10 December 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Pope Francis meets Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and foreign minister of Myanmar, at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, in 2017.
CNS photo/Paul Haring

A court in Myanmar has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted civilian leader, to four years on charges of inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 protocols. It is the first in a series of verdicts that could jail her for life. Suu Kyi, 76, has been detained since the generals ousted her government on 1 February, ending the country’s brief period of democracy. UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned the “sham trial”. Meanwhile, Bishop Peter Hla of Pekhon spoke out last week against regular attacks on churches in Myanmar, including the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pekhon.

A religiously charged mob in Pakistan’s Punjab province beat to death a Sri Lankan factory manager and burned his body on 3 December over allegations of desecrating an Islamic poster. Priyantha Kumara, a 48-year-old factory manager in Sialkot, was accused of removing the poster from a factory wall. Usman Buzdar, the chief minister of Punjab, has expressed shock at the “horrific incident”. Prime Minister Imran Khan described the killing as “a day of shame for Pakistan”.

Ten years after the killing of an Italian missionary who supported indigenous people’s rights and environmental protection, Philippines police have detained the key suspect. Fr Fausto Tentorio, a Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) priest, was gunned down at a parish centre in Cotabato province, Mindanao, on 17 October 2011. The main suspect, Ricardo Durado, was arrested on 28 November.

El Salvador’s bishops in a statement last week entitled “Water is a precious resource that we must all protect” said 70 per cent of El Salvador’s 590 rivers are contaminated. The main causes are businesses that discharge their waste water into rivers, municipalities that do not have treatment systems, a lack of sanitation facilities and mining projects.

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the 79th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, was laid to rest in the crypt of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta’s capital, Valletta, on Friday, following his state funeral in the co-cathedral. Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta, celebrated the Requiem Mass. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Mgr Jean Laffitte, Prelate of the order, concelebrated. Those present included Malta’s President, George Vella, and Prime Minister, Robert Abela.

The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) has welcomed last month’s decision by Sweden to charge two oil executives from a Swedish oil company with aiding and abetting war crimes in South Sudan between 1999 and

2003. Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of Juba, vice president of the SSCC, was among those signing a statement supporting corporate accountability, saying: “It is encouraging to know that the Swedish authorities have decided to hold the oil company Lundin Energy to account for its role during the civil war.”

A bus carrying Catholic choir members to a wedding was swept away by floodwaters in Kitui, Kenya, last Saturday. More than 30 people drowned as dozens tried to get out of the bus, which tipped over trying to navigate a submerged bridge.

The inauguration of an Assembly of Christian Associations in Palestine on 26 November heard a call for Palestinian Christians to resist the temptation to emigrate and to build the Palestinian homeland together with Muslim Palestinians. Archbishop Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, and Youssef Daher, of the Ecumenical Council of Churches (WCC), were among those supporting the call.

Rwanda’s Church has marked the 40th anniversary of Our Lady appearing on 28 November 1981 at Kibeho, Gikongoro diocese. Kibeho was declared a holy land after the apparitions to three Rwandan schoolgirls between 1981 and 1989. The girls were warned of a hate-filled conflict to come, thought to be a reference to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. The apparition of Our Lady of Kibeho was recognised by the Vatican in 2001. The ceremony was attended by Kigali’s Archbishop, Cardinal Antoine Kambanda, and Bishop Philip Rukamba of Butare, President of the Episcopal Conference.

The new head of Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese has pledged to repair divisions in the community. Jesuit Stephen Chow Sau-yan, 62, was consecrated as bishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception last Saturday. Cardinal John Tong Hon, the apostolic administrator, who officiated, said he would be “a bridge between the government authorities and the Church”. The new political environment follows 2019 anti-government protests and the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020. Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is Catholic, attended the installation but reportedly left before Communion.

Pope Francis has named a new archbishop for the Portuguese archdiocese of Braga. Bishop Jose´ Cordeiro is a liturgist who obtained his degree and doctorate in Rome.

The Portuguese bishops have announced the creation of an Independent Commission to study the issue of clerical sexual abuse. Portugal has till now remained largely free of scandals involving the sexual abuse of minors by priests or Religious. Meanwhile, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (pictured) vetoed a euthanasia bill approved by parliament, effectively killing the initiative and postponing future attempts to a new legislature.

Unesco held a ceremony on 4 December to honour St Thérèse of Lisieux for the two years leading to the 150th anniversary of her birth in 2023. The UN agency based in Paris every two years celebrates personalities who promote humanity in the service of peace.

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