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Abortion bill passes in Argentina’s House of Representatives

June 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 14, 2018 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- By a vote of 129 to 125 with one abstention, Argentina’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would legalize abortion in the first trimester.  

The Argentine Bishops’ Conference voiced sorrow over the passage of the bill.

“As Argentinians, this decision pains us,” said a statement from the Executive Committee and the Committee for the Laity and the Family.

However, they added, “the sorrow over forgetting and excluding the innocents must be transformed into strength and hope to continue fighting for the dignity of every human life.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives in a session lasting more than 20 hours.

It will now be sent to the Senate, and then to President Mauricio Macri, who has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic and said that he personally opposes the legislation but will not veto it if Congress approves it.

The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

The bill passed Thursday, however, would allow abortion on demand up to the 14th week of gestation. Minors under 16 could get an abortion without having to inform their parents.

Health care workers under the bill could be eligible for conscience-based objections to participating in an abortion if they make such a request in advance “individually and in writing” to the director of their medical center. Institutions and health care facilities as a whole would not be allowed to conscientiously object to abortion.

Unidad Provida, (Pro-Life Unity), an Argentine NGO that serves as an umbrella group for some 100 pro-life organizations, called the House passage of the bill “lamentable,” but assured that this outcome “does not intimidate us. It strengthens [our resolve].”

Pro-Life Unity praised “the courage of the representatives who rose up in defense of women and unborn children, raising their voices for those whom others want to silence with their systematic elimination.”

Now, the group said, “the Argentine Senate will have the opportunity to correct this dangerous threat to human rights and to honor the will of the nation’s people.”

“We will only be able to build a more just Argentina by basing ourselves on unwavering respect for everyone’s right to life, especially protecting the most vulnerable,” the pro-life network said.

 

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Police in Chile raid church offices during sex abuse investigation

June 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Rancagua, Chile, Jun 14, 2018 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Authorities raided Catholic church offices in Chile on Wednesday in an effort to obtain documents relating to the recent sex abuse scandal which has sparked the resignation of more than 30 bishops in the country.

During the surprise raid, police seized documents and files relating to the ongoing clergy abuse investigation from the Santiago Ecclesiastical Court and the bishop’s office in Rancagua in central Chile on June 13. According to the Associated Press, there are 14 priests in the area who have been accused of child sexual abuse.

Jorge Abbott, the attorney general, said the goal of the raid was to seek “cooperation in the investigations we are carrying out with respect to abuses suffered by minors,” and noted he was satisfied with the information they gathered from the search, according to AP.

The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, said church officials “gave the prosecutor all the requested documentation,” saying the church is “available to cooperate with the civilian justice system in all that is required.”

The raid comes just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros from his post in the Chilean diocese of Osorno, after he was accused of covering up the crimes of notorious abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Christian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia de Cortazar of Valparaiso, who had reached the normal retirement age for bishops. So far, the pope has officially accepted three resignations, although more could follow. All of the country’s active bishops submitted their resignations at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country’s bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

In January, the Vatican began to investigate the claims of alleged child sexual abuse in Chile, which found that for years, many Chilean bishops had not reported claims of sexual abuse. Before the 2,300-page report on the scandal was published, Pope Francis had originally defended Barros, saying the accusations brought against him were untrue.

Since the investigation, which was headed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, Pope Francis has offered his apologies, noting he made “serious mistakes” throughout the investigation due to faulty information. He has met with two rounds of abuse victims to ask for forgiveness.

Archbishop Scicluna and Msgr. Bertomeu, who have been tasked with advancing “the process of healing and reparation for abuse victims,” are visiting Osorno, Chile this week in an effort to express Pope Francis’ solidarity with the local Church and help provide legal assistance to the diocesan curias in handling abuse allegations.

 

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In Osorno, Pope’s investigators offer legal advice on responding to abuse

June 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Osorno, Chile, Jun 12, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The archbishop tasked with investigating the Chilean clerical abuse crisis said the main objective of his current visit to the diocese of Osorno is not only to express Pope Francis’ closeness to the local Church, but to help provide the legal structures needed to handle abuse accusations.

