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50 British notables decry Pope's visit, Bill Donahue responds

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Writing in The Guardian, 50 British notables (including Richard Dawkins and Terry Pratchett) released a letter this morning decrying the fact that the Pope is being given "the honor of a state visit" to the UK this week.

The letter has sparked a response from Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League here in the U.S.

For your ease, here's excerpts from both.

From the letter:

We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Hijacking Newman

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John Cornwell's essay in the Financial Times, The papal hijacking of Cardinal Newman, is creating quite a stir. Cornwell's biography of Newman, Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint, is the book of choice this week in the NCR Book Club, with a review by Jesuit Fr. Peter L’Estrange.

Cornwell's thesis in his essay is that "John Henry Newman has always been a source of inspiration to Catholic liberals for his tendency to see both sides of every question and to follow conscience wherever it may lead," and this makes his imminent beatification "paradoxical."

At bicentennial, Mexico's future questioned

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From the Dallas Morning News:

Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence, violence & poverty persist

"As Mexico prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of its independence from Spain and the 100th anniversary of its revolution today and Thursday, many Mexicans are questioning how much liberty and opportunity they really have in a country racked, again, by bloodshed and still plagued by poverty.

One pastor causes inestimable damage

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Catholic News Service ran a story this morning quoting the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican that a U.S. pastor's threat to burn copies of the Quran has damaged the image of the United States.

"The deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act," said the ambassador, Miguel H. Diaz.

CNS reported that the expressed plans by a small Florida Pentecostal church to burn the Quran Sept. 11 represent "disrespectful acts" and in no way reflect "the sentiments of the American people or the U.S. government," he said in a written statement Sept. 10.

The ambassador's remarks came after the Florida pastor, the Rev. Terry Jones, announced he had called off the event, even though later he said he was going to "rethink" that decision.

"The U.S. government condemns the on-again, off-again plans" by the small evangelical group, Diaz said. "The mere threat by a pastor of a small Florida church has already damaged the image of the U.S."

Diaz's comments were the latest in a series of condemnations by international church leaders and officials.

Catholic bishops in Iraq and Pakistan joined a growing chorus of international religious leaders denouncing the planned burning.

14 activists on trial for entering Air Force Base

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With the aim of resisting the use of deadly unmanned drones by the U.S. military abroad and the hope of sparking some sort of public dialog, 14 peace activists go on trial today for an action they committed at a Nevada air force base.

The trial comes about a year and half after the April 2009 action and after charges against the activists were at first dropped and then reinstated.

The activists, known together as the 'Creech 14,' walked onto the grounds of Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nev. on Holy Thursday 2009 and offered the Air Force personnel they met there bread and water as a sign of peace as they started a prayer vigil. After about an hour at prayer they were arrested and taken into custody.

Among those in the group is Jesuit Fr. John Dear, who wrote about the witness and trial in his latest column on the NCR website.

Kathy Kelly, another in the group and coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, talked about the action yesterday on the syndicated radio and television program Democracy Now!.

Catholics for Equality

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I joined a media teleconference this morning that marked the official opening of Catholics for Equality, the stated purpose of which is "to mobilize the 62 percent of American Catholics who support freedoms for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Catholics for Equality and an affiliated foundation will channel that support into action for legislative, political and cultural change."

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April 10-23, 2015

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