News Analysis

World news

Covington, Kentucky

Catholic students exonerated of racist behaviour
An independent report into the encounter between students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky and a Native American activist has found no evidence that the students made “offensive or racist statements”. The report came from four investigators who spent 240 hours examining the events at last month’s March for Life in Washington, DC. They spoke to 43 students, 13 chaperones and several third-party witnesses, and reviewed about 50 hours of internet footage and comments. The report suggested that the boys’ “Make America Great Again” headgear may not have been a political statement: on previous trips, pupils had bought President Obama hats as souvenirs.

Philadelphia

New Ukrainian Catholic archbishop

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Borys Gudziak to be the seventh metropolitan-archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Bishop Gudziak, who is originally from Syracuse, New York, has since 2013 been the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of St Vladimir the Great, based in Paris. He will be installed at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia on June 4. “I have a sense of peace, despite the strong emotions that I am experiencing,” he said.

The Pope has appointed an apostolic administrator for the Paris-based eparchy, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London.

Phoenix

Bishop issues letter to families

Parents have a responsibility to lead their children to God, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona has said in an apostolic exhortation, “Complete My Joy”. The title is taken from Philippians.

By its very nature, he wrote, the family is a communion of love and life. “The Christian family is also the littlest living cell of the Church – the domestic Church.”

He also said that a married couple’s family home “is a life- and love-giving centre in the world for as long as they both shall live, all the way to their heavenly home”. He added that “the family is a big deal because it is the God-given and natural ‘soil’ meant for each new child’s growth”. The exhortation was part of the Diocese of Phoenix’s 50th anniversary Jubilee Year of the Family.

Managua

Nicaraguan priest-poet rehabilitated

Pope Francis has lifted the canonical sanctions against the poet and priest Fr Ernesto Cardenal, imposed on him 35 years ago.

Pope John Paul II disciplined Fr Cardenal for refusing to quit his post as minister of culture in the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. When John Paul visited Nicaragua in 1983, he told Fr Cardenal, warmly but firmly: “Regularise your position with the Church.” A year later the Pope banned Fr Cardenal from celebrating Mass and administering the Sacraments. Nuncio Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag recently visited Fr Cardenal, who is 94 and seriously ill, informing him of Francis’s decision and offering to concelebrate Mass with him.

Curahuara de Carangas, Bolivia

‘Sistine Chapel of the Andes’ in disrepair

The Bolivian Church and government are working together to save a remote 400-year-old church known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”, which is falling into disrepair because of abandonment and rain. The church is filled with colourful paintings, depicting the Garden of Eden, the Last Supper and the Final Judgment. “Everything was done by native painters; there was no European intervention. It is an indigenous reading and narrative about the Old and New Testaments,” said historian Carmen Beatriz Loza, head of the heritage unit at Bolivia’s Ministry of Cultures.

São Paulo

Bishops downplay government tensions

Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, head of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, has downplayed the idea that this October’s synod might criticise the government over its policies over the Amazonian rainforest. The synod will be focused on evangelisation, Bishop Steiner said: it is an event “for the Church”. He made the comments in response to reports that the government’s intelligence agency was monitoring the Church. The government has denied the claims.

But Bishop Vital Corbellini of Maraba, in the Amazon state of Para, has said the Church cannot remain silent “in situations that detract from human … and forest life”.

London

Baby has surgery while still in the womb

Doctors have operated on an unborn baby with spina bifida while she was still in the womb. When Bethan Simpson was told, at 20 weeks of pregnancy, that routine scans had shown her daughter had the debilitating disease, she was offered the option of an abortion. “I physically couldn’t bring myself to consider termination,” she told the Washington Post. “I feel her kick, kick, kick, and everything else was perfectly normal.”

During the operation at University College Hospital, London, a hole in the baby’s back was closed up and her spinal cord was repositioned. Doctors stress that the pioneering “foetal repair” surgery, which is new to the UK, is not a cure, but it has a better chance of making a difference than surgery after birth.

Paris

French nuncio accused of harassment

The apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura (pictured), has been accused of inappropriately touching male staffers of Paris City Hall at an event there on January 17.

The archbishop, who has worked as a diplomat for the Holy See since 1978, was attending a reception for the annual New Year address of the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Two men have complained. The Vatican said in a statement that it is “awaiting the result of the investigations” which police are conducting.

Beijing

New church rules

All religious venues in China must now have management committees and supervisors, under a new government regulation to standardise religious activity in China. It applies to Buddhist, Daoist, Catholic, Muslim and Protestant churches, temples and mosques.

Lagos

Election delayed

Nigerians should exercise their duty and vote in this Saturday’s elections, the country’s bishops have said.

The bishops warned voters not to accept bribes from corrupt politicians. “Nigerians should see the election as a duty to enthrone good leadership, and no amount of financial inducement should sway us,” said a statement signed by their president, Archbishop Adewale Martins. “To sell one’s vote is to sell one’s conscience.”

Election officials had postponed the election, saying they needed more time was needed to distribute ballot papers.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Missionary priest killed by terrorists

Islamist terrorists have killed a Spanish missionary priest in Burkina Faso. Fr Antonio César Fernández, of the Salesian order, was travelling with two companions when gunmen opened fire on his car at a customs post 25 miles from the southern border of Burkina Faso. Four customs officials were also killed.

Fr Fernández, 72, had been working as a missionary in Africa for 37 years. He helped to found the first Salesian community in Togo in 1982, and was in charge of the Salesian community of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He was returning from the first session of the provincial chapter of the Salesians of Francophone West Africa in Lomé, Togo, when he was attacked.