Church teaching on sexuality is simple, but not easy, priest says

When it comes to human sexuality, one of the predominant themes discussed by participants at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family pertains to the certainty that truth and mercy cannot be separated.

This is according to Fr. Stephen Fawcett of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, who was one of 27 volunteers serving at the Synod on the Family.

Fr. Fawcett, whose role throughout the Synod had been in part to act as one of two secretaries to one of the small groups over this past week, said that “one big strand that came out of the groups echoed Benedict XVI’s reminder of the link between love and truth.”

“God shows his mercy to all of us… to grow into the people we should be,” he said. “It’s not (that) some people need mercy, and some people don’t. All of us need the truth… and all of us need the grace to journey in that truth.”

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Will Boko Haram honor a ceasefire? Probably not.

A reputed ceasefire and agreement to return scores of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria merit skepticism given Boko Haram’s violent ideology and the previous failures of the Nigerian government, one observer says.

“We have heard that these girls have been rescued by the military – twice in the last six months. We have also heard of ceasefires twice in as many years. As with all information coming out of government circles, the rule of thumb is to wait till we hear the terrorists’ side of the story,” Emmanuel Ogebe, managing partner of the U.S.-Nigeria Law Group, said.

The militant Islamic group has been leading an uprising since 2009.

“Boko Haram has repudiated or denounced ceasefires within days so I am not holding my breath on this,” said Ogebe, a human rights lawyer who lobbied the U.S. government to recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group.

“Frankly it is difficult to imagine that overnight these die-hard Islamist terrorists suddenly had a rethink about violent jihad against all infidels.”

“They have clearly shown their disinterest in money, reason or civilization. It is hard to conceive that they simply changed their minds on their evil theology especially when they hold 26 towns captive at the moment.”
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Angelus: On the Pontificate of Blessed Paul VI

“To this Pontiff, the Christian people will always be grateful for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus”

At the conclusion of the Holy Mass, Pope Francis recited the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square. These are the Pope’s words of introduction to the Marian prayer:

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the conclusion of the this solemn celebration, I wish to greet the pilgrims from Italy and from various countries, with a respectful greeting to the official Delegations. In particular, I greet the faithful from the diocese of Brescia, Milan and Rome, who are significantly linked to the life and ministry of Pope Montini. I thank you all for your presence and exhort you to faithfully follow the teachings and example of the newly Blessed.

He was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes; a testimony of this is the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii with which he intended to awaken the enthusiasm and commitment to the mission of the Church. It is important to consider this aspect of the Pontificate of Paul VI, especially today as we celebrate World Mission Day.

Before invoking Our Lady all together with the Angelus prayer, I would like to underline the profound Marian devotion of Blessed Paul VI. To this Pontiff, the Christian people will always be grateful for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus and for having proclaimed Mary as “The Mother of the Church”, on the occasion of the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, help us to carry out faithfully in our lives the will of the Lord, as the newly Blessed had done.


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Pope’s Homily at the Beatification Mass of Paul VI

“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!”

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s homily at the Celebration of Mass for the Closing of the Synod of Bishops and the Beatification of Pope Paul VI.

* * *

We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt22:21).

Goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

Certainly Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: “and [render] to God the things that are God’s”. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.
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Pope Francis’ closing synod speech received with standing ovation

Pope Francis’ address at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, delivered Saturday, was responded to with a four-minute standing ovation on the part of the bishops attending the Vatican meeting.

In the Oct. 18 speech, the Pope thanked the bishops for their efforts, and noted the various temptations that can arise in such a synod setting. He encouraged the bishops to live in the tension, saying that “personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace.”

“Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the ‘supreme law,’ the ‘good of souls; (cf. Can. 1752).”

In conclusion, looking forward to the 2015 synod, which will also be on the family, Pope Francis said, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address:

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.
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A missionary Pope: Cardinal Etchegaray’s memory of Paul VI

Paul VI was a missionary Pope who wished to bring the light of the Gospel all over the world, a cardinal who worked with the late Roman Pontiff, who will be beatified on Sunday, has recalled.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 92, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, had a long term relation with Paul VI, whom he first met during the 1960s.

