NEWS BRIEFS – WORLD & NATION – Aug. 17, 2017
Catholic News Service recently published the following news briefs on these topics: Mudslide in Sierra Leone; Restricting abortion coverage; School observatory and the eclipse; and Mideast Churches need help.
Pope prays for victims of 'devastating' mudslide in Sierra Leone
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis offered his condolences and his prayers to the people of Sierra Leone after flooding and a major mudslide Aug. 14 led to the deaths of hundreds of people and displaced thousands. "Deeply saddened by the devastating consequences of the mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, His Holiness Pope Francis assures those who have lost loved ones of his closeness at this difficult time," said a message sent to Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Pope Francis "prays for all who have died, and upon their grieving families and friends he invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation," said the message, which was released by the Vatican Aug. 16. The Pope also "expresses his prayerful solidarity with the rescue workers and all involved in providing the much-needed relief and support to the victims of this disaster." In an Aug. 16 telephone interview from Freetown, Ishmeal Alfred Charles, who is managing Caritas' emergency response, told Catholic News Service, "There is so much agony and pain here. The burials start today," he said, noting that he was on his way to a mortuary to help people identify the bodies of their loved ones.
Texas governor signs bill restricting insurance coverage of abortions
AUSTIN, Texas -- Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a bill into law Aug. 15 that limits insurance coverage for abortion procedures. The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature during a special session that Abbott ordered lawmakers to hold to address several issues. Under the new law, Texans "will not be forced" to pay for elective abortions through their insurance plans. Its supporters say it is an important part of Abbott's pro-life agenda. When the law takes effect Dec. 1, Texas will become the 11th state to restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans. "As a firm believer in Texas values I am proud to sign legislation that ensures no Texan is ever required to pay for a procedure that ends the life of an unborn child," Abbott said in a statement. "This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policyholders to subsidize elective abortions. I am grateful to the Texas Legislature for getting this bill to my desk, and working to protect innocent life this special session." Abbott also signed a measure to expand reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortion procedures. "The health and safety of women is of the utmost importance, and we must have the most accurate data available in order to create good policy," he said.
Miami's Catholic school observatory is set for eclipse
MIAMI -- The student observatory at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School is eagerly awaiting the solar eclipse. Although Miami is not in the so-called "zone of totality," the region will be in the path of 80 percent of the sun's visibility at the peak of the Aug. 21 eclipse. "This eclipse is something that will be a wonderful experience for Miami; the most important thing is it will cover 80 percent of the sun and we must be careful not to look at the sun without special filters and special glasses," said Jesuit Father Pedro Cartaya, a spiritual counselor at Belen and founder of the observatory and the student astronomy club begun here in the 1980s. The priest, a native of Havana, will coordinate some 20 astronomy club student members and alumni watching and documenting the solar eclipse with a series of telescopes modified to safely observe -- and even document -- the phenomenon. In March 1970, Father Cartaya said, he was in Perry, Florida, to observe a rare total solar eclipse that moved through Central America and the North Florida region that year. "It was an amazing experience I will not forget," he told the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper. "A lot of astronomers from around the world were there; it was so dark."
Catholic, Orthodox patriarchs seek help, say Mideast Churches in danger
BEIRUT -- Mideast Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs decried the desperate situation they face as shepherds of Churches "whose existence is in real danger." They categorized the continued displacement of Christians from the Middle East as "a genocidal project, a humanitarian catastrophe and a plague of the earth's civilization." "The time has come to make a prophetic cry" and to speak "the truth that frees us in the spirit of the Gospel," the Council of the Eastern Patriarchs said in a statement Aug. 11, after an Aug. 9-10 meeting in Diman, Lebanon. "We, the custodians of the 'small flocks,' are hurting because of the exodus of Christians from their native lands in the Middle East," the patriarchs said. They appealed to the United Nations and to "the states directly concerned with the war in Syria, Iraq and Palestine to stop the wars that have arisen, as are evident in the demolition, killing, displacement, revival of terrorist organizations and the fueling of intolerance and conflicts between religions and cultures." They asked Pope Francis "to call on the representatives of the people who control the destinies of peoples, to remind them and even to scold them that the continued displacement of Christians from the Middle East is certainly a genocidal project, a humanitarian catastrophe, but a plague of the earth's civilization."