Cardinal Francis George will undergo six sessions of chemotherapy over a period of four months to treat his second bout of cancer.
“Please continue to keep the Cardinal in your thoughts and prayers,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said Aug. 28.
The cardinal’s doctors at Loyola University Medical Center have settled on his course of treatment.
The 75-year-old cardinal will begin chemotherapy on Sept. 5. Each session will last three weeks. He will undergo chemotherapy during the first two weeks of each session and then spend a week without chemotherapy to allow his immune system to recover.
He plans to keep his regular work schedule, the archdiocese said. During weeks without chemotherapy, he will reduce his public schedule on account of his weakened immune system.
Medical tests found that the cardinal had a liver nodule which contained cancerous cells. He also had cancer cells in his right kidney. The tests could not confirm whether there is cancer elsewhere in his body.
The archdiocese said that Cardinal George is grateful to all those who have sent cards and e-mails expressing their concern and promising their prayers.
This is the cardinal’s second battle with cancer. He was first diagnosed in 2006 when at the age of 69 he underwent a five-hour operation to remove his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters, the tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder. Doctors believed the procedure had eliminated the cancer.
The archdiocese will announce his doctors’ evaluation of his current battle with cancer after the chemotherapy is completed.
In his Aug. 26 column for the archdiocesan paper Catholic New World, Cardinal George encouraged others to use his diagnosis as a time to “reflect upon God’s goodness and grow closer to Christ.”
He explained that he plans to say “little” about his cancer and his treatment even though it will “probably be a trying time for me in the next several months.”
Cardinal George has headed the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1997. He previously led the Diocese of Yakima, Wash. and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. He is a past president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a past vicar general of the Oblates of Mary religious order.
The cardinal submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI upon turning 75, as required by Church law, but the Pope has not yet granted it. Cardinal George had not expected the Pope to accept his retirement for another three years.
On Aug. 24, he told reporters that the cancer diagnosis “might change the timeline a little bit” on his remaining in office.
He is the first archbishop of Chicago to live to retirement age.
“I’m very lucky to be the first one to live with this position long enough to retire and I’m hoping to be able to do that,” the cardinal said, according to the suburban Chicago newspaper “The Daily Herald.”
Venezuela’s bishops grieved over the explosion and fire at an oil refinery in the country — one of the four largest in the world — that killed 41 people, left dozens injured and is still burning after three days.
Authorities at the Amuay refinery, the largest in Venezuela with a capacity of 645,000 barrels per day, said that if the flames cannot be extinguished, they will wait for the fire to burn out and cool off for two days before re-launching operations.
The bishops of Venezuela said the 41 deaths caused by the explosion and fire are cause for “mourning and saddens for the entire Venezuelan nation, and especially for the inhabitants of the state of Falcon.”
“As pastors of the church, we want to convey our words of Christian comfort and solidarity to those affected by this unfortunate incident. May faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life, the physician of our souls and bodies, sustain them in their sorrow and grant them the peace that only He can give.
May they be assured that the prayers and affection of all Catholics in Venezuela are with them at this time,” the bishops said, according to a Catholic News Agency report. They also offered prayers for the eternal repose of the deceased.
“We pray that trust in the one who says: ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ will strengthen those who today mourn the deaths of their loved ones in the hope of eternal life.”
The explosion at the refinery appeared to be caused by a three day-long gas leak, although President Hugo Chavez has denied this.
Ivan Freites, the union president at the Paraguana Refinery Center — which includes the Amuay and Cardon refineries — called the denials an “attempt to confuse the public.”
“The managers are acting like political operatives. They are saying what they have to say to keep their positions,” he argued.
As the U.S. Gulf Coast braces itself for Hurricane Isaac to make landfall, the Catholic community is preparing to offer aid to survivors in the wake of the storm.
John Wilson, who heads disaster preparation and response efforts for the Archdiocese of Mobile, said the archdiocese is taking a “proactive posture.”
“In this phase, we are essentially on standby,” he told Catholic News Agency on Aug. 27.
He explained that it is “still difficult to tell how much rain and how much wind we’re going to get,” so efforts are focused on preparing parishes and archdiocesan facilities for the storm and getting ready to offer whatever type of aid is necessary in its aftermath.
Wilson has been working to keep archdiocesan staff and administration informed about weather conditions and official reports.
In addition, he said, the archdiocese has been “communicating with sister dioceses” to determine what levels of resources are available, in order to “share the burden” depending on the need after the storm hits.
