National Catholic Reporter

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Belarus urged to end capital punishment


MINSK, Belarus -- Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk urged his country to abolish capital punishment, after two 25-year-olds were sentenced to death for killing 15 people in a Metro bomb attack.

"No terrorist act can be justified, and the perpetrators should receive just punishment," Archbishop Kondrusiewicz told the Belarussian church's online news agency, Catholic.By. "But the church calls for bloodless methods for restraining and punishing offenders, best suited to the common good and human dignity. Given the opportunities available to the state for preventing serious crimes, cases where the death penalty is absolutely necessary are very rare, even nonexistent."

"I appeal to President Alexander Lukashenko and the parliament to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, then abolish it completely, replacing it with life imprisonment and pardoning those sentenced to capital punishment," he said.

On Nov. 30, the Supreme Court sentenced Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov for their roles in the April 11 explosion, which blasted ball bearings and nails into afternoon commuters in Minsk's Kastrychnitskaya underground station.

Ireland abuse audit: Recent improvements after years of neglect

DUBLIN, IRELAND -- Audits of six Irish Catholic dioceses reveal “a marked improvement” in how the church is handling clerical abuse allegations.

However, the reviews, carried out by the independent National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and released Nov. 30, also show that, in the past, too much emphasis was put on the rights of accused priests and protecting the reputation of the church. Each review found evidence that insufficient attention was paid to the suffering of victims and the long-term consequences of abuse.

Arab revolutions and the power of nonviolent action



While sitting in a Cairo café just a couple blocks from Tahrir Square recently, I couldn’t help but notice the television in the corner broadcasting the evening news. Traditionally, TV news in Egypt and other Arab countries has consisted of the president (or king) giving a speech, greeting a foreign visitor, visiting a factory, or engaging in some other official function. This evening, however, the news was about a labor strike in Alexandria, relatives of those killed during the February revolution protesting outside the Interior Ministry, and ongoing developments in the pro-democracy struggles in Yemen and Syria.

Nothing could better illustrate the profound change in the Arab world over the past year: It is no longer simply the leaders who were the newsmakers. It is Arab peoples themselves.

Vatican renews call for greater access to AIDS treatment


VATICAN CITY -- The deaths each year of more than a million people from AIDS, the suffering of their families and the new infections of hundreds of thousands of infants are unacceptable when the medicines needed to prevent them exist, a Vatican official said.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said World AIDS Day must be a time "to promote universal access to therapies for those who are infected, the prevention of transmission from mother to child, and education" in responsible sexuality.

In a statement Dec. 1, he said that despite the development of antiretroviral drugs 20 years ago, an estimated 1.8 million people still die of AIDS each year.

"These are people who could lead normal lives if they only had access to suitable pharmacological therapies," he said.

The deaths "are no longer justifiable," the archbishop said, nor is the pain experienced by their families and fact that hundreds of thousands of children are orphaned each year.

Chinese priest ordained coadjutor with approval of Vatican, government


YIBIN, China -- With police officers and dogs monitoring the crowd at St. Mary's Church, Fr. Peter Luo Xuegang was ordained coadjutor bishop of Yibin Diocese in southwestern China's Sichuan province.

No phones, cameras or liquids were allowed in the venue, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. Participants had to arrive three hours before the ordination began to go through security.

Luo had the approval of the Holy See, but an excommunicated bishop attended his ordination, despite a Vatican spokesman conveying the wish that "no illegitimate bishop will participate."

In recent years, many ordinations have followed the pattern of bishop candidates being elected by diocesan representatives, then being approved separately by the government-approved Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Holy See.

Luo, 47, is the third bishop ordained with both papal approval and government recognition this year.

Bishop John Chen Shizhong of Yibin, 95, presided over the Nov. 30 ceremony, attended by 61 priests, 35 nuns, 800 faithful, government officials and representatives of other religions.

Northern Irish still at work creating a space for peace


BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND -- The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland may be over. The memories live on.

The British and Irish flags on Shankill Road and Falls Road are division markers like the painted curbstones that proclaimed the different territories. The flags, increasingly tattered and bedraggled, still flutter from some windows and back fences in proud, if lame, protest.

Daly takes fellow bishops to task



Google “Bloody Sunday 1972” and the Wikipedia entry will show you a camera shot no one who saw it on television that Jan. 30 will ever forget. It was of a Catholic priest in the Bogside area of Derry in Northern Ireland. It shows him crouching down and waving a bloodstained white handkerchief. Behind him come four men carrying a dying man out of the range of British soldiers who that day shot 26 innocent protestors, 14 of whom died.

The priest was Fr. Edward Daly, who later became bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993. His book A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop has just been published by Four Courts Press.



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