VATICAN CITY—Bishops from Oceania attending their pre-Jubilee Synod have included among their final proposals an apology for sexual abuse by clergy and for the behaviour of Catholics towards Aborigines.
The Synod, whose bishops have demanded having a greater voice within the Church and for married men to be admitted to the local priesthood to stem the tide of falling vocations. is set to end this Saturday with a Mass celebrated by the Pope at St Peter's.
The bishops, who have also asked that divorced Catholics be admitted to the sacraments, were brought into line by the Pope last weekend, albeit in gentle tones. He told them that it was "sometimes necessary" for a bishop to "go against culture", since the "inculturation of the faith" did not mean culture had to be taken as "absolute". He told the bishops that their continent was undergoing "a period of profound changeand that amid this "your peoples are disoriented".
He said: "Your oceans have become motorways which have brought new cultures. But it is a paradox that the process of unification promised by globalisation should in turn foster divisions and a loss of identity." He reminded bishops of their duty of '"making their voice heard" in order to promote a spirit of solidarity and cooperation.
Concerning the growing role of lay people in the Church in Oceania, he said: "This is not due to the fact that there are not enough priests available. It is the work of the Holy Spirit".
Bishop Christopher Saunders of Broome said that the Church should establish a bishopric specially for the
Aboriginal community.—(Bruce Johnston, Rome Correspondent, KNA)
VATICAN CITY—A senior Vatican spokesman has defended the Pope's decision to meet President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo last week.
Responding to criticism from human rights groups, Dr Joachim Navarro-Valls said that he could see no reason why the Pope should not have granted Kabila an audience. He said that over the past 20 years the Pope has met many people of different backgrounds and that it was his duty to listen to everyone. Kabila has been accused of grave violations of human rights. including torture.
In a separate development, a Catholic peace group has been asked to mediate in the conflict in Congo. Namibian premier Sam Nujoma has invited the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio to meet with parties involved in fighting in the Great Lakes region. Earlier this year, the Community brokered an agreement between Hutu rebels and the government in Burundi.—(KNA) VATICAN CITY—The Holy Sec has intervened in the diplomatic row between Turkey and Italy over the fate of a Turkish terrorist leader held in a jail in Rome.
The Vatican urged all sides involved in the battle to extradite the leader of the Kurdish PICK guerrilla army, Alxiullah °calm, to sit down for talks. Italy has so far refused to repatriate Ocalan because he faces the death penalty in Turkey.—(WA) VATICAN CITY—The Pope will publish a letter on tabour and unemployment, calling on the employed to help the unemployed find work, it was annoucned last week.
The letter draws on the themes of his 1981 encyclical on the professional world, Laborem Exercens. The Pope said he wishes to give the world a sign of hope and an invitation to the employed to collaborate with those who have difficulties finding work.—(Aid to the Church in Need)
LONDON—Unionist and nationalist politicians have stated their desire to reserve legislative powers on abortion to the Northern Ireland Assembly, after a report by the All-Party Group on Population. Development and Reproductive Health recommended that Northern Ireland-where abortion is illegalbe brought into line with mainland Britain.
A committee of the European Parliament criticised the Republic of Ireland for preventing women procuring abortions last week.
In its Human Rights Report published last week, the committee said that access to abortion information in EU countries should be guaranteed.
The report, which will be studied at the next plenary session of the Parliament, singles out Ireland's anti-abortion policy for criticism. It argues that doctors should be able to issue women information about the availability of abortion abroad without fear of punishment. It also welcomes moves across Europe to give homosexual pairs the same legal rights as married couples.—(KNA, The Sunday Telegraph) LONDON—Four out of the top ten schools in England are Catholic comprehensives, according to a survey by The Observer newspaper. The survey, which took into account social factors such as poverty, rates Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in west London as England's highest achieving school.
ISTANBUL—A Vatican delegation, travelled to Istanbul last week to celebrate St Andrew's feast day with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Archbishop William H. Keeler of Baltimore, a member of the Vatican Council for Christian Unity, led the group which celebrated Mass on November 28 in the Church of the Holy Spirit with the Catholic hierarchy, priests and faithful.
