Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin, former ordinary bishop of Mindong (Fujian) is now homeless and sleeping on the doorstep of his curia and clergy house in Luojiang, following the arrival yesterday of an eviction order for him and for the priests who work and live with him. The police operation is a sign of official annoyance and an attempt to pressure the bishop and his priests who refuse to sign up to an “independent” Church.
However, Msgr. Guo, never signed up for membership in the independent Church and thus has not been recognized by the government with the result that he has now been downgraded to the status of homeless and migrant.
At least 20 priests out of 57 do not want to sign. They say the signature “is only the beginning of greater persecution and control”, which tends to make priests “party officials” who agree not to evangelize young people under the age of 18 – which runs contrary to the Chinese Constitution – and subjecting every initiative of evangelization to the supremacy of the Communist Party.
The day’s Gospel tells how a leper approached Jesus, saying “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean”. In his homily, Pope Francis said that the leper’s request is a simple prayer, “an act of confidence” — but at the same time, “a true challenge”. It is plea that comes from the depths of his heart, which also reveals something about Jesus and His compassion for us. Jesus, the Pope said, suffers “with and for us”, He takes the suffering of others upon Himself, comforting them and healing them in the name the love of the Father.
Reflecting on the “simple” story of the healing of the leper, Pope Francis said that the phrase, “If you will…” is a prayer that “gets God’s attention”. “It is a challenge”, he said, “but also an act of confidence: I know that He can do it, and so I entrust myself to Him”.
The number of Catholics in South Korea has steadily increased 48.6 percent from 3,946,844 in 1999 to 5,866,510 in 2018. However, the year-to-year growth rate in Catholics has gradually slowed to below 1 percent. In 2000 and 2001, the Catholic population grew 3.2 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, before falling to the 2 percent range until 2009. The growth rate dropped to 1.7 percent in 2010 and briefly rebounded to 2.2 percent in 2014 due to Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea. But it again dived below 1 percent to reach 0.9 percent two years ago.
The ratio of Catholics in the nation’s total population rose from 8.3 percent to 11.1 percent in the 1999-2018 period. But their mass attendance rate, considered a key indicator of existing believers’ religious life, tumbled by more than 10 percentage points from 29.5 percent to 18.3 percent during the period.
The Catholic Bishops conference of Hungary organized a donation campaign, in collaboration with the Caritas Syria and AVSI foundation agencies. Over 200 million euros were raised in Hungary and have been used to support the Syrian Open Hospital initiative. The initiative began in 2016 and aims to ensure free access to hospital for some of the poorest Syrian citizens. At present, the initiative supports 3 hospital in the country. Two are located in Damascus while the third is in Aleppo. Already, over 30,000 people have received treatment as a result of the initiatives.
Cardinal Zenari emphasized the serious nature of the ongoing conflict in Syria, noting that “The bloody conflict, the 9-year-long destruction, the death and the endless rows of refugee camps are not over yet. Just think about the bombing and the daily attacks in the North-West and the situation which remains uncertain in the North-Eastern part of the country.”
He went on say that he finds it comforting that brave people of good will follow the example of Veronica, Simon of Cyrene and the Good Samaritan and help the persecuted get to safety.
Worldwide, the report states, 260 million Christians are facing persecution. This marks a 6% increase from the previous year. The annual report from Open Doors, released Jan. 15, ranked North Korea first on its list of 50 most dangerous countries in which to be Christian, the 18th straight year that the country has received that designation.
There are an estimated 300,000 Christians amidst the total population of 25.4 million in North Korea. Open Doors reports that if North Korean Christians are discovered, the government will deport them to labor camps as political criminals or even kill them on the spot. Meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it is done in complete secrecy.
Following North Korea on the World Watch List Top 10 are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and India.
Pope Francis on Monday (Jan 13) repeated his support for celibacy after his predecessor pope Benedict XVI urged him not to open the Catholic priesthood up to married men, in a plea that stunned Vatican experts.
“Personally I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. Secondly, I don’t think optional celibacy should be allowed. No.” Pope said.
Francis is currently considering allowing it in remote locations, such as the Amazon, where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests, and is expected to publish his decision in the coming weeks.
Benedict, who was the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years, at first withdrew to a life of quiet contemplation in the Vatican, but has increasingly begun to speak out on key Catholic issues.
Iraqis hope the violent attacks by the U.S. and Iran will ease and that moves to decrease tensions will take hold, said an Iraqi archbishop.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, repeated the overarching concern of the majority of Iraqis, regardless of their religious affiliation: that foreign troops stop using their shattered homeland as a battlefield to settle scores.
On Jan. 8, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases in what it said was retaliation for Washington’s targeted killing of Iran’s top militia commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad Jan. 3. The missiles hit the al-Asad airbase, which houses U.S. troops, and American and coalition forces in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil, in areas not heavily populated.
“We haven’t heard anything about lives lost. Maybe it can stop here — the revenge,” Archbishop Mirkis told Catholic News Service by phone Jan. 8. “The revenge was in all the speech of yesterday. … Now, that it is done, let us go to negotiate.”
China will enforce new restrictions on religious groups, organizations, meetings, and other related events starting on Feb 1.
The country’s state-controlled media announced the new policy on Dec. 30, after Chinese authorities moved to further suppress Catholics in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou who are refusing to join the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
According to UCA News, the new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups,” which consists of six sections and 41 articles, will control every aspect of religious activity within China, and will mandate that all religions and believers in China comply with regulations issued by the Chinese Communist Party, which must be acknowledged as the higher authority.
Earlier this week, the president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, issued a statement about the “unprecedented” crisis facing the country. Like Pope Francis, he too called for prayer, noting that “A genuine Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action”.
Archbishop Coleridge announced that the Bishops Conference is preparing a national response to the fires, including assistance to those affected by the fires, collaboration with aid agencies, and a special collection to be taken up this weekend.
“With broad and deep roots across the nation”, the Archbishop said, “the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery”.
“The crisis in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God,” said Cardinal Gerhard Mueller to the thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).
He cautioned that even a number of people in the Church are “longing” for a kind of Catholicism without dogmas, without sacraments, and without an infallible magisterium.
“But the one who believes needs no ideology,” he said. “The one who hopes will not reach for drugs. The one who loves is not after the lust of this world, which passes along with the world. The one who loves God and his neighbor finds happiness in the sacrifice of self-giving.”