11 July 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: the Church in the World

Pope Francis on 8 July named the first women members of the Vatican department that oversees religious orders. The new appointments to the board of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, include seven women.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed to The Tablet that they are the first female members to hold such a position on the body. Francis has chosen women consultors to the synod of bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but the latest appointments give the women executive rather than simply consultative roles. 

Meanwhile, the German bishops have added a fourth forum for discussion in the German Church’s “binding synodal procedure”: “Women in Church Offices and Services”. The other three forums are on “Power, Participation and Checks and Balances”, “Sexual Morality” and “Clerical Lifestyle”.

Guerilla group peace hopes
The National Liberation Army (ELN), the last active guerrilla group in Colombia, in a 4 July statement said it hoped to reach a peace agreement with the government. President Iván Duque said the ELN must free all prisoners and end criminal activities before negotiations can resume. 

The Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia, Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, said in an interview that he hoped the government would resume negotiations but the ELN must stop kidnappings and recruiting children and teenagers.

Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori in Burkina Faso has made a plea to the West to stop the supply of guns to Islamist extremists, warning that “if the world continues to do nothing, the result will be the elimination of the Christian presence in this area and quite possibly in the entire country”.

Ecumenical Eucharistic sharing should not be postponed until full Christian unity is achieved, Sr Katharina Kluitmann OSF (pictured), 54, chair of the German Conference of Religious Superiors, said at an international ecumenical conference held at Ottmaring near Augsburg on 1-6 July.

“We … should share the Eucharist ecumenically now even if the Magisterium sees this differently,” Kluitmann said. Several Protestants who attended the conference had partaken of the Catholic Eucharist and no one had protested, she said.

Pope Francis on 3 July appointed Sri Lankan priest Mgr Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku Kankanamalage 52, as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He has been serving as the Under-secretary of the Council since 2012.

Support for rescue captain
Archbishop Gian Carlo Perego of Ferrara-Comacchio in Italy has offered his support to the German captain of the migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, who defied the Italian government ban and docked at Lampedusa, south of Sicily. Carola Rackete, captain of the Sea-Watch 3 with 40 migrants onboard, was stranded in international waters for more than two weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini ordered all Italian ports to deny access to vessels with immigrants. “Disobey­ing the law to save lives is a Christian principle,” Archbishop Perego told local reporters.

Following a solemn Mass on 29 June, the feast of the Apostles Sts Peter and Paul, the Pope gave a delegation from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople a bronze reliquary containing nine bone frag­ments of St Peter. The fragments were discovered during excavations of the Vatican necropolis begun by Pope Pius XI in 1939. Archaeologists found a funerary monument with a casket engraved with the Greek words Petros eni, or “Peter is here.”

Abdul Amir al-Hamdani, the Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, announced last week that the Iraqi government has allocated the first funds to prepare for the possible visit of Pope Francis in 2020. He reported that the first tranche of funding would be used for urban redevelopment in cities the Pope is likely to visit.

Bishops’ £28,000 for reservoirs
A delegation from the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference met Prime Minister Imran Khan (pictured) on 4 July and gave him a cheque for £28,000 for the construction of water reservoirs. The bishops said they took up the issue following their November 2018 meeting and campaigned in their respective dioceses to raise the funds.

Kidnapped priest’s body found
The body of a Catholic priest kidnapped at the end of June in the north of the Republic of Congo has been found. According to local press, Fr Paul Mbon, a priest in the parish of Sembé, was kidnapped by strangers while he was walking with a fellow priest in Ouesso.

The Vatican has announced it is opening two tombs within a cemetery on Holy See territory to see if Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage girl who went missing 36 years ago, is buried there. The tombs were to be opened on 11 July.

On 6 July the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had approved a miracle bringing the late American archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, (pictured) closer to sainthood. Sheen, who died in 1979, was celebrated for his radio and TV preaching. No date has yet been given for his beatification.

A new Catholic radio station has been inaugurated in the diocese of Lae in Papua New Guinea. The Bishop of Lae, Rozario Menezes, said that he hoped Radio 103.7, whose motto is “The voice that nourishes faith”, would enable the Church to reach the “poorest of the poor”.
Christians in Syria “have never been foreigners”, and have helped to build the Syrian nation side by side with their “Muslim brothers”, President Bashar al Assad said last week. He was speaking on 4 July at a meeting with Syrian-Catholic youth at a summer camp in the monastery of Mar Tuma (St Thomas), in Saidnaya. Assad criticised “fanaticisms” that present Christians as a “foreign body” to the Arab world.  

Doctors treating Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic, have begun to withdraw life support after France’s Court of Cassation overturned an appeal to continue administering it last Friday (5 July). Lambert, 42, was injured in a road accident in 2008 and his Catholic family have been embroiled in a legal battle over the continuation of his treatment.

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