Archbishop says shooting shows 'battle between good, evil continues'

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CNS) --- Arapahoe High School students tearfully reunited with parents the afternoon of Dec. 13 after a lone gunman with an apparent grudge fired shots and injured two at the school before killing himself. One 15-year-old girl remained in critical condition, one was released from the hospital and three students were treated for anxiety as crisis counselors arrived on scene after the tragedy, according to officials. The shooter, identified as Karl Halverson Pierson, 18, was a student at the school. "The battle between good and evil continues,” said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila in a Dec. 13 statement. “Unfortunately for all of us ... we are once again confronted with the effects of a culture that has little respect for life and is desperately in need of God's merciful healing. As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ, let's keep our youth in our prayers." Sophomore student Tori Gilliard hugged each of her parents after being released by school authorities outside Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial, a Denver suburb. A few hours earlier she texted her parents "I love you" once she realized the school was under attack, Gilliard said. "I just wanted to get that last word in in case something happened," Gilliard said.

Chaldean patriarch says extremism threatens Christians and Muslims

ROME (CNS) --- "Extremist political Islam is growing in the Middle East," prompting Christians to flee and causing death and upheaval among Christians and moderate Muslims alike, said the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad said moderate Muslims must be more courageous in defending a pluralistic Middle East and the region's Catholics should consider writing a document that explains to Muslims the Christian faith and the importance of religious freedom using terminology familiar to Muslims. The patriarch spoke Dec. 14 in Rome at an international conference on "Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives." The conference was sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington. More than 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, "we don't have security yet," the patriarch told conference participants. "In 2013 alone, 6,200 persons were killed. There are daily attacks, explosions, kidnappings and murders."

Ukraine bishops urge prayers, fasting for peace in their nation

OXFORD, England (CNS) --- Bishops from Ukraine's minority Latin-rite Catholic Church have called for prayers and fasting in an effort to end the current social unrest in the country. Catholic social teaching recognizes the right of citizens to courageously defend their legitimate concerns, said a statement from the bishops' conference read in parishes Dec. 15. And, as for the government's reaction, they said, "restricting human rights, especially the right to express views freely, is unacceptable and disgraceful." The letter was read as supporters and opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych held rival rallies in Kiev, three weeks after his withdrawal from a landmark deal with the European Union sparked mass protests. The protests were begun by young people Nov. 21. The bishops called on all Catholic parishes to pray for "peace, justice, truth and honesty," and to hold a day of fasting Dec. 16 as "a sign of solidarity with our brothers and sisters."

Pope reconfirms Cardinal Ouellet to lead bishops' congregation

VATICAN CITY (CNS) --- Nine months after his election, Pope Francis has reconfirmed Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, seen as one of the most powerful offices of the Roman Curia, and expanded the international membership of the congregation. Among the new members named Dec. 16 were Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England; Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico; and Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia. The departing members of the congregation include U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature, the church's highest court; Cardinal Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia; and 70-year-old Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops' conference. Confirming Cardinal Ouellet as prefect Dec. 16, Pope Francis also confirmed 18 current members of the congregation, including Cardinals George Pell of Sydney and William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Besides French Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, the other 15 members reconfirmed are officials or recently retired officials of the Roman Curia.