World News

In brief

Washington DC

Cardinal hails victory for pro-lifers

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a California law requiring crisis pregnancy centres to post notices about nearby abortion services violates the rights of free speech enshrined in the constitution. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York praised the ruling as “an important victory for the free speech rights of pro-life organisations”. He said it allowed pro-life centres to continue providing support “without being forced by governments to provide free advertising for the violent act of abortion”. The court found that the law changed the content of clinics’ speech “by compelling petitioners to speak a particular message”, and that it went further than being a mere “regulation of professional conduct that incidentally burdens speech”.

Mexico City

Bishops congratulate radical new president

Mexico’s bishops have congratulated leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador on his landslide presidential election victory. The new president, known as Amlo, has promised to tackle corruption and crime. During the election campaign 100 candidates and their staff were killed. Amlo is a former altar server who describes himself as a “Christian in the broadest sense”. In a statement, the bishops said a better future was only possible if every citizen worked towards it. “No ruler by himself has all the ideas and all the solutions,” they said. As the votes were being counted, Amlo said: “The changes will be profound.”


Men with machetes smash up diocesan centre

Masked men with machetes attacked the pastoral centre of the Diocese of Matagalpa in Nicaragua last week, looting and damaging property. The diocesan bishop, Rolando Álvarez, was flying to Rome at the time to brief Pope Francis about his country’s crisis. On Sunday after his Angelus the Pope said: “I wish to unite myself to the efforts of so many bishops and so many people of good will, in their role of mediation and witness for the process of national dialogue on the road to democracy.” Bishops have been mediating peace talks between President Daniel Ortega and opposition groups. Nearly 300 people have been killed in a crackdown on protests since April.

Santiago, Rancagua

Two more bishops go as Pope continues clear-out in Chile

Pope Francis has accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops. Bishop Horacio del Carmen Valenzuela Abarca, 64, of Talca, Santiago, was a protégé of abuser priest Fr Fernando Karadima and, like the ousted Bishop Juan Barros, was accused of turning a blind eye to his abuse; while Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, 78, delayed acting on abuse complaints against 14 diocesan priests. Pope Francis has now accepted the resignations of five out of 34 Chilean bishops.


Cannabis use may be legal but it’s still a sin, say bishops

Canada’s bishops have reiterated that cannabis use is a “grave offence” despite it becoming legal in the country from October. Mgr Frank Leo, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, said that the virtue of temperance, as explained in the Catechism, “disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine”, adding: “The Catechism underscores that the use of any drug, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is also a ‘grave offence’ – for the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.” Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said priests and pastoral workers will need to teach about temperance.

La Paz

Papal audience stirs controversy

Bolivian leader Evo Morales has provoked controversy by claiming after an audience with Pope Francis that the next meeting of Celam, a body bringing together Latin America’s bishops, will be on the issue of migration and will be held in Bolivia.The remarks were criticised by Il Sismografo, a news site associated with the Vatican. “Until proven otherwise, Morales is not a member of the Celam,” it said. His words, the site said, were those “of a braggart”. The meeting was the sixth encounter between Morales and Pope Francis.


Don’t settle for less than marriage, says bishop after ruling

Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton has said he hopes a Supreme Court ruling that could pave the way for heterosexual civil partnerships will not deter people from marriage. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of a couple who said that being denied a civil partnership breached their human rights. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan said they had a problem with the “legacy of marriage” which “treated women as property”. Bishop Doyle said: “Marriage is a response in love ultimately founded in the call of God who is love. Couples enter the bond of marriage as equal partners, mutually and freely giving and receiving each other.” He said the bishops hoped that the ruling would not “deter people from that sacred and lifelong commitment.”


Church expresses concern at plans to exhume Franco

The archdiocese of Madrid has voiced concern at plans to exhume the remains of General Francisco Franco. Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s new prime minister, wants the remains removed from their “place of honour” in a state mausoleum, where civil war victims are also buried. Franco’s seven grandchildren reportedly oppose the plan. An archdiocesan spokesman said: “We are against moves which don’t have his family’s consent and don’t consider what the Church has to say.”


Archbishop named

Bishop Peter Comensoli, a former banker, has been appointed Archbishop of Melbourne, home to 1.1 million Catholics. The see is also where Cardinal Pell is on trial for alleged sex abuse. Commentator Rocco Palmo said Comensoli represented “experience and consistency”.


Bishop: don’t let genocide happen in Nigeria

A bishop in Nigeria has said there is a danger of genocide against Christians in the country’s middle belt region, describing violence by Fulani herdsmen as “ethnic cleansing”. Bishop William Avenya of Gboko, Benue, called for international action in an interview with the charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Don’t wait for the genocide to happen before intervening … Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda. It happened beneath our noses, but no one stopped it.” Reports say almost 500 people have been killed in Benue state this year.


Duterte creates commission to repair relations with bishops

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has said he will create a committee to improve dialogue with the country’s bishops. The announcement came after Duterte faced a backlash for saying God was “stupid” and a “son of a bitch” for undoing his “perfect” Garden of Eden by allowing the tempting of Adam and Eve. A spokesman said these were only Duterte’s personal views. Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the bishops’ conference, told a Catholic radio station that the invitation was a “most welcome development”. The bishops have had fierce clashes with Duterte over his war on drugs, while the president frequently delivers expletive-laden rants about the Church.