The small Ahmadiyah community is living in fear

Jakarta, June 10. 2008 ( - After the joint ministerial decree barring them from any activity in Indonesia, the small Ahmadiyah community is living in fear.  The Muslim sect, considered heretical by the extremists, is at the centre of serious social tensions in the country, leading to fears of an explosion of civil war. The government has intervened by restricting the community, but not outlawing it, as the Islamic fanatics would like.  And now, the 500,000 Ahmadiyah present in the archipelago, the object of persecution and violence for years, do not feel safe.  They are not being reassured by the presence of the police, who have been deployed to certain sensitive areas with the order to prevent potential extremist attacks.  The vagueness of the government provisions, in fact, contributes to creating a climate of witch hunting.  "What exactly are we not allowed to do?", asks one Ahmadiyah of Cileduk, "to spread Islam? To pray?".  The same perpl ...Read More

Zimbabwean church groups are in danger of police interference

Cape Town, South Africa , June 10, 2008 ( - Zimbabwean church groups are "in danger of police interference at any time," a Catholic official said after the Ecumenical Center in the capital, Harare, was raided June 9."No one is immune to these raids," Alouis Chaumba, head of Zimbabwe's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said in a June 10 telephone interview from Harare.Chaumba said he is "afraid of what may happen to me and my family and my friends," noting that he knows many people who have been injured or had their property destroyed in the violence that followed late-March elections.Harare's Ecumenical Center houses a variety of groups, including the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance."Heavily armed members of the police, central intelligence and military personnel" raided the center and arrested five staffers ...Read More

Pope: challenge for Christians is to enliven the future of our beloved city

Vatican City, Jun. 10, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI presided at the opening of an ecclesial congress for the Rome diocese on Monday evening, June 9, and told the participants that the Church might offer "the gift of Christian hope" to a skeptical society. At the opening session, held in the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran, the Holy Father concentrated his remarks on "educating for hope," the theme of this year's congress. He remarked that contemporary society badly needs new sources of hope, since the secular world often breeds the belief that "the best years have passed and that a future of instability and uncertainty awaits the new generations." At other times, the Pope continued, a secular outlook offers false hopes, based on the notion that scientific progress will solve human problems. That confidence is misplaced, he said, because "it is not science and technology that can give meaning to our lives and teach us to ...Read More

Anglican and Catholic bishops joint statement slamming the violence

Colombo, Srilanka, Jun. 10, 2008 ( – “Shocked” by the high number of casualties in recent senseless attacks in Dehiwala, Moratuwa and Polgolla, the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Sri Lanka signed a joint statementcalling on the government to find a political solution to the civil war.“Killing of any human being is unacceptable but the killing of innocent civilians is abominable. We vehemently condemn these acts of wanton violence and terrorism,” the statement said.The bishops also appealed to Tamil Tiger rebels asking them to desist from using violence.They called on both sides to enter into negotiations to find a way out of the crisis that has plagued this country for so long.“It is most urgent that the President and the government obtain the cooperation of all political leaders to forge a consensus as regards to a political solution since peaceful m ...Read More

Pope Benedict XVI:hunger and malnutrition were unacceptable

VATICAN CITY, Jun.10, 2008 ( - As world leaders were meeting in Rome to work out a response to the global food crisis, the Vatican weighed in on two levels -- morality and macroeconomics.Pope Benedict XVI laid out the moral principles in a message June 3 to the World Food Security Summit, saying that hunger and malnutrition were unacceptable in a world that has sufficient levels of agricultural production and resources.The pope said a chief cause of hunger was lack of solidarity with others, and he emphasized that protecting the right to life means helping to feed the hungry.The pope also spoke of structural changes needed in the global agricultural economy, but he didn't get into particulars.Those finer points, however, were examined in unusual detail in a little-noticed briefing paper produced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.The docu ...Read More

Vatican diplomatic delegation has begun a week-long visit to Vietnam

Hanoi, Jun. 9, 2008 ( - A Vatican diplomatic delegation has begun a week-long visit to Vietnam. The visit-- the 15th in a series of annual trips-- comes at a time of heightened interest in bilateral relations and heightened tension between the Hanoi government and the Catholic Church. Msgr. Pietro Parolin, a ranking official of the Secretariat of State, is heading the Vatican delegation-- as he has led groups in several previous trips to Vietnam. Each year the representatives of the Holy See have sought to increase the scope within which the Church can function freely in Vietnam. The talks have produced some concrete results, with the government giving overdue approval for the appointment of several new bishops. In 2007 relations between the Vatican and Vietnam appeared to be warming, and hopes were raised for the eventual restoration of formal diplomatic ties. Vietnames premier Nguyen Tan Dung visited Rome in January, meeting privately with Pope Benedict ...Read More

China invited the bishop of Hong Kong to the Olympic inaugural ceremony

Hong Kong, June 9, 2008 ( - The Chinese government has invited the coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong Hon, to the inaugural ceremony of the upcoming Olympic Games.  The bishop has accepted the invitation, which was not extended to Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, while an expert on China-Vatican relations warns: "The visit appears to be just a protocol event because it is unlikely any concrete discussions with officials will be conducted". The invitation was communicated by Beijing to the Chinese office in the territory: according to some observers, this is the latest "diplomatic openness" between the two sides, following the concert at the Vatican by the Beijing Philharmonic and the informal meeting between the pope and the Chinese ambassador to the Italian republic.  Others emphasise that China "wants to build good relations with bishop Tong, who is less critical in public toward the Beijing government, and will soon become the bishop ...Read More

