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Attack on Iraq church called example of intolerance toward Christians

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UNITED NATIONS -- The Oct. 31 attack on a Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that left 58 people dead is "another tragic incident of the continued intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at Christians," said the Vatican's representative in a Nov. 1 address at the United Nations.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said the incident underscores the need to ensure that all religions and all believers have "the most basic right to religious freedom and worship."

He was addressing the U.N. General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian issues.

Archbishop Chullikatt's statement did not elaborate on the siege by militants at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, beyond noting that "our thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this attack and their families, some of whom I have known personally."

Cardinal urges US to protect Iraq Christians

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WASHINGTON -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed solidarity and promised prayers for the Christians of Iraq "at this terrible time of loss and horrific violence."

In a Nov. 2 statement following the attack two days earlier on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said the U.S. government -- having invaded Iraq and later withdrawn all combat troops -- "has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves."

"While we welcomed the end of U.S.-led combat in Iraq, we share the Iraqi bishops' concern that the United States failed to help Iraqis in finding the political will and concrete ways needed to protect the lives of all citizens, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities, and to ensure that refugees and displaced persons are able to return to their homes safely," the cardinal said.

With no resettlement plan, Haitian camps take on semi-permanent feel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- With racquetball courts, a swimming pool and the country's only golf course -- nine holes on a steep hillside -- the Petionville Club shares one of Port-au-Prince's most exclusive neighborhoods with business moguls and ambassadors.

After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the club became home to some 50,000 people whose houses in neighborhoods downhill were damaged or destroyed by the magnitude 7 earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.

The Petionville camp looks like a small city, with broad, winding paths descending past row after row of white or blue-and-orange tents. Outside the tents, men chat in clusters and women wash babies or braid their children's hair. Small groups of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers stroll among the tents in response to news reports of increased crime or to avert violence as the Nov. 28 elections approach.

Outside a tent on the main path, Louisiane Meme sits beside a makeshift stand displaying bread rolls and peanut butter. Business is slow.

"People don't have any money," she said.

In Brazil's presidential election, abortion plays major role

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ANALYSIS

As the candidates for the presidency of Brazil race to the wire before the run-off election of Oct. 31, abortion has become a major campaign issue.

The Catholic church and the evangelical churches, through their basic principles of defense of life, have become major players, but with quite different playbooks. Like the Brazilian team in soccer’s recent World Cup, not all the players are on the same page. Nor are their coaches.

The candidates were running a seemingly predictable campaign till the last weeks before the Oct. 3 election.

Dilma Rousseff -- the anointed protégé of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva ,"Lula", the two term president from the Worker's Party -- was expected to win the required 50 percent of the vote with no need of a run-off. But rumors had begun to circulate that she, and her party, would seek to legalize abortion.

The election issues had been much more about the success of the Workers' Party administration in raising 21 million people out of poverty in the last eight years and bringing Brazil into a position of leadership in Latin America and in the world.

Abp of Canterbury criticizes Euro burqa bans

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NAGPUR, India -- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams deplored attempts by European governments to prohibit Muslim women from wearing body-covering burqas in public.

"Governments should have better things to do than ban the burqa," Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, told an interfaith meeting at the National Council of Churches of India's headquarters in Nagpur.

France's constitutional court on Oct. 7 approved a law banning full-face veils in public, which would prevent women wearing garments such as the burqa.

Belgian lawmakers voted to approve a similar measure in March to ban the wearing of clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified. The newly-formed government in the Netherlands has also announced plans to introduce measures to ban face-covering veils.

"I believe that the state ought not to be addressing issues like these. Instead, it should leave such concerns to the religious communities," Williams said Oct. 14, describing the French ban as "a sign of being overanxious".

More than 100 church leaders attended the meeting alongside Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders.

South Africa rolls up welcome mat for Zimbabwe workers

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BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabweans living in neighboring South Africa will soon find themselves deported in droves after the South African government announced it was revoking a special permission that has allowed Zimbabweans to live and work in Africa’s largest economy.

A directive issued in September will withdraw in December a special dispensation announced last year that waived visa requirements for foreign migrant workers.

The visa suspension came into force as demand for labor peaked, especially in the construction industry as South Africa prepared to host the soccer World Cup in June. This provided employment opportunities for millions of Zimbabweans and inevitably opened the immigration floodgates.

While this allowed millions to stay in the country without official documents, it made it impossible to document the exact number of Zimbabweans scattered across the region’s economic powerhouse. This in turn raised the specter of xenophobia as locals complained Zimbabwean cheap labor was depriving them of jobs.

Protest, disbelief follow Belgium archbishop's AIDS statements

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BRUSSELS -- A storm of protest and disbelief is blowing across Belgium once again. This time the eye of the storm is Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the 70-year-old successor to Cardinal Godfried Danneels as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

In a new book, Gesprekken met Monseigneur Léonard, (Conversations with Archbishop Léonard), recently published by the Belgian publisher Lannoo, the archbishop asserts that the world-wide AIDS epidemic is a matter of “immanent justice.”

Especially in the Belgian political world the protest against Léonard is strong and trenchant. “Repugnant” and “stupid” were the reactions from key members of the Flemish parliament. Eva Brems, from the Green party, has called her colleagues to support a parliamentary resolution that "the disgusting statements of Archbishop Léonard be condemned in no uncertain terms."

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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