26 January 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

De Janeiro, Brazil: First vaccination against Covid-19 in the city takes place in Corcovado, Cosme Velho, South Zone.
Ellan Lustosa/PA

After initially refusing a court order, the Archbishop of San Salvador José Luis Escobar confirmed that the archdiocese will open its archives to assist in the case of the 1981 El Mozote massacre. Between 800 and 1,200 people were killed when the Salvadoran army attacked townspeople in Morazán province.Archbishop José Escobar Alas at first said that he would not allow the archives to be accessed, because in the past documents have been removed archives without permission.However, last week he affirmed that the archdiocese will cooperate with the judge. 

Documents including birth certificates, baptism certificates, and vaccination cards, along with items collected at the site of the massacre, are held by the Church and could be of use to the investigation. 


{David: pic of vaccinations beneath Christ the redeemer statue?)

Brazil administered its first coronavirus vaccines on 18 January, despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s vaccine scepticism. Some of the first shots were given at the foot of the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.  Cardenal Orani João Tempesta took part in an inter-religious event in Rio promoting vaccination and posted on social media: “May God continue to enlighten all who are dedicated to healing and renew the hope of our people.”Colombia, which has reported 50,000 Covid deaths this year, said it is ready to begin distributing vaccines and aims to vaccinate 35 million people this year. The bishops’ conference highly recommends taking the vaccine. 


 A young priest ordained only six months ago was among four people killed in an explosion caused by a suspected gas leak at a parish centre in Madrid on 21January. Another to die was an engineer inspecting the boiler room because of a strong smell of gas. Ten people were also injured at the Church of Our Lady of La Paloma. Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, rushed to the devastated building, which housed priests’ apartments, as well as parish and local Caritas offices. 


Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople hosted a virtual international climate change summit this week. Taking the theme, “COVID-19 and Climate Change: Living with and Learning from a Pandemic”, participants over three days discussed lessons learned from the global crisis, its impact on the environment, healthcare implications and how it has changed our approach to science.This is the fourth Halki Summit promoting global awareness of the consequences of climate change. 


The Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem has thanked the Jordaniangovernment for incorporating refugees from Iraq and Syria into its Covid-19 vaccination programme. Palestinian Bishop William Hanna Shomali, Auxiliary in Jerusalem, said, “this confirms that Jordan’s refugees are recognised and treated as people with equal rights." Around 1.5 million refugees are accommodated in the country.

Meanwhile the Bishops of the Holy LandCo-ordination, an international annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land that was held online this year, have called on the international community to, “hold Israel accountable for its moral, legal and humanitarian responsibility to make Covid-19 vaccines accessible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” They also encouraged “cooperation by the Palestinian Authority”. Thegroup said the impact of Covid on the Palestinian population has been “compounded by conflict, occupation and blockade”. 


Representatives of the Churches of the Middle East wrote to the new President of the US last week, calling on him to lift economic sanctions that, they say, are causing indiscriminate suffering to the Syrian people. They urge President Joe Biden “to help Syrians alleviate a humanitarian crisis that threatens to trigger a new wave of instability in the Middle East and beyond.” The letter was signed by Dr Michel Abs, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Melkite Greek Catholic patriarchs.


Deadly twin suicide attacks last week at a crowded second-hand clothes market in central Baghdadhave alarmed the Christian community, especially with the expected visit of Pope Francis in March. "They wanted to send a message of death,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. The bombings on 21 January killed 32 people and injured 100 others. No group has claimed responsibility.


The body of Fr Rodrigue Sanon was found last week in a remote forest in Burkina Fasoafter he was abducted from his car by unknown assailants. Bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanou of Banfora called for prayers throughout the diocese.


The former head of the Vatican bank, Angelo Caloia, 81, has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison for money laundering and aggravated embezzlement. The highest-ranking Vatican official to be convicted of a financial crime, Caloia was president of the Institute of Works of Religion (IOR) from 1989 to 2009. He and two lawyers who consulted for the bank were charged with embezzling money while managing the sale of Italian real estate owned by IOR between 2001-2008. Caloia’s lawyer is appealing his sentence.


Catholic leaders worldwide, including 29 bishops, welcomed the coming into force on 22 January of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They said in a statement released that day by Pax Christi International, "the worst of all weapons of mass destruction has long since been judged to be immoral.” Pax Christi presidents in France, Germany, Luxembourg, England and Wales, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines and the US signed.The bishops of Hiroshima and Nagasaki endorsed the treaty and prayed that “countries that possess nuclear weapons will also ratify it, bringing about [its] full implementation.”


The Cologne archdiocese is continuing to refuse to publish the results of the investigation into the handling of abuse cases which it commissioned.Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki appointed the Munich law firm of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) to conduct the independent investigation, but refused to publish the results due to what he claimed were “serious methodological shortcomings”. He has now commissioned another law firm to conduct fresh investigations. WSW has demanded that its abuse report be published without delay “due to phenomenal public interest in our evaluation”, and has offered to do so at its own risk. A spokeswoman for Cologne archdiocese told the official website of the German bishops’ conference katholisch.dethat the archdiocese saw no reason “to have a report published, which is unsuitable due to its methodological shortcomings.” 

Cardinal Antonio Canizares of Valencia has unveiled plans to sell 40 historic artworks from his residence to help the poor and needy in his diocese. Cardinal Cañizares, 75, who was head of the Congregation for Divine Worship under Pope Benedict XVI, vowed that “the archdiocesan Church is going to strip itself of precious goods and give them to the poor”, during his annual Christmas greetings. He then issued a pastoral letter in mid-January explaining that a new foundation called "Pauperibus" would be created to facilitate the sale of the artworks.

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