‘So Many Murders’: Pope Mourns Priests Killed In Mexico

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday lamented the spiral of violence engulfing Mexico after two Jesuit priests and a man seeking sanctuary were gunned down inside a church.

The pope, himself a Jesuit, expressed sadness and dismay over the killings of men he called his “brothers” in the mountains of the northern state of Chihuahua.

“So many murders in Mexico. I am close, in affection and prayer, to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy,” the pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.

Priests Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquin Mora, 81, were shot dead in the town of Cerocahui on Monday “while trying to defend a man who was seeking refuge,” according to the order, also known as the Society of Jesus.

The pursued man, identified as tour guide Pedro Palma, was also killed and his body taken away with those of the two priests.

Chihuahua state governor Maru Campos later confirmed that the three men’s bodies had been found.

“We have managed to locate and recover… the bodies of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora, and of the tour guide Pedro Palma,” Maru Campos said in a video posted to social media.

The identity of the victims was confirmed by forensic experts, while the state prosecutor’s office announced a reward of $250,000 for information leading to the capture of the alleged murderer.

Authorities have identified as a suspect a 30-year-old man already wanted over the murder of an American tourist in 2018.

The prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday that before the murders, the suspect had assaulted two other people after a disagreement over a baseball game.

He later kidnapped Palma, who managed to escape and ran into the church seeking help.

About 30 priests have been killed in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Centro Catolico Multimedial, a Catholic organization.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in a wave of bloodshed in Mexico since the government deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

– Crime-ridden region –
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that a manhunt was under way for the alleged murderer.

The suspect was identified by another priest present in the church, he told reporters.

“That area of the mountains has for some time been infiltrated, penetrated, dominated by crime,” Lopez Obrador said.

The three bodies were placed in the back of a pickup truck by armed men, covered with plastic and taken away, according to Father Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, head of the Jesuits in Mexico.

“We demand justice,” the order said.

Experts say Chihuahua is an important transit route for illegal drugs bound for the United States and violently contested between rival trafficking gangs.

Father Jorge Atilano Gonzalez, also a Jesuit, told a local television station the priests killed on Monday had attempted to intervene because they knew the assailant, who was from the area.

“He wanted to confess” after the shooting, he said, citing the testimony of the third priest present.

“What we believe is that he was in a state of alcoholism or addiction because of the reaction he had,” he added.

– ‘Important social work’ –
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico condemned the killings, saying the priests had carried out “important social and pastoral work” among the Raramuri, or Tarahumara, Indigenous people.

“The murder of these two well-known priests reminds us of the situation of extreme violence and vulnerability faced by the communities of the Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua,” said UN human rights representative Guillermo Fernandez-Maldonado.

The Mexican Episcopal Conference called for a rapid investigation as well as increased security for the country’s clergy.

It is common for religious leaders in Mexico to act as defenders of their communities and as mediators with criminal gangs operating there.

In states such as Michoacan and Guerrero, some have even entered into dialogue with drug traffickers in a bid to keep the peace in largely poor regions with little government presence.

Pope Says Russia’s ‘Ferocious’ Invasion Perhaps Provoked

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

 

Pope Francis praised the “brave” Ukrainians defending themselves from Russia’s “ferocious” onslaught in an interview published Tuesday, but said the war was “perhaps in some way provoked” by NATO.

“What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is being carried out by the troops, generally mercenaries, used by the Russians,” he said, describing the Ukrainians as “a brave people”.

But, he warned, “the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented”.

The pope has repeatedly condemned the war in Ukraine but has drawn criticism for failing to explicitly lay the blame on the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There were “no metaphysical good guys and bad guys here, in an abstract way,” he said in conversation last month with editors of Jesuit media, published by the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica Tuesday.

“Something global is emerging, with elements that are very much intertwined”.

Putin, he said, could not be painted as merely the “wolf”, with the West as “Little Red Riding Hood”.

The pope quoted an unnamed head of state as telling him a couple of months before February’s invasion that he was “very concerned about the way NATO was moving” and that the military alliance was “barking at the gates of Russia”.

Francis made a similar comment on the conflict’s possible causes in May, when he spoke in an interview of an “anger” in the Kremlin which could have been “facilitated” by “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door”.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church defended himself from critics who would accuse him of being in favour of Putin.

“Someone may say to me at this point: but you are pro-Putin! No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing,” he said.

“I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good guys and bad guys, without reasoning about roots and interests, which are very complex.”

