Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
May – 2008
Africa: Amazing Grace is Packed with Mystery
Most of us know this song was written by John Newton, the former slave trader who was spared miraculously. Few realize that the original title was Faith's Review and Expectation (c., 1779). Somehow, along the way, the title changed to the familiar Amazing Grace. Newton's original version had six verses. The more modern rendering of the song omits three verses and adds one not written by Newton (i.e., "When we've been there ten thousand years..."). The source of its haunting melody adds to the song's mystery. Some have theorized the music was borrowed from a traditional folk song. Others guess that it may have come from an African spiritual, one that welled up from beneath the deck of Newton's slave ship. (www.chron.com)
Africa, Nairobi: African Church Conference Discusses Misuse of Foreign Aid
Church and civil society leaders at a global meeting on aid effectiveness in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi are discussing ways of holding governments accountable for the foreign aid they receive, and that some say is critical for Africa's economic liberation but often is misused. "It is time Churches waged war in the fight against the misuse of finances. We are always seeking greater good and value out of our resources no matter how scarce they seem to be," Anglican Bishop Pie Ntukamazina of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, told participants at the conference on 21 May. "We fail to focus on the governance of financial resources that are of critical importance to the liberation of the continent." (ENI)
Argentina: Ecumenical Group Binds Diverse Christians in 'Catholic' Country
Keeping Argentine Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Pentecostal Christians talking to one another is one the greatest achievements of the South American country's Ecumenical Commission of Christian Churches, says one of its key personnel. This year, the Christian body known locally as CEICA (Comision Ecumenica de Iglesias Cristianas de la Argentina), the Spanish acronym for the commission, celebrates 20 years of existence. "It is the only ecumenical organization in our country where the Catholic Church meets with five Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church, all the Reformed Churches, and one Pentecostal Church," said Elias Crisostomo Abramides, an Orthodox Christian who has been secretary of CEICA since 2006. (ENI)
Brazil: Anonymous Birthing Law Proposed to Prevent Abortions
A Brazilian lawmaker has proposed legalizing "anonymous birthing" to allow women who do not want to or are unable to raise a child to give birth without identifying themselves and to give the child up for adoption, in hopes that such a measure would reduce the number of abortions and the frequency of infant abandonment. A woman who opted to remain anonymous would be free of all legal and civil responsibilities for the baby. Representative Eduardo Valverde of the Workers' Party said the purpose of his proposal is to create a legal alternative for mothers who have no intention of raising their children without excluding them from the free prenatal services offered by the public health system, which he believes should create a special program for women in these situations. According to the plan, the adoption of the baby would be fast tracked in order for the baby to be given to a family eight weeks after birth. Before that time, the parents or family members would be allowed to request custody. The entire adoption process would be handled by the hospital. The identity of the mother would only be revealed by court order or because of a genetic problem. "With her identity kept secret and a fictitious name, the woman would be able to give birth with all of the necessary healthcare conditions," Valverde said. (CNA)
China: Nuns Beaten in Xian: The Government Asks the Diocese to Pay for the School that it already owns
One of the nuns risks permanent paralysis; another has gone blind in one eye. The government has offered 3000 Yuan as compensation. The European and Italian Parliaments are asking China for full respect of religious freedom. (AsiaNews)
China, Beijing: Earthquake isn't Halting Arrests and Controls
While the death toll continues to rise from the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan, the Chinese government is not stopping its campaign of repression against troublesome journalists, dissidents, and ordinary faithful. A few months from the beginning of the Olympics, in fact, Beijing wants to guarantee the greatest "social stability" possible, and to do this, it is using summary arrests, arbitrary detentions, and threats against the population. This is the claim of the monthly report of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which says that the corruption of local officials and the rising levels of pollution are among the main causes of popular dissatisfaction. But outweighing all of this are the upcoming Olympics, which have increased the risks for those who denounce the government's wrongdoing. (AsiaNews)
India: Archbishop Offers to Manage Government Schools to Improve Education System
An Indian archbishop has suggested the government hand over its schools to the Church for better management. Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi says people now reject government schools because "hardly any teaching goes on there." At the same time, "they throng Christian schools for admissions," he told UCA News on May "Even ministers pressure our schools to admit their children. Why our schools get so much pressure is because the government schools are of no use." The archbishop made his suggestion in response to the federal government's Right to Education bill, currently with the federal law ministry. The government has reportedly promised to introduce the measure into parliament during the monsoon session, which begins in mid-June. The bill aims to have a school no farther than one kilometre from every child. Committees comprising mostly parents would manage the schools and ensure they maintain academic standards. The bill would also require private schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats for poor children. (UCAN)
India: Churches Seek 'Greening of Faith', 'Plastic-free Campuses'
The National Council of Churches in India has joined the battle to turn green by calling for Christians to mobilize in the world's second most populous nation, and to join in the fight against global warming. "We urge all member Churches to initiate on war footing green parish programmes, plastic-free Church campuses, biological farming," exhorted the closing message from the once every four years assembly of the Churches in India during its 1-5 May gathering at Shillong in North-Eastern India. (ENI)
Madrid: Archbishop Defends Right to Practice Faith in Response to Secular "Ten Commandments"
Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona in Spain is defending the right of Catholics to live their faith without restrictions in response to the publication of the secular "ten commandment" by a newspaper supportive of the Socialist party. The archbishop summarized the "commandments" compiled by the newspaper Publico and called them a "barrier for excluding Christianity from society." Bishop Sebastian said that according to these commandments, "the Church, Catholics, the Christian religion doesn't deserve the same consideration and assistance that is given to sports, movies, or beauty pageants. The only thing left for them to do is fine us for being Catholics," he added.
