KINSHASA, Congo - Months after Congo's general elections, the nation's bishops continue to speak out about the legitimacy of the results.

"We believe that the electoral process is stained by serious irregularities which raise questions about the published results," the bishops' conference said in mid-January. "We call on the organizers to have the courage and honesty to draw the necessary conclusions."

The bishops called on members of the National Electoral Council to "have the courage to question their own practices, or if not, step down."

Bishop eulogizes a faithful Catholic in Joe Paterno


ALTOONA, Pa. - Although Joe Paterno will be remembered as "a legend throughout our region and throughout our country," Bishop Mark  Bartchak said the iconic football coach will be best remembered in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown as "a good Catholic, a family man and a friend to many."

Bartchak made his comments Jan. 22 at a news conference at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, prior to a prayer service celebrating Respect for Life.

Life, liberty at 'core of our national character,' Boehner tells U.S. rally


WASHINGTON - Americans "as a people are pro-life" because life and liberty "are intertwined and form the core of our national character," House Speaker John Boehner told the crowd gathered on the National Mall Jan. 23 for the 39th annual March for Life.

"God who gave us life gave us liberty," said the Ohio Republican, who is a Catholic. He added that his pro-life stand isn't political, "it's just who I am."

He and the other members of Congress who spoke at the rally said they were proud they had passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act and voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.

U.S. Cardinal links religious liberty fight with abortion struggle


WASHINGTON - Participants at the annual March for Life were urged in advance of the march not to let themselves be compromised in their beliefs as the federal government pursues regulations that Catholic leaders say constitute an attack on conscience and religious liberty.

"I beg and pray for the young people present and all youth and young adults not to be compromised in your dedication to the protection of life of each human person, born and unborn," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. "Keep it before your eyes and in your hearts immediately. Threats against life and against the consciences of those who say 'yes' to life must be met with timely and unwavering action, in our families and institutions, and yes, in the public square."

Nigerian bishops deplore fatal attacks in North by Islamic group


VATICAN CITY - Two Nigerian bishops deplored bloody attacks in a northern city by a radical Islamist group, warning of deep social divisions and displaced populations, the Vatican missionary news agency Fides reported.

"They are destroying the hope of a united Nigeria," said Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, referring to simultaneous attacks on government buildings by the extremist sect known as Boko Haram, Jan. 20 in the city of Kano, according to Fides.

News reports said that more than 150 people, most of them Muslims, are believed dead following the attacks, the latest in a series by the radical organization, which seeks to impose Islamic law in the country's Muslim-majority North.

Letter calls on Catholic GOP candidates to stop racial stereotypes


WASHINGTON - A group of Catholic theologians and leaders of Catholic organizations called on Republican presidential candidates to "stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail."

The organization Faith in Public Life circulated the letter challenging fellow Catholics former Rep. Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum, both Republicans, to dial back from how they refer to the nation's first African-American president "with a title that evokes the past myth of 'welfare queens' and inflaming other racist caricatures." The group called the tactic "irresponsible, immoral and unworthy of political leaders."

'Let it begin with me': Juarez parishioners work to change image


CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - In a city that has become synonymous with violence and despair during a four-year drug war that has claimed more than 12,000 residents, parishioners at a small church are trying to change the image of Ciudad Juarez - one person at a time.

Reflecting on the hymn lyrics, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me," Father Roberto Luna, pastor of Corpus Christi Church, urges the estimated 500 active parishioners in this impoverished and besieged neighborhood to live the life of Christ to the best of their abilities. He knows how daunting this task can be.

The neighborhood Corpus Christi is in is adjacent to the Juarez Valley, where a war is being waged between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels, and the war greatly affects the youth in the parish. Over the past year, Father Luna estimates that as many as 50 young people between the ages of 17 and 23 have been murdered, leaving survivors with a sense of anger, frustration and vengeance.

U.S. delays, but does not change, rule on contraceptive coverage


WASHINGTON - Although Catholic leaders vowed to fight on, the Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

Instead, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Jan. 20 that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year "to adapt to this new rule."

Sudanese churches commit to helping youths from war-torn Jonglei state


JUBA, South Sudan - The Sudan Council of Churches has committed to involving young people from war-torn Jonglei state in a grass-roots peace process.

The council said the state's young people have no political leadership. A series of retaliatory attacks between ethnic groups in Jonglei has displaced tens of thousands of people since late December.

Indian church leaders critical after Islamic court expels Christians


BANGALORE, India - Church leaders criticized an Islamic court's decision to expel five Christians, including a Catholic priest.

A Shariah court in Jammu and Kashmir state ordered the expulsion of Mill Hill Father Jim Borst, who has worked in the region since 1963, after accusing him of "spreading communal disaffection."

Shariah courts have no legal standing in India.

Parishioners reflect on deep faith of missing cruise ship couple


WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minnesota - Friends and parishioners of St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake reflected on the lives of Jerry and Barb Heil at an evening prayer service Jan. 18.

On Jan. 19, divers resumed the search for 21 people still missing after a Costa Concordia cruise ship cruise ship crashed into the Italian coast Jan. 13. The Heils are the only Americans who remained unaccounted for among the more than 4,200 passengers. Eleven people died.