He also included the arms industry among possible incentives for war.

Pope ‘Deeply Saddened’ By Owo Terrorist Attack

Pope Francis presides over the Way of The Cross on Good Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Colosseum monument in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

 

Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by the “horrible attack” in Owo, his number two, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram to the bishop of Ondo.

The pope assures “all those who are affected by this unspeakable act of violence of his spiritual closeness”, he said.

READ ALSO: Owo Killings An Unspeakable Evil, Perpetrators Will Face The Law – Osinbajo

Suspected terrorists had stormed the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State on Sunday, killing scores of worshippers while injuring others.

The incident which sent the nation into mourning has been condemned by Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari and many state governors.

Pope Calls For ‘Real Negotiations’ In Ukraine War

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis renewed calls on Sunday for “real negotiations” to end what he called the “increasingly dangerous escalation” of the conflict in Ukraine.

“As the fury of destruction and death rages and clashes flare, fuelling an escalation that is increasingly dangerous for all, I renew my appeal to the leaders of nations: Please do not lead humanity to destruction,” the pontiff said from the window of the apostolic palace in St Peter’s Square.

More than a hundred days since the start of the war, the pope called for “real negotiations for a ceasefire and a solution” to end it.

READ ALSO: Saudi Eyes Tripling Of Foreign Tourists In 2022

On Saturday, the 85-year-old pope confirmed his desire to visit Ukraine, but said he wanted to wait for “the right moment”.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions forced to flee and towns turned into rubble since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an all-out assault on his pro-Western neighbour on February 24.

AFP

Buhari Hails Pope’s Appointment Of Bishop Okpaleke As Cardinal

The Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Bishop Peter Okpaleke, has been elevated a Cardinal by Pope Francis.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday hailed the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke of Ekwulobia Diocese on his appointment as a Cardinal by Pope Francis.

Three days ago, Pope Francis announced Bishop Okpaleke’s appointment as well as 20 new cardinals to be created for the church on August 27.

Reacting to the move, Buhari in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, “commended the Pope for finding a capable Nigerian in the person of Bishop Okpaleke to be one of the two nominees from the African continent and congratulated the Nigerian Christian Community on this choice”.

He described the Cardinal-designate as ably qualified, saying that having him in that position will benefit the country.

READ ALSO: Tinubu, Osinbajo, Others Can Beat Atiku In 2023 – Farouk Aliyu

“President Muhammadu Buhari expresses happiness with the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke of Ekwulobia Diocese, Anambra State, as a Cardinal in the Catholic Church by Pope Francis,” the statement read.

“Bishop Okpaleke becomes the fourth Cardinal from Nigeria. Others before him are Francis Arinze, Anthony Okogie, and John Onaiyekan.”

Buhari also commended the commitment of the Catholic Church to the unity, peace, and progress of the Nigerian state.

This is even as he highlighted the effort of the Church in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its support and commitment in favour of the poor and most vulnerable members of the society.

‘No To Wheat As Weapon Of War’ – Pope

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday pleaded against the use of grain as a weapon of war, as fears grow over a global food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Of great concern is the blockade of grain exports from Ukraine, on which the lives of millions of people depend, especially in the poorest countries,” Francis said at the end of his weekly general audience.

“Please do not use wheat, a staple food, as a weapon of war!” he said.

The pontiff appealed for “every effort to be made” to “guarantee the universal right to food”.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Receive Over 5,000 Complaints About Champions League Chaos

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted deliveries of wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fuelling concerns about the risk of hunger around the world.

Russia and Ukraine produce around 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

Pope ‘Heartbroken’ Over Texas Shooting, Condemns Arms Trade

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday said he was “heartbroken” over the school shooting in Texas which left at least 19 children and two teachers dead, and condemned the arms trade.

“I am left heartbroken by the massacre in the elementary school in Texas. I pray for the children, for the adults killed and for their families,” the Argentine pontiff said after his weekly general audience.

“It is time to say enough to indiscriminate arms trafficking. Let us all commit to ensuring such tragedies can no longer take place.”

The attack in Uvalde,  a small community about an hour from the Mexican border, was the deadliest US school shooting in years, and the latest in a spree of bloody gun violence across America.

More than a dozen children were also wounded in the attack at the school, which teaches more than 500, mostly Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.

Pope Following The ‘Complex’ Life Of Catholics In China

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis said Sunday that he was following “attentively” the “often complex” life of Catholics in China, without directly referencing a 90-year old cardinal arrested in Hong Kong this month.

