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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

USCCB official calls defense of fetal tissue research ‘deeply disturbing’

WASHINGTON — An official at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said recent comments by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in defending human fetal tissue research were “deeply disturbing. Research using fetal tissue from aborted babies is unethical and should not continue under his leadership,” wrote Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, in a statement Dec. 18. Collins made his comments about fetal tissue research Dec. 13 at a meeting of an agency advisory panel, according to a Science magazine report. According to the magazine, at the meeting at the National Institutes of Health offices outside Washington in Bethesda, Md., Collins said the Department of Health and Human Services is auditing federal purchases of fetal tissue and that the National Institutes of Health has agreed to spend up to $20 million on research on alternatives. He described alternative forms of research as “scientifically, highly justified” but he also said fetal tissue “will continue to be the mainstay” for research and can be done with an “ethical framework.”

Bishops mourn death of Guatemalan girl near border

WASHINGTON — Three U.S. Catholic bishops Dec. 18 joined their voices in mourning the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl shortly after she crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her father and they turned themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection seeking asylum. The girl, who was identified by the Guatemalan government as Jakelin Caal, died the first week of December. “Jakelin’s death is a tragic reminder of the desperate situation that many fleeing violence, persecution, and poverty face — both in their home countries and now at our border,” according to a statement by Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, and Bishop Geradl F. Kicanas, administrator of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M. The Washington Post reported that she and her father, Nery Caal, 29, were taken into custody Dec. 6 around 10 p.m., south of Lordsburg, N.M. They were among 163 migrants who turned themselves in at the border. “Some seven hours later, she was put on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station but soon began vomiting (and having seizures). By the end of the two-hour drive, she had stopped breathing,” the Post reported. Border Patrol agents administered CPR and she was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she later died.

WORLD

Ukrainian Catholic leader welcomes new independent Orthodox church’s head

WARSAW, Poland — The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church welcomed the election of a leader for the country’s new independent Orthodox church. In Kiev Dec. 15, 192 bishops from Ukraine’s three previously divided Orthodox denominations elected Metropolitan Epiphanius, 39, as metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine. He will receive a final decree, or tomos, establishing the new church from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Jan. 6 in Istanbul. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said “the future of our church, our people and of a free, independent Ukrainian state in Europe depends today on how we nurture unity and overcome what separates us. From now on, we will travel together in history, toward unity and truth,” he said. “There are many tasks ahead, but I am pleased the newly elected primate has talked about developing theological education.”

Indonesian police, Muslim youth to help guard churches at Christmas

JAKARTA, Indonesia — More than 90,000 police and soldiers and a moderate Muslim youth group will help guard nearly 50,000 churches across Indonesia, including some previously attacked by terrorists, during the Christmas period. Brig. Gen Dedi Prasetyo, national police spokesman, said Christmas security this year will be focused on churches in 13 provinces, including on the main islands of Java and Sumatra, reported ucanews.com. The deployments would be to “anticipate” possible security threats, Prasetyo added. Among the churches to be tightly secured is Santa Maria Church in Surabaya, which was attacked by suicide bombers May 13, reported ucanews.com. Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta as well as churches in Sumatra, Java and West Nusa Tenggara provinces have been attacked. Francis Xavier Ping Tedja, security coordinator at Santa Maria Church, said about 70 police, military and members of Banser — a military youth group associated with Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest moderate Muslim organization in Indonesia — will secure the church for Christmas.

Scapegoating migrants in political speeches is unacceptable, pope says

VATICAN CITY — In the climate of mistrust, rejection and nationalism today, the world urgently needs peacemakers and politicians who protect and lovingly serve others, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1. “Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace,” he said, adding that “political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable.” Instead, political life should be “an outstanding form of charity” when it is exercised with a “basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons,” the pope said. Holding political office and having political responsibility “constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future,” he said.

Journalists named to Vatican communications posts

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis made new appointments to the Dicastery for Communication, naming Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist, as its “editorial director” and Andrea Monda, an Italian journalist and religion teacher, as editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The Vatican made the announcement Dec. 18. Tornielli, a respected Vatican reporter, worked at the Italian Catholic magazine, “30 Giorni,” and later at the Italian newspaper, “Il Giornale,” before running the “Vatican Insider” website of the Italian daily, “La Stampa.” Monda, who was born in Rome in 1966, worked in the legal department of the city’s tax collector’s office and then began teaching religion in Italian high schools in 2000. He hosts a docu-style reality series, “Good morning, professor!” which is broadcast on the Italian bishops’ television channel, TV2000.

— Catholic News Service

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