Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

July / 2005


Africa: Statistics Reveal Africa is Church’s New Hope

According to the statistics, the greatest challenge facing Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of his pontificate is the Catholic Church’s lack of growth in Europe. Africa, however, is the great hope, where over the past 25 years Catholics have almost tripled in number, according to the new edition of the “Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2003,” prepared by the Church’s Central Office of Statistics. Between 1978 and 2003, Catholics increased worldwide from 757 million to 1.085 billion – an increase of 329 million faithful. However, the percentage of Catholics in Europe has virtually remained unchanged over the past 25 years: decreasing from 40.5% to 39.6%. The Catholic Church is growing most rapidly in Africa, where Catholics have virtually tripled. In 1978 they numbered about 55 million, while in 2003 they have increased to almost 144 million. (Zenit)

Canada: Women to Defy Vatican

Nine Roman Catholic women, including one Canadian and one American are going to defy the Vatican and become the first female Roman Catholic priests and deacons, ordained in North America on July 25th .The Ordination will take place on a boat floating down the St Lawrence River in Eastern Canada, in international waters between the United States and Canada, where no Diocese has jurisdiction and thus cannot interfere. “It is an immensely wounding part in our Catholic history to block women’s ecclesiastical participation in Orders,” said former nun Michele Birch-Cinery, 65, who was ordained as a deacon last year in Europe. She will be the first Canadian woman to be ordained as a priest next month. 14 women have already been ordained in similar river ceremonies in Europe in recent years and 65 others are planning to join their ranks soon. In 2003, the Vatican excommunicated the first seven women, ordained on the Danube River between Germany and Austria in 2003. (Communalism Combat)

Geneva: Muslim Scholar Says Multi-Faith Dialogue is must

Dialogue between different faiths that does not deal with the harsh reality of life, but only with platitudes will fail, a well known European Muslim scholar has told a large multi-faith gathering in Geneva called by the World Council of Churches (WCC). In 2004, The University of Notre Dame in the United States, a Roman Catholic Institution, invited Ramadan to teach Islamic philosophy and ethics at its Kroc Institute for Peace Studies. Shortly before he was to start, however, the US Government revoked his visa on the basis of national security. The conference sought to shift inter-religious relations from dialogue to common action, including new education and training programmes and exchanges fostering a culture of dialogue. Symbolic actions promoting healing of historic memory, new structures and networks were suggested as ways to follow up. WCC general Secretary, the Rev.Samuel Kobia told: “This conference will help us to go beyond dialogue and enter into a stage of cooperation and coordination of inter-faith and multi-faith work.” The real conflict was not between civilizations or religions, but between humanity and anti-humanity. All people shared a common human condition, and the role of religion is “to preserve, foster and secure civility” in an age that is hostile to it. (ENI)

Germany, Hanover: German Christians Debate Shared Communion and Church Unity

Germany’s Protestant Church Convention ended on 29 May with calls to allow Protestants and Catholics to share in the Eucharist, but with some church leaders urging prudence. “Our hope for eucharistic hospitality remains unbroken,” said the convention’s president, Eckhard Nagel, to applause from an estimated 100,000 people attending the closing worship of the “Kirchentag”, an event held every two years which attracts tens of thousands of people. Germany’s top Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber, said he hoped that by 2010, when Protestants and Catholics are due to take part in an Ecumenical Kirchentag, it would be possible for all to “gather at the table of the Lord”. (ENI)

Hong Kong: First Religious Liberty then China Ties, Say Sino-Vatican Watchers

Recent speculation around Vatican-China relations has suggested that both Pope Benedict XVI and Beijing are looking to improve relations. The Catholic Church is not allowed to appoint its own bishops in China which is one of a number of countries that do not have full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Regarding the appointment of Bishops the Italian missionary Rev.Gianni Criveller said: “The 174 countries with diplomatic relations have no problems. Even in Communist countries like Cuba and Vietnam, the bishops are also appointed by the Pope.” Recent informal exchanges between the Roman Catholic Church and Beijing were just “conversations between people of goodwill”, and not really dialogue. (ENI)

