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Guantanamo protesters head to trial

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With the war in Afghanistan going badly and the Gulf of Mexico choking on its own oil, the scandal of Guantanamo can seem a bad episode from the distant past. But what many see as one of the most resilient symbols of the Bush administration's disregard for the rule of law is still in operation, and 27 people go on trial in Washington on Monday, June 14, for their protest of the prison.

The 27 were arrested Jan. 21, the date by which President Obama had promised the facility would be closed, for protests at the U.S. Capitol. According to a release from Witnesses Against Torture, the group, dressed as Guantanamo prisoners, were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding sings reading "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives." Fourteen activists were arrested inside the Capitol Rotunda where they performed a memorial service for three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006.

"The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo is unacceptable, " said Matthew W. Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. "If Guantanamo was a foreign policy liability and stain on the rule of law on day one of the Obama presidency, it surely is 18 months later."

South Africa's Pride

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Michel Martin had a great feature yesterday about the World Cup in South Africa on her show "Tell Me More." She spoke with two South Africans who allowed that they had some reservations about spending so much money on stadiums in a country with such enormous social problems. That said, they were both almost giggly about the Cup being in their home country. One of the guests opined that while much of the spending went to infrastructure projects that would help South Africa in the future, the real value in spending so much money came from the pride the people of South Africa, rich and poor alike, were taking as hosts of the world’s greatest sporting event. He questioned whether you could measure such pride in dollars and cents or rands.

Pope sees the Devil behind timing of sex abuse crisis

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Since the Catholic sexual abuse crisis erupted a decade ago, there have been numerous attempts to explain its causes, from a lack of fidelity to an over-emphasis on celibacy and clerical privilege. This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI pointed to a deeper unseen force lurking behind the crisis, especially its timing: the Devil.

tIt’s no accident, the pope implied, that precisely as the Catholic church was celebrating a “Year for Priests” in 2009-2010, the sexual abuse crisis once again took on massive global proportions.

t“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy,’” Benedict XVI said. “He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.”

The term "the enemy" is a traditional Catholic way of referring to the Devil.

As priests rally to defend pope, pope defends celibacy

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tThough it wasn’t exactly drawn up this way, the closing ceremonies in Rome this week for the Vatican’s “Year of Priests” has the feel of a massive rally in support of Pope Benedict XVI, who has faced significant criticism in recent months for his handling of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis.

tA vigil service this evening in St. Peter’s Square drew an estimated 15,000 priests from 91 countries – which, assuming the count is accurate, would represent just under four percent of the total number of Catholic priests in the world. According to Vatican Radio, this was the first time a pope has invited priests from around the world to come to Rome for a celebration of the priesthood.

tWhen Benedict XVI entered the square at roughly 9:30 pm Rome time, the crowd erupted into loud and sustained applause. Earlier, applause also greeted Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, when he said that the priests wanted to express their “support and sincere affection” for the pope.

tThe pope returned the favor, telling the crowd that he wanted to offer “a great thank you” to the priests of the world.

Fast from oil June 20

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A group at the 2010 Duke Divinity Center for Reconciliation Summer Institute are calling for a fast from oil June 20, the two-month anniversary of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. See the Facebook page The BP Oil Spill: A Christian Call for Lament and Reconciliation for details.

They also have an online pledge to sign that asks people to commit to transforming "our lives as individuals and churches toward freedom from fossil fuels and reconciliation with all God’s creation."

'My home is being destroyed, and I don't mean my house'

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While here in Louisiana reporting on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, my wife and I made a side trip to Vermilion Bay near Franklin, La. The state highway wound its way through the marshes bordered by beautiful moss-draped live oak trees. With the car windows down, we heard red-winged blackbirds and many other bird sounds we couldn’t identify. At the water’s edge we walked along the narrow beach picking up shells and examining beautifully water carved pieces of driftwood.

The day before we interviewed Providence Sr. Helen Vinton, co-director of the Southern Mutual Help Association in New Iberia. Sr. Helen had just returned from a visit to the Venice area near the Gulf where the oil now directly threatens the fragile marshes.

Green burials

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In the news this morning from our Australian brothers and sisters, Six Feet Down Under: Natural Burials Boom.

The Archdiocese of Sydney Natural is opening a cemetery to promote environmentally friendly burials, seeing loved ones buried without grave stones in bio-degradable clothing and untreated coffins.

About two years ago, we did a story, Lay your loved ones to rest the natural way, about Mt. Carmel Cemetery, in Wyandotte, Mich., near Detroit, becoming the first U.S. Catholic cemetery to offer a green burial option.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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