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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.

Philippine prelates criticize Congress' decision to delay Mindanao vote

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MANILA, Philippines
Church leaders have criticized Congress' decision to postpone August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"The law is not respected, and we, here in Mindanao, are not given the opportunity to choose our own leaders," said Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela, in Basilan province.

"We want the elections and not the imposition of leaders," the prelate said. His remarks were reported by the Asian church news agency UCA News.

On June 7, the Philippine Senate and House agreed to postpone the elections in the region to coincide with Philippine midterm elections in 2013. Proponents of the legislation said this allowed more time for the government-rebel peace process as well as allow time for reform in the region, site of decades of fighting by Muslim separatists.

The Commission on Elections stopped preparing for the elections while it waits to see if the Supreme Court upholds or overturns the congressional decision.

Auxiliary Bishop Jose Bagaforo of Cotabato said the principle of autonomy was violated with the vote and the decision would fuel protests in the region.

US Catholic health care is a treasure

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Viewpoint

The American Catholic bishops appear to have a grudge against Catholic health care.

In December, the bishop of Phoenix pronounced St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center no longer Catholic. Earlier he declared the sister of Mercy who was responsible for assuring the hospital fulfilled its Catholic mission had automatically been excommunicated because she participated in a decision to permit removal of the placenta from a pregnant patient dying of pulmonary hypertension.

With faith, insight, Joe Feuerherd held all to account

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The untimely death of Joe Feuerherd is much regretted. Just a few weeks ago I had the benefit of Joe's writing in an April 8 column entitled "Kmiec takes friendly fire." The column presented Joe's analysis of an event that should otherwise not have been newsworthy: namely, a routine Office of Inspector General report that found my then-Embassy in Valletta, Malta to be accomplishing, even exceeding, its mission goals.

Pessimism couples hope for change in Haiti

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- If President Michel Martelly’s vows of change for Haiti are to come true, they’re going to have to be felt by young people like Mikency Jean.

Jean, 22, a native of the city of Cap Haitien, came to the capital of Port-au-Prince at age 11 to work as a domestic servant (or restavek) for her aunt. Jean does not like to dwell much on that work -- there is little to say about 12-hour days cleaning and cooking without pay.

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September 12-25, 2014

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