India: Pilgrims Flock Back to Marian Shrine in Tsunami-Hit Veilankanni

It is devotion and business as usual at a popular Catholic shrine in southern India, six months after tsunami waves devastated the surrounding area. “The number of pilgrims visiting the shrine during this summer season has equaled the pre-tsunami figures,” says Father John Bosco, procurator of the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Vailankanni, India’s most popular Marian pilgrimage center. The towering waves did not reach the shrine, which sits on higher ground, but killed nearly 2,000 people in Vailankanni and another 4,000 in other parts of the state. The tsunami had destroyed all shops on the beach road, the commercial hub of Vailankanni, but most of them have been rebuilt. The road that runs from the shrine entrance to the seashore still bears the marks of the devastation. The shrine has spent around 20 million rupees (about US $460,000) on relief and rehabilitation work, said Father Sagayaraj Muthusamy, shrine coordinator for relief work. The shrine belongs to Thanjavur diocese. (UCAN)

Jerusalem: Israel Names Galilee Park After Pope John Paul II

Israel has honoured Pope John Paul II for his friendship towards the Jewish people by naming a Galilee park after him and by striking a postage stamp in his memory. A park at the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, will be dedicated to Pope John Paul II. In 2000, during his historic visit to the Holy Land, the pontiff had celebrated Mass at the site overlooking the Sea of Galilee. He was the first pope to visit a synagogue in 1986 and was the first to establish diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel. During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, John Paul placed a note in Jerusalem’s Western Wall asking God for forgiveness for centuries of persecution against the Jewish people. “We wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant,” he wrote on his note. (ENI)

Korea, Seoul: Number of Catholics Increases

The number of Catholics in South Korea increased in 2004, as did the number of “non-practicing” Catholics. According to statistics released June 2 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, the country’s Catholic population reached 4,537,844 in 2004, an increase of 107,053 or 2.4 percent, from the previous year’s 4,430,791. Catholics now comprise 9.3 percent of the country’s 49,052,988 people. The data also indicate the average number of Sunday churchgoers stood at 1,272,907, or 28.1 percent of the Catholic population. It shows that nearly three in 10 Catholics go to Mass every Sunday, while overall Mass attendance increased by 81,793 over 2003. A breakdown by gender shows that in 2004, 41.4 percent of Catholics were men and 58.6 percent were women. The number of parishes in South Korea stood at 1,414, with 971 mission stations in 15 dioceses. The Church also has the Military Ordinariate. The number of parishes has steadily increased, but mission stations have decreased from previous years. From 2003 to 2004, parishes increased by 45 while mission stations decreased by 18. (UCAN)

Philippines: Cardinal Sin, “A Man Larger Than Life”

The death of Cardinal Jaime Sin “has shaken the foundations of the Filipino Church and society”, but his memory :is immortal”. This is what Mgr. Oscar V.Cruz, Archbishop of Lingayen-Daguan, had to say to Asia News about the life and legacy of the man he called “an elder brother”. “Cardinal Sin leaves a legacy not only for the Filipino Church but for the entire nation. I believe his memory will be immortal, because the work he achieved during his lifetime ensured he became an integral part of the society of this country. You know, he saved the Philippines from destruction,” said Mgr. Cruz. He is referring here to the role played by the deceased cardinal during the years of the dictatorship and overthrow of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. “He was a man who was never afraid of confronting powerful and influential people in defence of the truth and to promote human rights. This was the reason why corrupt and wicked people of this country never found support from Cardinal Sin. His courage and strength came from always bearing in mind that the truth of the Gospel is much more powerful than any other force”. (Asia News)

London: Curbing Religious Hatred

The British Government has introduced a new Bill in the House of Commons which if enacted would make the incitement of religious hatred a punishable offence. The UK already has a law against racial hatred. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill seeks to ban “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.” A violation of the proposed law would be punishable by fine, or a prison term. The Bill is being strongly opposed by Opposition parties, secularists, human rights groups and writers, including many of South Asian origin. They believe this would stifle freedom of expression and promote self-censorship. The law has been welcomed by many Hindu and Muslim religious bodies, who believe the new law could provide some check on growing attacks on temples and mosques. (Communalism Combat)

