ROME—The president of the Italian bishops' conference has called for calm and solidarity in the wake of an influx of Albanians fleeing fighting in Kosovo.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini stressed the need for "solidarity which must unite all peoples belonging to the same human family by welcoming the immigrants. since the New Year, Amman rerugees have been implicated in a wave of violent murders in Milan.
But the Cardinal said all immigrants should not be tarred with the same brush and called for tolerance, pointing out the positive contribution most immigrants make to Italian society—(Zenit) LONDON—Supporters of the extradition to Spain of General Pinochet have asked the Pope to stop what they call the "moral blackmail" of the Chilean people by Cardinal Medina.
The Cardinal has called for a pardon of the former dictator accused of genocide, state terrorism, torture and the deaths of five Catholic priests.
In a letter to the Holy See last week, supporters of the group Chile Democratico — among them Catholic photo-journalist and Chilean exile Carlo ReyesManzo — said the call for a pardon by the Church in Chile was contrary to the Holy Father's New Year statement that "the blood stained hand of those responsible for genocide and war crimes has to be arrested."
ROME—There are 46 countries with an Islamic majority which fail to respect religious liberty, and more than 30 million Catholics persecuted as a result, according to research by the Italian section of Aid to the Church in Need.
Attilio Tamburrini, director of the Italian secretariat of ACN, said the organisation's study of "Religious Liberty in Countries with a Moslem Majority," showed that a lack of religious liberty "impedes anyone who is not Moslem from praying in public, obliging Christians and others to live at an inferior social level because of their faith, a condition which can be described as imperfect citizenship."
Among the countries where religious liberty is threatened are Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the former Soviet republics. Andrea Morigi, responsible for the report, emphasised the variety of situations and types of failure to respect the right to religious expression and practice. For example, the prohibition of conversion to Christianity sometimes carries the penalty of loss of property and reduction of citizen status if infringed.
LONDON—A senior minister has confirmed that the Government has no plans to issue guidelines referring Northern Irish women seeking an abortion to the mainland.
Adam Ingram, Minister for State for Northern Ireland, told parliament last week that under current law in Northern Ireland abortions can be performed in cases of foetal abnormality, rape, incest or sexual assault where in the doctors' judgment there is serious risk to the physical or mental health of the mother.
He said that of the abortions which took place in Northern Ireland hospitals in 1997-98, 1,594 were recorded as spontaneous and 77 as medical or induced abortions. The statements were made on behalf of Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in response to questions by Maria Fyfe, MP for Glasgow Maryhill.
BIRMINGHAM—Church leaders condemned a "blind date" marriage arranged by a local radio station this week.
In a joint letter Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville and Anglican and Free Church leaders, said that the marriage between two listeners randomly selected by BRMB radio station "reduces a sacred and momentous decision to a media event."
The bride, Carla Germaine, 23, and groom Greg Cordell, 28, had never met before their civil ceremony on Monday. They were chosen from 200 hopefuls by BRMB and will receive a free Carribean honeymoon and a flat and sports car for a year.
The wedding was also criticised by MPs and the marriage guidance group Relate.—(The Times)
MADRID—Two original Papal edicts have been discovered in a drugs raid by Spanish police.
Papal bulls signed by Pope Clement IX in 1668 and Pope Benedict XIV in 1754, were found in a villa in eastern Spain. Two letters written by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte were also discovered.
Thirteen British nationals were arrested and over a tonne of hashish seized during the raid at Alfas del Pi.—(The Irish Times)
MADRID—Iraqi Catholic Patriarch of the Chaldeans, Bishop Rafael I Bidawid, has called for the total lifting of the embargo against his country
"After eight years of war, Iraq has lost one million children for lack of food and medicines," Patriarch Rafael told the weekly Spanish magazine Alfa y Omega. "Currently, 5,000 children die every month for the same reasons."
The Patriarch stressed that he wanted a total lifting of the embargo. 'The UN idea of lifting the embargo on food alone would turn the whole country into a refugee camp. Industry, agriculture, all activities would come to a standstill: the nation would just wait for food rations."
Patriarch Rafael called the Pope's support of the Iraqi plight "prophetic" and confirmed the Holy Fatherfs determination to visit Iraq in spite of his current age and frailty.—(Aid to the Church in Need)
GENEVA—The Russian Orthodox Church has suspended its participation in the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The decision was made following complaints that the WCC is dominated by Western views and issues, such as women and homosexuals in the priesthood. In a statement, the WCC announced that Russian Orthodox representatives would continue to attend its meetings, but that they would no longer participate in discussions or voting.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which with its 100 million faithful is the largest member of the Council, is not the first Orthodox denomination to leave.
Last year, the Orthodox Churches from Bulgaria and Georgia suspended their membership to protest against WCC's views.
The World Council of Churches, a major international organisation representing 350 to 450 million non-Catholic Christians worldwide, has promised to establish a commission to examine Orthodox concerns.—(Aid to the Church in Need)
MOSCOW—A group of Russian Pentecostals have asked for political asylum in the US citing religious persecution and harassment.
Over 300 members of the Word of Life church in Magadan say members' lives have been threatened, the church has been picketed and they have been the subject of a media witch-hunt.
The church was founded in 1980 and has about 500 members. Last June the regional prosecutor began proceedings to close it down after alleging the church used hypnosis to extort money from members. The case was dropped on lack of evidence, but since then members say they have suffered harassment, unauthorised visits, searches and confiscations.— (CSW) WARSAW—A new report has urged Poland's bishops to show more financial openness. A Polish bishops' commission last week called for diocesan financial accounts to be published. Several bishops have pledged themselves to greater openness.
Currently very few Polish parishes possess financial committees, as required by the Code of Canon Law, or comply with canonical obligations to "render accounts" to church members.
Fr Jan Drob, the bishops' conference administrator, said: "It's hard to say how this system will work at the parish level, where much depends on habits acquired under communism. People need time to get accustomed to the new reality and each parish could react differently."
Cardinal Joseph Glemp became the first church leader to disclose his income in an effort to counter the church's reputation for fiscal secrecy. He said he personally earned a below-average income of 1,000 Polish zloties (£180) monthly. He expected his Warsaw Archdiocese to publish its figures shortly.
Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin said he received nothing from diocesan funds and lived solely on honoraria from lectures and books.
Allegations about a lack of accountability in church finances have been made frequently by ex-communist politicians, while several dozen priests have faced criminal charges in the past three years over tax and customs irregularities.
Although previously one of the country's richest social groups, priests' real incomes have suffered under postcommunist economic reforms, which have also generated sharp differences between rich and poor parishes.
Poland's 26,000 Catholic priests are currently taxed according to parish sizes, although final regulation of the church's fiscal rights has still to be negotiated under the country's 1998 Concordat with the Vatican.—(CNS)