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Catholic officials: South Sudanese will need patience

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Catholic officials cited the need for patience and a focus on what the people of South Sudan have achieved as the church prepares to walk alongside the world's newest country on its path to peace and development.

In "achieving their right to self-determination," marked with a July 9 independence ceremony in the capital, Juba, the people of South Sudan have "what the better-educated and better-fed people of Libya, Yemen and many other countries are looking for," said Dan Griffin, adviser on Sudan to the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services.

"Their potential and hope give them a tremendous advantage," he told Catholic News Service in a July 10 telephone interview from Juba. He noted that the 8 million citizens of South Sudan "may not have phones, banks or roads but they do have rights and dignity and a government of their consent."

A 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running conflict led to a January independence vote in which nearly 99 percent of the residents of the South voted to secede from Sudan. At least 2 million people were killed in Sudan's last civil war, fought from 1983 to 2005.

Mexican tribunal orders sanctions on archdiocese

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MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's electoral tribunal has ordered the Interior Ministry to sanction the Archdiocese of Mexico City for comments urging Catholics to not vote for political parties promoting liberalized abortion laws and same-sex marriage.

The Mexican bishops' conference and the Mexico City archdiocesan spokesman, Father Hugo Valdemar Romero -- also named in the ruling -- have questioned the legality of the order.

"According to the (tribunal) judges, a citizen's critical opinion of a political party for its immoral, criminal and destructive actions toward the family and its values is an attack against the democratic life of our country," Father Valdemar said at a July 3 press conference, two days after the tribunal ruling. "Such a proposition is not only a judicial contradiction, but borders on the ridiculous."

Father Manuel Corral, spokesman for the bishops' conference, called the ruling "an insult" and said it was delivered in a way that seemed to say "so that you'll learn."

Battle over the harnessing of Amazon's rivers

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Over the past decade, steady economic growth in Latin America has spurred a thirst for energy that the region’s governments are increasingly trying to quench by harnessing rivers.

Supporters tout hydroelectricity as a clean, renewable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels, but opponents say those claims are not true. And in Brazil, Peru and Chile, plans for major dams have sparked conflicts with environmentalists and indigenous people.

Rector: State security services watching me

OXFORD, England -- The U.S.-born rector of Ukraine's Catholic university said his country is "living in dark times" and accused state security services of placing him under surveillance.

"Our telephones are tapped -- the stationary ones probably, the mobile ones certainly. Lists of my telephone conversations have been shown to colleagues, and an assistant was followed through the city," said Father Borys Gudziak, rector of the Lviv-based Ukrainian Catholic University.

"I have seen fundamental change some in hopeless situations -- from communism to an independent Ukraine, from growing authoritarianism to the Orange Revolution. Although I believe we're living in dark times, I'm convinced the spirit and human dignity will prevail," he told Austria's Die Presse daily June 16.

He said the university students and faculty were "not a nest of radical revolutionaries. But we do try to be free."

The priest told the daily that other university staffers had received calls from the state security services asking about his activities.

Fighting threatens civilians in Sudan's Kordofan region

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A major humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Sudan's oil-producing South Kordofan state, with church and humanitarian officials saying some 300,000 persons are trapped, cut off from relief aid and unable to flee fighting between forces of the Sudanese government and members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the former rebel group based in Southern Sudan.

In recent days, there have been growing reports of civilians fleeing to the Nuba mountains in South Kordofan, where officials of the Sudan Council of Churches say civilians are, according to one source, "being hunted down like animals by helicopter gun-ships."

Among those targeted are clergy and humanitarian workers, including Roman Catholics, who have been prominent in civil society work, voter education and in providing emergency and development assistance.

English archbishop: Marriage a 'public good'

LONDON -- The spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has praised traditional marriage as a "public good."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said it was "vitally important" for the "whole of society" to support marriage at a time when more British couples than ever were choosing to live together outside of marriage and to have children out of wedlock.

He said the British had acknowledged the importance of marriage by rejoicing over the April 29 marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London's Westminster Abbey.

The "mighty public cheer" that rang out after the couple exchanged vows showed an "instinctive and profound public understanding of the nature and consequences of marriage itself," said Archbishop Nichols, who was a guest at the royal wedding.

"Marriage, as a permanent, exclusive commitment between this man and this woman was welcomed, applauded," the archbishop said in a homily at a Mass for married couples in Westminster Cathedral.

"There was rejoicing in what the newlyweds had just done," he said. "Marriage, then, is a public good.

Rain leads to spike in cholera in Haiti

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Three weeks of intermittent heavy rain have led to a spike in the number of cholera cases in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and in several rural areas where health care workers are struggling to handle the surge.

The rain also caused flooding in low-lying areas and mudslides in the hills around the capital, causing more than two dozen deaths as of June 9, the Haitian government reported. Several people have been reported missing.

Identity pressures at heart of Caritas ferment

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A rare excursion from the Vatican train station kicked off a May 22-27 General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, an apt gesture for the main umbrella group of Catholic charities around the world. The last time a train moved along the world’s smallest international rail line was in 2002, when John Paul convoked a summit of religious leaders in Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace and justice.

The train ride was symbolically fitting in another sense, however, because it’s the kind of trip one normally makes with baggage.

Canada's new Catholic House speaker

OTTAWA, Ontario -- The newly elected speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, 32, has never hidden his Catholic faith from public life.

But the Saskatchewan representative's stands on issues have not given him a reputation for divisiveness. Instead, his record helped him make history as the youngest man to be elected to the leadership role that comes with huge responsibilities and accompanying perks.

Scheer was elected June 2 after seven hours of voting on a field of eight candidates. The speaker only votes on issues in the event of a tie.

"I have often said that we are all motivated by the same thing," Scheer told the House after the final ballot. "We may disagree fundamentally on issues and ideas, but we all do sincerely want Canada to be the best country it can be. I have come to appreciate that on a personal level with each and every member."

Campaign Life Coalition has rated him pro-life and pro-family based on his voting record and public statements.

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September 12-25, 2014

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