US President George Bush will receive a special welcome at Vatican City

Vatican City, Jun. 9, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI will extend an unusual courtesy to US President George W. Bush when the American leader visits the Vatican on Friday. The Vatican has announced that the Holy Father will meet with Bush in St. John's Tower, an ancient building in the far corner of the Vatican gardens. After their private talk there, the two will walk through the gardens to the Lourdes grotto there. Ordinarily the Pope receives foreign officials in his library on the second floor of the apostolic palace. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the unusual arrangements for the June 13 meeting reflected the Pope's wish to repay Bush for the warm reception he enjoyed at the White House during his visit to the US in April. This will be the 3rd meeting between Pope Benedict and President Bush in just more than one year. Prior to their April meeting in Washington, the American leader had visited Pope Bene ...Read More

Famous Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth said, “Everybody is vulnerable to the work of Satan”

Vatican City, June 07, 2008 ( - In an interview with the magazine “Maria Mensajera,” famous Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth said, “Everybody is vulnerable to the work of Satan” and that “the devil loves to take over those who hold political office.”The Spanish daily “La Razon” published the interview in an article by Alexander Smoltczyk in which the 82 year-old priest describes what happens in an exorcism. He said he has performed more than 70,000.“Evil exists in politics, quite often in fact,” Father Amorth said. “The devil loves to take over business leaders and those who hold political office. Hitler and Stalin were possessed. How do I know? Because they killed millions of people. The Gospel says: ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ Unfortunately, an exorcism on them would no ...Read More

India: marriages are ending in divorce at an unprecedented rate

Goa, India, June 06, 2008 ( - In Goa, marriages are ending in divorce at an unprecedented rate. Margao Judicial Magistrate first class, M. Rodrigues moans, "Incidents of divorce are increasing in Goa. The break-up of the joint family institution has only worsened things." "It's alarming," according to Father Savio Rodrigues, a counsellor at St. Britto's high school, Mapusa, whose clients include children from broken families.Children are the worst sufferers of broken homes. "I have received several cases of kids taking to drugs to escape the reality of a broken home," continues Father Rodrigues.Psychiatrist Rajendra Hegde adds, "In some cas ...Read More

Indonesia is on the verge of a possible civil war

Jakarta,Indonesia, June 2, 2008 ( – Indonesia is on the verge of a possible civil war. Indeed a conflict with unpredictable consequences broke out yesterday afternoon and last night between members of the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) and the Islamic Defender Front (Front Pembela Islam or FPI). Tens of people were hurt in the incidents with victims accusing the police of doing nothing. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appealed for calm, asking law enforcement agencies to arrest those who are violent.The spark that set off the whole chain of events was an attack with sticks and stones by activists from the FPI, Indonesia’s best known radical Islamic group, against hundred of members of the National Alliance for Religious Freedom (Aliansi Kebangsaan dan Kebebasan Beragama dan Berkeyakinan or AKKBB), who ...Read More

Pope Benedict XVI will not hold private meetings with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Vatican City, Jun. 2, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI will not hold private meetings with any of the heads of state who are in Rome this week for a meeting of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), informed sources at the Vatican report. By avoiding all meetings with visiting world leaders, the Vatican could sidestep diplomatic pressure for a papal audience with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian government has confirmed that Iran’s ambassador to the Holy See, Mohammad Javad Faridzadeh, had requested a papal audience for Ahmadinejad. For several days before that formal request, Iranian diplomats had been energetic in suggesting that Ahmadinejad would like to speak with the Pontiff. In the past, visiting heads of state have arranged courtesy visits with the Pontiff while attending other events in Rome. But the heavy intern ...Read More

The Shroud of Turin will be displayed to public in 2010

VATICAN CITY ( - The Shroud of Turin, revered by many as the burial cloth of Christ, will be displayed to the public for the first time in a decade in 2010.Pope Benedict XVI announced during a June 2 audience with pilgrims from Turin that he had approved the shroud's removal from its protective casket for display to the public in the spring of 2010.He told the 7,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, "If the Lord grants me life and health, I, too, hope to come" see the shroud displayed.According to tradition, the 14-foot by 4-foot linen cloth is the burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.The church has never officially ruled on the shroud's authenticity, saying judgments about its age and origin be ...Read More

Father Cathal Gallagher is bringing his parishioners in rural South Dakota

Washington, May 30, 2008 ( - Father Cathal Gallagher is bringing his parishioners in rural South Dakota an unwelcome lesson in the fine details of U.S. immigration law as they try to help him fight his pending deportation.Father Gallagher, 58, a Columban missionary, went to the state a decade ago at the invitation of Bishop Robert J. Carlson, then-head of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D. The Irish priest currently is pastor of parishes in three prairie towns, the largest of which is St. Thomas Aquinas in DeSmet, population just over 1,000.After spending 22 years working in Japan, Father Gallagher was surprised by how taken he was with South Dakota, he told Catholic News Service in a May 29 phone interview."I liked this place, the prairies, the people," he said, and as soon as he was eligible, he applied for permanent U.S. residency. He came as close as being told fi ...Read More

Pope Benedict XVI's prayer banned in China

Beijing, May, 30, 2008 ( - Priests under house arrest; others forced to visit a Buddhist temple; others under surveillance for days, to prevent them from praying "with the pope"; dozens of faithful in Hong Kong warned not to go to Sheshan: this is the world in which some of the dioceses of China have experienced (or better: forcibly omitted) the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China instituted by Benedict XVI. The day was suggested by the pope for last May 24, to coincide with the traditional pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgin of Sheshan, near Shanghai.  The local government and the Patriotic Associations permitted the pilgrimage only for the priests and religious of the diocese of Shanghai, and prohibited the faithful of other Chinese communities from participating in it. For this year, because of the pope's initiative, the diocese of Shanghai had been expecting at least 200,000 people.  But because of all of the limits imposed, only 2 ...Read More

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