“I was serving as general secretary of the French bishops’ conference, and I met the-then Cardinal Montini, who showed great interest in European matters,” Cardinal Etchegaray said in an interview.

Giovani Battista Montini had served for several years in the Secretariat of State before being appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1954.

In his years in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Montini had been (from 1925 to 1933) the spiritual assistant to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, while as a young priest Fr. Roger Etchegaray had served as responsible of the Catholic Association in the Diocese of Bayonne.
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From bad to worse – religious persecution growing in China

The state of religious freedom in China is moving from bad to worse, said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), responding to a new report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

“There’s a huge gulf now” between China and the Catholic Church, Smith stated during an Oct. 9 conference call with reporters. He acknowledged that “the underground church has been brutally persecuted in China, both Protestant and Catholic,” but said that now even the state-recognized church is facing persecution.

“The Patriotic Church, the Catholic Church, they are being targeted with church demolitions and other kinds of repression which we have not seen before. So there’s a great deal of concern that religious freedom, as bad as it was, has further deteriorated in China.”

Smith and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) co-hosted the teleconference, focusing on the latest annual report from the human rights monitoring group, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Both lawmakers cited various ways that the Chinese government has infringed upon the freedom of its citizens, including gross violations of human rights and targeting churches.

Smith cited a statement from the report: “Chinese authorities continued to harass, detain, imprison, and interfere with the religious activities of members of both registered and unregistered Protestant communities who ran afoul of government or party policy.”
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Synod fathers laud miracle of conjugal love in final message

In their message to the faithful, the synod fathers praised the life-giving love between a man and a woman, which despite many challenges, endures through the grace given by God in the sacrament of marriage.

“Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved. In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties,” the Oct. 18 message read.

This love, it continued, “is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.”

Synod fathers for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family released their message to the people of God following almost two weeks of intense discussion on marriage and family life.

Meetings began on Oct. 5 and will conclude tomorrow, Oct. 19, with the beatification of Paul VI, institutor of the synod, which will be presided over by Pope Francis, and attended by Benedict XVI.

The synod’s message comes in the wake of the publication of the meeting’s controversial midterm report last weekend, which garnered from many bishops a call for the clarification of numerous phrases, as well as the shedding of a more positive light on the family and a greater reference to scripture. The final document is expected to be released Sunday, or perhaps this evening.

In the message to the faithful, the synod fathers explained that their preparations for the synod have included not only the questionnaire sent out to local Churches around the world, but also listening to many families and their experiences.

Because of this, “Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.”

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‘The Christian minority in India is under serious threat’

With the election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) as prime minister of India the country’s secular constitution has come under threat, a Catholic priest in India has charged.

Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a human rights activist in Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent.

“Especially under threat is the Christian minority because it is rejected by extremists as alien and because the Christian message is threat to the caste system,” the priest said in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

According to Father Kumar Singh – who is associated with the “Odisha Forum for Social Action” – the BJP aims to establish a state religion which excludes the lower castes and all minorities.

“They even want to impose only one language, Sanskrit, even though hundreds of languages are spoken in India,” he continued, adding that the strength of party and the movement it represents has become the strongest political force in India, taking many observers, including Church leaders and their flock, by surprise.

“It is important for us to understand what is happening. As a Church we must think way beyond the bounds of the individual dioceses; we must act regionally and nationally in order to find responses to this challenge,” the priest said.
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29th Sunday of Ordinary Time A

Reading I: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Responsorial Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.” (Gospel)

What Does God Look Like?

Years back, as a young professor of theology, I had a dream, to write a book on the question of faith. My hope was to shed some light on why God is hidden to us. Why don’t we see God physically? Why doesn’t God simply show himself to us in such a way that it would remove all doubt?

For a couple of years, in my spare time, I did some reseach. I prepared a bibliography on the question, looked up what many of the saints and classical theologians had to say on the issue, and I began to ask colleagues and friends what they thought. One day, sitting at table in our college cafeteria, I asked a colleague, an elderly man who had been one of my own mentos and who was now a professor emeritus, what he thought on the issue: “Why does God hide himself?” I asked, “Why doesn’t God just appear, physically, beyond doubt, and then we wouldn’t have to have faith, we would know God with certainty?”

