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(CNA) The leaders of the newest country in the world met last week in the smallest country in the world. Vatican City hosted the leaders of war-torn South Sudan for a spiritual retreat April 10-11, with the goal of facilitating “encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust” for those who have “the responsibility to work for a future of peace and prosperity for the South Sudanese people,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said April 9.

The retreat, co-hosted by the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is meant to be a peace building effort that is “both ecumenical and diplomatic at the same time,” Gisotti said. Each retreat participant received a gift of a Bible signed by Pope Francis, the Anglican Primate Justin Welby, and the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Reverend John Chalmers.

The highest civil and ecclesial authorities of South Sudan who came included the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar.

At the end of the retreat, Pope Francis pleaded with both President Salva Kiir and Opposition leaders to honour the armistice they signed and work together as one government. He told them that there would be problems but the government leaders, away from the public gaze, should iron these out.

“I beg you as a brother to stay the course of peace. I appeal to you with all my heart, move ahead as one. Resolve your problems within your offices,” the Pope said in unscripted remarks before he then stunned his guests by kneeling and kissing the feet of President Salva Kiir and that of the Vice Presidents-designate.






(CNA) Emeritus Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agaña said Thursday that despite the failure of his appeal and the confirmation of a conviction against him, he is innocent of sexual abuse against minors. “I am deeply saddened by the decision of the Holy Father to confirm the decision of the court of first instance,” Apuron said in an April 4 statement on the announcement of his sentencing. “I believe that the fact and evidence presented demonstrated my total innocence,” he said, noting that he had expected his appeal to be successful.

The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Apuron, 73, guilty of some of several abuse-related charges in March 2018. He immediately appealed the decision. The Vatican court upheld the original decision Feb. 7, and the final sentencing was announced April 4 by the CDF. Apuron was sentenced to privation of the office of Archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the miter and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor has he been assigned to live in prayer and penance.

He also said there are people who have revealed to him they were asked to make false allegations against him in return for money. Apuron said, despite this, he still hopes to one day clear his name through new witnesses, and that he is praying for his accusers and those who have worked against him. He said: “We will each meet before that final tribunal where the full truth will be laid bare before the Supreme Judge.” “I offer this suffering for the Holy Father,” he stated.




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(AsiaNews) At least 600 government officials and policemen arrived this morning in front of the Marian shrine of Mujiaping to destroy it. The shrine is located in the Diocese of Fengxiang (Shaanxi), the same where the authorities destroyed the Qianyang church on 4 April. Alerted to the authorities’ intentions, late last night, about 200 faithful from the area gathered on the steps leading to the church to defend the sanctuary. “We are willing to lay down our lives,” one of them said. However, the number of police officers and officials is almost three times as many, so it will be very difficult for them to be stopped.

The police plan to destroy the sanctuary, the historic gate from which one enters the steps that leads to the church, the statue of Our Lady that welcomes pilgrims. The faithful ask all Christians to pray for the preservation of the sanctuary and the salvation of the population. In the coming days the authorities have planned the destruction of other churches, at least three. The violence that is sweeping the Fengxiang churches has a specific goal, confirmed by the faithful: the authorities want the places, the people, the priests and the bishop to belong to the Patriotic Association, the control body of the Communist Party, which wants to build a Church that is “independent” of the Holy See. “If you don’t sign up, we will destroy everything,” an official is reported to have said.


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