“In respect to our pastoral mission, we wish in first place to be a sign of the closeness of the pope to the people and Church of Chile,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna said in a June 12 statement read aloud to the press in Osorno.

Another goal of the visit, he said, is “to provide concrete technical and legal assistance to the diocesan curias of Chile, so that they can give adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors committed by priests or religious.”

The archbishop stressed Francis’ particular closeness to the Diocese of Osorno, saying the visit will be carried out in a spirit “of service and of communion, in a context of prayer, of liturgical celebration and of mutual listening and cordiality.”

Scicluna, who heads the Archdiocese of Malta, is the Vatican’s top authority on sex abuse appeals cases. In addition to his post in Malta, Scicluna in 2015 was tapped by Francis to oversee the team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He served as the congregation’s Promoter of Justice for 17 years beginning in 1995, and is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse.

The archbishop is currently on a June 12-19 pastoral mission to the Chilean Dioceses of Osorno and Santiago with Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, an official of the Vatican’s doctrine office.

The two men, who have been tasked with advancing “the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile, will spend June 14-17 in the Diocese of Osorno, and the remainder of their time in the Archdiocese of Santiago.

In February the pair was sent to Santiago to investigate the clerical abuse crisis in Chile, which in the beginning largely surrounded accusations of cover-up on the part of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who was named to the Osorno diocese in 2015. His appointment was widely opposed, with many accusing the bishop of covering the crimes of notorious Chilean abuser, Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis has accepted Barros’ resignation and that of two other Chilean bishops. Every active bishop in Chile had submitted his resignation at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country’s bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

Francis had initially defended Barros, saying he believed the accusations against him were “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January. However, after new evidence was presented and news of old evidence resurfaced following his trip, the pope sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile to investigate, resulting a 2,300 page report on the crisis which prompted the pope to pen a letter to Chilean bishops in April saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the case.

Since then, Pope Francis has met with all Chilean bishops and two groups of Chilean abuse survivors at the Vatican.

In his statement to the press, Scicluna entrusted the Osorno mission to the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, to the Venerable Servant of God Francisco Valdes Subercaseaux, first bishop of Osorno, and to Chilean Saints Alberto Hurtado and Teresa of the Andes.

Quoting from Pope Francis’ recent letter to Chilean Catholics, Scicluna said the pope’s appeal for them to take action “is not a functional resource or a gesture of goodwill; on the contrary, it is to invoke the anointing that as God’s people they possess.”

“With you, the necessary steps can be made for ecclesial renewal and conversion which healthy and long-term. You can generate the transformation that is so needed. Without you, nothing can be done,” the archbishop said.

Continuing to quote the text, he urged all Chilean Catholics “not to be afraid to get involved and walk impelled by the Spirit in search of a Church which is everyday more synodal, prophetic and hopeful; less abusive because it knows how to put Jesus at the center in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the migrant, in the abused.”

Scicluna closes his statement thanking Chilean Catholics for their welcome and for the opportunity that “in community, we will give in these days of grace to continue rebuilding justice and ecclesial communion in Chile, as Pope Francis has asked us all.”

 

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Pro-lifers in Argentina make final push against abortion bill

June 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 12, 2018 / 03:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As legislators in Argentina prepare to vote tomorrow on a bill that would legalize first-trimester abortions, pro-life groups have been working adamantly to oppose the legislation.  

Argentina’s House of Representatives will vote June 13 on a bill to allow legal abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The vote is expected to be close.

If the bill passes in the House, it will be sent to the Senate, and then to President Mauricio Macri, who has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic and said that he personally opposes the legislation but will not veto it if Congress approves it.

The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

On June 5, some 417,000 signatures were presented to Congress in support of the right to life of the unborn. More signatures are being collected, to be delivered on June 12 by children and young people with disabilities. Pro-life groups have emphasized that babies with disabilities will be at risk for abortion if the legislation passes.

Tens of thousands of people turned out June 10 for pro-life marches in the country’s main cities. A previous march held May 20 drew an estimated 3,600,000 participants in 270 cities.