His answer took me by surprise, especially because of its directness: He spoke very gently, as was his style, but, after his answer, I decided I would not write that book after all: “Your question is an interesting one,” he said, “If it is asked by a young person and asked with sufficient passion, it can seem like a profound question. But it is not, in the end, profound. What is betrays is a profound lack of understanding of the incarnation! But don’t be discouraged. It is a perennial question. It’s the one that Philip asked Jesus. The answer, therefore, that I will give you is the same one that Jesus gave him: ‘You can look at all you have seen and heard and still ask that question? To see certain things is to have seen the Father!’

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Resignation of the Archbishop of Malta and the nomination of the Apostolic Administrator

The Holy Father Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of His Grace Mgr. Paul Cremona O.P. from the office of Archbishop of Malta. Archbishop Cremona resigned for health reasons. The resignation is effective as of the 18th October 2014 at noon. Mgr Cremona acquires the title of Emeritus Archbishop of Malta. In a letter addressed to Mgr Cremona, the Holy Father thanked Archbishop Emeritus Cremona for his episcopal ministry, well known and appreciated for its human warmth and spiritual proximity to the people of God.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis has nominated His Lordship Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, Titular Bishop of San Leone, as Apostolic Administrator sede vacante with the authority to govern the Archdiocese of Malta until the new Archbishop of Malta takes canonical possession of the Archdiocese. During the period in which the Archiepiscopal See of Malta is vacant, ordinary pastoral ministry is guaranteed under the leadership of the Apostolic Administrator, but all innovative initiatives are to be put on hold for the new Archbishop to decide about them.

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Vindicated: why a maligned Pope will be beatified

He had the unenviable task of being Pope during a most “tumultuous” era for the Church, but Paul VI stood “deeply rooted in Christ” through it all, a theology professor has said.

“Pope Paul VI suffered greatly from the growing apostasy of the world from Christian values and from the distortions of the teaching of Vatican II,” said theology professor Dr. Alan Schreck of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “Through it all, he remained deeply rooted in Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

Giovanni Battista Montini – soon to be Blessed Paul VI — will be beatified Oct. 19, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family.

His cause for beatification moved forward after a miracle was attributed to his intercession by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and approved by Pope Francis in May.

Benedict XVI had affirmed his “heroic virtue” in 2012, officially recognizing him as “Venerable.”
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Secular institutes to explore evangelization in Far East

The general assembly of secular institutes in Asia, being held later this month in South Korea, is committed to finding new ways to share in the continent’s evangelization.

The Asian Conference of Secular Institutes (ACSI) meeting will be held for the first time at the Notre Dame Education Centre in Seoul Oct. 24 – 26.

“The delegates will reflect on the uniqueness of the charism of ‘secular consecration,’ which is still to be understood and appreciated,” Dr. Ivan Netto, president of ACSI, said.

First given papal recognition by Pius XII’s Provida Mater Ecclesia, secular institutes are societies of either clerics or laity whose members profess the evangelical counsels and who live in a secular condition for the sake of Christian perfection.

Members of secular institutes, though they profess the evangelical counsels, live in the world, unlike members of religious institutes, who live in communities.
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Amid criticism, Cardinal Marx supports synod’s midterm report

Even though the Synod on the Family’s midterm relatio was widely criticized by the bishops’ small groups, Cardinal Reinhard Marx affirmed it only needs to be balanced, while speaking at Friday’s synod press briefing.

The Archbishop of Munich and Freising also noted the importance of the document’s openings regarding the Church’s praxis toward homosexual persons and the divorced and remarried.

“There are those who defend the image of a Church who do not want to lose anything (in terms of doctrine), while others are pushing for a different path. The will to find a common ground is needed, and we have it: we have listened to everyone,” the German cardinal said Oct. 17

On the other hand, he stressed that “the (final) document cannot include everything that has been said within the small working groups: it would lead to a huge document.”

In the small groups’ reports released Thursday at the end of four days of discussion, the synod fathers had strongly criticized the structure of the synod’s midterm report.

