NEWS BRIEFS - WORLD & NATION - AUG. 29, 2018
Oregon Church activities curtailed by smoke from wildfires
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Catholic churches and homes in southern Oregon are safe so far amid wildfires, but persistent smoke has suppressed activities -- and spirits. "It is horrible. It is absolutely grim," said Ann Brophy, pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church in Medford. This is the fourth consecutive season of heavy smoke in the region. Brophy said this summer's dose is the worst she has seen in her 30 years in Medford. "Children can't go out and play," she said. Seniors have been intrepid about attending Mass at Sacred Heart, despite a dangerous and gloomy atmosphere for two months. "They are trying to continue on with life," Brophy said. Like many in the region, Brophy has curtailed her daily walks and has a nagging cough. She notices few pedestrians, cyclists or dog walkers. "It's like a ghost town around here," she said. Blue skies emerge now and then. But since July, air flow has mostly covered the region with smoke from fires as close as Gold Hill and as far as British Columbia. Northern California blazes are contributing. Visibility often drops below a mile and on certain days, the region has some of the world's worst air quality. "It just keeps hanging in there," said Debbie Todor, administrative assistant at St. Anne Parish in Grants Pass. "I have heard some people say they can't get out because of smoke." Plans for the Sept. 1 dedication of the new church in Grants Pass went ahead.
Bishop Kicanas recalls McCain's legacy of service, bipartisanship
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson praised Arizona Sen. John S. McCain, who died at age 81 of brain cancer Aug. 25, for his service to the nation. "He was a very principled man who had a passion for service," Bishop Kicanas told the Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Tucson Diocese, Aug. 27. The two worked together on immigration reform issues, especially in 2007, when McCain was trying to balance the political pressures of securing the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential election with his bipartisan attempts at immigration reform. Bishop Kicanas recalled an office visit in which McCain challenged him to help activate Hispanic and other voters to lobby congressional offices on behalf of immigration reform. "'I'm getting a call every minute of every day against it,' he (McCain) said. 'We need to get your people to speak up,'" the bishop said of the exchange. Political pressure inevitably doomed the effort. McCain believed in American principles -- such as hard work, cooperation and protecting human dignity -- and that sharing those with the world made the world safer. "He was a tough competitor, but he also understood that we cannot achieve success (global stability) by ourselves," Bishop Kicanas said.
German Church leaders deplore latest xenophobic violence
WARSAW, Poland -- German Catholic leaders condemned anti-immigrant riots in an eastern Germany town that erupted after a German man was killed in a brawl with migrants. "This deadly stabbing is a criminal offense which needs clearing up and sanctioning by the rule of law. It can never justify xenophobic, inhuman mass demonstrations," Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen told KNA, Germany's Catholic news agency, Aug. 28. "From a Christian perspective, violence cannot be an answer to violence. An offense must not be utilized to incite anger against entire ethnic groups," the bishop said. Riots Aug. 26-27 in Chemnitz left at least 20 seriously injured when police failed to separate 6,000 right-wing protesters from a smaller counter-demonstration. Meanwhile, the president of the German bishops' conference urged Christians to counter "nationalism, injustice and the restriction of freedom" with "vigilance and political action. We have to look at how people speak, how some nations fall back into nationalism, and how warlike language is trumpeted again," Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising said during Mass Aug. 26 in Munich's St. Kajetan Church, KNA reported.
Status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains largely unchanged
BEIRUT -- While procedures are being put in place for Syrians to return to their war-torn country from neighboring Lebanon, the refugee crisis continues to linger and remains largely unchanged, a Caritas Lebanon official said. Lebanon hosts more than 1 million Syrian refugees, which is more than a quarter of its population. The tiny country, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, has the highest number of refugees per capita than any country in the world. More than one-third of Lebanese residents -- nearly 36 percent -- live in poverty. In recent months, several hundred Syrians have left Lebanon in organized returns to their homeland, coordinated between authorities in Beirut and Damascus, the Syrian capital. In early August, Lebanon's General Security Directorate announced that it had opened 17 centers across the country that would receive applications for Syrians who want to travel home. Yet the reality regarding the refugee situation in Lebanon "is still almost the same," Father Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, told Catholic News Service. The Catholic aid agency has been involved in the humanitarian crisis for more than seven years. "We are not seeing huge changes yet," Father Karam said. What is needed, Father Karam explained, "is to encourage the concerned persons in Syria and in the international community to proceed with a peace process and peace talks and let the Syrians decide for their own future."
Source: Catholics face fear as Chad prioritizes Islam[[In-content Ad]]
OXFORD, England -- Christians in Chad are being intimidated and forced from public life, under new rules prioritizing Islam in violation of the North African country's secular foundations, according to the Catholic Church. A senior Church source, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, called the situation "critical, as the great powers show complicity by turning a blind eye to violations of basic human rights under cover of resisting radical Islam." The source also said Catholic leaders fear for their lives after criticizing constitutional changes. The comments were sent Aug. 27 to Catholic News Service, as the government of President Idriss Deby enforced a revised constitution, extending presidential powers in the predominantly Muslim state and requiring office-holders to take a religious oath. "The new religious oath is exclusive and reductive in its vision of the state and appears to be another way of excluding Christians from public responsibilities," the Church source said. "What will now become of the many Chadians who are neither Muslims nor Christians, and what will be the purpose of our institutions of justice and regulation?" The revised constitution, in force since May 4, abolishes the office of prime minister and extends the powers of Deby, in office since 1990, allowing him to seek a sixth and seventh term, running till 2033.