Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

May - 2005


China: Underground Church prays Benedict XVI may visit China

Greetings from different parts of the unofficial, ‘underground’ Church have been sent to the new Pope. In their messages, these persecuted Catholics congratulate Benedict XVI for his election but also urge him not to neglect them. In a message from one underground community in north-western China, Catholics asked him "not to forget the suffering Church in China” because it struggles “without any freedom at all.” Their message says that ever since China’s Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect on March 1, underground Catholic priests must report weekly to Religious Affairs officials on their activities and must ask public security officials for permission to leave the parish. Underground Catholics in Wenzhou diocese, Zhejiang province (eastern China), wrote to the new Pontiff on April 20, expressing the hope he would visit China soon and bring them “light and freedom” as well as lead them “in love and truth toward full communion with the universal Church.” Many Catholics went to some lengths to watch Benedict XVI’s inaugural mass on a Hong Kong-based satellite TV; some even went so far as renting rooms in selected guesthouses to watch the ceremony in freedom. (Asia News)

Euthiopia: Millions of Ethiopians Face Starvation

The United Nations World Food Programme launched an appeal for 33 million dollars to allow it to continue to feed 1.5 million people over the next two and a half months. The WFP warns that the future of three million people in Ethiopia is at risk due to serious food shortage, spreading malnutrition, and increasingly less funds for humanitarian operations in this country. The situation is especially concerning in the north and east of the country and in the south where there are growing levels of malnutrition and scarcity of food, water, and non food aid. Only 58% of the 212 million dollars worth of food, 250,000 tons requested for 2005 and only 20% of what is needed for healthcare, cooking utensils, water, sanitation and farming has been guaranteed. In the south, suffering from drought and no harvest, at least 6,000 children have stopped going to school because they are sent by their parents to look for food or work. (Fides).

Equador: “Our Country is Falling to Pieces,” Lament Equador Bishops

Profound concern was expressed by the Catholic Bishops of Ecuador at the end of their annual general assembly. In a message the Bishop said the country is falling to pieces because “personal or party interests prevail over the common good of the nation. We have never witnessed such a serious institutional crisis”. In this situation of confusion in which “all parties stress the need to fight corruption and defend democracy, reciprocally blaming each other for hindering the process of dialogue” the Bishops said “it is most important to make space for meeting” and “there can be no other path than that of respect and the return to authentic institutional government objectively based on the Constitution.” (Fides)

Geneva: Swiss-born Catholic Theologian Wins 2005 Niwano Peace Prize

Dr.Hans Küng, 76, a Swiss-born Roman Catholic theologian who heads the Global Ethic Foundation in Switzerland and Germany, is to receive this year’s Niwano Peace Prize, the foundation that gives the award said on 22 February. The prize is awarded each year by the Japan-based Niwano Peace Foundation to an individual or organization contributing significantly to world peace by promoting inter-religious cooperation. It includes a certificate, a medal and 20 million yen (US$192 000) and will be presented in Tokyo on 11th May. Hans Küng has made an outstanding contribution to creating a climate in which dialogue and co-operation among the religions of the world has been made possible…which I believe is necessary…to move toward world peace,” said the Rev.Nichiko Niwano, president of the Rissho Kosei-kai, the Buddhist lay association which established the foundation. (ENI)

Hong Kong: Kobia says Church Unity Should Serve Justice; Not Institutions

Churches need to find new ways of demonstrating unity in a world of change where the focus of Christianity is shifting to the Southern Hemisphere, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev.Samuel Kobia, has said in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The purpose of promoting closer Christian unity in the world “is not to serve its own interests and those of institutional structures of the churches, but to serve the causes of justice and peace in the world”, Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, the first African to lead the WCC, said. He was making a keynote address on 1 April at the once-every-seven-years general assembly of the Hong Kong-based Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in Chiang Mai, meeting from 31 March to 6 April. Kobia told Asian and other church leaders from many parts of the world that “amidst rapid changes being effected by the processes of globalization, there is also worldwide evidence of a phenomenal yearning for spiritual and moral way of life”. This, he said, was expressed through several spontaneous expressions of faith that are “challenging formal arrangements, institutional structures and prerogatives”.

