Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Oral arguments heard in suits on religious exemption to mandate

PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. District Court in Philadelphia heard oral arguments Dec. 14 in a suit that aims to take away the exemption granted in October to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers allowing them to refuse to cover contraceptives for their employees on moral grounds. A similar hearing took place Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California. The Trump administration Oct. 6 issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers. Days after the rule was issued, Pennsylvania and California filed complaints against the federal government over the exemption.

Catholic leaders pray for all affected by train derailment

DUPONT, Wash.— Catholic leaders in the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., offered prayers for all affected by the Dec. 18 derailment of an Amtrak train that had just come from the Tacoma station and was headed to Portland. "Our community of faith is praying for the victims and families of the train derailment as well as the first responders and emergency personnel on the scene," said Greg Magnoni, spokesperson for the Seattle Archdiocese. At about 7:40 a.m. local time, Amtrak Cascades Train 501, with 78 passengers and five crew members aboard, derailed off of an overpass in DuPont. A number of the train cars fell onto Interstate 5 below. At least three people died. More than 70 people were taken to local hospitals.

WORLD

Pope meets Jordan's king amid tensions in Jerusalem

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Vatican, two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital provoked outrage in the Middle East. According to the Vatican, "the cordial conversations focused above all on the theme of the promotion of peace and stability in the Mideast, with particular reference to the question of Jerusalem and the role of the Hashemite Sovereign (the king of Jordan) as custodian of the holy places." The pope welcomed the king, who was accompanied by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, in the library of the Apostolic Palace Dec. 19.

Australia's Royal Commission issues report on child abuse

MELBOURNE, Australia — After five years of hearings, nearly 26,000 emails, and more than 42,000 phone calls from concerned Australians, the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its 17-volume final report Dec. 15. Among its 400 recommendations, 20 were aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, whose leaders spent three weeks in February testifying at a "Catholic wrapup." Several of the recommendations related to the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference working with the Holy See to change the Code of Canon Law "to create a new canon or series of canons specifically relating to child sexual abuse." One recommendation was for the Australian bishops to work with the Holy See to determine if the absolute secrecy concerning matters discussed during confession also applies to a child confessing he or she has been abused sexually.

Vatican releases instruction on authenticating relics

VATICAN CITY — Only relics that have been certified as authentic can be exposed for veneration by the faithful, stated a new Vatican instruction. Published Dec. 16 in Italian by the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the instruction clarifies and details the canonical procedures to be followed by local bishops in an effort to verify the authenticity of relics and the mortal remains of saints and blesseds, as well as better guarantee a relic's preservation, approve and track its movements, and promote its veneration. The instruction replaces the appendix, "Canonical Recognition of the Mortal Remains of the Servant of God," included with "Sanctorum Mater," the congregation's "Instruction for Conducting Diocesan or Eparchal Inquiries in the Causes of Saints," released in 2007.

Pope puts founder of Rosary Crusade one step closer toward sainthood

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton and St. John Paul II's mentor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. The pope approved the decrees recognizing their heroic virtues during an audience Dec. 18 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes. Father Peyton, known worldwide as "The Rosary Priest," was a Catholic media pioneer in the 1940s, using radio and later television to produce popular programs featuring Hollywood stars and other celebrities to promote family prayer. He had two especially famous mottos: "The family that prays together stays together" and "A world at prayer is a world at peace." Cardinal Wyszynski was credited by former President Lech Walesa with laying the groundwork for the rise of the Polish trade union, Solidarity, and the eventual fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Among his proteges was the future St. John Paul II.

— Catholic News Service 

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