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Six news briefs from Ireland and beyond

Willowfield Parish Church ready to open magnificent new facilities*
The official ceremony is at 11am on Saturday (May 20) and among those in attendance will be Belfast’s High Sherriff, politicians, local community and church leaders, former Northern Ireland international footballer Stuart Elliot and some members of the Ulster Rugby team. Willowfield Church’s stated vision and purpose is:  ‘In the community, for the community’. Driven by that objective, the halls have been extensively modernised and extended in the hope of providing a space for all.

*Indicates a longer report in tomorrow’s bulletin
Reports say wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be Ambassador to Vatican

Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will be Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, two U.S. news outlets are reporting. The New York Times and CNN reported May 14 that the official announcement of the nomination is waiting to be approved by the Office of Government Ethics. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a May 15 news briefing..

Labour waters down Northern Ireland abortion pledge*

The Labour Party has toned down its promise to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, pledging instead to “work with” the Stormont Assembly on the issue. In a draft manifesto leaked last week, the party said it would “continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.” The wording led to concerns

Catholic Bishops emphasise protection of EU citizens rights in general election guidance*

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued guidance for the forthcoming general election, urging Catholics to question candidates on issues including Brexit, family policy and migration. In a letter due to be distributed to parishes this weekend, the bishops said the election will determine “to a great extent” the approach taken to leaving the European Union as well as “the values we wish to…

Home Office overturns decision to deny Syrian woman minister entrance to Scotland

The Home Office has overturned a decision to refuse to grant a visa to the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world, scheduled to attend the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this weekend. Rev Rola Sleiman was invited by the Kirk to attend their annual meeting and said its world mission council confirmed to the UK Visas and Immigration department last month that her expenses would be covered during her eight-day stay. She later received a letter saying her visa application had been unsuccessful because the UK government was not convinced about claims concerning her incomes or that her expenses during the trip would be covered. However, the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan has now informed the World Mission Council that it has reviewed her case and has decided to grant her permission to enter the UK.The first female pastor in the Arab Christian world  described the decision to refuse her a visa to visit Scotland this week as “humiliating”. The 42 year old, who is currently a parish minister in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, said: “The mentality they have that we are eagerly wanting to leave our country using fraud reasons is humiliating”.

Over 450 students took part in the Tuam Diocesan Youth Concert ‘Awakening’

Over 450 students took part in the Tuam Diocesan Youth Concert ‘Awakening’ on Thursday, 4 May in Breaffy Arena, Castlebar. The 2017 Awakening concert was a culmination of several months of preparation by Religious Education and Music teachers from 19 different secondary schools throughout the Archdiocese of Tuam. Awakening 2017 was more than just a celebration of modern church and contemporary music, it was a real spectacle of talent showcasing the musical and creative genius of almost 500 young people. All the more impressive, the choirs and orchestras from the 19 schools only came together for the first time on the day of the concert, having been practicing in their own schools since Christmas.
Over 700 people turned up at Breaffy Arena on the night to show their support for the incredible production of music, dance and song. Father John Kenny, parish priest of Partry acted as MC for the concert.