|Belgium's Queen Fabiola dies|
The coffin of Belgium's Queen Fabiola is carried by pallbearers out of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula after her funeral Mass in Brussels Dec. 12. Fabiola's Dec. 5 death at age 86 sparked a week of national mourning in Belgium, where the devout Catholic was seen as a unifying force in a country deeply divided between the two linguistic communities.
Francois Lenoir/Reuters, cns
Franciscans in serious debt
Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his 2013 visit to Assisi, Italy. Ineffective budgetary oversight and "questionable" financial activities have plunged the Franciscans into significant debt and an extremely serious financial situation. After an internal investigation into the order's finances, Father Perry, attributed the situation to unapproved financial activity by some friars as well as non-Franciscans and said the curia had retained lawyers and contacted civil authorities.
New superior general
Maryknoll Father Raymond J. Finch, superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, smiles during an interview Dec. 8 at the Maryknoll Mission Center in Maryknoll, N.Y. "Nothing is more rewarding than to go out and help people deepen their faith. If you don't share the faith, it stops growing. The more you give of it, the more there is. The less you give, it shrinks," he said.
Gregory A. Shemitz/cns
Vatican report affirms women religious
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, are pictured at the conclusion of a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. The 5,000 word report summarizes problems and challenges the women see in their communities and thanks them for their service. U.S. women religious welcomed the conciliatory tone of the report on religious life and appreciated acknowledgement of the important ministry that they practice day in and day out in the life of the church. They also said the report opens a new beginning for women religious, who have continued their work despite the questions about the status of religious life in the U.S. that were raised by the apostolic visitation process that ran from 2009 to 2012.
Haiti five years on
The rebuilt cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is seen in late November during its inaugural Mass. Church and school reconstruction in Haiti has moved ahead after a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, left 1.5 million people homeless and dependent on international agencies for food and shelter. Today more than 85,000 people still live in dozens of tent camps across Haiti's expansive earthquake zone, pointing to the continuing challenges facing the hemisphere's poorest nation.
Marie Arago/Reuters, cns
Move to end death penalty
WASHINGTON — A new coalition has been formed to bring about the end of the death penalty in the United States. Called 90 Million Strong, the coalition's director, Diann Rust-Tierney, said it would work on a state-by-state basis to add to the 16 states that currently ban capital punishment. "This is a life issue to us," said Karen Clifton, executive director of The Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.
Exiles: Hope and betrayal
MIAMI — Cubans in South Florida reacted with both joy and skepticism to the news that Cuba and the United States would start working toward normalizing relations and ending the economic embargo imposed by the U.S. 54 years ago. Both the U.S. and Cuban bishops have maintained that the policy of economic sanctions and non-engagement hurts the Cuban people more than the government leaders who oppress them. Pope Francis is credited with the latest breakthrough. "Both President Obama and Raul Castro expressed appreciation to the role of Pope Francis in making possible what seems to be a real game changer in the historically strained relationship between Cuba and the United States," said Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski.
Break with priests' group
NEW YORK — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he wants "nothing further to do" with Priests for Life, which has its headquarters on Staten Island, which is in the New York Archdiocese. Cardinal Dolan said he had been asked by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy to assist its national director, Father Frank A. Pavone, with "several necessary reforms," but he said the priest has not cooperated. The changes have mostly to do with an audit and the need to establish an independent board "to provide oversight and accountability," according to Religion News Service and Catholic World News.
Hope for other cities
WASHINGTON — To date, the only city officially announced for a September visit by Pope Francis is Philadelphia, where he will attend the eighth World Meeting of Families. However, other cities are still making their bid to be part of a papal itinerary. Talk persists about the pope including two more East Coast cities on his first U.S. visit as pontiff. One is Washington, where he has been issued an invitation to address a joint session of Congress. The other is New York, where he has been invited to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Theologians decry racism
WASHINGTON — This year the "hope for a just peace" that is Advent "must face the flagrant failures of a nation still bound by sin, our bondage to and complicity in racial injustice," said a group of Catholic theologians. "The killings of black men, women and children ... by white policemen, and the failures of the grand jury process to indict some of the police officers involved, brought to our attention not only problems in law enforcement today, but also deeper racial injustice in our nation, our communities and even our churches," they said. By midday Dec. 10, more than 310 theologians from all over the United States had signed on to the statement posted on the website www.catholicmoraltheology.com, which is a project of North American Catholic moral theologians.
— Catholic News Service
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