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Nation and world briefs


Appeals court sends challenge to Texas abortion law to state Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court sent a challenge to the Texas abortion law back to the state’s Supreme Court Jan. 17. The decision leaves the law in place and is expected to delay action on reviewing a challenge to this law, which bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Abortion providers had asked the U.S. Supreme Court in early January to order the appeals court to send the challenge back to the federal District Court in Texas that had previously blocked the law. The 2-1 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, stressed that the court was being consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Texas abortion law in December. The nation’s high court said the law could remain in effect while clinics continued to challenge it. The appeals court justices wrote in the majority opinion that they were trying to avoid causing “needless friction” with the state court over how the abortion law is interpreted.

USCCB invites Catholics to take part in ‘9 Days for Life’ Jan. 19-27

WASHINGTON — The 10th annual “9 Days for Life” novena, sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, takes place this year from Jan. 19 to Jan. 27. Catholics nationwide are invited to take part in this novena for the protection of human life. “This pro-life novena is an opportunity for recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States,” said a news release. Participants can share their pro-life witness and invite their social networks to pray on social media with the hashtag #9DaysforLife. A resource kit is available at 9daysforlife.com and features the daily prayer intentions and reflections, among other materials.

Cardinal urges prayer to protect religious rights on Religious Freedom Day

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York called on people to promote religious freedom as a treasured right for all Americans as the country commemorates Religious Freedom Day Jan. 16. The cardinal, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed particular concern that such rights are violated by rising incidents in recent years of vandalism at churches, where buildings have been damaged, statues toppled and other damage incurred. One such incident occurred Dec. 5 when a marble statue of Our Lady of Fatima near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington was vandalized. Mary’s hands and nose were cut off, her face scratched and the cross on her crown broken off. “Our great tradition of religious freedom has allowed beauty to flourish in our cities and across the American landscape,” the cardinal said in a statement.

Supreme Court takes up former football coach’s firing for praying on field

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Jan. 14 that it would hear an appeal from a former high school football coach in Washington state who says his rights to freedom of speech and religion were violated when he was fired in 2015 for praying on the football field after team games. Joseph Kennedy, former assistant coach at Bremerton High School, outside of Seattle, is asking the court to reverse a lower court decision in 2017 that sided with the school district. The decision said Kennedy had acted as a public official by praying with athletes who wished to join him in prayer in view of other students and parents.

Nearby Catholic church reaches out during hostage crisis at synagogue

COLLEYVILLE, Texas— As the tense hours of a Jan. 15 hostage standoff situation unfolded at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, so too did an unbelievable manifestation of faith and community at nearby Good Shepherd Church, according to Franciscan Father Zachary Burns. “Just seeing not only the Good Shepherd community but people from other faiths and the community in general coming together to help one another was so unbelievable,” the parish’s parochial vicar said. That morning a British citizen later identified as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, entered Congregation Beth Israel armed during the synagogue’s Sabbath morning service and took four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, and engaged in an 11-hour standoff with law enforcement officials. All four were eventually released unharmed, though Akram was killed in the incident.


Ukrainian priests appeal for prayers, support as Russian threat grows

WARSAW, Poland— Two priests in Ukraine asked Western Church leaders for support, especially in anticipation of a widely expected Russian invasion. “While our TV news shows tanks and army units deployed on our borders, the war in eastern Ukraine is continuing — but the Church in the West is saying little,” said Msgr. Gregory Semenkov, chancellor of the Kharkiv-Zaporizhia Diocese. “As faithful Catholics, we’ve nothing against Russians and provide regular Russian-language Masses, while our bishops’ conference, being nonpolitical, has never taken a position on whether Ukraine should join NATO or the European Union. But these invasion preparations are posing severe hazards for us.” The priest spoke to Catholic News Service Jan. 14 as talks between NATO and Russian officials, the first in two years, failed to reach agreement on Moscow’s demands for an end to Western military backing for countries formerly belonging to the Soviet Union.

Pope calls for prayers for people hit by disaster in Tonga

VATICAN CITY — In the wake of a massive underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga, subsequent tsunamis and now contamination from volcanic ash and saltwater, Pope Francis has appealed for prayers for the people of the region. “My thoughts go to the people of the islands of Tonga, struck in recent days by the eruption of the underwater volcano, which caused enormous material damage. I am spiritually close to all the people suffering, imploring God for the relief of their suffering,” the pope said at the end of his general audience talk in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall Jan. 19. “I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters,” he said. The massive eruption Jan. 15 triggered a series of tsunamis that inundated coastal communities, destroying homes, contaminating water supplies and cutting off power and communications. Mounds of ash, which continued to fall from the volcano days after the blast, were also contaminating water sources and hampering efforts to bring in outside aid and rescue teams.

— Catholic News Service

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