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Brazil rape victim flap leads to new Vatican condemnation

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VATICAN CITY
Commenting on the controversial case of a 9-year-old Brazilian rape victim who underwent an abortion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the concern the church needs to show the girl does not change the fact that abortion is wrong.

In declaring that the doctors and others who were involved in helping the girl procure an abortion automatically incurred excommunication, the church does not intend to deny the girl mercy and understanding, said the statement published in the July 11 edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

The penalty of excommunication "places in evidence the gravity of the crime committed (and) the irreparable damage caused to the innocent who was killed, to the parents and to all of society," the statement said.

In early March doctors at a hospital in Recife performed an abortion on the girl, who was pregnant with twins, weighed a little more than 66 pounds and reportedly had been raped repeatedly by her stepfather from the time she was 6 years old. Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in cases of rape or if the mother's life is in danger.

Christian churches targeted by bombs in Iraq

BEIRUT, Lebanon

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, Iraq, had just finished celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church and was talking to parishioners in the courtyard. Moments later, while he was in his office, a bomb exploded on the road that runs alongside the church.

The July 12 bomb blast was one of six that targeted Christian churches in Baghdad July 11-12; another church was bombed in the northern city of Mosul July 13.

Contrasting the Mass with the mayhem that ensued, Bishop Warduni told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview, "We had been praying for peace during the Mass."

He said that "all the little children (had been) praying in the church. Then they ran outside to see the death, the destruction, to see the war."

"It was hell," he said.

"We cry: Why? Why? What is our fault? That we are Christians?" the bishop said.

The series of church bombings left at least four dead and more than 30 injured. A flare-up in violence last October claimed the lives of 13 Christians and forced thousands to flee Mosul.

Canadian prime minister meets Pope Benedict

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VATICAN CITY -- When Pope Benedict XVI and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met at the Vatican July 11, their discussions included protecting human life and the traditional family in Canada as well as development and peace abroad.

The pope and prime minister spent 20 minutes speaking alone in French before Harper introduced his wife, Laureen, and their son Benjamin, 11, and daughter Rachel, 7.

U.S. delegation enters tense Honduras

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Analysis
Answering a call from Honduran relatives of the disappeared, a delegation of seven U.S. citizens managed Tuesday to enter Honduras where tensions have been high since the military toppled the country’s president.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, meanwhile, agreed Tuesday to try to resolve the political crisis sparked by the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted at gunpoint and flown into exile June 28.

The coup - Central America’s first since 1993 - was led by Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez, a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, which also trained two other generals who seized power in Honduras.

The U.S. delegation answered a call from Bertha Oliva, the founder of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, who asked for international volunteers to be observers of the military crackdown, said Hendrik Voss, Communications Coordinator for SOA Watch.

“We have been in contact with the group several times a day for the last week and became very concerned about the increased repression there,” Voss said.

Iraqis between 'hope, fear' as U.S. troops withdraw

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Baghdad

Hope and concern. This is how Iraq is experiencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the cities, six years after the conflict that led to the fall of Saddam Hussein and a bloody civil war, according to Catholic prelates in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

Today, June 30, the official withdrawal of the U.S. combat troops from Iraq begins and should be completed by the end of 2011. Today, Iraqi forces officially assumed control of security in Baghdad and other urban areas.

"People are worried and afraid for the future," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. "Yesterday, Christian families did not send their children to catechism classes for first communion, and neither will they in coming days. They are waiting to see what will happen, they have little confidence.”

A car bomb has killed at least 27 people in Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city. At least 45 other people were wounded when the car bomb exploded at a market, leaving smoldering rubble where people had been shopping for food and other goods.

Honduran coup leader a two-time SOA graduate

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The general who overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras is a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, an institution that has trained hundreds of coup leaders and human rights abusers in Latin America.

Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez toppled President Manuel Zelaya in a pre-dawn coup on Sunday, surrounding the presidential palace with more than 200 soldiers and tanks and tear-gassing a crowd outside. The president was abducted and taken to an Air Force base before being flown to Costa Rica.
The overthrow followed a showdown over a controversial term-limit referendum that was to have taken place the day of the coup.

The military moved quickly against media outlets in an attempt to stem the flow of news about the ouster and the protests that followed.

Jesuit Fr. Joe Mulligan provided NCR with a copy of an email he received about the media crackdown from fellow Jesuit, Fr. Ismael Moreno, director of Radio Progreso, the order’s radio station in Honduras.

Pakistanis, displaced by bombings, endure hardships

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In early June, 2009, I was in the Shah Mansoor displaced persons camp in Pakistan, listening to one resident detail the carnage which had spurred his and his family’s flight there a mere 15 days earlier. Their city, Mingora, had come under massive aerial bombardment. He recalled harried efforts to bury corpses found on the roadside even as he and his neighbors tried to organize their families to flee the area.

“They were killing us in that way, there,” my friend said. Then, gesturing to the rows of tents stretching as far as the eye could see, he added, “Now, in this way, here.”

The people in the tent encampment suffered very harsh conditions. They were sleeping on the ground without mats, they lacked water for bathing, the tents were unbearably hot, and they had no idea whether their homes and shops in Mingora were still standing. But, the suffering they faced had only just begun.

One killed at funeral of Fr. Jean-Juste in Haiti

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- One of the thousands of mourners for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste died June 18 following the Haitian priest's funeral in Port-au-Prince.

Jean-Juste, a Port-au-Prince archdiocesan priest, died in a Miami hospital May 27 at age 62. A passionate advocate for the impoverished in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States, he had lived in the U.S. since the 1970s and founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami.

Although some news reports quoted eyewitnesses as saying the unidentified man who died after the funeral was killed by gunfire from U.N. peacekeeping forces, a statement from the U.N. mission to Haiti said the peacekeepers "categorically deny the allegations."

Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, a spokeswoman for the mission, told the Reuters news agency that U.N. soldiers fired about five shots into the air to disperse a crowd that was throwing rocks at them.

Scholars believe Iranian election results will stand

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WASHINGTON -- Despite cries of voter fraud and the promise of a limited ballot recount, two U.S. Catholic scholars said they believe the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will stand.

"Nobody can really predict the outcome of the current situation in Iran," said Scott Alexander, director of Catholic-Muslim Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, the largest Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the U.S. "My guess would be the short-term outcome would be another four-year term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

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