . .

Fr. John Stowe O.F.M. Conv., who will be the third bishop of Lexington, was born in 1966 in Amherst, Ohio.  . . . .   He served as Provincial Vicar of the Conventual Franciscan's province of Our Lady of Consolation, and from 2010 until now has served as rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. 

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Archdiocese of New York seeks eyewitnesses to Dorothy Day's life
Dennis Sadowski      Mar.4, 2015

Dorothy DayThe Archdiocese of New York is looking for a few good eyewitnesses to the life of Catholic Worker co-founder and justice advocate Dorothy Day.


Its Dorothy Day Guild is soliciting the names of people who worked alongside, knew or met Day so they can be interviewed as part of the effort for her canonization.

. . . .

Each person whose name surfaces will be examined for how well they knew Day and how much information they can provide to "shed light on her life."

"We're supposed to have 50 good interviews," [Jeffry] Korgen said.

"We really want to get as many names as we can now, figure out what kind of perspective they have and get cracking," he said.


The guild will accept names March 31. To submit a referral - or to refer yourself - visit online.

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Highest Levels Blocked Marini's Appointment
PrayTell editor       Mar.4, 2015

After Pope Francis' appointment, rumors abounded that Francis would make Piero Marini the head of the CDW. Traditionalists were concerned and progressives were practically giddy. Traditionalists said it was a long shot, but apparently the rumors were spot on.


From the Rome desk, covered by Fr. Anthony who is on sabbatical there for a month:

I have learned that Pope Francis had pretty much decided to appoint Piero Marini to the CDW post. But this was opposed by the very highest levels of the previous administration, and Francis relented out of respect for his predecessor.

So now you know. Marini, the champion of the progressive left and the cause of fear among the traditional right, was practically confirmed as the head of the CDW until vestiges of Benedict's papacy ensured he would be passed over.

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Kansas City bishop asks collar-wearing clergy to rally at city meeting
Dennis Coday       Mar.14, 2015

The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., who hopes to raze a former parish school and build a faith-based dormitory on that ground, has invited all the priests and deacons of his diocese to appear at a city planning meeting to show support for his plan.


"If you attend it would certainly be appropriate for you to wear your collar," Bishop Robert Finn tells the clergy in a letter dated March 13 and sent as an attachment to emails on Friday.

. . . . 

Finn writes that he anticipates opposition to the plan to build the Bellarmino Catholic Student Center, which would include meeting and activity rooms for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, a Catholic evangelical outreach ministry known as FOCUS, and dorm rooms for up to 237 area college students. The school building, which was closed several years ago, would have to be torn down.

. . . .

 Members of St. Francis Xavier Parish tell a slightly different story. They had hoped to work with neighborhood groups to take advantage of the existing building and its location, seeing it as an opportunity to unite the east and west sides of Troost Avenue, a street considered a racial and economic dividing line in Kansas City's urban core.


Nearly two years ago, parishioners and a neighborhood group, the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition, worked with an architectural firm, BNIM, to carry out a needs assessment of the area. The result was a 19-page plan that made several suggestions for the existing building, such as a parochial or charter school, space for adult education, a child development center, community gardens, assisted living housing, an event space, and more.


While all these ideas included financial planning and options for hosting FOCUS groups, the bishop shot down each proposal because, according to parishioner Ken Spare, Finn said the ideas did not meet the broader mission of the diocese.

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Sister Mary Ann Walsh Awarded 'Frannie' for Work for Catholic Press
CNS       Mar.13, 2015

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh was surprised at her home at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse in Albany March 12 when visitors presented her with the Catholic Press Association's St. Francis de Sales Award.


"Her life of service to the Catholic press, the USCCB and the church is outstanding and a model for all," said Rob DeFrancesco, president of the CPA and associate publisher of the Catholic Sun in the Diocese of Phoenix, in explaining the decision to bestow the award.


Sister Walsh, the U.S. church correspondent for America magazine, stepped down last summer as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Catholic diocese raided in Oslo
Nina Berglund      Feb.26, 2015

Norwegian police raided the offices of the Catholic Church's diocese in Oslo on Thursday, and charged the diocese, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig and the church's finance director with serious fraud. The church leaders are suspected of wrongfully claiming as much as NOK 50 million (USD 6.6 million) in state support by presenting fraudulent membership statistics.

Earlier this week, the county governor  (fylkesmann) for Oslo and Akershus reported the diocese to the police for allegedly misrepresenting its church membership. Religious denominations are eligible for state funding in Norway based on their membership statistics.

. . . .

Newspaper Dagbladet has reported that the diocese is accused of registering virtually all immigrants to Norway who come from largely Catholic countries as members of the Catholic Church in Norway, without asking them if they wished to join the church. 

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