02 December 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Pope Francis shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during an audience at the Vatican on November 26.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis received President Emmanuel Macron at the Vatican for an hour on Friday as France prepares to take on the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Macron met privately with the pope before holding discussions with officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State on “France’s commitment in Lebanon, the Middle East, and Africa,” according to the Vatican. Macron’s papal audience took place as French Catholics continue to reel from an independent report published last month estimating that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years.

The General Secretariat of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference reported a bomb explosion at the entrance to its headquarters in La Paz. It happened early on 24 November, without anybody being hurt. The attack may have been linked to a recent controversy surrounding the Bolivian Church's position on the case of an 11-year-old girl who became pregnant as a result of rape. The bishops urged the authorities to respect the right to life of the foetus as well as the girl.

Many churches across the Philippines turned red for the fifth year marking the “Red Wednesday” campaign by Aid to the Church in Need to commemorate Christians persecuted for their faith. These included cathedrals in Manila and Pasig. Over the course of the week 17-24 November, buildings in Slovakia, as well as the cathedrals of Montreal and Toronto in Canada turned red. In Australia, schools in six dioceses wore red and participated in prayer events.

Former Timor-Leste president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has called on the government to adopt the Abu Dhabi Declaration signed in February 2019 by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi. Jose Ramos-Horta said on 25 November that embracing the Declaration, “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”, will help maintain peaceful coexistence and a "culture of mutual respect" between Christians and Muslims.

Pope Francis at the weekend appointed an experienced Vatican diplomat to be his papal envoy to Medjugorje, following the death of Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser in August. Hoser, who oversaw the pastoral situation in Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions, since 2017, died in Warsaw aged 78 after a long illness. Francis named Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, 75, special apostolic visitor to the parish community of Medjugorje for an indefinite period. Cavalli has been apostolic nuncio to the Netherlands since 2015.

Religious and civic leaders in Indonesia have launched a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence, hoping to push lawmakers to urgently pass an anti-sexual violence bill. The group, calling itself the Act-Together Network to Stop Violence against Women and Children, initiated the campaign with a virtual interfaith prayer service on 25 November. Jesuit Fr Ignatius Ismartono, who advises a migrant group, said they joined because gender-based violence “is a human rights issue and the main root of other crimes against women, such as human trafficking.”

The Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Tigray has warned of the “escalation” of conflict in Ethiopia’s northernmost regional state after a year of civil war. 

Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat called on the Catholic Church around Ethiopia, “to come out of its silence” and ask for justice against the persecutions and atrocities that have been inflicted on Tigrayans. The Ethiopian government says that responsibility for the crisis lies with the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the ruling party of the region which it has declared a terrorist organisation.

The President of the Sudan and South Sudan Bishops' Conference has said "we hope for a new beginning" after the October military coup ended on 21 November and Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok was freed from house arrest. “We must thank the international community for the support given to the civilian government, the Sudanese demonstrators and all those people who worked so that the Prime Minister could be reinstated,” added Bishop Yunan Tombe Trille of El Obeid.  But the bishop cautioned that people are divided for, “we are facing yet another compromise between the military and Hamdok.” 

 Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church has opened a coronavirus vaccination centre in Resurrection Cathedral in Kiev, the first religious institution to do so in a country where infections have spiked and demand is growing for vaccines. "The Church sees no reason to refuse the vaccine," said Fr Taras Zheblinsky, head of the Greek Catholic Church's media department; "taking the vaccine is a way to save your life and health."

Pope Francis created a commission on Friday last week to assess how the Catholic Church in Italy is implementing the reform of the marriage nullity process he introduced in 2015. Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Gentle Judge, our Lord Jesus”), made changes to canon law intended to streamline the process by which Church tribunals assess requests for declarations of the nullity of marriages. The pope said that the commission’s task will be “to ascertain and verify the full and immediate application of the reform of the process of matrimonial nullity.” Referring to the 2014 family synod, the pope said that the new step was necessary to enable Italy’s Churches to “show themselves to the faithful as generous mothers in a matter closely linked to the salvation of souls”.

Three Catholic churches around Keyenberg, Germany, were deconsecrated last weekend, before their demolition to make way for a surface coal mine. The area sits on one of Europe’s largest coal deposits, the Garzweiler mine which has already swallowed 20 villages. The GreenFaith community organised prayers of solidarity last weekend in Keyenberg, pointing out that if mined and burned, this coal would make it impossible for Germany to meet its climate targets. 

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is being sued by a former priest who accused McCarrick of sexual battery in 1986, around the time the accuser was ordained. McCarrick was then the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey and the suit also accused the archdiocese of negligence. New Jersey opened a two-year window for filing sex abuse charges regardless of when they occurred. Normally, the statute of limitations would bar such charges. The former cardinal is also facing charges in Massachusetts that he abused a minor who was a family friend, as well as other charges stemming from his time as archbishop in Newark and, before that, bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey.


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