22 September 2022, The Tablet

Church in the World: News Briefing

Church in the World: News Briefing

Sao Paulo, Brazil: Candidate for the Presidency of Brazil by the Brazilian Democratic Movement, Simone Tebet, participates in the meeting 'Education Now for Brazil', with the former secretary of Education of Sao Paulo and candidate for Federal Deputy Rossieli Soares.
Yuri Murakami/Thenews2

Anti-abortion activists in Rhode Island are asking the US Supreme Court to take up the issue of foetal personhood just a few months after the Court overturned its nearly 50-year Roe v Wade precedent that had established a constitutional right to abortion.  On 13 September, the group Catholics for Life filed a 46-page petition asking the court to “clarify whether an unborn human being has standing to access the courts”.  In 2019, Catholics for Life and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit arguing that a state law passed that year that codified abortion rights under Roe violated their rights as citizens of Rhode Island. Two of the plaintiffs were unborn children: a pre-viable 15-week old foetus and a viable 34-week old foetus. A Rhode Island state judge in November 2019 dismissed Catholics for Life’s complaint. The group has been unsuccessful since in appealing that decision. 

France cannot extradite a former missionary accused of sexual abuse despite pleas from an Inuit delegation to send the now 92-year-old Fr Johannes Rivoire back to Canada.  In accordance with its constitutional tradition, France does not extradite its nationals,” Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti told them, but Paris would help investigate the case.  Dating back more than 50 years, the accusations of abuse of at least three minors in Nunavut Territory are beyond France’s statute of limitations. Canada has issued an arrest warrant for Fr Rivoire and requested his extradition. His order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, has also ordered him to comply but he has refused.  Fr Rivoire maintained his denial of the alleged abuse when he received the five-person delegation in Lyon, where he lives in a retirement home. The Inuits also met officials from the order and the Conference of Religious in France.  The former missionary returned home in 1993 when accusations arose.

Members of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference have been meeting with candidates for the country’s elections on 2 October. They have presented their contribution towards constructing a fairer and more united country, while stressing the non-partisan position of the Church. Themes addressed include care for the environment, social exclusion and poverty. The first meeting, between Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte and Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin, took place on 13 September. General elections next Sunday will elect the President and Vice-President, renew the Chamber and the Senate and elect the 27 state governors. The electoral campaign, which has been polarised and sometimes violent, is mainly centred on the election of the new President. Among the 12 candidates, the main contenders are incumbent right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leader of the left who was president from 2003 to 2011. The bishops have invited Brazilians, "to vote with conscience and responsibility, choosing the projects of the candidates committed to the integral defence of life, in all its stages, without forgetting human and social rights and our common home.”

The Cuban government has expelled the country’s Jesuit superior. “On the morning of 13 September Fr David Pantaleón, superior of the Jesuits in Cuba, left the island because his residency permit was not renewed,” said a statement from the Jesuits of Latin America. It highlighted that the priest, from the Dominican Republic, was also the president of the Cuban Conference of Religious Men and Women which, like the Jesuits, has defended human rights and has accompanied prisoners and their families.

Bishop Joseba Segura Etxezarraga of Bilbao, Spain announced last week that Pope Francis has ordered a new canonical process for investigating an abuse allegation at the Opus Dei Gaztelueta school in Bizkaia. It involves José María Martínez Sanz, a numerary member of Opus Dei and a lay teacher. The ecclesiastical court will be overseen by a bishop and other senior Church personnel. The complaints of abuse date to 2009 and 2011 and Martínez was convicted by a secular court. He and the Prelature of Opus Dei have rejected the abuse allegations. Earlier this year the minor involved wrote to the Pope asking him to reopen the case and received back a handwritten letter saying the court was being appointed. 

An opera star from Hong Kong has publicly apologised for praising Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II after her recent death. Law Kar-ying posted a selfie on Instagram while queuing to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth at the British consulate in Hong Kong with the caption: “Hong Kong was a blessed land during her reign.” The post sparked outrage among nationalists. Law then posted a video apology in which he expressed regret for “making remarks of mourning without thinking them through.”