Seven years after the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, which came ashore as a strong Category 3 storm, the region is preparing for Hurricane Isaac, which could bring up to 36 straight hours of heavy winds and rain.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods left more than 1,800 dead and caused an estimated $81 billion in damage. While Hurricane Isaac is significantly weaker, it could still result in serious water and wind damages when it hits the U.S. as early as Tuesday evening.
In recent days, Tropical Storm Isaac swept through the Caribbean, killing at least 24 people before moving towards the Gulf Coast and strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane on the afternoon of Aug. 28.
In Haiti, the storm damaged infrastructure and caused flooding in a nation still struggling to rebuild after a severe earthquake in 2010.
Catholic Relief Services, the overseas relief agency of the U.S. bishops, sent out 4,000 text messages to over 1,000 households in Port-au-Prince before the storm hit, offering evacuation instructions and safety tips.
The agency is now working with local partners and the Haitian government to assess the damage and respond to the needs of the people.
Along the U.S. Gulf Coast, communities are now bracing for the hurricane to hit, with thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama under mandatory evacuation orders.
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said that the organization has “been in constant communication with our agencies in the Gulf Coast” and is “ready to meet the needs of those who will be most affected by this storm.”
He explained that both “experience and investment” have made relief efforts “more effective and better prepared” than they were in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Nancy Loftus, a Catholic Charities case manager for the Diocese of Biloxi, said that Vietnamese and Hispanic translators are already working to make sure that important information gets out to the immigrant population in the area.
The agency is prepared to offer “basic relief items” such as food, water and infant supplies, she said, and the diocese will also be partnering with Red Cross to provide additional items, warehouse space and equipment as necessary.
Margaret Dubuisson, director of communications for Catholic Charities of New Orleans, said that efforts are currently being made in the archdiocese to ensure that clients in residential programs are taken care of, especially “medically fragile” children and senior citizens.
As in other dioceses in the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is preparing itself and waiting to see the level of damage that the storm will bring, she explained.
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond is “very, very hands-on in situations like this,” she added, noting that he plans to visit local emergency operation centers to see what the needs are.
Archbishop Aymond posted an Aug. 27 prayer on Facebook asking for safety during the upcoming storm.
“Lord, united with Mary, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, protect us and all those on the Gulf Coast as Isaac approaches,” he wrote.
Dubuisson said the archdiocese is preparing for wind and water damage, as well as possible power outages.
After the storm, it will be a matter of “picking up the pieces” and offering “whatever assistance we can,” she explained.
“We’re ready,” she said. “We’ve been through this before.”
Evolutionary biology and faith in God are not incompatible, two professors asserted at the international Rimini Meeting, an event that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Italy.
“A proper understanding of creation, especially an understanding set forth by a thinker such as Thomas Aquinas, helps us to see that there is no conflict between evolutionary biology or any of the natural sciences and a fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’, is caused by God,” Professor William E. Carroll of Oxford University’s theology faculty told Catholic News Agency Aug. 22.
“Evolutionary biology is that area of science which helps us to understand better the origin and development of human beings, but whatever those arguments are in evolutionary biology they, in principle, do not conflict with the fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’ is created by God,” Carroll said.
Professor Carroll was a keynote speaker at the Rimini Meeting, an international gathering organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation. From August 19 to 25 the event in the Italian seaside town of Rimini is exploring a range of contemporary cultural issues, including the relationship between faith, reason and science.
“God causes the world to be the kind of world which it is and the natural sciences help to disclose what kind of a world we have,” Carroll explained.
Sharing a platform with him was Professor Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Both men expressed a particular appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI’s ongoing efforts to encourage greater dialogue between faith and science.
“There is a spectrum of intransigence in the religious community and in the scientific community,” Tattersall remarked, explaining, “that is why the dialogue is useful because maybe it will broaden flexibility on both sides.”
In January 2012, Pope Benedict established a new Science and Faith Foundation, which will be headquartered at the Vatican. He said that his aim in doing so is to build a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology.
“One of the great insights of the pope, which he continually emphasizes, is an enlargement of reason, a recognition that rationality is not limited to what the natural sciences do but that there’s a larger sense of rationality that includes both philosophy and theology,” Carroll said.
He suggested that the recent debate has occasionally become confused by the interventions of high-profile scientists like Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss.
Both, he claimed, “are really ignorant of philosophy and theology, and so they make all sorts of goofy philosophical and theological claims.”
