World News

In brief

Notre Dame, Indiana

Liberation Theology founder turns 90

Pope Francis has sent greetings to “the father of Liberation Theology”, Fr Gustavo Gutiérrez, on his 90th birthday. “Thank you for your efforts and for your way of challenging everyone’s conscience, so that no one remains indifferent to the tragedy of poverty and exclusion,” the Pope wrote.

Born in Peru in 1928, Fr Gutiérrez, who is now professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, spent his life championing the needs of Latin America’s poorest. Francis thanked him for his contributions “to the Church and humanity through your theological service and your preferential love for the poor and discarded of society”.


Nicaragua mourns cardinal

Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, retired Archbishop of Managua, who was honoured by his native Nicaragua as a “father of peace and reconciliation”, has died aged 92. His funeral was held last Wednesday.

Pope Francis praised the late cardinal for being a “devoted pastor” who served the Church with “generous faith”. Cardinal Obando defended human rights during both the right-wing dictatorship of the Somoza family and the left-wing Sandinista regime, which seized power in 1979. Controversially, he had a rapprochement with President Daniel Ortega, officiating at his wedding and defending the president against claims of authoritarianism.


Vatican denies protecting abuser

The Vatican has denied protecting the founder of the Peru-based religious movement Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. Luis Fernando Figari is accused of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of members of the group.

In January 2017 the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life found Figari guilty of being authoritarian and of “acts against the Sixth Commandment”, including at least one case of child sexual abuse. Banned from Peru, he is now living in Rome, but the Vatican denies claims that it is hiding and protecting him.


Chilean Bishop Barros resigns

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile, and two other bishops who have reached the age of retirement. He has appointed apostolic administrators for the Archdiocese of Puerto Montt and the dioceses of Valparaiso and Osorno. Abuse survivors have alleged that when Bishop Barros was still a priest he witnessed their abuse by his mentor, the convicted abuser Fr Fernando Karadima. Bishop Barros denies the allegations. This April Pope Francis apologised for not realising the seriousness of the abuse crisis in Chile.

New York

More Americans than ever think pornography is acceptable

The number of Americans who consider pornography to be morally acceptable has increased dramatically. According to a Gallup poll in May, released last week, 43 per cent of Americans consider it acceptable, a rise of 7 per cent from last year, a greater increase than in every previous year added together since the question was first asked in 2011. Between then and last year, the figure had only grown from 30 to 36 per cent.

The numbers grew especially among people aged 18-34, from 48 per cent last year to 59 per cent this year, and men in general, from 45 per cent in 2017 to 53 per cent in 2018. By contrast, only 32 per cent of women found it to be acceptable. The figures showed a sharp increase even among those who said religion was “very important” in their lives: from 16 to 22 per cent.

La Plata

Pope’s ally appointed archbishop

Pope Francis has named one of his closest theological advisers, Victor Manuel Fernández, as the new Archbishop of La Plata, one of the most senior positions in the Argentine Church. He replaces Archbishop Hector Aguer, who submitted his resignation after turning 75 last month. Archbishop Fernandez, who was rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina from 2009 until April this year, helped draft Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and was also heavily involved in writing Amoris Laetitia. In 1995 he wrote the controversial book Heal Me With Your Mouth: the Art of Kissing.


Supreme Court rules on Northern Ireland abortion laws

The Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt to overturn Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Judges ruled by a majority of four to three that the court had no jurisdiction to consider the legal challenge, brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, on the technicality that there was no specific victim in this case.

However, a majority said that the province’s abortion laws were incompatible with the right to respect for privacy and family life in European human rights law. Four judges said the prohibition on abortion in cases of rape and incest was incompatible, while five said banning abortion in cases of foetal abnormality was also incompatible.

Chengdu, Sichuan

Chinese crackdown on Christians

Chinese government persecution of Christians is at its highest level since the days of Chairman Mao, according to the Christian human rights organisation ChinaAid. In the latest example, police raided a church in Sichuan province last week to stop a memorial service for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. At least 15 people were violently detained, including the pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, an underground parish.


Fourth priest shot

A Catholic priest has been shot near Man­ila. Fr Rey Urmeneta, 64, is recovering after being shot in the back and left arm by two gunmen. He is the fourth priest to be shot in the Philippines since December; three have lost their lives, in the municipalities of Jaen, Zaragoza and Gattaran.


Spanish ‘nones’ show dramatic increase

Spain is rapidly catching up with the most secularised countries in Europe, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. Atheists, agnostics and those without religion (“nones”) now make up 30 per cent of the Spanish population. In contrast, although 65 per cent identify as Christian, only 21 per cent practise their faith at least monthly. Even the practising Christians in Spain are liberal on moral issues, against the teachings of the Church. Nearly half, 49 per cent, are in favour of legalising abortion, while 59 per cent are in favour of same-sex marriage.

Port Louis

Cardinal condemns protest against gay rights march

Cardinal Maurice Piat has condemned a protest against a gay pride parade in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius.

“Regardless of one’s moral beliefs about homosexuality, we would like to express our indignation at the way an LGBT parade that had police permission was obstructed by illegal protesters,” the cardinal said. The Rainbow Collective attempted to hold a parade in Port Louis last Saturday, attracting around 200 people. But a group of Muslims with anti-gay slogans on placards gathered for a prayer meeting nearby, and the march organisers cancelled the event to avoid confrontation. The prime minister also condemned the “unacceptable and illegal demonstration”.