The provincial government in India’s southern state of Karnataka has approved a law criminalising religious conversions. The state’s Legislative Council passed the contentious Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill on 15 September. Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore, who heads the regional bishops’ forum, has described the law as “irrelevant and malicious” and “aimed at dividing the Christians from other religious minorities.” Freedom of religion is a Constitutional right in India.

The European Parliament has condemned growing repression of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. A resolution, passed on 15 September, criticised the “arbitrary arrest” of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa and called “for his and others’ immediate and unconditional release and the annulment of all legal proceedings against them”. The text also highlighted the expulsion earlier this year of the Polish apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.

Damage caused by heavy rains in August and September in the western region of Sierra Leone, has led to the Director of Caritas Freetown appealing to communities to protect their environment and to avoid irresponsible waste. “We continue to appeal to all to preserve the environment, plant trees and stop irresponsibly littering,” said Fr Peter Konteh. He was assessing damage to a school run by Caritas Freetown to help girls from vulnerable families. Litter inhibited rainwater from draining away and the water carried debris, including heavy rocks, that damaged the school building.

The rise of water-borne diseases following floods which have already killed 1,500 people, has prompted Pakistan’s bishops to call for more emergency assistance. Three bishops of dioceses most affected by recent deadly monsoon flooding appealed for more funding for emergency food, repairing damaged homes and providing medical supplies. Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad in Sindh said the money would help drain flooded land, and procure medicines to fight the rise in malaria, dengue and cholera. He feared poor communities falling deeper into debt “and the bonded labour which exists in Sindh Province will increase.”  

A court has placed former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on suspicion of involvement in the 2019 Easter massacres, three of which were in churches. The Magistrate’s Court in Colombo directed him to appear in court on 14 October, in response to a private complaint filed by Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando, a member of the National Catholic Committee for Justice for Easter Sunday Attack Victims, and Jesuraj Ganeshan, who lost a leg in the blast at a church where he was worshipping.  The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has blamed Sirisena for not responding to warnings about the attacks which killed 280 people and injured hundreds.

The Diocese of Marbel in the southern Philippines and Catholic social action groups are celebrating last week’s decision by local government in South Cotabato, Mindanao, to revoke mining permits of the controversial Tampakan gold and copper quarry. Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel has long called for public vigilance “against open-pit mining methods in South Cotabato.” It was feared the huge mine would displace some 4,000 indigenous people, as well as pollute rivers and destroy forest and farmland. Meanwhile, Catholic clergy have joined protest rallies ahead of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law on 21 September 1972.

A Catholic women’s religious order in Pennsylvania argued on 15 September in a federal appellate court that a private oil company violated the sisters’ religious liberty rights when it seized their farmland to build a natural gas pipeline in 2018. “Every day since October 2018, as fossil fuel gas flows through our farmland in Lancaster County, so also flows Transco’s blatant disregard and trampling of the Adorers’ religious beliefs,” Adorers of the Blood of Christ Sister Dani Brought said outside a federal courthouse in Philadelphia. Citing The Natural Gas Act, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorised pipeline company Williams/Transco to seize a cornfield the sisters owned that was in the pipeline's pathway. The sisters are appealing a federal judge’s October 2021 ruling that dismissed their lawsuit, which argued that the pipeline “defile(d) the sacred nature of their property.”

The Vatican is to hold a competition to choose an original musical composition for the official hymn of the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year. The Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelisation has invited entrants to set to music a provided text which expresses the essence of the Jubilee occasion. Compositions must be original and unpublished. The hymn is intended to have a liturgical purpose and should be capable of being sung by a Church congregation and by a schola cantorum. Entry deadline is 25 March 2023. Application forms from January at: www.iubilaeum2025.va/en/inno.html


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