15 March 2018, The Tablet

News Briefing: The Church in the World

News Briefing: The Church in the World


Green light for sainthood

Pope Francis has given the green light for the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero (pictured) to be declared a saint. Francis has approved a miracle attributed to Romero, and the canonisation ceremony could take place during World Youth Day in Panama, in January 2019. The Pope has also ratified a miraculous intercession attributed to Pope Paul VI, who will be canonised at the end of October.


A Nigerian cardinal says he is “astonished” to see how fixated the Church in the West is on “remarried divorcees” having access to sacraments, and on welcoming gay people rather than the bigger problem of empty churches.

In an interview on 2 March with the Austrian public service broadcaster ORF, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, said Europe should be more concerned that “churches are getting more and more empty and that many people are not coming any more”. 

He said that he explains to divorcees that while they may not receive Holy Communion, he still encourages them to come regularly to church. “I tell them, ‘You are not excluded’… often, we cannot reach people with our ideals, but that is not a reason for the Church to throw them overboard”.

The Church should not “demonise” homosexual people, he added, but doctrine is clear in this matter, “and to deviate from it is not an option”. In his view, the acceptance of same-sex relationships in Europe and North America is “not progress”.


Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore marked last week’s International Women’s Day by launching a three-year plan to empower minority women in his parishes. Organised by the Catholic Women’s Organisation (CWO) and Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral parish team, the initiative will tackle religious and gender discrimination.

Shaheen Yousaf, the CWO coordinator in Lahore Archdiocese, said they will visit targeted communities to raise awareness among women of their rights and the law. The programme will address issues such as forced conversions to Islam and forced marriages.


Perry case nun dies

One of the elderly nuns involved in a protracted legal battle with American singer Katy Perry died last week in court.

Sr Catherine Rose Holzman, 89, collapsed during a hearing in a Los Angeles courtroom. She was one of two Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who objected to the sale of their former convent – then valued at US$14.5m (£10m) – to Perry in 2015. Perry had agreed to buy the property, but the nuns sold it to a local restaurateur.

The archdiocese sued to block the sale, arguing that the nuns had no right to sell the property. The nuns said they were a pontifical order and so came under the auspices of the Pope, not the archdiocese.

An International Conference on Peace in the Korean peninsula held last week in the South Korean capital, Seoul, saw religious leaders, human rights activists and leaders of civil society renew a commitment to peace on the peninsula. The conference, hosted by the National Council of Churches in Korea, came days before US President Donald Trump announced that he would meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.


Colombia’s conservative Democratic Centre party, which opposed the 2016 peace deal with Farc rebels, secured 90 per cent of the vote in the country’s congressional elections on 11 March.

Sunday’s poll was the first time the former guerrillas had taken part as a political party, following the agreement to lay down their arms. However, as expected, Farc candidates received few votes, and will only receive their 10 allocated seats.

The leader of the Democratic Centre, former President Alvaro Uribe, is a fierce critic of the peace deal. With his party now in control of Congress, elements of the accords may possibly be amended. Before the election, the Episcopal Conference of Colombia released a statement that encouraged a peaceful voting process to build on the gains of the peace accords.


The diocese of Bayonne in south-west France has called off two meetings with Courage, a Catholic association that counsels homosexuals on abstinence, after gay rights advocates said the group aimed to shame and isolate people with a same-sex attraction.

The French section of Courage, an association that began in the United States advocating the “conversion” of homosexuals, denied that it sought to change gay people and said it only wanted to support them according to Church teaching. However, the diocese said it had decided to “adjourn” the meetings because of the “media turmoil surrounding this announcement and misunderstandings or tensions that have arisen”. The diocese did not say whether the meeting would be held at a later date.


Medal winner named

The University of Notre Dame in the US announced that Sr Norma Pimentel, of the Missionaries of Jesus, is this year’s recipient of its Laetare Medal, given annually to an outstanding Catholic.

“Sister Norma Pimentel has given her life to welcoming Christ in the immigrant and refugee,” said Fr John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, president of Notre Dame. “[We] celebrate her witness of seeking and generously serving Christ in the most vulnerable.”

“I am a US citizen by chiripa – sheer chance,” Sr Pimental wrote recently in the book, A Pope Francis Lexicon. “I grew up entre dos fronteras, enjoying life in two countries, Mexico and the United States.” 


The committal hearing of Australian Cardinal George Pell is expected to reopen to the public on Monday, 19 March, once the last of up to 50 complainants has given evidence against him of historical abuse offences. The hearing in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, to determine whether he goes to trial, is expected to conclude on Holy Thursday, 29 March. The precise charges have not been made public. Pell has denied all allegations. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the court was cleared 25 minutes after the hearing began on 5 March, to allow complainants to begin giving evidence via video link.

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