News Analysis

World news

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Fort Collins, Colorado

Priest gives $1 million to university
A 77-year-old priest is donating nearly $1 million (£788,000) to fund a professor of theology post at Colorado State University.

Fr Don Willette, who ministered at the John XXIII church on the university campus in Fort Collins, Colorado, from 2001 to 2011, said he hoped the post would give students the chance to “learn how to wonder and ask critical questions”. The money came from the sale of two properties the priest bought years ago while working as an estate agent.

Fr Willette, who previously served in the US Air Force where he worked as a radar operator in Vietnam, became a priest in the 1980s after a near-death experience in which he drove his car off a cliff.

Mundelein, Illinois

Pope Francis calls for ‘change of mindset’ among bishops
Pope Francis has written to the US bishops calling for a “change of mindset” to restore credibility amid sexual abuse scandals.

In a letter to the bishops ahead of their week-long retreat at Mundelein seminary in Illinois, he condemned “division and dispersion” among prelates and said credibility would be the “fruit of a united body” that acknowledged its limitations.

“Clearly a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it,” he wrote.

Days earlier, a letter leaked to the Associated Press shed light on the Vatican’s blocking of two scheduled votes on proposals to address the abuse crisis. The letter, from Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Congregation for Bishops, said the proposals needed time to “properly mature” and had various canonical problems.

Nashville, Tennessee

Author of book on truth becomes a Catholic
An episcopal priest who has published a book about truth has announced that he has converted to Catholicism. Andrew Petiprin was an administrator assisting the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.

He wrote a book, Truth Matters: Knowing God and Yourself, which came out last year. “I’m writing a book about truth, and I sort of come deeper and deeper into the realisation that the Catholic Church has been the guardian of truth for many centuries, and despite its flaws, it really presents the best case for the Gospel to the world,” he said. Petiprin and his wife and children were confirmed on January 1. He told ACI Prensa he had not decided whether to seek ordination to the priesthood. He hopes to write a new book called Catholic Truth Matters.

Mendoza, Argentina

Monastery closes after founders charged with abuse
A monastery in Argentina has closed while its two priest founders stand trial over alleged sexual abuse of a student who was a minor at the time. Archbishop Marcelo Daniel Colombo of Mendoza said the closure of the Monastery of the Praying Christ in Tupungato was “preventative” and “temporary”. Younger Religious would return to their family homes, he said, while two older religious would live in a community in a parish. “I know of many who love the Monastery of the Praying Christ … We ask you to understand the unprecedented situation.”

The monastery is traditionalist, with a daily Mass in Latin. Fr Diego Roque and Fr Oscar Portillo both deny the charges.

Santiago, Chile

Bishop facing cover-up claim to miss February summit
The president of Chile’s bishops’ conference has said he will not be attending the Vatican’s abuse summit next month.

Bishop Santiago Silva of Chile has been subpoenaed on charges of covering up abuse within the Military Diocese, of which he has been head since July 2015. His place at the meeting will be taken by Bishop Fernando Ramos, apostolic administrator of Rancagua and secretary general of the Chilean bishops’ conference.
Pope Francis has invited all presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to the February meeting on abuse.

Recife, Brazil

Liberation theologian’s Cause progresses
The cause of a Brazilian archbishop regarded as a father of liberation theology is to be investigated by the Vatican.

The archdiocese of Olinda and Recife said that testimonies and other documents about the life of Archbishop Hélder Câmara had been sent to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

Câmara, who served as archbishop of Olinda and Recife from 1964 to 1985 under Brazil’s military government, was renowned for advocating for human rights and fighting for the poor. His opponents called him “the Red Bishop”. Câmara, who died in 1999, declared that his socialism went “back to the Gospels”.

Armagh, Northern Ireland

Archbishop urges Catholics to resist new abortion law
Ireland new abortion law has “no moral force”, the primate of All Ireland said last week. Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh urged Catholics to resist the law which “in good conscience cannot be supported”, and to “work diligently for its limitation, amendment and repeal”. The law allows abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and went into effect in the Republic of Ireland on January 1. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, speaking after a protest took place outside a GP clinic, told the broadcaster RTÉ: “I would be particularly cautious about protesting against GPs because … people go there for all sorts of reasons. I’m not a person for protest ­– what the Church should be doing is strengthening its resolve to help women in crisis and to educate people.”


Patriarch creates new Orthodox Church for Ukraine
The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has welcomed the creation of a new independent Orthodox Church in the country, a move fiercely opposed by Moscow.

A decree establishing the Church was presented by Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul’s St George’s Cathedral on Sunday. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk called it a “historic development, awaited for centuries”. He said: “The decision consolidates our nation and will help it withstand the enemy which seeks to destroy us.”

Dagupan City, Philippines

‘Anti-Christ’ leader
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan has urged Catholics in the Philippines to ignore those who say it is “useless” to go to church, referring to a statement made by Rodrigo Duterte, the president. “Whoever teaches you that is an anti-Christ and there are many of them,” he said.

Anam, Nigeria

Kidnapped priest’s four-day ordeal at hands of herdsmen
A Nigerian priest kidnapped by Muslim herdsmen on Christmas Eve has described his four-day ordeal.

Fr Cajetan Apeh, who was ordained in August, was bringing his sick parish priest back to Anam, western Nigeria, after a hospital visit when they were stopped by Fulani herdsman with AK-47s. He told the newspaper Vanguard they were left to survive on half a loaf of bread and forbidden from talking or standing up. The kidnappers told them they wanted “big, big money” as ransom but when “nobody offered them any money” Fr Apeh said, “they became disappointed”. The herdsmen were forced to release them after police launched a search operation.


Church says it knows the winner of Congo’s election
The bishops’ conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has declared that the country’s presidential election had a clear winner, stepping up pressure on the incumbent, President Joseph Kabila, amid delays in the counting of votes. The bishops’ conference said reports from observers indicated that voters had expressed “a clear choice” and urged the electoral commission to report the result accurately. Polling before the vote showed that opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had a lead over Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.