Fr. Pavone suspended from ministry outside Amarillo Diocese

Fr. Frank Pavone, one of the country’s most visible and vocal opponents of abortion, has been suspended from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, over financial questions about his operation of Priests for Life. The suspension was made public in a Sept. 9 letter from Amarillo Bp. Patrick J. Zurek to his fellow bishops across the country, but Fr. Pavone told Catholic News Service that he was returning to Amarillo and planned to continue functioning as a priest there. “My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization,” Bp. Zurek wrote. “The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Fr. Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight.” Bp. Zurek said “persistent questions and concerns” from clergy and laity about how the “millions of dollars in donations” the organization has received are being spent led to the action. The bishop also asked Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, to return to Amarillo “to spend time in prayer and reflection.” Fr. Pavone, meanwhile, told CNS Sept. 13 from Birmingham, Ala., where he had been taping programs for Eternal Word Television Network for more than a week, that he planned to comply with Bp. Zurek’s request to return to Amarillo. Fr. Pavone said he was scheduled to leave Birmingham the afternoon of Sept. 13 and meet with Msgr. Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy in the Amarillo Diocese, immediately after his arrival. “Bp. Zurek asked me to go back to the diocese today, which I am doing for a limited period of time,” Fr. Pavone said. “I am going there and my (priestly) faculties are fully intact and I’m in good standing.” ©CNS

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Abuse victims seek investigation of pope, top Vatican officials

The Hague, Netherlands–Several victims of clerical sexual abuse, a US-based organization for survivors and a US-based human rights organization formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and other top Vatican officials on charges they bear a responsibility for the abuse of children by Catholic priests around the world. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and their attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based organization, presented their petition to the court Sept. 13, they announced in a press release. The Vatican press office declined comment. The petition alleges that “Vatican officials tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.” Along with the petition, the groups filed thousands of pages of documents, including Vatican policies on handling clerical sexual abuse; correspondence from Vatican officials, bishops and accused priests in reference to several specific cases; and copies of reports and policies from individual bishops’ conferences in several countries. The petition claims the church leaders who bear “the greatest responsibility” for cases of clerical sexual abuse are Pope Benedict, both as pope and as the previous prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Card. Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state; Card. Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state and former secretary of the doctrinal congregation; and Card. William J. Levada, current prefect of the congregation. ©CNS

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Muslim student group invites pope to speak at conference in Bali

Leaders of Indonesia’s largest Muslim student group came to the Vatican to extend an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to speak at a conference in Bali in 2012. The leaders of the Indonesian Islamic Student Association, or Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam, met Sept. 10 with Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, reported Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency. The student association, which counts about 1 million members, was founded in 1947 and is “the oldest, largest and most influential” student group in Indonesia, Fides said. In addition to inviting the pope to address their conference on dialogue and peace, Fides said, the students spoke to Card. Tauran about ways to promote dialogue and religious pluralism and to begin forms of collaboration with Catholics. Fides said the visit of the association’s president, Noer Fajrieansyah, and other members of its executive board demonstrated how the organization has returned to being a force promoting dialogue and interreligious harmony and for combating extremism. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, Fides said, the organization “vigorously protested the US bombing and military intervention in Afghanistan” and rejected claims that radical Islamic groups in Indonesia had ties to al-Qaida. The organization’s president and another leader “were even arrested for burning the American flag,” Fides said. ©CNS

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Faith, sacrifice lead to church for Chaldean, Assyrian Catholics in US

