26 April 2018, The Tablet

News Briefing: the Church in the World

News Briefing: the Church in the World

Nun, 71, detained

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has said he personally ordered an investigation into the activities of the Australian nun Patricia Fox (above) for “disorderly conduct” and “violation of sovereignty”.

The Philippines superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, an international Catholic congregation, was arrested and detained by immigration officials on 16 April. Authorities arrested the nun for being an “undesirable alien” because of her alleged participation in “political activities”. Sr Patricia, 71, has been working in the country for 27 years, mostly in poor farming communities. “I ordered her to be investigated, not deported at once, not arrested, but invited to an investigation for disorderly conduct,” Mr Duterte told soldiers at a military ceremony in Manila on 18 April. Immigration officials released Sr Patricia on 17 April.


Korea prayer appeal

South Korea’s Catholic Church is calling for prayers that this weekend’s historic inter-Korean summit will bring an end to confrontation and conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu, president of the Korean Bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, released a statement on 13 April, saying that it offers an opportunity for a new era of peace on the peninsula. “The sense of struggle and divisiveness inside South Korean society is a huge obstacle to the future of the Korean people,” he reflected.

The summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, will be held at the truce village of Panmunjom.

The two sides are expected to discuss denuclearising the Korean peninsula and improving inter-Korean relations. “There is a growing expectation that an age of new peace will come after the long confrontation of 65 years,” said Bishop Lee Ki-heon. The talks should soon be followed by a US-North Korea summit.


Benedict birthday documentary

A documentary released to mark the 91st birthday of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on 17 April investigates the reasons for his resignation in 2013. The 48-minute documentary, produced by Rome Reports television agency and the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation, tells the story of Benedict’s life. It includes reflections on the moment of his stepping down from his elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, from Fr Federico Lombardi, former spokesman of the Holy See and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who has been his personal secretary for many years.

In Benedict XVI, in Honour of Truth, Gänswein categorically denies that the motives for the resignation were the leaks made to the press by Benedict’s butler (the “Vatileaks” scandal) or the burden of the crisis caused by sexual abuse in the Church.


Heavy fighting in Myanmar between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the north of the country has forced thousands of people from Awng Lawt and nearby villages to flee their homes since 11 April, with more than 2,000 Kachins trapped in a jungle area near Tanai, in Christian-majority Kachin State. Christian leaders met government officials and a military commander in an effort to rescue the trapped civilians and provide humanitarian assistance, but the military have blocked any rescue mission. Revd Je Di, pastor of Kachin Baptist Church in Tanai, said the trapped villagers need urgent humanitarian assistance.


Catholic and Protestant Church leaders in Pakistan announced on 19 April that they would raise white flags across the country to show their rejection of what they say is increasing religious persecution by Islamists. “We request all Christians and civil society to hoist a white flag on their rooftops for one month. This campaign is a pledge to make Pakistan a hub of justice and security,” said Revd Amjad Niamat, convener of the Pakistan Christian Action Committee (PCAC). Dominican Father James Channan, five pastors and several lay people are among those who have also voiced their support .


Paraguay elected a new president last Sunday, 22 April. Mario Abdo Benitez, from the incumbent Colorado party, won with 46 per cent of the vote.

The socially conservative Latin American country has high income inequality, and both Mr Abdo Benitez and his main rival, Efrain Alegre, emphasised the importance of economic growth in their campaigns. Both candidates opposed abortion and gay marriage. Mr Abdo Benitez belongs to a more conservative wing of the party than the departing president, Horacio Cartes. The Episcopal Conference of Paraguay, after its March plenary, called for the candidates to restore trust in politicians and end corruption.


The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has announced he is giving a significant donation to a savings and credit cooperative organisation founded by the Archbishop of Kampala, following a meeting between the two last week. The donation is designed to ease tensions after Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, in his Easter Sunday sermon, accused state operatives of spying on him with a view to destabilising the Church. The gift of £96,000 will support development projects in small communities. Tensions had been high since Archbishop Lwanga criticised plans by Mr Museveni to amend Uganda’s constitution to allow him to extend his rule. A new law allows Mr Museveni, 73, to stand at the next polls in 2021.


Scepticism about change

Cuba’s Catholic Church has expressed doubts that the country’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was elected last week by the members of the National Assembly, will make any significant change in the communist country. “Nobody expects a substantial political change with the election of Miguel Díaz-Canel as new Cuban president,” María C. López, the communications representative of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba, said.

Ms López suggested that the communist government had gradually opened up more avenues of dialogue with the Catholic Church but said there was still a lack of recognition of the Church in public life. Raul Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel, stepped down last week as President but remains head of the Communist Party.

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