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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Priest asks forgiveness for having been KKK member years ago as young man

ARLINGTON, Va. — Writing in the Arlington Catholic Herald, Father William Aitcheson, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, asked forgiveness for having been a member of the Ku Klux Klan years ago as "an impressionable young man." "As a young adult I was Catholic, but in no way practicing my faith," Father Aitcheson, 62, wrote in an op-ed in the diocesan newspaper Aug. 21. "The irony that I left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me. It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy." He continued, "While 40 years have passed, I must say this: I'm sorry. To anyone who has been subjected to racism or bigotry, I am sorry. I have no excuse, but I hope you will forgive me." In response, Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement: "While Father Aitcheson's past with the Ku Klux Klan is sad and deeply troubling, I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division, and inspire them to a conversion of heart." The diocese said "no accusations of racism or bigotry" have been directed against Father Aitcheson. The diocese added that it had approved his request "to temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well-being of the Church and parish community."

Cdl. O'Malley: Priest who fathers child has moral obligation to child, mother

BOSTON — If a Catholic priest violates his vow of celibacy and fathers a child, he has "a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child," said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley. "In such a moment, their welfare is the highest priority," he said in a statement issued after the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe produced a two-part series Aug. 16 and 17 titled "Father, my father." Part 1 was headlined "Children of Catholic priests live with secrets and sorrow" and Part 2, "A priest's son takes his case directly to the pope." "The gift of life must be protected and cared for in any and all circumstances," Cardinal O'Malley stated Aug. 16. "Every child is a precious gift from God, deserving the respect accorded to all people. At their ordination, Catholic priests make a promise of celibacy, a commitment to the church and the people they serve."

Texas governor signs bill restricting insurance coverage of abortions

AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a bill into law Aug. 15 that limits insurance coverage for abortion procedures. The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature during a special session that Abbott ordered lawmakers to hold to address several issues. Under the new law, Texans "will not be forced" to pay for elective abortions through their insurance plans. Its supporters say it is an important part of Abbott's pro-life agenda. When the law takes effect Dec. 1, Texas will become the 11th state to restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans. "As a firm believer in Texas values I am proud to sign legislation that ensures no Texan is ever required to pay for a procedure that ends the life of an unborn child," Abbott wrote in a statement. "This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policyholders to subsidize elective abortions." Abbott also signed a measure to expand reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortion procedures.

WORLD

Pope urges respect for the life and dignity of migrants, refugees

VATICAN CITY — With millions of people fleeing violence, persecution and poverty around the globe, individual nations must expand options that make it possible for migrants and refugees to cross their borders safely and legally, Pope Francis said. "The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security," Pope Francis wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018. The Vatican will mark the day Jan. 14, while in the United States, the bishops' conference sets aside an entire week — Jan. 7-13 — as National Migration Week. The pope's message for the annual event was released Aug. 21, which is earlier than normal, to stimulate Catholic involvement in the U.N. process for developing and adopting a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees. Since the U.N. General Assembly voted in September 2016 to draw up the compacts, the Vatican and many Catholic organizations have been participating in the discussions and hearings to formulate them. The U.N. hopes to have a draft of the compacts ready by February and to present them to the General Assembly in September 2018.

Cardinal Parolin visits Russia, focuses on ecumenism and peace

VATICAN CITY — Although he said planning a papal trip to Russia was not on the agenda, the Vatican secretary of state said his visit to Moscow was designed to build on the meeting Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had in Cuba in 2016. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, was visiting Moscow Aug. 21-24 and was scheduled to meet with the patriarch and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with leaders of Russia's Catholic community. The list of topics for the meetings ranged from ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation to current world affairs and climate change, he said in a series of interviews before leaving Rome. After a long morning meeting Aug. 22, the cardinal and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a brief news conference, telling reporters they had discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, the Holy Land and Venezuela.

— Catholic News Service 

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