Unidad Provida, (Pro-Life Unity), an Argentine NGO that serves as an umbrella group for some 100 pro-life organizations, has launched a Twitter campaign for the day of the vote with two hashtags, #Salvemoslas2Vidas (Save Both Lives) and #NoAlAbortoEnArgentina (No to Abortion in Argentina).

“We need the support of our Latin American brothers and sisters in this crucial time for our country…We don’t want this throwaway politics. We believe abortion is never the solution and we are standing up for ‘Let’s Save Both Lives,’” Pro-Life Unity said in a press release.

Other pro-life efforts include the Jericho for Life prayer campaign, which will surround the capitol starting at 5:00 p.m. local time June 12, pray the rosary and conclude with a consecration of Argentina to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, led by clergy.

That effort will be followed by a prayer vigil entitled “40 Days for Life Argentina Prays for Both Lives.” The vigil will run from 6:00 p.m. June 12 to 8:00 a.m. June 13, in front of the nation’s capitol building.

Opposition came in even from Iraq, where Argentine missionary Fr. Luis Montes posted an open letter to members of Congress on Facebook, in which he compared abortion to ISIS atrocities, saying that in both cases, victims are “dehumanized.”

Previous efforts to oppose the abortion bill included a day of prayer and fasting called by the Argentine Conference of Bishops on June 7. The bishops also called for a prayer campaign from May 13 to June 3 which was supported by the Argentine Conference of Men and Women Religious.

A column published May 30 in La Nación daily and signed by more than 1,000 doctors argued against the legalization of abortion.

“Far from resolving problems,” the doctors wrote, “abortion is a failure for medicine.”

 

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Church leaders in Nicaragua appeal for unity, peace as crisis continues

June 11, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 11, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- As unrest centered on protests of president Daniel Ortega continues unabated in Nicaragua, bishops in the country are calling for unity and peace.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that at least 127 people have been killed in the protests. Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office.

Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, called June 11 for a free Nicaragua “without tyrants, or victims, like a great house in which all of us live joyfully, without tears or blood, in liberty and social justice.”

Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors’ complaints, and mediated a short-lived dialogue between the government and protestors.

Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout the country, and clashes frequently turn lethal.

Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa exhorted Nicaraguans during his June 10 homily to join “the immense majority” of the population which is asking for an urgent change in the country since “Nicaragua can no longer tolerate this.”

“The people of God must beware the lies that try to divide,” Bishop Álvarez said. “This is the hour for unity in Nicaragua.”

Fr. Vicente Martínez Bermúdez, a priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa, has reported that over the weekend he was detained by a group of 20 hooded men and threatened with death. Another prirest of the Matagalpa diocese was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protestors and security forces, the AP reported.

In Jinotega, Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutierrez brought the body of a 17-year-old protestor home to his mother June 9.

Bishop Herrera said that he was asked by the national police to intercede during protests the prior evening so that people who were manning barricades would not continue to advance, “and remain peaceful.”

The bishop spoke to the protestors, and “when I left I had reached an agreement that the demonstrators at the barricades would advance no further,” he stated.

But minutes later “they reported to me giving evidence that paramilitary groups controlled by the city government, coming from outside the city, attacked those at the barricades, who remained  peaceful until they were attacked,” Bishop Herrera said.

“In addition the townspeople insisted the riot police opened fire on the civilians who were at the barricades,” he reported.

He spoke to the mayor of Jinotega and the head of the national police, who “denied their involvement in the repressive actions.”

“I was left with no other choice but to personally go out (accompanied by some priests and faithful) at 11 o’clock at night to care for the injured and to transport the body of young Abraham Antonio Castro Jarquín, who sadly died as a result of these confrontations,” he stated.

Bishop Herrera urged demonstrators to “show tolerance and act with respect,” and asked the municipal authorities “not to use violence” because “you will bring on more mourning and an uncontrollable spiral of violence which we will all regret.”

Bishop Herrara asked the faithful to continue to pray for peace, “keep up your petitions and practice mercy with all the needy, especially in emergency situations. We area all responsible to provide assistance in times of crisis, to give a better response to this crisis.”