A message from John Paul ri was given
and the Apostolic tradition highlight the urgent need to overcome the differences and difficulties which impede full communion and strong witness to the world of peace and unity."—(Zenit) ROME—The theft of paintings and objects from churches and other religious buildings in Italy rose dramatically this year, although the number of art thefts overall in the country has dropped, according to a report by the special fine arts section of the Carabinieri.
Last week's publication of the report came as the Carabinieri recovered three 17th century paintings stolen four years ago from a convent in Naples. The works were discovered in the possession of a drug trafficker arrested in Spain.— (Bruce Johnston, Rome Correspondent)
MADRID—The Spanish government has rejected an offer by a bishop to mediate in its conflict with Basque separatist guerrillas.
Bishop Jose Maria Setien Alberro of San Sebastian said that he was willing to arrange talks between the government and ETA.
But Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja told journalists that the government did not need mediators. He said that the Church must help to create a climate of peace and reconciliation.
ETA declared a ceasefire on September 16, but prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has consistently refused to negotiate with Basque separatists.—(KNA) LONDON—Pro-life groups are stepping up a campaign against the chemist chain Boots, following the launch of a family planning clinic at a branch in Glasgow.
While The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is conducting a nationwide leafleting campaign outside Boots stores, encouraging shoppers to write to Members of Parliament and store managers, Life has called for an all-out boycott of Boots.
The company was approached to host the clinic by the Glasgow NHS trust, which insists that the services on offer in the store are no different to those which would be available at any family planning clinic. The first clinic took place on December 3. The clinics are set to continue on a twice-weekly basis in a private area away from the sales floor.
VIENNA—Cardinal Christoph Schtinborn described his altercation with rival Bishop Kurt 1Crenn as an "unworthy drama" in a frank interview last week.
He said that he wanted to bring the argument-which began when Krenn branded , him a "liar" on national television-to a "swift conclusion and no longer drag it out in public." He said that from now on the dispute would be dealt with internally.
Cardinal Schtinborn said that he was compiling a report on the incident for Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. Bishop Krum had alleged that he had not been properly consulted on the composition of the bishops' five-yearly report to the Vatican. Cardinal Schifinborn denied the claim.—(KNA) NOVOSIBIRSK—After a long battle, the Catholic Church in Siberia has won official state recognition.
The new status means that it will be easier to arrange travel permits for foreign priests and missionaries. Bishop Joseph Werth, the Apostolic Administrator of Novosibirsk, said it was an important step for the Church in Siberia.
Last year, President Boris Yeltsin tried to introduce a law recognising only four "traditional religions"—Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. After worldwide protests, the Bill was derailed. Catholic Churches in the European part of Russia were later registered, but until the breakthrough in Siberia, Catholics in Asiatic Russia have not had official status.—(KNA) BRUSSELS—The Christian faith is weakening in Europe, according to a study by a professor at the prestigious Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
The study found that while the majority of Europeans continue to call themselves "Christian", most of them no longer accept the central beliefs of the Christian faith. It also noted a strong interest in esoterism. the New Age. an attraction to the ecological "Mother Earth" concept and Oriental religions, even among practicing Catholics.
A further survey conducted in the Flemish part of Belgium revealed that 44 per cent of interviewed practicing Catholics believe that "all religions are the same".—(Aid to the Church in Need)
MADRID—Spain's bishops have welcomed the legal bid to bring General Augusto Pinochet to trial for crimes against humanity.
Juan Jose Asenjo, secretary to the Bishops' Conference, said that it was "essential that even for high-ranking statesmen there is no impunity." The bishops back an international court to try WARSAW—Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has promised to intervene in the dispute over crosses planted at Auschwitz. A row erupted in March when Catholics erected 280 crosses at the perimeter of the notorious death camp.
In an open letter to Jewish organisations, Buzek said he would ensure that the crosses are moved away from the site. He also offered to introduce a law into parliament to protect the camp as a "place of remembrance and martyrdom." He appealed to Christians and Jews not to allow the controversy over the crosses to overshadow interfaith relations. The Israeli government and dozens of Jewish organisations, have lobbied the Polish government to solve the dispute. Poland's bishops have appealed for the cross-planters to desist, but argue that an eight-meter tall cross planted in honour of Pope John Paul Ifs visit in 1979 should remain in place.
