News Analysis

World News: from San Salvador to Nur-Sultan

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Muerte is no saint, says archbishop

An American archbishop has condemned the popular veneration of Santa Muerte, the skeleton folk saint also known as the Bony Lady.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, told the Associated Press that he thought some Catholics might mistakenly believe the folk saint was sanctioned by the Church. But the focus on death is counter to the Church’s teachings. “Our devotion is to the God of life,” Archbishop Wester said. Santa Muerte has gained popular appeal in recent years, especially among the poor, as well as with criminals and drug traffickers. Devotees petition her with offerings of cigarettes and tequila, asking for job promotions and protection from police.


Priest stabbed during Mass eager to return to duties

A priest who was attacked during mass is recovering well, according to reports. Fr Claude Grou, 77, who was attacked while celebrating a televised Mass at St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal last Friday morning, has been released from hospital and is preparing to return to pastoral duties.

In a statement, he said the messages of support he had received “warm my heart and allow me to contemplate these difficult moments peacefully”.

Fr Grou is rector of the shrine at St Joseph’s. He was stabbed in front of 60 congregants while standing behind the altar in the crypt. The assailant, a 26-year-old man said by authorities to be known to the police, was captured immediately by the church’s security team.

San Salvador

Bishops condemn ‘unjust’ amnesty

The Episcopal Conference of El Salvador has issued a statement denouncing a proposed law granting amnesty to those suspected of committing grave crimes during the civil war of the 1980s and 1990s.

The bishops said that the proposed law would be “completely unjust” because “instead of protecting and healing the victims, it would revictimise them and protect the perpetrators by promoting impunity”. They demanded “a law of true reconciliation through a transitional justice exercise that protects and provides reparation to the victims”.

Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador (pictured) said: “It is absurd to issue an amnesty law that seeks to cover all crimes, including crimes against humanity.”

Buenos Aires

March for Life has almost two million participants

Catholic bishops, Evangelical pastors, Jewish leaders and representatives of Islamic groups were among almost two million people in 200 locations who took part in pro-life demonstrations last Saturday. In the capital Buenos Aires, an estimated 300,000 people took to the streets, covering an area a mile long.

Abortion remains illegal in the country, although some states do allow it in cases of rape or where the mother’s life is endangered. The demonstrations were held in response to a congressional debate on national legalisation, the first such debate for a decade. Last year the Senate rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion up to 14 weeks.


Pope accepts resignation of Chilean cardinal

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, who has denied accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of several priests involved in sexual abuse. Cardinal Ezzati, 77, is the eighth Chilean bishop to have his resignation accepted since all the Chilean bishops submitted their resignations last May. He is being investigated by Chilean authorities, and has protested his innocence. The Pope has named Bishop Celestino Aos Braco, OFM Cap, as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Santiago until Ezzati’s successor is appointed.

São Paulo

Cardinal rejects corruption allegations

Cardinal Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro has been accused of complicity in a financial scandal.

Sergio Cabral, former governor of the state, is serving 200 years for bribery. During a recent court hearing, he said: “I have no doubt there must have been a bribery scheme with the Catholic Church social organisation Pro-Saude. Cardinal Orani must have had an interest in it.”

Cardinal Tempesta replied in a letter to the priests of his diocese, stating: “I have never used my position as a cardinal and as an archbishop to require advantages for any institution.”

The cardinal, 69, was appointed to Rio de Janeiro in 2009.


Pro-life students defeat attempted ban

Students from the University of Glasgow have defeated an attempt to ban their pro-life group after issuing a legal challenge.

Glasgow students’ union had sought to prevent Glasgow Students for Life’s affiliation in December 2018. But the latter argued successfully that this contravened the Equality Act 2010. Grace Deighan, the society’s president, said: “Given that there are pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia groups affiliated, we believe that it is only fair for the pro-life argument to have a place at the despatch box.”

Last year, Strathclyde students’ union tried to ban the pro-life society, but the decision was overturned after the society challenged it. In 2012, University College London’s students’ union backed down after trying to restrict pro-life events.


Cardinal Dziwisz defends St John Paul II

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, formerly secretary to St John Paul II, has said that John Paul “had no intention of tolerating the crime of paedophilia in the Church and fought against it”.

The Polish pope, who died in 2005, has been accused of failing to acknowledge the scale of abuse. But Cardinal Dziwisz said that after the Boston Globe 2002 report on clerical abuse, the pope summoned all US cardinals to the Vatican. The cardinal argued that John Paul’s response had set the US Church on the path to successful reforms.

Rangoon, Burma

Martyr recognised

Fr Alfredo Cremonesi, a missionary to Burma, has been recognised as a martyr by Pope Francis. In 1953, the priest decided to stay with the Karen people, some of whom had rebelled against the government. He was shot by government soldiers.

Born in 1902, Fr Cremonesi arrived in Burma in 1925, and spent his life working in mountain villages.

Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Bishops defend embattled nuncio

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, has received support from the country’s bishops. “For us, Archbishop Chullikatt is the kind of nuncio we bishops in Kazakhstan would like to have with us at least for a few more years,” they said in a statement.

Archbishop Chullikatt has been accused of misconduct during his time as head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations from 2010 to 2014. The Catholic News Agency has reported allegations from unnamed colleagues that he engaged in a romantic relationship, mismanaged finances, and cut workers’ pay arbitrarily. He has not yet responded to the claims.


Doctors’ group now ‘neutral’ on assisted suicide

The Royal College of Physicians (right) has declared itself “neutral” on assisted suicide. A poll of members found that 43 per cent wanted the RCP to oppose assisted suicide, while 32 per cent wanted it to support the practice. A quarter favoured a neutral stance. Controversially, the RCP had decided that unless 60 per cent were opposed, its stance would change from opposed to neutral.

Critics said the high threshold made the result inevitable. Four doctors had applied for a judicial review, but the High Court rejected their application. After the result, the quartet said: “Sick and vulnerable people are at risk as a result of college neutrality.”