Nation & World briefs

U.S.

U.S. human rights record seen weakening influence

DAYTON, Ohio -- 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.

Catholic faith is alive in China, priest says

CHICAGO -- 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."

WORLD

Muslim leader: pope is model of religious leader

VATICAN CITY -- 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, 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.

Gender-based abortions are legal in Britain

MANCHESTER, England -- 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 a letter to Attorney General Dominic Grieve that the 1967 Abortion Act "does not ... expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions." In the letter, 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.

Mayans get Mass, sacraments in two of their languages

MEXICO CITY -- Mayans who speak Tzotzil and Tzeltal will now be able to attend Mass in their language and even be married in a Catholic rite 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 -- Mayan tongues spoken by an estimated 650,000 people -- include prayers used for Mass, marriage, baptisms, confirmations, confessions, ordinations and anointing of the sick.

Synod to discuss families, divorce and remarriage

VATICAN CITY -- 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.

Church always assists refugees, says prelate

UNITED NATIONS -- 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.

Civilian chaplains now returning to ministry despite federal shutdown

WASHINGTON -- 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.

--Catholic News Service

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