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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Data shows abortions rose in most states where it remains legal

WASHINGTON — Legal abortions most likely increased in the United States in the first six months of 2023 compared with 2020, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Guttmacher Institute, which opposes abortion restrictions. The data from Guttmacher, which is based on what it calls a representative sample of legal abortion providers, is from the first half of 2023; it follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned prior rulings by the high court making abortion access a constitutional right. The analysis found that about 511,000 abortions were estimated to have occurred in states or territories where the procedure was legal within the first six months of 2023, an increase from about 465,000 abortions nationwide in a six-month period of 2020. Most states where abortion remains legal saw increases, the analysis found, particularly states like Illinois that border states greatly restricting the procedure. (OSV News)

Retired New Orleans priest indicted by grand jury, arrested for abuse

NEW ORLEANS — A retired New Orleans priest who walked back a recent public admission of sexual abuse has been arrested and charged for offenses dating from 1975-1976. Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams announced Sept. 7 a Louisiana grand jury indicted 91-year-old retired Msgr. Lawrence Hecker for aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated crime against nature and theft. According to New Orleans Police Department reports, Msgr. Hecker raped and kidnapped a victim, who was not named, between Jan. 1, 1975 and Dec. 31, 1976. Msgr. Hecker surrendered to the New Orleans Police Department Sept. 8. In a statement, the Archdiocese of New Orleans said that Msgr. Hecker “has not had priestly faculties since 2002” and that he was “included on the list of clergy removed from ministry for abuse of a minor in 2018.” The archdiocese also stated that it had “reported Lawrence Hecker to law enforcement authorities in different jurisdictions multiple times since 2002” and had “fully cooperated and will continue to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation” into the former priest. (OSV News)

WORLD

Seminarian burned to death in Nigeria amid violence against Christians

ABUJA, Nigeria — In an endless cycle of violence against Christians in Nigeria, seminarian Na’Aman Danlami Stephen of the Diocese of Kafanchan was burned to death Sept. 7 when a terrorist group called Fulani herdsmen attacked the rectory at St. Raphael Church in Fadan Kamantan. Bishop Julius Kundi of Kafanchan told the Catholic agency Aid to the Church in Need that the parish priest, Father Emmanuel Okolo, and the assistant priest were able to escape the fire at the rectory, while the 25-year-old seminarian died in the attack. The latest killing is just one in a long list of attacks that have targeted churches and Christians in Africa’s most populous nation, and Kafanchan in particular has been hit hard by the kidnapping of clergy, seminarians and other Christians. Meanwhile, a report April 10 by Intersociety said that more than 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria over the last 14 years. (OSV News)

Cdl. Zuppi visits China as envoy promoting peace in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY — Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who said Pope Francis tapped him not to mediate but to encourage dialogue that could end Russia’s war on Ukraine, flew to China Sept. 12, Italian media reported. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported the cardinal could meet as early as Sept. 13 with Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang in Beijing. Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said Sept. 12 that the cardinal, accompanied by an official from the Vatican Secretariat of State, would be in Beijing Sept. 13-15 as “a further step in the mission desired by the pope to support humanitarian initiatives and the search for paths that can lead to a just peace.” (CNS)

Holy See urges more nations to sign on to convention banning cluster munitions

GENEVA — A Holy See delegation at a Sept. 11-14 meeting in Geneva of nations that are parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions urged nations that have not yet done so to sign the treaty, which “prohibits under any circumstances the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.” The treaty also forbids assisting or encouraging anyone to engage in prohibited activities. The Holy See delegation praised Nigeria and South Sudan for becoming the latest countries to sign on to the convention — Feb. 28 and Aug. 3, respectively — bringing the total number to 112. “Any additional state party to the convention represents a renewed impulse to achieve universality, further ensuring that there will be fewer victims in the future and that those who already have tragically been affected can be properly assisted,” the delegation said Sept. 11. Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched explosives that contain smaller submunitions, which increase the blast radius and the potential casualties and damage to physical structures. The Holy See highlighted the convention’s fundamental principles, especially its “unequivocal reaffirmation of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person.” (OSV News)

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