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Gates foundation one of many to pledge money to expand contraception access

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Melinda Gates has pledged $560 million as part of a campaign to expand access to contraception for women in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The funding commitment was unveiled Wednesday at the London Summit on Family Planning alongside other pledges that total $4.6 billion from the British government and leaders from African nations, which are wrestling with the health and social problems brought on, they say, by high rates of unplanned pregnancy.

Pastoral care, solidarity with Guatemalans mark Maryknollers' ministry

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MARYKNOLL, N.Y. -- To the more traditional elements of their job description, two Maryknoll missioners in Guatemala have added the responsibility of being a presence in the face of injustice and inhumanity.

Fr. William F. Mullan and Br. Martin J. Shea said their combined 110 years of service to Maryknoll, most of it in Guatemala, included evangelization and pastoral care of the local church, as well as temporal and emotional support for people displaced by that country's civil war.

Illicitly ordained Chinese bishop incurs automatic excommunication

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VATICAN CITY -- Chinese Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng has been automatically excommunicated for allowing himself to be illicitly ordained a bishop despite repeated warnings from the Vatican.

"The Holy See does not recognize him as bishop of the apostolic administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the province of Heilongjiang," the Vatican said in a written statement Tuesday.

Congress pushes for war with Iran

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Viewpoint

In electing Barack Obama in 2008, the American people brought into the White House an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq who not only withdrew combat forces from that country but promised to “change the mindset” -- the idea that the United States could unilaterally make war against oil-rich Middle Eastern countries -- that made the Iraq War possible.

In response, however, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been working to force this moderate president into going to war against Iran. And they have a lot of support.

Last December, in a 410-11 vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 1905) that would put into law a restriction whereby “No person employed with the U. S. government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person ... serving as a representative of the government of Iran.”

Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime.

New particle may unlock new discoveries, says Vatican astronomer

VATICAN CITY -- The discovery of a new subatomic particle -- the so-called Higgs boson -- may help scientists discover how the hidden structure of all matter in the universe works, a Vatican astronomer said.

"It indicates that reality is deeper and more rich and strange than our everyday life," U.S. Jesuit Br. Guy Consolmagno told Catholic News Service.

Troubled Irish church hosts congress

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Dublin saw thousands of pilgrims from all over the world at this year’s 50th International Eucharistic Congress, a gathering to celebrate the Eucharist. The Congress opened June 10 against a backdrop of anger over the clerical abuse scandals in Ireland as well as declining Mass attendance and a more aggressively secular culture, but with congress participants hopeful that the future will be brighter.

An estimated 25,000 pilgrims participated each day, according to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012 website.

Deacons, nuns, laity and even athlete-priests to be Olympic chaplains

MANCHESTER, England -- Some people are simply gifted at sport; they excel at any challenge involving a ball, a stick or a physical contest nearly as soon as they turn their hands to it.

One such person is Fr. Geoff Hilton, a priest from Salford Diocese in the north of England, who will be serving as a chaplain to athletes competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Irish eyes aren't smiling over New York cardinal's seminary probe

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NEW YORK -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan loves to play up his Irish roots, which is no surprise given Dolan's famous Gaelic gregariousness and his role as spiritual leader of such a prominent community of Irish-American Catholics.

But in the wake of Dolan's scathing verdict on the orthodoxy of a major Irish seminary and the sharp pushback by Ireland's leading bishops, America's best-known churchman might want to stick to his throne at St. Patrick's Cathedral and steer clear of the old sod for a while.

Bishops told religious liberty is in growing 'global crisis'

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ATLANTA -- There is an increasing "global crisis" of "government restrictions on religion and social hostilities toward religion," an expert on religious liberty told the U.S. bishops Wednesday during their spring national meeting in Atlanta.

That crisis has "enormous consequences for the church, the United States, the success of democracy, the defeat of religion-based terrorism and the cause of international justice and peace," said Georgetown University's Thomas F. Farr, a former U.S. diplomat who has devoted the last 13 years to studying religious liberty.

Farr teaches at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and is the director of the Religious Freedom Project at the university's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

In a three-hour afternoon session devoted almost entirely to issues of religious freedom at home and abroad, Farr led off the international segment.

Also speaking was Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon, who is also president of Caritas Iraq, the aid agency of the church in Iraq.

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