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Have you heard? A U.N. treaty, backed by Vatican and U.S. bishops, has banned nuclear weapons

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Catholic News Service

The passage of a United Nations treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons comes at a time when the majority of world’s nations are frustrated with the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

Even with such a pact, years in the making, there is no timeline for total disarmament, arms control experts told Catholic News Service. Read more »

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Pakistani church deplores deadly suicide blast at hospital

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NEW DELHI — The Catholic Church in Pakistan has condemned a suicide blast at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, where at least 70 people, many of them lawyers and journalists, were killed and more than 120 injured.

First responders and volunteers transport an injured man away from the scene of a bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan, Aug. 8. (CNS photo/Naseer Ahmed, Reuters)

First responders and volunteers transport an injured man away from the scene of a bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan, Aug. 8. (CNS photo/Naseer Ahmed, Reuters)

The Aug. 8 blast was carried out at the entrance of the emergency department of the hospital when the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of Balochistan (provincial) Bar Association, was being taken after he was shot by two unidentified gunmen while on his way to court.

“Killing innocent people is (an) inhuman act and totally unacceptable,” said the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a rights-based organization of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a statement condemning the “tragic killing.”

“The commission and the Catholic Church stand firmly with the people of Balochistan in this hour” and asked the government “to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” said the church statement signed by justice and peace officials, including Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, chairman.

“This tragic incident has caused bereavement throughout the country,” the statement said, offering prayers for peace and condolences to the families of the victims.

Pope Francis also offered his prayers and condemned the blast as a “senseless and brutal act of violence.”

In a message the Vatican said was sent to church and civil authorities in Pakistan, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope offered his “heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased, to the authorities and to the entire nation.”

Pointing out that Balochistan province has experienced more than 1,400 incidents of violence and targeted killing over the past 15 years, the Pakistani church statement urged the government of Pakistan to improve security measures.

“This is terrible,” Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the justice and peace commission, told Catholic News Service from Lahore. “The atmosphere is getting frightening. Lawyers and journalists are targeted like this.”

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his deep grief and anguish over the killing, lawyers and journalists held protest demonstrations across several cities. According to local media reports, the slain Quetta Bar Association chief had condemned the early August killing of a lawyer and announced a two-day boycott of court sessions to protest the death.

On Aug. 8, 2013, gunmen shot dead a police official in Quetta, and a suicide blast at the funeral claimed the lives of nearly 30 people, including several police officials.

— By Anto Akkara

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Pope Francis condemns ‘hideous’ terrorist attack on Easter in Pakistan

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appealed to the government of Pakistan to take steps to ensure the safety of the country’s Christians and other minorities the day after a terrorist bombing killed at least 70 people and injured more than 300 who were spending Easter afternoon in a public park.

People react over the coffin of a victim March 28 a day after a suicide bomb attack at a park in Lahore, Pakistan. Pope Francis appealed to the government of Pakistan to take steps to ensure the safety of the country's Christians and other minorities. (CNS photo/Rahat Dar, EPA) S

People react over the coffin of a victim March 28 a day after a suicide bomb attack at a park in Lahore, Pakistan. Pope Francis appealed to the government of Pakistan to take steps to ensure the safety of the country’s Christians and other minorities. (CNS photo/Rahat Dar, EPA) S

In Lahore, Pakistan, the pope said, “Easter was bloodied by a hideous attack, which massacred many innocent people, mostly families belonging to the Christian minority, especially women and children, who were in a public park joyfully celebrating the Easter holiday.”

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 28, the pope condemned the Lahore attack as a “cowardly and senseless crime.” Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Taliban, said it carried out the attack and specifically targeted Christians celebrating Easter.

Pope Francis appealed to “the civil authorities and all community leaders in that nation to do everything possible to ensure the security and serenity of the population, particularly the most vulnerable religious minorities.”

“Violence and homicidal hatred lead only to pain and destruction; respect and brotherhood are the only paths that lead to peace,” he said.

