FaithWorld

Catholic area riots after Protestant marches in Northern Ireland

(Nationalist youths and police in riot gear clash in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast July 12, 2011/Cathal McNaughton)

Police fired plastic bullets and water cannon at Catholic youths in Northern Ireland’s provincial capital Belfast on Tuesday after rioting erupted when a Protestant parade passed their estate. Sporadic violence erupted across the British-ruled province on the culmination of a season of parades by pro-British Protestants to mark a 17th-century military victory, a tradition many Catholics say is provocative.

Around 200 people threw bottles, slates and petrol bombs in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast after police moved in to prevent them confronting the passing Orange Order parade. Two cars were set on fire and dozens of rounds of plastic bullets were fired. Police said a number of officers were injured.

Most of the 500 or so parades across the province passed peacefully, but police reported rioting in Londonderry, Newry and Armagh as well as the Markets area in central Belfast.

Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland tore the province apart during a three-decade period known as the “Troubles.”

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

As Vatican readies to recognise South Sudan, a look back at tense 1993 papal visit

(A man holds up South Sudan's new flag as South Sudanese children rehearse their dance routine, to be performed at half time during South Sudan's national soccer team's match with Kenya as part of the independence day celebrations, in Juba July 7, 2011/Paul Banks)

As predominantly Christian and animist South Sudan stands on the threshold of independence, one man who helped bring world attention to the suffering of believers there is no longer here to savour the day.

On Feb. 10, 1993, Pope John Paul made a tense visit to Khartoum and pulled no punches in a highly charged meeting with the country’s president, General Omar Hassan Ahmed al Bashir. In his meeting,  the outspoken pope left diplomacy at the door, as was often his custom when he wanted to speak from the heart. He bluntly compared the suffering of Sudan’s Catholics to the crucifixion of Christ and told the Islamic government that only guaranteeing the rights of  Christians and other minorities would bring peace.

Medieval Spanish pilgrim’s guide missing from Santiago de Compostela cathedral

(Codex Calixtinus, Santiago de Compostela, Archivo de la Catedral)

 

Spanish police are investigating the disappearance of the Codex Calixtinus, a valuable 12th century manuscript, from the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in northwestern region of Galicia, a spokesman said on Thursday. The manuscript is a collection of sermons and liturgical texts and served as a guide for the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

The elaborately illustrated document disappeared from a safe deposit box in the cathedral last week. Its suspected theft, only reported to police on Wednesday, is considered a major loss for Spain’s cultural and religious heritage.

(Codex Calixtinus, Santiago de Compostela, Archivo de la Catedral)

 

Santiago Cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Greater, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ who according to legend arrived in Spain to preach Christianity. Another version of the story says the remains of St James – Santiago is Spanish for St James – were brought to Spain by two of his followers after he was beheaded in Jerusalem in AD 42.

South Korea back in stem cell spotlight with new adult cell treatment for hearts

(A researcher uses a microscope during a photo call at an aseptic room of the FCB-Pharmicell laboratory in Seongnam, near Seoul, June 28, 2011/Jo Yong-Hak)

More than five years after South Korea’s scientific reputation was shattered by a cloning research scandal, the country has approved medication from adult stem cells in the form of a treatment for heart attack victims for the world’s first clinical use. South Korea all but put stem cell research into the deep freeze after a pre-eminent scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, was found guilty of fraud for his work in the field in 2005.

The state Korea Food and Drug Administration’s (KFDA) approval for the sale of the Hearticellgram-AMI treatment, developed by FCB-Pharmicell, from July 1 signals an ambitious new push to put research in the field back on the frontline. “This marks the government opening the road for progressive development in stem cell research,” said Oh Il-hwan, professor of molecular biology at the Catholic University School of Medicine in Seoul. “It is expected to make it more accommodating for clinical research in this field,” said Oh, who previously sat on KFDA panels overseeing stem cell research.

