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ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

February / 2005

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Abuja: Liberia’s First Female President Heeds Church War on Corruption

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s president, who has been sworn into office with pomp and pageantry, has accepted the call of Liberian church leaders to combat corruption that has become endemic in the West African country. Johnson-Sirleaf assumes leadership of a nation struggling to recover from 14 years of violent civil war, a conflict that forced the United Nations to deploy the largest UN peace keeping force ever to Liberia. The nation has a population of 3.5 million people but the civil war that engulfed the country resulted in the killing of more than 250,000 persons. A widowed mother of four, President Johnson-Sirleaf is US-educated economist and was former finance minister under President William Tolbert in the late 1970s, then fled the country after his government was overthrown. (ENI)

Bielefeld: Church Foundation Hopes to Turn Pope’s Birthplace into Museum

“A foundation has been set up by Roman Catholic Bishop Wilhelm Schrami of Passau in southern Germany to purchase the house in which Pope Benedict XVI was born and turn it into a museum devoted to the Pope’s home” said Hubert Gschwendtner, mayor of Markti am Inn, where the house built in 1745 is located. He described the plan announced in December as the “best Christmas present” the town could hope for. (ENI)

China: Government Returns Church Property

After a long church property dispute in Tianjin, in northern China, the local government has validated the church’s claim to the property and agreed to return it. Tianjin’s deputy major met five priests from Shanxi province and told them his municipal government had verified that information the Church presented to back its claim ‘basically matches’ the government records, said Fr. Anthony Han Huide, procurator of Taiyuan Diocese. The official also handed over the key of the house to the priests and told them they “could come back to visit and stay there,” he said. (CNS News)

Filippino: Supreme Court Justice Remembered for her Bravery

Filippino Church persons have eulogized a former Supreme Court justice for courage rooted in faith. Cecilia Munoz-Palma, appointed first woman Supreme Court justice by the late president Ferdinand Marcos in 1973, died in a hospital on 1 January of heart failure following an asthma attack. She was 92. Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila presided over the funeral Mass for the late justice. In his homily, he praised Palma as a ‘role model’ and ‘exemplary Catholic’ who had “a brilliant career, discerning mind and serene voice during the marital law,” imposed by Marcos from 1972 to 1981. He also described the former justice as a “person of character”. He said, “Palma was an authentic woman of God, wife, mother and public servant completely loyal to her belief that God has put her where she was”. (UCAN)

Geneva: Pope Benedict Hails Dialogue with Reformed Churches

Pope Benedict XVI has praised dialogue with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), saying the dialogue is helping to surmount ‘tragic divisions’ between Christians going back to the 16th century Protestant Reformation. The Pope also urged joint action on issues of social justice. “We are eager during our visit here at the Vatican to pursue with you how Catholic and Reformed Christians might be partners together for God’s justice in a world wracked by poverty, war, ecological destruction, and the denial of human freedom,” Kirkpatrick noted. Pope Benedict hailed the Catholic-Reformed dialogue as helping to overcome differences. The Pope also spoke of the need for “a purification of memory”, noting his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had given a ‘powerful impulse’ to this endeavour. “I am pleased to learn that several of the Reformed Churches which are members of the World Alliance have undertaken similar initiatives,” Benedict added. (ENI)

India, Bihar: Catholic Carpenters in Bihar Help Hindu Villagers

Kaladhar Jha is happy he could give the customary wooden furniture to the three daughters he married off. The 56-year old Hindu admits, that honouring the tradition would have left him bankrupt were it not for some local Catholic carpenters. They charge prices that even poor like me can afford, he said. Louis Gasper, a catholic said, “Carpentry has become a mission and challenge for us to serve the hindus and has helped us to do some good for our neighbours.” He explained that the pioneering missioners taught carpentry. The priests also made them vow to treat the trade as a service to the Lord and never to swindle customers with regard to quality and price. That vow still binds us, he said. The missionaries’ foresight made the Catholic carpenters self-reliant while earning them the respect of their Hindu neighbours. (UCAN)

India, Gujarat: February Get-Together of 10,000 Sadhus in Gujarat Worries Christians

A massive get-together of sadhus and yogis in the communally volatile Dangs district in Gujarat in February has caused fear and anxiety among the Christians. Hindu organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal are aggressively preparing for a kumbh mela at Subir by bringing together 10,000 sadhus from across the country. Worried Christian leaders, including Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad, several heads of Christian institutions and others have already written to the President of India, Dr.Abdul Kalam, expressing their anxiety and fear about possible harassment of Christians in Dangs during the kumbh mela with a copy to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. (SAR News)

