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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Washington state’s Supreme Court strikes down death penalty

SEATTLE — The Catholic bishops of Washington state Oct. 11 applauded the unanimous decision of the state Supreme Court striking down the death penalty as unconstitutional. The court ruled its use is arbitrary and racially biased and converted the sentences for the state’s eight death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Executions have been rare in Washington. Five prisoners have been put to death in recent decades. In 2014, the governor imposed a moratorium blocking its use. “The bishops have long been on record as opposing capital punishment,” according to a statement issued by the Washington State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops. “The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death — it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty,” said Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle.

Prayers, donations sought for hurricane victims

WASHINGTON — U.S. Catholic leaders have called on Catholics to pray for victims of Hurricanes Michael and Florence, along with responders to these storms, and to donate to recovery efforts in the impacted areas. “Let us respond with prayer and personal generosity,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an Oct. 13 statement. He said in the wake of these two recent hurricanes, “people across the southeast now face the long process of recovery. May God’s mercy comfort family and friends who have lost loved ones and sustain those rebuilding their homes and businesses.” Information about the USCCB’s Office of National Collections and its support of emergency relief efforts can be found at www.bit.ly/1DV1RGH. Donations also can be made directly to Catholic Charities at www.catholiccharitiesusa.org or Catholic Relief Services at www.crs.org

American pastor freed after two years in Turkey

WASHINGTON — The Rev. Andrew Brunson, an evangelical Presbyterian pastor who had been jailed by Turkish authorities for nearly two years, returned to U.S. soil Oct. 13 after being freed the day before by Turkey. Rev. Brunson, who had been held without charges for a year, was convicted Oct. 12 on a charge of aiding terrorism and sentenced to time served. After his captivity brought an outcry from religious freedom circles in the United States and elsewhere, he was moved to house arrest, and the Trump administration placed sanctions on the Turkish officials deemed responsible for holding Rev. Brunson. During an Oct. 13 meeting at the White House with Rev. Brunson, President Donald Trump said he welcomed his release, but added no deal had made with Turkey to secure it. Rev. Brunson and his wife, Norine, who had been in Turkey 23 years, were seeking permanent residency status in Turkey at the time of his arrest Oct. 7, 2016. Norine Brunson also had been arrested and held for 13 days before being released.

WORLD

Many implications of Orthodox split unknown

WASHINGTON — The Russian Orthodox Church’s decision to sever ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will affect ecumenical dialogue, but long-term implications remain unknown. Paulist Father Ron Roberson, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the split reveals disagreements on some “pretty significant issues” among more than a dozen Orthodox churches. At issue is the role of the ecumenical patriarch in the Orthodox Church. The patriarch — currently Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople — has always been recognized as first among equals, with the authority to organize pan-Orthodox activities like international dialogue with the Catholics. However, Russian Orthodox Church leaders do not believe Patriarch Bartholomew has the authority to interfere in the internal affairs of individual Orthodox churches. They say that is what he did when he granted canonical recognition to two independent Ukrainian Orthodox churches. “It could be the beginning of a schism that would be long-lasting” if others follow the lead of Moscow, Father Roberson said Oct. 16, the day after the decision was announced.

Cameroon bishops complain of election fraud, attacks on Catholic clergy

OXFORD, England — Catholic bishops have complained of irregularities during elections Oct.7 in Cameroon’s conflict-torn English-speaking areas after a seminarian was killed by government troops in the latest of several anti-Church incidents. “This presidential election took place in a social and security environment never previously experienced,” the bishops’ conference said in a report released Oct. 9. “We urge officials charged with its organization to take account of the failures and distortions we observed, and ensure elections are run well without irregularities in the future,” the bishops said. The report followed national elections in which 85-year-old President Paul Biya was widely expected to win a seventh term. Official results had yet to be released Oct. 12. The report stated the Catholic Church had deployed 231 observers across Cameroon, but that 42 withdrew because of safety concerns in the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, while others had been refused access to voting sites by “vigilante committees.”

— Catholic News Service

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