04 December 2020, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Children play in the flood after a sudden downpour at a Christmas decorations market in Manila, the Philippines.
Rouelle Umali/PA

The Mexico City Basilica will remain closed to visitors from December 10 through 13 during the annual celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Usually millions of people make a pilgrimage to the Basilica for Mexico's most important religious festivity, commemorated on December 12. “We invite the Guadalupan festivities to take place in parishes or at home,” the Mexican bishops said last week. The capital is experiencing high levels of Covid-19 transmission.

Fr George Rutler, 75, a prolific author and commentator on EWTN, has stepped aside from public ministry while an investigation is conducted into an allegation that he forcibly, and inappropriately, touched Ashley Gonzalez, a security guard at St Michael the Archangel church where Rutler was pastor. On her second day on the job at the church on 4 November Gonzalez reportedly videotaped the priest at his desk as he watched gay pornography, when he noticed and “aggressively threw himself on me”.  

The Swiss diocese of Chur has refused to choose a bishop from the list of three candidates on the terna sent to it by Rome. The terna will now be returned to Rome and the Pope will appoint a new bishop. The three candidates on the terna had moderate views, but were considered too progressive by the conservative majority of the cathedral chapter

The president of the Colombian Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Villavicencio,  Óscar Urbina Ortega, was hospitalised on 28 November with respiratory problems related to Covid-19. The Archdiocese released a statement on Friday saying that he is in stable condition. 

Protests continued last weekend in Guatemala City, after Congress suspended a budget bill earlier in the week. The budget, passed on 18 November, would have cut funding to the judiciary, human rights agencies, and education, while increasing MPs’ stipends. The bishops’ conference had called for President Alejandro Giammattei to veto the budget bill.

A delegation from the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference visited Mozambique for three days last week on a solidarity visit to Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba. They were responding to his appeals for international solidarity to support peace-building in the troubled northern region of Cabo Delgado, where Islamist terrorists have been active since 2017.

The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus has used the expression “rebellion” to describe the reaction of Christians in Damascus to the idea of closing Christian places of worship and suspending public celebration of the sacraments. Despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases, Archbishop Samir Nassar said last week, “the faithful rebelled against the closure of churches and insisted on participating in large numbers in the daily Mass”. In his Christmas message “Overcoming Fear”, he described Syrians as a martyred people who have turned to their church communities for solace. 

 Shops and homes of Coptic Christians were ransacked and set on fire in sectarian attacks in the village of al Barsha in the Egyptian governorate of Minya on 26 November. An elderly Coptic woman was hospitalised for burns and there were more than 100 arrests.The attacks by Islamists allegedly began after a young Copt posted an article on his Facebook account considered offensive to Islam.

Catholic parishes in the South Sudanese diocese of Tombura-Yambio are supporting arrivals returning from neighbouring Central African Republic where they fled during the recent war. Missionaries report the distribution of food and other essentials to people sleeping outside in the cold and under the trees. While the parties to South Sudan’s conflict have formed a new, unified government, millions of people remain displaced – nearly 1.7 million within South Sudan and more than 2.2 million as refugees in neighbouring countries.

The contribution of an Irish Columban missionary to the Korean Church and to Korean literature has been recognised by the Korean Church and wider society after his recent death at the age of 81. Fr Kevin Laurence O’Rourke translated into English more than 2,000 Korean literary works. He won the National Prize for Korean Literature in 1989 for his translations of Korean poems.

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona who died on Wednesday last week aged 60 was mourned across Latin America and the world. In Argentina, the Bishop of San Justo, Eduardo García, said that Maradona was an example of overcoming adversity, while Pope Francis through Holy See Press Office recalled “with affection the times [he and Maradona] met in recent years”. (see feature in the print magazine by author and Maradona biographer Jimmy Burns)

A 16-day campaign to tackle violence against Haitian women was launched on the “End Violence against Women” International Day on 25 November by the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, and other human rights organisations. It focussed specifically on women and children who have suffered rape and violence over many years from soldiers of the United Nations in Haiti.

The Philippines bishops have announced a special year to mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 1521. "Five centuries ago we received the wonderful gift of faith: our hearts are overflowing with joy and gratitude", said Archbishop Romulo Geolina Valles of Davao, President of the Bishops’ Conference. Many parishes turned their churches red on 25 November to remember persecuted Christians on the Muslim-majority island of Mindanao and around the world.

The Vatican has confirmed that a bishop recently ordained in China is in full communion with the pope and that more Vatican-approved nominations will be coming. Bishop Thomas Chen Tianhao, 58, the new bishop of Qingdao in Shandong province, was ordained on 23 November. He is the third bishop to be ordained within the framework of the recently renewed provisional agreement between the Chinese Communist Party and the Holy See. His ordination took place in St Michael's Cathedral in Qingdao with Bishop John Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, presiding. 


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