06 August 2020, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Believers visit the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (formerly the Church of Hagia Sophia), its museum status revoked by the July 10 decision of the Turkish Council of State turning it back into a mosque.
Valery Sharifulin/Tass/PA Images

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, has defended the Second Vatican Council against both “extreme conservatives” and “extreme progressives”. In an essay on his personal website, Zen said that the 1962-65 council had been misused to advance “subjective” agendas. He insisted that it did not represent a definitive break with Church teaching (the so-called “hermeneutic of rupture”). But he also took issue with those like Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano`, the former US nuncio, who said in an interview last month that “hostile forces” at the Second Vatican Council had caused “the abdication of the Catholic Church” through a “sensational deception”. Speaking to CNA, Zen rejected the idea that authentic acts of an ecumenical council could contain errors of faith.

Church leaders in South Sudan have condemned as barbaric the killing of at least 23 people in an Anglican church compound in Jonglei State, a region where deadly cattle raids are frequent, writes Fredrick Nzwili. In the attack last week, another 20 people were injured and scores of children abducted, with more than 500 head of cattle stolen.  Most of the dead in the attack on the church in Makol Cuel village in Bor County were women and children. An unknown number of people are still missing.  “The protection of civilians should be the [work] of the government …under the security enforcement agencies. The killing is terrible and as a church, we really condemn it,” Anglican bishop Reuben Akurdit Ngong of Bor told the press. Jonglei is the homeland of Dinka, Nuer and Murle ethnic communities. The three herder communities have raided each other’s cattle for centuries. Recently, fatalities have increased with communities acquiring military grade weapons. Church officials say the only way to end the violence in the state is to implement earlier peace pacts the three communities have signed.

A leading voice in Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and the founder of Hong Kong Watch said Pope Francis has been “badly wrong” in his handling of China. Read the full story here.

A US-based rights group has called for US intervention in Nigeria after a terrorist group executed five men they had abducted in the northeast of the country. While Christians, particularly preachers, “are clearly the targets” of militants, Muslims are killed too, said Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna, who chairs the bishops’ committee on justice, development and peace, adding that all Nigerian civilians feel “let down by the government”. The US-based International Committee on Nigeria said the United States “needs to send a special envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, who can coordinate the US response to the crisis”. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and two million displaced by armed Islamist groups in more than 10 years of killings. 

A new Central European Jesuit Province, plans for which have been going ahead for some years now, will replace the previous provinces of Austria, Germany plus Sweden, Lithuania-Latvia and Switzerland as from 27 April 2021. The present Austrian Provincial, Fr Bernhard Bürgler, has been appointed Provincial of the new amalgamated Province by the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr Arturo Sosa, SJ. International cooperation would become easier in a large province, Bürgler told domradio.deon 2 August. While at the moment, the Zeitgeist tended towards nationalism, he recalled, the charisma of the Jesuit Order had always been in the opposite direction.

Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona celebrated a funeral Mass for Covid-19 victims on 26 July in the Sagrada Familia basilica, despite a civic order that limited religious services to no more than 10 people. Well over 200 people had already been invited to the funeral Mass before that order was issued. The cardinal challenged the order, noting that the Catalonia region would allow up to 1,000 people into the basilica for tourism, and the 10-person limit applied only to religious rites. 

A Christian mother in Pakistan has achieved a significant breakthrough in her struggle to win back her abducted 14-year-old daughter, according to Aid to the Church in Need. Hearings have been scheduled for this week at Lahore High Court in the case of Catholic teenager Maira Shahbaz, from Madina Town, near Faisalabad after a local court overturned an earlier ruling that sanctioned her alleged marriage to Mohamad Nakash. Nakash is accused of abducting in April and forcing her to convert to Islam. Ruling that Maira’s birth certificate is proof that she was under-age at the time of her alleged marriage to Nakash last October, Faisalabad District and Sessions Judge Rana Masood Akhtar ordered that the teenager leave the man’s home and be placed in a women’s refuge where she will stay until Lahore High Court gives a final verdict.

Russia has agreed to help the Syrian government build a replica of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and use it as an Orthodox cathedral. The move comes after Recep Erdogan’s controversial decision to turn the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century Byzantine church from a museum into a mosque. Russia will help to fund a scaled down version in the western Syrian province of Hama, with site preparation work to begin this month. The decision is being interpreted as a Russian rebuke to Erdogan. The site of the cathedral is a few kilometres south of a Turkish military base.

Two days after an explosive was thrown into the cathedral of the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, destroying an ancient crucifix, Pope Francis has said he laments the loss of priceless spiritual treasures. Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said his thoughts went “to the people of Nicaragua, who are suffering because of the attack on the cathedral of Managua, which was severely damaged, almost destroyed,” including “highly venerated images of Christ”. The damaged image, the Blood of Christ, is of Christ crucified, and is 382 years old.“This was a planned act, very calmly planned,” Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said. “So: it is a terrorist act, an act of intimidating the Church in her mission of evangelisation.”

An official from the Vatican Secretariat of State has been appointed Pope Francis’s new personal secretary. Fr Fabio Salerno, 41, will succeed Mgr Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who had served in the role since April 2014. Salerno currently works in the Secretariat’s Section for Relations with States. In the new role he will become one of the pope’s closest collaborators. Gaid, 45, a Coptic Catholic priest born in Cairo, will now focus on his work with the Higher Commission of Human Fraternity formed after Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar signed the Document on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in February 2019.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has defended its latest document on the coronavirus crisis following criticism that it did not mention God. The philosopher Stefano Fontana complained in a 28 July article in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, an Italian Catholic website, that the document Humana Communitas in the Age of the Pandemic: Untimely Meditations on Life’s Rebirth, did not contain a single “explicit or implicit reference to God.” Academy spokesman Fabrizio Mastrofini said on 30 July that the document was addressed to “the widest possible audience.” 

On Friday last week Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto as an apostolic nuncio. Pinto, 68, resigned in April 2019 as nuncio to Croatia, a post he had held for just a year and nine months. Pinto was nuncio to Chile from 2007 to 2011. In 2010, the abuse by Fr Fernando Karadima came to light when victims made their accusations public, and in 2011, the Vatican found the Chilean priest guilty of the sexual abuse of minors and sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance. In October 2018, Pinto was named as a witness in a complaint filed by three victims of Karadima.

Pope Francis has urged young people gathered in Medjugorje to imitate the Virgin Mary by abandoning themselves to God. In a message read out by Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to an annual youth meeting in Medjugorje on 1 August, Francis said: “The great example of the Church that is young in the heart, ready to follow Christ with new freshness and fidelity, always remains the Virgin Mary.” Pope Francis approved Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje in May but he has not made a deliberation on the authenticity of the alleged Marian apparitions reported at the site since 1981. 



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