India, Mumbai: City Jesuits in Mumbai Seek New Image

The Jesuits, who run some big-ticket educational institutions in Mumbai city, have decided that they need some branding. Jesuit provincial Fr.Francis de Melo said the aim of branding is to help people forge that vital connection between the Jesuits and their numerous institutions. He said branding can help build an awareness of the various works the Jesuits are engaged in apart from running prestigious institutions. “We run not only a world-class college but also schools in rural areas for tribal children,” he added. “The Jesuit name will be the mother brand, and schools like St.Xavier’s at Dhobi Talao and St.Stanislaus in Bandra will be sub-brands,” explains a brand consultant summoned for a first workshop with members of the religious order. Church circles say that the Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, have been spurred into action in the wake of globalization which has brought in a rush of expensive, high-profile institutions offering international degrees. (Times of India)

Manila: Catholic Leader in Philippines Calls for National Transformation

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines says his country is “still in deep crisis” and must rouse itself to the need for change. In his message, Lagdameo stressed the need for open-mindedness to “new possibilities and directions”. In an exhortation directed both at the Arroyo administration and the opposition, the archbishop urged sharing of responsibility. Lagdameo said the goal of national transformation could unite leaders and people, amidst the difficulties the country continued to face. But he stressed, “We can change the face of government, if and only if we change our own old selfish ways of thinking and behaving. (ENI)

Nairobi: Kenyan Church Gather Aid for Famine-hit Region

Churches in Kenya are moving to provide aid for millions of citizens facing starvation due to a severe famine in this East African country, where the head of state has declared the food crisis a national disaster. Church leaders in towns are asking their congregations to drop foodstuffs at church centres or designated places to be delivered as aid to starving populations. They are urging farmers in western Kenya who have been enjoying bumper harvests, despite the shortages in other parts of the country, to donate food for relief purposes. Thousands of prisoners have also joined in the effort, skipping meals on 1 January to raise money for food charity. (ENI)

New York: US Judge’s Ruling on ‘Intelligent Design’ Theory Hailed and Jeered

Proponents of ‘intelligent design’, which centres around the idea that the universe is created by a higher power, not referred to specifically as God, have harshly criticized a federal judge’s ruling which found that teaching the theory cannot be permitted in public schools because it advances a religious viewpoint and is not scientific. Opponents of the theory, meanwhile, hailed the decision by Judge John Jones III, who said that intelligent design could not be taught in public schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution as first articulated by Charles Darwin. Proponents of ‘intelligent design’ argue that life was created by an intelligent force and that it is a scientific, not religious theory about the origins of life. Opponents have argued the theory is actually a religious idea and is a new version of biblically based creationism. (ENI)

Pakistan: Pakistani Christians, Muslim Leaders Sign Reconciliation Pact

Pakistani Christian and Muslim leaders have signed an agreement not to pursue any action against those arrested for destroying and desecrating churches in the town of Sangla Hill. The Muslim youth who charged a Christian with desecrating a Qur’an also agreed to withdraw charges, saying he accused the Christian on mere suspicion. A ‘peace treaty between parties” was signed on 5 January for restoration of peace and order in Sangla Hill after the unpleasant incidents of 11 November 2005. Representatives of both Muslim and Christian communities attended the meeting. They later filled an affidavit that said, “The parties will not pursue the case as a result of this unfortunate and unpleasant disaster.” (UCAN)

Rome: Vatican’s Swiss Guards Mark 500 Years Guarding Popes

Bedecked in striped blue, yellow and red tunics the Pontifical Swiss Guard are known throughout the world as the small company of men sworn to protect the life of the Pope even at the cost of their own blood. On 22 January, the 100-strong guard celebrated its 500th anniversary. Soon after the election in 2005, Pope Benedict praised the Swiss Guard’s “glorious tradition of almost five centuries of a small army with great deals” as he met new recruits preparing to swear their oath of allegiance to the papacy. The official ‘birth’ of the Swiss Guard goes back to 22 January 1506 when 150 Swiss soldiers commanded by Captain Kaspar von Silenen from Uri canton in central Switzerland first passed through the Vatican gates, where they were welcomed and blessed by Pope Julius II. Only Swiss citizens who belong to the Roman Catholic Church can become members of the Swiss Guard. On top of that, they have to be between 19 and 30 years of age, of impeccable character, at least 174 centimeters tall, and unmarried, though once a member of the Swiss Guard, marriage may be permitted after three years service. (ENI)

