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Anticipation high ahead of Romero anniversary

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Published statements from both the church and the government in El Salvador are raising hopes that the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero may occasion an official announcement of his beatification.

San Salvador Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas told a press conference Feb. 7 that the bishops of El Salvador had written to Rome to ask that Romero be canonized “as soon as possible.” Escobar cautioned that he had received no official word from the Vatican, but said the bishops would like to be able to give everyone the good news that Romero was declared “Blessed” on the anniversary day. Romero was assassinated while saying Mass on March 24, 1980.

Aussie bishop goes \"priest hunting\" in India

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- A Catholic bishop has gone to India to find priests to work in a swath of Australia that stretches from tropical islands to the wilderness of the Australian outback.

Bishop Brian Heenan of Rockhampton in the state of Queensland told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Indian priests could help overcome an extreme shortage of native clergy.

Catholic organizations responding to Chile quake

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Two days after a massive earthquake in Chile that has killed more than 700 people, response efforts by Catholic organizations and church leaders are already underway.

Catholic relief organization Caritas Internationalis reported that Bishop Alejandro Goic, president of the Chilean bishops' conference, said that parishes and local Caritas centers have already begun moving to help those most affected by the quake.

Caritas Chile, the national arm of the international organization, has offices in 23 different areas already providing food and other relief. The first emergency aid is being distributed in Maule and Bío Bío, the regions most affected by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country Feb. 27.

A martyred Jesuit remembered

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Jesuit Father Luis Espinal was a priest from Spain missioned in Bolivia in the 1960’s. He was assassinated by the military dictators on March 22, 1980 in La Paz. That was two days before the same fate befell the prophetic Archbishop, Oscar Romero, in San Salvador. The thirtieth anniversary of their deaths brings back personal memories worth sharing.

I remember well the last encounter I had with Luis two weeks before his death. It was outside the movie theatre downtown where I had just seen the American movie, “Foul Play”, with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. The musical comedy was a light diversion considering that in those months nightly bombs were set off in La Paz by agents provocateurs of the military to justify the military coup which everyone knew was coming. And it viciously came with General Garcia Meza on July 17.

Sr. Stang's accused murderer gets new trial

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SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Five years after the murder of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a man accused of ordering her killing will face his third trial.

Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, nicknamed Bida, will begin a new trial March 31. He remains in jail following a court order that he return to prison because of the power he wields in the region where the crime occurred.

Forgiving Haiti's debt called key to recovery

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Obstacles on Haiti’s road to recovery were removed in early February as major players in the international financial system took up the cause of canceling Haiti’s $890 million international debt.

The most significant breakthrough came Feb. 5 when the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the United States would work with its partners around the world to relieve all debts owed by Haiti to international institutions.

Koreans differ with Vatican over Avatar

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SEOUL — Korean theologians have differed with the Vatican over the blockbuster movie Avatar saying the film holds a message against greed.

Vatican publications denounced Avatar for pandering to “all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

Father John Song Yong-min, theology professor of Incheon Catholic University, said that the message of the film was not so serious or dangerous as to shake or confuse the faithful.

“The Church teaches God’s revelation through Jesus which is quite different from the movie’s view on divinity.

“But as God is an unknowable mystery, and such a mystery can be differently expressed according to cultures, so there is room for us to understand Him through the Holy Spirit as ’spiritual energy’,” he said.

The film’s action takes place on Pandora, a utopian planet where an alien tribe has been living in harmony with nature until humans arrive to exploit resources there.

“It is true that the movie contrasts economic development with the preservation of nature. In that we can read a message,” Father Song says.

Haiti faces long-term mental health challenges

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Not least among the challenges millions of Haitians face in the weeks, months and years ahead are the potentially crippling mental health issues that will emerge following what one U.S. general termed “a disaster of epic proportions.”

Among the consequences of the carnage: grief, anger, bereavement, loss, stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

With so much immediate need, what can be done about the inevitable mental health challenges, a byproduct of this deadly event?

Amid the ruins

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If Haiti before the earthquake of Jan. 12 had become a near universal symbol of a dysfunctional civil society, the Catholic church, at least, stood as a somewhat redeeming example there of institutional stability.

Its churches and schools were crowded, its ministries functioned despite the chaos endemic to the poorest country in the hemisphere. The church’s connections through parishes, agencies and religious orders reached across international boundaries and were responsible for untold millions in formal and informal aid each year.

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September 12-25, 2014

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