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Nation and world briefs


Volunteers are on a mission to get safe drinking water in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Dr. Kassi Marshall, a physician, mother and member of the First Church of God in Chavies, Kentucky, is on a mission to bring safe drinking water to Perry County, where parts of the water infrastructure were destroyed in flooding that began July 26 in eastern Kentucky. “People need water,” she said in an emotional phone interview Aug. 8. “We grow accustomed to the things we like — niceties and not necessities. But life is not sustainable without water. It’s impossible to be healthy when you’re relying on a contaminated water source.” In “Perry County alone, the infrastructure has been destroyed and it may be months before many areas have water restored,” she told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville. “I’m really concerned.” Through a series of events that she finds providential, both she and her pastor, Brother Brian Bridges, were connected recently to the Louisville-based Water With Blessings run by Sister Larraine Lauter, an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph. The organization distributes water filters — and trains people to use them for a lifetime — around the globe where communities lack access to safe drinking water. Sister Lauter said she is ready to “go big” in Perry County, which is in the neighboring Diocese of Lexington, where several counties were ravaged by the floods. “They have water that is bio-contaminated,” said Sister Lauter. “That can take them down health-wise.”

Crookston, Minn., priest named USCCB specialist for eucharistic revival

WASHINGTON — Father Craig Vasek, a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, has been appointed as a specialist in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis to help implement the multiyear National Eucharistic Revival. The USCCB announced his appointment Aug. 12. It is effective Jan. 1. Father Vasek succeeds Father Jorge Torres, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, in the role of specialist. Father Torres has been named executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. His appointment is effective Jan. 1. In early May, the Minnesota priest was named one of 58 National Eucharistic Preachers as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, which is an initiative of the USCCB. The priests are fanning out to dioceses across the country to inspire deeper reflection on the gift of the Eucharist to the Church. The revival was launched June 19, the feast of Corpus Christi, opening two years of events and activities ahead of the USCCB National Eucharistic Congress, which is planned for July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis.

Catholic agencies say Inflation Reduction Act addresses some goals

WASHINGTON — Landmark legislation to address climate change, reduce prescription drug costs and establish a minimum tax on large corporations once thought dead but suddenly passed by the Senate is being hailed by Catholic advocates. “It’s a minor miracle that it got passed,” Dan Misleh, founder of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was approved 51-50 Aug. 7. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote. Misleh and his organization have long advocated for passage of the climate-related components of the renamed bill, a pared down version of President Joe Biden’s original $2-trillion Build Back Better plan. The bill includes $369 billion in funding for investments in clean energy, domestic manufacturing of batteries and solar panels, electric vehicle tax breaks and greenhouse gas reduction efforts. Environmental advocates said such provisions will bring the U.S. closer to meeting its pledges to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate agreement. The bill’s components are projected by 2030 to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 40% from 2005 levels. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved the bill by a 220 to 207 vote Aug. 12. Biden signed it into law Aug. 16. In an Aug. 9 statement, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, praised the bill for tackling environmental concerns and lowering drug prices.


Nicaraguan priest detained, others blocked from Marian celebration

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Three police patrols detained a Nicaraguan priest at his parish Aug. 14, in the latest instance of the government repression of the Catholic Church. The same day, two other priests said they were stopped from going to the cathedral in Matagalpa for a Marian celebration. A source told Catholic News Service the patrols stopped Father Oscar Benavidez as he was driving to celebrate Mass at a chapel in Mulukukú, and he was taken to the capital, Managua. “We do not know the causes or reasons for his detention,” the Diocese of Siuna said in a statement the same day. “We expect the authorities to keep us informed.” A source in the Nicaraguan Catholic Church who knows Father Benavidez said the detained priest was from the Diocese of Matagalpa, though working in the Diocese of Siuna. Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa has been holed up in the diocesan curial offices since Aug. 4 with six priests and five lay Catholics, besieged by police. “Father Oscar is paying the price for his innocence,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “They’re going to invent lies with which to accuse him,” the source added. “One thinks that things are calming down and another wave of persecution hits us.” The persecution of Catholic priests in Nicaragua has intensified as the regime of President Daniel Ortega portrays the Church as a political enemy.

Nigerian officials arrest six linked to Pentecost attacks

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerian officials identified six suspects arrested in connection with the June 5 attack that killed 40 people at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo. Maj. Gen. Jimmy Akpor, defense department spokesman, said all were linked to the Islamic State West Africa Province group. He said the arrests were made through a joint effort of military and defense officials. Akpor said a preliminary investigation showed that “Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza was the mastermind of the terror attack on the Catholic Church in Owo as well as the attack on a police station” in Kogi state June 23. In the second attack, a police officer was killed and weapons were stolen. Omeiza is sometimes known as Bin Malik. Police also arrested Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa and Auwal Ishaq Onimisi for the Owo attack, in which attackers sneaked into a Pentecost Mass with explosives. Akpor confirmed Aug. 10 that the four were arrested Aug. 1. On Aug. 11, Akpor said officials had arrested two more suspects: Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris. Officials did not release a motive for the attack.

Five-day trial set for Cardinal Zen, four defendants

VATICAN CITY — At a pre-trial hearing in Hong Kong, a judge set a five-day trial for Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and four other defendants who face charges of failing to properly register a now-defunct fund to help anti-government protesters. According to an Aug. 9 report by the Hong Kong Free Press news agency, Magistrate Ada Yim announced that the trial will take place Sept. 19-23 after asking prosecutors and the defendants’ lawyers if five days would be sufficient for the court to hear the case. Both sides agreed. The 90-year-old cardinal was detained May 11 under China’s national security law. However, he and the four others were charged with failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, set up to offer financial assistance to those involved in anti-government protests in 2019. It was disbanded last year after coming under scrutiny by authorities. Lawyers for both sides will argue whether the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund fell under Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance, which regulates registered and exempted associations.

— Catholic News Service

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