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Nation and world briefs


Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is now law; abortion waiting period upheld

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis April 14 signed into law a measure that limits most abortions in Florida to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state’s Catholic bishops praised DeSantis for his “commitment to defend unborn children and their mothers” and for his leadership in encouraging the Legislature to take up the bill and pass it and for his own support of the measure. About a week earlier, the bishops welcomed a judge’s ruling upholding a 2015 state law that gives women 24 hours to reflect on information provided by physicians before proceeding with abortions. Regarding the 15-week abortion ban, the “historic law,” as the bishops termed it, takes effect July 1 and includes provisions to improve infant health and to analyze and reduce fetal and infant mortality. It replaces a previous law that allowed abortions until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Helena, Mont., diocesan chancellor is named Great Falls-Billings coadjutor

WASHINGTON— Pope Francis has named Father Jeffrey M. Fleming, chancellor of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, to be coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings Montana. Bishop-designate Fleming, 56, is a native of Billings and was ordained a priest for the Helena Diocese in 1992. He also is currently moderator of the curia and adjutant judicial vicar for the diocese. His appointment was announced in Washington April 19 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio. As coadjutor, he will assist Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, who has headed the eastern Montana diocese since January 2008. He will turn 74 on Sept. 16. At age 75, bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope.


East Africa drought is ‘dire,’ say officials, warning of possible famine

NAIROBI, Kenya — Catholic priests, nuns and Church agencies are providing some relief in East Africa’s drought, which scientists and experts describe as the worst in 40 years. But the need for food, water and other basics in the drought, resulting from a fourth successive rainy season failure remains huge. Harvests are decimated, water sources have dried up and the scorching heat has wiped out livestock pastures. Dead livestock or wildlife carcasses have become common by roadsides, as small-scale farmers and herders suffer the devastation. By April, agencies estimated that nearly 16 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were in urgent need of food assistance due to the drought and were suffering hunger, severe food shortages and extreme hardships. “The situation is very bad,” Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit, Kenya, told Catholic News Service. “In the last three years, it has not rained as expected, and the people are depending on relief aid that comes,” he added, while describing the situation in his area as precarious and extremely dire.

Tropical storm inflicts damage on Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Tropical Storm Megi continued to inflict damage in the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines after making landfall April 10. By April 14, the death toll surpassed 120, with dozens remaining missing. Landslides and street flooding forced 140,000 people to seek refuge at evacuation sites in Northern Mindanao and Eastern Samar provinces, reported ucanews.com. On April 13, the Vatican sent a telegram expressing Pope Francis’ condolences as well his prayers for the dead, injured, displaced and emergency personnel involved in recovery efforts. The Philippine army has joined the rescue efforts but is facing difficulties in the movement of its personnel, reported ucanews.com. “We are racing against time to rescue those who are hit by landslides but cannot advance in some areas because the ground is still moving … it is dangerous,” Col. Noel Vestuir said.

Before washing prisoners’ feet, pope tells them God always forgives

VATICAN CITY — Before washing the feet of 12 inmates, Pope Francis told them and other prisoners that God never tires of forgiving anyone who asks. When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas, who would betray Him, it was a sign that God will wait patiently for everyone and will forgive everything, the pope said in his homily April 14 at a prison in Civitavecchia, northwest of Rome. “Each of us, perhaps, has something in his heart that he has been carrying for some time,” that agitates him, “some little skeleton hidden in the closet,” the pope said. “But ask Jesus for forgiveness. He forgives everything.” The pope celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the prison and washed the feet of 12 inmates — men and women of different ages and nationalities, according to the Vatican press office. The only thing Jesus asks of people is “our trust to ask for forgiveness,” the pope said. “You can do it when you are alone, when you are with other companions, when you are with the priest.”

— Catholic News Service

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