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Last week in Chicago, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops completed its "pastoral letter" on nuclear weapons and war.

The letter--"The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response''--is expected to become an important topic of discussion in Catholic schools' "peace education" curricula.

The final letter is more strongly worded than the version released during the April meeting of the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington.

It condemns any first use of nuclear weapons, and calls for "immediate, bilateral, verifiable" agreements to halt the testing, production, and deployment of new nuclear weapons.

A 10-year-old girl from Maine, who attracted national attention last month when she received a personal letter from the Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov, now finds herself in the middle of a propaganda war.

Soviet television news programs and newspapers have given the story of Samantha Smith, a 5th-grader in Manchester, Me., regular coverage ever since she wrote Mr. Andropov seeking assurances that the Soviet Union would try to prevent a nuclear war.

Reuters reports that the Moscow television news last week said that Samantha's letter indicated that she had been brainwashed by an anti-Soviet campaign in the U.S and that she suffered, like many U.S. adults, from "nuclear psychosis."

In an interview that the Soviet television station taped in her hometown, Samantha said she had learned almost nothing about the Soviet Union in school.

Mr. Andropov's answer to Samantha's letter, which was sent early this year, included references to Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and criticism of President Reagan.

In his three-page letter, Mr. Andropov said that the President was to blame for the impasse in arms-control negotiations and that the Soviet Union would never be the first country to use nuclear weapons.

The Vermont chapter of the National Education Association has been awarded the Dorros Peace Trophy for its role last month in organizing a forum for students in the state to discuss nuclear-arms control. (See Education Week, April 27, 1983.)

The trophy, awarded each year since 1976 by the nea, will be presented to the union's Vermont affiliate at the nea's annual convention in July.

The Vermont-nea was responsible for coordinating activities on nuclear-arms issues at 30 schools throughout the state. More than 7,000 students then congregated at the University of Vermont for a "town meeting," which culminated in the passage of a referendum seeking a freeze on nuclear arms.

The town meeting was co-sponsored by the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee and the Center for World Education.

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