Papal envoy to face sex abuse inquiry

The Dominican Republic’s Catholic archbishop confirmed that the Vatican will investigate the country’s recently removed papal envoy over allegations of child sex abuse.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López told reporters late Tuesday that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski will be investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that deals with abuse allegations. “This is an extremely serious issue . . . the most serious of its kind for the Holy See,” López said.

A Vatican spokesman had previously said the church was investigating Wesolowski, 65, but gave no details, and Dominican church officials denied allegations of child sex abuse.

López’s comments came soon after Dominican prosecutor Bolivar Sanchez said he had interviewed seven boys ages 13 to 18 in the case, three of whom work on the streets of the capital, Santo Domingo.

— Associated Press

Human chain formed for Catalan autonomy

Several hundred thousand people demanding an independent Catalonia joined hands Wednesday to form a 250-mile human chain across the northeastern region of Spain.

The demonstration, which organizers estimated drew about 400,000 people, aimed to illustrate local support for political efforts to break away from Spain. Catalonia claims a deep cultural difference based on its language, which is spoken side-by-side with Spanish in the wealthy region.

Catalonia’s leader, Artur Mas, has pledged to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, although the Madrid government has said such a vote would be unconstitutional. Surveys in the region of 7.5 million people indicate that support for independence is around 50 percent.

— Associated Press

‘Umbrella’ inquiry to end after 35 years

Bulgaria will close its investigation of the murder of dissident Georgi Markov in London more than three decades ago, one of the most infamous unsolved assassinations of the Cold War, an official said Wednesday.

Markov was attacked in London on Sept. 7, 1978, and died four days later. The 30-year statute of limitations ended in 2008 and was extended by five years at Britain's request. No evidence has ever been tied to a suspect, said Rumiana Arnaudova of Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor’s office, adding that there was no reason to continue the investigation.

Markov was a writer who defected in 1969 and became an outspoken critic of Bulgaria’s communist regime, which collapsed in 1989. He was attacked on London’s Waterloo Bridge by someone who stabbed his leg with the ricin-laced tip of an umbrella.

— Bloomberg News

Death penalty sought in New Delhi gang-rape case: An Indian court heard sentencing arguments in the case of four men convicted Tuesday of raping and murdering a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in December, with the prosecution arguing that leniency would be a travesty in such a heinous crime and defense attorneys citing extenuating circumstances. The sentence will be handed down Friday.

Thousands flee fighting in southern Philippines: Clashes between Muslim rebels and Philippine troops forced about 13,000 people to flee their homes in the nation’s south, complicating peace efforts after four decades of insurgency. At least five people have been killed and 36 wounded in three days of fighting between troops and Moro National Liberation Front rebels, who are holding about 100 hostages, officials said.

Nine ministers fired in Nigeria: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan dismissed nine ministers in his first major cabinet reshuffle as he looked to rally support in an increasingly divided ruling party. The dismissals, which did not involve key finance and oil positions but did include the foreign affairs portfolio, came less than two weeks after seven ruling party governors and a former presidential candidate formed a splinter group opposed to Jonathan.

Mosque targeted in Baghdad: A car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the Iraqi capital Wednesday evening, killing at least 15 people, police and medical officials said. It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack in the northwestern Kasra district, but Sunni Islamist militants who view Shiites as nonbelievers have mounted near-daily attacks this year.

Muslim girl in Germany must join swim class: A court in Germany ruled that a Muslim girl cannot be excused from mixed-sex swimming lessons on the grounds of religious belief. The 13-year-old from Frankfurt had argued that the sight of bare-chested male students offended her sense of modesty and that wearing a full-body “burkini” swimsuit herself, as the school had suggested, would invite discrimination.

— From news services