Headlines > News Briefing: The Church in the World

08 March 2018 | by James Roberts

News Briefing: The Church in the World

News Briefing: The Church in the World

Hymn writer honoured

Sydney’s Archbishop, Anthony Fisher, has honoured the Australian hymn composer Richard Connolly (pictured) with the annual Dempsey Medal for outstanding service to sacred music and liturgy. Dr Connolly, who turned 90 last year, joined the late poet James McAuley in the 1950s to create 30 hymns, including “Help of Christians”, “Guard this Land”, “By Your Kingly Power” and “In Faith and Hope and Love”. They are still sung in Australia and overseas.

He composed music for the Sydney Masses celebrated by Pope Paul VI on the first papal visit to Australia in 1970.


The Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, has spoken out about attempts by the Canadian Government to impose what he calls an ideological test on organisations wanting funding from Canada’s Summer Jobs Programme.

The programme provides federal funding to organisations that hire students during the summer months. In December 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Government changed the requirements for groups choosing to take part in the programme, requiring them to “attest” that they support what it called individual human rights. The Government said those rights include “sexual and reproductive ‘rights’,” including access to abortion. It also said groups should affirm support for the rights of “gender-diverse” and “transgender” Canadians. “This is very troubling,” Cardinal Collins told Vatican News.

He accepted the Government’s right to require organisations to act in accordance with the law, but argued that it was going beyond that in requiring organisations to attest to beliefs that go against their faith. “It’s an ideology test, it isn’t relating to action,” he said. “No government has the right to have an ideology test on anyone ... I think a lot of Canadians are appalled by this heavy-handed, dictatorial approach that has been taken by the Government.”


Sarah hits out

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s most senior liturgical official, has accused some senior Catholic prelates from rich countries of trying to dilute Christian morality by changing teaching on abortion, euthanasia and “other problematic family situations”.

The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments said such Catholic leaders were abandoning Jesus’ teachings in a new betrayal of standards by those who were supposed to be guardians of these standards. Cardinal Sarah was speaking at a presentation of his book God or Nothing in Brussels.


Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has released a detailed plan for implementing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia through the archdiocese. Unveiled last weekend in all parishes, it concentrates on how these parishes can revitalise their ministry to families, echoing the apostolic exhortation’s theme of accompaniment. The plan does not directly address the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried but instead highlights the teaching throughout the document, and asks pastors and pastoral associates to bring that teaching to bear in marriage preparation and support for married people. The plan is the most comprehensive implementation programme so far in the United States.


Blasphemy law protest

Senior members of the Catholic and Protestant Churches gathered in Lahore last week to urge the Pakistan Government to control violations of human rights and the abuse of blasphemy laws in the country.

Fr Qasir Feroz, in charge of communications at the Bishops’ Conference, and Protestant bishops Azad Marshall and Irfan Jamil, were among 200 protesters who stood outside the Punjab Assembly on 2 March calling for an investigation into the arrest and alleged torture of two young Christians. Patras Masih, 18, was detained alongside his cousin, Sajid Masih, on 19 February for allegedly posting an insulting photo of Muhammad on Facebook. The demonstrators called for charges to be dropped and for an investigation into police conduct.


Heads of religious communities in Iraq are to urge the country’s parliament to pass a law punishing religious propaganda that instigates hatred and violence. Around 30 religious representatives, who gathered at the invitation of the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako at the Church of St Joseph in Baghdad on 1 March, agreed the initiative. They included Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martín, the apostolic nuncio in Iraq, also attended.


A diocese in Brittany will buy a statue of Pope St John Paul II and move it to private grounds rather than see the cross on the statue removed, after France’s top administrative court ruled the Christian symbol violated the official separation of Church and state. It ordered the town of Ploërmel to remove it because the statue was in a public car park. The town’s mayor pledged to find a way to keep the statue, a gift to the town from a Russian artist. The diocese will now pay 20,000 euros for the statue and finance its move to the nearby grounds of a Catholic school.



A brawl broke out in a Catholic church in Imo State in Nigeria last weekend during a funeral led by Archbishop Anthony John Valentine Obinna. According to The Nation newspaper, Archbishop Obinna criticised government failings during the Requiem Mass.

The altar was then overrun with supporters of opposing parties scrabbling for the microphone. The archbishop escaped the attack.


The choice of a mixed-race teenager to play Joan of Arc in an annual parade in the French city of Orleans has drawn racist comments on social media – but has also rallied French Church leaders, politicians and the public in her support.

Paris-born Mathilde Edey Gamassou, 17, (above) whose grandfather came to France from Benin and whose mother came from Poland, was chosen to play the saint who helped break the English siege of Orleans in 1429 during the Hundred Years War.

The Joan of Arc festival will take place from 29 April to 8 May. Orleans Bishop Jacques Blaquart defended Ms Gamassou, saying she was a practising Catholic. He also denounced her far-right critics who have adopted Joan of Arc as a symbol of a traditional white and Catholic France.

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