Orangevale, CA–Tom Simon genuflects and kneels in prayer before the tabernacle. “It takes love, faith and sacrifice to build a house of the Lord,” he says. Now, after long years of planning, hard work and some divine intervention, the Chaldean and the Assyrian Catholics of the Sacramento area have their own house of the Lord–Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic Church in Orangevale. “It’s for the Lord.” Neil Simon Nofaley says softly as he looks around the bright and beautiful church. Nofaley, Simon’s father, has been a subdeacon and leader of the small Chaldean community for 27 years. He speaks proudly about not only their new church building but of the history of the Chaldeans, a Christian church now centered in Iraq, a history that began long before Christianity. “Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans, 160 kilometers from Baghdad,” Nofaley says. “And when he wanted a wife for his son Isaac he found her among the Chaldeans.” Centuries later Chaldeans were among the first gentiles to embrace Christianity. St. Thomas the Apostle and two disciples brought the Gospel to the small kingdom of Chaldea in what is now northern Iraq. For nearly 2,000 years, the Chaldeans and the Assyrians have kept the faith even though they were a politically powerless minority in a region ruled at first by pagans and then by Islam. Over the centuries, it has earned the title “the church of the martyrs.” The persecution continues even now. “Sixty-eight of our churches in Iraq were attacked, bombed and some destroyed,” Simon says. “Twenty-eight of our priests, including the archbishop, were kidnapped, tortured and some beheaded. One nun was beheaded. Children have been kidnapped and held for ransom–often far more than families could afford. One 6-year-old was killed because his family could not pay.” ©CNS

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Pope, religious leaders in Europe mark 9/11 anniversary

Ancona, Italy–Remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pope Benedict XVI appealed to government leaders and all people of good will to work toward a future marked by solidarity and peace. The pope marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the US after celebrating the closing Mass for the Italian National Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Before leading the midday Angelus prayer with about 80,000 people gathered at a shipyard, the pope recalled the anniversary. “In commending to the Lord the lives of the victims of the attacks carried out that day and their families, I ask leaders of nations and people of good will always to refuse violence as a solution to problems, to resist the temptation of hatred and to work in society, drawing inspiration from the principles of solidarity, justice and peace,” the pope said. Pope Benedict also sent a message to about 300 religious leaders gathered in Munich to commemorate the anniversary at the beginning of the annual interreligious dialogue meeting sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based lay movement. The theme of the gathering was “Bound to Live Together,” and the pope said that when people do not open themselves to learning from, sharing with and respecting others, living together “can become a hell.” Religious leaders, he said, must ask themselves how they can become forces to promote peaceful coexistence and cooperation. ©CNS

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Interview with Catholic artist David Myers

Recently, I was surfing around Online in search of an image of one of my favorite saints, St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Somehow by chance, I came across the work of noted Catholic artist David Myers. From the first time I glanced at his Web site, David’s art spoke straight to my heart–perhaps it’s the beauty with which he has captured some of my favorite saints (and even living saints) that keeps me visiting his blog regularly for a dose of inspiration. Today, I’m thrilled to share my recent interview with David Myers and hope you’ll take time to visit his blog today and consider a purchase of his art for your family.

Q: Could you please begin by briefly introducing yourself and your family?

My wife, Emily, and I have been married now for four years and live in Morrisville, NC. Emily is an AIG (Academically and Intellectually Gifted) Specialist teaching at AL Stanback Middleschool in Hillsborough, NC, and I work as a Patient Advocate at Duke University Medical Center. Last year, God blessed us richly with the adoption of our son, Evan, who is now 14 months old. He is our joy, and to some extent, my artwork has had to take a break as we have been absorbed with our little man. I am a two-time cancer survivor, and adoption was our only option. This seemed a difficult cross at first. However, Evan has shown us how incredible a blessing adoption can be, and we would not change a thing.

Q: How did you get started with your art and how would you describe the style of art you are currently creating?

I began drawing when I was very young, and was inspired by the ability of a babysitter I had who lived next door to us. Her father had been a great painter and had taught her much before he passed away. I was always very impressed by her ability to copy almost any image. She encouraged my desire to draw like her by giving me tracing paper. I began with that and continued to improve, graduating from tracing to copying myself. In middle school and high school I wanted to be a comic book illustrator, so I spent a lot of time copying comics. However, in college, despite unfortunate laziness on my part in other disciplines, I did manage to gain a good level of ability in life drawing, and had a very good instructor. In the more recent years of my life I felt that I should pour myself into that style of artwork, because I felt that I could truly produce pieces of fine art with it. I would call the work that I currently do naturalistic, inasmuch as it is obedient as possible to what is seen, but I endeavor (particularly in my Catholic work) to produce something new and spiritually revealing of the subject.

Q: Have you had formal art training? Who are some of your favorite artists and influences?

