Reopening Of St Peter’s Basilica Marks First Step For Italy’s Catholics

This aerial photograph taken on May 1, 2020 shows St Peter’s square and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 following the novel coronavirus pandemic. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

 

Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican reopened to visitors on Monday after being closed for over two months under Italy’s lockdown orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A handful of visitors queued up, observing social distancing rules, and were watched by police officers wearing face masks before having their temperatures taken to enter the church, which has been closed since March 10.

Italy was the first country to go into a full lockdown over two months ago, bringing the economy to its knees.

The official death toll from the virus now stands at around 32,000.

The government started lifting restrictions on May 4, and on Sunday joggers, walkers and cyclists were plentiful on the streets of Rome’s historic centre.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and hairdressers, among other businesses, were all expected to reopen on Monday, with public masses also resuming.

In the face of much opposition, including from Pope Francis, churches in Rome were shuttered at the beginning of the coronavirus emergency in early March.

Most, however, opened shortly thereafter, with entry reserved for prayer only.

“I share the joy of those communities who can finally reunite as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for all society,” Francis said on Sunday during his live-streamed prayer.

READ ALSO: Timeline Of WHO’s Role In COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy’s lockdown not only extinguished most business activity in the country, but radically disrupted Italians’ personal lives, including attending mass.

– Basilica disinfected –

Francis has been livestreaming mass from a chapel at his residence inside the Vatican City.

The Argentine pontiff is not yet expected to lead any public religious ceremonies either in the basilica, which can accommodate 60,000 people, or in Saint Peter’s Square, as the Vatican seeks to avoid crowds.

Francis will, however, celebrate a private mass on Monday, broadcast by video, in front of the tomb of John Paul II, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Polish-born pontiff.

In Milan, the Duomo cathedral will conduct mass at 1030 GMT. On Friday, the cathedral said it had introduced gadgets worn around the neck that beep softly, flash and vibrate if visitors approach too closely to one another.

In preparation for the reopening of Saint Peter’s, the largest Catholic church in the world was disinfected on Friday, with workers in full protective suits and masks spraying down the surface of the 23,000-square metre (250,000-square foot) site.

The basilica, as well as three other papal basilicas, is expected to follow a recommendation from Italy’s interior ministry limiting attendance at religious celebrations in enclosed places of worship to 200 people.

Across Italy’s tens of thousands of churches, Catholics will be able to attend not only masses but also weddings and funerals, provided they abide by a series of measures, including wearing masks and sitting or standing well spaced apart.

More than 800,000 commercial activities which have been under lockdown since Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed restrictions on March 9 should be able to reopen on Monday, said Confcommercio, Italy’s largest business association.

AFP

Pope Marks ‘Easter Of Solitude’ In Virus Lockdown

This photo taken and handout on April 12, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (C) deliver his Urbi et Orbi message following Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020 behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis offered a prayer for coronavirus victims in an unprecedented livestream Easter Sunday message delivered from a hauntingly empty Vatican to a world under lockdown.

The 83-year-old pontiff spoke softly at a solemn ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across Saint Paul’s Cathedral’s expansive marble floor.

The pandemic raging outsides the Vatican’s locked gates has killed more than 109,000 people and left billions confined to their homes.

The pope’s message was livestreamed for the first time — a bow to technology in the face of a new illness that has changed the shape of society and altered the way religion is observed.

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.

A handful of priests and a few faithful also gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — locked down like the Vatican — to say prayers at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected on Easter.

READ ALSO: British PM Boris Johnson ‘Discharged From Hospital’ – Downing Street

The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics were in forced confinement as the pope spoke and almost all of the world’s churches were shut on Christianity’ holiest day.

– ‘Not a time for division’ –

The pope pleaded with the world’s leaders to put aside their political differences and call back their armies during a global health emergency of a magnitude not seen in 100 years.

“This is not a time for division,” Francis said.

“May Christ enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”

He said health considerations required world powers to ease crippling economic sanctions imposed against their adversaries — a possible reference to those weighing over pandemic-hit Iran.

“In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Francis said.

He called for a “reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations” and for European nations to show the same “solidarity” they did in the wake of World War II.