WARSAW—Polish Primate Cardinal Glemp was admitted into hospital last week for a heart operation. His secretary, Jan Kokos. said that the cardinal was making a good recovery following the delicate operation.—(KNA)
WASHINGTON D.C.—The Archbishop of Los Angeles has called on Catholics to remove the last traces of anti-semitism from the Church.
Speaking before a gathering of rabbis last week. Cardinal Roger Mahoney said that a complete purge of anti-semitism was the only way for Catholics achieve better relations with Judaism.
He said that although the Church had done much already. the next step should be a close study of the Holocaust. He proposed that Catholic schools include a module on the Holocaust, so that "this dirty phase in our history can be worked through."
Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust, repeated calls for the Holy See to open its archives to reveal if it holds Jewishowned art looted by the Nazis.
"If the Vatican has nothing to hide, they should open the archives." he said. after a survey by the chairman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York revealed that virtually "every art museum" in the Western world exhibits pieces stolen by the Nazis.--(KNA,The Daily Telegraph)
PONTIAC—"Doctor Death" Jack Kevorkian will be prosecuted for murder after he gave a lethal injection to a terminally ill patient,
David Gorcyca, district attorney of Oakland County, Michigan, said last week that charges would be filed against Kevorkian, after the doctor gave a film of his patient's death to the CBS programme, 60 Minutes.
"After we saw the video, we realised that this should be treated as murder," Gorcyca said. Kevorkian has given lethal injections to almost 120 people. His latest was Thomas Youk, 52, who was a Catholic.
Cardinal John O'Connor of New York condemned Kevorkian for spreading a "culture of death" across America. He said that the majority of people who came to him for lethal injections were clinically depressed.—(KNA) BOGOTA--A bomb attack on a Catholic Church left one priest and 19 faithful seriously wounded. Colombia's security forces said that the bombing was performed by a rebel paramilitary group.
Over 120,000 people have died as a result of 40 years of civil conflict in the country.—(KNA) SAN SALVADOR—The bishops have intervened in El Salvador's presidential election campaign with an outspoken attack on a pro-abortion party.
The bishops criticised the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front's promise to make the legalisation of abortion their first priority in government. Archbishop --nando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said that all forms of abortion were a grave offence against God's law.
Political commentators suggest that it is unlikely that the pro-choice party will win the presidential elections in March.— (KNA ) MEXICO CITY—A priest of the Archdiocese of Mexico City was released on Sunday after being tortured and threatened by kidnappers over the weekend.
Fr Lascurin, who works with young drug addicts and alcoholics in the capital's slums. was captured by a gang of armed men. No ransom was requested, according to the Archdiocese, but Father Lascurain was beaten. subjected to psychological torture, locked in a cage and left without food by his captors.
Fr Lascurain's work in the capital's slums disturbed a number of drug dealers. who threatened him on several occasions. Some Church sources have also revealed that there are suspicions that corrupt police officials may have been involved in his abduction.—(Aid to the Church in Need) MEXICO CITY—The Mexican ProLife Committee presented President Ernesto Zedillo with a petition of one and a half million signatures, requesting respect for life from the moment of conception.
Among the signatories of the petition are members of the ruling PRI party. as well as Felipe Calderon— leader of the opposition party PAN—and representatives from the National Association of Businessmen and the Women's National Civic Association.
Jorge Serrano, president of Pro-Life, said he intends to promote a law at the constitutional level, which will respect life from the moment of conception until natural death.
"It is not possible to understand a government that talks about the common good when the laws do not guarantee the defence of that which is most important for its citizenry, life itself," he said.
"The president of the Republic must know that what is most valuable in Mexico are Mexicans, and those who need most protection are the weak and defencele,.s."—(Zenit)
KHARTOUM—Two Catholic priests face crucifixion if convicted of plotting a series of bombings in Khartoum in June. Fr Hillary Boma, Fr Lina Tujano and 18 co-defendants are being tried under Islamic law for allegedly organising the bombings, which coincided with the anniversary of the coup by the Natonial Islamic Front in 1989.
