Fides counts martyrs of 2002
AT LEAST 25 priests. religious and lay missionaries were killed in mission territories during 2002, said Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.
Most of the killings took place in Latin America, where 13 church workers died, and in Africa, which counted 10. In Asia, a Chaldean Catholic nun was killed in August in Baghdad, Iraq.
The annual "martyrology" includes the first indigenous priest of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Fr Augustin Geve was killed in August during an attempt to mediate peace in Guadalcanal.
Colombia, where Church leaders have been targeted by guerrillas and drug lords, led the list of martyrs with one bishop, seven priests, one nun and one seminarian. Among the others on the list, Fides identified three as victims of violent robberies. They included an Irish Salesian priest in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he worked among the poor; an Angolan seminarian, and a Uruguayan Focolare lay missionary killed in Brazil.
The list covers not just missionaries but also church workers "killed in a violent way or who sacrificed their lives knowing the risk they were running and yet did not abandon that which was entrusted to them," Fides said.
"They are 'martyrs of charity,' according to the expression of Pope John Paul II," it said.
Church paper says no to war
THE VATICAN'S newspaper has issued an urgent plea for world peace.
The first L'Osservatore Romano of 2003 exclaimed in a front-page headline: "There is no alternative to peace." And an editorial echoed the sentiments of Pope John Paul II in his homily on New Year's Day, the Catholic World Day of Peace."A perverse mentality of war, terrorism, abuse [and] blood imposes a menacing shadow of sadness on the dawn of the new year," began the editorial, which was signed by Mario Agnes, director of the newspaper.
People are growing "accustomed to the idea of an inevitable war, to the inevitability of this or that guerrilla action," the article said. "And it seems that the desert of death has become a normal news item that day after day is transforming the Land in which the Child, Prince of Peace, was born."
It seems that there is no longer any reaction to "the murderous arrogance of those who think it is their right to play with the fate of peoples, violating their dignity and sacrosanct rights," the paper continued.
"And yet, from the heart of humanity a painful and vigorous invocation of peace arises," it added. "It is the invocation of the humble that the pride of the so-called powerful tries to suffocate.
"It is a firm conviction that there is no alternative to peace. A conviction based on faith and hope, especially during this Year of the Rosary called by John Paul II 'to invoke from God the gift of peace' ."
John Paul seen by 'millions'
MORE THAN 2.8 million people saw Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in public meetings during 2002, according to official data from the Holy See.
Counting international trips, the figure would climb to about eight million, said the Italian Ansa agency.
The prefecture of the Papal Household released the data for Vatican events. It said that 2,823,500 people attended general audiences, liturgical celebrations, special audiences and the Angelus encounters.
The data include 410,300 who attended the 46 general audiences, and 1.05 million who attended papal liturgical celebrations.
German year of the Bible
THE YEAR of the Bible campaign was launched in Germany by an alliance between Catholic and Anglican churches.
Starting in Dresden the campaign will be taken to a total of 10 German cities in the course of this year, chiefly targeting younger people to improve their awareness of the Bible.
During the year, prominent personalities from sports, politics, culture, business and entertainment are -to join the campaign, publishing their favourite passages or stories from the Bible.
Taize young pray for peace
SOME 80,000 young participants at a Taizt Community met in Paris to start the New Year with prayers for peace.
More than half the young people, ranging in age from 17 to 30 years, were from former Communist countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine.
The Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant participants were housed by Parisian families during the five-day event.
In the mornings, they met in 400 venues in Paris to pray and exchange experiences on the "signs of hope." In the afternoons, they met at the Exhibition Park of the Port de Versailles to attend meetings on various topics, conducted in 23 languages.
"Do we not see arising. even in the most problematic situations of the world, some signs of undeniable hope?" Taiz6 founder Brother Roger asked in his 2003 Letter, which was the subject of reflection during the event.
Among the personalities who sent messages to the participants were John Paul H, Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and UN SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan.
Since 1978 the event has attracted up to 100,000 young people. Taize, an "international ecumenical community", was established in 1940 by monks near Cluny.
Church argues for faith in EU
THE VATICAN has urged the president of the European Parliament to ensure that respect for the continent's religious believers is reflected in the drafting of an European constitution.