“After the Second World War, this beloved continent was able to rise again,” he said.

“The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world.”

And he offered a prayer for those killed and those mourning the victims of a disease that spread from China to Europe in February and has now encircled the world.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” he said.

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual Easter Sunday message was the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement.

The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter.

The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

Easter Sunday itself saw some faithful leave wreaths of flowers outside of the locked doors of churches from where festive processions had departed in previous years in the southwestern Spanish city of Seville.

A parish near the Philippines’ capital Manila pasted the empty pews with family photos that the faithful had emailed to the priest.

The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video-conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

State television in Lebanon broadcast mass under lockdown from an empty church north of Beirut.

Catholics in neighbouring Syria — where celebrations had continued in Christian quarters of Damascus despite years of agonising war — stayed home this time because of the virus, but many watched a Facebook Live celebration by the country’s patriarch.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told a live mass broadcast that the southeast Asian country’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

‘Saints next door’

The lockdown forced the pope to improvise throughout Holy Week.

In previous years he had observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.

The virus made that impossible this year.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick.

“They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving,” Francis said.

He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

AFP

EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

This photo handed-out on April 12, 2020, by the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis read scriptures by the “Salus Populi Romani” Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Christ Child (L) during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020, behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

 

Pope Francis offered an Easter Sunday prayer for those killed and suffering from the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” the pope said in a live-streamed message from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis on Sunday also called for the reduction or forgiveness of the debt of poor nations suffering in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: New York City To Keep Schools Closed Till End Of 2020, As Politicians Squabble

In his live-streamed message, he said: “May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.

The Head of the Church used his Easter sermon to also called for an “immediate” ceasefire in global conflict and urged European nations to show “solidarity” in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 109,000 lives worldwide.

“May Christ our peace enlighten all who have a responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world,” the Pope said.

Francis added that it was time for Europe, which he described as his “beloved continent”, to “rise again, thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity” similar to that shown after World War II.

Pope To Livestream Easter Mass To locked Down World

This photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on April 11, 2020 shows Pope Francis holding the Holy Book of Prayers during Easter’s Holy Saturday Vigil held behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 11, 2020 during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP / VATICAN.

 

Pope Francis will break with centuries of tradition and livestream Easter Sunday mass to allow the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to celebrate their holiest holiday under a coronavirus lockdown.

Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has soared past 100,000 — but whose real one is feared to be higher still — are reshaping society and transforming the way religion is observed.

Even such hallowed traditions as the pope’s messages to the faithful on Saint Peter’s Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads into a camera from the seclusion of his private library.

His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the entire experience makes him feel “caged”.

– Life in confinement –

Francis cut a lonely but striking figure when he slowly entered a dark and starkly empty Vatican square in his white robe for a torch-lit Good Friday procession.

It had taken place around the Roman Colosseum in the presence of at least 20,000 faithful for more than 50 years.

READ ALSO: EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

But Rome and the rest of Italy have been living under forced confinement since early March.

His Easter Sunday Mass and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing drew 70,000 to Saint Peter’s Square last year.

The Vatican’s entrance is now sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves.

The pope has openly admitted that he was struggling along with everyone else to make sense of these extraordinary times.

“We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity,” Francis said in an interview published by several Catholic newspapers this week.

“We can either get depressed and alienated … or we can get creative.”

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual prayers are just the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement. The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter. The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

The scale of the unfolding tragedy has seen a New York City cathedral replace rows of wooden seats with hospital beds in case the surrounding emergency wards fill to overflowing.

In the Philippines churches across the overwhelmingly Catholic nation were shuttered due to the virus, but some have done their best to adapt to the unprecedented lockdown.

A parish north of the capital Manila had worshippers email to the church photos of their families, more than 1,000 of which are now pasted to pews for Easter.

“Those photos are the representations of the people who are watching and attending mass through livestreaming, so we also feel their presence virtually,” said Reverend Father Mark Christopher De Leon, of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles City.

Easter is normally greeted with parades, church services and large family parties in the Philippines but as the country battles the contagion those events were cancelled in major cities and severely curtailed in the countryside.

The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.

“Seven out of 10 Greeks enjoy roasting lamb for Easter,” Greek meat trader Angelos Asteriou told AFP in Paris.