Before leading the crowd in reciting the “Hail Mary” for the victims and their families, Pope Francis asked the people in St. Peter’s Square to pray that God “would stop the hand of the violent, who sow terror and death, and that in the world there may reign love, justice and reconciliation.”

In his main address, and again after leading the “Regina Coeli” prayer, the pope spoke about the importance of making a real effort to live with the hope the Resurrection should bring.

“Life has vanquished death. Mercy and love have vanquished sin,” the pope said.

“We know that faith and hope are a gift of God and we must ask for it: ‘Lord, give me faith, give me hope. We need it so much,’” he said.

Before asking people to pray for him, the pope led the crowd in repeating three times, “Christ, my hope, is risen.”

 

 

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Pope calls for prayers, aid after quake in Pakistan, Afghanistan

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the death toll from an earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to rise, Pope Francis called for prayers and concrete aid for survivors.

A Pakistani woman holds an injured child in their home Oct. 26 following a magnitude-7.5 earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan. As the death toll from the earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to rise, Pope Francis called for prayers and concrete aid for survivors. (CNS photo/Bilawal Arbab, EPA)

A Pakistani woman holds an injured child in their home Oct. 26 following a magnitude-7.5 earthquake in Peshawar, Pakistan. As the death toll from the earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to rise, Pope Francis called for prayers and concrete aid for survivors. (CNS photo/Bilawal Arbab, EPA)

The magnitude-7.5 temblor Oct. 26 left at least 380 people dead and thousands of homes and buildings badly damaged.

“Let us pray for the dead and their relatives, for all those who are wounded and the homeless,” he said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 28. He asked that God offer consolation and courage to those who were suffering and struggling.

He asked that “these brothers and sisters not be lacking our concrete solidarity.”

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Father of Pakistani woman on death row appeals for visitation rights

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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) — The father of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman on death row, has filed a High Court petition demanding the right to visit his daughter in jail after being repeatedly denied access since her 2010 conviction, his lawyer said.

Ucanews.com reports that Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the lawyer for Bibi’s father, Soran Masih, said Aug. 23: “We filed a petition in the Lahore High Court after several requests to visit Asia Bibi were rejected by jail authorities and the province’s Home Department. … It is Masih’s fundamental right to visit his daughter in jail, and this cannot be denied by jail authorities or the Punjab government.” Read more »

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Gunmen fire on police guarding Catholic church in Pakistan

March 25th, 2015 Posted in International News Tags: , , , ,

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LAHORE, Pakistan — Unidentified gunmen opened fire on policemen guarding a Catholic church, police officials said.

Asif Khan, a local township police officer, confirmed the March 24 attack outside of St. Peter Church in the southern Pakistani city, reported the Asian Catholic news portal ucanews.com.

“Two masked men riding a motorbike fired on policemen who were deployed outside the church,” Khan said. “Police retaliated, after which the assailants sped away.”

Two passersby were injured in the crossfire, but no other injuries were reported, Khan said, adding that police had obtained closed circuit television footage from the church and have launched an investigation.

Local media reported that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed police to submit a report of the incident.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said he was aware of the incident and that no church or school staff were injured in the attack.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian rights activist and lawyer, condemned the attack.

“It is unbelievable how militants fired at the church guards and managed to flee,” Gill said. “We urge the government to beef up security at churches.”

He added that twin suicide bombings in Lahore earlier in March had created a sense of fear and insecurity within the Christian minority community.

The bombings, which left 14 dead and more than 70 others injured, also sparked riots in which two men thought to be associated with the bombers were beaten to death in a rare display of violence on the part of Christians in Pakistan.

 

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Fear silences Christians in Pakistan, archbishop says

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TORONTO — Fear has silenced the voice of Pakistani Christians since the political murder of Shahbaz Bhatti last spring, said the retired archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan.

“People are very sad, very bitter. They said, ‘If that happens to him what happens to us?'” Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha said in mid-November.

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