A woman displaced as a result of religious violence holds a child as she rests in a Catholic church in Bossangao, Central African Republic on Dec. 29. French President Francois Hollande has asked the United Nations to play a bigger role in the Central African Republic, its former colony where it has deployed a 1,600 strong peacekeeping mission.
Andreea Campeanu/Reuters, cns
NATO troops pray
NATO troops from the International Security Assistance Force pray during Christmas Eve Mass at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Ismail/Reuters, cns
Young people reenact the Nativity
Young people reenact the Nativity of Christ during a ceremony unveiling the Vatican crèche in St. Peter's Square Dec. 24.
Philly priest released
PHILADELPHIA — A panel of judges for a Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the decision on a priest's conviction in handling a clerical abuse case and ordered his release from prison. The decision, announced Dec. 26, involves Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Msgr. Lynn has served 18 months of a 2012 prison sentence of three to six years after being found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony. Prosecutors had argued that the priest had reassigned abusive priests to new parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in his diocesan role as clergy secretary.
Mixed court results
WASHINGTON — A U.S. District Court judge Dec. 20 changed a preliminary injunction to a permanent one barring enforcement of the federal health care law's contraceptive mandate against the Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses. Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania issued the ruling after attorneys representing the federal government said they had no new evidence to offer in support of the mandate. The government was expected to appeal his decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Two months earlier, in granting the preliminary injunction, Schwab said a religious employer's right to adhere to moral objections to the contraceptive mandate outweighs a government decision to widen access to contraceptives. But the same day Schwab issued his permanent injunction, rulings handed down in lawsuits filed by other Catholic entities brought mixed results for the plaintiffs. Suits brought by the Washington Archdiocese, Priests for Life and the University of Notre Dame were dismissed in their respective jurisdictions; both the Catholic organization Legatus and a group of ministries associated with the Southern Baptists were granted preliminary injunctions in their respective
Tuition bill passes
TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Catholic Conference praised state officials for adopting a law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at the state's public colleges and universities. The conference "is pleased that the governor's office and Legislature were able to reach a compromise on legislation that will allow certain undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities if they meet a set of strict criteria," said Jim King, director, of the Office of Social Concerns at the conference, the public policy arm of the New Jersey bishops.
Report hits Catholic hospitals
WASHINGTON — A report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union claims that an increase in the number of Catholic hospitals in the United States is limiting women's reproductive health care because those facilities must follow religious and ethical guidelines, including the church's prohibition on abortion. The 38-page report — "Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care" — was issued by the ACLU and MergerWatch, a New York-based nonprofit group that tracks hospital consolidations.
Allegations hit archbishop
St. PAUL, Minn. — Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is voluntarily stepping aside from all public ministry, effective immediately, while St. Paul police investigate an allegation that he inappropriately touched a male minor on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photography session following a confirmation ceremony. In a Dec. 17 letter to Catholics of the archdiocese, Archbishop Nienstedt called the allegation "absolutely and entirely false."
Teen charged in assault
PITTSBURGH — An 18-year-old Pennsylvania man has been charged in the Dec. 13 rape of an 85-year-old retired member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden. The sister, who has not been identified out of respect for her privacy, was attacked in the parking lot of St. Titus Church in Aliquippa, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Andrew Bullock, 18, of Aliquippa, was arrested later that day in connection with the attack on charges of felony rape, aggravated assault, sexual assault, indecent exposure, simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Children can choose euthanasia
OXFORD, England — Belgium's Catholic bishops have deplored a parliamentary vote paving the way for sick children and dementia patients to choose euthanasia. "The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to," said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, bishops' conference spokesman. "While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly."
MEXICO CITY — Shopkeeper Rodolfo Villanueva keeps a close eye on sales at his mom-and-pop store, especially in the fall months, which he has found signal what to expect in the upcoming year. "Right now, it doesn't look good," he said of sales, which were off by 30 percent from the previous year. Villanueva is among the many Mexicans expressing pessimism with the country's economy, which private economists expect to expand by barely 1 percent in 2013 — far from the 3.5 percent projected by the federal government.
Burial ends impasse
TANGSHAN, China — Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe was buried Christmas Eve, ending a tense standoff between government authorities and the local church. The Asian church news portal ucanews.com reported disagreement about the bishop's burial had escalated since the 92-year-old bishop died Dec. 11. He had demanded burial at Lulong Cemetery, where the diocese's first bishop, Ernst Geurts of Holland, was interred in 1940. After days of negotiation and the roundup of some local clergy, government negotiators warned Tangshan diocesan leaders that discussions would be closed if they did not accept an alternative plot. Tangshan Bishop Peter Fang Jingping told ucanews.com that the government effectively ended the dispute by purchasing a plot just smaller than an acre to replace the former cemetery. The appeased parishioners agreed to bury Bishop Liu there. Bishop Fang denied rumors that the government also paid compensation of 1.5 million yuan ($247,000) to the diocese. On Dec. 18, after diocesan officials announced they would not bury the bishop until the cemetery was returned, government officials took clergy away for questioning. Ucanews.com reported that the announcement delaying the burial was made at Bishop Liu's memorial service at Tangshan's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 17, prompting two minutes of applause from the 3,000 people gathered.
— Catholic News Service
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