“That’s not happening this year.”

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the technological trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

In Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told an Easter mass broadcast live from a television studio without an audience that Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

– ‘Saints next door’ –

The pope himself has in previous years observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.

The virus has now made this impossible.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick since the outbreak began in the Mediterranean country’s north in February.

“They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving,” Francis said.

He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

He told the Catholic newspapers that people across the world could try to spiritually escape their confinement through introspection.

“So: to be in lockdown, but yearning, with that memory that yearns and begets hope,” the pope said.

“This is what will help us escape our confinement.”

AFP

Coronavirus: Philippines Observes ‘No-Contact’ Ash Wednesday To Beat Virus

Catholic faithful wearing masks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, queue up as a nun (bottom C) sprinkles ash on their heads during Ash Wednesday at a church compound in Manila on February 26, 2020. Ted ALJIBE / AFP.

 

Filipinos marked Ash Wednesday with a bow and a sprinkling of dust instead of a cross being daubed on their foreheads, as Asia’s bastion of Catholicism guarded against the spread of coronavirus.

Leaders of the Philippine church urged priests to adapt the rite in order to reduce the risk of fanning a contagion that has killed over 2,700, mostly in China.

Since the outbreak, which has resulted in three confirmed cases and one death in the Philippines, churches have also discouraged worshippers from holding hands during mass.

“It makes me feel safe,” said Wendy Tamidles, a 19-year-old student.

She was among thousands of people, some wearing surgical masks, who lined up at Baclaran church in Manila for services on Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the run-up to Easter, and includes Catholics having crosses drawn in ash on their foreheads.

The Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, with some 80 percent of its people said to be believers. Its unique brand of the religion also includes gruesome annual re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Local church officials have also “strongly recommended” that Catholics do not kiss or touch the cross during Good Friday services, which is usually common practice.

“We are being cautious so that the coronavirus won’t spread,” said Victorino Cueto, rector of Baclaran church.

For at least one participant, 62-year-old, Roberto Moreno, the no-touch policy had no impact on the meaning of the day.

“The message is the same: we came from ash and to ash we shall return.”

AFP

Nigerian Catholics Mark Ash Wednesday Wearing Black To Protest Against Insecurity

A Reverend sister marks faithful with ash as Catholics mark the beginning of the Lenten season wearing black to show grievances at the rate of security challenges in Nigeria.
Photos: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun

 

Catholics in Nigeria are marking Ash Wednesday wearing black attires to protest against the rate of security challenges in the country.

The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria were quoted in a statement asking faithful to wear black or at least black armbands as a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims of kidnapping and other violent crimes.

At today’s “Day of Prayer Procession” to kick off the Lenten season and protest the state of insecurity in the country, Catholics dressed mostly in black attended the Ash Wednesday service in Our Lady Queens of Nigeria in Abuja.

READ ALSO: UPDATES: Supreme Court Hears Application For Review Of Judgment Sacking Lyon

The aim is to show their grievances over the killings and insecurity ravaging the country as Nigeria continues to grapple with security challenges.

The statement signed by the president of the CBCN, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, will be read at masses across Catholic churches today.

The church said it is aware of its moral responsibility, while also calling on the government to live up to its responsibility of protecting Nigerians.

The march, scheduled for Ash Wednesday, is against “the repeated barbaric executions of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom linked to the same group.”

Emphasizing the importance of peace, the statement reads: “May we, once again, remind all the arms of the government in Nigeria and all whose responsibility it is to protect Nigerians that without security there can be no peace, and without peace, there can be no development or national growth.”

See photos below:

Pope Francis To Visit Thailand, Japan In November

Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland.
Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis will travel to Thailand in November, the Vatican said Friday, in a visit to Asia that will sweep in Japan and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both decimated by atomic bombs in 1945.

It has been nearly four decades since a pontiff visited Thailand and Japan, both Buddhist-majority countries.

The late Pope John Paul II went to the largely Shinto Buddhist Japan in 1981, and he travelled to Thailand three years later where he met with the late King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.

The Vatican announced Friday the current pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23, and then Japan to November 26.

In Bangkok, Pope Francis will “preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities”, said a press statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.

