11 April 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: the Church in the World

News Briefing: the Church in the World

Honour for anti-trafficking nun
Pope Francis has asked an Italian nun who has been on the frontline in the fight against human trafficking to write this year’s Way of the Cross meditations based on her experiences. Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti (pictured), 80, will prepare the texts for the evening service on Good Friday at Rome’s Colosseum.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has said that the current crisis in the Church is rooted in the crisis of the priesthood.

In an interview with the French Catholic magazine La Nef, Cardinal Sarah said: “We have taken away priests’ identity. We have made priests believe that they need to be efficient men. But a priest is fundamentally the continuation of Christ’s presence among us.

“He should not be defined by what he does, but by what he is: ipse Christus, Christ Himself”. Cardinal Sarah also said that the “rejection of fatherhood” is a major factor contributing to the spiritual crisis in the West. The cardinal’s book The Day is Far Spent will be published by Ignatius Press later this year.

Catholics in the Diocese of Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh fear that a young woman recently kidnapped could be in the hands of human traffickers. No word has been heard from Teresa Sheuly Rozario, 19, since she disappeared on 22 March. Another woman and her three-year-old daughter, from the same parish of Bonpara in Natore, were also kidnapped but rescued from traffickers on 27 March. The local police inspector said: “We think that there is a band of human traffickers in the area.”

Bishops in Peru have called for an investigation into the death of Paul McAuley, a lay member of the De La Salle Brothers. McAuley, 71, was found dead at the hostel he ran for indigenous students in the remote city of Iquitos. He was a defender of the Peruvian rainforest and of its indigenous people, and had campaigned for the protection of the Amazon from drilling and logging.

Pro-life activists are welcoming the box-office success of the new movie, Unplanned, the real-life story of Abby Johnson (pictured), who quit her job at an abortion clinic after watching the procedure on an ultrasound machine and went on to become a pro-life activist.

The movie ranked fourth in box-office earnings despite opening in far fewer theatres than an average Hollywood production. The movie also received an “R” rating because of its depiction of an abortion procedure.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the US bishops’ committee on pro-life activities, said the “R” rating reflected the fact that the film had forced Hollywood to admit how violent an abortion is.

A Chinese bishop who was asked to step aside by the Vatican last year says he does not think he can concelebrate the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass unless he accepts state policy on the Catholic Church in China. Bishop Guo Xijin, 59, the former bishop of Mindong and now the auxiliary bishop, says that government officials have told him they do not recognise him as a bishop.

Bishop Guo was the Vatican-approved bishop of the underground church in Mindong Diocese in Fujian Province. After the September 2018 China-Vatican provisional agreement, he handed over to Bishop Zhan Silu. Bishop Zhan was one of seven formerly excommunicated bishops whom the Pope has re-admitted to communion.

Friar removed from post
A Mexican Franciscan friar, Tomás González Castillo, has been removed from his position at La 72 Migrant Shelter at Tenosique, in Tabasco State, following allegations of sexual abuse. The accusations involve a young, female volunteer at the shelter, which lies near the border with Guatemala.

González is well known in Mexico as a defender of migrant rights and has received several international prizes. The shelter is near one of the most common crossing points for refugees to enter Mexico from Guatemala.

Mizar Martín, who arrived at the shelter as a volunteer in 2012, aged 18, on Twitter accused González of using his authority as shelter director to pressure her into a sexual relationship. He has confirmed that he is under investigation but has denied the allegations.

In Jordan, as parliament discusses changes to the law governing the personal status of Muslim citizens, Churches in the country are reviewing their rules that penalise women in matters of marriage and inheritance.

Ecclesiastical authorities in Jordan oversee rules for Christians that, for example, penalise unmarried and childless women when it comes to the distribution of inheritance shares. All of Jordan’s Churches have defined 18 as the minimum age for marriage but a bishop can currently authorise exceptions and permit child marriage.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Church groups are among those that have expressed outrage after a Supreme Court report revealed last week that Muslim judicial bodies approved 13,251 child marriages in 2018.

More than 6,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians are travelling from Egypt to Israel to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem. This year, Coptic Easter Sunday falls on 28 April. The number of registrations to travel has risen by 25 per cent compared to 2018. Since 2012, small groups of Coptic Christians have defied a 1979 travel ban imposed by former Coptic pope Shenouda III. He died seven years ago.

Prioress speaks out
The Prioress of the Benedictine monastery of Fahr in Switzerland, Sr Irene Gassmann (above), speaking on the website of the German Catholic Church, has criticised the power of male clerics over women and has called for the ordination of women.

“As long as the Church remains clerically structured, we will not solve the power abuse problem even if we were now simply to let women slip into these positions of power by ordaining them … In my opinion, things will only change if all of us, ordained and lay Catholics, become aware of the dignity that has been given us by baptism … We must go back far further than simply saying we will now open the doors to the ordination of women.”

Gay priest suspended over revelations in his new book
Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam has suspended a gay priest who published a memoir entitled Undressed not Naked, detailing his active homosexual life and taste for pornography, writes Tom Heneghan.

Fr Pierre Valkering, a parish priest in Amsterdam, presented the book at a Mass marking the 25th anniversary of his ordination. “If we as a church want to continue, improve and heal, then we must tell each other the truth,” he said.

Bishop Punt said Fr Valkering, 58, had told him several times in the past that he was dealing responsibly with the issue of celibacy.

“He now unmistakably indicates publicly that he has not kept his celibacy vow and cannot and will not keep it,” the bishop wrote in response to the newspaper Gaykrant. He therefore had to ask the priest to step aside for a period of reflection.

“We will discuss this further with him,” Bishop Punt added.

Priest named for ‘SSPX relations’
Pope Francis has appointed a former member of Ecclesia Dei to oversee the Vatican’s relations with Catholic traditionalists, writes James Roberts. The pontifical commission, Ecclesia Dei, was established by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to deal with followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s schismatic SSPX, but was wound up by Francis this year. Mgr Patrick Descourtieux, 67, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), who worked on Ecclesia Dei for 10 years, is now head of the CDF section that deals with traditionalists.

The diocese had been “put on the spot” by the unexpected publication and had to react, it said in a statement.

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