“I attentively and actively follow the often complex life and the matters of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them,” the pontiff told the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis said he took the chance to “assure them once again of my spiritual closeness”.

Retired cardinal Joseph Zen, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, was among a group of veteran democracy advocates arrested in Hong Kong earlier this month for “colluding with foreign forces”.

READ ALSO: Mbappe In Position Of Power At PSG After Agreeing To New Deal

Those detained were all trustees of a now-disbanded defence fund that helped pay legal and medical costs for those arrested during the huge and sometimes violent democracy protests three years ago.

The Vatican said at the time it was concerned by Zen’s arrest and “following the development of the situation very closely”.

Zen has been critical of the Vatican’s decision to reach a compromise with China over the appointment of bishops on the mainland, and critics have accused the Vatican of downplaying his arrest.

Pope Canonises Hermit, Martyr And Journalist

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Sunday canonised a Frenchman murdered in the desert, a Dutch priest killed in a Nazi concentration camp and an Indian lay convert among 10 new saints officially proclaimed on Sunday.

Thousands of people from around the world crowded into St Peter’s Square in the Vatican for the canonisation mass, presided over by the 85-year-old pontiff and attended by delegations including France’s interior minister Gerald Darminin and Italian president Sergio Mattarella.

The pictures of the 10 new saints were hung on the facade of the world’s biggest basilica.

Unlike in recent days, Francis — who was surrounded by around 50 cardinals and 300 bishops and priests — did not appear in a wheelchair.

Under a sunny sky, groups of pilgrims had begun to converge on the square, some wearing shirts or scarves with the picture of one of the new saints.

Under the rules of the Catholic Church, all 10 have already been beatified, or named “blessed”, but had to then be attributed a miracle to take the final step to sainthood.

The new saints included Charles de Foucauld, a French soldier and explorer, who became a Catholic priest and lived among Trappist monks in Syria, in Palestine, and finally among the Tuaregs in the Algerian desert.

He was murdered by bandits on December 1, 1916, but his works outlasted him and he became one of France’s most celebrated men of faith.
– Men of faith –

Another who made the step to sainthood was Dutch Carmelite priest, theologian and journalist Titus Brandsma, who took a stand against the Nazis during World War II.

He spoke out against them before Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and afterward, encouraging Catholic Dutch newspapers to resist the occupiers’ propaganda.

Brandsma was arrested in January 1942 and ended up in the Dachau concentration camp, where he died on July 26 of that year, after being injected with carbolic acid.

He was beatified in 1985 after being declared a martyr, and was subsequently found to have enacted a miracle in healing a Carmelite priest.

Devasahayam Pillai, known as Lazarus, was the first Indian layman to become a saint, according to the Vatican.

A Hindu from what is now the southern state of Tamil Nadu, he converted to Catholicism in 1745 while working at the royal palace, where he met a captured Dutch commander who taught him about Christianity.

But his faith, and his preaching of equality of all peoples — a revolutionary view at the time — caused a stir and when he refused to renounce his new religion, he was arrested, according to the Vatican.

After almost three years of imprisonment and torture, during which he began to be visited by pilgrims, he was shot dead in a forest on the orders of the king on January 14, 1752.

He was declared a martyr and beatified in 2012, before being later attributed the miracle of resuscitating a foetus in the 20th week of pregnancy.

AFP

Hermit, Martyr And Journalist Among New Catholic Saints

Pope Francis speaks during the open-air general audience in St.Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 11, 2022. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

A Frenchman murdered in the desert, a Dutch priest killed in a Nazi concentration camp and an Indian lay convert are among 10 new saints being created by Pope Francis on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of people from around the world are expected in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican for the canonisation mass, presided over by the 85-year-old pontiff.

Under the rules of the Catholic Church, all 10 have already been beatified, or named “blessed”, but had to then be attributed a miracle to take the final step to sainthood.

Most founded religious orders, but the new saints include Charles de Foucauld, a French soldier and explorer.

He became a Catholic priest and lived among Trappist monks in Syria, in Palestine, and finally among the Tuaregs in the Algerian desert.

He was murdered by bandits on December 1, 1916, but his works outlasted him and he became one of France’s most celebrated men of faith.

Vatican theologians attributed to de Foucauld the cure of a cancer sufferer in 1984, and he was beatified by pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

His second miracle was declared after a young French carpenter survived a 15-metre (50-foot) fall in 2016.

