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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-8-2013

By Catholic News Service


U.S. human rights record seen weakening its influence on rogue nations

DAYTON, Ohio (CNS) -- The U.N. special rapporteur on torture and the executive director of the World Peace Foundation told audiences at the University of Dayton that America's own involvement in human rights violations weakens its influence against rogue regimes. During keynote addresses at the Catholic university's "Social Practice of Human Rights" conference, Juan Mendez, U.N. special rapporteur, said U.S. human rights abuses give rogue regimes an out and allow others to downplay U.S. rhetoric on human rights. Alex de Waal of the World Peace Foundation said the U.S. government has put itself above international law, creating an international political order that he said is increasingly inhospitable to human rights. "The U.S. government continues to resort to serious human rights violations such as target killings and prolonged arbitrary detentions, and justifies these actions by citing the need to arrest or eliminate persons for national security considerations," Mendez told the conference Oct. 5 via a video presentation. He was unable to attend in person because of U.N. duties.

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More focus needed on how alive Catholic faith is in China, priest says

CHICAGO (CNS) -- While the focus of the faith in China often centers on human rights issues, "we feel that the long and sustained faith of the Catholic Church in China is something that is not often discussed," said Passionist Father Robert Carbonneau. The priest, assistant director of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau, said the church in China has grown by at least 10 million members since 1949. "It's a faith that's alive," he said. "There are abuses, but there's also hope, and any church needs that to survive." Father Carbonneau offered these comments before the start of the 25th National Catholic China Conference Oct. 4-6 at Loyola University Chicago. More than 130 people from around the United States and China attended the conference, which was sponsored by the U.S. Catholic China Bureau and focused on the theme of globalization. The purpose of the bureau, based in Berkeley, Calif., is to be a bridge between the Catholic Church in the United States and the Catholic Church in China. It engages mostly with clergy, religious, students and scholars but is open to anyone with an interest in the church in China. "Our purpose really is to bring all these different people interested in the long-standing history of the Catholic Church in China to look toward the future of how they can engage with China," said Father Carbonneau.

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Calling it 'a God issue,' faith leaders pray for immigration reform

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As thousands of advocates for comprehensive immigration reform began to make their way to the National Mall Oct. 8 for a rally and march to Congress, faith leaders from 18 traditions prayed for what they called "a God issue. Liberty is threatened ... justice is an orphan," said the Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA and president-elect of the National Council of Churches, in a prayer outside the U.S. Capitol before an afternoon-long rally and concert began. "We pray for the legislators whose intransigence is breaking the backs of the marginalized and the poor," prayed Rev. Medley. Participants also acknowledged the ongoing federal government shutdown and prayed for those whose lives were being affected and for a break in the political stalemate. The prayer event, organized as part of a meeting of the group Church World Service concluded with three groups moving to the offices of the House Republican leaders, Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. The Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, said participants had been trying unsuccessfully for a month to get appointments to meet with the three leaders. By showing up in person, he said they hoped to at least get some time with senior members of the representatives' staffs. "People of faith must spiritually escalate their search for justice," he said.

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New Jersey pro-lifers cite power of prayer in effort to end abortion

MANVILLE, N.J. (CNS) -- Some pro-lifers get discouraged that bringing an end to abortion isn't happening overnight, but the power of prayer is making a difference, said Kevin Dugan, a parish pro-life ministry leader. For years members of Dugan's parish, Immaculate Conception in Somerville, have been joined by other faith communities in the Diocese of Metuchen, to pray near a Planned Parenthood clinic on Main Street in Manville, the organization's only facility in Somerset County. As part of the 40 Days for Life campaign, in good weather and bad, they prayed for an end to abortion and offered assistance to those seeking an abortion at the facility. They gathered again recently, this time to celebrate the closing of the clinic, which has shut its doors. According to published reports, Planned Parenthood did not give a reason why it closed. On a recent Saturday, Dugan and others in the group gathered at an 8 a.m. Mass celebrated by Father Charles A. Sabella at Immaculate Conception's chapel. After Mass, some remained to pray the rosary while others traveled to Manville for a prayer of thanksgiving in front of the old rectory of Sacred Heart Church, which is across the street from Planned Parenthood.

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Viewers asked to support documentary highlighting religious sisters

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- Sister Ann Kendrick doesn't think of herself as a celebrity, but her role in the documentary "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America" may change that. A Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, she and two other religious sisters arrived in Apopka more than 40 years ago to serve farmworkers and the working poor in the Diocese of Orlando. Their empowerment and advocacy work at Hope CommUnity Center is featured in the program produced by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and narrated by news analyst and author Cokie Roberts. "Women & Spirit" is now available for broadcast by NBC affiliate stations nationwide as part of network's "Horizons of the Spirit" series in partnership with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. The window for local stations to air the film runs until March 15, 2014. It is not a "must carry" program. Stations can decide when to air it or not, so viewers were being encouraged by LCWR and others involved with the project to contact their local NBC affiliate and urge the film be broadcast. Information on contacting local stations is available at visit www.womenandspirit.org/contact-station. "Women & Spirit" chronicles the 300-year contribution of religious women in the United States. It shows their arrivals on immigrant ships, their nursing of Civil War soldiers and courageous care for epidemic victims. Through determination and sheer grit, they established hundreds of schools, one out of every five hospitals in the U.S. and 110 colleges, all at a time when women had less public freedom than they do now.