The bishop defended the right of public expression for all citizens, saying, "Citizens have the perfect right to live and act religiously in all areas of our personal, family and social lives, according to our consciences and in accord with our desires. No human authority has the right to outlaw this." (CNA)
Malawi: Catholic Church Warns Clergy off Partisan Politics
As Malawi prepares for general elections in 2009, the Roman Catholic Church in this central African nation has told its priests not to engage in partisan politics. Writing in a pastoral letter entitled, "Taking Responsibility for Our Future: Together Towards the 2009 Elections", bishops warned that the church will suspend priests who disregard their instructions. "While the clergy may have their own personal preferences, they should ensure that such preferences are in line with what respects their faith and what will ensure the dignity of the human person, especially that of the poor and the marginalised," the letter reads. (ENI)
South Africa: Wave of Hate Engulfs Johannesburg
A wave of xenophobic attacks spread through Johannesburg townships on Monday. Mobs beat foreigners and set some ablaze in scenes reminiscent of apartheid-era violence. A total of 22 people have now been killed in the violence directed at immigrants around Johannesburg which began a week ago, South African police said on Monday. "An update has shown 22 have been killed since the start of the violence last week and 217 have been arrested," police spokesperson Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said. Two people were killed and more than two dozen shacks were torched in the Tembisa township near Johannesburg on Monday, the South African Broadcasting Corporation said. On Monday morning, a Mozambican national was found dead in Makause informal settlement in Germiston, police said. Another two people, also Mozambican, were severely beaten in attacks there. They discovered another body in the informal settlement overnight and another two Mozambicans were beaten up," said Inspector William Masondo, spokesperson for the nearby Primrose police station. He said the injured men sustained severe head injuries after being stoned and, although the area appeared quiet, police were present in the hopes of quashing further attacks. (www.mg.co.za)
South Korea: Number of Priests Up, Church Stresses 'Steady Efforts' to Promote Vocations
Although the number of priests and seminarians in South Korea increased from 2006 to 2007, Church officials say steady efforts to promote vocations are more important than numbers. The number of priests exceeded 4,000 last year for the first time, according to statistics the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) issued on May 15. They say that as of Dec. 31, 2007, the country had 4,116 priests, up 142 from 2006, apart from 32 bishops. The number of seminarians also increased after five years of decline, according to the statistics. Among the priests, 3,373 belong to dioceses, and 55.8 percent of the diocesan priests are pastors in parishes, while 21.8 percent work in Church ministries such as education, communications, health and social welfare. Other diocesan priests are studying in or outside the country, serving in the Military Ordinariate or on overseas mission. The CBCK statistics put the number of Catholics in 2007 at 4,873,447, an increase of 2.2 percent from the 2006 figure, or 9.7 percent of South Korea's 50,034,357 people. (UCAN)
Uruguay: Bishops Reject Offensive Billboards Used by Abortion Supporters
The president of the Bishops' Conference of Uruguay, Bishop Carlos Collazzi, has strongly rejected a campaign to legalize abortion being led by a feminist organization. The pro-abortions have posted billboards showing a rosary in the shape of a uterus to garner support. The billboards include the picture of the rosary with the caption, "Get Your Rosaries off Our Ovaries," "The right to our own bodies is not a question of faith. It is a question of democracy." In an interview with Radio Carve, Bishop Collazzi said the campaign betrayed a lack of respect for democratic principles and for a religious symbol that is important for the nation, "because the rosary speaks of the very religious sentiments of the Uruguayan people." "The issue at heart," he said, "is always abortion." "The bishops have spoken out on numerous occasions and we have made statements that show we are not oblivious to the difficult circumstances" that many pregnant women face. "We are aware that social inequalities must be addressed, that the many difficulties that women who are pregnant face must be recognized…but the bishops and Christians or believers cannot be accused of being fundamentalists for defending the rights of the unborn." (CNA).
