Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hundreds gather at St. James Catholic Church in Belvidere for dedication - Entertainment & Life - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL

BELVIDERE — The newly expanded St. James Catholic Church opened for a dedication ceremony Thursday to more than 800 people eager to view its renovations.

St. James, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary,has been under construction for the past 49 weeks.

The $4.9 million expansion project, which began in January, nearly quadrupled the seating capacity and changed the interior orientation from east-west to north-south. More than 600 seats were added.

The dedication, led by Rockford Bishop David Malloy, was the renovated church’s inaugural service.

Parishioners celebrated Mass in the school gymnasium while work was underway at the church.

Malloy praised the beauty of the new design. He urged the congregation to maintain the building’s sanctity and use it as a reminder that “we, too, are to be a dwelling place of God.”

The physical structure of the old church was incorporated into its new design.

“It’s tying the old into the new,” said the Rev. Brian Geary, pastor.

Parishioners Andrew and Laura Greer love the renovations.

“I’m just awe-struck to be honest,” she said. “It’s just an honor to be in here.”

Ben Stanley: 815-987-1369;;

    Hundreds gather at St. James Catholic Church in Belvidere for dedication - Entertainment & Life - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

    Pope Francis, Peacemaker in Cuba and Beyond - Bloomberg View


    Pope Francis, Peacemaker

    Dec 19, 2014 12:58 PM EST

    By Francis Barry

    When Pope John Paul II arrived at the airport in Havana in 1998 for a first-ever papal visit, he said: “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba.”

    Sixteen years later, a new pope -- himself no stranger to repressive dictatorship, having lived through Argentina’s “Dirty War” -- has helped breathe new life into those aspirations, by prodding the U.S. and Cuba into normalizing diplomatic relations.

    The agreement between the two old antagonists effectively ends one of the last battles of the Cold War. It also highlights what could prove to be the most historically consequential aspect of Francis’ papacy: His commitment to the work of healing old wounds -- within his flock, with other churches and governments, and among bitter enemies. It may be the most ambitious peacemaking agenda any pope has ever undertaken.

    Francis's active role in brokering the U.S.-Cuba detente wasn’t his only foray into peacemaking this year. When he visited South Korea in August, the Vatican convinced Chinese officials to allow the papal plane to fly over Chinese airspace, a first. While over China, the pope sent a goodwill message to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people. The ultimate goal: Restoring Vatican ties to China, where Catholics have long been forced to worship underground or in churches run by the government.

    In April, after a visit to the Middle East, Francis invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for a prayer session. Both accepted, and while no breakthrough resulted (and none was expected), the gesture reflected Francis’ willingness to become personally involved in peacemaking efforts. It was the first time the Vatican had ever hosted such a gathering with Mideast leaders.

    The chief purpose of Francis’ Middle East trip was a meeting with the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church marking the 50th anniversary of a meeting that ended hostilities between the two churches, which split in 1054. Relations have steadily improved in recent decades, and Francis has said he wants to restore the churches into communion with each other, a message he repeated last month while attending an Orthodox service with Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul. If he succeeds, it would be a monumental achievement for Christian unity.

    Other popes have cautiously waded into these conflicts. Francis has been diving in. And that is especially true of his approach to healing the divisions within the Catholic Church itself.

    In October, when Francis convened a major conference on family life, he thrust into the center of it questions about how the church can build stronger bonds with those who have felt abandoned, including gays and lesbians and remarried couples. He warned the bishops against “hostile rigidity” in their thinking and all but invited them to challenge the church’s status quo, evoking the same spirit that inspired so many changes at the Second Vatican Council.

    Some were unhappy about the new openness, but the talks achieved what Francis wanted: Forcing the cardinals to approach issues from a pastoral perspective, centered on the church’s obligation to embrace those most in need of healing. “The church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds," Francis said afterward, "and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope."

    Francis’ efforts to bind up old wounds is taking many forms. Not all will succeed, and there is always the possibility that new wounds may open as a result; critics have been quick to suggest a possible schism between the church’s liberal and conservative wings. But we are learning that his papacy is best understood by reading the prayer of the saint whose name he took, which begins: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

    That plea seems to be getting heard.

    To contact the author on this story:
    Francis Barry at

    Pope Francis, Peacemaker in Cuba and Beyond - Bloomberg View

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Milwaukee archdiocese reaches $2.3M settlement with insurers; half proposed for abuse victims - Milwaukee - Milwaukee Business Journal


    The latest settlement would bring to $5.15 million the total amount available to people who have sought compensation. The new settlement figure was included in a motion filed Wednesday and is subject to approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan Kelley in Milwaukee.

    "Our relentless pursuit of insurance carriers has brought $10 million into the (reorganization) plan," archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski told the Milwaukee Business Journal Friday.

    Lloyd's of London previously agreed to pay $8 million to the archdiocese with $4 million of that planned as payments to clergy abuse victims and $4 million to pay the administrative costs of the case. The new development involves a settlement with OneBeacon Insurance Co. and Stonewall Insurance Co.

    The archdiocese reached the latest settlement after mediation with insurers including OneBeacon and Stonewall.

    Kelley has scheduled a hearing on the archdiocese settlement motion for Feb. 10, 2015.