Yes. I was educated in art at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Professor Donald Furst taught me how to draw from life and to be obedient to what my eye saw. He also gave me the very best advice I have ever received in the area of art. I was blessed to receive a scholarship to study in Rome for a summer, and Professor Furst told me: “Take a sketchbook with you. Resist the temptation to snap photos and move on. Each day pick something, a statue or other work of art, that you will commit to sit down in front of and draw. You will forget so much about the photographs, but you will remember everything you experienced when you were drawing.” He was so right about this, and this experience of drawing for a full month in Italy taught me more about drawing and what was possible for this medium than any of the classes I had attended. My favorite artist of all history is Michelangelo, but I must qualify this answer. For the “Michelangelo” I refer to are actually two Michelangelos, one being the most famous, the other being Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. I believe that both artists have deeply influenced my own work and my made me aware of the subtleties that make for meaningful, compelling art, as well as the more verbose elements that give it fire, passion, and the ability to expand the horizons of others. I am most recently indebted to the work and the advice of Cameron Smith, a great Catholic artist, who, in one conversation, completely revolutionized my drawing technique. It is as “clear as the summer sun” to anyone who looks that my work owes as much to Cameron as the work of Raphael did to that of Michelangelo.

Q: I’m particularly interested in your wonderful portraits of the saints. Your lovely rendering of St. Gianna Molla literately brings tears of joy to my eyes! Why draw the saints, and what has this done for your faith life?

St. Augustine once said, “The difference between the Gospel and the Lives of the Saints is the same as the difference between beautiful music written on a page, and music that is played for an audience.” The lives of the Saints are deeply important to me, especially as a convert to the Catholic faith. I almost felt that these heroes of the faith had been hidden from me unfairly for a long time before I discovered the Church. Many times, when I work on a drawing of a particular saint, as I did with St. Gianna, I listen to an audio recording of their biography, or one of their written works on tape. I have learned a great deal in this way about our elder brothers and sisters of the Church. At the same time that I drew my portrait of St. Gianna, I also drew images of Blessed Miguel Pro, the Jesuit Mexican martyr who is so beloved by his people. I was overjoyed to learn that Blessed Miguel also liked to sketch, and would often use his sketchbook to plan the many disguises he used to hide from the anti-Catholic government of his day. To me, art is an echo of the reality of the incarnation, and the saints are artists themselves, incarnating Christ over and over again in their lives.

Q: You have some amazing portraits of noted Catholics, including Immaculee and Fr. Larry Richards. Are these commissions and how did you come to create these works? Do you accept private commissions?

The drawings of Fr. Larry and Immaculee were actually both produced for the same event, at which both of them were scheduled to speak. “Ignited by Truth” is a Catholic Conference held here in the Diocese of Raleigh on an annual basis. That year I drew portraits of Immaculee, Fr. Larry, our Bp. Michael Burbidge, Joseph Pearce, and NFL Quarterback Philip Rivers. I used these portraits to produce a poster for the event, and was able to give each of the speakers a print of their portrait. It actually led to a wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Professor Pearce, and I was featured in his quarterly cultural magazine, St. Austin’s Review. Unfortunately, at this time, my responsibilities to my family have forced me to decline private commissions. Art is my secondary work and it would be unfair to take commissions because I could not guarantee when they would be completed. However, I do produce prints of my work and accept requests for these through my personal Email, davemyers1977@gmail.com

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future of your art career?

My main hope and dream is that I can pass on to my son my love of art, and encourage his own creativity, whatever form that may take. I hope that the body of work I have amassed to this point (as it may not grow very much moving forward) will continue to inspire my fellow Catholics and Christians throughout the world. I have been very happy to track the popularity of my Web site and to see that it has been viewed by people in every continent of the world.

Q: How can readers learn more about your art? Do you sell your work?

Yes, I do sell my work, and my personal email address and information about my work is available on my Web site at www.artisservant.blogspot.com. Each piece of work includes a detailed description, and my personal philosophy of art is also explained in the content of the site. Everything that I have drawn since 2005 is available on my Web site.

Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

I am just very grateful for the continued interest my work has inspired. Your prayers for my family are greatly appreciated, that we may grow in faith, hope, and love, and raise a good Catholic boy. Thank you.

