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Bishops urge Cubans to live in hope for a better future

HAVANA (CNS) – In response to the “aspirations, the hopes and the frustrations of the children of God,” the bishops of Cuba urged Cubans to embrace a vision for a better future for their country.

Acknowledging that Cuba has “changed in recent years” and that “present conditions are different from those of the past,” the bishops said nevertheless that “a new generation of Cubans lives with the firm desire of a future that may be better than the present one.”

The call came in a pastoral letter released Sept. 15 as part of the Cuban Church’s observance of the Year of Faith. The letter, La Esperanza No Defrauda (Hope Never Disappoints), was released on the 20th anniversary of the bishops’ pastoral letter on love. That letter, El Amor Todo Lo Espera (Love Hopes for Everything), also saw the bishops analyzing life in the island nation and offering suggestions for renewal and change.


German diocese makes promise of transparency

OXFORD, England (CNS) – Germany’s Limburg Diocese pledged “dialogue and transparency” after a former Vatican nuncio was sent to defuse complaints of extravagance against Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo continued meeting with Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, cathedral staff, local clergy and religious order representatives Sept. 13.

A diocesan spokesman, Stephan Schnelle, acknowledged that media reports about the prelate’s first-class flights and his luxuriously appointed new residence “has led to difficulties among priests and people here. The bishop is aware of their concerns and wants to be in dialogue. He knows the importance of transparency in appeasing anxieties.”

In a Sept. 12 interview with Catholic News Service, Schnelle said Cardinal Lajolo arrived Sept. 9 in the diocese in the small western German town to seek a “solution in peace for all parties,” but added that local Catholics were “generally supporting” Bishop Tebartz-van Elst.

The 53-year bishop attracted media attention after his November, 2008 appointment for criticizing Islam and dismissing a local priest for blessing a same-sex union.


US, Mexican migration a decade after joint pastoral was issued

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A decade after the bishops of Mexico and the U.S. issued their first joint pastoral letter on the immigration-related challenges facing their countries, a panel of commentators observed that the situation remains much the same. However, as described by the authors of several essays in a new book intended to give current context to the 2003 letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, there are signs of progress – as well as some backsliding – in addressing some of the issues it raised.

The letter touched on shared problems of the two countries, such as how to live out the teachings of faith in responding to migrants, how to address legal complexities, how to help people find the economic stability to allow them to remain in their own countries and how to address other root causes of migration.

The new book, On ‘Strangers No Longer’: Perspectives on the Historic U.S.-Mexican Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Migration, includes a dozen essays, by scholars and activists from both countries, about the historic and contemporary issues raised by the pastoral letter.


Secularism OK, but don’t block religious freedom

OXFORD, England (CNS) – A spokesman for France’s bishops urged the government to ensure a new “charter of secularism” does not impede religious freedom. Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told the French Catholic daily La Croix that although Church officials understood why the government sent the document to schools Sept. 9, “secularism must not be hollow or limited to negating and hindering religions.”

Msgr. Podvin said Catholic leaders understood that politicians feared people would use religion as an “identity emblem” but added that religious faith formed part of the French values of “liberty, equality and fraternity. If we don’t cultivate a true knowledge of religions, young people won’t be able to respect others in a just way. We’ll have sanctified the public sphere, but risked a resurgence of communitarianism in the process,” he added.


Priest injured in latest acid attack in Zanzibar

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (CNS) – A priest was hospitalized on the island of Zanzibar after acid was thrown at him, police said.

The Sept. 13 attack left Father Joseph Mwaganbwa with injuries to his face, chest, thighs and legs, the Associate Press reported. The attack occurred in a crowded part of Stone Town after Father Mwaganbwa left an Internet cafe, police said. It is the fifth such incident since November.

In August, two British women volunteering on the island were injured when an assailant threw acid on their faces, and in November, 2012, a Muslim leader was hospitalized with acid burns. Two Christian leaders were killed in Zanzibar earlier this year in separate incidents, and there have been arson attacks on churches.


Fasting bread unites bakery, parishioners in concern for war victims

GREENSBORO, N.C. (CNS) – Flour. Water. Yeast. Salt. With time and heat, a few simple ingredients can become a nourishing loaf of bread. And a community of Catholics in Greensboro is using that bread as an ingredient in a fulfilling spiritual life. Spurred by Pope Francis’ call for Christians worldwide to fast and pray for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world, parishioners of Our Lady of Grace Church and other churches in Greensboro are encouraging people to include fasting bread in their spiritual practices.

The use of fasting bread dates back centuries. When undergoing a spiritual fast, the faithful consume only bread and water. Fasting bread is intentionally simple but nourishing; those fasting will still feel hungry, but they won’t be harming their bodies by depriving themselves of nutrients.

“If you’re used to eating a certain amount every day, to eat only bread and water at certain times during the day is suffering,” said parishioner Barbara Markun, who took part in the Sept. 7 fast.

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