“Science is a different way of knowing than spiritual faith, both answer to a need that humans have ‘to know,’ but they are answering different parts of the question,” added Tattersall.
In fact, Tattersall pointed out, “many scientists are believers, so there’s certainly no incompatibility in principle between the two.”
Syrian rebel forces have trapped over 12,000 Greek Catholics in a village near the Lebanese border, causing shortages of food, medicine and other urgent supplies.
For over 10 days the village of Rableh in the area of Homs has suffered under a strict blockade from armed opposition forces that have surrounded it, Fides news agency says. Snipers have killed at least three men of the village, including a married father of four.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gergorios III Laham has appealed to men of good will to ensure that “Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria.” He has asked “for peace to be reached in our beloved country.”
Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to Syria, has asked both sides of the conflict to adhere to “the strict observance of the international humanitarian law.”
Rebels began an armed revolt against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Since then, more than 200,000 people have fled the country. Government forces drove out rebels from a Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday.
The international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need is helping an unnamed Syrian village in a situation similar to Rableh’s.
The destruction of bridges, the cutting of power lines and road obstacles have cut off the village from food and other basic necessities, the charity reports.
“We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive,” a local priest said. “We need every help we could get. Please help us.”
Those who have fled to Lebanon say that residents are suffering hunger and milk for children is running out. The village lacks canned goods and children’s diapers as well.
Motorcyclists trying to carry bread into the village have been shot at.
Aid to the Church in Need has made an emergency grant of $62,000 for food, medicine and baby milk.
“The fighting is reported to be fierce between the Free Syrian Army and official armed forces loyal to Assad,” Aid to the Church in Need journalist John Pontifex told Catholic News Agency on Aug. 24.
A government helicopter intending to attack rebel groups recently bombed the Greek Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, which dates back to the sixth century. None of its 25 residents and 20 refugees were hurt but parts of the building were damaged.
Political changes in recent years could mean that Catholics play an important role in the upcoming presidential election, but in a new way, say political analysts.
Dr. John Kenneth White, a political scientist at The Catholic University of America, explained that Hispanics — many of whom are Catholic — could be a “definitive group” in deciding the 2012 presidential election.
The 2012 election is unique, he told Catholic News Agency on Aug. 23, noting that not only are both contenders for vice presidentare Catholic, but that neither candidate from either major U.S. party is a white Protestant.
The unprecedented situation has led to an unexpected amount of attention on Catholics, he said.
However, he explained, “it’s very hard to talk about the Catholic vote in generic terms” because the vote of Catholics is “incredibly diversified.”
White observed that in 1960s, Catholic self-identification was high and the faithful largely voted as a single bloc.
In recent elections, however, the Catholic vote has looked more like the national vote, he said.
Catholic identity has decreased, he added, and it is “not necessarily the first identity people bring with them into the ballot box.”
Rather, Catholics tend to think of themselves by their race, gender and other distinguishing factors, he said. The voting habits of the faithful can therefore be better analyzed by carving out groups based on factors such as Mass attendance and ethnicity.
A blog post issued by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate agreed with this observation, adding that membership in a union, unemployment and military service also factor into the way that Catholics cast their ballots.
An Aug. 3 blog post on the research center’s website noted that while Catholics have made up approximately 25 percent of the total electorate in recent elections, they make up about 19 percent of the total voting age population in the 16 states that remain the most competitive this year.
Catholics account for “the largest share of the voting age population” in the competitive states of New Mexico, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and they could also be a significant “swing vote” in Florida, Nevada and Ohio, it said.
While polls indicate that Catholics are split in their candidate preference, it is difficult to make predictions about the election so far out, especially since both national conventions and the candidates’ debates could still be key in swaying voters, the blog post noted.
However, it suggested, “the votes of those without a religious affiliation may be more decisive to the election outcome” than those of Catholics.
Nevertheless, White believes that both national campaigns are actively trying to court the Catholic electorate.
“They both see the Catholic vote as being important,” he said.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney recently announced that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York would be offering the final benediction at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30.
The announcement drew national attention, particularly since Cardinal Dolan — who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs.
White believes that the controversial mandate, which has drawn strong criticism from church leaders, will have an impact on the vote of Catholics, “especially among frequent church attendees.”
But the Obama campaign is “absolutely” trying to reach out to Catholics as well, in an effort that “takes on many different forms,” White added, explaining that a big part of this is the campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters, which tend to overlap with Catholics.