Ireland eyes Catholic religious orders’ properties to meet abuse damages costs

(Irish clerical sexual abuse victims with a copy of a government report into child abuse, in Dublin May 20, 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Irish government asked religious orders on Tuesday to consider transferring buildings and land to the state to cover a 200 million euros shortfall in their contribution to a compensation fund for victims of abuse. The congregations agreed in 2009 to provide more compensation to victims of rape, beatings and slave labour in now defunct industrial schools they ran after the publication of a report into the abuse shocked the once devout Catholic country.

The government wants the congregations, including the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, to contribute half of an estimated final compensation bill of 1.36 billion euros ($1.9 billion). The government has paid out around 1.3 billion euros in compensation so far.

Daniel-in-lion’s-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin

(St. Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral in Berlin, 20 June 2009/Beek100)

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, Berlin’s new Catholic archbishop met the media on Tuesday to face accusations he was homophobic and far too conservative for such a prominent post in the free-wheeling German capital. Rainer Maria Woelki, a surprise choice for the high-profile post, professed respect for gays, denied membership in the staunchly conservative Opus Dei group and said he did not come to Berlin to point a censuring finger at non-Catholics.

Berlin’s gay community and liberal media reacted with dismay to his appointment last week, saying the Cologne-based prelate was “backwards-minded” and the wrong man for the job. But interest in the new prelate was so strong that the Catholic Church, a minority of about 390,000 in a 3.5 million population mostly indifferent or hostile to religion, had to switch the news conference to a larger hall at the last minute to accomodate over 100 journalists who turned out.

“We will meet with each other,” Woelki, 54, said when asked about the city’s active gay community. “I have respect and esteem for all people independent of heritage, skin colour and individual nature. I am open to all without reservations.” Describing himself simply as Catholic, he denied being a member of Opus Dei despite having done his doctorate at the group’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. That part of his biography led to media reports over the weekend calling him “reactionary.”

Christians issue code of conduct for spreading faith without fanning tensions

(Evangelical pastor Marcos Pereira da Silva embraces a prisoner as his missionaries stand by at the 52nd Police Station jail in Nova Iguacu, near Rio de Janeiro, which they visited on October 29, 2009 to evangelize prisoners/Ricardo Moraes )

A coalition representing most Christian churches around the world launched a rule book on Tuesday for spreading their faith that aims to reduce tensions among themselves and with followers of other faiths. The pioneering code of conduct, under negotiation for five years, was unveiled by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which together claim to represent over 90 percent of Christianity.

It reaffirms their right to seek converts but also urges them to abandon “inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means”, saying that such behaviour “betrays the Gospel and may cause suffering to others”. Click here for the PDF text of the guidelines.

Spanish Catholic priests criticise corporate sponsorships for papal visit

(Advertisements from an electricity company covers scaffolding at one end of the Bernini Colonnade, as a crowd listens to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican June 14, 2009/Chris Helgren)

A group of 120 Spanish Catholic priests have criticised church leaders for signing up a list of high-profile corporate sponsors for a visit by the Pope in August, saying authorities had given in to temptation. In a rare joint letter, the priests told Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela the sponsorship deals reinforced the impression the church was a privileged institution.

“It’s been necessary to form a pact with the economic and political powers which reinforces the image of the church as a privileged institution, close to power, and the social scandal this implies, especially in the context of the economic crisis,” the priests said in an open letter. Organisers of Pope Benedict’s visit, scheduled for August 18-21 as part of the celebrations of World Youth Day, have mounted a nationwide advertising campaign, backed by well-known multinationals and Spain’s top companies.

Catholic Church should pay Dutch sexual abuse victims – commission

(Pictures of sexual abuse victims placed outside the Vatican Embassy in London September 9, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

TheDutch bishops’ conference had sought the recommendation of an independent commission after cases surfaced involving paedophile priests in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Victims should be paid on a sliding scale starting at 5,000 euros, with 25,000 for victims of rape and the maximum of 100,000 euros ($142,300) for “exceptional cases of sexual abuse”, the commission concluded. Its report released on Monday said financial compensation alone was not enough, and victims should receive apologies, assistance and recognition for their suffering.