Manila: Asian Rights Group Sought to Probe Army Link in Philippine Killings

Alarmed by killings of Church human rights workers in the Philippines, senior clerics have called on the help of an independent human rights group to pressure President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government to probe the alleged involvement of the country’s military in the slayings. “We urge your immediate intervention (to ask) the (Philippine) government to initiate urgent measures to address the phenomenon of unrestrained killings of political and human rights activists,” the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has appealed on its Web site. The commission’s members incude lawyers, academics and church leaders and it cited the 12 May killing of a Protestant pastor in San Isidro, on the island of Leyte, which belongs to the region of Eastern Visayas in central Philippines. (ENI)

Nairobi: Churches to Continue Somali Aid Despite UNICEF Pullout

Church agencies are continuing with plans to provide help to communities on the Somalia coastline hit by December’s lethal tsunami that wreaked global havoc, despite the suspension of operations there by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNISEF). But Nyabera said his church grouping would be moving into Somalia from June to aid in the restoration of fishing, the repair of water sources and supporting the electrification of Hafun, a town totally destroyed by the tidal waves triggered by a massive earthquake in Indonesia. The project will be carried out with funds raised mainly by Southern African Churches. (ENI)

Nairobi: Former Sudan Child Soldier Now Raps Gospel Chart Toppers

There aren’t many former child soldiers who are “turning machine gun sounds into gospel music tunes”. But Emmanuel Jal, a former South Sudanese child soldier, is rocking the music charts in Nairobi and beyond, with his debut gospel music album “Gua”. “Gua”, which is also a single track on the album in Jal’s native Nuer language, means, peace, good or power. In a staccato rapping in Arabic, English, Kiswahili and Neur, the singer thanks God and tells of his traumatic experience as a child soldier. It was not easy for the former child soldier to start singing gospel, but something inside kept urging him to sing for God. Now Jal, (who interprets his name to mean “Jesus Always Loves”) finds inspiration in believing he saw God’s hand in his endurance through the war. The rapper was among the thousands of children aged between 7 and 13, sent to Ethiopia in 1987 by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) ostensibly to attend school. But instead they were conscripted into the guerilla army. Jai said he plans to tour Southern Sudan soon, to spread the “message of peace” to other former child soldiers. (ENI)

Rome: Pontifical Council Sponsors Meeting on Street Women

The first international meeting on the Pastoral Ministry for the liberation of street women, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, was held at the council’s San Calisto offices in Rome on the 20th and 21st of June, according to a communiqué published. An estimated 50 participants, representing Episcopal conferences, religious congregations, associations and institutions, from 24 countries were expected to attend. While predominantly from Europe, participants will also represent Latin America, Africa and Asia. “The aim of this meeting, says the communiqué, “is to urge cooperation and a certain coordination among groups already committed on the front line to pastorally helping women living in difficult situations. In Thailand alone, it is estimated that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 street women, of whom 35,000 are under age 18. In Italy there are an estimated 40,000 street women, of whom 4,000 are minors and many are non-European. The International Migration Organization calculates that about half a million women, coming from Eastern Europe, have become enslaved and obliged to become prostitutes in Western Europe. (VIS)

Rome: Pope Plans Meeting with Children on EUCHARIST

Pope Benedict VI plans to hold a Catechism meeting with children who have made their First Communion to highlight the importance of the Eucharist for the whole Christian Community. The Pope announced the October Meeting would take place at the same time that Bishops from around the world will attend the Synod in Rome, to close the Year of the Eucharist. This initiative will be for the Holy Father “an opportune and beautiful circumstance to confirm the essential role that the Sacrament of the Eucharist has in the formation and spiritual growth of children.” (Zenit News)

