29 June 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

News Briefing: Church in the World

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to travel to Hong Kong on 1 July for the 25th anniversary of the “return” of the territories from London to Beijing
CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters.

“The Nigerian state seems to be on the verge of collapse”, said a statement on the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2023, signed by the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Abuja, Fr Zaccaria Samjumi. The statement, which says Catholics should not despair but engage with the elections, recalls conflicts “from attacks by unknown gunmen throughout the southeast, to the insurgency in the northeast with the killing of innocent civilians which continues unabated”. The massacre at St Francis Church in Owo, Ondo State, on Sunday 5 June, “has given a new dimension to the massacres taking place in our country”, the statement said.

A festive atmosphere greeted the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, when he visited Gaza on 22-26 June. He met Christian and Muslim families, visited hospitals and refugee camps, and the two houses of the Sisters of Charity.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a Maine law is unconstitutional, as it discriminates against religious schools. Maine is the most rural state in America and many of its school districts do not have enough students to support a public school. The Maine legislature passed a law permitting towns to provide tuition assistance for education at private schools in districts lacking a public school – but not if the private school was religiously affiliated. The court ruled that barring students at religious schools from receiving public funds available to other private schools violated the First Amendment.

The Biden administration in the US has announced plans to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as part of the meaning of the word “sex” in implementing Title IX, the landmark programme enacted 50 years ago that required schools to spend as much

“Nuclear weapons are a costly and dangerous liability,” Pope Francis has told an international conference in Vienna. Archbishop Paul Gallagher (pictured) read the Pope’s message on 21 June at the first meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The “courageous vision” of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons “appears ever more timely,” Pope Francis said. The Treaty went into effect in January 2021. To date, 65 states have ratified or acceded to the Treaty, although no nuclear- armed countries have done so.

Catholic bishops in Kenya are calling on politicians and candidates in the August 9 general elections to address the economic crisis facing ordinary people. The bishops’ weekly election statements, known as the Bishops’ Voice, have warned that life is becoming unbearable for low-income families.

The Bishop of Mu¨nster in Germany, Felix Genn, suspended the cathedral dean and judicial vicar of the diocese, Kurt Schulte, “with immediate effect” on 24 June, after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against him. The allegations have been passed on to the Münster public prosecutor’s office, the diocese stated. According to the Mu¨nster clerical sexual abuse report, which was commissioned by the diocese in 2019 and published on 13 June, more than 200 priests abused 610 minors between 1945 and 2020; 75 per cent of the victims, who were aged between 10 and 14, were boys and the rest were girls. The number of unrecorded cases of abuse by priests is estimated to be eight to 10 times higher than the recorded figures.

Ecuador’s Catholic bishops have called for a negotiated agreement between the government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which has led nationwide protests since 13 June. Indigenous people, who make up about 25 per cent of the population of Ecuador, demand subsidies for families in difficulty, a freeze on fuel prices and no mining in Indigenous territories. In initially peaceful protests, six people have been killed.

A panel of experts has insisted on the need for Catholics to help curb deforestation and protect Asia’s environment. The call was made during a webinar on 23 June organised by the international Laudato Si’ Movement, which highlighted that Asia has lost more than half of its original forest cover.

Myanmar’s Cardinal, Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, has called on Christians to be “agents of hope”, as war, threats to religious freedom and climate change challenge the world. Addressing the Catholic Peacebuilding Network’s virtual conference last week, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences said: “We should deploy that hope to build bridges between peoples.” Cardinal Bo deplored the fact that in Myanmar, “so many of our churches have been bombed, desecrated [and] priests and laypeople arrested, tortured, killed.” Last week, Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, was moved from house arrest to solitary confinement in prison.

Pope Francis has ordered the online publication of 170 volumes of files relating to Jewish people from the recently opened Pope Pius XII archive. The documents that gather requests for help sent to Pope Pius XII by Jewish people after the beginning of Nazi and fascist persecution have been available for consultation by scholars since March 2020. But Pope Francis has asked that the documents now be made accessible to everyone.

The French Church was in shock last week after the nunciature in Paris announced in a rare communique´ that Pope Francis had ordered a prompt apostolic visitation of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg. The news came after the archdiocese’s lay treasurer, fired only six weeks before his term ended, said he considered his dismissal “a heavy disciplinary sanction without motivation”, and would contest it in court. Luc Ravel, archbishop of the city since 2017, said he welcomed “in faith and trust the decision of the Holy Father”. T There were no details about the “pastoral government of the archdiocese” in the nunciature’s statement, but the former treasurer, Jacques Bourrier, told the Dernie`res Nouvelles d’Alsace daily that there had been “a total absence of management” and the “managerial practices of a banana republic”. Belgian Cardinal Jozef de Kesel has dissolved the charismatic community Verbe de Vie (Word of Life) after a canonical visit established “grave and systematic dysfunctioning since its foundation” in 1986, writes Tom Heneghan. Bishop Franc¸ois Touvet of Cha^lons, in the Champagne region, said on 25 June he was administrator of the community until it is dissolved on 1 July. Andecy, one of its three abbeys in France, is in his diocese. Other communities are in Belgium, Brazil, Mali and Switzerland. In mid-June, Francis said diocesan bishops need Vatican permission to approve “public associations of the faithful”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to travel to Hong Kong on 1 July for the 25th anniversary of the “return” of the territories from London to Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency has announced, writes Ellen Teague. He will also attend the installation ceremony of John Lee as the new governor, replacing Carrie Lam, who oversaw a turbulent period of anti-government protests. The trip will be the president’s first known visit outside mainland China since January 2020. Hong Kong was handed over to China on 1 July 1997 after 156 years of British rule. Lee has pledged to maintain a firm grip on the city in line with China’s sovereign interests. Like Carrie Lam, he is a Catholic. Last week, Hong Kong police arrested five people as the city prepared for the celebrations and Xi Jinping’s visit.

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