The priests have been tortured since their arrest in August. Clergy in Sudan report being stopped and searched frequently.—(!nternational Herald Tribune)
HARARE—The Holy See sent a large delegation to the general assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting in Zimbabwe.
The delegation, which includes five bishops, seven priests, six nuns and six lay people, will study the issues of formation, proselytism and the doctrine "justification by faith" with representatives of other churches. although the Catholic Church is not itself a member of the Council.
Three clergy from the Ulster Church issued a statement saying that the attitude of the Catholic Church made attempts towards ecumenism "null and void". It said: "We call upon the council to recognise that there is no real movement on the part of the Vatican and that there is no real Ecumenical Movement."
The delegation is led by Bishop Mario Conti of Aberdeen, who is president of a working group including Catholics and members of the World Council. The theme of the Harare meeting is. "Return to God. Rejoice in Hope."
The occasion is the Council's 50th anniversary and an opportunity to study important questions regarding its future.—(Zenit. The Daily Telegraph)
ALGIERS—New nuns and monks have arrived in Algeria for the first time since the murder of the local Catholic bishop in 1996, which followed a campaign of brutal attacks against mission stations.
During a recent meeting of the Episcopal Conference of the Region of North Africa (CERNA). the bishops of Magreb stated that "the improvement in security has made the arrival of new religious, both men and women. possible."
Since the murder of Bishop Claverie on August I 1996, there have been no attempts against Christian religious. From 1993 to 1996 there were 19 religious victims of violence. The last victims were seven Trappist murdered on May 23, 1996.
During a meeting in Algiers, the bishops and vicars general of the four Magreb countries—Morocco, Algeria. Tunisia and Libya—welcomed Bishop Augustin Kasujja. new papal nuncio in Algeria and Tunisia, and Bishop Alphonse Georger, successor of Bishop Claverie in Oran, and discussed the pastoral problems of their countries, including mixed marriages.—(Zenit) NEW DELHI—Christians held a national strike last Friday to demand protection for the rights of religious minorities. The strike followed a series of violent attacks on Christians across the country. In the latest incident, a church in the southern Indian state of Karnataka was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists.
A week earlier a convent near Delhi was ransacked by members of a Hindu nationalist organisation, the RRS. Children meeting in the convent school were driven out and the nuns abused for 30 minutes, before villagers came to their aid.
In September four nuns were raped by Hindu militants in the Jhabua district of Madhaya Pradesh in central India. So far no arrests have been made, although Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi has ordered a full enquiry.--(CSW) MALE, Maldives—At least 19 foreign Christians were deported from the Maldives in June, it was revealed this week.
The Christians, from six countries including Britain, were expelled for life without any official charges being filed. Their homes were searched and Christian literature confiscated. During the same operation as many as 50 Maldivian Christians were arrested and subjected to interrogation. An article in a Maldivian newspaper claimed the arrests were designed to rid the archipelago of Christians.
The Republic of Maldives is a group of almost 2000 islands in the Indian Ocean. The country's constitution states that it is illegal for a Maldavi an citizen to be of any other faith than Islam.--(MCJ) MANILA—Five lay missionaries have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal torture and killing of a young boy during what was meant to be a healing session.
Seven-year-old Randy Luntayao sustained "traumatic head and chest injuries" when the five women held his head under water, banged his head on a bench and finally stabbing him. His body was placed on an altar and the leader of the group, Mother Perpetua, told his parents that his body would resurrect.
A court in Cebu. the second city of the Philippines, heard how the women were caretakers of the Sitio Quiot shrine in the country's second city of Cebu. and had become close friends of Cardinal Ricardo Vidal. The Archdiocese supported them throughout their trial, posting a five million peso (USSI25.000) bail. and will support an appeal.—(Claire Wallerstein, South East Asia Correspondent)
MANILA—President Joseph Estrada turned down an appeal from the Holy See and the European Union for clemency for a convicted rapist.
President Estrada said that the death by lethal injection of Leo Echegaray, charged for raping his eleven-year-old daughter, would "serve as a lesson" to other wrong-doers. It is the first time in 22 years that the death sentence has been applied.—(KNA)