01 October 2021, The Tablet

Church in the World: News Briefing

Church in the World: News Briefing

Catholics in Africa have celebrated the Congo Basin and called for its protection.
Lee Dalton / Alamy

After a month-long battle with Covid-19, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who led the Archdiocese of Caracas, Venezuela, for 13 years, died at the age of 79 on 23 September. Cardinal Baltazar Porras, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Caracas, asked "everyone to pray for his eternal rest as the church in Venezuela and the universal Church mourns”. Pope Francis expressed his condolences to Cardinal Porras, remembering Cardinal Urosa as a "selfless shepherd."

Poland's Catholic primate, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, has responded to criticisms of his country's reluctance to take in migrants and refugees by urging Catholics to "see their suffering as our suffering". In another sermon marking the international Migrants and Refugees Day, the bishop with responsibility for migrants, Krzysztof Zadarko, said Poland needed to adjust to becoming a society "dominated less by Catholic culture and more multicultural".

The bishops of the Armenian Catholic Church have elected Archbishop Raphaël François Minassian, the ordinary for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, to be their church’s new patriarch. The 74-year-old took the name Patriarch Raphaël Pierre XXI Minassian. The bishops had met in Lebanon for two weeks in June, but no candidate had garnered the two-thirds vote necessary to succeed Patriarch Grégoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan, who died in Beirut in May. In accordance with church law, the bishops turned to Pope Francis, who asked them to gather in Rome and begin the electoral process again.

 The National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Care (Caritas Colombia) highlighted the scandal of human trafficking last week in a video message on 23 September marking the International Day against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Children. Director Mgr Héctor Fabio Henao Gaviria said, “these vulnerable people are easily captured by people who … traffic them as if they were objects for exchange”.

The leadership of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference met with the president of the Congress of the Republic, María del Carmen Alva Prieto, on 22 September to offer collaborative work with the country’s social, educational and health sectors. It was one of a series of meetings to engage with government bodies under new Peruvian president Pedro Castillo, and to calm tensions after the death in prison of Abimael Guzmán, leader of the Shining Path terrorist group.

The 10 Catholic Bishops of Karnataka State, in southern India, met its chief minister on 22 September to voice concern over a proposed law to ban forcible religious conversions. The delegation was led by Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore, who denied that the Christian community in schools, colleges and hospitals across the state had ever forced a single student or patient to convert to Christianity. "The proposed anti-conversion law aims to defame Christianity", the Archbishop warned. Karnataka is governed by the BJP party which is hostile to minority religious communities.  

The Peruvian cardinal, who is president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network (REPAM), met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on 20 September to report on its work and on the establishment of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon. Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo hoped Francis will soon officially recognise the new conference, which was announced in June 2020. "All the other conferences are bishops' conferences, but this one would be the first ecclesial conference," he said, adding that, "all baptised men and women can participate”.

As they marked the Season of Creation, Catholics in Africa have celebrated the Congo Basin and called for its protection. Speakers at an online conference last week of the Ecclesial Network for the Congo River Basin, a Catholic network that includes Cameroon, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Central African Republic, highlighted the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. The biodiverse-rich Congo River Basin “is very important not only for Africa, but the entire world," Prince Papa, coordinator of the Laudato Si' Movement in Africa, said.

The Anglican bishops of Southern Africa meeting at their provincial synod last week passed a motion calling for a halt to all oil and gas exploration in Africa.

A US-based Maronite Catholic bishop says action is needed to stop the haemorrhaging of Christians – especially young people - from Lebanon amidst economic woes. Lebanon has a unique “Christian-Muslim conviviality” said  Maronite Catholic Bishop Gregory John Mansour. The head of the Eparchy of St Maron of Brooklyn, New York, was speaking last week at a Washington D.C.-based event, “In Defence of Christians”. 

The Catholic archdiocese of Nairobi, Kenya, is appealing for support to aid families hard hit by drought and Covid-19 countrywide. The appeal came as the government declared the current drought, which is affecting more than 2.1 million people, a national disaster.

Mission and private schools run by organisations including the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe are finding it hard to operate after the government barred them from increasing tuition fees and charging for them in foreign currency. As the economic situation worsens and the local currency deteriorates, private schools have been asking parents to pay using the US dollar but education authorities say this is illegal and have threatened to deregister such schools.

In a memo to the nation’s bishops, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, chair of the Committee on Canonical Affairs for the US bishops’ conference, reported “instances where it had been discovered that a woman living under a transgendered identity” had entered a diocesan seminary or religious order’s formation programme. In one case, records had been doctored to conceal the change in gender status. Listecki said that all such cases were discovered before ordination. The memo from Listecki was first reported at the blog Whispers in the Loggia. 

Two traditionalist friars have been arrested in France for setting ablaze one telephone pole and trying to destroy a second one to “protect the population” against what they believed were the harmful effects of the new 5G wireless network recently installed there. The friars, 39 and 40 years old, owned up to their acts and were freed under judicial control. They could face trial for arson and criminal association, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines of €150.000. The case has proved embarrassing for their Capuchin community linked to the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX), said a member of the monastery at Villié-Morgon in the Beaujolais region north of Lyon.




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