10 October 2019, The Tablet

Cardinal blames Hong Kong authorities for violence

Hong Kong, Uganda, Colombia and more: News briefings from around the world

Cardinal blames Hong Kong authorities for violence

Riot police take the streets of Wan Chai during the demonstration. Protesters went out to demonstrate against the Anti-mask Law.
Ivan Abreu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

As violence escalated last weekend in the latest of four months of protest, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, laid the blame firmly with the Hong Kong authorities.

In an interview with the BBC Sunday programme, he said: “Those who created the problem and are in a position to remedy it are ... putting more oil on the fire.” He said the new anti-mask law enacted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, using colonial-era emergency powers, was inflaming tensions. The law  has stoked a backlash with tens of thousands who marched wearing masks in a show of defiance. Zen accused Lam, a Catholic, of “extreme arrogance” and of letting the police use force, which could lead to “some big tragedy”. He commented: “Maybe she believes she is more intelligent than the Social Teaching of the Church.” 

A campaign to curb human trafficking has been launched by Uganda’s Fort Portal Diocese, in partnership with the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) Uganda and the Association of Religious in Uganda. The Dominican Executive Director of AFJN, Fr Okure Aniedi, during a training event for religious leaders at Fort Portal, in western Uganda, said human trafficking was rampant in African countries. Bishop Robert Muhiirwa of Fort Portal spoke of “those who have been killed, tortured and those that are sexually abused [in] the Arab countries when they are taken to work as housemaids, among other jobs”.

Parish priest Fr Jhony Ramos, who served at the Divine Mercy parish in the Comuneros neighbourhood of Villavicencio, Colombia, was murdered on 2 October. Fr Ramos, 53, was restrained before he was killed, leading police to explore the motive of robbery. He had been at the Divine Mercy parish for four months and was already well-liked. Fr Ramos is the second Colombian priest to be murdered this year. Fr Carlos Ernesto Jaramillo was killed in Bogota in February.   

A Jesuit priest from Burkina Faso has made history as the first African to win the prestigious Ratzinger Prize, which honours the work of theologians and other Catholic intellectuals, alongside the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor. “I think this is an encouragement for all theological work done in Africa,” Fr Paul Béré SJ told Vatican News.

Ecuador declared a state of emergency on Thursday last week to quell massive protests in Quito, Guayaquil and other cities after President Lenin Moreno ended a fuel subsidy as part of an austerity package agreed with the International Monetary Fund. Other measures included cutting vacation time for government employees. At least 350 people were detained in the first two days of unrest. The Ecuadorian bishops released a statement on 4 October calling for dialogue and for protests to be peaceful.

The President of Peru, Martín Vizcarra, dissolved the country’s Congress on Monday and called for new elections as a solution to the year-long stand-off with opposition parties. People have taken to the streets of Lima to show support for the president. The controversy dates back to the Odebrecht corruption case, which deeply implicated Peru’s politicians. Opposition politicians have opposed Mr Vizcarra’s efforts to investigate those responsible. The president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, Hector Cabrejo, said the current moment was “a unique opportunity to combat the cycle of corruption ... at all levels”.

Australia’s Ballarat diocese is to pay up to £1.6 million in a landmark compensation claim for clerical sexual abuse after a victim won an out-of-court settlement for abuse during the early 1990s by a former priest. The victim was raped by Gerald Ridsdale as a nine-year-old in 1982 in the Victoria town of Mortlake. He sued the Church, arguing that it had breached its duty of care by moving Ridsdale around parishes after abuse complaints were made against him. The settlement could open the door for other victims to file claims. Now serving a 29-year jail sentence, Ridsdale is believed to have abused hundreds of children over 40 years.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North in New Zealand, following an independent investigation into a complaint by a woman highlighting “unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature”. Cardinal John Dew, the metropolitan Archbishop of New Zealand, said on 4 October that the Church “fully supports the young woman for coming forward”. Bishop Drennan, 59, was a member of the New Zealand church team responding to the country’s inquiry into sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults and was secretary of the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference.

Pope Francis met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday last week. The US State Department said they reaffirmed the commitment of the US and the Holy See “to advancing religious freedom around the world, in particular, protecting Christian[s] in the Middle East”.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has expressed appreciation that an Indian is among the five canonisations in Rome tomorrow. “It is a matter of pride for every Indian that, on 13 October, his holiness Pope Francis will declare Sr Mariam Thresia (pictured) a saint,” he said last week. Sr Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (1876-1926), a Syro-Malabar Catholic, founded the Congregation of the Holy Family in Kerala in 1914.

Indonesia’s Minister for Religious Affairs attended the Rome ceremony last weekend where Jakarta Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodio became one of 13 new cardinals. “We are proud that the Holy Father put his trust in one of our country’s best sons,” said Lukman Hakim Saifuddin.

The parliament of Pakistan has rejected a bill that would have allowed members of minorities to assume the highest state offices. Islamic parties praised the ruling. Naveed Aamir Jeeva, a Christian member of the Pakistan People’s Party, presented the bill that would have allowed non-Muslims to become prime minister and  president of Pakistan.

The campus of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, United States became the latest battlefield in the on-going culture wars as duelling student newspapers locked horns on the neuralgic issue of homosexuality (Michael Sean Winters writes).  The conservative Irish Rover published essays it said “which reflect Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality”. A student posted unauthorised signs around campus that said: “There’s queer blood on homophobic hands.” When the signs were removed by campus police, the student sent a poem, in the form of a letter to the editor of another student newspaper, the Observer,  bearing the same title as the signs. The poem accused several conservative campus organisations, as well as the conservative alumni association, the Sycamore Trust, of “homophobic discourse”.  The poem also contained some violent imagery.  The Observer then posted a video of the poem’s author reading her work. A friend held a poster containing some of the articles she considered homophobic, as well as the authors’ names, and at the end of the video the author started hitting the poster with a crowbar.  The director of the Sycamore Trust, Bill Dempsey complained that the university should punish the student. In a letter to university president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, Dempsey wrote that the video ”seem[s] plainly to violate Indiana’s ‘intimidation law’, which makes it a crime to incite violence or to take action intended to expose a person ‘to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule.’”

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