18 July 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: the Church in the World

News Briefing: the Church in the World

The Vatican’s hunt for the body of missing teenager Emanuela Orlandi (pictured) has found two sets of bones under a stone manhole in the Teutonic cemetery.

Last week, the Vatican opened the tombs of two nineteenth-century German princesses in the cemetery on Holy See territory after the Orlandi family had received a tip that the teenager’s remains might be buried there.

The tombs were empty but the Vatican pledged further investigation, and on 13 July it announced that two ossuaries found within the grounds of the Pontifical Teutonic College were to be opened in the presence of forensic experts on 20 July. The daughter of a Vatican bank employee, Orlandi disappeared in June 1983. Her body has never been discovered.

Bishop Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya of Buenaventura in Colombia stood on the back of a fire truck festooned with balloons on Saturday and sprayed holy water over the streets of the nation’s biggest Pacific seaport, which is notorious for drug traffick­ing and criminal gang violence.

“In Buenaventura we have to get rid of the devil to see if we can return the tranquillity that the city has lost with so many crimes, acts of corruption and so much evil and drug trafficking,” Bishop Jaramillo said. “Blood has run through the streets,” but, “you can’t destroy the life of a community, we’re united.”

Abuse law extended
The Chilean government has passed a law removing the statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes against children. President Sebastian Piñera signed the new law on 11 July. Chilean government officials said they were currently investigating more than 150 cases of sexual abuse or cover-ups in the Catholic Church. The new law is not retroactive, but advocates expressed hope that it can be revised in the future for survivors who have been unable to seek justice due to prior limitations.

Monsoon rains (pictured) killed at least 100 people across South Asia last week. “Heavy monsoon rains across India, Nepal and Bangladesh have caused disastrous floods, affecting millions of lives, and these heavy rains have led to landslides and extreme flooding, leaving communities cut off, and facing food and clean water shortages, as well as threats from waterborne diseases,” Janet Symes, Cafod’s head of Asia, told The Tablet.

Confessional Bill withdrawn
A bill that would have required priests to violate the seal of the confessional in certain circumstances was pulled from consideration in the lower house of the California legislature the day before it was to be the subject of a committee hearing. A report from the Public Safety Committee had noted that the law would be “virtually impossible” to enforce.

Bishop Emeritus of Masaka in Uganda, John Baptist Kaggwa, has said he wants to uncover the truth about the death of a religious superior in the University of Kyambogo in Kampala last week. The body of Br Mugarura, Superior General of the Brothers of St Charles Lwanga, was found in a student’s room. According to the bishop, Br Mugarura had a series of meetings scheduled in Kampala on the day he died, but these did not include a visit to the university, attended by a boy whose studies he supported. Police said Robert Asiimwe, a student at Kyambogo, had been arrested.

Eight Catholic politicians were among 10 lawmakers in India’s Goa state who quit the opposition Congress Party to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 10 July. The MPs said the switch was calculated to ensure there were development projects for their local areas, such as improved roads and water supplies.

The International Criminal Court has convicted a notorious rebel commander from Democratic Republic of Congo known as “The Terminator” of 18 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the bloody ethnic conflict of 2002 to 2003. Among his victims was a priest, Fr Boniface Bwanalonga, who disappeared in October 2002. Fr Bwanalonga was kidnapped along with two nuns. The nuns were released but what happened to the priest is not known.

Pope Francis on Sunday made an appeal for an agreement to be reached to end the suffering in Venezuela, three days after the country’s bishops called on President Nicolás Maduro to resign from the office he had occupied “illegitimately” and pave the way for the earliest possible elections.

The Peruvian government granted a permit to Southern Copper to build the $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine in the Tambo valley of Arequipa. The project has been stalled since 2010, after farmers in the valley voiced concern that their water sources would be depleted or contaminated. The Peruvian Episcopal Conference made a statement saying it hoped for “an appropriate dialogue that can prevent a new social conflict”. Southern Copper, owned by the Mexico-based Grupo Mexico, says it will not proceed with construction until it has reached agreements with local communities.

The new president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (above), is re-instating the “mano dura”, or iron fist, policies of previous administrations. The policies restrict the rights of prisoners and increase the number of police and soldiers patrolling the country. The Archbishop of San Salvador, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, said Salvadorans welcomed the action. “When the President of the Republic confronts this problem, people are happy and full of hope,” he said. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world; 50 murders per 100,000 people were recorded in 2018.

Baptism health fear
Full immersion baptism in water contaminated by mine waste and sewage is raising health concerns in South Africa, according to a Reuters report of 11 July. One of the pastors using the Fleurhof dam in Soweto said: “The government must make sure to keep the water clean for us, for this is what we are sent by God to do.” The Archbishop Emeritus of Pretoria, William Matthew Slattery, OFM, told The Tablet that water scarcity and localised water pollution were huge issues in South Africa. Although full immersion baptism is not common in Catholic churches, it “appeals to Africans” as a concrete sign of being born-again, he said.

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