“I hope that we will all contribute to build peace and stability in our city, where we may have  guarantees to freely express our opinions,” he said.

Nicaragua’s bishops met with Ortega June 7 to discuss the country’s crisis and possible resumption of the suspended national dialogue. The dialogue among the Ortegas, business owners, students, and farmers began May 16 and collapsed May 23.

They issued a statement afterwards conveying to him “the pain and anguish of the people in face of the violence suffered in recent weeks” and to give him “a proposal that brings together the sentiments of many sectors of Nicaraguan society and expresses the strong desire of the vast majority of the population.”

The prelates stated that when the president “has formally responded, we will convene the full session  of the national dialogue to assess that response and therefore the feasibility of continuing with the same national dialogue.”

The dialogue cannot be resume while Nicaraguans continue to be denied the right to demonstrate freely and are “repressed and assasinated”, the bishops stated.

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua called on Catholics to pray the rosary daily for peace in the country.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega’s administration.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega’s authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Chilean diocese opens investigation of priest accused of sexual abuse

June 8, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Linares, Chile, Jun 8, 2018 / 02:22 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Diocese of Linares confirmed Wednesday the receipt of a complaint of alleged sexual abuse by Fr.  Germán Cáceres Fuentes.

The diocese explained in a June 6 statement that a preliminary investigation has begun and Fr. Cáceres has been removed from ministry until the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is obtained.

It was also determined that the priest has the obligation to remain in the diocese and be available when required “within the next 48 hours for any proceedings” of the investigation.

They also requested the “cooperation of everyone who could contribute pertinent or relevant information in this investigation.”

“Bishop Tomislav Koljatic and the diocesan Church of Linares reiterate their total commitment to determining the truth and total rejection of any kind of abuse against minors and/or vulnerable persons. It also thus reaffirms its commitment to the support and accompaniment of the victims. And it asks the Lord that this pain and suffering be the source of the transformation and healing that our Church and communities need,” the statement concluded.

Fr. Cáceres has been serving as pastor of Santa Rosa parish in Melozal, fewer than 20 miles northwest of Linares.

On June 5, the Linares diocese issued a statement on the canonical situation of Fr. Ramón Iturra Muñoz, accused of sexually abusing minors and whose case file was sent to the Holy See in July 2017.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith established “the plausibility of said accusation” and requested that the investigation be widened to other parishes where the priest had previously been assigned.

“Given this determination, another precautionary measure is added which is the prohibition of publicly exercising the priestly ministry until the final verdict,” the diocese stated.

Clerical sex abuse in Chile has been in the spotlight since Pope Francis’ visit to the country in January.

The pope was asked about  Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, whom he appointed Bishop of Osorno in 2015. Bishop Barros has been accused of covering up abuse committed by  Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors, and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

Pope Francis initially defended Bishop Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop’s guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during his January trip to Chile. He later relented, and sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to investigate the situation in the country.

After receiving Archbishop Scicluna’s report, Francis apologized, said he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the country’s bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

He met with Chile’s bishops May 15-17. As a result, each of them tendered letters of resignation, which Pope Francis has yet to accept or reject. The pope also gave the bishops a lettter chastising them for systemic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.

The pope has twice met at the Vatican with groups of Fr. Karadima’s victims, in April and in June.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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More than 400,000 pro-life signatures presented to Argentine legislature

June 7, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 7, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- In the run-up to a Congressional vote on a pending abortion bill, 417,000 signatures expressing support for the unborn and their mothers were presented June 5 to Argentina’s legislature.

The bill, which would legalize elective abortion in the country, will be voted on in the House of Representatives on June 13.

The signatures were delivered by representatives of pro-life organizations to Congresswomen Gabriela Burgos and Carmen Polledo, who chair the  committees on Criminal and Healthcare Legislation, respectively.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, the president of Más Vida, Raul Magnasco, said that the signatures are “one more proof of the clear commitment that the people of Argentina have in defense of life and their rejection of legalized abortion.”

“Thousands more signatures have come and are coming in up to today from different provinces. [The response] has filled with joy all of us who are committed to life,” he added.

