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April 17, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 8    •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Bombing aftermath
Salah Skaff, 25, cries over the body of his 1-year-old daughter, Amira Skaff, after an April 7 airstrike on the rebel-held besieged city of Douma, Syria. Earlier that week, Western leaders accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country's military of perpetrating a chemical attack, which left some 70 people, including at least 10 children, dead.

Constitutional crisis
Nuns hold placards reading "No More Dictatorship" during an opposition rally April 6 in Caracas, Venezuela. In response to a renewed constitutional crisis in the country, the Venezuelan bishops' conference has called for 'peaceful civil disobedience" to restore constitutional order. "Venezuelans can't remain passive, be intimidated, or lose hope," the bishops wrote in an eight-point communique released March 31. "It's time to ask ourselves seriously and responsibly if civil disobedience, peaceful demonstrations, and fair complaints directed at national and international bodies are the valid and opportune path forward." The statement followed a decision by Venezuela's Supreme Court March 29 to strip the country's opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. In two separate rulings, the court's constitutional chamber ruled that it would assume legislative duties.

Syria 'dialogue'
WASHINGTON — Officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops April 7 urged renewed peace efforts for Syria, echoing Pope Francis' call for "dialogue and reconciliation" as the only way to attain peace in a country rocked by an ongoing civil war. "The long-standing position of our conference of bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution," said a joint statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. "We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a cease-fire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities," they said. The U.S. launched 59 missiles from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean early April 7 local time.

Defunding agency
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee and other prominent pro-life leaders cheered the U.S. State Department's April 3 announcement that it would no longer contribute to the U.N. Population Fund because of the agency's involvement in China's Population and Family Planning Law, long known as the "one-child policy." "This is a victory for women and children across the globe, as well as for U.S. taxpayers," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Check before deporting
MEXICO CITY — An international organization that works to prevent conflict urged the United States not to institute mass deportations or harsh anti-migration measures without checking on the conditions in the Central American countries to which it is returning migrants. The report from the International Crisis Group also called for officials to reconsider crackdowns on criminal gangs in countries in the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — which currently register some of the world's highest homicide rates and alarming numbers of internally displaced people.

New auxiliary bishop
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Daniel H. Mueggenborg, a pastor in the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Bishop-designate Mueggenborg, who was ordained for the Tulsa Diocese in 1989, is currently pastor of Christ the King Parish in Tulsa. "We congratulate Msgr. Mueggenborg on his appointment and knowing we will miss him, we wish him a fruitful ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle," Tulsa Bishop David A. Konderla said in a statement.

Violence in Congo
KINSHASA, Congo — Congo's bishops said Catholics are facing a new wave of violence following the collapse of a church mediation plan, and in some places church leaders have fled to the forest. In late March, the bishops abandoned attempts to arrange a government-opposition power-sharing settlement and, within days, violence erupted in eastern Congo. "The militias are continuing their macabre operations — each passing day sees new killings and burning of religious buildings," said a statement on the bishops' conference website.

A voice for the poor
WASHINGTON — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is looking to bring people living in poverty together with business leaders, social service providers, government agencies and faith communities under a new neighborhood-based initiative to find long-term solutions to the challenges of being poor. The Neighborhoods of Hope effort is seen as a way to address the needs of struggling people by hearing from them and then developing a program to address a community's specific needs, explained Jack Murphy, an Atlanta business management expert who serves on the society's National Council

Actor embraces pacifism
WASHINGTON — Actor Daniel Bruhl, one of the stars of the movie "The Zookeeper's Wife," said he became a pacifist given his ancestors' experiences with Europe's 20th-century wars. His German father was born in 1937, two years before the outbreak of World War II, and his mother hailed from Spain, which was already embroiled in a brutal civil war at the time. "My parents influenced us in that way," Bruhl said of himself and his siblings. "I have embraced it ever since." Bruhl called pacifism "something that I'm fond of, that I believe in and I want to believe in, especially nowadays when we seem to be going in a completely opposite direction."

'City of God' on Twitter
WASHINGTON — Students in Professor Chad Pecknold's newest class come from Canada, Uruguay, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and all across the United States, but two things unite them all — a printed copy of St. Augustine's "City of God" and their Twitter accounts. Pecknold teaches a doctoral seminar on what is one of the saint's greatest theological works at The Catholic University of America in Washington. On a whim, at the beginning of this semester, he posted the seminar reading schedule on his personal Twitter account, inviting people to read along and have an occasional discussion. About 120,000 people viewed his invitation; more than 2,000 committed to buying the book and reading along.

Guilty plea in plot
PHILADELPHIA — A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty April 3 of plotting an attack on Pope Francis during the pontiff's visit to Philadelphia in 2015 during the World Meeting of Families. Santos Colon Jr., 17, of Lindenwold, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey federal court to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Court documents show Colon admitted to acting under the name Ahmad Shakoor in support of the Islamic State, though it is not clear whether he was in communication with the terrorist group. In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said that in 2015, Colon planned between June 30 and Aug. 14 to utilize a sniper to shoot the pope during his public Sunday Mass Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. He also planned to set off bombs in the surrounding area. The first apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the United States was celebrated without incident.

Catholic News Service


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