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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Catholic leaders decry additional federal execution measures

WASHINGTON — A move by the Department of Justice to expand how it carries out federal death sentences — to include electrocution, gas or firing squads along with lethal injections — was sharply criticized by Catholic anti-death penalty activists. “The administration’s eleventh-hour push to bring back firing squads and institute additional methods of execution flies in the face of a country that is turning away from the practice of capital punishment,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, who called the move “yet another blatant affront to the dignity of life.” On Nov. 27, the Justice Department published a final rule change, effective Dec. 24, to add to the execution methods it uses for federal death sentences, permitting it to use “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.” The proposed amendment was announced in August and posted on the Federal Register for comments. It calls for alternative means for federal executions if the lethal injection drug is not available in the state where the defendant is given the death sentence.

Pope appoints Washington Auxiliary Bishop Fisher to head Buffalo Diocese

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Michael W. Fisher, an auxiliary bishop of Washington since June 2018, to head the Diocese of Buffalo, New York. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, has been apostolic administrator of Buffalo since Dec. 4, 2019. Bishop Richard J. Malone, previously bishop of Buffalo, said he had asked Pope Francis to allow him to retire early so the people of the diocese “will be better served” by a new bishop who is “perhaps better able” to bring about “reconciliation, healing and renewal” in addressing the abuse crisis. Bishop Fisher, 62, is the Washington Archdiocese’s vicar for clergy and secretary for ministerial leadership. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States, announced his appointment to Buffalo Dec. 1 in Washington. Bishop Fisher’s installation Mass will be celebrated Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Buffalo.

WORLD

Pope Francis appeals for peace as violence increases in Ethiopia

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Ethiopia after a violent conflict in the country’s northern Tigray region left hundreds dead and forced thousands more to flee. “The Holy Father, in calling for prayer for this country, appeals to the sides in the conflict to stop the violence, to safeguard lives, especially those of civilians, and to restore peace to the people,” Matteo Bruni, Vatican spokesman, said in a statement Nov. 27. In early November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the country’s military to launch an offensive after forces belonging to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a political party loyal to the regional government, took over a military base. According to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 40,000 Ethiopian refugees have fled into neighboring Sudan. The day after the pope’s message, Abiy announced that government forces had taken control of Mekele. However, TPFL leader Debretsion Gebremichael vowed to continue fighting.

‘The violence is not stopping,’ warn bishops in Belarus

MINSK, Belarus — Catholic bishops warned of a “deepening crisis” in Belarus as people continue to protest and strike against government crackdowns since disputed elections in August. “The violence is not stopping, the bloodshed continues, society remains riven. This does not foretell a happy future — for as Christ said, a house divided against itself cannot stand,” said the bishops’ conference, based in Minsk. The message was published as security forces, using tear gas and stun grenades, arrested more than 300 protesters during Nov. 29 demonstrations across Belarus, and two Catholic priests were detained by police. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, president of the bishops’ conference, remains barred from entering the country. In the disputed Aug. 9 election, President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was declared victor with over 80% of votes, triggering allegations of fraud. Opposition leaders ended up leaving the country. The bishops called on “Catholics and all people of goodwill to continue offering prayers for a speedy and peaceful solution — blessed are the peacemakers and those who seek justice.”

Report says Montreal Archdiocese covered for abusive priest for decades

MONTREAL — For more than three decades, leaders of the Archdiocese of Montreal failed to properly treat the complaints and the red flags periodically raised about former priest Brian Boucher, said a report prepared by retired Quebec Superior Court Judge Pepita G. Capriolo. Instead, Church authorities seemed intent on covering the priest’s behavior to protect his and the Church’s reputation, she wrote. In 2019, Boucher was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual assault of two boys; he was laicized in 2020. But in her 283-page document on Boucher, Capriolo said numerous incidents were reported and called into question during his career. For nearly 40 years, these warnings were all ignored or deemed irrelevant, especially because they concerned adults and not minors. Her report was issued Nov. 25, exactly one year after Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine asked Capriolo to conduct an “independent external inquiry” into the events leading up to Boucher’s arrest in January 2017 and his conviction in March 2019. Archbishop Lépine accepted Capriolo’s conclusions “in humility and a deep sense of regret.”

Vatican says bishop ordained in China is in communion with pope

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican confirmed that a bishop recently ordained in China is in full communion with the pope and that more Vatican-approved nominations would be coming. Bishop Thomas Chen Tianhao, 58, is the new bishop of Qingdao in Shandong province and was ordained Nov. 23, according to AsiaNews. Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said in a written communique Nov. 24 that Bishop Chen was the third bishop to be named and ordained within the regulatory framework of the provisional agreement between China and the Holy See regarding the appointment of bishops. “I can also add that undoubtedly other episcopal consecrations are foreseen” given that work is currently underway for the appointment of several new bishops, Bruni wrote.

— Catholic News Service

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