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Father Theodore Hesburgh, higher education leader, diplomat, dies at 97

Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame, died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in South Bend, Ind. He is pictured in a 2006 photo. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, courtesy University of Notre Dame)

By Catholic News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who led the University of Notre Dame through a period of dramatic growth during his 35 years as president and held sway with political and civil rights leaders, died Feb. 26 at the age of 97.

As the longest serving president of Notre Dame, from 1952 to 1987, Father Hesburgh built the university from a small college primarily known for its prowess on the football field into one of the nation’s premier higher education institutions.

In announcing the highly regarded priest’s death, the university did not cite a specific cause.

Funeral arrangements remained to be finalized, but the university said a funeral Mass would be celebrated in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.

“We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many,” Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s current president, said in a statement. “With his leadership, charism and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation’s great institutions for higher learning.

“In his historic service to the nation, the church and the world, he was a steadfast champion for human rights, the cause of peace and care for the poor,” he said. Continue reading

Letters to President Obama and Congressional Leaders Concerning Religious Freedom Violations in the Middle East

WASHINGTON—In the wake of the brutal murders of twenty one Coptic Christians at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya, increased support to protect religious minorities and civilians should be combined with adequate humanitarian assistance and other assets, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Pope Francis and the Holy See have reiterated on a number of occasions that it is ‘licit’ to use force to stop these unjust aggressors and to protect religious minorities and civilians from these horrendous attacks,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a February 23 letter sent to President Obama and the U.S. House and Senate leadership. “They have emphasized that the use of military force must be proportionate and discriminate, and employed within the framework of ‘international and humanitarian law.’” Continue reading

Bishop asks for prayers for communities hit hard by train derailment

By Colleen Rowan
Catholic News Service

BOOMER, W.Va. — As the cleanup of a major train derailment in West Virginia continued, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston called for prayers for residents who were evacuated and remained without drinking water.

“As the people of this region face yet another water crisis in the middle of winter, we are all reminded of the fragility of our natural environment and our dependence on it,” Bishop Bransfield said.

A federal investigation has begun into what caused the Feb. 16 train derailment that spilled crude oil into the adjacent Kanawha River. Continue reading

On Ash Wednesday, cardinal urges solidarity with persecuted Christians

Cardinals Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston arrive for a consistory at which Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Richard Szczepanowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Making an impassioned plea at the end of his Feb. 18 Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington urged Catholics to offer prayers and speak out for Christians being persecuted throughout the world.

“Lent is a time of prayer — pray for those who are suffering and offer your voice,” Cardinal Wuerl told a standing-room-only congregation. “Say, ‘This is wrong. There is no political, social, cultural or religious reason for this.’” Continue reading

In sight of the nation’s capitol, a massive Bible museum underway

This architectural rendering shows how the Museum of the Bible planned for Washington will look. Opening in 2017, the eight-story, 430,000-square-foot museum is being designed by the lead architect group that created the International Spy Museum, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and the soon-to-open National Museum of African American History and Culture. (CNS photo/courtesy Smith Group JJR)

By Matthew Hadro

Washington D.C. — A vast Bible museum is currently under construction in Washington, D.C. and has had strong support since its beginning phases from the Vatican, officials for the project revealed last week.

“When we introduced the Museum of the Bible, the first place we introduced it was at the (Vatican) Embassy here in Washington, D.C., for a private gathering,” the president of the museum Cary Summers told reporters at the official beginning of construction on the museum on Feb. 12.

“We have a very strong working relationship with the Vatican Museum and the Vatican (Apostolic) Library.” Continue reading

Decade after assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang, work remains risky

A cross stands on the spot where U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was murdered Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu June 7. (CNS photo/Lunae Parracho, Reuters)

By Lise Alves
Catholic News Service

SAO PAULO — In the 10 years since U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang was killed by ranchers in the Amazon, the risks have not decreased, said one of the coordinators of the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission.

Antonio Canuto, one of the commission’s coordinators, said although the 73-year-old nun’s assassination in Anapu brought awareness of the plight of the peasants with whom she worked, this has not been enough to decrease impunity in the region. Continue reading

House Speaker Boehner announces Pope Francis will address Congress

U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stand next to Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool) (March 27, 2014)

By Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Feb. 5 that Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24.

The pontiff’s “historic visit” would make him the “first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress,” Boehner said in a statement, adding that he was “truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation.” Continue reading

Appeals court to hear EWTN contraception mandate case Feb. 4


ATLANTA, Ga. — On Wednesday, Feb. 4, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hear oral arguments in a case brought by EWTN Global Catholic Network against the federal contraception mandate.

“EWTN looks forward to being able to make our case against the government’s contraceptive services mandate,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw. Continue reading

California bill would legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill

The late Brittany Maynard is pictured with husband Dan Diaz in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters Nov. 3. The 29-year-old woman who was suffering from terminal brain cancer ended her life Nov. 1 in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Maynard's decision was praised by assisted suicide advocates, but pro-life leaders called it a tragedy. (CNS photo/Reuters)

By Valerie Schmalz
Catholic News Service 

SAN FRANCISCO — California legislators have introduced assisted suicide legislation modeled on Oregon’s assisted suicide law, energized by the heartbreaking story of Brittany Maynard, a young woman with brain cancer, who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon to end her own life Nov. 1.

Before her suicide, Maynard, 29, created videos asking for assisted suicide legislation that drew tens of millions of views, and her mother and husband are now campaigning for legalization. Continue reading

Measles are making a comeback, so what does the Church teach about vaccines?

A child shows a classic day-4 rash with measles. (CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice)

By Mary Rezac

Disneyland is supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth, not the place where you contract a highly contagious, once-eradicated disease.

Unfortunately, that is what happened at Disneyland in California, starting back in December. The measles virus, likely carried by a tourist from a foreign country, started a chain of infections that has now reached at least 87 people in seven states and Mexico. The outbreak has also resurfaced arguments surrounding the vaccination of children. Continue reading