NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

ASIA, INDIA

Hindu radicals attack a Catholic college

(Agenzia Fides)  Hundreds of police deployment was done at the St. Mary’s Post Graduate College in Vidisha, Sagar Diocese in Madhya Pradesh, central India as Hindu right-wing groups threaten to perform Hindu rituals in the premises.

“Calm has returned to the place now as only policemen on watch have remained in the area. We thank once again the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singhji and the Madhya Pradesh police force. And a big thank you for your prayers. The Fathers and Sisters and other personnel are in a state of shock. Do continue to pray for them,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), who is following the issue, told Fides news.

On January 4, more than 900 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (Abvp), one of the Hindu right wing student groups threatened to gather and forcibly perform “Aarti of Bharat Mata” (incense to national personification of India as “Mother Goddess”, represented by the goddess Durga dressed in an orange sari and accompanied by a lion) and other Hindu goddesses in the college.

“The Madhya Pradesh police assured church authorities full police protection. The priests who manage the College, however feel that the situation is potentially very dangerous as over 900 activists were expected to gather in violation of police orders. There was already an aggression earlier on 30 December despite the presence of 20 policemen. We need to pray more. We are in touch with the Federal Home Ministry,” said Mascarenhas.

It can be recalled that during the last Christmas season, a group of Hindu radicals seminarians and priests of Satna were attacked, when they were in the villages for Christmas carols.

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Cardinal condemns deadly attacks on DRC protesters

(CNA/EWTN News) A Catholic cardinal in the Democratic Republic of Congo has strongly condemned security forces’ attacks on protesters amid deadly political tensions in the country.

“We can only denounce, condemn and stigmatize the actions of the supposedly valiant men in uniform, which are, unfortunately, nothing more, nothing less than barbarism,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya told journalists in Kinshasa.

“How can we trust leaders incapable of protecting the population, of guaranteeing peace, justice and love of people?” the cardinal asked.

He accused security forces of opening fire on peaceful protesters and desecrating places of worship, Reuters reports.

Some initial reports said eight people died and 120 were arrested during church-organized protests on Dec. 31. Most of the deaths were in the national capital of Kinshasa.

Both Catholic and Protestant churches had called for peaceful marches to be held to protest the delay of elections and the failure of President Joseph Kabila to step down from office at the end of his term. Permission for marches was denied in Kinshasa, and police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas into churches to prevent would-be protesters for gathering.

In Kinshasa, St. Michael’s parish was forced to close when tear gas was fired into the sanctuary. Twelve altar boys were arrested at St. Joseph’s parish, the New York Times reported.

About 40 percent of the Congolese population identifies as Catholic, and Catholic institutions play a large role in education, healthcare and other services.

Dozens of people have died in other political protests, and militia violence has increased, prompting fears of a return to civil war.

ROME

Even Pope’s star appeal may not save Rome’s Epiphany tradition

(Crux) While in the United States holiday celebrations have already drawn to a close, children in Italy are delighting today in one final taste of Christmas celebrations, when, on the feast of the Epiphany, they find stockings full of sweets and treats left for them by the folklore figure of “Befana.”

Any Roman child knows that there is no place more fantastic, fun and delicious to celebrate this sweet festivity than in the historic and oval-shaped Piazza Navona …. or, at least, it used to be.

Several years ago, a former mayor of Rome launched a crackdown on the traditional festivities in Piazza Navona, charging corruption among a prominent family that more or less ran the show. Since then, entrepreneurs have been trying to launch a comeback, but today they say even the appeal of Pope Francis may not be enough to revive the past.

“The pope is good,” says one small-time businessman who runs a booth in the Piazza Navona, “but in the past few years his popularity has diminished. The novelty has passed.”

Meanwhile, Emanuela Nardoni sits on a chair inside one of the white stands in the Piazza Navona that has managed to earn a highly sought-after spot during the holiday season. Layered with scarfs and jackets, she peruses her merchandise, hoping to sell one of her Christmas tree decorations – a white ball portraying the Colosseum with “ROME” written in bold font.

“The tourists go crazy for those,” she says.

Hanging above her head are countless images of Befana, the trickster old crone who gives candy to good children, but coal, and even garlic, to the naughty ones. Forget Santa Clause and his scarlet roly-poly appearance. No Italian child would want to sit on the Befana’s lap, with her moly half-moon nose, missing teeth and jeering eyes.

Yet, those frightening and multi-colored statuettes are still the most desired merchandise for the Romans, who will place them in their homes for an Italian version of ‘Elf-on-the-Shelf.’

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