Read Also: 12 Drown In India During Religious Ceremony

Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the Pope’s second cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand, told AFP she would be with Pope Francis during his Bangkok visit.

“This visit shows his desire to improve the dialogue to other religions to bring a message of peace,” she told AFP.

The four-day papal visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, which was first established by Pope Clement IX in 1669.

A-bomb sites

Today, the Christian community make up an estimated 1 per cent in Thailand, with the majority residing in the north and many within ethnic minority groups like the Jarai and the Akha.

The Vatican also provided more details of a visit to Japan, which was announced in January. The Pope had wanted to work in the country as a missionary in his youth but the plan was abandoned following a lung operation.

The Shinto Buddhist country is home to some 450,000 Catholics and 510,000 Protestants.

“During the latter visit, the Holy Father will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima,” said the statement, adding that an official schedule will be provided on a later date.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated after the US dropped atomic bombs at the end of Second World War in 1945.

More than 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima, while the port city of Nagasaki suffered a death toll of 74,000 after the Americans dropped the atomic bombs.

The Pope has referenced the bombings in the past.

In January last year, he printed cards with a 1945 photo of victims of the Nagasaki bombing, inscribing the words “the fruit of war” in Italian on the card above his signature.

The photo, captured by American photographer Joe O’Donnell, showed a young boy standing ramrod straight carrying his dead younger brother on his back while waiting for his turn at a cremation site.

Since Pope Francis’ election five years ago, he has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh last year.

Gunmen Kill Four At Catholic Parade In Burkina Faso

 

Gunmen killed four Catholics in a religious procession in northern Burkina Faso a day after a priest and five parishioners were murdered at mass, church officials have said.

The parade with a statue of the Virgin Mary was moving through the town of Ouahigouya on Monday when “a group of terrorists intercepted the procession, killing four worshippers and burning the statue,” said a spokesman for the Ouagadougou Cathedral.

According to the Burkina Faso news agency AIB, the assailants stopped the procession. “They let the minors go, executed four adults, and destroyed the statue,” it quoted a local person as saying.

Paul Ouedraogo, president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, told a meeting of bishops in the capital Ouagadougou the attack had claimed four lives.

The killings came a day after a group of 20-30 armed men, according to witnesses, burst into the Catholic church in Dablo, also in the Nord Region of Burkina Faso, shooting dead five parishioners and their priest.

The attackers set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the health centre, which they looted, burning the chief nurse’s vehicle.

Two days earlier, French special forces had freed four foreign hostages in Burkina Faso during an overnight raid that cost the lives of two soldiers.

“This concerns all of us whatever our religion or ethnicity,” said President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

“Stick together”

Kabore urged his compatriots to “stick together,” warning that such attacks threatened to undermine religious coexistence in a country where some two-thirds of the population are Muslim to one-third Christian.

“Burkina Faso is confronted by a difficult situation,” said Kabore. “These terrorists have remodeled their modus operandi. First, by creating inter-communal conflicts and today inter-religious conflicts as Christians have been killed for their faith, for merely practicing their religion.

“Burkina has always been reputed as being a tolerant country. We must work to safeguard this richness passed down to us by our ancestors,” said Kabore, a Catholic.

Two weeks ago, there was a similar attack against a Protestant church in Silgadji, also in the north, when gunmen on motorbikes killed a pastor and five worshippers.

Burkina has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 — mainly in hit-and-run raids — according to an AFP tally.

Jihadist groups target Christian clerics as well as Muslim ones they do not consider sufficiently radical in a country where traditionally both religions have co-existed peaceably.

Last month, jihadists attacked a village school in Maitaougou, in the eastern province of Koulpelogo, killing five teachers and a municipal worker.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces flush out jihadists.

AFP

German Catholics Meet To Address Child Sex Abuse Scandal

Germany Map

 

Germany’s Catholic Church was due Thursday to speak about steps to address its child sex abuse scandal, which mirrors clerical paedophilia revelations worldwide.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, was due to give a 1300 GMT press conference at the end of a four-day episcopal conference in the western city of Lingen.

As in Australia, Chile, France, Ireland and the United States, Germany’s Catholic Church has had to admit to abuses by predator priests and clergy and their systematic cover-up over decades.

