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Nation and world briefs


Florida Catholic bishops urge governor to commute man’s death sentence

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to commute the death sentence to life in prison for a man scheduled to be executed for a 1984 murder. Robert Joseph “Bobby Joe” Long, 65, is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m., May 23, 35 years after his conviction of the slaying of 22-year-old Michelle Simms. He also was convicted of killing at least seven other women in the Tampa Bay area in the 1980s but received life terms in those cases. The bishops’ appeal for commutation came in a May 20 letter to DeSantis from Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. Sheedy wrote: “Without taking his life, society can be protected while he endures the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole.”

People-to-people diplomacy suggested to ease U.S.-Iran tensions

WASHINGTON — Steps to open avenues for people-to-people diplomacy would go a long way to tamp down tensions between the United States and Iran, said a U.N. representative of Pax Christi International. “We need to expose a more humane face to people who know America only through our military and through the Pentagon and the State Department … there are other Americans who respond in very different ways,” Douglas Hostetter, Pax Christi International advocacy representative at the U.N., told Catholic News Service May 20. Hostetter, a Mennonite, said he feared an outbreak of violence as the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier strike force in the Persian Gulf. He called for President Donald Trump and Iranian leaders to ease their threats and pursue ways to exchange medical professionals, educators, historians and even religious leaders who could return to their respective homelands to share what they have seen and learned. “That’s where I think people-to-people kinds of things are important. It’s also important that we combat the demonization of Iran that is taking place,” said Hostetter.


Two young men shot dead outside Mass in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Two young men arriving for a Mass to be celebrated before a quinceanera in Mexico’s Veracruz state were shot dead as they entered the parish parking lot. It was the latest atrocity in a steady string of mass slayings, which have highlighted a surge in the country’s already shockingly high homicide rate. The May 18 attack occurred at around 6 p.m. in the town of Fortin de las Flores, about 175 miles southeast of Mexico City. The gunmen got out of their vehicles and shot from the street at the young men — whose names and ages have not been released — as they arrived at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, according to media reports and a statement signed by Bishop Eduardo Patino Leal of Cordoba. The parish priest, Father Jorge Montero Diaz, ushered attendees waiting for the Mass to the back to the church “while numerous firearms detonations were heard,” according to the diocesan statement, which expressed alarm with the deteriorating security situation in Veracruz, one of Mexico’s largest states and lately one of its most violent.

Brazilian bishop accused of theft, covering up abuse resigns

SAO PAULO — Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Vilson Dias de Oliveira of Limeira. The bishop, 60, is being investigated by authorities for extortion of priests, mismanagement of the diocese’s funds and covering up alleged cases of abuse against minors by area priests. His resignation was announced May 17. “I request my resignation for the sake of the Church of Christ and for the good of this diocese,” said the bishop in a statement read to parishioners. According to the Sao Paulo state police, Bishop Oliveira took $975 from a local parish to build an artesian well in his beach house in Itanhaem. When faced with the accusation, the bishop confessed he obtained a “donation” from the parish and alleged he was facing financial problems. Local media reported that the bishop gave investigators documents confirming that, in the past four years, he purchased two properties on the coast of Sao Paulo state, worth more than $243,000.

Pope Francis encourages Catholics to join ecumenical prayer campaign

VATICAN CITY — In a video recorded on the phone of the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to join the worldwide “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer campaign May 30-June 9. Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, used his phone to record the video message by Pope Francis when the two met at the Vatican April 11. Archbishop Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu of York started the Ascension-to-Pentecost campaign among Anglicans in England in 2016 to encourage their faithful to focus for 11 days on praying that more people would come to know Jesus. Since then, the prayer campaign has gone ecumenical and global. “We are praying that the Spirit would inspire and equip us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends and families, our communities and networks,” according to the website www.thykingdomcome.global.

Pope chooses theme for World Meeting of Families

VATICAN CITY — Christian family life is a vocation and, when lived with fidelity, it is a path to holiness, said the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. The office May 17 announced the theme Pope Francis has chosen for the next World Meeting of Families, which will be in Rome June 23-27, 2021: “Family love: A vocation and a path to holiness.” The dicastery asked that in preparation for the meeting, families and pastoral workers read both Pope Francis’ 2016 exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2018 exhortation on the universal call to holiness, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” “The aim is to emphasize family love as a vocation and a way to holiness and to understand and share the profound and redeeming significance of family relationships in daily life,” the dicastery said.

— Catholic News Service

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