Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

January / 2006


Adelaide: Pope Announces Mental Health Focus for World Day of Sick

Mental Health will be the focus of the 14th World Day of the Sick, to be held in Adelaide, February 9-11. In his message for the occasion Pope Benedict shared the Church’s concern for those suffering from mental illness. He noted that one-fifth of the world population suffers some form of mental illness and described this prevalence “a real and authentic social-health care emergency.” Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide described the three-day gathering as an opportunity “to engage and experience the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society and…for those who work in the health care sector to reflect on their work and how it can be seen as a continuation of the healing mission of Jesus.” Participants will also make visits to the sick, the homeless and the mentally ill. The event will conclude with a mass in St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, where the sick can receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and special blessing. (CNA)

China: Stricter Internet Rules Imposed

Chinese officials are cracking down on news criticizing the state’s religious policies or preaching cultist or “superstitious” beliefs on the Internet, reported Asia News. The State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry announced the rules recently, stating that the “state bans dissemination of content which goes against state security and the public interest.” The announcement did not give any date as to when the rules would come into effect. In addition to religious news, the new rules affect 10 other “forbidden zones,” including news that would endanger state security, state secrets, or reports that may spark ethnic violence. Mainland authorities already strictly control the media and use technology to filter and monitor Internet content considered politically sensitive or pornographic. (TNL)

China: Catholics in Xian City take to Streets to Protest Beating of Nuns

The Vatican has issued a protest against the arrest and beating of Roman Catholic nuns that led to hundreds of Christians in Xian, the capital of China’s northwestern Shaanxi province taking to the streets to protest. In Xian, more than 500 Catholics marched on 27 November to protest against the beating of 16 Franciscan nuns who were seriously injured in a land dispute with the local government. The nuns had been trying to prevent the demolition of a former church school, which city officials had sold four days earlier. “The night of the attack, 200 sisters were at the school to guard it against demolition.” When the thugs appeared, the nuns went out to stop them but they were beaten up severely. Some of the nuns were still in hospital when the Vatican issued its protest and one of them may be permanently paralysed, while another partially lost her eyesight. Church leaders and the government met on 28 November, with the government saying it would return to the church the land where the school was situated and that the Catholics could buy back the school for 6.5 million yuan (US$8000 000). The city government said it would pay the seriously injured nuns 3000 yuan (US$360) as compensation. (ENI)

Japan: Survey on Religion Bothers Catholics

In an opinion poll conducted recently by the “Yomiuri” newspaper, 75 percent of the 3,000 adult-respondents from 250 locations in Japan declared “I have no faith.” More than 25 percent also said they do not want a religious funeral. This has spurred scholars to react on the survey results. Theology Professor Araya Shigehiko says the findings cannot be taken in a literal sense. People might not believe some religious doctrines and thus, cannot ally themselves with any one religion. But deep down, he said, they are looking for something, and it is this that draws them to visit shrines and temples. “We make a trial of remedies proposed to us by media – alcohol, sex, buying sprees – only to find that the same things become the source of anguish. In that sense, people are really looking for something.” Here, the Church should extend a helping hand especially in giving practical assistance to those in need, the professor said. (JNC)

Jerusalem: Archaeologists Digging in Israel Find Goliath Holy Land

Archaeologists are excited about recent discoveries from excavations in Israel, which date from the biblical period and provide an insight into life in the Holy Land some 3000 years ago. Among the finds is an inscription with a name remarkably similar to that of “Goliath”, the biblical giant slain by David. The discovery may provide the first extra-biblical evidence that the story of Goliath has some historical basis. The discovery was presented at an archaeology conference in the United States in November. At the conference, US archaeologists presented what they believe to be an ancient Israelite alphabet etched in stone, discovered at the excavation of a town called Tel Zayit near Jerusalem. (ENI)

Manila: Philippines’ Bishops Seek Prayer Days to Deal with National Crises

Catholic bishops in the Philippines are seeking divine help in delivering their country from a protracted crisis over governance and from threats of terrorism and a bird flu pandemic. The national days of prayer were suggested by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines in Asia’s only predominantly Catholic country, during a recent convention. Archbishop Capalla said Filipinos needed God’s help for spiritual renewal “amid the grave crisis in government, which until now has not been resolved, and in the face of the threats of terrorism, bird flu and other calamities”. On 11 November, Philippine marines battled with members of Abu Sayyaf, a gang in southern Philippines said to be linked with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida. Four marines and 17 Abu Sayyaf members were killed and 22 wounded during the clashes. (ENI)

