Following is a compilation of recent briefs published by Catholic News Service on these topics: Attacks on Christians in Africa; Ethics and gene-editing work; Mass for Marines killed in crash; Nonviolence in West Bank.
Pope prays for victims of violent attacks in Africa
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called for an end to violence against Christians following deadly attacks in two African countries. The Pope led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary for the victims of a deadly shooting Aug. 6 at St. Philip's Catholic Church in Ozubulu, located in Nigeria's southern state of Anambra. He also prayed for Christians killed following an attack at a mission in Gambo, Central African Republic. "I hope that all forms of hatred and violence cease and that such shameful crimes are no longer committed in places of worship where the faithful gather to pray," the Pope told pilgrims Aug. 9 before concluding his weekly general audience. The BBC and other news outlets reported Aug. 7 that at least 11 people were killed and as many as 18 others wounded as they attempted to flee the carnage in Ozubulu. While no suspects have been caught, authorities believe the target was a young businessman involved in a drug deal gone wrong. The situation in the Central African Republic is more widespread, with violent clashes between the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia. In a series of email messages sent to his brother and shown to Catholic News Service Aug. 8, Spanish-born Bishop Juan-Jose Aguirre Munoz of Bangassou, Central African Republic, detailed the horrors that occurred at the Gambo mission, located about 45 miles away. "There are 50 dead in Gambo. The mission has been ransacked." The Spanish bishop, who has welcomed 2,000 Muslims at the cathedral in Bangassou to defend them from attacks by anti-Balaka militants, asked his brother to pray for the country.
Ethical questions surface as scientists advance gene-editing work
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic observers and others are raising ethical questions about the work of an international team of scientists who report that they were able to edit the DNA in human embryos to correct a health disorder. The questions focus on two concerns: the creation of human embryos for scientific experimentation and then destruction, and the still-unknown effect that changing DNA will have on future generations because the changes could become a permanent part of a family's genetic line. The success reported by the scientists in work funded by the Oregon Health and Science University worries observers, who said that it could lead to the development of "designer babies" with traits that make them seem superior. "Now we're specifically manufacturing human embryos solely for the purpose of doing lethal experiments on them. I think the public needs to be well aware of that and hopefully horrified by that reality," said Gregory Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. "Certainly there should be concerns about genetically modifying human beings in a way that we don't really know what effect that will have to subsequent generations," he told Catholic News Service.
Chaplain offers Mass aboard ship for Marines killed in crash of Osprey
ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD (CNS) -- Just hours after a Marine aircraft crashed off the east coast of Australia, killing three Marines, a U.S. Catholic chaplain serving on the USS Bonhomme Richard offered a Mass and prayers Aug. 6 for the victims, the survivors and their families. Father David J. Hammond, a Navy chaplain who holds the rank of lieutenant, said the Mass in the ship's Star of the Sea Chapel, according to a news release from the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. The three Marines were killed when their MV-22 Osprey went down in the Coral Sea while trying to land on a Navy ship Aug. 5. Military officials Aug. 8 identified the three as 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, 26, of Oxford, Maine; Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway, 21, of Sedgwick, Kansas; and Pfc. Ruben Velasco, 19, of Los Angeles. New reports said dive teams continued to recover debris from the crash site. On the night of the tragedy, Father Hammond offered a prayer over the USS Bonhomme Richard's public address system. It was at 10 p.m., which is a prayer is always offered on U.S. Navy vessels, the archdiocese said.
West Bank priests stress nonviolence as youths protest Israeli occupation
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- With tensions still high in the Old City following weeks of violence, Father Firas Aridah completed his work at the Latin Patriarchate early so he could leave Jerusalem for his West Bank parish before any possible violence began. "There were many (Israeli) police and soldiers, closing many roads," Father Aridah told Catholic News Service in a phone interview once he was back in Jifna's St. Joseph Parish July 28. Friday afternoon prayer in Muslim tradition is considered especially significant and is required of all Muslim men. Often during volatile periods, prayers at the contested Al-Aqsa Mosque compound have been followed by demonstrations. Sometimes the tensions spread to other sections of Jerusalem, or even to the West Bank. For Father Aridah and other parish priests in the West Bank, the challenge is to emphasize the Christian tradition of nonviolence while supporting their young parishioners' desire to oppose the Israeli occupation. Father Aridah said he counsels young people not even to throw stones at the young Israeli soldiers who sometimes come near their village on patrols or in search of men wanted by the army.