News/International

WASHINGTON - From the Carolinas up the Atlantic Coast into Canada, the trail of Hurricane Irene was one of dramatic floods, wind damage and other disruptions.

More than 40 people in various states were reported to have been killed by floodwaters, falling trees, car accidents and powerful waves. Irene hit the Carolina coast Aug. 27 and skirted the coastline, causing destruction in a dozen states before dumping inches of rain and causing at least two deaths in Canada.

A survey of some of the dioceses where the worst effects were felt found few significant problems at church properties, though the communities around them suffered serious losses.

In Vermont, where raging floodwaters from what was by then Tropical Storm Irene damaged or destroyed hundreds of roads, JoAnne Prouty, bookkeeper at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington said the rushing water and the damage it caused were amazing.

Pope sends condolences after death of Cardinal Ambrozic

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has offered condolences to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Toronto following the death of retired archbishop, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, who died Aug. 26 at the age of 81.

"I recall with gratitude the cardinal's dedication and service to the church in his adopted country," the Pope said in a telegram to Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto.

"I join you and all who mourn him, including the members of the late cardinal's family, in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercy of God, our loving father."

The late cardinal was a priest for 56 years, bishop for 35 years and served as archbishop of Toronto from 1990 to 2006.

Mexican church officials condemn casino attack that killed more than 50

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MEXICO CITY - Mexican church officials have condemned an arson attack on a casino in Monterrey, Mexico, which killed more than 50 bettors and employees and left the nation horrified as a city once considered a crown jewel of industrial development and progress descends deeper into organized crime violence.

"In terms of the criminal groups, we believed that we had seen everything. However, what happened today surprised us," said Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey in a message issued late Aug. 25.

"Hopefully our authorities surprise us with a definite solution to this serious scourge. We join in prayer for those who lost their lives, for their families and so that peace is restored," the cardinal said.

A statement released late Aug. 25 by the Archdiocese of Mexico City labeled the attacks as "cowardly and abominable," and said the deaths "add to the innumerable victims of the cruelty and evil of organized crime."

Damage from Virginia quake appears to hit churches hard

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WASHINGTON - Historic churches in Washington, Maryland and Virginia were among buildings with the most serious damage after the unusual Aug. 23 magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the region.

The temblor could be felt as far away as Detroit, north of Toronto and into Florida.

The archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore each reported damage to several churches. But in the Diocese of Richmond, Va., where the quake was centered near the town of Mineral, that town's St. Jude Church had the only reported damage in the diocese, and that was relatively minor, according to its pastor, Father Michael Duffy.

He told Catholic News Service a couple of hours after the quake that some pictures fell off the walls and smashed and holy oils fell out of the ambry. He said also said there were cracks in the plaster, a broken water pipe and some damaged light fixtures.

Youth told to share the faith

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MADRID, SPAIN - Pope Benedict XVI saw that 1.5 million young people could be buffeted by gusty winds and drenched by a driving rain and still fall silently to their knees to adore the Eucharist.

More people facing religious restrictions worldwide

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WASHINGTON - Close to one-third of the world’s citizens have faced increased restrictions on religious practice and expression imposed on them by their respective nations’ governments, according to a study issued Aug. 9 by the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Public Life.

The report, “Rising Restrictions on Religion,” noted that such limitations are on the upswing in 23 of the world’s 198 nations, and that many of those countries are among the world’s most populous and fastest-growing in population.

By contrast, 12 nations were judged to have eased restrictions on religion. But the Pew report suggested that those countries “already scored low” in previous studies, while nations imposing greater restrictions “already had high or very high levels of restrictions or hostilities.” No changes were reported in 163 countries.

Christians faced harassment in more nations than any other religious adherents — 130 nations, followed by 117 nations for harassment of Muslims, 75 for Jews, 27 for Hindus and 16 for Buddhists. Christians and Muslims account for about half of the world’s population.

Libya’s rebel leader denies claims of Islamic extremists in group

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TRIPOLI, Libya - The head of Libya’s rebel forces, on the verge of taking the capital city of Tripoli, said dictator Moammar Gadhafi had tried to scare people by saying that Islamic extremists were part of the rebel movement.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil called on all Libyans to respect the lives of others and urged the rebels to show the world that Libya is a country of “religiously moderate” people.

“Moammar Gadhafi will be remembered and his period of rule through the acts that he committed against the rebels and the world,” he said Aug. 22.

“But God has chosen that Gadhafi’s end should be at the hands of these youths, so that they can join the Arab Spring that is going around the Arab nations. And now I say with all transparency that the era of Gadhafi is over,” he said.

At WYD vigil, pope encourages young people to use prayer to find their life’s vocation

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MADRID - Hours after firefighters doused overheated pilgrims with much-needed jets of water, the heavens added to their efforts by driving rain and wind onto the more than 1 million young Catholics camping at Cuatro Vientos airbase Saturday night for the World Youth Day vigil.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the pilgrims, who sang and chanted all the louder for Pope Benedict XVI, who entered the airbase to cheers and applause. The pope, however, skipped the longer speech he had prepared in favor of short addresses to pilgrims in Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.

In the different languages, he told the young people to be proud of the gift of their faith they should “gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence.”

Pope Benedict asked that the youths, during the eucharistic adoration that followed, to “raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ” so he “may he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.”

He encouraged them to seek out their life’s vocation and to “persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you.”

Pope hears confessions in the park at WYD

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MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI began his third day in Madrid by hearing confessions in one of 200 portable confessionals set up in a park for World Youth Day pilgrims.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers: two young men and two young women. The pope heard the confessions of two in French, one in German and the confession of a Spaniard in Italian.

While the pope used one of the same portable white confessionals that all penitents and priests in the park used, a white screen was placed around his to increase privacy.

Organizers originally had said the pope would offer the sacrament to three young people.

Pope offers challenges to young professors, young religious

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SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL, Spain (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's meetings with young religious women and young university professors, held in the same complex, had very different tones.

The sisters and nuns -- all under 35 -- gathered in the sunny courtyard of the Basilica of St. Lawrence, while the professors -- most under 40 -- gathered inside the imposing stone basilica.

The young consecrated women were exuberant: singing, chanting and doing the wave. Most of them stood on their plastic chairs when the pope entered. The young professors visited one another rather quietly before the pope arrived and remained standing on the floor when the pope entered; they were in a church, after all.

In speeches to both groups, the pope expressed gratitude and offered encouragement, but he once was a young professor himself, and much of his advice to the scholars was based on personal experience and a continuing keen observation of what is happening in universities around the world.

Youths welcome pope to WYD; he asks them to think about faith

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MADRID - Formally welcomed to World Youth Day by a boisterous, flag-waving throng of hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged their enthusiasm but also urged them to be strong, solid and think about their faith.

Pope Benedict walked through the Puerta de Alcala, a monumental arch symbolizing the entrance to the city, with young people representing Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Moving to the nearby Plaza de Cibeles for the formal greetings and a prayer service, young people representing the various regions greeted the pope and gave him a gift that represented a formal cultural welcome. The pope received salt and bread from a young Polish woman; a flower garland from a Japanese woman; a bowl of rice from a South Korean; a sombrero from a Honduran; and coffee beans in a banana leaf from a young man from Australia.