USA: Liberal Denomination
The United Church of Christ was the first mainline Protestant denomination to ordain an African American (in 1785), a woman (in 1853) and an openly gay pastor (in 1972.) The denomination has had little of the bitter fights over sexuality that currently plague the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists. Experts on church history said the goals of the conversation on race fit directly within the history of the denomination. It is the most liberal mainline Protestant denomination, and has often been at the leading edge of social issues. That has to do, in part, with its congregationalist style, which gives great autonomy to local churches, and the fact that the denomination has taken a "self-consciously" liberal approach toward theology, said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. From the pulpit of a Danville church, the leader of the 1.2 million members United Church of Christ on Sunday urged those gathered to start a national, "sacred" conversation about one of the most toxic topics in American life: race. It is an issue that the Rev. John Thomas said has often been discussed in the unhealthiest terms since the birth of the nation. But it is an issue that has also recently engulfed the denomination after sermons by one of its pastors, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, were used as a political tool to attack one of its parishioners, presidential candidate Barack Obama. (www.sfgate.com)
USA: Catholics Enlisted in Green War
People of faith must become champions of a cleaner environment while simultaneously holding industry and government to account for public health concerns. That's the message from Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a University of Notre Dame biology and philosophy professor who is in Calgary today for a conference sponsored by the Calgary Catholic diocese. "We here in North America lag well behind Europe and Japan when it comes to caring for the environment and the toll on human health from pollution from coal-fired power plants, automobile exhaust and pesticides," says Shrader-Frechette. Countless North American cases of cancer and respiratory woes such as asthma can be traced to unacceptably high pollution levels. She says money and greed are substantial contributors to our environmental malaise, spawning a society where both science and politics are fuelled by massive funding from industrial concerns with their own agendas. "The sad thing is that many of these deaths are environmentally induced and, theoretically, preventable," says Shrader-Frechette. (www.canada.com)
Vatican City: Vatican Says Prohibition against Gays in Seminaries is Universal
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI reaffirming the norms established by the Congregation for Catholic Education in the 2005 document, "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders," as universal and without exceptions. In the brief "Rescriptum ex audientia" –a written response to various queries—Cardinal Bertone said the norms establishing the selection of candidates to the priesthood are valid "for all houses of formation for the priesthood, including those under the Dicasteries for Eastern Churches, for the Evangelization of Peoples, and for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life." The letter, which Cardinal Bertone said was issued in response "to numerous requests for clarification," implies that the prohibition against accepting homosexual candidates in seminaries applies not only to diocesan seminaries but also to those of religious orders and congregations, as well as to those that are located in mission territories. The 2005 Instruction indicated the Congregation for Catholic Education, "in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'." (CNA)
Warsaw: Expelled Polish Nuns Face Quizzing in 'Visions' Controversy
Polish police have found and questioned a group of rebel Roman Catholic nuns, who had disappeared after being expelled from their convent. The authorities discovered the nuns living together in eastern Poland. "Questioning these former nuns will be an important step towards finding out about this highly unusual and complex matter," regional prosecutor Andrzej Lepieszko told journalists in Lublin on 20 May. "Decisions about possible charges will be taken on their merit after analysing (the women's) statements and collecting evidence." (ENI)
Washington DC: Priestly Crop for 2008 is Quite Diverse
A study of potential ordinands for 2008 reveals a diverse set of men will present themselves for priestly ordination this year. According to a press release from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, 401 men will be ordained in 2008. The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) surveyed about 84 percent of the potential new priests on behalf of the USCCB's Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. The CARA survey revealed that most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, though almost one in ten is a convert. Ordinands were somewhat more likely to have attended a Catholic high school, and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. Between half and three quarters of the 2008 class had been active in parish ministry before entering the seminary, serving their parishes as lector, altar server, or Eucharistic minister. The average age of an ordinand is 36 for the diocesan priesthood and 39 for the religious orders, according to the CARA survey. About 30 percent of new priests are between 25 and 29 years of age, while about 39 percent are in their thirties. Jeffrey Montz, one of the youngest ordinands at 25, said the call to the priesthood was clear when he was young. He started his freshman year of college in the Archdiocese of New Orleans' formation program at St. Joseph Seminary College. David Link, 72, is one of the five future priests over the age of 65. One third of the ordinands for 2008 were born outside the United States. (CNA)
Cullen, Philomena, and Hoose, Bernard, (eds.), Catholic Social Justice: Theological and Practical Explorations, New York: T & T Clark, 2007.
O’Collins, Gerald, Jesus: A Portrait, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008.
Walls, Andrew, and Ross Cathy, (eds.), Mission in the 21st Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Global Mission, Maryknoll, New York: 2008.
Yong, Amos, Hospitality and The Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008.
Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)
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