NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

INDIA

Catholic mission hospital, nuns attacked in central India

(UCAN news) Suspected Hindu activists demolished the wall of a Catholic mission hospital and manhandled staff including nuns in the latest incident in Madhya Pradesh state, considered a hotbed of anti-Christian violence in central India. Some 60 people with the help of a bulldozer razed the boundary wall of 44-year-old Pushpa Mission Hospital in the temple town of Ujjain on March 12. They blocked its emergency entrance and destroyed equipment including power generators.

The dispute has gone to court after members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the pro-Hindu party that runs the state government, attempted to take over the land on Jan. 27, accusing the church of illegally occupying the site. Hospital authorities obtained a stay order to maintain the status quo from the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Feb. 2 until a further hearing. But the court transferred the case to a lower court for a police investigation and hearing.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said the attack was part of “a systematic plan to bring disturbance and violence among a peace-loving community.” He wanted the state government to arrest the culprits immediately. The BJP, which has ruled the state for 15 years after winning three successive elections, will seek another term in the state election due at the end of this year. Hindu groups present themselves as protectors of Hindu rights to garner Hindu votes and an easy way to that end is to attack Christians, who comprise less than one percent of the 73 million people in the state, church officials say.

Madhya Pradesh had the greatest number of anti-Christian incidents in India last year, according to a report by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. It witnessed 52 attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 28 in 2016, the report said. Attacks have increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014. There were 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016, said Persecution Relief.

PHILIPPINES

Catholics against bill to legalize divorce

(AsiaNews) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a pastoral statement about a pending divorce bill before the Filipino Congress. “In a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriages and families are bound to break up more easily,” said Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles.

The prelate calls on legislators to consider all the implications that a divorce law could entail for Filipino society. “We merely ask that they consider the possibility that divorce, while it may indeed provide quick legal remedies for some seemingly ‘failed marriages’, might end up destroying even those marriages that could have been saved by dialogues or the intervention of family, friends, pastors, and counselors,” he stressed.

Filipino Catholics are strongly opposed to the draft bill, which is backed by 53 per cent of Filipinos according to a Social Weather Stations survey. The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) has been urging the lawmakers to expose the proposed law, CBCP ECFL secretary Fr Enrico Emmanuel Ayo said.

Meanwhile, one of the most influential Catholic lay groups, Couples for Christ (CFC), said that what the country needs is support for marriage. “Marriage, although regulated by civil and Church laws, originates neither from the Church nor the State, but from God. Therefore, neither Church nor State can alter the intrinsic definition of marriage, with its indissolubility. As a community, we stand for the sacredness and indissolubility of marriage, and are against the divorce bill,” the CFC said in a statement.

VATICAN

UNRWA chief meets pope, after Trump cuts millions of dollars in aid for refugees

(RomeReports) Pope Francis exchanged initial words with Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General for UNRWA, a UN Agency that helps and protects five million Palestine refugees. Preparing to discuss refugees, which both are passionate about, they wanted to make sure they understood the other.  The pope said, “Because I don’t speak good English, I need a translator.” Pierre Krahenbuhl Commissioner-General for UNRWA said, “I understand Spanish quite well, but the back and forth is confusing, confusing.”

Afterward, the commissioner gifted Pope Francis a UNRWA notebook, before he introduced additional members to the pope. In turn, each received a medal by the Holy Father, with an additional one for a specific girl, perhaps a Palestinian refugee they had spoken about. Pope Francis reiterated, “And please give this on my part to her.”

The U.N. Agency has recently requested funds from Arab nations, after President Trump cut millions of dollars in aid. Pierre described it as “the most severe crisis” in the agency’s history and mentioned that politics over Jerusalem as the Israeli capital also influenced it.

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