India: New Bishop Brings New Ways to his Unfamiliar Diocese Punalur

Bishop-elect Joseph Kariyil of Punalur (Kerala) has an unconventional way to get to know people in his diocese. He walks right into their homes and introduces himself as their neighbor. The 56-year-old Church leader invited neighbors personally to his episcopal ordination May 3 in the Latin-rite diocese. Until his episcopal appointment on March 12, Bishop-elect Kariyil worked as a priest in Cochin, another Latin-rite diocese in Kerala. "I just visited my neighbors," he told UCA News two days before his episcopal ordination, explaining his visits to houses of people of various religions. He said he wanted to know his neighbors since he was new to the place. "(People) were surprised to see me on their doorsteps. I told them my name, but never mentioned that I'm a bishop. Some of them recognized me; others have no idea about me. But they were all very cordial," the bishop-elect said. When he visited a Hindu neighbor, an elderly woman asked him about his wife and family. "You are all my family," the bishop recalled telling the woman. But my reply must have confused her," he said. His neighbors are happy about the visits. "He is very simple and friendly," said Dalapati, a Hindu owner of a small shop near the bishop's house. (UCAN)

India: Tsunami Victims place their hope on Catholic Church in Andaman Islands

The Catholic Church seems to be the only hope left to tsunami victims on India’s Andaman Islands. Most NGOs and rescue teams have left the islands stricken by the December 26 tsunami. Media interest has waned and the government has not kept its promise to compensate the population; meanwhile people are still waiting for housing so they can start living again. These charges are made by Fr Anthony Thota, coordinator for the tsunami campaign launched by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) in India “I visited the Andamans last week and the situation is really bad,” the Chennai-based (Tamil Nadu) missionary told Asia News. “There are very few NGOs left to bring real help to the people; most have left the territory”. Father Thota said that the United Nations has kept some groups providing psychological support to the victims, but concrete help is being provided primarily by Caritas India, Catholic Relief Service and PIME. “The authorities,” the PIME missionary laments, “say they must first wait to find land on which to build the promised housing”, whilst people must continue living in temporary tent in dangerous sanitary conditions. And the situation risks are getting worse. (Asia News)

India (Jabalpur): School Attacked after Giving Students T-shirts With Jesus’ Picture

Hindu protesters attacked a school in central India for distributing T-shirts with Jesus’ picture to its students, and the local administration asked the school to take the shirts back. The Jabalpur district administration in Madhya Pradesh state directed St.Joseph Convent Senior Secondary School to withdraw all the distributed T-shirts by April 15. The decision followed protests on April 13 by members of radical Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world Hindu council) and Bajrang Dal. Protestors demonstrated in front of the school in Ranji, on the outskirts of Jabalpur town, demanding that recognition of the school be withdrawn. They said the school violated secular principles of the Indian Constitution by trying to propagate a religion. Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur disagreed with the school management’s action. “Had the school not insisted it as uniform for all students on Wednesdays, it would have been alright,” he said. (UCAN).

Indonesia: Banda (Aceh), Australian Undeterred by Fundamentalists, in Aceh

Threats from a radical Muslim group against Christians are hindering relief workers trying to help the victims of a tsunami in Indonesia. The Fides agency reported that “religious fundamentalism exasperated by ideological reasoning hinders those who ask for nothing and are animated only by humanitarian principles.” Fr.Christ Riley, an Australian, arrived in the province of Aceh on January 7 to open an orphanage, but the local Muslim fundamentalists warned him not to try to convert Muslim children to Christianity. Threats by members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front “reveal the obstacles placed by Islamic fundamentalists with regard to people who wish only to help and to protect Indonesia’s endangered young generation in an authentic spirit of solidarity,” reported Fides. Fr.Riley told Fides that the Sydney-based organization, which also enjoys the collaboration of Muslims, is non-denominational. “There is no religious component to any of our programs to help orphans,” Fr.Riley said, He added that he “came to offer humanitarian aid”, not to teach catechism. (Zenit.org)

Moscow: Catholic Church Attracting Russians

Fully 30% of Russians are favourably inclined to the Catholic Church, almost double the figure of five years ago, says a new poll. The number of those who have negative opinions about the Catholic Church decreased during the same period from 9% to 5%. A poll directed by the foundation “Obshczestvennoe mnenie” (Public Opinion) and reported by the Interfax agency, indicates that more than three-quarters of Russians (77%) watched the news coverage from the Vatican concerning the John Paul II’s funeral and burial rites. This poll was conducted April 9-10 in 100 cities and towns throughout 44 of the major administrative divisions of Russia, with the participation of 1,500 respondents. “The death of John Paul II, who was mourned by millions of people in all corners of the globe, did not leave Russians unmoved either,” said Interfax (Zenit.org).

