16 May 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: the Church in the World

News Briefing: the Church in the World

Gunmen kill priest and faithful
Gunmen murdered a priest, Fr Simeon Yampa (above), and five churchgoers during Mass on Sunday in an attack on a Catholic Church in Dablo, a town in the north of Burkina Faso.

The gunmen then set fire to the church and shops before looting the health centre. Local people were reportedly furious that soldiers in a nearby base did not respond promptly. 

Burkina Faso has suffered from several deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansar ul-Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

Pope Francis has authorised the organisation of pilgrimages to the Marian shrine of Medjugorje (above) in southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Vatican said the decision is not to be interpreted as an authentication of the alleged apparitions. These will “still require an examination by the Church”, said papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti on Sunday after announcing the Pope’s decision, which he added was an acknowledge­ment of the “abundant fruits of grace” that have come from Medjugorje.

Kenyan bishops are warning that a rise in fatal attacks mainly targeting women and youth suicides pose a threat to the stability of the country. Dozens of young women have been murdered by their partners or spouses, many in a brutal manner.

“Something has gone wrong in society and we must face the reality of desperation setting in,” Archbishop Philip Anyolo, the chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), said last week.
About 83 per cent of Kenya’s 48 million people are Christian and about 24 per cent Catholic.

Patriarch praises army link
The Russian Orthodox Patriarch has praised his Church’s role in “strengthening the national spirit”, and warned that Russia’s defences depend on close Church-army links. 

“This means our Church has a duty to raise the nation in faith and love for the fatherland, and gives the Church and army a common task of ensuring strength of soul,” Patriarch Kirill said at a ceremony marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany in the Second World War.

Bishops in the United States have deplored the country’s latest school shooting at Highland Ranch, a suburb of Denver, Colorado, in which two gunmen killed a student and injured eight others.

Denver’s Archbishop, Samuel Aquila, said that “his heart went out” to the victims. The student who died, Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old altar server at nearby Notre Dame parish. He was killed when he rushed one of two assailants, allowing his classmates time to escape.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has apologised to Jews and reprimanded Fr Michael Pfleger for inviting Louis Farrakhan to address his congregation. Mr Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is notorious for his diatribes about Jews.

During a talk at St Sabina church in the Auburn Gresham neighbourhood of Chicago he suggested that the Talmud sanctioned paedophilia and misogyny and referred to some Jews as “satanic”.

“Anti-semitic rhetoric – discriminatory invective of any kind – has no place in American public life, let alone in a Catholic church. I apologise to my Jewish brothers and sisters, whose friendship I treasure, from whom I learn so much, and whose covenant with God remains eternal,” Cupich said.

The cardinal added that he had encouraged Fr Pfleger to visit Chicago’s Holocaust museum and to invite survivors of the Holocaust to address his congregation.

Britain denied Bibi asylum
Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan, has left the country after months of delays. Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul Malook, told the BBC that Bibi had arrived in Canada to join two of her daughters who have been granted asylum there.

However, writing in The Sunday Times this week, Christina Lamb revealed that Britain refused to give Bibi and her family asylum, and she was not even mentioned in telegrams between Whitehall and the High Commission in Islamabad from her arrest in 2009 until after her acquittal last October.

The Arise Foundation, a UK charity, obtained the diplomatic telegrams under freedom of information laws. Asked about the telegrams, the Foreign Office said: “We have raised the Asia Bibi case with the Pakistan government for a number of years.”

Recently The Sunday Times also said the Home Office appears to discriminate in favour of Muslims when taking in refugees. Only 11 of the 4,850 Syrians accepted by the Home Office in 2017 were Christians, while of the 1,197 Syrians accepted into the UK in the second quarter of last year, 1,047 were Sunni Muslims and only 10 were Christians.

A documentary produced by George Clooney, exploring the unsolved murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Gerardi of Guatemala, who was beaten to death in his presbytery 19 years ago, is to be shown at the 14-25 May Cannes film festival.

In Mexico, the Legionaries of Christ are investigating allegations that Fr Fernando Martínez Suárez sexually abused a girl in Cancun in the 1990s.

The allegations come from Mexican singer Ana Lucía Salazar. On her Facebook page in early May, she alleged that Fr Martínez abused her when she was a student at the Cumbres Institute in Cancun. Martínez now lives in a home for elderly priests in Rome. The order has committed itself to investigating the case with the help of an outside agency.

A court in India’s Jharkhand state has convicted a Catholic priest of conspiring with six men to carry out the mass rape of five women. Judge Rajesh Kumar of Khunti district convicted Jesuit Fr Alphonse Aind on 7 May. His sentence was expected to be announced this week.

Fr Peter John Pearson, the director of the parliamentary liaison office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has said the newly elected government of South Africa must nurture hope, address social deprivation and continue probing corruption.

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