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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Senate passes Respect for Marriage Act; bill now heads to House

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the U.S. Senate’s Nov. 29 61-to-36 vote approving the Respect for Marriage Act, the chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees reiterated the bishops’ ” firm opposition” to the “misnamed” measure legalizing same-sex marriage. In a Nov. 23 letter to members of Congress, the chairmen said they were writing “to implore Congress to reverse course” on H.R. 8404, also known as RMA. Its final vote passing the bill sends it back to the House for a vote. If it passes that chamber, President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law. Issuing the joint letter were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. The bill codifies the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

WORLD

Hong Kong cardinal, five others fined, but larger charge looms

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong Court fined Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 90, and five others for failing to register a humanitarian fund set up to help people arrested in anti-government protests pay legal fees. Cardinal Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, was fined 4,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$512) for failing to register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. He was a trustee of the fund, and four other trustees and its secretary also were charged under the Societies Ordinance, a colonial-era law dating to 1911 that has since been revised. The ordinance says “any club, company, partnership or association of persons, whatever the nature or objects, to which the provisions of (the) ordinance apply” must register with the police commissioner or ask for an exemption. Prosecutors said the now-defunct fund should have been registered with police due to its “massive” size and “systematic” mode of operation. In May, all six also were arrested on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under a harsh 2020 national security law that China’s ruling Communist Party imposed on the city to stifle dissent after protests had roiled the city’s streets during the second half of 2019. The six have yet to be charged under the national security law.

Vatican notes ‘surprise and regret’ over China’s transfer of a bishop

VATICAN CITY — In an unusual move, the Vatican issued a public statement of regret, essentially accusing the Chinese government of violating its agreement with the Vatican over the appointment of Catholic bishops. “The Holy See noted with surprise and regret the news of the ‘installation ceremony’” of Bishop John Peng Weizhao of Yujiang as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi, “a diocese not recognized by the Holy See,” said the note released by the Vatican Nov. 26, two days after the installation of the bishop. “This event, in fact, did not take place in accordance with the spirit of dialogue existing between the Vatican and Chinese sides and what was stipulated in the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops,” an agreement first signed in 2018, renewed in 2020 and renewed again in October.

Violence against women is a ‘scourge,’ pope says

VATICAN CITY — Violence against women is “a social scourge that is also linked to cultural attitudes, ingrained mentalities and prejudices,” so education, prevention and swifter justice are needed to end it, Pope Francis said. Noting the commemoration Nov. 25 of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the pope met with members of the central anti-crime directorate of the Italian state police Nov. 26 and offered his support the next day to a group that marched through Rome to draw attention to the use of violence against women as a weapon of war. The British Embassy to the Holy See, the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations and the Vatican sports team, Athletica Vaticana, co-sponsored the walk to St. Peter’s Square on the eve of an international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict situations.

Ukrainian archdiocese demands release of priests taken by Russian troops

LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Donetsk is demanding the release of two priests it said were arrested illegally in the Russian-occupied city of Berdyansk. In a Nov. 25 statement, it said Father Ivan Levitsky, a hieromonk and rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and Father Bohdan Geleta, who works at the church, were detained by Russian troops Nov. 16, and the church was illegally searched the following day. “We demand the speedy release from custody and imprisonment of our priests … as well as ensuring their unhindered legitimate service to the spiritual needs of the faithful … living in the city of Berdyansk,” said the statement. Russian media reported the priests were detained because Russian troops searching the church and rectory found explosives and plans for “subversive” and “partisan” activities directed against the troops. However, the archdiocesan statement noted that the priests already were in custody when the search was conducted.

— Catholic News Service

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