National Catholic Reporter

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Ecuador's president: Bishops interfered in politics


QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has accused the nation's bishops of interfering in politics after they commented about a May 7 referendum.

Correa said the bishops' statement was a veiled effort to support a "no" vote in the referendum, which had nothing to do with morals, faith or religion.

"What do the bishops have to do with this consultation?" he asked in a televised speech April 2.

The balloting includes two sets of questions. Affirmative answers to five questions would result in changes to the Ecuadorean Constitution. The other five are about legislation unrelated to the constitution.

In a late-March statement, the bishops called for dialogue, saying, "The very principles of the rule of law are at stake: the independence of the branches of government, the organization of the judicial system and enforcement of fundamental rights and freedoms."

The bishops cautioned against moving too quickly to change the constitution, which was rewritten by a constitutional assembly after Correa took office in 2007. The new constitution was approved in a referendum in 2008.

Archbishop: Arrest Quran burning US pastor

LONDON -- The president of the Pakistani bishops' conference has called for the arrest of a U.S. Protestant pastor whose decision to burn the Islamic sacred book has caused fury in the Muslim world and the deaths of more than 20 people.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, conference president, said the U.S. government should seek to diffuse mounting tensions by detaining the Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center Church in Gainesville, Fla., who oversaw the burning of the Quran by the Rev. Wayne Sapp, his assistant.

"The U.S. government should detain the pastor for some time," Archbishop Saldanha told the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity for persecuted Christians around the world.

"In view of the effects his actions have had all over the world, he should be controlled and understand the harm that has been done," he said in an April 4 telephone interview.

"The U.S. government talks about religious freedom -- but we call upon the U.S. government to prevent such actions by extremists and other fundamentalist Christians," the archbishop said.

Nuncio says priests targeted in Ivory Coast

WARSAW, Poland -- The Vatican's representative to the Ivory Coast has said Catholic priests have been targeted by armed groups during the current conflict, but added that he still hopes "full-scale civil war" can be avoided in the West African country.

In Rome, officials of Caritas Internationalis, the church's charitable aid agency, said one of the priests kidnapped was Father Richard Kissi, diocesan director of Caritas in Abidjan, who was kidnapped March 29 by an armed group.

In a March 30 telephone interview, the nuncio, Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, told Catholic News Service, "I wouldn't call it a civil war as yet -- the rebel army has been trying to attack certain cities, and this is why the violence is continuing."

He said students at the main Catholic seminary in Abidjan, the country's largest city, had been evacuated after its buildings were occupied by rebel soldiers. He added that a Catholic priest had been abducted while helping supervise the evacuation, while another had been attacked while returning from a late-night radio broadcast and had been hospitalized. He would not identify the priests by name.

CRS forced to close food program in Darfur


BALTIMORE -- Catholic Relief Services announced that it will be forced to close its food program in the Sudanese state of Western Darfur at the end of March.

A statement from CRS headquarters in Baltimore did not list a reason for the program's closure, and a CRS spokeswoman in Baltimore said March 28 the agency would not comment further.

However, the previous day, Sara Fajardo, CRS spokeswoman in Africa, told Agence France-Presse that the Sudanese government had asked CRS to leave because it said it could not guarantee staffers' security. CRS remained in Darfur in 2009 when the government expelled 13 other aid agencies.

"One of their (government's) claims was that we were distributing Bibles. This is completely wrong. It is against all our operating principles," Fajardo said. "We are a humanitarian organization whose work is based on need and not creed. The majority of our staff in Darfur are Muslim."

Nigerian bishops initiate forum on oil industry's impact


ABUJA, NIGERIA -- Catholic bishops, state and local government officials, oil executives and representatives of nongovernmental agencies met in Port Harcourt, the corporate and logistic hub of Nigeria’s oil industry, to address the issues of poor governance and poor oil industry practices that have bedeviled the Niger Delta region for decades.

On nuclear power, the warnings are clear


Like Three Mile Island in the 1970s and Chernobyl in the 1980s, we will be studying the lessons of Fukushima for decades to come. But at least one thing is clear today: The benefits of nuclear power are too few, and the consequences of serious mishap too great, to make it a reliable component of the energy supply the world needs in the decades to come.

Nuclear power is simply too risky. It is a temptation world governments must resist.

Libya and the law of unintended consequences


In the abstract, the term "no-fly zone" sounds benign, almost peaceful, like a schoolyard peacemaker stepping between two fists-drawn belligerents. All so easy.

No, the world’s civilized governments could not watch idly as Moammar Gadhafi’s military, on the ground and in the air, indiscriminately murdered thousands of his own country’s civilians, any more than we could have observed from the sidelines if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (does he now regret stepping aside?) ordered his military to attack those in Tahrir Square. In an age of instantaneous messaging, where foreign and military policy seems another reality television show, this would have somehow been too much to bear.

Darfur, not so much; Bahrain, our “interests” -- oil, hospitality to our troops, perhaps another Mubarak-like “solution” -- override our humanitarianism.

Gadhafi is no Mubarak, the former publicly swearing that “no mercy” would be demonstrated to Libyans who innocently stood in the way, let alone ragtag rebels who bravely, if somewhat naively, seek his head. For several weeks the world looked to the United States: Would we, the indispensable power, intervene?

Africans who sought refuge in Libya especially vulnerable


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan -- Africans who sought refuge in Libya before the recent turmoil are particularly vulnerable and need protection now, said Ellen Erickson, refugee sponsorship representative for the Diocese of Saskatoon.

An already bad situation in Libya for refugees worsened with the outbreak of the internal conflict and Western airstrikes, said Erickson.


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