World News

In brief

Washington DC

Ambassador returns 500-year-old letter to the Vatican

A stolen copy of a letter by Christopher Columbus has been returned to the Vatican by the US ambassador to the Holy See.

The 500-year-old document, worth $1.2 million, is a Latin translation of a letter Columbus sent to his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, detailing the discoveries of the New World. It had been given to Benedict XV in 1921. But in 2011 the US Department of Homeland Security received a tip that the document in the Vatican library was a fake – the original had been replaced with a forgery. It traced the real document to a collector in Atlanta, Georgia, who agreed to hand it over to the US authorities on the condition that it be returned to the Vatican.

Fort Lauderdale

Bishop suggests ‘canonical penalties’ for officials

An American bishop has proposed “canonical penalties” for those involved in separating families at the US-Mexico border.

Dozens of parents are being taken away from their children every day because of a policy of prosecuting illegal immigrants. At a plenary assembly in Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, bishops’ conference president, called the policy “immoral”. Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona, said canonical penalties, which can range from denial of sacraments to excommunication, were “in place to heal”.

The bishop added: “And therefore, for the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.”


Church-mediated ceasefire fails to stop violence

A ceasefire brokered by the Church after weeks of violence in Nicaragua was violated on its first day last Saturday.

A family of six was killed in an arson attack that opposition groups said was carried out by pro-government militias – though the government blamed common criminals. Two other people were killed in separate incidents.

A truce was negotiated last Friday after the government agreed to establish a truth commission and allow international investigators into the country. More than 170 people have died since protests against the rule of President Daniel Ortega began in April.


Pope asks for your forgiveness, archbishop tells faithful

Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta has told Catholics in the Diocese of Osorno, the centre of Chile’s abuse scandal, that Pope Francis has “given me the task of asking pardon” from all the faithful there.

The archbishop was speaking at a Mass at the city’s cathedral. The Mass drew groups of people who had boycotted the cathedral since the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros in 2015. Bishop Barros was removed as bishop last week. Archbishop Scicluna spent four days meeting Catholics in the diocese.


Archbishop ‘saddened’ by ruling on Christian law school

Canada’s Supreme Court has effectively blocked the opening of a Christian law school on the grounds that it would discriminate against LGBT people.

The ruling backed two law societies who refused to accredit a law school proposed by the Evangelical Trinity Western University. At issue was the university’s mandatory community covenant which includes abstaining from sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver said he was “saddened” by the decision, adding that it “runs counter to Canada’s tradition of balancing rights and freedoms”. He wrote: “The implications of this decision for constitutional freedoms in Canada are severe.”

Buenos Aires

Parliament backs abortion on demand

The Parliament of Pope Francis’s homeland has narrowly voted to liberalise the country’s abortion laws.
The lower house of Argentina’s National Congress voted by 129 to 125 to approve the plan after a 20-hour debate that went on through the night. The legislation allows for abortion for any reason up to 14 weeks’ gestation, and up to birth in some cases. The proposal will now go to the senate.

The Argentine bishops said the decision “hurts us as Argentines” but that it demanded from the Church a better “accompaniment of women who are exposed to abortion”.


Schedule of papal visit to Ireland is unveiled

Pope Francis will visit Knock when he travels to Ireland on August 25-26 – the first papal visit in nearly 40 years – but will not cross the border into Northern Ireland, according to an itinerary released last week.

On his first day, the Pope will give two talks: one, at Dublin Castle, a historic government building, and the other at the festival of families in Croke Park, part of the World Meeting of Families. On Sunday he will fly to Knock shrine, where he will say the Angelus, and in the afternoon celebrate a Mass at Phoenix Park, Dublin, for up to half a million people – the culmination of the World Meeting of Families. He will also meet Ireland’s bishops and visit a Capuchin day centre for the homeless in Dublin.


Bishop decries priests ‘wandering’ in Europe

An Ivory coast bishop has said that African priests are increasingly “wandering” in Europe, refusing to return home. Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Katiola, president of the bishops’ conference, said priests studying or on mission often find excuses to stay longer. Speaking to La Croix, he urged European bishops to help them return. “If seven priests from a diocese with 30 priests leave and don’t wish to return, the impact is enormous.” Poor dioceses fared the worst, he said, citing the “attraction of money” abroad.

Vatican City

Pope compares abortion of disabled babies to Nazi eugenics

Vatican CityPope compares abortion of disabled babies to Nazi eugenics abortion of disabled children is the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi eugenics programme, Pope Francis has said. The Pope said he regretted that some couples opted for pre-natal tests to see if their baby had any physical defects.

“The first proposal in such a case is, ‘Do we get rid of it?’” Francis said.

“Last century, the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” Francis said.


Nine nuns arrested

Police arrested nine nuns during a raid on an underground church in the city of Helong in Jilin province, China, according to the website Bitter Winter. Released after a day of questioning, the nuns were told they would be arrested if they held any more gatherings.


Cardinal says Islamism is being imported into Madagascar

A new cardinal has claimed that outside groups are funding an “invasion” of radical Islam into Madagascar.

Cardinal designate Désiré Tzarahazana of Toamasina, who will receive his red hat from Pope Francis next week, told the charity Aid to the Church in Need: “The rise of Islamism is palpable. You can see it everywhere. It is an invasion, with money from the Gulf States and from Pakistan – they buy people.”

He claimed that people were paid to wear the burka and that Muslims were being imported from Turkey en masse. “In my own diocese,” he said, “there are mosques being built everywhere … even though there aren’t enough Muslims to use them.”