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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Prison ministry lets inmates realize someone cares

OMAHA, Neb. — The letter of gratitude, addressed to the volunteers at CrossOver Prison Ministries of Omaha, arrived in late November in the ministry's post office box. The letter, from an inmate, said in part: "Just seeing somebody write my name down on a card to wish me a blessed holiday for Thanksgiving and Christmas means a lot to me in this time of need." The note was one of dozens from inmates, most of them addressed to specific, anonymous pen pal volunteers working with CrossOver through state prisons and correctional centers in Nebraska. More than 20 volunteers, many of them Catholic, write letters or postcards to three or more prisoners once or twice each month. They share notes and cards for Easter and birthdays. They write letters of goodwill and good luck during and after parole hearings, reviews and release dates.

Judge orders continued mediation to resolve Minnesota bankruptcy case

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said a bankruptcy judge's decision that the archdiocese should return to mediation with the other involved parties "bolsters our resolve to move forward in the bankruptcy process. We look to engage with all participants in mediation as directed by the judge to bring a prompt and fair resolution," Tom Abood, chairman of the archdiocese's Reorganization Task Force, said in a statement. Federal bankruptcy court Judge Robert Kressel Dec. 28 denied two competing plans that attempted to resolve the archdiocese's bankruptcy. He stated that he expected all parties to return to mediation.

WORLD

Vatican agency: At least 23 Church workers killed in 2017

VATICAN CITY — The majority of Catholic Church workers violently killed in 2017 were victims of attempted robberies, the Vatican's Fides agency said, with Nigeria and Mexico topping the list countries where the most killings were carried out. The agency said 23 people working for the Church worldwide — 13 priests, one religious brother, one religious sister and eight lay persons — died violent deaths in 2017; that number was down from 28 people killed in 2016. Each year, Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, publishes a list of pastoral workers who died violently. The 2017 list was released Dec. 28. Four of those deaths were in Mexico, which continues to be where the greatest number of priests in Latin America are killed, it stated.

Bp. Bambera prays for peace after attack on Coptic Christians

WASHINGTON — In the wake of a gunman's attack on a Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo Dec. 29, killing at least nine people, a U.S. bishop urged Catholics to "pray for peace in Egypt and the Middle East and for all victims of religious and political hatred. I especially ask Catholics to renew their support, love and prayers for our Coptic brethren who are enduring martyrdom for the sake of Christ," said Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. An Associated Press report Dec. 31 stated witnesses at the scene of the attack credited local residents and worshippers for keeping the death toll down. The men and women closed an iron gate, preventing the assailant from going inside the church. Others pelted him with rocks as he fled.

Pope: Festivities become a facade when Christ is left out of Christmas

VATICAN CITY — Only when Christ is the focus of the Christmas season do all the colorful lights, carols, special meals and traditions help create a festive and joyous atmosphere, Pope Francis said. "If we take Him away, the lights go out and everything become fake, illusory," he said at his weekly general audience Dec. 27. "Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. It's some other celebration, but it isn't Christmas," he said to applause. The creche, the liturgies and the seasonal songs all help the faithful relive today the birth of Christ the savior, he said. Often the true motive behind eliminating any reference to the birth of Christ is a desire to "marginalize faith."

Pope, Turkey's president discuss status of Jerusalem

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone Dec. 29 about the status of Jerusalem. Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, confirmed the telephone conversation took place and said the call was Erdogan's initiative. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that Erdogan and Pope Francis both expressed satisfaction with the U.N. resolution Dec. 21 calling on the United States to rescind its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The resolution passed 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. U.S. President Donald Trump announced Dec. 6 that he was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and ordering the State Department to begin preparations for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

— Catholic News Service 

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