Oradea, Rome: Romanian Cathedral Recovered After 60 Years

The Romanian cathedral of Oradea has been returned to Eastern-Rite Catholics after having been the property of the Orthodox for 60 years. The building of the cathedral was begun by Greek-Catholic Bishop Ignavie Darabant and completed by Bishop Samuil Vulcan, of the same rite, in 1810. During the Communist regime, the cathedral and other real estate and properties of the Greek-Catholics were expropriated by the state and turned over to the Orthodox Church, Romania’s state church. After 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Greek-Catholic Church began negotiations to recover its properties. (Zenit)

Pakistan: Christian Groups Discuss Plan to Curb Religious Intolerance

A national consultation of Christian organizations has come up with a long-term strategy to combat religious intolerance in Pakistan. The five main recommendations to curb religious intolerance in Pakistan are to form the core of a campaign to be spearheaded by a permanent committee of civil organizations under Church leadership. The meeting recommended that a team of lawyers be formed to fight blasphemy cases against members of religious minority communities, that a letter-writing campaign to government officials be launched and that a meeting of mainline Church leaders in Pakistan be convened by Archbishop Saldanha. It also recommended that an interfaith signature campaign be started and that the organizations involved issue a continuous stream of press releases. (UCAN)

Rome: Italian Protestant Says Pope’s ‘Indulgences’ a Setback for Unity

A top Italian Protestant has accused Pope Benedict XVI of setting back Christian unity by granting indulgences to Roman Cathollics who carry out acts of devotion to the Virgin Mary to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council. “The Catholic Church is free to decree all the indulgences it likes but stressing the things that divide [churches] crushes the hopes of those who are working for Christian unity,” said Professor Paolo Ricca of the Protestant Waldensian theology faculty in Rome. Ricca’s comments to the Italian Protestant news agency nev on 30 November came after the announcement that Pope Benedict had authorised a plenary indulgence for Catholics who take part in any public or private devotion to the Virgin Mary on 8 December. (ENI)

Singapore: Display of Vatican Artefacts Could Help Interreligious Understanding

The “Journey of Faith” exhibit of more than 140 artefacts from the Vatican Museums held at the Asian Civilizations Museum ended with a 24-hour film-screening marathon from Ocober 8 to 9. The exhibit drew around 1125,000 local and foreign visitors, which surpassed another major exhibition on ancient Egypt held at the same museum several years ago. Senior Curator of the museum and co-curator of the exhibition, Huism Tan, said a high point about being a curator is to “learn about one’s own and other people’s culture and history”. “I hope that the exhibition has enabled people of various faiths to understand each other more,” she added. (CN)

Sydney: Catholics Must be More Present in the Media

The Catholic Church in Australia plans to increase its presence in the media and make better use of these ‘new pulpits’ for evangelization which are part of the culture and world of the third millennium. The relation between the Media and the Church will be the topic of a Pastoral Letter, “Go, announce to the whole world,” which the Australian Bishops will render public in February 2006.” “It is a question of awareness”, said Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth. ”We live in the era of the media. At times we fail to realise this and communicate only within the Catholic family. Instead we should listen to the world and give an answer.” Archbishop Hickey, head of he Australian Bishops’ conference’s commission for communications and media said Catholics should adopt a more energetic approach to the media and the Church should make greater use of print media, TV and the Internet to spread the Good News. Recently the Church in Australia opened a new monthly Internet newsletter “Mission and Spirituality News”, dedicated specifically to missionary activity and aimed at encouraging renewed missionary efforts and sharing mission experience. (Fides Service)

USA: Vatican Edict on Gays in Priesthood Both Lauded and Decried

The Vatican’s first major policy statement under Pope Benedict XVI reiterating that gay men should not become priests under any circumstance has drawn applause from some Catholics while others are mourning the arrival of the document. While groups urging tolerance on the issue of homosexuals in the church argue there is no link between sexual orientation and paedophilia, both sides responded to the directive through the filter of North America’s recent history of sexual abuse by its priests and child abuse. In an interview with Ecumenical News International, Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter said, “For those who want to go hunting for gays in the seminaries, this document will give them something to stand on. For those who want to be more pastoral and believe that homosexual men can be good priests, they will find room in the document to accept it. Our editorial on this will offer condolences to gay parishioners, priests, bishops and cardinals who have served the Church well.” (ENI)