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Muslim leader says pope is model of what religious leader should be

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, like Islam's Sufi mystic theologians and poets, "is trying to do good for the sake of the Good One, motivated by love and compassion," said the president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland. Mohamad Bashar Arafat, a Syrian who has lived in the United States for more than 20 years, was visiting the Vatican and speaking to groups in Rome in early October as a guest of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See as part of the U.S. State Department's international speakers program. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Arafat said he sees Pope Francis acting as all truly religious leaders should: reaching out with respect for the human person and open to dialogue. Arafat said the pope's love and openness were clear not only in his choice of being named after St. Francis of Assisi, but particularly in his decision in July to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, praying for migrants lost at sea and calling the world's attention to the need for immigration reform, and in calling on people around the world to fast and pray for peace in Syria in early September when a military strike seemed imminent.

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Britain's top prosecutor confirms gender-based abortions are legal

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Abortions on grounds of gender are legal in Britain, the country's top prosecutor clarified in a letter to the government. Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, said in an Oct. 7 letter to Attorney General Dominic Grieve that the 1967 Abortion Act "does not ... expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions." In the letter, released to the media Oct. 7, he explained the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service had declined to lay charges against two doctors who had agreed to arrange abortions of female fetuses because of their gender. He said the Act prohibited "any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners having formed a view, in good faith, that the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of a termination. The only basis for a prosecution would be that the doctors failed to carry out a 'sufficiently robust assessment' of the risks to their patient's health," he said. In September, Grieve had asked Starmer to clarify the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute the doctors amid an outcry from politicians and church leaders who were concerned that the law had been broken.

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In Chiapas, Mayans get Mass, sacraments in two of their languages

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mayans who speak Tzotzil and Tzeltal will now be able to attend Mass in their language and even be married in a Catholic ceremony that follows their native tongue. Pope Francis has approved the translations of the prayers for Mass and the celebration of sacraments into the two indigenous languages used in Chiapas state, said Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de Las Casas. The translations into Tzotzil and Tzeltal -- two Mayan tongues spoken by an estimated 650,000 people -- include the prayers used for Mass, marriage, baptisms, confirmations, confessions, ordinations and the anointing of the sick. Bishop Arizmendi said Oct. 6 that the texts, which took approximately eight years to translate, would be used in his diocese and the neighboring Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Mass has been celebrated in the diocese in recent years with the assistance of translators -- except during homilies -- Bishop Arizmendi said in an article in the newspaper La Jornada.

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Pope calls synod to discuss families, divorce and remarriage

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The predicament of divorced and remarried Catholics will be a major topic of discussion when bishops from around the world meet at the Vatican in October 2014. The Vatican announced Oct. 8 that an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops will meet Oct. 5-19, 2014, to discuss the "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization." The pope had told reporters accompanying him on his plane back from Rio de Janeiro in July that the next synod would explore a "somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage," including the question of the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Pope Francis added at the time that church law governing marriage annulments also "has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this. It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage." Such problems, he said, exemplified a general need for forgiveness in the church today.

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Despite dangers, church always assists world's refugees, says prelate

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Refugees and migrants pay the highest price in conflicts around the world and it is in the Catholic Church's DNA to provide them humanitarian aid and prayerful support, according to speakers at a U.N. event Oct. 4. The panel was held in conjunction with the U.N. High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. "Both migrants and the populations that receive them belong to a single human family, and both enjoy the right to the goods of the earth, goods which are destined for universal enjoyment," said Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations. The sad situation of refugees and internally displaced people is not their fault and not of their choosing, he said. Catholic institutions are actively engaged in helping refugees, "not because someone asked us. We've been doing it for centuries and will always do it, in spite of difficulties, dangers and hardships," Archbishop Chullikatt said. Speakers addressed the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis throughout the Middle East, while noting the Syrian situation is most prominent in the public eye.

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Salvadoran protesters demand archbishop clarify fate of documents

SAN SALVADOR (CNS) -- Social organizations demonstrated to demand San Salvador Archbishop Jose Escobar Alas clarify the fate of thousands of documents containing information on human rights violations. The documents have been in limbo since his Sept. 30 decision to close Tutela Legal, the office that guarded them since 1982. The archbishop said he decided to shut down the archdiocesan legal aid office after finding cases of embezzlement and corruption, but he did not show any evidence to the press. "The case of my missing mother, Margarita Pascasio, is on those files," Nora Lopez, SOS Justice member, told Catholic News Service during the protest by several human rights movements Oct. 6 in front of the San Salvador cathedral, where the archbishop celebrated Mass.

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Civilian chaplains now returning to ministry despite federal shutdown

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Civilian Catholic chaplains, unable to perform religious duties at U.S. military bases during the first weekend of the federal government shutdown, were getting back on the job as the shutdown continued into its second week. "We're now being told priests can return to work," said John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Schlageter, in an Oct. 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, said he did not know whether the priests' return to work was a result of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's declaration Oct. 6 that far more civilian Defense Department employees would be considered "essential" and return to their jobs -- or the reaction to Schlageter's own Oct. 3 op-ed article about the shutdown adversely affecting the ability of civilian chaplains to minister at military bases with no resident Catholic chaplain. He said the op-ed piece had gotten coverage or publication by The Washington Post, CNN.com, and the Fox News Channel. The House passed a concurrent resolution, awaiting action by the Senate, to authorize the return of civilian Catholic chaplains to their military ministry. "I think the House resolution -- (with a vote of) 400 to 1 -- speaks for itself," Schlageter said.


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