February 21, 2018 // National

News Briefs: February 25, 2018

Parishioners of Mary Help of Christians Church in Parkland, Fla., pray during an outdoor Stations of the Cross service Feb. 16 dedicated to the victims and survivors of the deadly mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At least 17 people were killed when 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz stormed the school with an AR-15 semi-atomic style weapon. At least one member of the parish was among those killed, according to the parish administrator. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

Nuns withdraw from ministry in Mexican city wracked by violence

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — An order of nuns has withdrawn from an especially violent city after the parents and sister of one of the women religious were kidnapped and killed. The Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, where two priests were murdered Feb. 5, said in a statement that the nuns from the “Comunidad Guadalupana” (Guadalupe Community) had withdrawn because of a lack of security, leaving a school it operated in the city of Chilapa without staff. Schools in Chilapa had suspended classes from September to December because of the insecurity, the statement said. The nuns’ withdrawal from Chilapa is but the latest hardship for the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, which serves parts of southern state of Guerrero, where the heroin trade has exploded in recent years. At least six priests have been murdered there since 2009. Two priests, Fathers Germain Muniz García and Ivan Anorve Jaime, were shot dead as they drove back from Candlemas celebrations with four other passengers, three of whom were injured. 

Chaldean archbishop: Time to be ‘honest’ in dialogue with Muslims

WASHINGTON (CNS) — If Christians in the Middle East are going to be “honest” with their Muslim dialogue partners, said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, Muslims will have to acknowledge that the persecution of Christians in the region did not start with the Islamic State’s rise to power in 2014. “We experienced this not for the last four years, but 1,400 years,” Archbishop Warda said during a Feb. 15 speech at Georgetown University in Washington, sponsored by the Religious Freedom Research Project of the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Christians are partly to blame, too, in the dialogue, according to Archbishop Warda. “We did not push back against the recurring periods of terrorism that inflicted cruel pain upon our ancestors,” he said. He added that Christianity also needs to return to a “pre-Constantine vision” of the Church, recalling Jesus’ words shortly before His crucifixion: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Given the scope of the Islamic State’s campaign to erase Christians and all non-Muslims from the territories it had controlled prior to a counteroffensive that decimated its ranks and holdings, “there is nothing left but to speak plainly,” he said. “When there is nothing left to lose, it is very liberating.” 

Catholics urged to affirm beauty, ‘liberating truth’ of ‘Humanae Vitae’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The “liberating truth” of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” is as relevant today 50 years after its promulgation, and maybe even more so, said Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in his new pastoral, “The Splendor of Love.” “The 50th anniversary of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is an occasion to celebrate the gift of Blessed Paul VI’s teaching and an opportunity to renew our commitment to sharing this liberating truth with a world that is increasingly confused about sexuality,” Archbishop Aquila wrote. He said he wrote the pastoral “to affirm the great beauty of the church’s consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today.” “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life’’) reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against the use of artificial birth control and contraceptive sterilization. Promulgated July 25, 1968, the encyclical was Blessed Paul’s last. “He prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure alone,” Archbishop Aquila wrote. “Married love reflects the love of Christ, the love which caused him to become human to save us and to give his life for his church. Married love, ‘from the beginning’ is also by nature fruitful, bringing new life into the world so we can participate in the gift of God’s own creation.” 

Vatican denies report Pope Benedict has degenerative disease

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican denied that retired Pope Benedict XVI has a degenerative neurological disease or paralyzing condition after his brother, 94-year-old Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, told a magazine that Pope Benedict had a debilitating disease. In an interview published Feb. 13 in the German weekly entertainment magazine, Neue Post, Msgr. Ratzinger said Pope Benedict suffered from a nerve disease that was slowly paralyzing him. “The greatest concern is that the paralysis could eventually reach his heart and then everything could end quickly,” Msgr. Ratzinger was quoted as saying. “I pray every day to ask God for the grace of a good death, at a good moment, for my brother and me. We both have this great wish,” he added. Although news about the interview also was published on the German edition of the Vatican News website, the Holy See press office said in a statement Feb. 15 that “the alleged news reports of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false.” 

Islamic State has landed in lawless Somalia, bishop says

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — As it loses its grip in the Middle East, the Islamic State is finding a foothold in Somalia, said a bishop who oversees the Catholic Church in the troubled country. The insurgent group — linked to mass killings, abductions and beheadings in Iraq and Syria, where it is facing defeat — see Somalia as a suitable base due to its lawlessness, Bishop Giorgio Bertin, apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Somalia. “I think they have chosen Somalia because there is no central authority. The country also represents a good possibility for them to continue their search for an Islamic state or, at least, they can continue their ideology without many obstacles,” Bishop Bertin told Catholic News Service. Somalia has experienced chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew President Mohammed Siad Barre. The conflict remains one of Africa’s longest civil wars.

But in 2006, the war took a different twist with the emergence of the al-Shabab extremist group, which swept across the country, enforcing a radical form of Shariah (Islamic law). Since then, the country has served as the traditional base for the militants who are the al-Qaida network affiliate in East Africa. 

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