Catholic bishops at synod reaffirm priestly celibacy
VATICAN CITY -- Rejecting any change to celibacy for priests, bishops from around the world suggested dioceses share clergy and step up recruiting to cope with a priest shortage that makes it difficult for many Roman Catholics to attend Mass regularly, the Vatican said Saturday. The 250 prelates attending the Synod of Bishops have drawn up an initial set of proposals to vote on in the coming week and present to Pope Benedict XVI for his consideration in a future document. The Vatican released summaries of various working groups that drafted the proposals, none of which suggested reconsidering the requirement that priests remain celibate. Several reaffirmed the value of a celibate priesthood.
Bombs planted at Iranian shopping center kill four
TEHRAN, Iran -- Two bombs planted inside trash bins exploded Saturday at a shopping mall near the Iraqi border that was previously targeted by extremists, killing four people and wounding at least 102, Iranian state television reported. The explosions struck a shopping center in central Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province. Shops in Naderi street and cars outside were damaged. Some of the injured were in critical condition, the broadcast said, showing pools of blood on the pavement. Provincial official Gholam Reza Shariati said the bombs were planted inside two trash bins. He said the number of injured was high because the attacks occurred during the evening rush hour as pedestrians returned home from work.
Ousted Ecuadorean president returns home
QUITO, Ecuador -- A former president who was ousted from office returned to Ecuador Friday in a bid to regain power, but he was arrested moments after his plane landed. About 15 heavily armed police boarded Lucio Gutierrez's chartered aircraft when it rolled to a stop in the Pacific coast city of Manta Friday evening after a flight from the Colombian capital, Bogota. Gutierrez remained calm as he was taken off the aircraft and led to another plane where he was transferred to the main prison in the capital, Quito. "I respect the police. This is yet another demonstration that they are violating my rights," Gutierrez told reporters before boarding the aircraft for Quito.
Rice fails to win new support in Russia
MOSCOW -- Condoleezza Rice could not win new support from Russia for hauling Iran before the U.N. Security Council, but the U.S. secretary of state said Saturday that option remains open "at a time of our choosing." Washington and its European allies are waiting to see if a defiant Iran will return to diplomatic talks over its disputed nuclear program. If not, they say they will invoke the threat of economic penalties or other punishment from the Security Council. After hastily arranged and unexpectedly lengthy meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Rice said Moscow is trying to push its ally Iran back to the bargaining table. But there was no sign that Russia was prepared to back an effort to have the International Atomic Energy Agency refer Iran's case to the Security Council.
Pope attracts 100,000 to children's festival
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI acted as host for his first youth festival Saturday in St. Peter's Square, drawing about 100,000 children and their parents to an afternoon of singing and break-dancing reminiscent of the gatherings inspired by the late Pope John Paul II. Children in yellow and red T-shirts leapfrogged over one another on the steps of St. Peter's as the late-afternoon ceremony got under way. Benedict extended the invitation to children who had made their First Communion in 2005, the year John Paul set aside to celebrate the Eucharist. And John Paul's spirit was very much present at Saturday's gathering, with announcers referring to him repeatedly and a montage of the late pope's many meetings with children broadcast by RAI state television as part of the production.
-- From wire reports
U.S. denies U.N. claims of food cut off to Iraqis
GENEVA -- A U.N. rights advocate accused U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq of cutting off food and water to force civilians to flee before launching attacks on insurgent strongholds -- a claim the U.S. military flatly denied. Jean Ziegler, a U.N. expert on food rights, cited reports from private organizations and the media in making the accusations. He said the Geneva Conventions on warfare, which form the basis of international humanitarian law, forbid denying food to civilians. "This is a flagrant violation of international law," he told reporters on Friday. A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, dismissed the criticism as inaccurate. "Any accusations of coalition forces refusing basic needs from the citizens of Iraq are completely false," he said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.