Among the crowd on Sunday will be members of the Algerian Catholic church, for whom de Foucauld “is extremely important”, noted the archbishop of Algiers, Jean-Paul Vesco.

“It was here that his life became incandescent,” Vesco told AFP before heading to Rome.

Lethal injection

Another taking the step to sainthood is Dutch Carmelite priest, theologian and journalist Titus Brandsma, who took a stand against the Nazis during World War II.

He spoke out against them before Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and afterward, encouraging Catholic Dutch newspapers to resist the occupiers’ propaganda.

Brandsma was arrested in January 1942 and ended up in the Dachau concentration camp, where he died on July 26 f that year, after being injected with carbolic acid.

He was beatified in 1985 after being declared a martyr, and was subsequently found to have enacted a miracle in healing a Carmelite priest.

Ahead of the mass on Sunday, a group of journalists signed an open letter to Pope Francis urging him to make Brandsma an official patron saint for journalists.

He “shared the deeper mission that should drive journalism in modern times: a search for truth and veracity, the promotion of peace and dialogue between people”, they said.

Indian convert

Devasahayam Pillai, known as Lazarus, will be the first Indian layman to become a saint, according to the Vatican.

A Hindu from what is now the southern state of Tamil Nadu, he converted to Catholicism in 1745 while working at the royal palace, where he met a captured Dutch commander who taught him about Christianity.

But his faith, and his preaching of equality of all peoples — a revolutionary view at the time — caused a stir and when he refused to renounce his new religion, he was arrested, according to the Vatican.

After almost three years of imprisonment and torture, during which he began to be visited by pilgrims, he was shot dead in a forest on the orders of the king on January 14, 1752.

He was declared a martyr and beatified in 2012, before being later attributed the miracle of resuscitating a fetus in the 20th week of pregnancy.

Pope Postpones Trip To Lebanon For Health Reasons

Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair during the audience to the Participants to the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General on May 5, 2022 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. / AFP

 

Pope Francis has postponed a trip to Lebanon initially planned for June over health concerns, Lebanon’s tourism minister Walid Nassar said Monday.

Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event Thursday.

“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.

The pope’s “foreign visits and scheduled appointments… have been postponed for health reasons,” said Nassar, who heads a committee tasked with preparing for the trip.

The Vatican’s press office confirmed the trip would not take place as planned, without providing a reason.

It is still the pope’s “firm intention” to visit Lebanon at a later date, the office added.

The Vatican had never confirmed the visit but the Lebanese presidency in April said the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June.

A Vatican source told AFP the pontiff’s trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in July would still go ahead.

Knee problems

Francis has been suffering for months from pain in his right knee that forced him to cancel numerous engagements and from presiding over some religious celebrations.

The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.

The pope himself has also spoken of an injured ligament in his knee.

He told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera in an interview published last week that he would undergo an “intervention with infiltration”.

And in April, the pontiff told a newspaper in Argentina that he was treating his knee pain by putting ice on it and taking some painkillers.

His visit to Lebanon, following its May 15 parliamentary elections, would have been the third by a pope to the country since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, to appeal for peace months after the start of the civil war in neighbouring Syria, while Pope John Paul II came in 1997.

Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.

Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.

AFP

Pope Postpones Trip To Lebanon For Health Reasons – Minister

Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair during the audience to the Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General on May 5, 2022, in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

 

Pope Francis has postponed a trip to Lebanon initially planned for June over health concerns, Lebanon’s tourism minister Walid Nassar said Monday.

Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event on Thursday.

“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.

The pope’s “foreign visits and scheduled appointments… have been postponed for health reasons,” said Nassar, who heads a committee tasked with preparing for the trip.

The Vatican had never confirmed the visit but Lebanon’s presidency in April said that the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June.

Francis has been suffering for months from pain in his right knee, which forced him to cancel numerous engagements and from presiding over some religious celebrations.

The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.

The pope himself has also spoken of an injured ligament in his knee.

He told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera in an interview published last week that he would undergo an “intervention with infiltration”.

And in April, the pontiff told a newspaper in Argentina that he was treating his knee pain by putting ice on it and taking some painkillers.

His visit to Lebanon, following Lebanon’s May 15 parliamentary elections, would have been the third by a pope to the country since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, to appeal for peace months after the start of the civil war in neighbouring Syria, while Pope John Paul II came in 1997.

Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.

Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.