Catholic News Service recently published the following news briefs on these topics: Venezuelan exiles; Ending contraceptive mandate; Canadian outreach to asylum seekers; the Vatican on terrorism, immigration; Typhoons hit Macau Diocese.
'We are with you,' says Pence during Florida visit with Venezuelan exiles
DORAL, Fla. -- They called Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a dictator and a gangster. They recounted personal experiences of torture, beatings and intimidation at the hands of government thugs and jailors. They told of blatant disregard for the rule of law and the will of the people. A mother held up photos of her 22-year-old daughter, killed by a bullet to the head after a protest march. About a dozen exiles of Venezuela's "Bolivarian revolution" sat around a table in the rectory of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Aug. 23 telling Vice President Mike Pence sad tales of their country's 18-year tailspin, from democracy to dictatorship, from oil riches to widespread misery. "I ask for all those who have fallen," said an emotional Maria Eugenia Tovar, mother of Genesis Carmona, a university student and beauty queen killed during protests in 2014 in Valencia, in the state of Carabobo. Tovar and other witnesses say the bullet came from government-sanctioned mobs -- "colectivos" -- who appeared after the military corralled the protesters and left. Feeling persecuted since then, Tovar and her family sought refuge in Miami.
Catholic Benefits Association presses Trump to end contraceptive mandate
WASHINGTON -- Frustrated by federal court inaction and the Department of Justice blocking the way, the Catholic Benefits Association has called on President Trump to intervene directly in the legal battle over the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. "This is a problem that's easily remedied," Douglas C. Wilson, CBA's chief executive officer, told Catholic News Service. "It was created by Obama's regulatory administration and it can be undone by the Trump administration just as easily." In an Aug. 18 letter, Wilson asked the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to stop defending the mandate in court and agree to a permanent injunction protecting the plaintiffs in all cases. The letter also urged the White House to adopt, unchanged, a proposed HHS regulation, submitted in May, to exempt employers with conscientious objections from having to comply with such mandates. The mandate requires employers to provide coverage for contraception and abortifacients, opposed by Catholic moral teaching, under penalty of fines. Wilson said he has not yet received anything other than a pro forma White House acknowledgement of the letter.
Canadian dioceses rally to help migrants, mostly Haitians, fleeing U.S.
OTTAWA -- As waves of asylum seekers continue to cross illegally into Canada from the United States, Catholic dioceses in Quebec and eastern Ontario are mobilizing to provide them with food, shelter and pastoral support. "It's a gesture of solidarity toward brothers and sisters," said Auxiliary Bishop Alain Faubert of Montreal. An estimated 7,000 men, women and children, primarily Haitians, have entered Canada over the summer since U.S. President Donald Trump ended a program offering temporary asylum to Haitians displaced by that nation's 2010 earthquake. About half the asylum seekers that have crossed into Canada have ended up in Montreal after being processed. Whether they remain in Canada will be determined in coming months at immigration hearings. The Quebec government has been using Montreal's Olympic Stadium as one site to temporarily house people. The province is dealing with long lines of asylum seekers seeking financial assistance, as Montreal's French-speaking Haitian Catholic community of approximately 140,000 people raises money, collects furniture and helps the newcomers find lodging.
Top Vatican official discusses terrorist threat, immigration debate
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican obviously is concerned about terrorist threats, "especially for the senseless hatred" it represents, and will continue to remain vigilant, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Speaking to reporters Aug. 26, Cardinal Parolin said he had seen the most recent video attributed to Islamic State in which the Pope and Vatican are threatened, and "one cannot help but be concerned." However, he said, he did not believe the video prompted extra security measures beyond those that have been in place for some time. For the Year of Mercy 2015-2016, the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square was closed to traffic; it never reopened. But while pilgrims approaching St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' weekly general audience on Wednesdays and his Angelus address on Sundays had already been subjected to security checks, Italian police seemed to take more time doing the checks after the terrorist attack in Barcelona Aug. 17. Cardinal Parolin spoke to journalists in Rimini, Italy, where he was addressing a large summer meeting sponsored by the lay movement, Communion and Liberation.
Parishes in Macau, hit by two typhoons, hold special Masses
MACAU -- Parishes in Macau Diocese held special Masses Aug. 28 for those killed and affected by a super typhoon that struck in late August. Typhoon Hato, the strongest typhoon in 53 years, hit Macau Aug. 23, causing flooding and the death of at least 10 people, many of them trapped in basements. More than a hundred people suffered injuries. As Macau struggled to get to its feet, it was hit by Typhoon Pakhar Aug. 27; the second storm was weaker than the earlier one. The China Meteorological Administration has predicted a developing typhoon may hit Macau Sept. 3. Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau extended his sympathies Aug. 24 to those affected by the typhoon, including families of the dead, reported ucanews.com. "May I call upon all the citizens of Macau, especially believers of Christ, along with people of all faiths and goodwill, to unite in prayer for the deceased and wounded, for their families, and for the numberless firefighters, police officers, medical staff, and workers repairing water and electric facilities and those cleaning our streets," Bishop Lee said in a statement.