Germany’s Church last September released a study that showed 1,670 clergymen had committed some form of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014.

The authors said the figure was “the tip of the iceberg” as many Church documents had been “destroyed or manipulated”.

READ ALSO: French Investigators Receive Black Boxes From Crashed Boeing 737 MAX

The true figure of German Catholic abuse victims was estimated at 114,000 in a recent Ulm University study based on a randomised survey of the general population that was published in the Journal of Sexual Child Abuse.

Survey leader Joerg Fegert, whose study estimated similar figures for the Protestant Church, told Die Welt newspaper that he hoped the bishops’ meeting “will finally face up to the true dimensions of the sexual abuse of minors”.

Last month a Vatican meeting addressed the global issue heaping pressure on the Church, and this week Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’s closest advisers, was jailed for six years for molesting two choirboys in 1996.

The German conference host, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, called on the Church to show greater transparency, saying that “only a Church that is pure of heart… transparent, honest and without double standards, which faces up to reality, will win back trust”.

 Victims not invited 

The Catholic Church — Germany’s biggest religious community with 23 million followers — has apologised and pledged a series of steps, from owning up to past crimes to compensating victims and preventing abuses in future.

German bishops have also debated possible changes to Catholic dogma and traditions, including the training of priests to the role of women.

The bishop charged with addressing the child abuse crisis, Stephan Ackermann, said the Church was seeking to find an “unbureaucratic” way to compensate victims and to build prevention and monitoring systems.

The Church had so far received 1,900 applications for “benefits in acknowledgment of suffering”, he said Wednesday.

The main victims’ group, Eckiger Tisch, has urged the Church to bring in independent experts for a more thorough audit, to involve victims in the effort and to take speedy steps to compensate those who have suffered.

“We would gladly have presented our demands to the bishops directly and in person, but we were not invited,” said its head, Matthias Katsch.

 ‘Turn the lights on’ 

Some 300 protesters rallied outside the conference on Monday, chanting “turn the lights on” and symbolically illuminating the church facade with hand-held electric torches.

The rally, organised by the Catholic Women’s Community of Germany, handed over a petition with 30,000 signatures calling for far-reaching reforms, including giving women a greater role in the Church.

Germany’s biggest abuse clusters have included a Berlin elite Jesuit school and the world-famous Catholic choir school the Regensburger Domspatzen where more than 500 boys suffered sexual or physical abuse.

Overall, most victims were boys and more than half were 13 years old or younger, the study last year concluded.

Predator priests were often transferred to another parish, which was usually not warned about their criminal history.

Only about one in three were subject to disciplinary hearings by the Church, and most got away with minimal punishment.

Only 38 percent were prosecuted by civil courts.

AFP

Killings: Catholics Protest Nationwide As Murdered Priests Are Buried

Catholic Church members in Edo State on Tuesday, May 22 join other members across the country in peaceful protest against killings in some part of the country.

 

The Catholic Mission in Nigeria on Tuesday held a nationwide prayer and peaceful protest against incessant killings and attacks parts of the country.

The protest coincided with the burial of the two priests and 17 worshippers who were killed by suspected herdsmen at a Catholic church in Benue State on April 24.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, in a telephone interview with Channels Television on Tuesday said the protest is in line with the directive from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria.

The Archbishop said members are urged to partake in the exercise in supplication to God.

He added that the protest is also in solidarity with those killed in Benue.

Catholic Church members in Edo State on Tuesday, May 22 join other members across the country in peaceful protest against killings in some part of the country.

 

Catholics in Edo, Oyo, Benue, Lagos, Kaduna, Adamawa, Kwara states and other parts of the country on Tuesday occupied the streets marching peacefully.

They also carry various placards with inscriptions.

READ ALSO: Ndigbo Demands Regional Government, Constitutional Review

The peaceful protest coincides with the burial of the 17 church members and the two priests killed during a mass in Benue State.

Catholic in Edo State started their peaceful protest from the St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral Airport Road Benin, the state capital and marched to the Holy Cross Cathedral Mission road.

