FaithWorld

Police send “holy” Roman robber to Queen of Heaven jail

(A prisoner stares out of a window at Regina Coeli jail in Rome August 4, 2006/Dario Pignatelli )

Italian police have found a fitting temporary home for an accused jewellery robber whose priestly disguise failed to help him slip past their dragnet.

Police said they tracked down and arrested the 37-year-old male suspect by reviewing closed circuit television footage around Via del Corso and Via Condotti, the swanky shopping district near the Spanish Steps, after a July 4th hold-up at one of Rome’s most prestigious jewellery shops.

Video footage released by Italian police showed a man dressed in the floor-length black cassock and round, wide brimmed black hat commonly worn by priests of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1960s and still favoured by traditionalists.

The footage showed the man was carrying a shopping bag and moving confidently through a crowd of shoppers after the heist, in which two employees were locked in a bathroom.

Japanese Buddhist priest discusses spiritual toll of nuclear crisis

(Sokyu Genyu during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo June 4, 2011/Chisa Fujioka)

In Japan, where nature is believed to cleanse spirits, how do people cope when treasured mountains and oceans are tainted by leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant?

Sokyu Genyu, a Buddhist priest from a temple just 45 km (28 miles) west of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan, is drawing attention to the less visible scars from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. As a member of a government panel to come up with a blueprint for rebuilding after the deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Genyu is adding the people’s voice — and a different view — to debate on dealing with the loss of homes, jobs and communities.

Tunis march against Islamists, for harmony after Polish priest murdered

tunis secular

(Tunisians march against Islamists and for interfaith harmony in Tunis, February 19, 2011. The protesters' T-shirts in Arabic read: Tunisia secular", the sign on top reads: "Tunisia for all" and the sign on bottom left in French reads: "Terrorism is not Tunisia"/Zoubeir Souissi)

About 15,000 demonstrators have protested in Tunis against the country’s Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance a day after the Interior Ministry announced a Polish Catholic priest had been murdered by an extremist group.

“We need to live together and be tolerant of each other’s views,” said Ridha Ghozzi, 34, who was among the protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans on Saturday including “Terrorism is not Tunisian” and “Religion is Personal”.

Haiti voodoo leader urges halt to cholera lynchings of priests

voodoo 1 (Photo: A voodoo priest walks around a believer in a trance during a ritual at a voodoo festival July 24, 2010/Eduardo Munoz)

The head of Haiti’s voodoo religion has appealed to authorities  to halt the bloody lynchings of voodoo priests by people who blame them for causing the Caribbean country’s deadly cholera epidemic. Since the epidemic started in mid-October, at least 45 male and female voodoo priests, known respectively as “houngan” and “manbo,” have been killed. Many of the victims were hacked to death and mutilated by machetes, Max Beauvoir, the “Ati” or supreme leader of Haitian voodoo, told Reuters.

“They are being blamed for using voodoo to contaminate people with cholera,” Beauvoir said on Thursday. The killers accused voodoo priests of spreading cholera by scattering powder or casting “spells” and complained that local police and government officials were not doing enough to halt the lynchings and punish the killers. Voodoo is recognized and protected by the constitution as one of Haiti’s main religions.

“My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities,” said Beauvoir, who fears more attacks against voodoo devotees. Most of the lynchings occurred in the southwest of Haiti but also in the center and the north.

Giant Jesus statue rises above Polish countryside

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A statue of Jesus Christ that its builders say will be the largest in the world is fast rising from a Polish cabbage field and local officials hope it will become a beacon for tourists. The builders expect to attach the arms, head and crown to the robed torso in coming days, weather and cranes permitting, completing a project conceived by local Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki and paid for by private donations.

Standing on an artificial mound, the plaster and fiber glass statue will stand some 52 meters (57 yards) when completed, taller than the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms that gazes over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Polish officials say.

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“I’m happy because this project will bring publicity to our town, not only in Poland but also from the global media. Other countries are showing a lot of interest,” said Dariusz Bekisz, mayor of Swiebodzin, a town of about 21,000 people in western Poland some 100 km (60 miles) from the German border.

Top Belgian Catholic vows silence after uproar

leonardBelgium’s Roman Catholic leader has sworn off public remarks until Christmas after outraging public opinion twice this month with jarring comments about AIDS and a call for mercy for retired paedophile priests.

Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, already under fire because of the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests, caused a storm two weeks ago when he said in a new book that AIDS was “a sort of inherent justice.” Politicians, abuse victims and some leading lay Catholics rounded on him again this week after he said that prosecuting retired priests for abuse they committed long ago was “a kind of vengeance” that they should be spared. (Photo: Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, October 15, 2010/Thierry Roge)

“We’re in a very serious crisis and the last thing we need is more commotion,” Leonard’s spokesman, Jürgen Mettepenningen, told Belgium’s VTM television on Thursday evening. “I’ve agreed with Archbishop Léonard that there should now be as much radio silence as possible until Christmas” so that the Church can concentrate on overcoming the crisis and carrying out its main task of preaching the Gospel, he said.

Dutch prosecutors admit were wrong to drop Catholic abuse cases

maastrichtDutch public prosecutors wrongly dropped two clear cases of sexual abuse of minors by two Roman Catholic priests in the 1980s but it was not a cover-up, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office said on Wednesday.

A new book published earlier in the day reported that both priests had confessed and numerous witnesses had testified for the defence, but prosecutors closed their inquiries after contacts with the Catholic hierarchy.

The book Vrome zondaars (“Pious Sinners”) by journalist Joep Dohmen also accused prosecutors of turning away victims trying to report abuse and working to deflect any discredit from the Church.

Excerpts from pope’s sermon in Glasgow

glasgow 1 (Photo: Pope Benedict in his popemobile before Mass in Glasgow, 16 Sept 2010/Nigel Roddis)

Addressing an open air Mass in Glasgow on Thursday, Pope Benedict warned against a “dictatorship of relativism” and urged Catholics to oppose attempts to “exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty.” He stressed the importance of ecumenical cooperation and urged bishops, priests and young people to lead holy lives.

Here are some excerpts from his sermon:

“…It is with some emotion that I address you, not far from the spot where my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass nearly thirty years ago with you and was welcomed by the largest crowd ever gathered in Scottish history. Much has happened in Scotland and in the Church in this country since that historic visit. I note with great satisfaction how Pope John Paul’s call to you to walk hand in hand with your fellow Christians has led to greater trust and friendship with the members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others. Let me encourage you to continue to pray and work with them in building a brighter future for Scotland based upon our common Christian heritage. In today’s first reading we heard Saint Paul appeal to the Romans to acknowledge that, as members of Christ’s body, we belong to each other and to live in respect and mutual love. In that spirit I greet the ecumenical representatives who honour us by their presence. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, but also the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, which is widely acknowledged to mark the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. Let us give thanks to God for the promise which ecumenical understanding and cooperation represents for a united witness to the saving truth of God’s word in today’s rapidly changing society…

“The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a ‘dictatorship of relativism’ threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation…

“Ordain women,” London bus ads will urge Pope Benedict during September visit

CWO BUS

Pope Benedict will be confronted by posters on London’s famous red buses during his trip to the British capital next month which will call for the ordination of women priests.

One group of women, Catholic Women’s Ordination (CWO), will have its message plastered on the side of the buses as they travel along key routes, including past Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster, where the pope is set to deliver a speech to Britain’s civic society on September 17.

The group has paid 15,000 pounds ($23,130) for 15 buses to carry the message “Pope Benedict – Ordain Women Now!” for a month. “We do not want to be disruptive, but I think the church has got to change or it will not survive,” CWO spokeswoman Pat Brown told Reuters. “I am quite hopeful at the moment because I think the church is in disarray.”

Catholic Church and UK colluded in Northern Ireland bomb cover-up: report

northern ireland (Photo: Nationalist youths set a car alight in Belfast on July 13, 2010/Cathal McNaughton)

The British government and the Roman Catholic Church colluded to protect a priest suspected of involvement in a 1972 bombing in Northern Ireland that killed 9 people, an official report said on Tuesday.

The Police Ombudsman’s report revealed that an Irish cardinal was involved in transferring Father James Chesney out of British-ruled Northern Ireland, highlighting again the role of the Church hierarchy in protecting priests against allegations of criminal activity.

The inquiry showed that Secretary of State for Northern Ireland William Whitelaw had a private “tete-a-tete” with Cardinal William Conway, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, in 1972 in which they discussed the possibility of moving Chesney out of Northern Ireland.