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The American College's contributions

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REFLECTION

John A. Dick is an alumnus of the American College of Louvain, Class of 1969, and a former member of the faculty. He offers this reflection on the closing of the school.

LOUVAIN, BELGIUM — In its 154th year, the American College of Louvain, the oldest foreign seminary governed by the U.S. bihsops, will shut down at the end of the current academic year in June 2011. The official announcement was made in a U.S. bishops' conference news release dated Nov. 22.

Based on the recommendations of a study by its own Apostolic Commission, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at its most recent November meeting, has called for the closure of the American College of Louvain.

Respect for religion vital, pope tells Ahmadinejad

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Respect for each person's relationship with God is an essential part of building a just social order and real peace, Pope Benedict XVI said in a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"It is my profound conviction that respect for the transcendent dimension of the human person is an indispensable condition for the construction of a just social order and a stable peace," the pope wrote to the Iranian leader.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran gave the letter to Ahmadinejad Nov. 9 during a meeting in Tehran. The Vatican released a copy of the letter Nov. 11.

Catholic university launches in Sudan

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TENAFLY, N.J. -- When Americans think about Sudan -- if they ever do -- they may connect it with some 20 years of civil war, with hunger, refugees and genocide -- especially in Darfur, its northwestern province. Or they may associate it more recently with large oil finds in the south of the country or with the peace agreement of 2005, which has brought an unsteady cease fire to warring factions of the North and South.

Attack on Iraq church called example of intolerance toward Christians

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UNITED NATIONS -- The Oct. 31 attack on a Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that left 58 people dead is "another tragic incident of the continued intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at Christians," said the Vatican's representative in a Nov. 1 address at the United Nations.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said the incident underscores the need to ensure that all religions and all believers have "the most basic right to religious freedom and worship."

He was addressing the U.N. General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian issues.

Archbishop Chullikatt's statement did not elaborate on the siege by militants at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, beyond noting that "our thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this attack and their families, some of whom I have known personally."

Cardinal urges US to protect Iraq Christians

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WASHINGTON -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed solidarity and promised prayers for the Christians of Iraq "at this terrible time of loss and horrific violence."

In a Nov. 2 statement following the attack two days earlier on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said the U.S. government -- having invaded Iraq and later withdrawn all combat troops -- "has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves."

"While we welcomed the end of U.S.-led combat in Iraq, we share the Iraqi bishops' concern that the United States failed to help Iraqis in finding the political will and concrete ways needed to protect the lives of all citizens, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities, and to ensure that refugees and displaced persons are able to return to their homes safely," the cardinal said.

With no resettlement plan, Haitian camps take on semi-permanent feel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- With racquetball courts, a swimming pool and the country's only golf course -- nine holes on a steep hillside -- the Petionville Club shares one of Port-au-Prince's most exclusive neighborhoods with business moguls and ambassadors.

After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the club became home to some 50,000 people whose houses in neighborhoods downhill were damaged or destroyed by the magnitude 7 earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.

The Petionville camp looks like a small city, with broad, winding paths descending past row after row of white or blue-and-orange tents. Outside the tents, men chat in clusters and women wash babies or braid their children's hair. Small groups of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers stroll among the tents in response to news reports of increased crime or to avert violence as the Nov. 28 elections approach.

Outside a tent on the main path, Louisiane Meme sits beside a makeshift stand displaying bread rolls and peanut butter. Business is slow.

"People don't have any money," she said.

In Brazil's presidential election, abortion plays major role

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ANALYSIS

As the candidates for the presidency of Brazil race to the wire before the run-off election of Oct. 31, abortion has become a major campaign issue.

The Catholic church and the evangelical churches, through their basic principles of defense of life, have become major players, but with quite different playbooks. Like the Brazilian team in soccer’s recent World Cup, not all the players are on the same page. Nor are their coaches.

The candidates were running a seemingly predictable campaign till the last weeks before the Oct. 3 election.

Dilma Rousseff -- the anointed protégé of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva ,"Lula", the two term president from the Worker's Party -- was expected to win the required 50 percent of the vote with no need of a run-off. But rumors had begun to circulate that she, and her party, would seek to legalize abortion.

The election issues had been much more about the success of the Workers' Party administration in raising 21 million people out of poverty in the last eight years and bringing Brazil into a position of leadership in Latin America and in the world.

Abp of Canterbury criticizes Euro burqa bans

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NAGPUR, India -- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams deplored attempts by European governments to prohibit Muslim women from wearing body-covering burqas in public.

"Governments should have better things to do than ban the burqa," Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, told an interfaith meeting at the National Council of Churches of India's headquarters in Nagpur.

France's constitutional court on Oct. 7 approved a law banning full-face veils in public, which would prevent women wearing garments such as the burqa.

Belgian lawmakers voted to approve a similar measure in March to ban the wearing of clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified. The newly-formed government in the Netherlands has also announced plans to introduce measures to ban face-covering veils.

"I believe that the state ought not to be addressing issues like these. Instead, it should leave such concerns to the religious communities," Williams said Oct. 14, describing the French ban as "a sign of being overanxious".

More than 100 church leaders attended the meeting alongside Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders.

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