NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

BEIJING, CHINA

With lifelong rule by Xi Jinping, how will Christians fare in China?

(CNA/EWTN News) This month’s meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, convened March 5, has confirmed a constitutional change eliminating term limits and allowing President Xi Jinping to stay in power beyond 2023. Xi, who assumed office in March 2013, has overseen a national campaign to demolish churches and remove more than 1,000 crosses from China’s churches during his first five year term as president, leaving human rights advocates wondering what his latest consolidation of power means for the future of religious freedom in China.

Just one week prior to China’s annual congress, local government authorities forcibly removed the crosses, statues, and bell towers from a Catholic church in Yining city Feb. 27, according to a Union of Catholic Asian News report. On Dec. 27, another Catholic church more than 2,000 miles away in Shaanxi province was completely demolished despite having previously obtained the necessary legal permits from the Religious Affairs Bureau, according to Asia News.

ROME

Prelate kidnapped by Al Qaeda says Trump helping Middle East Christians

A Chaldean archbishop kidnapped in Iraq by Al Qaeda militants in 2006 said that members of his religious minority, who were nearly annihilated by Muslim extremists, have found a safer haven in the United States and Canada compared to an increasingly more populist and anti-immigrant Europe.

“The United States has been more helpful, because they gave economic help and dioceses to Chaldean Catholics,” Archbishop Saad Sirop Hanna, the Apostolic Visitor for Chaldeans Residing in Europe, told Crux in an interview. He added that also in Canada members of his community have been warmly welcomed. “The Europeans are always more worried,” he continued, pointing to what he perceives as a worrying rise in populists and anti-immigration sentiment on the continent.

The archbishop, who is also a visiting researcher at the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame, said that although he left Baghdad in 2016, he hears reports that the American government has been giving economic aid for the reconstruction of Christian areas in Iraq. He also acknowledged that there have been several meetings between members of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Iraqi bishops. “I see that [Trump] is interested in religious minorities, and that his decisions also have a religious interest,” Hanna said.

The archbishop made his remarks during the presentation of his book Abducted in Iraq: A priest in Baghdad, which took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome March 21. The book tells his account of the 28 days that he spent as a captive of Al Qaeda militants.

WABAG, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Pope prays for victims of devastating Papua New Guinea earthquake

(CNA/EWTN News) Pope Francis is praying for all those affected by a major earthquake in Papua New Guinea this week, offering his condolences in a telegram on Tuesday. The telegram, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed the Holy Father’s closeness in prayer to all those who are suffering in the southwestern Pacific nation.

“It was with great sadness that His Holiness Pope Francis learned of the tragic loss of life following the recent earthquake in Papua New Guinea,” the telegram said. “Commending the souls of the deceased to the mercy of Almighty God, he sends his heartfelt condolences to their families, and he assures all those affected by this disaster of his closeness in prayer. Upon all those who mourn at this difficult time, and upon the emergency personnel involved in the important relief efforts, Pope Francis willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation.”

Early Monday morning, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake tore through a largely rural region of Papua New Guinea, about 50 miles south of Porgera. According to the Red Cross, at least 67 people were killed in the earthquake, and hundreds more are believed to have been injured. Tens of thousands are now in need in food, water and other necessities, and aid agencies say landslides and damage to main roads are delaying their ability to reach remote villages that were among the hardest hit by the quake.

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