The reports asked that the synod focus more on the positive examples of Christian families; to rewrite the introduction and to more often refer to the Gospel of Family; and also that it adopt a more prudent approach concerning the issues of the divorced and remarried, and homosexuals, in order not to produce confusion among the faithful about Church teaching.
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Coutts: “Asia Bibi’s case is an example of a broken family”

The Archbishop of Karachi, who is taking part in the Synod on the Family, says intolerance in Pakistan is a growing phenomenon

The case of Asia Bibi – innocent Christian and mother who was sentenced to death after being falsely accused of blasphemy – perfectly illustrates how a family in Pakistan is broken as a result of injustice and intolerance.” Joseph Coutts, who serves as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Karachi, Pakistan, and is one of the participants at the Synod Assembly in the Vatican, turned his thoughts to “all the Pakistani families who are going through suffering and division: for example, all those Christians and Muslims who are unjustly accused of blasphemy.” They are victims of Pakistan’s manipulated blasphemy law. The law is used to settle private controversies, as well as for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

Coutts spoke ahead of Asia Bibi’s hearing before the Lahore High Court. After endless postponements, it seems that a college of judges has been found and that the case will finally be heard, unless there are any last minute surprises. The defence is to present the Court with a memorandum that will overturn all evidence against her and prove that the case was a deliberate set up and that the accusations are clearly false.

“I am convinced that we will be able to obtain an acquittal with regards to the false accusation of blasphemy. This will happen if the Court’s decision is based on the principles established in the criminal justice system and whether or not it will be influenced by the pressures of sectarian groups and extremists,” lawyer Naeem Shakir told Fides news agency in recent days.
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African cardinal: Pressure groups behind push to change Church teaching

Innacurate media reports about Church teaching on homosexuality published after the synod’s midterm relatio are an attempt to pressure the Church to change its perennial teaching, a cardinal who is also a synod father has affirmed.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, emphasized that “what has been published by the media about homosexual unions is an attempt to push the Church (to change) her doctrine.”

“The Church has never judged homosexual persons, but homosexual behavior and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality,” the cardinal, who is from the west African nation of Guinea, added.

Among the criticisms of the synod’s midterm report was the absence of some important statements, a point raised especially by some of the bishops from Africa.

Cardinal Sarah affirmed, however, that “some very important topics are reported in the relatio,” as for example “the Church’s refusal to promote policies linked to gender (theory) in exchange for financial aid.”

“This has been explicitly said in Cardinal Erdo’s relatio, and it is a relevant issue for developing countries as well as for the western countries,” the cardinal stressed.

Cardinal Sarah denounced the “government and some international organizations attempting to suppress the notion of te natural family, based on the man-woman relation; and the Church cannot be silent.”

The relatio read that it is not “acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.”
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Synod: “Circoli minores” say final document should present positive family models

Yesterday the ten language groups presented amendments and additions to the working document published earlier this week. The debate over communion for remarried divorcees has begun in view of the 2015 Synod meeting. Bishops are exercising caution with regard to same-sex unions

The need to present positive Christian family models. The Gospel of the Family. But also the Church’s promise of mercy for families in irregular situations. These were the recurring themes of the speeches delivered at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October) in the Vatican today. The topics were presented by the ten circuli minores, the different language groups the bishops have been split into (3 Italian groups, three English Groups, two Spanish and two French groups) and the contributions published by the Vatican. These are amendments to the relatio post disceptationem, the document which summarised the first week of discussions and will be voted on on Saturday afternoon. After this, the final document, the relatio synodi, will be published. The debate focused on two areas in particular: communion for remarried divorcees, which remains an open question and same-sex couples. Some groups urged caution regarding the openness the relatio post disceptationem showed towards such couples.

“While some Synod Fathers say: ‘Be careful, we should not forget about the doctrine’, there is also a need for accompaniment in certain situations, hence the Pope’s references to [the Church as] a field hospital,” the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn – who spoke in today’s briefing – said. “In families it often happens that the mother says ‘it’s too dangerous’, while the father says ‘no, don’t be scared’. We are all part of a big family.”
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Asia Bibi’s death sentence sparks outrage from Pakistan’s Christians

The Lahore High Court’s rejection on Thursday of Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence, passed by a lower court, has dismayed Christians and others in Pakistan.

Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said Oct. 16 that the decision was “heartbreaking.”

Bibi, a Christian, was convicted under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in 2010. She allegedly made derogatory comments against Muhammad while arguing with a Muslim woman.

