September 19, 2018 // World News

News Briefs: September 23, 2018

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world’s meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the world, and the Vatican Observatory took the first small step to help curators make a giant leap in coordinating their efforts globally. Staffed by a team of Jesuit scientists, the Vatican Observatory held the first-ever workshop on the curation and conservation of meteorites and extraterrestrial samples — that is, specimens gathered during missions in space, like the Apollo moon rocks or stardust captured from a comet’s tail. The event, hosted Sept. 10-13 at the observatory headquarters in the gardens of the papal summer residence, brought together 30 curators and collections’ managers representing 27 different institutions from all over the world. The gathering also had the support of the Meteoritical Society. “For many years, each meteorite collection was curated more or less independently, with the individual curators working out their own practices for the care and preservation of the specimens, mostly under policies of their particular institutions that were very different from that of other institutions,” Jesuit Brother Robert Macke, curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection, told Catholic News Service. 

Algerian martyrs to be beatified Dec. 8 in Algeria

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, Algeria, the country’s bishops announced. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, will preside over the Mass and beatification rite for the six women and 13 men who gave their lives “for the least, the sick and the men, women and young people of Algeria,” said a statement published by the bishops Sept. 13. The martyrs “are given to us as intercessors and models of Christian life, friendship and fraternity, encounter and dialogue,” the bishops said. “May their example help us in our life today. From Algeria, their beatification will be an impetus and a call for the Church and for the world to build together a world of peace and fraternity.” The 19 martyrs were killed between 1993 and 1996 while Algeria was locked in a 10-year-long armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups; the conflict left tens of thousands of people dead.

Kurtz: U.S. society ‘much richer’ when Church, government work together

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty told a Washington audience Sept. 12 he is concerned about a “steady movement” in the U.S. away from religious institutions and an erosion in the view that religious liberty must be valued. The public-private partnership of the government and the Church is necessary to serve all people’s needs, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. He reviewed a number of current challenges to religious liberty, including an effort to exclude Catholic agencies from providing adoption and foster care services over the issue of same-sex couples. Before his main address at the Catholic Information Center, Archbishop Kurtz commented on the current abuse scandal in the Church, in particular the credible allegations of child sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington. He also has been accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians. “I felt angry, I felt hurt, and I felt embarrassed” over the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick, he said. “We’ve worked hard in trying to make sure young people … would be safe.” 

Catholics join other Christians in calling for admitting more refugees

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Christians in the U.S. have taken the Trump administration to task for a dramatic drop in the numbers of persecuted Christian and other refugees being admitted into the country, even though administration officials promised last year to help. While administration officials vowed on several occasions to help Christians in the Middle East facing what Vice President Mike Pence last year called an “exodus” from their ancestral lands, U.S. Christian groups trying to help them condemned the dramatic drop of refugees the Trump administration allowed into the United States last year and this year. The Refugees Council USA said in a statement that policies “clearly aimed at Muslim refugees, ensure that Christians and other religious minorities from many of the countries on Trump’s list of suspect travel ban nations are also kept out. It suggests that the president has no real interest in religious persecution or the tenets of religious freedom.” The U.S. Department of State recently released figures showing that 14,289 Christian refugees were admitted in 2018, compared to 25,162 the previous year. 

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter’s bones

HOUSTON (CNS) — Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decadeslong archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story reminiscent of adventurer archaeologist Indiana Jones, complete with German Nazis in Rome. For legendary oilman George Strake and New York Times best-selling author John O’Neill, the buried treasure was based on Matthew 16:18, when Jesus said: “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” O’Neill’s recently released book “The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search” highlights Strake’s involvement in clandestinely funding the excavation to find the long-lost bones of St. Peter, traditionally known as the first pope. Because Christians still are being persecuted in the Middle East and other parts of the world, O’Neill said he is donating proceeds from his book to Catholic Relief Services to help those persecuted because of their faith. He and fellow book researcher Sarah Wynne are beginning work on a movie screenplay based on the secret excavation that began in 1939 when a workman helping to dig a grave and chapel for deceased Pope Pius XI fell through a floor that gave way. “We want the opening scene to be the workman falling through the floor and finding himself surrounded by statues and colorful artwork around tombs of mostly Roman pagans,” Wynne said. The search works through multiple twists and turns and character personality clashes, finally succeeding in finding relics in 1942. Bones were pulled from a marble-lined niche wall of buried ancient graffiti inscribed with codes of “T” for the crucifixion, “R” for resurrection and the inscription “Peter is here.” 

U.S. bishops tell pope abuse scandal ‘lacerated’ the Church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they shared with Pope Francis how the Church in the United States has been “lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart,” said a statement released after the meeting Sept. 13. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met the pope at the Vatican along with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB; and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference. The USCCB statement described the encounter as “a lengthy, fruitful and a good exchange,” but did not enter into details about what was discussed or whether any concrete measures were taken or promised. “We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together, identifying the most effective next steps,” the statement said.

A statue of an angel is partially submerged by floodwaters Sept. 16 in the cemetery of a church where residents took shelter in Leland, N.C., and later evacuated following Hurricane Florence. The storm, now a tropical depression, is poised to affect more than 10 million the week of Sept. 17. (CNS photo/Jonathan Drake, Reuters)

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