20 April 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World



News Briefing: Church in the World

Hans Küng
mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

The German Catholic theologian Fr Hans Küng, who died in his house in Tübingen on 6 April at the age of 93, was buried in the old graveyard in Tübingen on 16 April. The funeral service beforehand was held in Tübingen’s St John’s church. Küng planned his own funeral, which included a long creed he had worded himself, and music by J.S.Bach and Mendelssohn. Only a few select guests were allowed to take part because of the Covid pandemic, but the funeral was broadcast live by SWR (German South West TV). The governor of the state of Württemberg in which Tübingen lies, Winfried Kretschmann, paid tribute to Küng as “one of the great spiritual masters of my generation who helped me personally to recover from a deep crisis of faith”.  Küng had been a “spiritual and ethical authority” and a “world citizen”, his successor as president of the Foundation for a Global Ethic, Eberhard Stilz, said.

A “Mass for the freedom of Haiti”, led by Haitian bishops, was subjected to police violence at the end when police fired tear gas into the church where it was held. The 15 April Mass in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, included 11 bishops and a packed crowd. It was part of a response to recent kidnappings and growing violence in the Caribbean nation. Church officials were told the gas was fired to disperse the congregation to prevent street protests after the service. Five priests and two nuns were among a group of 10 kidnapped on 11 April, on their way to the installation of a new parish priest. Kidnappers demanded $1million ransom.

The Holy See has scheduled a Symposium on the theology of priesthood for 17-19 February 2022. Titled “Toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood” the main theme of the Theological Symposium will be the relationship between the priesthood of the baptised and the priesthood of the ordained, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, told said Vatican News.

Indonesian police have shot dead a suspected terrorist they believe was connected to a suicide bombing at a Catholic cathedral in Makassar in South Sulawesi province on Palm Sunday. It followed an attempt to arrest him, to join 31 other suspects in detention thought to be linked to the attack, among them the alleged bomb maker.Police report that the dead suspect and those arrested are from an Islamist militant group affiliated to Islamic State, and in the same cell as the two bombers killed, a young married couple. 

The Italian priest in charge of the small Catholic community in Afghanistan has warned that “the country could plummet back into civil war,” if U.S. troops withdraw by September, as recently announced by US President Joe Biden. Barnabite Father Giovanni Scalese, superior of its Kabul-based mission said on 16 April that talks which should have been happening between the government and the Taliban, “have never seriously taken off.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis called on all the priests in his archdiocese to offer Mass on Monday, 19 April 19, for “the preservation of peace and justice” as protests continued after the killing of a Black youth, Daunte Wright, by a white policewoman in the suburban town of Brooklyn Center and as the murder trial of another police officer, Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd last year, nears its conclusion. 

Once again our nation is mourning the loss of lives in a mass shooting and this time it is eight of our own neighbours who were killed at the Indianapolis FedEx Ground center,” Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson said after the killings on Friday last week. “The US Catholic Bishops have long supported changes in the law to control the sale and use of firearms. May we all recognise that we are made in the image and likeness of God and continue to do what we can to end this senseless violence and to live together in peace.

UNESCO, the Paris-based United Nations agency for education, science and culture, has proposed St Therese of Lisieux as one of 60 persons to celebrate in 2022-2023 for their contribution to world peace, education, science or communication. The decision by its executive council to mark in 2023 the 150th anniversary of the Church doctor's birth must be ratified by UNESCO's general assembly in November. UNESCO said "celebrating her birthday can be an opportunity to highlight the role of women in religions in fighting against poverty and promoting inclusion.”

Kenya’s Catholic bishops have appealed to their government not to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps which shelter more than 400,000 Somali, South Sudanese, Congolese, and other refugees.  They said last week that closing the camps and repatriating refugees and asylum seekers against their will is against international law. They felt refugees should only go back to Somalia when the situation improves there.

Catholic hospitals converted to Covid-19 hospitals across India are seeing “wards full and we have practically no space for fresh admissions,” reported Fr George Kannanthanam, national secretary of the Catholic Health Association of India on 16 April.

Mozambicans have been urged “to show solidarity with the displaced in the province of Cabo Delgado" by Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Maputo. He has also appealed to neighbouring countries, “so that together we can create authentic peace.” He spoke as new fighting broke out in Palma in the troubled, resource-rich region. Around 700,000 people have been displaced after violent attacks by Islamist militants. 

DR Congo's Catholic Church has reported "Islamisation" in the troubled east of the country, where an Islamist militia group has carried out multiple massacres. At a news conference on 8 April, Congolese bishops reported that civilians who have escaped report being "forced to convert to Islam". They denounced the "Islamisation of the region to the detriment of religious freedom." 

Democratic leaders in Hong Kong , including five Catholics, have been given prison sentences for illegal assembly at pro-democracy protests. Some jail terms were suspended, including 82-year-old Catholic Martin Lee who founded the Democratic Party, but jailed for a further 14 months on 16 April was 72-year-old Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Hong Kong’s Catholic chief executive Carrie Lam had assured citizens that the draconian national security law, enforced by Beijing last July, would only affect “troublemaker agitators”. 

As Myanmar’s violence escalateswith the number of unarmed civilian protesters killed by Myanmar’s security forces reaching more than 720 - a government in exile has been formed. The new government of national unity was announced on 16 April and it opposes the military junta that took power in a coup on 1 February. The new body hopes to attract international recognition but it presents the international community with complex choices over how and whether to engage with its representatives. 

At the end of their general assembly last week the Brazilian bishops’ conference issued a statement condemning the inequalities in the country. "Brazil is experiencing the worsening of a serious health, economic, ethical, social and political crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, which challenges us, highlighting the structural inequalities rooted in Brazilian society,” the bishops said. 


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