THE Vatican is increasingly concerned for the lives of Catholic missionaries in India's most densely populated state of Bihar. Earlier this month six people were seriously injured in a dynamite explosion at the Nazareth Hospital, 40 miles from the state capital of Patna in north east India.
In the same building complex armed intruders threatened to rape three teachers of St Xavier's School run by the Nazareth Sisters of Charity. India remains, however, one of the Vatican's congregation for the Evangelisation of People's main targets for new mission fields along with Korea, Latin America and the Philippines.
According to the latest available statistics the Church spent nearly £77 million in 1986 to sustain a total of 26,000 hospitals, orphanages and schools throughout the Third World. But the cost in human life is higher still. Every month for the past six years a Catholic missionary has been brutally killed.
Pop idol Michael Jackson, in Rome for two concerts this week, asked to see Pope John Paul in a private audience, but was told it was "unlikely". The 30-year-old black singer said he would make do with a private visit to the Sistine Chapel.
Jackson, a Jehovah's Witness, had already been refused permission to stage his shows in Rome's famed Colosseum arena. But his baggage was cleared through the airport's VIP channel . . .normally reserved for Popes and Heads of State, Alitalia said.
A special series of film shows, exhibitions, concerts and parades is under way in the North Italian town of Sotto II Monte, birthplace of Pope John XXIII. They will continue until October and mark the 30th anniversary of his election and the 25th anniversary of his death this year. In July clergy promoting the cause for sainthood for "The Good Pope" will hold a special mass in the Vatican City.
Italy's Green Party has warned pilgrims throughout the country to refrain from kissing relics and statues . . .because they could be AIDS carriers. Citing a long list of possible diseases to be contracted from the practice, Green spokesman, Luciano Casarole, warns people to expect "a dose of herpes at least".
The Apostolic Movement for the Blind opened a round table convention this week in Rome on the problems of the handicapped in developing countries. The movement's aim is to "establish the right of all the handicapped to active participation in society and the Church".
THE Inter-Galactic Religious sect created by a French sports journalist, Claude Vorilhon, after a close encounter with extra-terrestrials at Vichy in 1973, now has a base in Rome. The followers of Rael — Claude's new name after his baptism by an ET who also gave him the "truth about creation" — have already held a conference and are publishing a monthly news-sheet.
Their 42-year-old bearded leader claims he is the last of six great prophets chosen to evangalise earth. His predecessors were Christ, Mahommet, Moses, Buddah and Mormon Joseph Smith.
RESPONDING to accusations by Jewish leaders that Church publications are fanning the flames of rampant anti-semitism through biased reporting on the troubles on the West Bank, (Catholic Herald, May 29) a committee of Italian bishops on Monday denounced a recent upsurge of violence against Jews in the streets of Rome. The bishops said that the troubleson the West Bank continue to generate "the risk of deformation of information" which causes violent reaction against Jews on the part of "the extremist fringe".