Court allows travel ban as legal challenges continue
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Dec. 4 that President Donald Trump's travel ban restricting entry into the United States by nationals from some countries can be fully implemented while legal challenges to the ban work their way through the lower courts. In a brief unsigned order, the high court stayed a preliminary injunction on implementation of the ban, granting the Trump administration's request to allow its latest ban, released in late September, to go into effect. The order also urged the two appeals courts with cases before them to render "with appropriate dispatch" a decision on whether the ban is constitutional. The Supreme Court's order means that the Trump administration can fully carry out the ban. It currently restricts travel to the United States from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim.
Bill allows federal disaster aid to houses of worship
WASHINGTON — Legal language allowing houses of worship to receive federal disaster assistance was advanced out of a House of Representatives committee and was in line for a final vote. The language was folded into the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which was approved by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Nov. 30. No vote in the full House was immediately scheduled. Current federal law prohibits houses of worship from receiving disaster relief for reconstruction from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Supreme Court seems divided in cake case
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court seemed equally divided in the long-anticipated oral arguments Dec. 5 about the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. Even Justice Anthony Kennedy's comments went right down the middle, from expressing concern for those who would be shut out of services to later stressing that "tolerance is a two-way street" and saying the state of Colorado, where the bakery is located, seemed to be "neither tolerant or respectful" of the baker's views. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, pits anti-discrimination laws against freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.
Pope appoints bishop to head Richmond Diocese
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout, 55, as the 13th bishop of Richmond, Va. He succeeds Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, who was Richmond's bishop from 2004 until his death in August at age 75. The appointment was announced in Washington Dec. 5 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Tests date to 4th century site believed to be Christ's tomb
WASHINGTON — Scientists who helped restore a shrine above the site believed to be the place where Christ was buried say testing of samples has dated the tomb to at least the fourth century. The new information published recently by National Geographic is consistent with historical accounts that say Constantine, the first Roman emperor to stop persecuting Christians and who became one, began protecting the tomb around the year 326. In the fourth century, Constantine is said to have sent a team from Rome to the Holy Land in search of the site, and after the group believed they had located it, they tore down a pagan temple on top of it and protected the tomb. Over the centuries, the structures above the tomb have been the victims of natural and human attacks. At some point, a marble slab was placed on top of the tomb, perhaps to prevent eager pilgrims from taking home pieces of it.
Gunmen kill Philippine priest known for activism
MANILA, Philippines — Gunmen killed a 72-year-old Catholic priest on the main Philippine island of Luzon Dec. 4, the day after police killed a pastor they tagged as a member of the communist New People's Army. Ucanews.com reported that unidentified men shot dead Father Marcelito Paez around 8 p.m. while he was driving in San Leonardo, about 110 miles northeast of the capital. The priest died almost three hours later at a local hospital. The attack occurred hours after Father Paez, a retired priest of the San Jose Diocese and a national board member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan, the provincial capital. The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is an organization of priests and laypeople that works with peasants and indigenous people.
— Catholic News Service