06 November 2020, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

An altar made during a march in protest against violence-gender during the Mexico Day of the Dead on 2 November..

On 29 October, Mexican officials announced that in the preceding week, search teams found the remains of 59 people in clandestine graves in Salvatierra, Guanajuato. The state has been fought over by cartels in recent years, with the murder rate soaring. The National Guard and Army provided security for the search carried out by the National Search Commission after the mother of a missing man provided a tip. The Bishop of Irapuato, Guanajuato Enrique Díaz Díaz said on Sunday the Church must support the families of the disappeared. “We cannot say that this was in the past and we will leave it in the past, we must respond and continue fighting,” he said.

Chalatenango Diocese in El Salvador has challenged increased government militarisation in the northern region which borders Honduras. Last week, Bishop Oswaldo Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango urged the government not to “stigmatise all” in that area as being involved in narcotrafficking.  “As a diocese, we’re not opposed to military presence along the border, as long as the constitution and the rights of others are respected, including being able to move about freely,” he said. The bishop said people needed to tend crops, check cattle, visit family across the border and attend church services.

The Sindh High Court in Pakistan validated the marriage of a Catholic minor to her 44-year-old Muslim abductor. The mother of 13-year-old Arzoo Raja collapsed outside the court on 27 October. “Minority citizens do not feel safe and do not feel they have equal rights,” said Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi. However, after an international outcry, on Monday the Sindh High Court ordered that the girl, kidnapped from outside her house in Karachi on 13 October, be moved to a government-run home and appear at court again on 5 November. Police were instructed to determine Raja’s age, and claims that her conversion to Islam and marriage were forced.

Young Muslims have removed debris from Mosul’s Syriac Catholic Mar Toma Church – named after the apostle Thomas – to encourage Christians to return to the city. The volunteers tackled the clean-up after years when Mosul was under the control of jihadist militias of Islamic State and after the battle to expel them in 2017. Fr Raed Adel, who heads the Syriac Catholic Churches in Mosul, thanked the youth, saying they were engaged “in every service and humanitarian work.” Only a small number of the 15,000 Christians who used to live in Mosul have so far returned to the city.

The archdiocesan seminary in Vienna has seen the highest jump in vocations to the priesthood since the year 2000. Against the general trend in the German-speaking countries, a surprisingly high number of 14 new candidates for the priesthood entered the seminary this year. This brings the total number of seminarians up to 52, the highest number since 2000, and 15 years after the seminary recorded the lowest ever number of seminarians – namely 17 – in 2005. The seminarians are aged between 20 and 74 and have very diverse backgrounds and biographies. They include former musicians, chemists, orderlies, CEOS from international organisations, civil servants and university lecturers. Half of them are from Austria. The others are from eight other countries: 12 from Germany, six from Poland, two from the Ukraine, two from Croatia, and one each from Montenegro, India, Sri Lanka and Nigeria.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark led the Mass celebrating the beatification of Fr Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic men’s charitable organisation with more than 2 million members around the world. The Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut. Cardinals Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan concelebrated the Mass as well as Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. The decree from Pope Francis cited McGivney for his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters.” In his homily, Tobin focused on the fact that McGivney was a parish priest, and serves as an inspiration for parish clergy still, especially in his concern for the plight of immigrants. 

A prominent adviser to New Zealand’s bishops has expressed dismay that voters have approved euthanasia for terminally ill patients. John Kleinsman, director of the Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics, the New Zealand Catholic bioethics centre, said in a statement, released on 30 October by the bishops’ conference, that “most of the professional medical groups in New Zealand and more than 1,800 doctors opposed this law because of concerns about the law’s lack of protection for vulnerable people.” The law will allow terminally ill people with less than six months to live the opportunity to choose assisted dying if approved by two doctors.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to Washington, has written a second letter to US President Donald Trump, after an earlier one in June, stating that “the fate of the whole world is being threatened by a global conspiracy against God and humanity”. A global plan called the “Great Reset” is under way, Vigano writes, whose purpose is to impose a “health dictatorship” and whose architect is “a global élite that wants to subdue all of humanity, imposing coercive measures with which to drastically limit individual freedoms and those of entire populations”. “It is you, dear President,” who is “the one who opposes …  the final assault of the children of darkness,” Vigano writes.

Meanwhile traditionalist Catholic Dr Taylor Marshall quoted from Vigano’s letter at a Trump rally in Butler, Pennsylvania on 31 October before praying: “In nomine Patris, et Filio, et Spiritus Sancti. Heavenly God and Merciful Father … Grant to your servant, Donald J. Trump the gifts of wisdom and fortitude both to know and to accomplish your divine will for our beloved nation. By the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, perfectly fill our President’s heart with love for truth, the love for justice, and a love for You … may your right hand grant him the victory on November third.”

The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro has launched an initiative with Plastic Bank, a partner of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to reduce plastic waste being dumped into the ocean. Plastic Bank pays people to gather plastic waste and take it to collection centres where it is recycled. "With simple gestures, we will eliminate plastics from our homes, streets and rivers, and prevent them from reaching the oceans," said Cardinal Orani Joao Tempesta, Archbishop of  São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, at a Mass to bless the project. 

In a move that Christian leaders say is aimed at defining indigenous people as Hindus against their will, a cross has been demolished in in a village in India's Chhattisgarh state and replaced with a makeshift Hindu temple. The concrete cross in Madanpur village in Korba district has been a focal point for prayer for two decades. Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, said, "the sudden destruction of the cross is to target the Christians," and the new temple “seeks to establish that tribal people were Hindus and force them to convert to Hinduism.”








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