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Burma: Power, politics and the church in Burma

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Part 3 of 3

BURMA -- As a Catholic boy growing up in 1970s Burma, Thomas saw only two paths in front of him. He was idealistic, loved his country, and hated the ruling junta. He could take up arms alongside ethnic rebels fighting the oppressive military regime that had ravaged his village so many times. Or he could join a Catholic order he saw serving the poor and educating young people.

Burma: A tale of two schools

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Part 2 of 3

Shrouded in darkness save for the light of a solitary candle flickering across his drawn face, Augustine stares thoughtfully at the well-worn chess board between himself and this reporter. The old man’s body is feeble, but his mind -- and his English -- are as sharp as ever. “I’ll tell you, studying English and chess are the best ways for a young man to sharpen his mind,” he declares. Augustine’s grown-up daughter, Elizabeth, rolls her eyes and reminds her loquacious father that it’s getting late. But the teacher is just getting started.

Burma: Light and hope amid brutality

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A reporter for NCR recently went to Burma to look into what many call a troubling relationship among the church’s hierarchy, clergy, ordinary Catholics, and the military dictatorship. Because Burma’s internal spy agencies follow coverage of Burma in the foreign press and harshly punish citizens suspected of talking to reporters, names have been changed and geographical locations, occupations and other identifying details are not used.

Pursuing self-evident Truth

On the 4th of July, America’s birthday, we stood together before an estimated 1000 of our countrymen to celebrate our mutual commitment to the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal before the law.

Both of us reflected in our remarks how much Malta is known today, and praise God, shall always be known for her kindness. Our nations understand that all people -- of whatever color or ethnicity or belief -- are unique; that each of us hold within our hearts the desire to know, love, and serve others; that each of us try to find our way in this world, and we rely upon God and each other to carry us at times farther than we can go ourselves. This is realized every day in Maltese and American homes alike, where mothers and fathers look upon their children and silently hope that each child will see the meaning of life more clearly and purposefully than they have.

Cardinal George celebrates mass in Cuba

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SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops visited Cuba's most revered religious site, the sanctuary of the Virgin of El Cobre, celebrating Mass with several Cuban bishops there as well as at the cathedral of the country's second-largest city during a two-day trip to the country.

The visit by Cardinal Francis E. George June 23-24 was part of an exchange between the U.S. and Cuban churches, said Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, president of the Cuban bishops' conference.

"This visit ... adds to our mutual understanding, because we have always encountered understanding from the North American church," Archbishop Garcia said.

He added that the U.S. church has long been in solidarity with the Cuban bishops, who have hosted visits from their U.S. counterparts many times.

Welcoming Cardinal George and his companions to the Mass at the Metropolitan Basilica Cathedral of Santiago, Archbishop Garcia said "we are seeing here a sign of the unity of the church, a sign that there is another world where it is possible to dream of and build a world of solidarity and brotherhood."

Vatican expresses indignation at Belgian raid

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VATICAN CITY
In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican expressed surprise and indignation at the way Belgian police carried out a raid on the headquarters of the Belgian Catholic Church in connection with an investigation into alleged priestly sex abuse.

The statement June 25 from the Vatican Secretariat of State expressed "true surprise" for the nine-hour-long police blitz and "indignation" for what it said was the violation of tombs of two late cardinals during the search June 24.

News reports said that in the raid, police had sealed off the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, including the residence of Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard. They also searched the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the retired archbishop for the archdiocese.

The Vatican statement included the description of the raid provided by a spokesman for the Belgian bishops' conference, detailing how bishops gathered for a scheduled meeting at the headquarters had been surprised by police who then confiscated documents and cell phones of all present.

Indian Presbyterians to 'discipline' homosexuals

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KOCHI, India (RNS/ENInews) The Presbyterian church in the northeast Indian state of Mizoram has said it will “discipline” homosexuals by preventing them from taking part in important church rituals because their lifestyle is incompatible with Christianity.

The executive committee of the synod of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church, the largest church in the Christian-majority state, said the church will not condone homosexuality in any way, and may excommunicate some homosexuals.

“Our church will discipline such people, and they will not be allowed to take part in sacraments,” the Rev. C. Rosiama, a leader of the Mizo church and former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of India, told Ecumenical News international from Aizwal, the capital of Mizoram.

The Presbyterian Church of India is made up of eight independent church synods all based in northeast India, a region sandwiched between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.

Rosiama said the Mizo synod had decided that homosexuals living together as couples will not be excommunicated from the church.

Prince Charles praises Islamic principles on environment

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LONDON (RNS) Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and next in line as titular head of the Church of England, says Western society should learn from Islamic principles to save the environment.

Charles told an audience at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies on Wednesday (June 9) that “the Islamic world is the custodian of one of the greatest treasures of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity.”

The prince is a lifelong Christian and the heir to the crown now worn by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. With his accession will come the centuries-old job of leading the Church of England.

Charles, who has studied the Quran, and who has been the Oxford center's royal patron for the past 17 years, added that “my understanding of Islam is that it warns that to deny the reality of our inner being leads to an inner darkness which can quickly extend outward into the world of nature.”

“If we ignore the calling of the soul,” he said, “then we destroy nature.”

Aquino election brings hope, nostalgia to Philippines

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The landslide victory of the new president-elect Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was elected on a wave of hope and nostalgia that began with an emotional tsunami during the long 8-hour funeral procession of his mother, Corazon "Cory" Aquino last August 2009.

She was much loved, not only as the first democratically-elected woman president of the Philippines but in Asia, but also because of her integrity. She is revered and respected by Filipinos because she helped topple the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos and restore democracy in the Philippines. She ignited respect for human rights and non-violence and high hopes for an end to corruption, assassinations and forced disappearances. However, they were not widely realized in her presidency.

It is these same desires and longings that the Filipino people want to be actualized through her son. They see her integrity embodied in him. These are certainly challenging times for the president-elect and his future administration. Against them, there is an arrayed culture of political violence and powerful elite determined to get what they want and to bring them down to succeed.

Vatican deplores Israeli assault on flotilla; priest fears reprisals

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican deplored the "useless loss of life" in an assault by Israeli commandos on a flotilla of ships taking aid to the Gaza Strip.

In a written statement released May 31, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, called the incident "a very painful event" that church officials were following closely.

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September 12-25, 2014

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