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At an audience with Pope Francis, Theodore Musco, diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation, presented Pope Francis with a pin from the newly established Diocesan Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis. Musco was attending the International Gathering of Catechetical Leaders at the Vatican.

Ten Commandments at City Hall to be Removed

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal about an order to remove a Ten Commandments display outside City Hall in Bloomfield, New Mexico. The refusal to hear the case lets the lower court ruling stand.

In 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Bloomfield City Hall must remove the outdoor display because it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the city of Bloomfield, said the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case gives “anti-religion advocates a license to challenge any monument that they see and offends them. Just because we disagree with what something says, does not mean we can ban it from the public square.”

Pa. Priest Arrested at Pipeline Construction Site

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A priest arrested for protesting a natural gas pipeline being built through land owned by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Pennsylvania said he acted because he agreed with the sisters that the project is desecrating the earth.

“We just want to support them and symbolically stop the pipeline and put our lives on the side of justice,” Father Bill Pickard, 70, a retired priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., said two days after the protest.

Father Pickard was one of six people arrested and charged with defiant trespass during the second nonviolent protest in a week at the sisters’ property in Columbia, Pa., southeast of Harrisburg.

They were arrested after stretching a quilt across the entrance of the construction site. Planned by the grass-roots group Lancaster Against Pipelines, the protests were designed to slow if not stop construction on a leg of the 183-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline being built by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners to carry gas from the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Texas Bishops Criticize ACLU on Teen’s Abortion

AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) – Texas bishops criticized the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for backing an abortion for a teen immigrant in the country illegally and also praised government officials for their defense of the unborn.

On Oct. 20, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to order the federal government to allow the teen, who is in federal custody, to get an abortion. The court gave the Department of Health and Human Services until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor for her.

Two days earlier, a federal judge ruled that the teenager had the right to get an abortion, but the case moved to a federal appeals court since the Trump administration argued that the government is not obligated to facilitate an abortion for someone in the country without legal documents.

Lawyers for the ACLU, which represents the teen known as Jane Doe, said they were disappointed with the ruling and that finding a sponsor would take time. They filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the government’s policy against allowing abortions for women in its custody as unconstitutional.

“Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life of an innocent unborn child,” the bishops said.

Cross Honoring Soldiers Ruled Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A 40-foot-tall cross memorializing soldiers who died in World War I that sits at a busy intersection in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Md., is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Oct. 18.

The monument “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion,” said a 2-1 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Va.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel made up of Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory and Judges Stephanie D. Thacker and James A. Wynn Jr. Gregory, who dissented, said the government is not required by the First Amendment to “‘purge from the public sphere any reference to religion.’”

The First Liberty Institute said the decision “sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history.”

The group, which supports religious freedom, represented the American Legion, the defendant in the case, and plans to appeal. The ruling “threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America,” Hiram Sasser, First Liberty’s deputy chief counsel, said in a statement.

Italian Priest Kidnapped In Nigeria Is Set Free

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Italian Father Maurizio Pallu, who was kidnapped by several gunmen in Nigeria and held captive for nearly a week, was freed Oct. 17.

Father Pallu, a 63-year-old missionary affiliated with the Neocatechumenal Way, and a group of pilgrims were on their way to Mass in Benin City Oct. 12 when they were ambushed. The priest told the Italian website, Vatican Insider, that contrary to initial reports, two members of the group were taken hostage.

“We were very scared, especially the two young people who were with me: a young man employed by the parish and a female student, both from Nigeria, both very young,” Father Pallu said.

Under guard, “we walked for several hours, hoping that someone would notice us,” he said. “Instead, we were taken to an isolated place.”

South Korean Catholics Pray for Olympics Games

OSAKA, Japan (CNS) – Parishes in the South Korean province that will host the 2018 Winter Olympics are praying for the event’s success as tensions increase between Washington and Pyongyang, a spokesman for South Korea’s Diocese of Chuncheon said.

The prayers are included in general Mass intentions every Sunday, said Father Apostle John Kim, diocesan spokesman in Chuncheon, South Korea.

The diocese, which straddles the border between South Korea and North Korea, expects demand for pastoral services from athletes, coaches and others at the games in February 2018. Priests will offer Mass and confessions at the Olympic Village.

People in Amazon Will be Topic for Bishops’ Synod

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world’s most remote areas and the connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis announced a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.

“Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019,” Pope Francis announced.

The pope said the synod would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are “often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest,” which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.