News Analysis

World News: From Caracas to Khartoum


Priest’s praise of Francis plagiarised from anti-Catholic site

Allegations of plagiarism against a prominent priest have taken an unexpected turn. Fr Thomas Rosica, a Vatican adviser and CEO of the Salt+Light TV network, has apologised for multiple cases of using other writers’ work without attribution. Fr Rosica has gone on sabbatical. Now it has emerged that his most contentious statement was itself plagiarised. Last year, he claimed that Pope Francis “breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants” and that the Church is now “openly ruled by an individual rather than … its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture”. These words were, it appears, taken from a blog by Richard Bennett, a Protestant writer who was criticising Pope Francis, the Jesuit spiritual tradition and the papacy.

New York City

Man arrested with petrol in New York cathedral

A man has been arrested after reportedly trying to take cans of petrol into St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Marc Lamparello, a PhD student at City University of New York, was stopped by security staff.

He has now been charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment, and illegally transporting flammable materials in public places. Lamparello graduated from Boston College, a Jesuit school, in 2004. Since then, he has been a philosophy instructor at several universities.

Police said they did not suspect terrorism, and have described Lamparello as “emotionally disturbed”.

Trenton, New Jersey

Catholic governor signs assisted suicide bill

The Governor of New Jersey has authorised an assisted suicide bill, despite being, in his own words, a “lifelong, practising Catholic”. Governor Phil Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law on April 12. Under the new law, those with a terminal illness and less than six months to live may ask a doctor for medication to end their life; they then administer it themselves.

“After careful consideration, internal reflection and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion,” said Governor Murphy. Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen called the new law “a brazen attack against the sanctity of human life”.


Cardinal faces allegations

The most senior churchman in Honduras has come under attack in a new book by a longstanding acquaintance. Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, faces several allegations from Martha Reichmann, whose late husband was the Honduran ambassador to the Holy See.

Reichmann’s book, Traiciones Sacradas (Sacred Betrayal), claims that the cardinal protected an auxiliary bishop who resigned last year after allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Reichmann claims that Pope Francis protected Cardinal Maradiaga in turn. The cardinal has not commented yet, but has previously complained about being “slandered”.


Venezuelans ‘return to the faith’ amid nation’s tragedy

Priests in parts of Venezuela are speaking of a surge in Mass attendance as formerly apathetic Catholics turn back towards God. The Washington Post reported that with the political situation still in turmoil, and facing food shortages, power cuts and lack of clean water, people are finding their way back to the Church.

Fr Jesús Godoy, a priest in Chacao, Caracas, told the Post that he now sees 2,000 people each weekend. “All my Masses are full, which has never happened before,” said Fr Godoy. “They beg for help. They want God to give them the tools to live in crisis.”


Bishops adopt new handbook on abuse

The Brazilian Conference of National Bishops (BCNB), responsible for the world’s largest Catholic population, has adopted new measures for dealing with allegations of priestly abuse.

The Conference’s handbook, published in March, states: “The [BCNB], with this document, reaffirms its unconditional adherence to a zero-tolerance stance regarding cases of sexual abuse of minors, according to what Pope Francis has affirmed.”

Eduardo Campos Lima, of Crux, reports that the guide stresses “the need to collaborate with the authorities and demonstrate full support to the investigations”.

Vatican City

Christ can release nations from violence, says Pope

Easter is “the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside”, Pope Francis said at the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica. During the liturgy, Pope Francis baptized and confirmed eight adults, who were between the ages of 21 and 60. The five women and three men included four Italians and one person each from Ecuador, Peru, Albania and Indonesia.

The following day, while giving his Easter blessing, Francis prayed aloud: “May the one who gives us his peace end the roar of arms – both in areas of conflict and in our cities – and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries.”

Vatican City

Pope exchanges warm words with teenage activist

Pope Francis has given words of encouragement to a young environmental activist. Greta Thunberg, aged 16, has become famous as leader of the “school strike” movement. Thunberg thanked Francis for “speaking the truth”. He replied: “God bless you, continue to work, continue. Go along, go ahead.” The Pope has addressed the issue several times, notably in his encyclical Laudato Si’ and at a meeting with oil executives last year.


Bishops condemn abortion ruling

The bishops of South Korea have expressed “profound regret” after the country’s highest court opened the way to pro-abortion laws. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent the termination of a pregnancy.

“The Constitutional Court sentence negates the fundamental right for a foetus to live,” the bishops said.


Christians live in hope after al-Bashir ousted

Sudanese Christians are hoping for a future free from oppression after Islamist dictator Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a military coup.

Edward Clancy of Aid to the Church in Need told Crux: “It will be good news if the Christians are protected in the new government and if the people have religious freedom … if the Christian minority is afforded the opportunity to live and work freely.” Sudanese Catholics are among the most persecuted in the world.

Though Christians once made up 10 per cent of the population, South Sudan’s secession in 2011 reduced this to less than two per cent.


Rugby player punished after allusion to St Paul

A leading rugby player has been disciplined after alluding to St Paul’s warning about sin. Israel Folau posted on Instagram: “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators – Hell awaits you.” The list is adapted from 1 Corinthians 6:9. The word arsenokoitai, sometimes loosely translated as the modern word “homosexuals”, refers more precisely to men who are sexually active with other men. Rugby Australia, the governing body, wants to bar Folau from the game. He is contesting the decision.

Margaret Court, Australia’s most successful tennis player ever, said: “What he is saying about repenting is straight out of the Bible. My heart goes out to him because he’s being persecuted.”