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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

USCCB president calls for prayer after pair of school shootings

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston called for prayers for the victims killed and injured in a pair of school shootings in Kentucky and Texas. In a statement released Jan. 23 after the second shooting in two days, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated Christians experience the pain of the family and friends of the victims "as if it were our own. We pray for eternal rest for those who have died. Let us pray, too, for the families, teachers and friends who must now endure the suffering of losing those dearest to them," the cardinal stated.

Cdl. Dolan, Abp. Kurtz praise new HHS conscience protection policies

WASHINGTON — New policies put in place by the civil rights office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services won praise from two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We applaud HHS for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom," according to a joint Jan. 19 statement by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, now chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chair of their Committee for Religious Liberty. "We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom," they said. "Conscience protection should not be subject to political whims, however. Permanent legislative relief is essential," added Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Kurtz.

Sacramento auxiliary named to succeed retiring Stockton bishop

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and named Auxiliary Bishop Myron J. Cotta of Sacramento, Calif., as his successor. Bishop Blaire, a native of Los Angeles, has headed the Stockton Diocese since his appointment by St. John Paul II in 1999. He is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. Bishop Cotta, who will turn 65 March 21, was named an auxiliary bishop of the Sacramento Diocese by Pope Francis in 2014. A native of Dos Palos, Calif., the bishop speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Fresno in 1987.

WORLD

Tension escalates on India-Pakistan border

SRINAGAR, India — More than 40,000 villagers have fled their homes since Indian and Pakistani soldiers began exchanging fire across their borders. Ucanews.com reported at least 12 people, including seven civilians, have been killed in skirmishes since Jan. 18 across the Line of Control, a military demarcation agreed by both nations across Kashmir. Local leaders such as Bishop Ivan Pereira of Jammu-Srinagar have expressed concern over the mounting tension between the nuclear-powered South Asian rivals. "The situation is worrisome, as precious human lives are getting lost. We pray that such hostilities between both sides end soon," Bishop Pereira told ucanews.com. "Dialogue is the best way to achieve results without shedding blood and without creating any animosity," he said.

Support families, human dignity, pope tells global leaders at Davos

VATICAN CITY — Global leaders must implement policies that support the family and offer real opportunities for the growth and development of all people, Pope Francis told people attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "If we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented toward 'true North,' represented by authentic values," he wrote. "Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity," he told corporate and political leaders.

Churches say Turkish bombing is killing civilians

AMMAN, Jordan — Churches in Afrin, Syria, are calling on the world to stop the slaughter of civilians during the Turkish military assault. "We ask you to pray for us and for our city which, before a couple of days ago, was full of life, but today is not," said a Syrian clergyman who did not want to use his real name for fear of retribution. "The brutal attack of the Turkish military with extremist Islamic groups has been carried out, without any warning," he told Catholic News Service in an email, referring to Turkey's relentless shelling and ground offensive since Jan. 20. In an appeal for international help, Rev. Hakim Ismael wrote: "We are asking for intervention and protection against the violent attacks which are being levied against us at this moment. Many lives are in mortal danger".

— Catholic News Service 

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