At meetings with the Pat Cox, the Pope and his top aide, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, promoted also expansion of the European Union, saying it would be "an enrichment for Europeans and a hope for other peoples."
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said believers want "their identity and the specific contribution they offer socially" respected in a potential European constitution.
A draft of the European constitution is expected to be presented at a European Union summit in Thessaloniki. Greece, in June.
Inquiry into abortion drug
AN ITALIAN public prosecutor has opened an investigation into a hospital which allegedly performs the highest number of abortions in that country, after doctors there announced they would begin clinical trials of the "human pesticide" abortion drug.
According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the trials of RU-486 at the Sant 'Anna Hospital may violate the legal requirement that abortions take place in a hospital or clinic.
Doctors were planning to get the test women to sign a document requiring that they reside within two hours of a hospital, warning that there is a "remote possibility" that a blood transfusion might be needed in case of serious haemorrhaging.
Kenyan bishops hail new leader
KENYA'S Catholic bishops have hailed as fair and trans
parent the country's elections in which voters chose the country's first Catholic president.
Church leaders attributed the peaceful nature of the elections to better civic education, the candidates' political maturity and the people's need for change.
"The people wanted change. and they wanted change at all cost," said Nairobi Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki. "This has been the best election since we achieved independence."
The new president, Mwai Kibaki, 71, was sworn in at Nairobi's Uhuru (Independence) Park, where the last British colonial governor declared independence for the East African nation in 1964.
Kenya's amended constitution prevented the current president, Daniel arap Moi, from running for a third term.
Many Kenyans blame Moi, in office for 24 years, for the rampant corruption that plunged Kenya into its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain.
Coadjutor Archbishop John Njue of Nyeri, chairman of the Kenyan bishops' conference, said the Church was confident the new government "can deliver a lot for Kenyans".
He said: "The party that has won the elections is composed of people who are knowledgeable on matters of governance and economy," Auxiliary Bishop Anthony hen Mukobo of Nairobi said Kenyans "were tired of the exploitation by the former government".
Ugandan cleric defends life
A CATHotic bishop in Uganda has heavily criticised people agitating for the legalisation of abortion in his country.
During a speech at a graduation ceremony, Bishop Cyprian Lwanga of KasanaLuweero affirmed that abortion was murder and that noone should legalise what God had declared illegal.
The bishop said that abortion should not be tolerated anywhere because life was the greatest gift to mankind.
Christians seek state protection
CHRISTIAN leaders in India and Pakistan have demanded extra protection in the wake of renewed sectarian violence in the country.
Leaders of the All India Christian Council protested against Christmas attacks on Christians and accused the authorities of failing to protect Christian minorities against Hindu and Muslim extremists.
Joseph D'Souza and John Dayal, president and secretary-general of the ecumenical organisation, strongly protested against the violence that broke out in Punjab and West Bengal.
Three individuals wearing burkas threw explosive devices among the faithful who were crowded in the Presbyterian Church of Chuyyanwall, about 125 miles from Islamabad, in the Punjab region. The explosion killed three young women and wounded 15.
Pakistani said it was a terrorist attack against the three million-strong Christian minority. The government said it stopped another attack against the Presbyterian Church of St Thomas in the capital.
The All India Christian Council also reported an attack on a church in Maliapota, a city about 130 miles from Calcutta.
`Sorry for riot,' says new bishop AN EAST Timorese bishop has apologised to the country's
Muslim community for the involvement of Catholics in an early December attack on a mosque.
Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, apostolic administrator of Dili and Bacau, met with Muslim leaders on Christmas Day and also promised to promote interreligious initiatives, reported UCA News.
"Following the example of the Holy Father, who repeatedly apologised for wrongdoings of Catholics all over the world, we must apologise for the wrongdoing of Catholics 'to other religions here," the bishop told the Muslims, Bishop do Nascimento became apostolic administrator of Dili on November 26, after the resignation of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.
The bishop also offered the use of a church-owned radio station for Muslims to broadcast their interreligious programmess and activities and announced plans to invite Islamic teachers to teach in the minor seminary, because it "would help widen our seminarians' knowledge of Islam".