01 February 2018
News Briefing: The Church in the World
The first Russian Orthodox church in honour of Tsar Nicholas II (pictured with his wife, Tsarina Alexandra), and his family has been dedicated in Moscow a century after their murder by Bolsheviks. The Russian official charged with the capital’s church-building programme, Vladimir Resin, said the site had been visited privately by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna. She is widely considered the principal heir to the Tsar’s Romanov dynasty.
Nicholas II was shot with his wife and their children while under house arrest at Yekaterinburg in July 1918 following his forced abdication. The Russian Orthodox Church canonised the family as martyrs in August 2000.
Right-wing songbook condemned
Austrian church leaders have condemned a songbook used by a right-wing fraternity in which a Freedom Party politician has a leading role.
In a letter to the Austrian Jewish community from Lourdes, which was published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January), Cardinal Christoph Schönborn deplored the fact that the suffering the Jews had experienced in the Holocaust still “had not ended” – and recalled the tragedy of the Holocaust as an inseparable part of Austrian history.
“The sneering applause for the Holocaust atrocities (in the songbook) reveals a degree of contempt that Austrian society must quite decidedly oppose. On Holocaust Memorial Day, I bow down to the Holocaust victims,” the cardinal wrote.
Nuncio urges Catholics to vote in referendum
The people of Ecuador will vote tomorrow in a referendum on seven questions, including the key issue of whether or not to re-include a two-term presidential limit in the constitution. The papal nuncio to the country, Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa, has urged Catholics to vote. The two-term limit was repealed in 2015 while the then president, Rafael Correa, was in office. He agreed not to run in the election in 2017, which a fellow member of the PAIS party, Lenin Moreno won.
However, since Mr Moreno assumed office last year, he has initiated a corruption investigation into Mr Correa’s administration. Mr Correa is opposed to the referendum question that would reinstate the term limit; he hopes to run for president in 2021.
Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht has urged Pope Francis to clear up confusion over communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, saying a papal document could help to resolve the issue. “What you see now, a bit, is that one bishops’ conference handles it this way and another does it that way,” he told the daily Trouw. “But what is true in location ‘A’ can’t suddenly not be true in location ‘B’.” “I would say – just create clarity … Take away that doubt. In the form of a document, for example.” Eijk was one of 13 cardinals who signed a letter to Pope Francis in 2015, criticising the conduct of the Synod on the Family, saying it was managed to produce predetermined results. He said the apostolic exhortation the Pope wrote after the synod, Amoris Laetitia, “has caused doubt to be sown”.
President sworn in
On 27 January Juan Orlando Hernandez was sworn in for his second term as president in Honduras, despite a two-month-long dispute with the opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla. The day of the inauguration was marked by widespread protests in cities, including in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Ángel Garachana, President of the Bishops’ Conference and Bishop of San Pedro Sula, last month called for dialogue between Mr Hernandez and Mr Nasralla but this never took place.
Copts face less discrimination
Egypt’s Copts are facing less discrimination than in the past, according to the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church. Pope Tawadros II said last week that although the Copts of Egypt had suffered political and social marginalisation since the 1950s, this trend has been reversed in recent years. He mentioned a visit by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to a cathedral to congratulate the Copts on their feasts, and the restoration of demolished churches. Pope Tawadros II was speaking on 23 January, during a meeting with the leadership and journalists of the Al Ahram publishing group in Cairo. Al-Ahram’s newspaper, the most widely circulated Egyptian daily, has described Pope Tawadros II as “an icon of wisdom and tolerance in our vexed times”. However, Egypt’s Coptic Christians remain concerned over security and continue to be targeted by Islamist militants.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity has warned that conditions are deteriorating in the war-torn east, where 3.1 million people are in urgent need of aid. “Forgotten by the rest of the world, this war has been waging now for almost four years, leaving millions displaced,” said the Caritas director, Andrij Waskowicz. The lay Catholic made his comments as the Pope prayed for peace with leaders of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church during a Sunday visit to Rome’s Santa Sophia basilica.
Peace and unity call
The Indonesian President addressed a conference of Catholic University students last week and called on them to “be agents of peace and unity”. President Joko Widodo opened the 30th Catholic Students’ Congress in Sumatra, which brought together young Catholics from 69 regions of the country. He told the 3,800 participants: “We must support each other, regardless of our religions, tribes, beliefs or other factors ... let us not forget we are brothers and sisters, united in the diversity of Indonesia”.
Murdered monks on path to sainthood
Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood causes of 19 men and women Religious, including a bishop and seven Trappist monks, who died in Algeria between 1994 and 1996. The Pope met the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, on Saturday to authorise the declaration of martyrdom of those “killed in hatred of the Faith”. The 19 died during a conflict between the Government and Islamist Salvation Front militants.
Catholic governor picked for key post
The US Senate has confirmed Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Catholic, as US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in the US State Department. Nominated to the post in July by President Donald Trump, Mr Brownback was confirmed on 24 January. The Senate vote was 49-49. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.
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