In Osun State, members marched from our Lady of Fatima Catholic Hospital, Jaleyemi, Osogbo to the Osun state capital to the House of Assembly to register their displeasure over the killings.

The Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Osogbo, Very Reverend Father Thaddeus Olaolu Ajayi told journalists that Nigerians need to embrace peace and love rather than engage in killings.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to do all in his capacity to ensure that the lives of Nigerians are safe just as he called on perpetrators of evil to desist from it and not incur the wrath of God.

Catholic Church members in Osun State on Tuesday, May 22 join other members across the country in peaceful protest against killings in some part of the country.

 

Catholics in Niger State converged on Tuesday morning at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Minna, the state capital.

Reverend Father Gabriel Nelson Onuh in his sermon expressed concern over insecurity, kidnapping, activities of armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgency.

He said Nigerians live in culpable fear and apprehension in addition to the current economic hardship in the country.

Father Onuh also lamented the rate of school dropout across the country noting that this poses a great challenge to Nigeria’s security.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Niger State Chapter also joined Catholics in solidarity.

The Chairman of the Niger State chapter of the CAN, Reverend Matthias Echioda emphasised the need for national cohesion in Nigeria by advancing the ideals of unity.

DR Congo Bans Planned Anti-Kabila March By Catholics

 

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila. Photo: Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

A planned demonstration against Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila organised by Catholics has been banned a day before it was to take place in the capital, Kinshasa’s governor said Saturday.

“The city does not have sufficient numbers of police officers to supervise this march,” Governor Andre Kimbuta said. “Therefore, I do not recognise the authorisation requested.”

About 150 Catholic churches had planned to protest in Kinshasa to call on the country to implement a compromise deal signed a year ago aimed at bringing about President Joseph Kabila’s belated departure and restore stability in the crisis-hit country.

In a letter to the governor, a secular coordinating committee said the agreement signed last New Year’s Eve is “the only viable road map” to achieve credible elections in DR Congo.

In power since 2001 when he took over from his assassinated father Laurent Kabila, Kabila refused to step down at the end of his second and final term in office in December 2016.

He is banned by the constitution from running for a third term, but under the deal with the opposition can remain in office until the next elections, which had been due to take place by the end of 2017.

But the date has since been pushed back until December 23, 2018, further heightening tensions.

A protest campaign led by the country’s opposition has been met with a police crackdown that has led to fatalities and arrests.

AFP

Indian Police Detain Catholics Singing Xmas Carols

Four Teenage Inmates Regain Freedom In Lagos
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Indian police detained dozens of Catholics singing Christmas carols for allegedly trying to convert people, officials said Friday, as fears grow over religious freedom in the South Asian nation.

Police said 32 people were detained for trying to convert people to Christianity in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh late Thursday, with a leading Catholic association condemning the accusations as “laughable”.

When a group of priests went to the police station to enquire about the detentions, their parked car was torched, allegedly by a mob belonging to a right-wing Hindu group, said Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The news comes as India’s Christian minority sounds the alarm over a recent rise in attacks on churches and members of the faith, blaming the violence on Hindu hardliners, who they say have become emboldened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government swept to power in 2014.

Mascarenhas said 32 Catholics, including two priests, were detained while “conducting a routine Christmas carol singing programme”.

“The charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians (were) detained is frivolous and laughable,” Mascarenhas said in a statement on Friday.

He said carol singing had been a part of the Christmas season in Satna “for the last 30 years”.

Police in Satna told AFP they had detained the group for questioning after a resident complained about being “lured by a group of Christians to convert”.

Eight other priests who went to the police station to look for the detained group were also taken into custody, investigating officer Mohini Sharma told AFP.

During their detention, a mob allegedly set fire to their car outside in an attack condemned by Mascarenhas as an assault by “terrorists who have taken on the garb of ‘religious police'”.

All 40 people have been released while no arrests have been made in the arson case, Sharma said.

Right-wing Hindu groups accuse churches and missionaries of targeting poor communities with financial incentives in a bid to convert them to Christianity, claims denied by the clergy.

Five Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, have laws requiring individuals to get permission from government officials before they can convert to another faith.

Inducing an illegal conversion can mean a jail term of up to one year.

Around 80 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population is Hindu, but it is also home to large numbers of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.

AFP