News Analysis

News round-up: from Montreal to Melbourne


Quebec Oratory to receive $110m makeover

St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal is to have a $110 million (£63 million) makeover. The dome of the Oratory’s imposing basilica will be transformed into an observation centre, and there will be a shop and a restaurant, reconfigured gardens and a renovated museum. “The project we have undertaken will highlight our public and sacred spaces so that the pilgrims and visitors of tomorrow can find a welcoming place worthy of its name,” Oratory rector Fr Claude Grou told the Catholic News Service. Set on Mount Royal “in the heart of the city”, the Oratory is a place where “people of all ages, cultures, conditions and religions can meet in a context favourable to contemplation”, he said.

New York City

Court says Archbishop Sheen’s remains should be moved

A New York court has ruled that the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen should be transferred from New York to the Diocese of Peoria in Illinois. This would mean that the Cause for his beatification could move ahead.

At his death in New York in 1979, aged 84, Archbishop Sheen was buried in the crypt of the city’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. In 2016 his oldest living relative, Joan Sheen Cunningham, petitioned the New York courts for his body to be moved to his home diocese of Peoria, where he was ordained in 1919. The 5-0 decision of New York State Supreme Court’s appellate division is the third time the courts have ruled in her favour. But a spokesman for New York archdiocese said it disagreed with the court’s decision and its lawyers were considering how to respond to it.

Washington DC

US Catholics killed in air crash

Four Catholic Relief Service staff members going to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, were among the 157 passengers and crew killed when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed shortly after take-off on Sunday. CRS is the US bishops’ international relief and development agency.

“Although we are in mourning, we celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission, despite the risks and sacrifices that humanitarian work can often entail,” a CRS spokesman said. Cedric Asiavugwa, campus minister and third-year law student at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, was also killed in the crash. Pope Francis offered his prayers for the dead and their families.

Managua, Nicaragua

Bishops not mediating in Ortega talks

Nicaraguan bishops have said that they have not been invited to mediate the talks between President Daniel Ortega’s government and the opposition. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua and the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag, were present at the start of the talks as witnesses and as “a gesture of good will”, but not in any formal capacity. More than 300 people have died in anti-government protests (right) in the past year. The Church has shown sympathy and support for the protesters, and has criticised Ortega’s policies. The president has accused Catholic bishops of plotting against him, which they deny.


Cardinal sued for alleged rape ‘cover-up’

The victim of an alleged sexual assault by a priest is suing Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago and his archdiocese for $500,000 (£385,000), for allegedly covering up the claimed attack. Daniel Rojas, 40, said he was raped by the priest, Fr Tito Rivera, in 2015. According to a 2015 report by the diocese, Fr Rivera was “guilty of crimes against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue continued over time and involving scandal, with adults”. Cardinal Ezzatti has denied the claims, saying that since he became Archbishop of Santiago in 2011 “all the cases have been investigated”.

Asunción, Paraguay

Prelates call for indigenous rights

Paraguayan bishops have called on their government to protect indigenous people, following the killing of a protester in the capital in February. Francisco López, brother of Derlis López, leader of the Takuara’i indigenous community, was shot while protesting against the confiscation of their ancestral lands.

Indigenous people make up two per cent of the Paraguayan population. Paraguay has been condemned three times by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for failing to ensure access for indigenous communities to their ancestral lands.


Council bans pro-life demonstrations

Richmond Council in south-west London has become the second council to ban pro-life vigils outside an abortion clinic, following Ealing Council’s decision last year. The council used a Public Spaces Protection Order to prevent pro-life activists from app­roaching people or praying near a centre run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in Twickenham. The council said the protection order was necessary to prevent “a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the locality”, and that 80 per cent of 3,000 respondents to a consultation about the “buffer zone” agreed that the activists should be excluded from the area. The pro-life group Be Here For Me said the council had failed to substantiate claims that protesters had “harassed” people outside the clinic.

Albano, Rome

Bishop under investigation joins Lenten retreat with Pope

A bishop currently under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct and financial mismanagement, including claims he had naked selfies and gay pornography on his phone, has gone on a Lenten retreat with Pope Francis and other senior members of the Roman Curia. Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, emeritus of Orán, Argentina, and currently on leave of absence from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), confirmed to the Herald that he was on retreat at the Casa del Divin Maestro.


Pell to appeal

Cardinal George Pell’s application for leave to appeal his conviction of sexual abuse will be heard on June 5-6. Cardinal Pell was found guilty of ass­aulting two choirboys while archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. His law­yers said: “The verdi­cts are unreasonable and cannot be supported.”


Synod ‘won’t discuss yuca Eucharist’

The Pan-Amazonian synod to be held in Rome in October will not discuss using a local substitute for wheat in the Eucharistic bread, a Vatican spokesman has clarified. The idea had come from Fr Francisco Taborda, SJ, a Brazilian theologian. He said the synod might discuss making hosts from yuca (right), a root plant which can last longer than wheaten bread. But Church teaching holds that the bread must be made with wheat. Fr Taborda’s idea had been widely criticised. Bishop Athanasius Schneider said: “It would be a new Amazonian religion with Catholic decoration.”


Filipino bishop appeals for clemency in Saudi Arabia

A bishop in the Philippines has appealed to the government of Saudi Arabia to save the life of a Filipina woman sentenced to death there for killing her employer. She claims she acted in self-defence against an abusive employer.

“We turn to God in prayers that He may move the government to be merciful and grant clemency,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Philippine bishops’ commission on migrants and itinerant people. “She has to be helped and assisted. Let us try everything to save her.”

About half a million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, often in low-paid jobs under poor conditions.