In addition to political action, Catholics have organized prayer campaigns in defense the lives of unborn babies and their mothers.

A “Jericho for Life” prayer campaign began June 6,  inspired by the Old Testament story of the walls of Jericho falling down in response to prayer.

In the scriptural account, Joshua’s army, led by priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, circled the city until its walls fell on the seventh day with the sounding of the trumpets.

Jericho for Life invites Catholics to adore the Blessed Sacrament, or recite the rosary, magnificat, or other brief prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to read Scripture, and to ask for the intercession of Argentina’s patron saints.

The prayer campaign will conclude June 12, the day before the vote, with a Jericho for Life prayer rally surrounding the capitol building.

The Argentine Conference of Bishops encouraged participation in a day of prayer and fasting June 7.

Pro-life marches are scheduled in 16 cities and are sponsored by Unidad Provida (Pro-life Unity) and umbrella group for 100 pro-life organizations.

The March for Life held May 20 drew 3,600,000 participants in 270 cities.

On June 13, the day of the vote on the abortion bill, a demonstration will also be held in front of the capitol building in Buenos Aires at 6:00 pm local time.

In yet another effort, a new documentary “9 Enuentros para Vivir o Abortar” will be shown at the Argentine capitol building June 7. The film interviews politicians, doctors, mothers of young women who died from an abortion, and others with both pro-life and pro-abortion views.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Catholic churches offer relief after Guatemala’s deadly volcano eruption

June 5, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Escuintla, Guatemala, Jun 5, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Three Catholic churches in Guatemala have opened their doors to shelter victims of Sunday’s sudden volcano eruption that devastated villages and left at least 70 people dead.

“What I’ve seen so far is complete destruction. Hundreds of people have lost everything,” said Luis Rolando Sanchez, Catholic Relief Services’ emergency coordinator for Latin America.

Both Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Escuintla have staff on the ground in Guatemala providing hot meals, food, water, and other basic necessities to the displaced, as rescuers continue to search for survivors in villages buried in ash.

“The Church sprang into action immediately by opening shelters and getting lifesaving relief to those who need it. But there is a lot of work to do with so many people impacted by this disaster,” Sanchez continued. Local authorities estimate that nearly 2 million people were affected by the Volcan de Fuego or fire volcano.

All three of the church shelters are located in Escuintla, Guatemala, near ground-zero for the volcano, whose eruption spewed ash clouds nearly 33,000 feet into the air. The Escuintla district, along with Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez, are among the areas most affected by the blast, according to CRS.

Kim Pozniak, Catholic Relief Services’ communications coordinator, told CNA that their staff on the ground in Guatemala heard many tragic stories as more than 100 people arrived at one of the church shelters in Escuintla on June 4.

One woman, Julia, could barely hold back tears as she explained to Catholic Relief Services staff that she had lost her daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law.

Julia had stayed behind with her three granddaughters while their parents left the house to go sell pineapples, the family’s source of livelihood, when the volcano erupted, burying the parents under lava.

“Everyone has lost someone,” said Pozniak, “People are traumatized.” She added that more volunteers from other parts of Guatemala are beginning to arrive at the shelters to provide some trauma relief.

“Despite the unimaginable damage and heartbreak, I have hope that these communities will recover. People in Guatemala are nothing if not resilient,” said Sanchez.

“I encourage U.S. Catholics to pray for their brothers and sisters who are suffering through this terrible ordeal,” he continued.

Pope Francis said he was “deeply distressed in hearing the sad news of the violent eruption” in a telegram on June 5 and offered his prayers for the victims and their families.

Geologist Trevor Nace explained that the Volcan de Fuego’s eruption of felsic lava was much more sudden, vicious, and deadly than Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which has been slowly erupting for the past month.

“Combined with the steep slopes and high rainfall in Guatemala, mud, and rock is easily swept down slopes only to destroy more homes and threaten more lives,” Nace said in an article on Forbes.

Guatemalans have been warned to avoid waterways, where ash and water can combine to create mudslides that can flow up to 120 miles per hour.

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