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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

WASHINGTON — Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops' headquarters building May 9. Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment. The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network. "The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been exonerated due to their innocence since 1973," the organization states on the pledge sheet following space for someone's signature.

Hartford Archdiocese's pastoral plan calls for parish closings, mergers

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — The pastoral plan announced by the Archdiocese of Hartford May 7 involves a number of parish closings and mergers. The changes, announced during a news conference at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, will leave the archdiocese with 127 parishes, down from its current total of 212. It also calls for 144 parishes to merge into 59 newly named parishes and for 68 parishes to remain unchanged. Church officials cited the changing demographics, lower Mass attendance and fewer priests as drivers for the new plan. They also said change brings an opportunity to breathe new life into the practice of the faith.

Sainthood cause advances for Father Solanus Casey

DETROIT — Sixty years after his death, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey is on his way to sainthood. Pope Francis announced May 4 that Detroit's beloved friar, who earlier had been named venerable, met the requirements for beatification and will be named "blessed" — the second U.S.-born man to achieve such a designation and the first person from Michigan. Although Father Casey was born in Oak Grove, Wis., in 1870, he spent most of his adult life and ministry in Detroit, caring for sick, poor and downtrodden people and lending a listening ear and caring heart to the thousands who came to him for counsel and aid. Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of healings attributed to Father Casey during and after his lifetime, Pope Francis recognized the authenticity of a miracle necessary for the friar to be elevated from venerable to blessed after a review by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes was completed earlier this year.

Jesuits to return 525 acres of land to Rosebud Sioux

ST. FRANCIS, S.D. — The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. The formal return of the property is expected to be complete sometime in May. The property had been given by the U.S. government to the Jesuits in the 1880s for use for churches and cemeteries, according to remarks in a YouTube video by Jesuit Father John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission. "At the beginning of the mission, we had 23 mission stations," Father Hatcher said. "But over the years as the people moved off the prairie and into cluster housing, those churches were closed because they were considered unnecessary." Other properties never had churches built. The property, totaling about 525 acres, is dotted throughout 900,000 acres on a Rosebud reservation in the south-central portion of the state, bordering both the state of Nebraska and the Missouri River.

WORLD

Priest kidnapped in Yemen pleads for help in video

VATICAN CITY — Indian Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen more than a year ago, in a video message pleaded for the Indian government and the Catholic Church to do more to secure his release. The video was posted on YouTube by the news site Aden Time May 8; the heavily bearded and very thin Father Uzhunnalil is shown seated with a cardboard sign in his lap with the date April 15, 2017. A similar video was posted in December. An official at the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which includes Yemen, said May 9 the person in the video is the kidnapped Salesian, but he would not comment further. Father Uzhunnalil was kidnapped in Aden March 4, 2016, in an attack in which four Missionaries of Charity and at least 12 others were killed at a home for the aged.

Head of French bishops welcomes Macron's election

PARIS — The head of the French bishops' conference welcomed the election of President-elect Emmanuel Macron and said he hoped June legislative elections would not place the country "in an ungovernable situation." Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops' conference, told Vatican Radio May 8 that French Catholics had also been left "divided like the rest of French society" and said he counted on Macron and his new government "being able to function. Macron has been elected in an important manner — we must hope he succeeds for the good of our country, otherwise it will be catastrophic," said Archbishop Pontier. "Priorities for his new five-year term must include struggling against unemployment, which is so destructive for families, for prospects and for projects, as well as the necessity of staying in Europe — and giving this Europe the means of retaining the respect of every people." Macron won the second-round presidential ballot with 66.1 percent of votes against 33.9 percent taken by Marine Le Pen, head of France's National Front.

— Catholic News Service 

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