She has denied the allegations, and says the case stems from an argument she had with a Muslim woman over a pot of water. During his Nov. 17, 2010 General Audience address, Benedict XVI urged that she be granted “complete freedom … as soon as possible.”

Her lawyers intend to submit her case to Pakistan’s Supreme Court within the allotted 30 days.

The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an inter-denominational organization working for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, as assisted and supported her legal defense team.
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Priests in favour of ‘gay marriage’ spark controversy in Chile

The secular press in Chile is defending three priests who have come out in support of ‘gay marriage’ and is accusing Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago of denouncing the priests to the Vatican.

The Archdiocese of Santiago issued a statement on Oct.13 denying that the Chilean cardinal had denounced Fathers Felipe Berrios, Mariano Puga and Jose Alduate. Likewise, a Vatican source confirmed to CNA that Cardinal Ezzati has not in fact initiated any process against the priests, although it said the Holy See was aware of the stance they have taken, which it finds “very troubling.”

In June of this year, Jesuit Father Felipe Berrios stirred controversy with comments on a television program defending “gay marriage,” calling the defense of life a matter of opinion and criticizing the canonization of St. John Paul II.

After four years in Africa, Fr. Berrios returned to Chile and gave an extensive interview on Chilean television criticizing Church teaching. Similar statements in the past forced the Jesuit superior in Chile to ask the priest to make a public apology.

Asked about “same-sex marriage,” Fr. Berrios said the Church’s position differs from that of Pope Francis and that he doesn’t have a problem with such unions.

“Gays and lesbians are telling me that sexuality between them is much deeper than that between a man and a woman. They are broadening my outlook on sexuality, they are making me much more humane. Why can’t they get married? If they are the ones who marry each other and the State recognizes the marriage, why can’t they do it? In other words, enough is enough,” the priest said.

Previously, Fr. Berrios spoke out on the debate over the legalization of abortion in Chile and suggested that the Church’s stance on defense of human life is a matter of opinion.

“For me life is an untouchable gift from God from the moment of conception to natural death. But that is my experience. The same respect that I have for life as a gift from God makes me respect the opinions of others,” he said.

At another point during the interview, Fr. Berrios slammed St. John Paul II, saying that in “the 1980s liberation theology was cut short “and the Church closed in on itself” and “ended up rotting.”
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Violence subsides in Central African capital, but what next?

Violence has subsided in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui after a week of conflict, but the lack of security and an ineffective justice system are enduring problems, a relief worker in the country has said.

“A tense calm prevails over Bangui, as it has for many months, interspersed with violent spells,” Leann Hager, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative in the Central African Republic, said.

Monday marked “the start, albeit slow, of the return to normal,” she said.

Last week, the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui became the scene of clashes involving heavy gunfire and explosions. The violence was triggered by a grenade attack that injured several pedestrians, the BBC reports.

Violence broke out in Central African Republic in December 2012. Seleka rebels, loosely organized groups that drew primarily Muslim fighters from other countries, ousted the president and installed their own leader in a March 2013 coup.

The Seleka were officially disbanded, but its members continued to commit crimes such as pillaging, looting, rape and murder.

In September 2013, after 10 months of terrorism at the hands of the Seleka, “anti-balaka” self-defense groups began to form. The anti-balaka picked up momentum in November, and the conflict in the nation took on a sectarian character, as some anti-balaka, many of whom are Christian, began attacking Muslims out of revenge for the Seleka’s acts.

As the conflict continued, it crossed political, tribal, and religious groups, leaving thousands dead and more than 1 million displaced.

Despite a ceasefire signed in July 2014 and the implementation of a transitional government, the country has yet to achieve lasting peace and stability.

The most recent fighting in Bangui left at least 10 people dead, including three children. A U.N. humanitarian official told Reuters that children have been used to man several barricades in the capital.

Hager said the national capital of Bangui suffered sporadic violence for a week, but the political standstill is “ostensibly over” now that anti-Balaka rebels have withdrawn their demands for the president’s resignation. After negotiations, anti-Balaka commander Patrice Ngaissona is being brought into the government and two imprisoned anti-Balaka individuals will be released.
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