Pakistan: New Pontificate Begins with Hints of Outreach to Asia, Other Churches

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI appeared to be reaching out to Asia and to the other Christian churches in small but significant ways, a Pakistani priest has observed. According to Father Bonnie Mendes, the April 24 inauguration provided indications the new pope might see his role less as a continuation of his work as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, defender of the faith, than as a continuation of the role of Saint Peter the Apostle as shepherd of a diverse flock. Whether or not Pope Benedict follows the example of his predecessor in being a prominent personality on the world stage, he apparently feels he has to do something to reach out to all nations, Father Mendes says in this commentary for UCA News. Muslims from the town of Toba Tek Singh, Pakistan, who came to pay condolences when Pope John Paul died, have called to congratulate Catholics on the election of his successor. "We hope the new pope will serve humanity," they said. Clearly people are looking to him to maintain the Church's role as a moral voice in a world in turmoil. (UCAN)

Sydney: New Catholic Satellite TV in Australia: Aurora Community Television

Christians in Australia have a new means of listening to the Word of God, hearing meditations on the Bible or following televised Mass, thanks to Aurora Community Television, opened by the Catholic Church Television Australia (CCTVA). Aurora TV is an independent non-profit channel which uses Foxtel and Austar digital satellite network. The Channel will serve mainly Christian religious communities, non profit associations, NGOs and the general public, because besides Catholic programmes it will also offer space for broadcasts by other bodies including the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Mission Australia, UN High Commission of Refugees. The programmes will focus on spiritual, cultural topics and also social questions. Director Richard Leonard said “For years the Catholic Church had little space on Australian television. So the Media Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided to take the opportunity of satellite broadcasting to be more present on TV in our country in order to spread the Good News of Christ and the vision of the Catholic Church.” (Fides Service)

Vatican City: 60,000 Send E-Mails to Benedict XVI in less than 48 hours

Of the 60,000 messages that Benedict XVI has received in less than 48 hours, more than half – 31,000 – were written in English. The next biggest language groups were in Italian (13,000) and Spanish (6,000). The messages, sent to benedictxvi@vatican.va and other similar addresses, were also written in German, Portuguese and French. Striking among the messages are some from nonbelievers who request prayers. Others are from Catholics who assure their prayers and thank the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for having accepted the mission to be Pope. There are also messages from young people, who wish him “all the best.” (Zenit.org)

Vietnam (Baoloc): Vietnam Women Evangelizers Take Vows After 40 Years

Members of a lay group of evangelizers have taken vows as consecrated women 40 years after the group began working among ethnic minorities in Vietnam’s Central highlands. Eleven members of The Family of Witnesses of Christ professed their vows on January 8 during a Mass at the Evangelization Center for Tribal Peoples in Bao Loc town. Bishop P.Nguyen V. Nhonn presided at the consecration Mass where the women took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The Bishop gave each of them a ring, symbolic of their betrothal to Christ, and a copy of the Bible. Fr.L.Pham Giao Hoa, who founded the group in 1965, told UCA News that this “is the first lay community in Vietnam to be consecrated.” Marie Tran Thi Huyen, head of the group, said the group teaches catechism, runs Catholic associations and helps organize feasts according to the Church’s liturgical calendar. (UCAN).


James, Rick, Creating Space for Grace: God’s Power in Organisational Change, Sundbyberg: Swedish Mission Council, 2004.

This publication argues that organizational change must be both professionally excellent and spiritually passionate. The purpose of the book is to contribute to a discussion on spiritual aspects of change in general and organizational change in particular. Internet link http://www.missioncouncil.se/english/default.html

Laing, Mark, T.B., ed., Nationalism and Hindutva: A Christian Response, New Delhi: ISPCK, 2005.

In the context of fundamentalism, there is a need for clear and confident Christian identity and witness today. This book explores the possibilities of authentic Christian response to the situation.

Terrence W., Tilley, ed., New Horizons in Theology, College Theology Society Annual Volume 50, 2004, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005.

This volume explores how theology has changed over the last fifty years, and analyzes theological concerns on the horizon today, and also approaches to teaching theology appropriate for the 21st century.

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Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)