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Although Ireland's new abortion law takes effect Jan. 1, by mid-December only 8 percent of family doctors had signed up to provide the terminations.
An Irish bishop, John McAreavey of Dromore, resigned March 1 after increased criticism over how he dealt with revelations of an abusive priest.
Catholic families in a cross-community housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland, have been forced to leave their homes after a sectarian threat, thought to be from Protestant paramilitaries.
The priests believe that introducing male deacons at this time would add "another male clerical layer to ministry" which was "insensitive, disrespectful of women and counter-productive at this present critical time."