And as a “leading minority” in many areas, Hispanics could be “a decisive number” in some swing states, he said.
White thinks the Hispanic vote will be “absolutely critical” in determining the outcome of the election.
“At the end of the day, that vote seems to be a lot more unified,” he said.
Stem cell researchers are launching the first FDA-approved clinical trial to examine whether cord blood stem cells can improve the condition of children with autism.
“This is the start of a new age of research in stem cell therapies for chronic diseases such as autism, and a natural step to determine whether patients receive some benefit from an infusion of their own cord blood stem cells,” Dr. Michael Chez, the study’s principal investigator, said Aug. 21.
Dr. Chez is the director of Pediatric Neurology with the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, Calif. The institute has joined with the major stem cell bank CBR (Cord Blood Registry) to examine the effect of the stem cell therapy on autistic children.
The clinical study will enroll 30 children ages two through seven who are diagnosed with autism and meet other criteria, CBR says. Participants will receive two infusions, one of the child’s own cord blood stem cells and one of a placebo, over 13 months. The trial intends to determine whether the cells help improve patients’ language and behavior.
One in 88 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder that affects social, language and behavioral skills.
Chez said there is evidence that some autistic children have dysfunctional immune systems that damage or delay their nervous system development.
“Cord blood stem cells may offer ways to modulate or repair the immune systems of these patients which would also improve language and some behavior in children who have no obvious reason to have become autistic,” he said.
Umbilical cord blood contains unique stem cells that have been used for more than 20 years to treat some cancers, blood diseases and immune disorders.
Dr. Maureen L. Condic, associate professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, told Catholic News Agency she is “intrigued” by the study but “cautious.”
“Autism is a very complex and poorly understood condition,” she said Aug. 22.
Umbilical cord stem cells are obtained from a patient at birth and are therefore genetically identical to the patient. This means that they will not be rejected by the patient’s immune system.
Embryonic stem cells, by contrast, are obtained from human embryos destroyed to produce stem cells.
“They are likely to be rejected by the patient’s immune system, unless the patient is treated with immune-suppressing drugs,” she added. “Undifferentiated embryonic stem cells produce tumors when injected into patients, and cannot be used for therapies without first manipulating these cells to produce a mature cell type.”
Catholic ethics rejects the use of embryonic stem cells because they are derived from destroying a human embryo.
The Archdiocese of Mexico City has strongly denied claims by a former candidate for mayor of the capital that it interfered in the July 1 elections to prevent her from winning.
In an interview on Aug. 20 with the archdiocese’s News Service, spokesman Father Hugo Valdemar responded to statements made by Miranda de Wallaces, a pro-abortion candidate from the PAN party.
Wallaces told a local newspaper on Aug. 17, “There were people who were working against my candidacy,” referring to the spokesman and Cardinal Norberto Rivera.
“They told people not to vote for me,” she said, “and somebody from the PAN went to see Cardinal Rivera to get Father Valedmar to say they should not vote for me.”
In his response, Father Valdemar argued that only “an irresponsible person acting in bad faith could make such a serious accusation without saying who that ‘somebody’ is that went to see the cardinal for the reasons she claims.”
“Ms. Wallace has the obligation to reveal the name of that person,” he said, adding that Wallace will clearly “not do so because this is offensive gossip that she takes to be true.”
Father Valdemar said that he did make several statements regarding the “scandalous” support of the former candidate for abortion and homosexual unions, but that it was “totally false” that he advised people not to vote for her.
“What I said was that if she continued to hold this pro-abortion stance, as the church we would be obliged to take a strong and clear position.”
“In reality I was never concerned about the candidacy of Ms. Wallace. It was very clear that her campaign would be a failure and she would be relegated to an embarrassing third place, which is what happened,” the priest said.
“Why launch a campaign against her then? That assumption is ridiculous, and if I had said not to vote for her, then I don’t understand why Ms. Wallace and the PAN did not file a lawsuit against me with elections officials,” Father Valdemar added.
Telling the former candidate she needs to be more “mature,” Father Valdemar said that each person “should assume responsibility and not go about blaming others.”
Miguel Angel Mancera of the PRD party — which legalized abortion and homosexual unions in Mexico City — was the winner of the July 1 elections for mayor of the Mexican capital
As fighting in neighboring Syria rages on, Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed that he will proceed with his trip to Lebanon as planned.
“The Christians in Lebanon are looking forward to the Holy Father’s visit with great joy,” Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Boutros Rai told Aid to the Church in Need Aug. 22.