    Read the entire article:  Milwaukee archdiocese reaches $2.3M settlement with insurers; half proposed for abuse victims - Milwaukee - Milwaukee Business Journal

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    Pope Francis Is Credited With a Crucial Role in U.S.-Cuba Agreement -


    The Vatican’s most senior official after the pope, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, moderated the October meeting after the two countries sought out the Vatican as a trusted broker near the conclusion of their negotiations.

    For Francis, the breakthrough on Wednesday burnished his efforts to reposition the Vatican as a broker in global diplomacy. He has already waded into Middle East protests, hosting a prayer summit meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian presidents that bore few tangible results. Soon afterward, Israel began its military assault against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, in Gaza.

    But Francis has quickly become one of the world’s leading figures, and his role in the United States-Cuba breakthrough undoubtedly is tied to his status as the first Latin American pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

    “He knows the Cuban situation by heart,” said Gianni La Bella, a professor of contemporary history and an expert in Latin American Catholicism, as well as a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a liberal Catholic group active in international affairs. “He visited when he was a cardinal and has a strong relationship with the archbishop of Havana, who is obviously a strategic player in this.”

    In April, the Vatican and Cuba celebrated 79 years of diplomatic relations as they jointly staged a photography exhibition at a church in Rome. Although the Vatican has had problems with Havana, it steadfastly opposes the American embargo and has kept diplomatic lines open.

    Fidel Castro visited the Vatican in 1996 and met with Pope John Paul II. Two years later, John Paul visited Cuba, where he criticized the embargo as causing hardship for ordinary people and called for it to be rescinded. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, also visited Cuba, in 2012.

    “I was in Cuba for almost two years, and I understand what this news means to the island,” said Msgr. Angelo Becciu, once the Vatican’s ambassador to Cuba. “It opens new scenarios and gives great hope to all Cuban people. The cease of the embargo will encourage and revitalize the island’s perspectives, as well as its economy.”

    After he became pope in 2013, Francis was expected to revitalize the church in the Southern Hemisphere. But his background has also helped the Vatican reposition itself as an independent actor in diplomacy, less tethered to European or American worldviews than in the past.

    Francis’s appointment of Cardinal Parolin as secretary of state was also significant. Long considered one of the Vatican’s most talented diplomats, Cardinal Parolin served as apostolic nuncio in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s closest allies. From that perch, Cardinal Parolin gained a sophisticated understanding of regional dynamics and the Cuban predicament, Professor La Bella said.

    Pope Francis Is Credited With a Crucial Role in U.S.-Cuba Agreement -

    St. James Financials for FY 2014

    In the past financial reporting for the parish was supplied in late September or October, this year this report was an insert to the December 14 weekend bulletin.


    2014 financials 1 of 2

    Prior years FY 2010 and FY 2012.


    2014 financials 2 of 2

    Prior Year balance sheets.




    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Weekly Contributions for the weekend of December 14, 2014


    Ten additional families pledged to “Continue the Vision”, $6,780 additional pledges, $19,248.44 additional collected.



    Vatican Offers Olive Branch to US Nuns - ABC News


    A sweeping Vatican investigation into Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S. that began amid fears they had become too feminist and secular ended up praising the sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor ? a major shift in tone that reflected the social justice mindset of Pope Francis.

    The overwhelmingly positive report Tuesday also promised to value their "feminine genius" more, while gently suggesting ways to serve the church faithfully and survive amid a steep drop in their numbers. It was cheered by the American sisters themselves, dozens of whom swarmed the Vatican news conference announcing the results in a rare occasion of women outnumbering men at the Vatican.

    "There is an encouraging and realistic tone in this report," Sister Sharon Holland told reporters. "Challenges are understood, but it is not a document of blame, or of simplistic solutions. One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on."

    The report was most remarkable for what it didn't say, given the criticism of American religious life that prompted the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI to launch the investigation in 2009.

    There was no critique of the nuns, no demands that they shift their focus from social justice to emphasize Catholic teaching on abortion, no condemnation that a feminist, secular mentality had taken hold in their ranks.

    Rather, while offering a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American congregations, the report praised the sisters' dedication and reaffirmed their calling in a reflection of the pastoral tone characteristic of history's first Jesuit pope.

    It was a radically different message than that of another Vatican office that investigated an umbrella group of the sisters' leaders.

    That investigation, conducted by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, resulted in a Vatican takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 2012. The doctrine office determined that the LCWR, which represents the leaders of 80 percent of U.S. nuns, took positions that undermined church teaching and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

    The Vatican's congregation for religious orders has long sought to distinguish its broad investigation into the quality of life of American sisters from the more narrow doctrinal assessment carried out by the orthodoxy office.

    But both investigations began within months of one another and resulted in tremendous feelings of betrayal and insult from the sisters.

    The probes also prompted an outpouring of support from rank-and-file American Catholics who viewed the investigations as a crackdown by a misogynistic, all-male Vatican hierarchy against the underpaid, underappreciated women who do the lion's share of work running Catholic hospitals, schools and services for the poor.

    Theological conservatives have long complained that after the reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, women's congregations in the U.S. became secular and political while abandoning traditional prayer life and faith. The nuns insisted that prayer and Christ were central to their work.

    Holland, who heads the Leadership Conference, acknowledged that the investigation was initially met with apprehension and distrust, particularly among elderly sisters who "felt that their whole lives had been judged and found wanting."

    But she said the results showed that the Vatican had listened and heard what the sisters had to say.


    TO read more:  Vatican Offers Olive Branch to US Nuns - ABC News