04 May 2017, The Tablet

News Briefing: global

Smolensk probe continues
The remains of Poland’s last Catholic military bishop, Tadeusz Ploski (1956-2010), have been exhumed from Warsaw’s military cathedral for DNA examination more than seven years after he was killed alongside the Polish president and other top figures in an air disaster in Russia. The Field Diocese said the bishop’s coffin was taken to a judicial medical facility and then replaced, following tests, in its cathedral crypt. It gave no details of the examination.

Media reports said the exhumation had been ordered last October, after complaints that victim remains had not been properly examined before burial for possible evidence that a bomb or missile caused the crash. President Lech Kaczynski and 94 others died when their Russian-made Tupolev TU-154 plane crashed while attempting to land at Smolensk on 10 April 2010 for anniversary commemorations of the 1940 Soviet massacre of interned Polish officers at the nearby Katyn Forest. Poland’s governing Law and Justice party, headed by Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, has accused Russia of failing to conduct adequate post-mortems. The remains of President Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, were exhumed for similar DNA and explosives tests last November.

Warsaw prosecutors questioned Donald Tusk (above), the European Council President who headed Poland’s liberal government at the time of the Smolensk crash, for eight hours behind closed doors last month.

Brazilian bishops encouraged participation in a general strike that took place on Friday last week. Unions organised the strike to protest against cuts to pensions and other measures being undertaken by President Michel Temer’s centre-right government. A number of bishops released statements in favour of the strike, as did the bishops’ conference.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in all of Brazil’s 26 states, which led to clashes with the police in several cities. Bishop Francesco Biasin of Barra do Piraí-Volta Redonda said the strike was “a just cause, to defend acquired rights, and the life and dignity of every person, especially the poor and the helpless”. The Brazilian Bishops’ Conference’s Permanent Council published a statement saying: “We call on Christians and people of good will to mobilise in response to the current Welfare Reform.” Among the reforms Mr Temer is promoting is a minimum retirement age and changes to labour laws that would allow for more outsourcing and more temporary contracts.
The Episcopal Commission on Migration and Tourism in Argentina has criticised a new stricter immigration law. Foreigners seeking entry to the country or to become residents will now have their criminal backgrounds checked. At an April press conference, the Episcopal Commission stated that the law “will threaten rights guaranteed in the national constitution and international treaties”. The Government of President Mauricio Macri insists that it will curb drug-trafficking.

An hour of prayer for peace was held in all of Nepal’s Catholic churches on 25 April, a week after an arson attack on the cathedral in Kathmandu. A deliberate fire in a vehicle parked near Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral on 18 April damaged part of the cathedral and the presbytery. The Apostolic Vicariate of Nepal had called on all Catholics in the Himalayan nation to pray for peace and for the rights of minorities.  

No mercy for Asia Bibi
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has once again delayed the case of a Catholic mother sentenced to death for blasphemy. On 26 April, the Chief Justice of Pakistan declined a request that Asia Bibi’s case be fixed for the first week of June. She has been on death row since 2010.

“Indonesia has not yet reached the moment for a Christian political leader at the national level,” according to a Jesuit who is well known as a political analyst in Indonesia. Fr Franz Magnis-Suseno SJ, who runs the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, was commenting after the defeat in the election of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an Indonesian Christian of Chinese extraction, also known as Ahok, as governor of Jakarta. Ahok was beaten by Anies Baswedan, a Muslim, after an election campaign driven by radical Islamist movements.

The Brussels-based commission representing the European Union’s Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE) has criticised EU officials for failing to stand up for religious freedom, despite clear instructions from the EU’s External Action Service. “In 2013, the EU adopted its first guidelines on freedom of religion and belief,” COMECE said in a statement. “This was thanks to the formulation of a common definition of this freedom, and the means to promote it, aimed at protecting the right of every human being to believe or not believe. Almost four years on, implementation of these guidelines still faces major obstacles.”  

Chinese Christians in the eastern province of Zhejiang have proposed that crosses taken down from churches during a government cross-removal campaign be re-erected as a way of celebrating the departure of an official responsible for their removal. The proposal appeared on social media after it was learnt that Xia Baolong, Communist Party secretary of Zhejiang, was being reassigned to Beijing. Local Christians hold him responsible for the removal of 1,700 church crosses in Zhejiang since late 2013.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City has denounced domestic violence and the killing of women. In an editorial in its publication Desde La Fe of 16 April, entitled “Femicide - Unpunished crime”, it points out that up to six women are murdered in Mexico every day, and that the majority of women who disappear are between 15 and 18 years old. Between 2011 and 2013, almost 850 women were killed, “but the figures are more chilling in the period between 2013 and 2015”, says the editorial, when nearly 2,000 women were killed and 1,500 disappeared. The majority were teenagers. A protester (above) demands justice for journalist Miroslava Breach, a mother of three killed in March in Chihuahua.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99