27 April 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Bishop Stephen Chow, pictured here in March with Pope Francis, has spoken in support of women’s ordination.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

Hong Kong’s Bishop Stephen Chow, who became the territory’s ninth bishop last December, voiced his support for the ordination of women during a Chrism Mass on 13 April. Before his homily, the Jesuit bishop said that he wanted “to address our ordained brothers, and I hope one day maybe ordained sisters, too.” It is not clear whether he had in mind ordaining women as priests or as deacons.

Vicki Thorn, the founder of post-abortion healing ministry Project Rachel, died unexpectedly on 20 April. She was 72. Thorn began the ministry in 1984 when she was working in the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki said Thorn’s work stood “as a living testimony to an unwavering and unconditional defence of life at all stages, and to the mercy of God’s love”. The ministry grew into a nationwide network of mental health professionals, spiritual directors and others who provide ongoing, one-on-one confidential care to women who have procured an abortion.

The chair of the Morristown, New Jersey Democratic Committee, A. L. Oliver, was forced out of his post for prolife views. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, protested over the removal to the national party’s chairman, Jamie Harrison. “This kind of discrimination against Democrats because of one issue is harmful to building a big tent party of diversity and inclusion,” said Day. “Oliver’s pro-life position never affected his ability do his job professionally, with integrity.”

In the first months of 2022, 127 incidents of violence against Christians in India were recorded by United Christian Forum, an ecumenical organisation based in New Delhi. Its Catholic coordinator, A.C. Michael, has highlighted “systematic and carefully orchestrated violence against Christians, and social media being used to foment hatred”. There were 82 reports of violence carried out by a crowd of militants and 89 pastors or parish priests were beaten and threatened with retaliation if they continued to lead liturgies.

The Brazilian Church’s Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) has highlighted the scale of land conflicts affecting indigenous peoples, particularly the Yanomami, whose territory has been seriously eroded by illegal mining. CPT recorded 109 deaths in Yanomami land after clashes with illegal miners in 2021. Half of the conflicts over land and water are in the Amazon, which registered 641 disputes last year.

Independence leader and Nobel laureate José Ramos-Horta, 72, has won a second term as president of Timor-Leste. His first term was from 2007 to 2012. He will be sworn in on 20 May, the day when the country of 1.3 million, 97 per cent of whom are Catholic, celebrates its 20th anniversary. He promised to foster dialogue and unity after his 62-per-cent win in Tuesday’s ballot, well ahead of his opponent, incumbent president Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres who polled 37 per cent. Salesian Archbishop Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili congratulated the people for their participation in the election and hoped the new president “will work hard to get the country out of poverty”.

Pope Francis will be visiting Democratic Republic of Congo in July to promote reconciliation and also to tell the world “about the conflicts that are tearing this country apart,” according to Fr Georges Kalenga who is on the planning committee for the visit. Bishop Sébastien Muyengo of Uvira said Francis was coming to console people, particularly in the east, where “Congolese blood continues to flow today”.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has been criticised for “hollow words” over Myanmar’s peace plan, agreed by Asean leaders and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on 24 April 2021. The plan called for an immediate cessation of violence by the regime. Human Rights Watch called on the Asean countries taking the lead on Myanmar – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – to “immediately alter course to focus on protecting people’s rights and freedoms”. More than 1,700 people have been killed and more than 13,000 detained since the junta’s February 2021 coup. Around 75 churches have been destroyed or damaged.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that Israel transfer ownership of a historic Russian Orthodox church near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the Russian government. Control of the church of St Alexander Nevsky has been disputed since the 1917 Russian revolution. A judicial ruling now obliges Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to make a ruling on the church.

Kenya’s former president, Mwai Kibaki, has died at the age of 90. His 2002 election ended 40 years of one-party rule since independence. However, his 2007 re-election sparked nationwide violence. “I saw him as a man who loved his Catholic faith and practised it. He constantly attended Sunday Masses at different churches in Nairobi,” Fr Richard Rwiza, a priest and scholar from Tanzania currently lecturing at the Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa, told The Tablet. President Uhuru Kenyatta, defeated by Kibaki in 2002, led the tributes to his former rival, who is to be buried on 30 April, at his Othaya home in Nyeri County, central Kenya, after a 29 April state funeral in Nairobi.

The Vatican has ended an investigation into allegations that Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, 82, failed to investigate claims of clerical sex abuse when he was archbishop of Krakow. “The analysis of the collected documentation made it possible to assess these actions of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz as correct and so the Holy See decided not to proceed any further,” the Polish nunciature said on Friday. On Thursday last week, Pope Francis spent 40 minutes with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The premier did not meet other Vatican authorities due to the private nature of his visit. He was on his first trip abroad since his reelection as prime minister on 3 April. The Pope blessed Orbán, his family and Hungary, which is engaged in offering shelter to Ukrainians fleeing the war there. Orbán replied: “We are waiting for you,” referring to an invitation to the Pope to visit Hungary.

The Chaldean Catholic Church in Batnaya, Iraq, reopened at Easter after its destruction by Islamic State eight years ago. Batnaya was the worst damaged of the Christian towns and villages in the historic Nineveh Plains. More than 500 people attended St Kyriakos Church’s Easter Vigil. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need supported the rebuilding.

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