Vientiane, Laos: In Reversal, Laos Blocks Ordination

The Laotian government withdrew its permission for what would have been the first priestly ordination in the country since 1975. The ordination of Sophone Vilavongsy, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, has been postponed indefinitely. The 32-year-old was scheduled to become the first Laotian to become an ordained priest in 30 years, the Asia News agency reported. “Soldiers are monitoring the church to make sure that the [government] order is enforced,” said Bishop Jean Khamsé Vithayong, apostolic vicar of Vientiane, the last and only Laotian Oblate father ordained on Jan.25, 1975. “Now we’ll have to wait and see how the situation will develop.” The authorities have not explained why they withdrew the previously granted permission. Since its takeover of Laos in 1975, the ruling Communist Pathet Lao had expelled foreign missionaries. Since then, only one seminary survives under tight government control. (Zenit)

Vietnam: Church Leaders Welcome Cardinal Sepe’s Visit

Church leaders in Vietnam say Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe’s visit demonstrates improved religious freedom in the country, and they hope it would bring increased vitality to the local Church. Archbishop Kiet, said Cardinal Sepe is the first head of the Congregation to visit Vietnam since the relationship between the Holy See and the Communist North was broken off in 1960. A Holy See delegation has paid annual visits to Vietnam to talk with the government about episcopal nominations and other issues related to the Church. (UCAN)

Zhaoxian, China: 7 Deacons Undergo Indoctrination in China

Seven deacons reportedly were arrested and subjected to indoctrination to force them to follow the Patriotic Association that oversees religious activity. The deacons had to endure sleep deprivation and were not allowed to use the bathroom or take medicaation. They were released on Dec. 3 said Asia News. “The officials who had them abducted wanted to force them to sign a statement whereby they expressed their willingness to be ordained by a state-nominated bishop rather than one who is in communion with the Pope,” the agency said. “But the seminarians did not give in.” Asia News sources said that Bishop Wang Chunlin of Zhaoxian was also subjected to pressures and denied the right to ordain. (Zenit)


India: Jesuit Working for Literacy in India Wins Opus Prize

Jesuit Father Trevor Miranda, head of Research Education Action Program founded in Mumbai, India is the 2005 recipient of the one million US$ Opus Prize. Fr.Miranda has spent years bringing books and teachers to the desperately poor in India. His group has opened more than 450 literacy centers throughout the country in just six years. The Opus Prize is given annually by Opus Group, a commercial real estate development company, to religious individuals or organizations that demonstrate innovative strategies to solve deeply rooted community problems while fostering responsibility and independence. (CN)

Hong Kong: Catholic in China Region of Macau Bless East Asian Games

The start of the East Asian Games in China’s special Administrative Region of Macau was marked with Buddhist and Roman Catholic blessings. Catholics in Macau, which is 70 kilometres from Hong Kong, have thrown open their institutions during the Games using them as an opportunity to show visitors the role the Church has played in the area which is more renowned as a tourism and gambling centre. “We support the Games. And we want to take this opportunity to introduce the visitors to the history of the Catholic Church in Macau” said Raymond Ho Pui Chi, chairperson of the Association. “More than 10,000 visitors were expected to visit Macau during the Games. We wish to grab this chance to bring them the Gospel,” said Raymond Ho. In 1999 the Portuguese handed Macau back to China and under an agreement it wil be administered as a special administrative region for 50 years. Its official languages are Chinese and Portuguese.(ENI)

Tokyo: Japanese Noh Drama Lifts Mask on Nagasaki Bombing

A Roman Catholic church and school that were atom-bombed in the city of Nagasaki in 1945 have staged a new Japanese classical Noh drama called “The Holy Mother of Nagasaki”. The Noh drama featured Mary incarnated as a female believer and bomb survivor who recounts how she helped and comforted those hurt by the atomic bombing on 9 August 1945 by US warplanes of what was one of Japan’s most Christian cities. It was staged on 23 November to mark the 60th anniversary of a memorial Mass for those killed by the atomic bombing, held in the suburb of Urakami near the site of the church that was the biggest Christian place of worship in Japan and which was reduced to rubble. An estimated 10,000 Catholics from the city, once visited by St. Francis Xavier, died in the bombing. Noh is a classical traditional Japanese form of performance dating to the 14th century, which is rarely performed in churches. It combines elements of dance, drama, music and poetry into one stage art, featuring gods, warriors, beautiful women, contemporary figures, and supernatural beings, with slow, spartan grace and distinctive masks. (ENI)


Robert S. Rivers, CSP, From Maintenance to Mission: Evangelization and the Revitalization of the Parish, New York, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2005.

The book sets before us the perennial challenge to become Catholic evangelizers and proposes concrete ways to move from maintenance to mission-oriented Parishes.

Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, USA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

The authors are both in the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster University, U.K. They have written extensively on Religion and Spirituality in the modern world. The book provides a much needed survey and theoretical synthesis of research on religious involvement.

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Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)