Religion news in brief

Push for family unity in immigration bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Religious and labor leaders are criticizing plans by senators writing an immigration bill to boost employment-based immigration and limit visas granted to people because of family ties.

On a conference call Wednesday, officials representing the Roman Catholic Church, the AFL-CIO and others said that family immigration is a cornerstone of the nation’s immigration policy and that shouldn’t change. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says immigration reform should work to unite families, not divide them.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and others involved in writing a comprehensive immigration bill say U.S. citizens should only be able to sponsor immediate family members to join them in the U.S. — not siblings and others as is now allowed. Instead they want more visas for people with job prospects or educational achievements.

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Pa. woman sues church, shrine, alleges priest abuse

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A new priest-abuse lawsuit accuses church and local authorities of letting a Philadelphia-area priest flee to Poland during a stalled investigation.

The lawsuit says the priest assaulted a woman last year while counseling her at a Roman Catholic shrine in Bucks County.

The woman volunteered at Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown. The Associated Press is not naming the accused priest because he could not be reached for comment.

He belongs to the Pauline Fathers, a religious order at the shrine. A woman who answered the phone Wednesday said the Pauline supervisors were “in prayer” and not available.

The suit also accuses Bucks County prosecutors and Philadelphia archdiocese officials of failing to pursue the complaint and letting the priest flee.

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Judge finds Okla. bomb suspect mentally unfit

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Illinois man accused of plotting to bomb dozens of Oklahoma churches has been found temporarily mentally unfit to stand trial.

Prosecutors allege that Gregory Weiler of Elk Grove Village plotted to destroy 48 churches in northeastern Oklahoma. On Wednesday, a judge in Tulsa ordered that Weiler be sent to a Bureau of Prisons facility for mental health treatment.

Weiler’s public defender says his client has been hospitalized numerous times in the past five years for mental health issues that include depression and bipolar disorder.

At the hearing, Weiler gave a brief, rambling speech before a court official pulled away his microphone.

A federal grand jury indictment charges Weiler with one count of possessing an unregistered, destructive device, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

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Forum to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

BOWIE, Md. (AP) — Scholars will discuss the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and message during a free public conference at Bowie State University.

Friday’s inaugural conference commemorates the 45th anniversary of King’s assassination, which took place on April 4, 1968 in Memphis.

Organizers say that Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, will open the conference.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, a noted civil rights scholar and associate professor of African American history at Fairfield University, will give the keynote address.

Organizers say that the conference will also feature sessions led by experts who address topics that deal with King’s leadership practice and his commitment to nonviolence.

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Philippines, Muslim rebels expect peace pact soon

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials and the largest Muslim rebel group in the country said Wednesday that they expect to conclude a peace accord as early as next month despite unresolved issues, including the delicate task of disarming the 11,000-strong guerrilla force.

Government negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front separately said that a peace pact could be reached in May or June. They expressed confidence that the remaining issues could be resolved in the next round of negotiations this month in Malaysia, which has been brokering the talks.

“I believe it will be signed because there is no other way except to move forward,” Iqbal told a news conference in Manila when asked whether a pact could be reached as early as next month.

Iqbal called on Malaysia and other foreign governments to continue backing the yearslong talks, saying he and fellow guerrillas now believe that peace can reign in once battle-wracked Muslim regions.

The Muslim separatist uprising in the country’s south, homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, has left more than 100,000 people dead since the early 1970s, held back progress in impoverished Muslim regions and sparked fears that rebel strongholds could help breed al-Qaida-linked militants, who have been crippled by crackdowns elsewhere.

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Vandal destroys 6-foot concrete Jesus statue outside Illinois church

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (AP) — Rock Island police are investigating after a man destroyed a 100-year-old statue of Jesus outside a Catholic church.

The 6-foot-tall concrete statue was damaged on Easter. A surveillance video shows a man pushing and pulling the 750-pound icon to the ground on Sunday night.

On Monday, church members were surveying the damage. The statue was lying on the ground, with both arms broken off, a missing shoulder and a crack running the length of its body.

The head of security at Sacred Heart Church tells the Rock Island Argus that the damage is “heartbreaking.”

Parishioners plans to raise money to try to replace the statue, which is valued at about $20,000.

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