10 April 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

The no-confidence motion filed by an opposition alliance against Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan succeeded on the early morning of April 10.

News Briefing: Church in the World

Security personnel stand guard outside the National Assembly building in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan.
Ahmad Kamal/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Ahead of a vote of no confidence, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan took an unprecedented step of advising the president to dissolve the National Assembly and call early elections. The deputy speaker declared the no-confidence motion illegal on the basis of what he described as a “foreign conspiracy”, thereby scuttling the much-anticipated vote that would have decided whether Imran Khan remained in office or not. A Church source in the country told The Tablet, “the political situation is bad here as we are in yet another crisis and Imran Khan is not going to come out of it well.”  The Supreme Court was tasked with hearing arguments on the constitutional crisis. Pending any court decision, Imran Khan will remain in charge for at least two weeks, or until an interim government is formed to oversee elections.

The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem called for peace in Jerusalem on 2 April after two weeks of violence in the Holy Land left more than a dozen people dead. They called on, “the overseeing governmental authorities to exercise policies of religious tolerance, restraint of force, and de-escalation of conflict.” Particularly condemned was the illegal seizure of the Little Petra Hotel in East Jerusalem by militant Jewish settlers. They described it as,a threat to the continued existence of a Christian Quarter in Jerusalem.” The hotel is owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. 

Lebanese Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, has endorsed a document compiled by an ecumenical team of theologians and scholars from the Middle East, which has emphasised that the issue of Christian communities in the Middle East is about celebrating faith as well as lamenting diminishing numbers. The document entitled Christians in the Middle East: Towards the Renewal of Theological, Societal and Political Choices was produced last September by the Nakhtar al Hayat (“Let’s choose life”) group. Speaking during a symposium in Beirut on 30 March, Cardinal Raï said, “the document offers a platform to examine the emergencies and problems that affect the family, the Church, the State and society”.

The Church in Vietnam says it is revitalised by the ordination of 61 new deacons. On 28 March, Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Hochiminh, presided at the ordination Mass for 18 of the new deacons in the monastery of St Joseph in Saigon. He said, "deacons are primarily the servants of the altar and assistants to the priesthood in the Church, heralds of the Gospel and promoters of charity”. Others were ordained on 19 March for the three dioceses of Thanh Hoa, Hue and Danang.

Catholic bishops have called for unity among Sri Lanka’s politicians as the country faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Civil unrest on the streets a week ago prompted the resignations of Sri Lanka's cabinet and the central bank governor as anger grew over rising food and fuel prices. Anger has been directed at Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country's president. However, Bishop Winston S. Fernando, president of the Bishops’ Conference, said successive governments were responsible to varying degrees for the present state of affairs. “The country is fast approaching the precipice of a failed state that will in its wake inflict irreversible injuries on the people,” he said. The bishops have urged all Catholic institutions, parishes and private institutions to organise assistance to help those severely affected by the economic crisis.

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna State, Fr John Joseph Hayab, says Christian denominations demand improved security after an armed gang attacked a train in northern Nigeria on 28 March, killing eight people, injuring two dozen more and abducting some of the 400 passengers. The train derailed after the tracks were bombed and gunmen opened fire. Nigerians are increasingly outraged over the country's worsening security situation. Kidnapping for ransom has increased with three priests taken in March. At least 536 Nigerians were killed by terrorists in the first three months of 2022. 

Boko Haram militants are conducting night-time raids on villages in Cameroon and killing all the men, according to a local priest. Aid to the Church in Need reported on 31 March that Islamists “kill the fathers of the family and the teenagers, especially the boys, and then they pillage the family’s property and destroy everything they can’t carry off.” Families have abandoned their homes as the raiders take cereals, goats, sheep, poultry and clothing. 

Manor College, a small school with only 600 students founded in 1947 by the Sisters of St Basil the Great, an order of Ukrainian nuns, announced they would be conferring an honorary degree on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The school in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania said it was conferring the honour because of Zelenskyy’s “heroism and ... courageous efforts to preserve Western civilisation.” 

The US University of Notre Dame will be conferring the 2022 Laetare Medal on environmental justice activist Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James. Lavigne founded the grassroots, faith-based organisation in St. James Parish, part of “Cancer Alley,” a section of Louisiana with many petrochemical plants that have polluted the air and water, causing cancer rates as high as 700 times the national average. 

Belgium carried out a record number of euthanasias in 2021, 2,699, after 2,444 amid the slump in hospital statistics during the first covid year 2020, according to a report by a federal commission. The figure was 2,659 for 2019, the last normal year. The commission estimated that there were also “about 25 to 35 per cent non-declared (and thus illegal) euthanasias” last year. Most cases concerned the elderly, but about one third of the official total was under 60 years old. 

Dutch florists will continue their 35-year tradition of adorning St Peter's Square with flowers at Easter this year after all, despite worries when their sponsors pulled out following two bare pandemic years. A Dutch-speaking church in Rome rallied existing and new sponsors to contribute flowers to the annual show. It also got volunteers to truck all the flowers and plants to Rome in time. A team of florists will fly down to Rome and race to set up the decorations on Holy Saturday.

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