Tel-Aviv, Israel: Israel Issues Stamp in Memory of Pope John Paul II

The state of Israel has dedicated a stamp commemorating Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of what would have been his 85th birthday, May 18. The Israel Embassy to the Holy See announced it officially. According to the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, Israel’s Environment Entity will promote the establishment of a “Meeting Park for the Pope of Young People” in Galilee, a “place linked to Christianity and loved by John Paul II, where an amphitheater will also be erected.” The initiative aims to “develop in young people, belonging to the different monotheistic religions, the culture of dialogue to build a future of PEACE”. (Zenit)

Vatican City: Coin to Commemorate World Youth Day – 2005

The Vatican City State has released a 2-Euro coin to commemorate this year’s World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. Some 85,000 units of the collector’s coin will be produced. World Youth organizers said: “The reverse of the coin shows Cologne Cathedral and above it is the star of Bethlehem with a comet’s tail, which guided the wise men.” (Zenit)

Warsaw: Russian Roman Catholic Leader Says Links to Orthodox Improving

Relations between Roman Catholics and Orthodox have improved since the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, says the leader of Russia’s minority Roman Catholic community. On 18 May, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz who was in Rome accompanying Russian Catholic pilgrims who visited the tomb of Pope John Paul II and noted the desire of John Paul to visit predominantly-Orthodox Russia had not been fulfilled. “The Holy Father wasn’t able to come to Moscow, although he very much wished to – so we are now coming to him,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz told, “We hope Benedict XVI will succeed in doing what Pope Wojtyla [John Paul] couldn’t achieve.” (ENI)


Anglicans, Catholics Reach Agreement on Mary

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission released its statement of agreement, “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ,”- May 16th. The Document said: “We believe there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters.” Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, often seen as a distinctively Roman Catholic or Orthodox practice, has roots in Scripture and the early Christian tradition, which make it part of Anglicans’ heritage as well, the document said. By examining “our shared belief concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary,” the document said, members of the dialogue team hoped to provide a “context for a common appreciation of the Marian dogmas” of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which have divided Anglicans and Roman Catholics for 150 years. “It is impossible to be faithful to Scripture and not to take Mary seriously,” the Document said. (CNS)

“Little Catechism on the Eucharist”

“The Little Catechism on the Eucharist, a catechetical work filled with coloured images and teachings on the Blessed Sacrament, is newly published from Kentucky in English. It really is a tremendous book as it is a catechism that focuses on the Church’s greatest treasure of the Blessed Sacrament. It is divided into three sections and is richly illustrated to help understanding. It really has a tremendous appeal to both faith and reason. And following the section on the doctrine of the Eucharist and a beautiful section on the Mass and how to receive Communion worthily, there are two more parts: one on Eucharistic miracles and the other on the saints and the sacrament. (Zenit)

Religious Priests Down, Diocesan Priests Up

According to the “Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2003,” Catholic diocesan priests are increasing in number and religious priests are decreasing. Diocesan priests reached their lowest figure over the past 25 years in 1988, when they numbered 257,000. In 1978, they were 262,000, while in 2003 they increased to 268,000. In 1978 religious priests numbered to 158,000, while in 2003 they decreased to 137,000. Today there are 2,7000 Catholics per priest, while in 1978 there were 1,800. (Zenit)


Bryan T. Froehle and Mary L.Gautier, Global Catholicism, New York: Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2003.

Global Catholicism gives an accurate and valuable picture of a global Catholic Church, growing and changing demographically at a rate unparalleled in its 2000 year history. It offers the reader reliable data, insights and stories into the changing world of Catholicism today.

Douglas Pratt, Rethinking Religion: Exploratory Investigations, Adelaide: ATF Press, 2003.

This book includes a range of religious studies, interreligious dialogue and philosophical – theological topics that will be of interest to a wide range of readers.

Jose Comblin, People of God, New York: Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2004

Jose Comblin, believes that the agenda implied in “People of God” remains vital and necessary for the Church today – especially at the dawn of a new pontificate. Progress in the Church according to the author Comblin, must begin with a recovery and return to the Principles of Vatican II.

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Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)