Nation & World briefs


Military service helped priest 'grow up'

PORTLAND, Ore. -- There's nothing like aimed shots from a zeroed-in, Soviet-made sniper rifle cracking over your head or auguring into the sand around you to clear one's mind on staying alive. That's how Peter Smith reacted in 1976 when his South African army rifle platoon engaged insurgents in northern Namibia. "There's nothing like the possibility of sudden death to help one focus on what's really important," said the former infantryman who, at age 18, saw the opportunities of life before him and death an infinity away. "The experience really helped my self-confidence, and it helped me grow." Now 55, Father Peter Smith is vicar general of the Portland Archdiocese, and is the No. 2 official of the Catholic Church in western Oregon.

Toledo bishop Blair named archbishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., and named as his successor Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio. Archbishop Mansell, who has headed the Hartford Archdiocese since 2003, is 76. Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope at 75. A native of Detroit, Archbishop Blair, 64, was installed as Toledo's bishop in 2003. The changes were announced Oct. 29 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Blair will be installed in Hartford Dec. 16 during a Mass to be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Pittsburgh seminary rector to head New Jersey eparchy

PITTSBURGH -- Pope Francis Oct. 29 appointed Father Kurt Burnette, rector of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh, to head the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, N.J. The diocese covers Byzantine and Ruthenian Catholics living in New England and on the East Coast. Bishop-designate Burnette succeeds Archbishop William C. Skurla, who headed the eparchy until he was appointed to head the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh in January 2012. His enthronement as metropolitan was in April of that year. The newly named bishop, who has been rector of the Pittsburgh seminary since 2012, was born in England in 1955. He was ordained in 1989 for the Holy Mary of Protection Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix.


Pope: Hope is not optimism but a link to eternal life

VATICAN CITY -- Christian hope is not mere optimism or a "positive attitude" toward the world but a vital link to eternal salvation, Pope Francis said. The pope spoke Oct. 29 during a morning Mass he celebrated in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives. Taking as his text the day's reading from Paul's Letter to the Romans (8: 18-25), which deals with the theological virtue of hope, Pope Francis distinguished the virtue from an "ability to look at things in a good spirit and move ahead." The pope said that hope was harder to understand than the other two theological virtues -- faith and charity -- whose results are more evident to the senses. Early Christians represented hope as an anchor fixed on the shore of the hereafter, he said.

Abp. Weisgerber: Take aboriginal justice seriously

OTTAWA, Ontario -- As Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, prepares to retire, he remains concerned about justice for Canada's aboriginal peoples. "I don't think there is any issue facing Canadians more serious than this one," Archbishop Weisgerber said Oct. 28, the day Pope Francis announced that he had accepted the archbishop's resignation. "And I don't think we're taking it that seriously." The Canadian government is banking on oil production and building pipelines to transport it across the country and "all of it goes across aboriginal land," he said. "Nobody's talking about the need to negotiate on all of this. I'm not sure it's on the agenda of ordinary Canadians or on the agenda of the church." The recent violent demonstration in New Brunswick over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, also represents a clash over resources and land, he said.

Mexican parishioners flee, form self-defense groups

MEXICO CITY -- Some at St. James the Apostle Parish formed self-defense groups earlier this year to protect themselves from extortion attempts and attacks by organized criminal groups in a rural pocket of Mexico's western Michoacan state. Others from the region known as Tierra Caliente fled to the United States, said Father Andres Larios, pastor at St. James in Coalcoman. Many more, however, feel trapped, including Father Larios, who has not left Coalcoman in months. "It's almost as if we're in a sort of civil war," he said of the state of affairs in Michoacan. In an open letter in mid-October, his superior, Bishop Miguel Patino Velazquez of Apatzingan, called Michoacan "a failed state," and said "criminal groups contest it ... as if it were a jackpot." Violence once again flared in Michoacan as criminal groups attacked 18 substations and installations operated by the Federal Electricity Commission Oct. 27, leaving more than 400,000 customers in the dark.

Former Polish prime minister called 'enlightened Catholic'

WARSAW, Poland -- Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz called former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki "a wise and responsible politician (who) distinguished himself as an enlightened Catholic." Mazowiecki, 86, Eastern Europe's first post-communist head of government, died in Warsaw Oct. 28. "As a person of Solidarity, he promoted solidarity in everyday human relationships and in caring for Poland's interests on the international stage," Cardinal Dziwisz said in a statement. The later prime minister also showed concern "for the welfare of the church he genuinely loved."

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