09 August 2018, The Tablet

News Briefing: The Church in the World

News Briefing: The Church in the World

Papal gift for Yemeni refugees

Pope Francis is supporting some 500 Yemeni refugees on Jeju Island in South Korea by sending funds from papal charities. Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Jeju (above) received the gift of €10,000 from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, who visited him in late July to express the Pope’s solidarity with the refugees. The nuncio met the refugees, celebrated Mass in Jeju’s Cathedral, and communicated the Pope’s Blessing.

The Yemeni refugees chose Jeju as their destination because there was no need at the time for a visa for tourists planning to stay up to 90 days. They have lived on the generosity of islanders and the Church.


‘Unfit’ churches closed

More than 8,000 churches of all denominations have been closed this year in Rwanda – more than 700 in the capital Kigali alone – after being declared “unfit” for use. The Rwanda Governance Board, an independent state agency, is shutting churches which, it says, fail to meet statutory requirements laid down in February. These include plastering and painting interiors and paving church access roads and compounds. All pastors now also require a theological degree. Rwandans’ religious freedom is guaranteed in the constitution, but while some church representatives welcome tighter regulations, many see the closures as part of an effort by the government of President Paul Kagame (pictured above) to more rigorously control the religious community in the largely Christian nation of 12 million people. Small Pentecostal prayer houses have been hit particularly hard and more than 100 mosques have also been closed.


Jose Manuel Garita Herrera, the Bishop of Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica, has called for an end to the violence in neighbouring Nicaragua and for Costa Rican leaders to provide support for Nicaraguans fleeing the country. Since the conflict began in Nicaragua in April, thousands have become refugees, the majority heading south to Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Government has set up two shelters, and estimates that 150 Nicaraguans enter the country for protection every day.

The Diocese of Ciudad Quesada is operating two receiving centres. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 23,000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum in Costa Rica since April.


The cave monastery of Saint Marone in north-east Lebanon has been reopened to liturgies and pilgrimages, after centuries of neglect. A Eucharistic liturgy was held there on 31 July, presided over by Hanna Rahme, the Maronite Archbishop of Baalbek. Politicians and representatives of the Lebanese Maronites participated. “We managed to get this convent back,” said Archbishop Rahme, “and now we want to share it as a sacred place, with our Christian and Muslim brothers.” He thought it possible “that the first Maronite Patriarch was elected here” in the fourth century. The ancient cave, near to the Syrian border, is carved out of solid rock in the side of a cliff. It consists of three levels, with rock stairways and numerous altars.


A new survey from the Center for Advanced Research in the Apostolate (Cara) indicates that major superiors of both male and female religious orders in the United States think it is “theoretically possible” to ordain women to the diaconate. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents supported the idea.


The French Catholic Church has announced sanctions against Mgr Tony Anatrella (above), who is accused of having practised “body therapy” in order to “heal” homosexuality and of having been involved in sexual abuse for more than 15 years. Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris has now ruled that “no priestly ministry will henceforth be granted to him”, and Mgr Anatrella, 77, must cease “all therapeutic activity”.


The local government in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains has suspended the transfer of 450 Sunni families to the region, which had been authorised by the federal government, in order to protect the demographic balance in a traditionally Christian majority area. They want the families to be located instead to the south of Mosul.

The Nineveh Plains – 250 miles north-west of Baghdad – is a traditional area of Iraqi Christian communities and of religious minorities. Local and national politicians from the Nineveh Plains intend to push the Baghdad Government to avoid measures that penalise these communities. Many Christian families left their homes four years ago ahead of the advance of Islamic State militias, but some are now beginning to return.


Seminary hopes dashed

The Turkish government has announced plans for a major Muslim centre at Halki, near Istanbul, which will permanently dash Orthodox Church hopes of recovering a historic seminary forcibly closed there in 1971. In a statement, the general director of Diyanet, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency, Haydar Bekiroglu, said the Islamic Education Centre would be built on 200 acres at Halki, known in Turkish as Heybeliada. Leading architect Korhan Gumus told the Istanbul Bianet news agency that the project, in a pine forest belonging to an Orthodox monastery and hermitage, would be viewed as “religious antagonism”. The local press said it was also opposed by residents, who feared “an influx of Muslim students from all over the world”.


Melbourne’s new archbishop, Peter Comensoli has told the congregation at his installation on 1 August that Catholics carried “great wounds and griefs”, although he did not refer directly to child sexual abuse. After meeting abuse survivor groups, Archbishop Comensoli told The Age newspaper: “Mel­bourne has been something of an epicentre around the sexual abuse crisis involving the Catholic Church in Australia.” 

Perth’s Archbishop Timothy Costelloe told the city’s annual Archdiocesan Agencies Mass that “the terrible story of sexual abuse in our Church indicates a deep malaise within our Church, just as I believe that the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse throughout so many institutions in our society, including the most important institution of all, the family, points to a malign cancer at the heart of our society which should alarm us all”.



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