Visit David Myers Online at www.artisservant.blogspot.com.

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of www.CatholicMom.com and the author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul.

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Australian bishop welcomes court decision against deporting boat people

The Australian bishops’ representative for migrants welcomed a High Court decision that granted a permanent injunction against the deportation of 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia. “The Catholic Church stands ready to work … to find a better way” to deal with refugees, said a statement by Bp. Gerard Hanna of Wagga Wagga. He said he hoped the Aug. 31 court ruling “does not lead to crass politics in Australia, but rather to a determination to find reasonable and just outcomes for those seeking asylum.” Australia’s highest court granted a permanent injunction against a deal that would have sent 800 illegal asylum seekers back to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 refugees registered for resettlement. The court ruled that the deal was not legally binding under Malaysian law and noted that Malaysia had not signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees. It also said Australia could not remove asylum-seekers whose refugee claims were undetermined. More than 6,200 asylum seekers–most from Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan–arrived in Australia by boat in 2010. Many of the boat people use Malaysia or Indonesia as starting points to get to Australia. The Australian and Malaysian governments said they struck the deal to discourage people-smuggling of such asylum-seekers. ©CNS

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Papal table features produce from pope’s farm at Castel Gandolfo

Cows are seen on the farm at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, in this undated photo provided by the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper. The papal farm has 25 cows that produce more than 150 gallons of milk per day. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

On any given day, the papal table may feature extra-virgin olive oil, lightly pasteurized milk, fresh eggs, free-range chicken, honey, apricots and peaches–all straight from the farm at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. “The pope’s farm, even if it is similar to many others, still gives rise to curiosity,” said the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Part of the curiosity comes from the fact that, for years, the only media allowed on the farm have been the writers and photographers who work for the Vatican newspaper. L’Osservatore wrote about and published photos from the farm in its Aug. 31 edition. The farm, which covers just under 50 acres, is home to an olive grove, fruit trees and greenhouses used to raise flowers and plants that often are used to decorate the papal apartments and meeting rooms, the newspaper said. Each day, 25 cows produce more than 150 gallons of milk, and more than 200 eggs are collected from some 300 hens. In addition, about 60 chickens are raised for meat. What the pope and his aides do not use is sold to Vatican employees and retirees at their discount supermarket. L’Osservatore said the farm took shape in the 1930s under the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, who saw it “as a model of a genuine lifestyle, the same he was able to enjoy as a youth.” Saverio Petrillo, director of the papal villa, told the Vatican newspaper that the farm once hosted two wild boars that had been given to Pope Paul VI, but they were a bit rowdy. “The gazelles of Pius XI were more tranquil,” Petrillo said. “They were given to the pope by the apostolic delegate in Egypt, and the pope had great affection for those beasts; he would go visit them” every time he went to Castel Gandolfo, and he always went with some treat to feed them. ©CNS

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Dioceses find various ways to cope with contraceptive insurance mandate

BISHOP BLESSES VIRGINIA PHARMACY THAT ADHERES TO CHURCH TEACHING, WON'T CARRY CONTRACEPTIVES

A new federal regulation that would require employer insurance plans to provide contraceptives that some consider abortifacient and voluntary sterilization among cost-free preventive care measures such as inoculations and Pap smears is being greeted with varying levels of dismay in Catholic dioceses across the country. The regulation provides a narrow religious exemption for an employer that “(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization” under specific sections of the Internal Revenue Code. This definition is “a direct infringement on our ability to do ministry,” said George Wesolek, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “It’s part of a larger issue,” he said. “The room for religious liberty is getting narrower and narrower” in the US. The Health and Human Services Department regulation, announced Aug. 1, has a 60-day comment period ending Sept. 30, and could go into effect in August 2012. It is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Wesolek said it “could have been avoided by a unified effort by the Catholic Church when the health care bill was being considered.” James F. Sweeney, legal counsel to the Diocese of Sacramento, was among the Californians who unsuccessfully fought a similar state law through the California courts and tried to take it to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. He called the exemption “a complete sham” because it omits the reality of the church at work in the world. He said “there was a time when government attempted to protect religious exercise” but this regulation is instead “tolerating (religion) in the least significant ways possible.” ©CNS

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