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A time of faith and debate as 
Vatican II marks its golden year

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Fifty years ago this October, Pope John XXIII and more than 2,500 bishops and heads of religious congregations from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for the opening session of the Second Vatican Council. 

Over the following three years, Vatican II would issue 16 major pronouncements on such fundamental questions as the authority of the Church’s hierarchy, the interpretation of scripture, and the proper roles of clergy and laity. 

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Hope and fear amid uncertainty in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (CNS): “There is a fear among the Christians (in Egypt) whether they will be given human rights and whether they will be treated as equal citizens. There is a sense of wait and see,” said Bishop Gerald Kicanas, the chairperson of the board of  Catholic Relief Services in the United States of America (US).

Almost a year after the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings, the Middle East is a place of both hope and fear for Christians. 

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Landmark victory for religious freedom in US Supreme Court ruling

Washington (CWNews): In a landmark January 11 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America (US) ruled that religious bodies should set their own standards for hiring ministers, free from government interference. 

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Ethiopian Church moves to address food needs in the face of climate change

ADDIS ABABA (CNS): The climate change-induced drought that has afflicted the Horn of Africa presents an opportunity for the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to work more closely with the government in addressing food shortages and development concerns, said Father Hailegebriel Meleku, deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops' Conference. 

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Pope condemns the manipulation of religion to justify terrorism

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI condemned “religiously motivated terrorism” and restrictions on religious freedom during his annual address to 179 diplomats accredited to the Vatican on January 9. 

Looking both at signs of promise and areas of concern around the globe, the pope said human dignity, truth and justice demand governments safeguard all human life and recognise the importance of the traditional family based on the marriage of a man and a woman. 

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Revised prayer service to counter impression that the creation of cardinals is a sacrament

 

Vatican City (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI will use a revised, streamlined prayer service to create 22 new cardinals in February, partly  to avoid giving the impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament or quasi-sacrament.

“The rite used up to now has been revised and simplified with the approval of the Holy Father Benedict XVI,” reported the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on January 7.

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African women struggle more than others during food crisis

NAIROBI (CNS): The year 2011 was not good for women such as Joan Ochieng of Nairobi, Kenya. Just about everything was a struggle. 

“We were not treated fairly,” said the single mother, noting the many pressures, including spiralling food prices that caused her and her family of four children and one grandchild to often go to bed hungry. 

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Blessed John Paul II’s childhood Jewish friend dies in Rome at 90 

ROME (CNS): Jerzy Kluger, Blessed Pope John Paul II’s lifelong Jewish friend, who had a deep impact on the pope’s commitment to improved Catholic-Jewish relations, died in Rome on December 31 at the age of 90. 

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Pope John Paul II tried to end 1981 Irish hunger strike

DUBLIN (CNS): Declassified British documents reveal the extent to which Pope John Paul II offered to intervene and bring and end to the 1981 hunger strike by Provisional Irish Republican Army prisoners in a British jail in Northern Ireland. 

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Extremists issue more threats against Christians in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI and VATICAN CITY (CNS/agencies): In the wake of the Christmas Day bombings of churches and other targets in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a Nigerian group that purports to be inspired by Islam, the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in parts of four states hard hit by violence. 

The bombings killed more than 40 people, including Muslim passersby (Sunday Examiner, January 1). The country’s mainstream Muslim leaders condemned the attacks.

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