World News

In brief


Cause advances for former slave who became a priest

A runaway slave who became the first African-American priest has moved a step closer to being proclaimed a Blessed. A positio, a document summarising Fr Augustus Tolton’s life and virtue, has been approved by Vatican officials. Fr Tolton will be declared Venerable if a committee of theologians – meeting next February – also approve the text. A miracle will be required for beatification.

Fr Tolton fled slavery with his mother and two siblings in 1862 aged 8. He later became a seminarian in Rome, as no American seminary would accept him because of his race. When he returned to Illinois, thousands were there to greet him.

New York

Polls reveal Protestant decline in the US

The number of Americans identifying as Protestant has fallen sharply, from 50 per cent in 2000 to 36 per cent last year, according to an analysis commissioned by ABC News.

The analysis, based on a sample of 174,000 telephone interviews, found an eight-point drop in the proportion of white Evangelicals, while the number of people identifying as “nones”, or having no religion, nearly doubled to 21 per cent. The proportion of Catholics remained the same, at about 22 per cent.Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted in response: “Some say the Catholic Church has to become more like Protestants (eg, married priests, women priests, abortion, gay marriage) to survive … We Catholics had better look before we leap.”

Mexico City

Priest proposed as Mexico’s human rights chief

The front-runner to be Mexico’s next president has said that if he wins the election in July he will appoint an activist priest as his human rights director.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador made the remark to a gathering of victims of violence last week. The priest, Fr Alejandro Solalinde, who started a shelter in southern Oaxaca state for Central American migrants, said he would accept the offer. “Of course I will, because it’s for Mexico,” he said. The left-leaning López Obrador leads all polls for the July 1 election and has promised to pursue new approaches for reducing violence. Last year was the country’s most murderous on record.


Nuns accused of torturing children in their care

Two nuns have been arrested in Popayan, Colombia, over the alleged torture of up to 60 children in their care. Prosecutors say the nuns burned children’s hands, shoved their heads into toilets and cut their hair to punish them. Neighbours told media the house was hell for the children.

Two nuns, Sister Sor Inés Perez and Sister Rosa Elvira Trochez Joagui, have denied the charges of aggravated torture between 2014 and 2017. The Santa Clara Rebirth Home had been closed once before, but allowed to reopen.


Masked protesters force pro-life march to change route

Canada’s largest pro-life march was forced to reverse its course last Friday after being blocked by protesters.An estimated 75 to 100 pro-abortion advocates, some wearing black bandanas over their faces, screamed and waved signs, forcing marchers to take a different route through the streets of central Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

Cardinal Thomas Collins had earlier warned pro-lifers to expect a counter-protest. “Soon you will come upon people yelling and screaming,” he said during a rally at Parliament Hill. He urged the marchers to “speak more loudly by silence. There is great power in silence.”

About 15,000 people marched, including two cardinals (the other was Cardinal Gerald Lacroix) and at least 10 other bishops.

Rio de Janeiro

Cardinal changes his mind about meeting the Pope

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago de Chile, was expected to attend a meeting between Chile’s bishops and Pope Francis this week, after earlier telling the media he would not go. Cardinal Errázuriz denied accusations that he helped to cover up sexual abuse by Fr Fernando Karadima. He told journalists he had already given his contribution to the Pope in the form of a 14-page report, but later said: “At my age I can change my mind.”

Vatican City

Cardinal prays for surfer’s beatification

Cardinal Dom Orani Tempesta has celebrated a Mass for Brazil’s “surfer angel” Guido Schäffer. The Mass, on the ninth anniversary of Schäffer’s death, drew 1,000 people to a beach in Rio. Schäffer drowned in a surfing accident aged 34, just weeks before his ordination to the priesthood. He was well known for his work among the poor. His Cause was opened in 2014 and a positio sent to the Vatican.

Fr Jorjão, author of the book Saint Surfer, described how Schäffer “rescued the dignity” of the homeless, helped drug addicts and gathered doctors to treat the poor free of charge.

The meeting was called by Pope Francis in a letter where he admitted “grave error” in handling the country’s clerical abuse crisis. Chile’s 34 bishops are expected to attend. The Holy See said they would “examine the causes and consequences” of the crisis.


Politician seen as Merkel’s successor calls for women priests

A Catholic politician who is being touted as Germany’s next chancellor has said she hopes for the ordination of women to the priesthood. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said it was “perfectly clear” that it would be an “immense break” with tradition, but argued that “the Catholic Church would not perish”. She told Christ & Welt, a supplement of Die Zeit: “I wish that the priestly ordination [of women] would come.”


Churches bombed

At least 13 people died after suicide bomb attacks on three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya on Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by a family of six. The two teenage sons targeted Santa Maria Catholic Church.


Gunmen fire at archbishop’s residence

Gunshots were fired at the residence of Cameroon’s Archbishop Samuel Kleda last week amid tensions with the government. Mgr Dieudonné Bayemeg, Douala vicar general, said windows were broken but no one was hurt. Bullets hit the room of the archdiocesan finance officer, Mgr Alan Nibile, who threw himself on the floor. A news agency said the attack was being widely linked to Archbishop Kleda’s demands for a government dialogue with separatist groups and for the president, Paul Biya – in power since 1982 – not to seek re-election.


Sister beaten unconscious during protest over land

Religious sisters in Vietnam were assaulted by security guards last week during a row over building work on what they say is their land. One of the nuns was left unconscious.

Witnesses said many police were present but did not intervene. The construction site guards “insulted and attacked the nuns with batons”, reported The St Paul de Chartres Sisters said their congregation had taken legal ownership of the 2,152 sq ft plot of land in 1949, but the communist government took it over in the 1950s. Authorities later divided the site and sold it to other people. reported that the nuns had asked the government to return the land many times over the years.