Tokyo: Japanese Mark 500th Anniversary of Christian Missionary

Roman Catholics in Japan are gearing up to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St.Francis Xavier, the Catholic missionary who brought Christianity to Japan in 1549. The Nagasaki Archdiocese of the Catholic Church of Japan launched a year of celebrations on 3 December 2005, the feast day of the saint who was born on 7 April 1506. In Kagoshima, where he landed on 15 August 1549, St.Xavier’s Cathedral plans to hold concerts to mark the celebration. In the city of Hirado, which was visited by Xavier three times, a statue of the Madonna of Lourdes is planned to be inaugurated at the city’s St.Francis Xavier Memorial Church. When Francis Xavier left Japan in 1551, about 700 Japanese people had converted to Christianity. He also introduced European products into Japan, including Portuguese wine and spectacles. Francis Xavier died the following year on the Chinese island of Shangchuan, without however having reached his destination of mainland China. (ENI)

Warsaw: Vatican Official Predicts Upturn in Relations with Orthodox

The Vatican’s top official for church unity has repeated calls for a joint synod of Roman Catholic and Orthodox bishops to debate papal primacy and other ‘practical’ issues that divide the two traditions. Orthodox-Roman Catholic ties have been tense in recent years over accusations of Roman Catholic ‘proselytizing’ in traditionally Orthodox areas, as well as over the post communist revival of Greek or Eastern Catholic churches which combine loyalty to Rome with the eastern liturgy. But several Orthodox church leaders have said they hoped for improved relations after the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. The cardinal’s remarks follow a December meeting in Rome of a 21-member coordinating committee, co-chaired by Cardinal Kasper and Metropolitan John of Pergamon, to prepare the first meeting for six years of an International Commission for Catholic-Orthodox Theological Dialogue. (ENI)

II. INFORMATION

Rome: Sister Lucia’s Remains to be Moved to Fatima

The mortal remains of Sister Lucia, who saw apparitions of Our Lady in 1917, will be moved from the Carmelite convent of Coimbra, where she died, to the Shrine of Fatima. The public will be able to take part in the February 19 event, which will include a procession to the Chapel of the Apparitions, Mass, and the transferal of the remains to the basilica. (Zenit)

Rome: “Europe for Christ!” – A Project to Restore Hope

Historian Martin Kugler, author of a thesis on "Christians' Resistance to Nazism," and his wife, Gudrun Kugler-Lang, have launched a project called "Europe for Christ!"

Thailand: Asian Mission Congress Takes Shape

Preparations are in full swing for the upcoming Asian Mission Congress October 19-22, 2006 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The national congress secretariat in Thailand presented an extensive action plan for the event. This was further developed by those responsible for the international dimension. In support for the Asian Mission Congress, the Comboni World Mission Magazine will publish a special issue September-October with statistics and reports on the Church concerns and mission in Asia. This publication will also serve as source for discussions during the congress.

III. NEWS

India, Buxar: New Diocese in India Is 100% Dalit

Two features are striking in the new Indian diocese of Buxar: All the faithful are "untouchables" and consequently, the essence of pastoral activity will be service. Located in the northeastern state of Bihar, the new diocese, the 155th in the country, results from the division of the Archdiocese of Patna. The bishop-elect Father William D'Souza, 60, chose as his diocese's motto "Not to Be Served, but to Serve," to embody the spirit of devotion to the Dalit community.

India, Meghalaya: Nun Wins National Award for Educating Disabled

Sr. Merly, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians received the National Award for the best individual working for the disabled. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the President of India conferred the National Award to Sr. Merly on the occasion of the World Disabled Day at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, in December 2005. (SAR News)

IV. BOOKS

J. Massey and S. Prabhakar, Frontiers in Dalit Hermeneutics, Delhi: CDSS, 2005.

This volume is a result of the first International seminar organized on the theme ‘Hermeneutics of Subaltern Praxis, with special reference to Dalits. This is the first major effort at the formulation of a contextual expression of theology in India, based upon the Dalit people.

M. Amaladoss, The Asian Jesus, Delhi: ISPCK, 2005

This is not a book to be just read through. Reading must lead to the contemplation of the images, set in the context of the life of Christ. The author makes an effort through this book to rediscover the Asian Jesus.

P.V.Kollman, The Evangelization of Slaves, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005.

Rich in historical detail and anthropological insight, this book brings into vivid relief the way the missionaries interacted and were affected by circumstances neither could control.

ISHVANI KENDRA
P.B. 3003, Pune – 411014 – INDIA
Ph : (0091) - 020 – 27033820; 27033507

E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
Website:
www.ishvanikendra.org

Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.
Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)