Monuments not the only sites drawing tourists

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the nation's capital, Washington has been visited by millions since its official founding July 16, 1790.

With sites such as the Washington Monument, White House, the Capitol, Library of Congress, the National Archives, Smithsonian museums, and countless monuments and cultural happenings, tourists from across the world come to Washington for a taste of U.S. history.

Lesser known perhaps, but no less fascinating, are the Catholic historical sites around the city that attract pilgrims.

Catholicism in the U.S. was born in the Washington region, and the area still plays a vital part in the U.S. Catholic Church. The District of Columbia is home to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, seminaries, religious houses of prayer, and three prominent Catholic universities -- The Catholic University of America, Georgetown University and Trinity Washington University.

AmeriCorps recognizes Notre Dame volunteers

WASHINGTON -- The Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, an AmeriCorps program, has received a renewal of its grant for the 2011 fiscal year, but the federal funding cuts for volunteer-based programs make the financial future of Notre Dame-AmeriCorps program unclear.

So this year's Notre Dame-AmeriCorps awards recognition ceremony, held July 15 at a Washington neighborhood social services center, had extra significance.

John Gomperts, national director of AmeriCorps, attended the ceremony to recognize the joint efforts of volunteers from Washington and Baltimore who are with Notre Dame-AmeriCorps, a Baltimore-based organization.

The event honored volunteers who had completed 1,700 hours of service.

Speaking of Notre Dame Mission Volunteers' grant renewal for the 2011 year, he said that "to have won in this competition is really a big deal," when so many groups are vying for federal funding.

World's religions seen as solving conflicts

WASHINGTON -- Few would argue against the notion that to solve conflict created by religious intolerance, prejudice and discrimination, it is essential to understand how religion motivates believers and shapes their worldviews, that respecting all religions is not enough.

While religion can be a cause of conflict, it carries political leverage that many say makes it a source for solutions and a tool for peace building.

"We are giving a whole government effort to put religion on the table," said the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, the new U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The United States is "on the front lines of confronting conflict and urging and pressing governments" to fight for religious freedom, she told Catholic News Service in a phone interview.

Her comments came in response to remarks of participants in a recent panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington on the role of faith-based diplomacy and the use of religion to resolve conflict, especially with regard to Pakistan.

Bishop to Catholics: Suspend support for cancer fund

WASHINGTON -- Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, has told Catholic institutions and schools in the Diocese of Toledo to suspend fundraising efforts for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation that supports breast cancer research, and instead direct such donations to a local group of Catholic-run cancer centers.

In a July 5 letter to Catholics, Bishop Blair cited Komen's contributions to Planned Parenthood and noted the foundation does not exclude the possibility of funding research that uses embryonic stem cells as reasons Catholic entities should not support the nonprofit organization.

"While we want to do everything possible to support the search for a cure (for cancer), sadly the landscape of medical research today is sometimes marred by the erroneous belief that research is not bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason, as reflected in the teaching of the church," said Bishop Blair.

He acknowledged Komen does not currently fund research using embryonic stem cells, but said its "policy does not exclude that possibility."