25 September 2020, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Thousands of asylum seekers are seen in queues waiting to register and enter the new temporary refugee camp in Lesbos island in Greece after the fire that destroyed completely Moria refugee camp.
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/PA Images

Bishops in Democratic Republic of Congo have backed a doctor who works with rape victims and demands accountability for war crimes. Dr Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning gynaecologist, has received death threats over his calls for justice. The doctor, who was given the 2018 prize for trying to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict, specialises in repairing women injured by rape. Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani said last week that the Congolese bishops have urged the government and UN to ensure his safety.

Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday night. Opposition legislators sought to oust the president after leaked audios indicated that he had blocked a corruption probe.  The Peruvian Episcopal Conference published a statement in the lead-up to the vote, signed by its president, Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, saying, “It is not the moment to create more divisions”. 

Following continuing allegations of sexual abuse in Chile, two priests have been suspended and a third was ordered under house arrest. A 24-year-old reported earlier this year that Sergio Julián Ríos Cordero had abused him in 2010, when he was the Rector of the San José de Requínoa School. Ríos Cordero, now of the Congregation of San José Josefinos de Murialdo, isunder house arrest. The diocese of Linares stated that Fr Germán Cáceres Fuentes is guilty of sexual abuse against minors and adults, while the Congregation of the Redemptorist Missionaries confirmed that allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by Fr Luis Alberto Fuica Soto are credible. Both men have been suspended from their ministerial roles.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Catholic Church in Canada was a key theme of the first-ever online plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops this week. Conference president, Archbishop Richard Joseph Gagnon of Winnipeg, feels the new normal for the Church across Canada will include offering more and more services online. He said, “I think any past opposition to online services is not there anymore because of the situation and the experience of having to do it.” However, long-term, he felt there is still a deep commitment to one-on-one interaction between clergy and parishioners

The Portuguese bishop of Viana do Castelo, Anacleto Oliveira, 74, died on18 September in a car crash. Bishop Oliveira was driving by himself when the accident occurred. Details of what caused the accident are not known, but the weather in northern Portugal was particularly severe on that day. The Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, who served alongside Oliveira when the two were auxiliary bishops in Lisbon, spoke of “a great bishop”, who was “deeply serious and committed to all he did”, regretting the “tragically surprising” way he died.  

The President of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia has again urged dialogue between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a new hydroelectric dam in Western Ethiopia which is causing tensions over the sharing of Nile water. On 10 September, the eve of the Ethiopian New Year’s Day, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, appealed to politicians, “not to let the dispute over the dam lead to conflict”. 

A Catholic bishop in northeast India has called for the government to put measures in place to end human trafficking, especially of young girls and boys into prostitution or cheap domestic labour. Bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon in Assam reported that in his region, “human trafficking is rampant, especially of young girls,” with traffickers mostly preying on girls whose families are poor. More than a quarter of trafficking cases in India have been recorded in Assam over the past five years. Amid the pandemic, women religious persevere in ministering to those who need help. Sisters from eight congregations in the southern Indian city of Bengarulu, for example, distribute food and medicines to some 2,000 people every day.

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, appealed last week for the restoration of Lebanon to its former status as a “vibrant and flourishing religious, political and cultural model in the Middle East”. “The weakening of the Christian community in Lebanon would be a huge loss for the country, the Middle East and, indeed the world,” he added. More than half the population now lives below the poverty line and around 150 Catholic schools have closed this year. 

Tanzania’s government has been urged to adopt a “social market economy” by the country’s Catholic bishops. They said an economic model that combines a free market capitalist economic system alongside social policies that establish fair competition within the market and a welfare state would work best for the country. The bishops have been in dialogue with economists at three Tanzanian universities for four years. 

Archbishop Jerome Listeki of Milwaukee,Wisconsin has lifted the dispensation from attending Sunday Mass in his archdiocese. “[As from 14 September] …  it will be the responsibility of those who are capable and not prohibited by other circumstances to attend Sunday Mass,” he said a blog post. “Those who deliberately fail to attend Sunday Mass commit a grave sin.” He made allowances for circumstances related to the pandemic but said simply being afraid of contracting the coronavirus was not enough of a reason to skip Mass, 

Pope Francis on Wednesday told a group of parents of LGBT children that God loves them as they are, and that the Church loves them because they are “children of God”. His words came during a short, private encounter with some 40 Italian mothers and fathers of LGBT children following his Wednesday general audience last week.

Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who turns 79 next week, has stepped down as Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and will be replaced by Bishop Mario Grech of Malta. Grech was named Pro-Secretary general a year ago.

Alain Woodrow, a former religion writer for the French daily Le Mondeand a longtime contributor to The Tablet, has died aged 82 in a Paris suburb. His first article for The Tablet was headlined in French – “Révolution à la Sorbonne”. His analysis of France’s “events of May” in the 8 June 1968 edition began a regular series of reports, commentaries and book reviews on religious and secular issues in France and Europe that lasted until 2011. 



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