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 June 22, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Pandemic declared
Students at St. Gabriel’s College school in Bangkok, Thailand, leave the school June 11 after five students were confirmed as having the H1N1 flu virus. The World Health Organization that same day declared the global outbreak of the virus a pandemic, the first in 41 years.

Ambassador to Mexico
Cuban-born U.S. diplomat Carlos Pascual has been nominated as ambassador to Mexico. Pascual, a 1976 graduate of Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, CA, is vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Pascual holds a BA from Stanford University and a master of public policy degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Priest, seminarians shot dead en route to retreat
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Mexican priest and two seminarians were shot dead June 13 while traveling to a religious retreat. They were passing through Ciudad Altamirano, in a region of Guerrero state that has been rife with social conflicts and, in recent years, drug-cartel violence.

The slayings continued a trend of Catholic officials working in remote areas inadvertently being engulfed in Mexico’s ongoing war on drug cartels — a crackdown that has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.

Guerrero judicial officials did not immediately release any information on the crimes that claimed the lives of Father Habacuc Hernandez Benitez and seminarians Eduardo Oregon Benitez and Silvestre Gonzalez Cambron. Media reports said the men were shot in the back with high-caliber weapons commonly used by cartel henchmen.

Bishops call for migration summit

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (CNS) — Bishops from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America called on their governments to convene a regional summit to assess the causes of migration and to work out a regional plan for cooperation on migration and development. The bishops’ statement described the combination of political opportunities created by the change in the White House and urgency fed by the global economic crisis and the increased role of organized crime in human trafficking.

Cardinal decries death at Holocaust museum

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference called the June 10 shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that left a security guard dead “appalling.” James von Brunn, identified as an 88-year-old Holocaust denier and white supremacist, opened fire in the Washington museum and fatally shot guard Stephen Johns, 39.

The shooting “was a deplorable act of violence and a violation of a hallowed space in our nation’s capital,” said Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago in a statement released June 11 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. “This tragic incident only serves to reinforce the need for continued education throughout society against bias of every kind, but most especially racial and religious prejudice,” he said.

Late Iraqi archbishop honored with peace award

NEW YORK (CNS) — Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, of Mosul, Iraq, was honored posthumously with the 2009 Path to Peace Award in New York. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, presented the award. The foundation was established to support the work of the Vatican’s mission to the United Nations.

Archbishop Rahho pushed for tolerance among Iraqis following the start of the Iraq War. He was kidnapped and killed after a prayer service in 2008

Church protests tax on non-Muslims

BANGALORE, India, (CNS) — Church officials in Pakistan are opposing a tax being imposed on minority Christians, Hindus and Sikhs under the influence of Islamic militants in parts of troubled North-West Frontier province bordering Afghanistan.

A statement signed by Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference, condemned the imposition of “jazia,” or Islamic tax, on 700 non-Muslim families who are being forced to pay 1,000 rupees ($12.50) per person annually in the impoverished mountain region where they have been living for decades.

“We demand that the government should make a clear stand that Pakistan (is) a democratic country which could not allow such discrimination and economic injustices to the religious minorities who are equal citizens and not a conquered people,” the statement said.

Excommunication for former Zambian priest

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) — A former Catholic priest from Zambia who is an advocate of optional celibacy for clergy and the ordination of women has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Bishop George Lungu of Chipata, president of the Zambia Episcopal Conference, announced the excommunication of Father Luciano Anzanga Mbewe June 9.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took the action because Father Mbewe entered into schism for establishing the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia.

Pro-life leaders lament abortionist’s murder

WASHINGTON (CNS) — There is growing concern that the May 31 murder of a Kansas abortion doctor in his church may tarnish the image of the pro-life movement, at a time when it appears a slight majority of Americans have embraced the cause. Leaders in several pro-life organizations also said public proclamations that the doctor who performed late-term abortions “got what he deserved” and “reaped what he sowed” by people who “claim to be pro-life” advocates don’t help the movement.

Dr. George Tiller, 67, of Wichita, Kan., was fatally shot while serving as an usher at the city’s Reformation Lutheran Church during Sunday morning services. Pro-life groups and the U.S. Catholic bishops quickly denounced the murder, saying that such violence is contrary to their respect for all life, from conception to natural death.

Prayers at cathedral for airline crash victims

PARIS (CNS) — Families and friends of the 228 victims of Air France Flight 447 processed into Notre Dame Cathedral carrying candles in memory of those who lost their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois led an interfaith gathering that included Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim officials. The June 3 service was organized by the Archdiocese of Paris and Air France. Among those in attendance were French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former President Jacques Chirac.

At a similar interfaith service at Candelaria Church in Rio de Janeiro June 4, Brazilians prayed for the victims during a June 4 interfaith service. Rio’s Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Dias Duarte and representatives of seven other religious denominations were at the service, which approximately 500 family members and friends of victims attended.

Earlier, Pope Benedict XVI sent his condolences and apostolic blessing to the families of passengers and all those affected when the flight, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, disappeared from the radar between the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha and Cape Verde Islands, off the African coast, May 31.”

Bishop asks Nigeria parties to stop fighting

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — Bishop Gabriel Dunia of Auchi, Nigeria, has asked warring parties in the Niger Delta to put aside their weapons and allow peace to return to the region. The bishop’s June 9 appeal came on the heels of a report that Nigerian soldiers had uncovered two graves containing the bodies of 12 Nigerian troops who had been missing for nearly a month.

Bomb threats on Church institutions in Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) — A Catholic Church center in Pakistan’s cosmopolitan eastern city of Lahore has been threatened with a suicide bomb attack, one of a series of intimidating messages given to Christians as the country’s security crisis worsens. The threat was delivered June 10 to a Christian woman who lives next to Rabita Manzil, National Catholic Center for Social Communications. The center includes the offices of the Workshop Audio Visual Education studio, Radio Veritas Asia’s Urdu service and the UCA News.

Christians have received similar threats in other parts of the country as fighting between government troops and Taliban militants continues.


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