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What's behind Chinaís hard line against Catholics?

VATICAN CITY -- When China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained a new bishop for the Diocese of Shantou last July 14 without the Vatican’s approval, it represented the latest step back from years of progress in a complex relationship.

Yet the main causes for the shift may have little to do with Rome, experts say, and instead lie in momentous geopolitical events in other regions of the globe, and deep social changes within China itself.

Sudanese bishops: Faith brings cooperation

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KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Like the early Christians who were challenged by social pressures and political forces, Sudan's Catholics face modern-day challenges that can best be met by "putting Christ at the center of their life," the bishops of Sudan said.

They also said called upon their collaborators in various ministries to initiate a period of spiritual renewal, strengthen the spirit of cooperation, communion and mutual support, share resources and personnel in an effort to better serve the Sudanese people.

The July 16 statement from Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum and Coadjutor Bishop Michael Didi Mangoria of El-Obeid followed Sudan's partition into two nations as South Sudan became the world's newest country a week earlier.

The bishops urged a peaceful outcome to the recent violence in Sudan's South Kordofan state. Witnesses said a series of attacks by government troops were aimed at the ethnic Nuba people around Kadugli, South Kordofan's capital. Other attacks occurred in Abyei, home primarily to members of the Dinka Ngok tribe, supporters of the government of Southern Sudan.

Vatican: Chinese bishop excommunicated

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican said a Chinese bishop ordained illegitimately in mid-July has been automatically excommunicated and lacks the authority to govern his diocese.

At the same time, the Vatican praised bishops loyal to Rome who resisted participation in the ordination ceremony before being forced by authorities to do so.

"The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible," a Vatican statement said July 16.

The Vatican was reacting to the ordination of Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang July 14 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Shantou, in southern China's Guangdong province. Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyin, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was reportedly the main celebrant; he was one of eight Vatican-approved bishops at the ordination.

Acclaim, joy, caution and worry greet birth of South Sudan

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The global community has greeted the world’s newest nation with acclaim, joy, caution -- and not a few worries.

The Republic of South Sudan formally came into being July 9, amid celebrations throughout the world and as words of hope and encouragement poured in from global leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Chinese ordain another bishop without approval

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SHANTOU, China -- Chinese officials ordained a bishop without papal mandate, just 10 days after the Holy See excommunicated another newly ordained bishop.

Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained July 14 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Shantou, in southern China's Guangdong province.

The Asian church news agency UCA News reported that Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyin, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was the main celebrant. He was one of eight Vatican-approved bishops at the ordination.

On July 4, the Holy See excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, who was ordained a bishop without papal mandate. The July 4 statement also stated that the consecrating bishops, including Bishop Fang, have exposed themselves to serious canonical sanctions.

Earlier, UCA News reported that a bishop in Guangdong said he was en route to Shantou, accompanied by government officials. Some other bishops who tried to avoid going to the ordination were taken to guesthouses by officials.

Foreign minister summons nuncio, seeks response to Irish abuse report

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DUBLIN -- Ireland's foreign minister summoned the country's papal nuncio and demanded that the Vatican give a formal response to the Cloyne Report into the mishandling of clerical abuse.

The July 14 meeting came just a day after a judicial commission accused the Vatican of being "entirely unhelpful" to Irish bishops seeking to implement robust abuse policies.

Court upholds conviction of Holocaust-denying bishop

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BERLIN -- A German appeals court has upheld the conviction of a traditionalist bishop for denying the Holocaust.

On July 11, the court ruled against British Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of St. Pius X, who in a 2009 TV interview said that the Holocaust was exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers.

The interview was aired by a Swedish TV network the same day the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other of the society's bishops in an effort to reconcile with the traditionalist group.

The pope later repudiated Bishop Williamson's remarks, saying he had been unaware of the bishop's views on the Holocaust. The pope met with Jewish leaders at the time to calm tensions over the incident.

Additionally, the Vatican told Bishop Williamson that he would not be welcomed into full communion in the church unless he disavowed his remarks about the Holocaust and publicly apologized. To date, Vatican officials have said, he has not met that condition.

Philippine bishops can keep money, cars

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MANILA, Philippines -- Senators have exonerated seven Catholic bishops who accepted donations of money and vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The senators said there was nothing irregular in the bishops' actions, because the vehicles were used to help people, not promote religion, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

However, the bishops had already admitted that the issue had brought shame on the church, and they returned the vehicles, despite the Senate's decision.

In a statement read by Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato during the hearing, the bishops said the vehicles were used for social programs in their respective dioceses but they would return them. Three prelates from Luzon brought their vehicles to the Senate and returned them to Charity Sweepstakes officials.

Archbishop Quevedo said vehicles in Mindanao, including the one for his archdiocese, are ready for immediate return to a duly authorized sweepstakes representative.

Six of the seven bishops involved in the controversy faced the Senate committee.

Belfast bishop urges Catholics, Protestants to show restraint

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BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- The bishop of Belfast appealed for Catholic and Protestant residents to prove to the world they can live together in peace after fresh sectarian violence flared during the region's contentious Protestant marching season.

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor appealed to both sides to show restraint and respect toward police after 22 police officers were injured July 11.

"I ask all who attend parades or protests in the days ahead to avoid provocation," he said in a statement July 12.

He urged local residents to ensure that "events are not manipulated by destructive influences from outside the communities where parades take place."

Police have expressed concern that fringe elements opposed to the 1998 Good Friday peace accord might be orchestrating communal strife.

On July 12, the traditional "Orangeman's day," Loyalist demonstrations commemorate the 1690 defeat of the Catholic King James II by the Protestant Prince William of Orange that definitively installed Protestantism as the religion of the British monarchy.

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July 4-17, 2014

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