Escalating violence in Syria and increased tensions in Lebanon gave rise to speculation that the pope would postpone or cancel his Sept. 14-16 trip.
“Of course the visit will go ahead,” Cardinal Rai confirmed.
Just last week an assassination plot against Cardianl Rai, who is the highest ranking dignitary in the Maronite Church, was prevented when one of the conspirators informed Lebanon’s domestic secret service of the plan.
Large quantities of explosives were intended to detonate along the route of Cardinal Rai’s visit to Sunni parliament member Khaled Daher’s home in northern Lebanon.
Michel Samaha, a former minister and current supporter of Hezbollah, was involved in the plot and has been arrested and admitted to the plan.
“The preparations for the visit are going ahead without any uncertainty on the part of the Vatican,” Father Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, told reporters Aug. 20.
Father Lombardi said a sign that the visit will take place is that a popemobile has already been sent to Lebanon.
This past week violence and tensions from the conflict in Syria have begun to spill over the border into Lebanon, and the assassination plot is among those incidents.
Since March 2011, the armed revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has claimed over 10,000 lives, according to the latest U.N. estimates.
During his visit, the Pope will meet with Cardianl Rai to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Middle East, which is the result of a synod that took place in 2010.
Pope Benedict is set to meet with Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati and celebrate Mass at Beirut’s City Center Waterfront.
In a July 29 Sunday Angelus address, the pope said that he has been following events “with concern” for the “growing and tragic episodes of violence in Syria” which have created a “sad sequence of deaths and injuries among civilians.”
In the same speech, he lamented the large number of internally displaced people and refugees who have moved to neighboring countries.
Over 50,000 Christians throughout Syria have fled their homes. In the city of Homs, where much of the fighting has been centered, 90 percent of the Christian population has fled.
The American Bible Challenge, a new show on GSN, is testing competitors on their knowledge of the Bible and raising money for charity, with the help of celebrity host Jeff Foxworthy.
Consulting producer Maura Dunbar said that she is “just thrilled” about the project.
For years, she told Catholic News Agency on Aug. 21, there had been an idea to “create a quiz show based on the Bible.”
After experimenting with different formats, that idea became a reality with the cooperation of GSN.
The result is both “fun” and “celebratory,” she explained.
Premiering on Aug. 23, the American Bible Challenge will be hosted by comedian and author Jeff Foxworthy.
Each episode will feature three teams competing, one of which advances to the next round. The ultimate prize is $100,000 for a charity chosen by the winning team.
Dunbar explained that the show will highlight the “compelling back stories” of the competitors, who are on the show “to play for a reason” and are motivated by a charity that has special meaning to them.
The charities chosen by the teams include food pantries, cancer centers and Locks of Love.
One team from Los Angeles, Calif., is composed of three firefighters who are bound together by their occupation and their faith. The men “frequently gather after a long day of work to reflect and pray together” and hope to raise money for the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research to find cures for childhood cancers.
Another team, called the “Horns of Jericho,” consists of three brothers from a large Italian-American Catholic family in Sleepy Hollow, Ill.
Each of the brothers “found his faith tested when their grandfather died of cancer, a disease that has also struck several of their aunts and uncles.” The brothers are playing for the American Cancer Society.
Dunbar said that Foxworthy is “very excited” to be hosting the show.
In addition to bringing name recognition to the program, Foxworthy “is a committed Christian,” she explained. “He lives out his faith.”
In addition to regularly attending church, he has conducted a Bible study for homeless people in his area for 15 years, she said.
In a production video on the GSN website, Foxworthy explained that when he was first approached about the idea of the show, he was skeptical about whether a Bible game show would work.
But at the same time, he said that he was intrigued by the idea of winning a game show for charity.
“How cool to actually go on and play a game where you’re not reaping the benefit, but you’re turning around and blessing somebody else,” he said. “That’s why I think it’ll work.”
He added that despite being centuries old, the Bible is “still relevant” and is the best-selling book of all time.
While the idea of a faith-based game show on a secular cable network is largely unprecedented, Dunbar believes that it will be well-received.
“I think there’s a wide audience for this,” she said, pointing to the large number of Christians in the United States.
She explained that the show manages to combine trivia and Scripture in a way that is “both respectful and fun.”
Dunbar hopes that the American Bible Challenge will draw a strong viewership from different Christian denominations and will ultimately pave the way for a second season.
“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “It’s good family entertainment.”